Debt Payoff: September Report

Oh me, oh my.

This is how I'm feeling right now

This is how I’m feeling

September was a doozy of a month.  I don’t even want to show y’all this.  Really.  I type with tears forming in my eyes – tears of shame and tears of stress.  I promised myself to be accountable though, so I’m going to share anyway.  Please be kind.  It was a terrible month for us:

  • $502 in unexpected medical bills (out of pocket).  My son, after going to the dentist for a clean up, was required to have some work done.  Because he has such terrible sensory issues and anxiety (pretty common for kids with autism), they decided to sedate him.  That was $180 or so out of pocket.  When we arrived to do the sedation, they discovered other problems they hadn’t seen before.  That meant an emergency root canal.  Oh, yeah.

  • $825 in unexpected car repairs.  We noticed our back tires developed a slow leak, so we took them in to get them replaced.  That’s when we were surprised with the news that our front brakes had gone out, and not 2, but all 4 of our tires needed replacing.

  • My laptop’s hard drive broke down, along with the handle on our dishwasher as well.  We ain’t paying to replace those right now!

So…$1,327 in unexpected bills.  Too bad we wiped out our emergency fund in August!


Okay, enough with the sob story.  Let’s just look at the blasted numbers, eh?  ;)


Total (net) income from both our jobs for the month of September:  $2,638.44


Mortgage:  $1,037

Utilities (phone, internet, gas, electric, etc):  $250.27

Insurances (life and car):  $105.85

Tithing, church:  $285

Debt repayment:  $454.32

PTA and school fundraiser:  $15

Grocery: $275

Gas Money:  $210 (I know this is high…we drive 65 miles every weekday to get my son to and from his special needs school.)

The medical bills and car bills listed above went on our credit card – it was not in our budget.  :(


So…at the end of August our total debt was $8,073.91.  Today our total debt is $9,091.40.


I’m so glad it’s a new month!




Menu Monday and Weekly Goals – 9/29

Our eating from the pantry is in full swing!  We’ll only be purchasing fresh produce and items that we absolutely need for the next few weeks.  We went to the bread store outlet and bought 5 loaves of bread to freeze.  We also found a pack of “day old” bagels for a steal, so we bought those.  That should take care of our bread needs for awhile.  We ran out of milk last week, so we went to Costco and bought 6 gallons to freeze.  My kids drink it so fast, it seems.  I hope it lasts for a good while!


  • Bagels

  • Whole grain toast

  • Cereal

  • Fresh fruit

  • Oatmeal


  • Leftovers

  • Whole grain bread

  • Fresh fruit and fresh veggies

  • Greens chews



  • Monday – Crock Pot pork, green saladblack bean and corn salsa

  • Tuesday – Fried Rice with Battered Chicken, veggies

  • Wednesday -Taco night

  • Thursday – Chicken nuggets, carrots, mashed potatoes

  • Friday – Black Bean and Corn Salsa, brown rice

  • Saturday -TBD

  • Sunday -TBD

Have a great week!



As for the goals last week, well I did pretty well, but boy, it was a stressful week!  I’m glad it’s over. :)

Wednesday take Buddy Boy to the dentist to get his work done.
Wednesday take Munchkin to her Parent-Teacher conference.
Wednesday take Munchkin to her gymnastics.
Thursday take Buddy Boy to his Parent-Teacher conference.
Thursday go to my doctor appointment.
Saturday Buddy Boy’s baseball game. – Rained out!
Wednesday and Saturday pick the apples from our tree; can and preserve applesauce.

I’m so glad to be able to say I completed it all.  I also made a batch of tomato soup from our garden tomatoes.  With all the rain we’ve had this season, they are growing out of control…it’s AWESOME!! Goals for this week:


  1. Plan and hold Activity Days

  2. Go to the doctor and get follow up lab work done.

  3. Go over September budget numbers and report.

  4. Go to bank and get cash for October spending.

Have a great week!


Overrated by Eugene Cho – A Review and Giveaway!

BookCover-2DAbout the book:

We all want to change the world, but as pastor Eugene Cho found out, it takes more than just desire. It takes action. In this personal confession he encourages readers to discover a practical discipleship that begins with the recognition that changing the world starts with changing ourselves.

