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Old hobby revisited

April 25th, 2016 at 06:04 pm

The girls and I spent this weekend at home, just relaxing. We walked to a local park to get some sunshine and extra steps, it felt great to be outdoors.

This weekend my youngest was asking to see the baby books. Shamefully, her book stopped at like 18 months! That is right around the time when our photos started going digital. I vow to get the scrapbook updated! I plan to take some step towards updating the scrapbooks every week. Yesterday I went through vacay pictures on my laptop for 2013 and 2014. I submitted my order to Walgreens online, and with a coupon, I was able to get at least 20 photos for $5. I gave the pictures to my daughter. Next weekend we will go to Michaels and pick out some themed paper and/or stickers so we can complete the pages for her book. Besides, scrapbooking can be very relaxing, and helps you keep your mind in the moment .

Calculating my short-term savings, I have enough to pay cash for one course this summer. However I still have several weeks before tuition is duie in full, so I can still round up enough cash to pay for my courses. I want to be finished with these puppies!

Fun weekend

April 17th, 2016 at 05:19 pm

We were blessed with some beautiful weather this weekend so I made sure we got out to enjoy it. On Saturday we went to a local state park with the dog and went on one of their wilderness trails. I loved the different elevations and peeks of water in the form of little streams and waterfalls. It was good for my brain to take in the different scenery.

Today I took my youngest to Georgetown Cupcake, from the TLC show. It was our first time there. We had to wait in a short line outside of the shop, so I'm glad we picked a nice day for it. This little trip cost $27 for a half dozen fancy cupcakes and some coffee drinks. Plus $11 for parking. Sigh. Still, we enjoyed it, and it was pretty much a "try it and done" sort of thing. I can't afford to go back just for the fun of it! In case you are wondering we enjoyed the cupcakes, and my daughter got a kick out of being there.

I let my oldest daughter sleep in since she got home late from her school trip to Nashville, she had a wonderful time. In the afternoon the kids and I went to the gym (yes, after eating cupcakes!), and then came back home to take the dog on a sunny walk. A nice day overall.

We all have a regular week ahead of us, with school and a few appointments afterschool here and there. I have an interview with an company Thursday for part-time summer employment, related to my post grad program. This could lead to a great job opportunity when I become board certified. It's nice to have options...

Time to catch up on everyone's blogs, have a great week!

April snapshot

April 7th, 2016 at 05:30 pm

I've reconciled my accounts for April thus far, and updated my sidebars. I'm finishing up my final two classes this summer. The courses are accelerated and I will be on summer vacation so I will have more time for the classwork. I will be working some, but only part time. Right now I'm saving up to cover the tuition that is due in mid-May, I don't want to take it out of my longer-term savings. I am looking forward to a time when I'm not cash-flowing tuition. Almost there!

Next week my oldest daughter heads out on her spring trip for her choral group to Nashville. I'm so excited for them, it should be an amazing time! She has some money set aside for spending, as I made the trip payments, with her help with some fundraising.

After classes are done I'm going to take a closer look at my income/savings/living expenses since I won't have to factor in tuition expenses. For the next year or so the living expenses are pretty much fixed (give or take little tweaks here and there). After my eldest graduates I will have more options on where I work and live.

Overall, I can't complain. My children are happy here and doing well in school. I have a job I love where I am making a difference in some lives. I like the people I spend time with daily. I'll figure the other stuff out as time goes on.

I'll try to get on with a more exciting update soon!

Finally time for a monthly update

March 18th, 2016 at 09:22 pm

Where the heck has March gone?! I made it to Spring Break, so now I can catch up on my blog, housework, schoolwork, etc. And of course enjoy vacation next week!

The $300 bonus was deposited into my Bank of America checking account this week, this bonus was an incentive to open an account. This money will go towards my last few classes.

This week I also received a $75 gift card to Amazon. This was an incentive for joining our teachers' union. I join yearly anyway, so this was a nice bonus. I will probably use this gift card on presents.

I bumped up my monthly "longer term" savings an extra $100/month. I figured I would increase it now because I can, I can always drop it later on if I need to. This will just get me closer to my goals.

Tomorrow we will head to the mall. The kids have gift cards to use on Spring clothes for the trip. After shopping I will get cheesecake for everyone at the Cheesecake Factory because I have a gift card.

This week I will also finish updating my resume. I will not be "board eligible" until December, but I want to start networking now. I will be attending an annual convention next month and that will be a great place to meet potential employers.

I think that's it for the finance updates, I hope everyone on the board is doing well!

February wrap-up

February 29th, 2016 at 05:27 pm

This month flew by, I did not have much time to spend on blog updates. Low-spend February: I still have my rainy day funds and I kept the money in savings as well. Though to be honest, this was because I received a tax refund and so used a bit of that for spending!
So I don't have a truly accurate savings amount for the month.

March budget is all set up. I have to be extra careful with it because the girls and I will be going away for 4 glorious days during Spring Break! The more I save now, the more we'll have for our vacation.

In the meantime, we have school keeping us busy. My oldest is starting to get interested in her college plans, so it's fun to talk about with her finally. For a while there she did not want to talk about life after high school at all!

