Becoming the Domesticated Diva

Finding my inner homemaker… one flub at a time!

Planning ahead..

Having my baby 10 weeks early was certainly not in the plans.  I had every intention of working as long as possible so I could spend as much time at home afterwards.. but boy am I glad I started saving as soon as I found out I was pregnant.  By no means were my husband and I well off when we decided I should stay home with our child for as long as possible, we just knew it was what we thought would be best for our child.

I started taking half of my paycheck and putting it into an online savings account (ING which is now Capital One) and we lived off (mostly) my husband’s income.  It wasn’t easy saying no to some things, or limiting others.. but we knew it would work out for the best.  I was excited to see my savings pile up, and even more excited to see my belly get bigger.  🙂  And then November came, and things got crazy fast.  You never know how much to plan to spend on having a baby.. and trust me, things never work out as you plan anyway.  Now in the aftermath, where we are still getting bills 5 months later.. I’m just thankful for my little savings account.  We’ve managed to pay most of the bills (so far), have a few outings here and there.. and keep lots of food on the table.  Its not easy, and it is certainly getting harder… but I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Here’s a checklist of things we did to prepare for those soon to be “stay at home Mom (or Dad)s”:

  • Start early.  Had I known then what I know now, we would have started to minute we even THOUGHT about getting pregnant, rather than waiting til I actually did.  The NICU bills are the worst, and those eat up your savings quicker than anything else.
  • Do your best to live off of one salary (ideally the one who will continue to work).  For us, I started with saving $150/week.. and then after a few weeks I would bump it up.  That way I had some time to adjust not having my own money to do things with whenever I wanted.
  • Plan for birthdays/holidays.  I started Christmas shopping in October when I still had a paycheck coming in.. which was lucky since I was done before my baby arrived at the end of November.
  • Do something fun away from home at least once a month.  This is important for two reasons – 1) since I’m at home a lot, it gives me something to look forward to and its a new adventure for the family.  2) It reminds us that we can still have fun on a limited budget.  We have gone to the park, to visit my parents down at their lake house, a date night dinner without our son, or to Disney.  We have Disney passes because we go often and receive a discount for renewal and in the park.  The cost is worth it.  Plus, we can’t wait to take our little one there!
  • Talk over your budget before hand.  You can be as detailed or general as you want, just make sure you are both aware of bills and whether or not you can actually do this.
  • Look for savings whenever possible in buying things.  I love http://www.southernsavers.com and http://www.retailmenot.com.  SouthernSavers is where I compare my weekly Publix ad and print off extra coupons.  I know everyone has their own couponing methods, but this one works for me – and I’ve started saving an average of $90/shopping trip, basically half of my bill.  Get to know your regular grocery store and their couponing policies.  It takes some time, but, hey.. I have the time now and if I can save that much money per week by spending an extra hour finding and printing coupons, its worth it to our budget.  I also love RetailMeNot because they have coupons for almost EVERY store, website, etc that you can think of.  I’ve gotten lots of deals this way.  Plus, they have a mobile app that makes it easy when you’re out.
  • Use what you have – or trade for what you need.  This one is big.  I think most of us are guilty of going out and buying whatever is new, cool, etc. – but think about what you may already have on hand first.  I’ve been spending lots of time cleaning out boxes we packed when first moving into our home and realized we have LOTS of stuff.  Some are things we’ve duplicated since then because we didn’t remember having it to begin with, or just wanted something new.  So now we’re of the mindset that if we can make it work, we do.  If we can use it up first, do that.  The things we don’t want or can’t use anymore, we toss, give away or try to sell.  Not only does it make our house cleaner, more organized – it makes us more appreciative.

What about you readers?  Have ideas do you have to help a stay at home Mom or Dad?  What have you done to afford staying at home?  OR – making money from home?  Can’t wait to hear your ideas!

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Green clean? I think I can do that!

Many of you readers know that my hubby and I are getting ready to try for a baby.  So for the last few months, I’ve been basically in “prepare” mode.  I’ve painted the “baby’s room” and my husband put up some wainscoting, we’ve been coming up with names, looking at decorating ideas and reading up on things.  Since I’ve been working on the cleaning thing.. I’ve also started to think about “green” cleaning products.  I recently read an article, “Expectant mamas should limit use of toxic household cleaning products” from pregnancyandbaby.com that stated children that were around toxic cleaning products have a higher risk of youthful asthma.  There are so many things that could go wrong with having a baby, being a parent to a toddler.. the last thing I need is to add to it.