Many people today talk about justice, but are they living justly? They want to change the world, but are they being changed themselves? Eugene Cho shares his story, a messy, painful story of being more in love with the ideas behind the actions than counting the cost and being a world-changer in action. Because everyone loves justice and compassion, but few have taken it upon themselves to truly live it out in their own lives. Cho is still on that journey to discover what it means, and invites readers to join him.

About the author:

Eugene is the founder and visionary of One Day’s Wagesa grassroots movement of people, stories, and actions to alleviate extreme global poverty. He is the founder and senior pastor of Quest Church, an urban, multicultural, and multigenerational church in Seattle, Washington. Eugene and his wife, Minhee, have three children.


My thoughts:

I love the book.  It wasn’t exactly what I was expecting, based on the subtitle:  “Are we more in love with the idea of changing the world than actually changing the world?”  A lot of what I read felt separate from that theme.  Still, I enjoyed it.  I love the author, Eugene Cho’s, sense of humor, and he had me cracking up in spots.  His self-depreciating is especially humorous, and really adds to his fun personality.  There are many points made in the book that strike me.  Close.  Hard.  In the heart.  For example, in his chapter about going deeper, he talks about how easy it is for us to say we want to build a well or donate money to build a well to help with the water crisis.  Then he educates the reader on the reality of this solution.  He shares additional solution ideas….these things made me think, and made me realize that following the popular ideas for helping are not always the BEST ways of helping.  That sometimes we need to look deeper into a problem before we jump on the bandwagon of “solving”.

Mr. Cho shares his own very real, very honest story.  He, like all of us, is a human being with weaknesses and strengths, and he isn’t afraid to showcase either.  He uses teachings from the Bible in most of the book, applying it to the situations he talks about.  His personality is woven all throughout the book, which is quite possibly my favorite part.

I’m giving Overrated by Eugene Cho 5 stars, and I recommend it.  It will make you laugh.  I believe it will make you think.


Curious to know more?

Check out the book trailer here.

Official Website


Propeller Consulting, LLC, has been generous enough to offer Better on a Budget readers a chance to win your own copy of this book!  Enter below. :)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.
 Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.

Steak and Potato Stew – Frugal Friday

I know, I know.

Steak and Potato Stew sounds suspiciously a lot like Beef Stew – and technically, it probably is pretty close to the same thing.  I don’t know, because I’ve never read a recipe for beef stew.

I’ve been making a lot of soups, stews, and one-pot dishes lately, simply to make the meat stretch.  Because, have you SEEN the prices of meat lately?  Yeah, me too.  It’s especially fun over here, because I’ve been required by my doctor to eat protein at every meal.  And he specifically told me that it means MEAT and BEANS.  Nuts don’t even count!  Flaxseed doesn’t even count!  So, you know, I’m eating a lot of meat and beans.

At least beans are still pretty cheap, right?

Anyway, that is where this stew idea came from.  I had no clue what to cook for dinner but I knew we were low on meat and it needed to be stretched.  Here’s how it came together:

This gluten free Steak and Potato Stew is awesome!

I ain’t lying, this is good.

You could do this in a crockpot and really let that meat get tender, but I didn’t have a ton of time, and so I simply coated the meat in some cornstarch and coconut flour and then seared it in some olive oil over high heat to hold those juices in and to brown the meat quickly.  Then I let it simmer for a little bit in the stew.  The pieces were cut small so they cooked quickly.


The creamy Dijon mustard is optional.  I personally love the extra flavor it provided.


Steak and Potato Stew

Serves 4
Prep time 15 minutes
Cook time 30 minutes
Total time 45 minutes
Dietary Gluten Free
Meal type Soup


  • 1 quart chickensStock ((preferably homemade))
  • 2 Medium potatoes (peeled and diced)
  • 2 Medium carrots (peeled and diced)
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 cup almond milk ((or regular milk if you can have it))
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup coconut flour
  • sea salt (to taste)
  • pepper (to taste)
  • 1/2lb steak (diced thin)
  • 1 garlic cloved (minced)
  • 1 tablespoon creamy Dijon mustard ((optional))