Low spend and career update

February 7th, 2016 at 07:33 am

I'm one week into my low-spend month, and I haven't dipped into Rainy Day funds to pay any expenses that have popped up. I'm building up my Rainy Day fund by covering those expenses from my "spending" category this month.

Already my additional schooling is paying off. I've been approached by admin to take over a specialist's position in the building during her maternity leave! They are very confident I can do the job, more confident than I am at this point! In fact, they confided that the specialist is choosing not to return to that position next year and they would like me to consider taking the position permanently.

I take it as a huge compliment that they want me for this position. I will accept it for the remainder of this year, but not make any decisions for next year just yet. It will be excellent experience for me as I will be eligible to sit for the board in December and the more experience I have in the field, the better. Once I pass the board, though, and finish that school year I will most likely not return to teaching. As much as I love teaching, I can make a lot more money outside of public school once I become board certified.

Ready for February low-spend

January 31st, 2016 at 05:55 pm

My budget is all set up for February, and all of the money has been transferred to the appropriate accounts. I set my budget slightly lower than we typically use for the month. So not only will I save a little extra this month from shaving a bit off of the expenses budget, but I should also be able to keep the rest of my money in the rainy day categories to build.

Yesterday my kids and I met up with a group of friends at a nearby ski resort. I had a good time with everyone and it was a nice afternoon with the kids. The money was already set aside for that trip, always a nice feeling.

Today I spent extra time in the kitchen, prepping things for the week and making lunches for tomorrow. It got warm out today so the snow continues to melt. We return to school tomorrow, with a 2 hour delay so that the sun is up when the kids are walking and waiting for the bus. Many of the walking paths and bus stops are still obstructed, so students may end up walking on the streets to get to school or to wait for the buses. I didn't realize that our district has 40,000 walkers, that is a lot of students to look out for!

This week I will be busy getting my head back into "work space". I will also be completing my last week of one of my mandatory education courses. I plan to do my taxes as well,realistically probably not until the weekend.

12 days total home from school

January 29th, 2016 at 07:10 am

Including the weekends, by the time we return to classes Monday we will have been off from school due to the blizzard for 12 DAYS. If only I could have predicted the future, I could have found something really amazing to do for 12 days! As it turns out, I got ahead on my courses, worked out, took naps, got my house completely unpacked, and played in the snow, cooked, and hung out with my kids. I was bored at times but felt that when I kept up a routine of some sorts I was able to get a lot done. I will have lots and lots of paperwork to keep me busy when I return to the classroom, I didn't have my work computer home with me because I wasn't expecting to be off school that first day.

I got paid today, now I am just organizing the budget, quite the feat when you get paid just once a month, and the money gets split into 3 accounts. I did it that way to take advantage of the BOA offer for $300 to open a checking account. In a couple more months I will close one of the accounts and make my money more streamlined again.

Thrift-o-Rama (if I am saying that correctly!) mentioned a low-spend February on her blog. I like the idea of a set amount of cash for the spending for the month. I sort of do that now, with my Ynab budget, but I think I need to be more diligent on this, since I keep running out of cash in those accounts and pulling from my rainy day funds. If I can stick to a low-spend February (a short month, too!) then that will give me a bit of breathing room to "catch up" my rainy day fund.

I have a snow tubing trip to attend with the kids tomorrow, I'm pretty excited about it, I've never been. I have never been one to play in the snow (I like warm weather!), but this year I discovered snow pants. The kids have always had them for when they went skiing with their dad, but I never bothered. Snow pants, a good scarf and gloves really do keep you dry and warm, so you can stay outside a lot longer. Duh.

Snow Day #5, meal planning

January 27th, 2016 at 05:04 am

Once the sidewalks and bus stops get cleared the kids will be back in school. Our school district is huge so there is a lot of area that needs to be cleared for safety.

Yesterday I created a table of 30 meals that we typically make and laminated it. Out of these meals I create a weekly menu, and then jot down the grocery list next to the menu. After I choose the meal I cross it off the table for the month. The meals look kind of boring, now that I see it on paper, but it is what it is. I am realistic enough to admit that I am not going to be fixing hard core meals during the week. If it has protein and a veggie I am good. The kids both are able to cook, too, so once a week they are responsible for prepping dinner.

I am starting a running list of other meals that we decide we like, and I will add them to the table. This will hopefully make weekly menu creation simpler.

Today I will be picking up groceries for the week so I will find out if this system works...

Snow Day #4

January 26th, 2016 at 02:28 am

I have shoveled all there is to shovel. Well, there are the sidewalks on the corner of the neighborhood. But the sidewalks are untouchable right now because the plow trucks shove the snow onto the curbs and sidewalks, creating actual mountains. When there is somewhere for all of that snow to go then I can help clear the sidewalks.

I broke down 5 small boxes of "keepsake/hold onto" stuff that was in my closet. I threw some of the stuff out after deciding it wasn't worth holding onto, and some of the stuff I combined with other things. I have a much roomier closet now.

Today I will venture out to the nearby area. My gym is now open and is only 2 minutes away. It will give me a feel for what the roads are looking like.