So I read up on some “green” cleaning methods.. on Martha Stewart’s website, homemakerschallenge.com and inhabitots.com.  Today’s chores including cleaning my master bathroom, so I figured, what the heck.  Let’s try it.  And, wow.  Pretty darn cool!  No overly “clean” (aka floral, etc from the chemicals), no major scrubbing, and the best part – no chemical headache!

I started with my shower head – soaking it in straight vinegar.  Just pour white vinegar into a gallon size ziplock bag, rubber band around the neck of the shower head and waa-la!  Within a few minutes, I already started seeing floaties coming off of the shower head.  Gross!  But super cool!  Letting it soak for 8 hours, cleaning off the excess with a toothbrush and  should be good to go.

Can you see the gross floating around in the bag??

My rubber band didn't fit super tight, so I had to prop up my shower head to make sure it would be covered by vinegar. I just stuck it on top of my recycle bin.

I also tried baking soda.  I never did the whole “make a volcano” thing in school – but this would be close enough to doing that!  🙂  To do a monthly cleaning of your pipes, pour 1/2 cup of baking soda followed by 1/2 cup of vinegar down the drain.  Let it sit for about 5ish minutes (long enough for me to clean the toilet!) and then pour boiling hot water down the drain.  The baking soda and vinegar will break up the soap scum and gunk which will help loosen hair balls, the boiling hot water will help to push them down.  Pretty neat right??  Plus, no nasty smell – it actually just smells.. fresh in the shower.  Not too bad!

A little baking soda and vinegar = a drain volcano!

So there you have it readers – some green cleaning you can try yourself in your bathrooms.  Try it out and let me know what you think!  I’ll bet you notice a much easier, fresher way to clean – plus, you’ll save some money too!  🙂

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… just kidding.

Cleaning machine?   Meh…

My first couple days of the cleaning schedule were pretty good.. I set my timer, knocked out my chores and felt pretty proud of myself.  And then Wednesday came.  (I did say couple, right?)  Work right now is crazy and with my birthday this week, it seemed like I was destined to not finish anything.  So readers, I sort of failed my first week.  :/

I decided today (Monday) to start again – and since it was a long weekend, I thought rather than setting my 30 minute timer, I would try something different.  My hubby made dinner and watched to watch The Voice (www.nbc.com/the-voice), so I hung out on the couch with him and got up during commercial breaks.  I pulled out the vac/steamer and cleaning wipes during one.. cleaned the living room baseboards during one.. dusted the couches (after getting my hubby up for a bit!) and fan during one.. vac/steamed during one.  I managed to get everything accomplished – and have some down time to relax after my 55 hour week.  I’d say, mission accomplished.  🙂

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I’m a cleanin’ machine!

After last week’s poll, I noticed that many of you would like more ideas on how to get some quick cleaning done; and, as promised.. I’m your guinea pig!  I did a search online, one through Pinterest, and dug through some old Real Simple magazines and came up with some great ideas to share with you.  So, here goes – my first test of quick cleaning!

While going through Pinterest, I came across this lovely little site called My 3 Monsters (www.my3monsters.com).  On a post entitled “Housekeeping”, I found this super cute chore chart.  I looked over the chart and other ones I’d seen here and there and decided on what my chores were going to be.  Then, I divided them and typed them up, printed, cut them out and pasted into this chart so I would have my own little chore chart.  🙂

Then, of course I printed it out and waited.  Cause.. I got lazy.  Yeah, it happens.  But I decided that starting today, I would get on it.  I mean, its Monday right?  It’s always good to start on a Monday.  And I decided that I would also try something else I read – using a timer.  So I set my timer for 30 minutes and got to work.  I mean, cleaning my whole house in less than an hour a day?  I can totally get behind that.

Today’s chores were the laundry room and living room.  Sweep, mop, dust the blinds, walls, baseboards, and fan, cleaning the litter box, and putting away laundry.  I could do this in 30 minutes, right?  Well.. almost.  Told you I’d be your guinea pig for the ideas, so here’s what I learned.