Step 1
In a large saucepan, heat the chicken stock over medium heat. Add the potatoes and carrots right away, and allow it to come to a boil.
Step 2
Reduce heat to medium-low, allow the potatoes and carrots to simmer for 10-15 minutes until tender.
Step 3
In the meantime, slice and dice your steak nice and little. Season to taste with salt and pepper. In a shallow dish combine the cornstarch and coconut flour, add the steak and coat evenly.
Step 4
In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. When oil is hot, add the minced garlic. Immediately follow with the steak. Only add enough steak to cover the pan in one layer. Brown on both sides at the high heat, about 2-3 minutes total. Remove the steak from the pan. Repeat with remaining steak if needed.
Step 5
Add the almond milk to the skillet and stir with a whisk, making sure to scrape up the little bits of meat on the bottom. The mixture should thicken. If you want it thicker, you can add some of the leftover cornstarch/coconut flour mix to the skillet and thicken it further.
Step 6
Once the potatoes and carrots are tender, add the meat and the almond milk mixture to the saucepan, as well as the onion powder. Add in the mustard, if using, and stir it in. Season the broth to taste with more salt and pepper, if desired. Optionally, you can also season with oregano or dill.
Step 7
Simmer for a few minutes more until the stew is thick and hot. Serve with crackers if you'd like. Enjoying it is mandatory!




5 Basic Steps to Get Out Of Debt

Being in debt can be quite traumatic and stressful….as the majority of Americans know!  (According to NerdWallet, the average US credit card debt stands at $15,607, and between 45% – 80% of Americans have debt – the numbers range according to the type of debt we’re talking about – this is according to American Debt Advisor.)

Unfortunately, unless you take some determined steps to get out of debt, the ‘debt hole’ only gets bigger and bigger.  Sometimes it’s simply a matter of getting back to basics and doing the things we know we should be doing, but aren’t.  Let’s look at the steps below that can definitely help get you out of debt:

PicMonkey Collage3

  1. Acknowledge your debts

    You need to first admit that you have a debt problem that you need to get out of.  This can be painful.  I know it was for me when I openly acknowledged my debts on the blog for you all last month here.  But folks, this is quite possibly the most important step!  And it’s thrilling to see those numbers go down.  You’re not going to know that feeling if you don’t take the time to feel the pain now…

  2. Track your income and expenses

    Find out what exactly you are spending money on. This is not fun to do but it’s absolutely necessary and very revealing.  One tool that you can use to track (and plan) where your money is going is the YNAB (You Need A Budget) software.  I started using it 2 months ago and it’s absolutely fantastic.  I like that it only allows you to budget money you ALREADY HAVE, not money you are hoping to get soon.  It’s definitely worth checking out.

    Doing this judiciously will reveal areas where you can start cutting unnecessary spends and start saving money.

  3. Exploit ways to increase your income.

    Now that you know what your expenses are, you need to look for ways to maximize your income. Do you have any government entitlements or benefits you are not claiming? You could get a second job at this point or work overtime to help increase your income and invariably your savings.  This is a tough one for our family.  Raising a son with special needs, it’s not worth it to spend money on a daycare for him so that we can work extra.  Instead, I spend a lot of time taking online surveys for a little extra cash.  I spend a lot of time lowering my expenses as well.  Do what works for you, but don’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone!

  4. Prioritize your debts.

    Get a list of your debtors in order of importance. The high priority debts are the most important ones.  Some people choose to pay off the highest interest debt first.  Others prefer to tackle the smallest debt first, simply so that you can get the “snowball” rolling and see results quickly.

  5. Work out a long term repayment plan and stick to it.

    Sit down with the list above and fill in the amounts you owe each of them. Considering your income and expenses, work out how much you can pay over the long term.  And when you’ve paid off one debt, don’t spend that money celebrating!  Put your payments to the next debt.

Of course, there are many other more detailed plans out there, and I’ll link you to a few of them, but this is the main idea.  It’s a matter of becoming aware and then COMMITTING to do something about it.  Some of my favorite resources are:



Bend Your Brain by Marbles: The Brain Store (Book Review)

About the book:

9780804140096Want to get your frontal cortex breaking a sweat? Make your blood pump to your cerebellum? Stretch your occipital lobe to its limits?