I have avoided thinking about a "5 year plan" because things were so up in the air, but really, I need to be working towards "something". Otherwise I will continue to feel like a ping pong ball, just going wherever. So in addition to the organizing, exercising, and homework, I have been drafting ideas in my head, about what is important for my family and me.

No leaving the house, no eating out :)

January 23rd, 2016 at 08:52 am

One plus of being snowed in is that I cannot be tempted to eat out instead of eat what is in my kitchen. Eating out has always been a temptation for me, I'm kind of lazy!

I don't know how much snow has fallen so far (taking a break from local news today), but it is a lot. I am safely tucked in my home with my family, with plenty to eat, and electricity. I have been cleaning, cooking, doing homework, and, starting this morning, shoveling. I just had to shovel the front of my garage and front door. It is still snowing but I figured I would shovel throughout the day so it does not turn into one big ice pile. The kids have to do the next round!

I will go over my budget in a bit, and try to update some of by goals.

The Nicotine analysis

January 22nd, 2016 at 07:16 am

Looking at my brainstorm PIC/NIC analysis on the behavior of chewing tobacco vs. drinking water, you can see that the negatives of chewing tobacco far outweigh the one positive: relief from the nicotine craving. This means that the relief from the nicotine craving must be very powerful, instantly gratifying, and certain. That is why it seems so tough to beat an addiction. You have all of those negative consequences under chewing, but that one positive consequence trumps the negatives. Notice under “certain/uncertain”, the health consequences are “uncertain”. This is because you personally may not have a behavior history in which a health consequence has occurred. You may have a 99% chance of developing mouth cancer, but it is not “certain” because you do not have a behavior history to vouch for this.

On the other end, drinking water instead of chewing has lots of positive consequences, but you do have one powerful negative “feeling” consequence. The one negative is that waiting out a craving is very uncomfortable, may not happen instantly, and therefore is uncertain (meaning, you don’t have a strong history of obtaining nicotine relief from drinking water). You probably will overcome the craving, but that experience isn’t built up yet, so that relief isn’t considered “certain”, unlike chewing tobacco, which has always been “certain” to bring you nicotine relief.

If you just don’t chew, quit cold turkey, then you will get all of the benefits of quitting, eventually, but that also goes against a long history of reinforcement from chewing, which is why it is so tough.

In this situation one can look at the table and acknowledge that yes, the cravings are strong, but if you consistently choose an alternative behavior then the chewing behavior will become weaker as the new behavior becomes stronger. Focus on the new replacement behavior, and make that as rewarding as possible. Bob’s been successful with nicotine gum because the craving is relieved fairly quickly, unlike drinking water in my example. The longer he has success with nicotine gum, the weaker the chewing tobacco behavior will become. OR, you can focus on the antecedent, or what happens before the behavior. You can arrange the environment in ways that will make chewing tobacco less rewarding: avoid typical chewing places (for instance the garage?), a different setting with friends for a while… OR, you can focus on the consequences to make them stronger, more immediate, and certain. Someone suggested finding a use for the saved money, and that is a great way to increase the immediacy of the consequence. Start seeing that money right away, consistently, and that consequence will become more reinforcing.

Thanks for hearing me out, guys. I was really inspired by Bob’s quitting experience and found this material connected for me. It’s all about overcoming the immediate gratification, but so often the “right” thing to do feels like the “wrong” thing, which is why we often fall back to old behaviors of overeating, slacking off, or spending money. But we are smarter than that! 

Forming better habits, or behaviors

January 21st, 2016 at 05:28 pm

I read Bob's blog, where he mentioned that he was quitting tobacco and I was inspired to share some information that I learned about in one of my classes. You all may not know this about me because I try to keep some information vague online, but I am a huge behavior nerd. (That's a clue for my post grad program!).

In the field of behavior analysis, under the subfield of organization behavior management, PIC/NIC Analysis was developed to help analyze behavior consequences in order to help figure out why people do what they do, even if they know better. P/N (positive/negative consequences), I/F (immediate/future consequences aka delay of gratification), and C/U (certainty/uncertainty of receiving consequences). Basically, people will behave more consistently when consequences are PIC/NIC because in the past that behavior resulted in consequences more quickly. An example I found was regarding recycling. We all know it is important to recycle/reuse bags, and we know how bad plastic bags are for the environment. So why do people still choose to use plastic bags over reusable bags? Take a look below, if I can attach the picture correctly!

Heward,W. and Kimball,J. (2013). Sustaining Sustainability with Clueless Contingencies. Sustain, 28, 4-15.

Basically, doing the right thing feels more like work, and the consequences for doing the right thing (getting your reusable bags from the car), are far in the future. People naturally gravitate towards what behavior has given them a desired consequence immediately versus a consequence that "may" happen in the future.

Anyway, I thought that this analysis was interesting because I can place any of my unhelpful behaviors into the chart and acknowledge why I am making the choices that I make. Then I can decide for myself if the behavior is worth changing, even if I have to possibly delay gratification. I can also determine how to rearrange my environment and consequences in order to make the desired behavior either easier to achieve or more rewarding.

I can totally see how this analysis is useful in dieting and in staying within a budget!