  1. Plan ahead.  Luckily I have a steamer/vac amazing thingy, so that saved me some time.. except I forgot to fill the water and I had to get it out of the closet – lost about 5 minutes doing those things.  And another few minutes getting the cleaning supplies to dust, etc.
  2. Don’t get distracted.  I also lost another few minutes because I got wrapped up in the TV show I was watching.  Next time, I’ll turn the TV off or put it on a music station.
  3. Be prepared to NOT finish.  Some things you may not finish, and that’s okay.  Just remember what you didn’t get to and do that first next time.  Preparing for your 30 minutes ahead of time will help you accomplish more, and once you get into the routine, you’ll be able to be more efficient anyway.  So, don’t stress it.  Just do it.

Okay, readers – its your turn!  Are you going to try out the chore chart (just right click on it, save and print!) and 30 minute timer?  Or are you going to wait to read some other tips?  Let me know your thoughts!  🙂

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Reinvention.

Hello lovely readers!

Its been so so long since I’ve blogged and I’ve missed it!  I’ve also have been thinking about the direction of my blog.  There are so many food blogs, how to blogs, and review blogs that I wanted to give you something a bit fresher.  I wanted us to go on new domesticated diva adventure together.  So, from now on, when I give you a recipe I tried.. I’m going to tell you how I cheated and changed ingredients and how bad it tasted.  And when I tell you about something I DIY’d … I’ll tell you how bad I screwed it up the first time, and how I totally nailed it the second.  And of course, when I tell you about how I tried a new way to clean the toilet, I’ll tell you about how I knew about this new method for months but kept delaying cleaning the toilet.  🙂

I’m also hoping to hear some ideas from you, my wonderful readers.  What would you like to learn about?  New recipes?  Something else super cool that you saw on http://www.pinterest.com and want me to try?  I’ll be happy to be your guinea pig!  I’ve finally come to the realization that I might be a mom soon, and I’m definitely a wife, and my domestication is starting whether I am ready or not.  🙂  So here goes, readers – the NEW Domesticated Diva.

What would you like to read about first – some amazing new recipes I’ve tried, simple cleaning tips, or my recent DIY adventures? 

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getting into the holiday spirit..

So today I’ve been taking down some of the more “Halloween” type decorations and I’m debating on leaving up the “fall” decorations.  I mean, we’ve not even had Thanksgiving yet, but Christmas seems to be everywhere.  I helped put up the Christmas trees in my store.. I’ve already heard a couple Christmas carols.. and I walked into Target a couple of days ago and was assaulted by the holiday spirit!  What is happening?  Its only the first weekend of November!

Does something change as we get older that time just seems to move faster?  Or has everything else just decided over the years that Christmas should start sooner and sooner to suck every possible dime out of us??  🙂

Lately I’ve been in a “spring” cleaning spirit (I think it comes with the changing of the weather..) and have been trying to knock out some of my *list* of things to get done on our house.  I know, I know.. we have 30 years to make changes.. but I want to get some of these done now.  It feels like it will really be *ours* once we put a little sweat and possibly blood into it, you know?  So part of that has been rearranging, throwing out, and buying new decorations.  Maybe I’m one of those weird people who decorate for every holiday, but I just feel like it makes me smile every time I see those silly window clings on our sliding glass doors.  But I’ve noticed that, despite having a collection of decorations, I just don’t have what I want.  Maybe it’s because my ideas on what looks good have changed, but mostly I think it’s because my living situation has changed over the years.  You know, house to apartment to *our* home.  Furniture is different, wall sizes are different, everything.  But I guess that’s part of becoming domesticated.  You get to start fresh.. with what you both love, and what works for both of you.  So, here’s to looking forward to Christmas and Christmas decorating!  🙂

…. if I can get through Thanksgiving first!

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Is it time?

For the past couple weeks I’ve had baby fever.  Not a constant, but a nagging in the back of mind sometimes.  I never thought I’d be 30 years old before I had a baby.. but I guess I’m glad I waited.  I’ve been able to do lots of things I shouldn’t/couldn’t do when you have a baby, and I’ve been able to grow up myself a little.  And yes, this nagging is usually triggered by seeing a baby, or a pregnant woman, or sometimes even baby stuff.  But sometimes its nothing at all.   Add to the fact that my husband is ready for baby, and… I guess its time.