Then you need to bend your brain! This first book from the team behind Marbles: The Brain Store, a chain devoted to building better brains, offers puzzles and brain teasers to help enhance memory, build problem-solving skills, and reduce stress.
Since Marbles started helping people play their way to a healthier brain, they’ve sold, solved, and been stumped by more than their fair share of puzzles. Along the way, they’ve learned which puzzles tie people in knots (not in a good way) and which ones make the neurons downright giddy. With the help of their in-house team of BrainCoaches and access to cutting-edge neuroscience, they’ve designed these puzzles to keep your mind flexible and fit.
Arranged in five key brain categories—visual perception, word skills, critical thinking, coordination, and memory—Bend Your Brain offers a variety of puzzles ranging from mind-warming (easy) to mind-blowing (hard!):

My Thoughts:

I love this book.  Holy cow, I love it!  The puzzles in there really make me think…and I’m kinda embarrassed to admit it, but the beginner level ones had me working hard.

As a working, blogging mom of two (one with special needs), I rarely find time to myself, and I often find myself feeling, I don’t know, out of it.  Like I can’t process another thing, or like I can’t focus and think straight.  I have found myself taking a few minutes (or more) at night after the kids are in bed to do a puzzle.  It’s not only ME time, it’s exercise my brain time!  I really feel that it will help me to have less of those brain fog moments that I can’t stand.  And heck, it’s fun, win-win! :)  I really like how the puzzles aren’t just things to make you think, they are puzzles to make you think DIFFERENTLY than you’re used to – to think creatively and outside the box.  I would love it if Marbles-The Brain Store came out with a ton of these.  I’d try them all!

5 Stars.  I LOVE the book!




I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review. All opinions are mine, and mine alone.

Menu Monday and Weekly Goals 09/22

I’m recovering from a rotten weekend.  And prepping for a crazy week.  Not the best combination…my poor family!

1797621_10203504572549557_9032873318178334408_nWe racked up $825 in unexpected car repair costs this weekend.  And I had a negative reaction to chocolate (it was the food I was allowed to add back in this last week).  And I had to rip out a section of carpet from my room, and cannot afford to replace it.  But then yesterday I woke up to the news that a friend had been in a car accident and her only son, a precious little 1-year old, had not made it.  Her husband passed away later that evening.


I’m heartbroken.  I’m sick to my stomach.  I’m stressed.  I’m mad at myself for even worrying about the smaller stuff, like the car and the chocolate.  But, I still have a family to care for, meals to cook, work to attend, bills to pay.  So, here I am, menu planning with food from our pantry only…because, well, we’re in money-saving mode.


(There is a GoFundMe page set up – since the only pain any of us can help alleviate right now is the financial burden.  You can find it here.)


And since life must go on, as it always does, here is the menu plan for the week:



  • Whole wheat toast

  • Cereal (chex and cheerios)

  • Waffles

  • Fresh fruit

IMG_20140826_192609Lunches (combinations of any of these items):

  • Brown rice with garden salsa and leftover chicken

  • Salad

  • Whole wheat bread

  • String cheese

  • Fresh veggies (carrots, garden tomatoes, garden cucumbers)

  • Fresh fruit (pineapple, apples, oranges)


  • Monday – Steak and Potato Stew

  • Tuesday – Leftover Teriyaki Chicken, brown rice, lettuce salad

  • Wednesday – Baked Potato Bar

  • Thursday – Crockpot Turkey Chili

  • Friday – Leftover Night

  • Saturday – Tacos and Quesadillas

  • Sunday – Dinner at my mom’s


The goals for this week…really, it’s more of a “to-do” list than a goal list:

  1. Wednesday take Buddy Boy to the dentist to get his work done.

  2. Wednesday take Munchkin to her Parent-Teacher conference.

  3. Wednesday take Munchkin to her gymnastics.

  4. Thursday take Buddy Boy to his Parent-Teacher conference.

  5. Thursday go to my doctor appointment.

  6. Saturday Buddy Boy’s baseball game.

  7. Wednesday and Saturday pick the apples from our tree; can and preserve applesauce.

I hope you all have a happy and productive week.  And please, take the time to hug your family a little tighter, and to love them a little better.  Life can change forever in the blink of an eye.


Linked up at OrgJunkie.