Part of me feels like there is still so much stuff I’d rather do before I have a baby, or that I need to do before I have a baby.. but I keep hearing, “just do it!  you’ll never be fully prepared!”.  And I know I’ve done quite a bit, but aren’t there certain things you SHOULD do before having a baby?  Like, getting the room ready?  Saving money?  Buying diapers?  Go to Europe??  And there are so many things I’m worried about.. how soon will I go back to work after?  What if I’m not ready to go back?  Who will watch my child after I HAVE to go back?  Will my child be healthy?  Is the paint I want to use in the room safe?  Will I be a good mom?  Will I know how to raise my child like my parents raised me.. to be respectful and polite?  Not crazy and rude and irresponsible like so many kids I see now a days (wow, that just made me sound old!)  🙂

I figured I’d just take it a day at a time.. read books, do research, and the answers will come, right?  I hope…

So I started my adventure in preparing for baby last week.  Went for a physical (been a while since I had one of those), blood work, pee test, the works.  Everything looks good so far.  My husband and I finally agreed on names and I went to Home Depot to pick out paint color for the baby’s room.  (yes, I went with something neutral, just in case)  I also picked out paint for the guest bathroom and looked at a few other paint samples; because, call me crazy, but one of the things I want to do before baby is get my house in order.  I mean, my garage is still full of boxes to unpack and stuff to get rid of.  When do people have time to do these things?  And how am I going to have time for a baby if I can’t even finish unpacking?  Wouldn’t this be easier if I were a work from home mom and could clean/cook around other things?  How do moms get motivated to finish?  Which leads me to think that I should probably start taking some sort of vitamin to up my energy, and probably pick a project to do every day I’m off.  Or go in to work late.  Or come home from work early.  No more tv, time to clean and organize!  I can do that.  I think.

I’ll start tomorrow.  Get up, organize my coupons, grocery shop, finish the laundry, and…. something.  I’ll figure out something.  There’s still so much to do before I’m ready.. or maybe I’m just delaying it because I know I’m not.  But I am!  I can be a good mom.  I’m organized.  And I’m determined.  And I can totally do this.

I’ll keep ya posted..

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Vacationing on a budget!

At the end of the month, my husband and I are going on a week long vacation.  I”m very very excited.. and a bit antsy.  The hotels are booked.. the tours have been paid for.. and now I’m working on our budget.  I know, a budget for vacation?  Seems a little weird, but I want to make sure when we go, that we’re going to have fun… not going and not being able to pay for all the fun things we want to do, eat, etc.

So, to get started.. I kinda overestimated what I thought I might have to spend on gas, food, hotel, and fun things.  Then, I actually booked our hotels (and I actually had over budgeted by about $30), and I checked http://www.fuelcostcalculator.com to check the cost of how much gas would run me.  I was pleasantly surprised to see I had over budgeted gas by almost $75!  So far, so good!  I also made reservations at two restaurants, and checked menus for 3 others, so I was able to get a better idea of how much I’d need to save for food costs.

Speaking of food, I found some great info at http://www.menus4moms.com/articles/packing_food_road_trips.php and http://www.momsminivan.com/savemoney.html – and then, at http://ezinearticles.com/?Money-Saving-Tips-for-Road-Trips&id=6433343 … I read some tips I hadn’t thought of, like vehicle maintenance.  Probably a great idea… especially since its about time for an oil change, and well, you just never know.

What do you think readers?  Any other money saving ideas that you’ve thought of or used on your road trips?  For those of you who haven’t figured it out yet, I am definitely a planner.. heck, we don’t leave for another week and a half, but I’ve already started packing!  🙂  So, if you have any other ideas, I’d love to hear them!

Til then.. happy reading!  🙂

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Busy week..

Hello dear readers!

So many things going on for me this week I barely know where to begin!  Let’s see.. there was a birth, a death, and hopefully later today another birth.  Truly, all of them are cause for celebration.. including the death.  Not because we lost someone who was a great man, but because it gives us cause to celebrate his life with fun stories and friends who loved him.  As for babies, well, how can you not celebrate them?  🙂

Work has been a place of steady growth and change and I continue to press for positive change.  It can seem a little frustrating at times not seeing the type of growth I’m needing, but at least we’re moving in the right direction.  My domesticated side is also screaming for me to finish SOMETHING in my house.. so I decided to start with the guest bathroom.  I’ve decided color scheme and decorating ideas.. but I’m a bit at a loss as to where to find what I’m looking for, so I’ll keep checking around.  Also, it got me thinking about money-saving.  I told my best friend yesterday that with so many coupons out there, not to mention sales, why should any of us pay full price for anything anymore?  But, where do you find coupons for home improvement items?  Do I just wait until Lowe’s or Home Depot has a sale on paint to buy it?  Or is there an easier way to get a discount without having to wait for a sale?  Am I really just that picky that I need to wait for a sale or coupon?  Hmmm.. probably.  I mean, if I can save a few dollars, it’s probably worth it, right?

So, that’s been my search this week (in my little free time).. coupons for places other than the grocery store.  Are they out there?  Where do I find them?  If you have any ideas, readers, I’m all ears!  (Or eyes, I suppose).  Also, as a side note, let’s do a little poll!

That’s it for now dear readers!  I hope to hear some awesome money-saving ideas from you soon!  🙂

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Extreme Couponing?? Sign me up!

Hello dear readers!

For the last few weeks I’ve been looking into the ins and outs of extreme couponing… and let me tell you, its extreme.  🙂

For those of you who haven’t seen the show Extreme Couponing on TLC (http://tlc.howstuffworks.com/tv/extreme-couponing), you should definitely check it out – if only to get a few laughs.  For one, who NEEDS that much stuff??  And for two, who has that much time, not only to find and cut all those coupons and research them – but to go from store to store to store as well?  And has the space to store it all?

So I decided to start doing my own sort of “extreme couponing”.  I don’t see the point in purchasing a million items that my husband and I won’t use, nor do I have the space to put all that extra stuff.  I started simple.. cutting coupons, from my Sunday paper as well as ones I printed from the internet.  Then I got a lucky a few times – sometimes my coupons were also BOGO items (Buy One, Get One), so even more savings.  And then I started paying a bit more attention to the weekly flyer and shopping around what was on sale.  And little by little, I was saving more and more.   But recently, I stumbled upon a few websites to help me along my journey.  I always wondered how these Extreme Couponing people were able to get these deals.  How did they score sales on produce?  And meat?  Those things never went on sale!  Then I learned the secret… it wasn’t that these things necessarily had ‘coupons’ – it’s just that there were so many other coupons for everything else, that you could actually EARN money for buying certain items.

Well, now I’m *really* intrigued!  The first site I checked out was http://www.krazycouponlady.com, which has been featured all over the place.  But I found it was a bit hard to understand, and it was also more of a national site than what I really wanted.  Plus, I already knew about http://www.coupons.com, and other sites where you could print coupons, so it didn’t help me much.  Then I heard about http://www.southernsavers.com.  Now THIS site was perfect.  One, I’m a Publix shopper.  I know, everyone has a preference and some people don’t mind shopping all over the place to get the best deal.  But I love my Publix and I know there is *always* a deal there, even without coupons.  Plus, its easy for me to navigate because its been my store of choice for so long now.  The great thing about Southern Savers is that its specific to stores found in the South, and its very easy to navigate.  The first thing you should find is your favorite store and check on your store policies.  For example, I found with Publix they’ll accept one manufacture’s coupon and one store coupon – but no doubling.  However, you can use them on BOGOs (so, if you are getting a BOGO on toothpaste, you can use a manufacture’s coupon as well as a store coupon for both toothpastes.  Therefore, you can actually get paid to buy toothpaste!)  That being said, all stores are a little different and it’s always good to establish a relationship with your check out clerks and to have lots of patience!  Remember, you can go as extreme as you like with your couponing – for some people, that’s a few hours on a spare night during the week, cutting out every coupon they can find or print, and organizing by what’s on sale that week (like me!) or you can spend 40 hours a week searching coupons, printing coupons, and researching stores policies – not to mention the actual shopping!  Either way, you’re bound to save some money.. and that’s always a good thing!  🙂

Here’s my advice to get you started:

  1. Cut out every coupon you can find; whether you get it out of the paper, the weekly flyer or printable websites (you can find a huge list of these on http://www.southernsavers.com or http://www.krazycouponlady.com)
  2. Pull out (or go online) to find your favorite stores ad for the week.  (Or, go to http://www.southernsavers.com, select your store, and it has the ad broken down by item and which coupons are good for that item)
  3. Print or write out your list and mark the items that you have coupons for.
  4. Organize your coupons by store aisle.  (This takes a little time to figure out what items are on which aisle, but if you usually go to the same store over and over, its worth the extra time you’ll save while you’re in the store).
  5. Head to the register with patience and a smile.  And get ready to be excited about your savings!

Good luck readers!  Tell me about your success stories or any other tips I may have missed!  I’m still learning this, but I think I’m off to a good start.  🙂

 

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