A Mid-Year Change in Homeschool Curriculium

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Sometime after Christmas I was looking at curriculum and evaluating where Thing 1 and Thing 2 were in the year, I had a moment where I thought about bumping Thing 1 up to Essentials next year (Classical Conversations). I thought maybe she could handle it. That is until I actually looked into what they were doing. Then I had the oh no moment you never want to have as a homeschooling parent.

This past summer, a good friend from Texas and I were chatting curriculum and she said, “Tara, look at Shurley English.” I did and promptly reported back to her I was going to stick with the Abekka route this year. I wanted a simple, no fuss, curriculum this year since we were starting Classical Conversations and I was having Thing 4 in the fall. After looking through the material I knew that Thing 1 would be ok to wait on Shurley’s because she was going to learn all of that stuff between 3rd and 4th grade with Abekka. That stuff being parts of speech. After all, why change her, she was writing full paragraphs before the end of first grade. Never mind that she didn’t understand what an adjective was or what I was looking for when I said, “Be more descriptive!” At the time, I wasn’t even thinking about the impact my English curriculum would have on our Classical Conversations curriculum.

We know that we want to continue with Classical Conversations in our future curriculum. We love the results it produces and the smiles on our Thing’s faces every time we review. It is their favorite part of school. Mine too. Knowing that Classical Conversations is where we are going to root ourselves, I want to make sure that I am setting them up for success. Staying put with Abekka was not going to work. As soon as I realized where she needed to be in order to take full advantage of Essentials in 4th grade, I made the switch. Shurley’s is a 28 week curriculum. I started her in Level 2 now rather than wait until fall and Start Level 3 (which she would have struggled with greatly). My plan is to continue Shurley’s through the summer. We should be through all of our other curriculum by early May.

What is Shurly teaching?

I did not know this until I actually got my book, but in addition to teaching them vocabulary words, parts of speech, and jingles to learn the parts of speech, they are also learning states and capitals. I was very pleased about this! I know we will be learning them in CC, in Cycle 2 or 3, but I was/am happy to see the curriculum coincide so well. We made it through one full week plus part of a second before stopping to work on Memory Master. Thing 1 now knows the difference between synonyms and antonyms. She can look her vocabulary words up in a dictionary on her own, write the meaning, and she can then tell me if the vocab words are synonyms or antonyms. She has learned the capital and postal abbreviation for Alabama.

She is picking up on the jingles with out any issues. In fact, I believe Thing 2 has the verb jingle completely memorized because he and Thing 1 think the jingle is hilarious and they sing it over and over. As early as the next lesson, the students are labeling subject nouns and verbs in a sentence.

By the end of the curriculum they will be labeling parts of speech and doing Question and Answer flows. This is something that if you are going to go through Essentials, you will want to be prepared for. An example:

“The church bell rang loudly in my ears.

1. What rang loudly in my ears? bell- SN

2. What is being said about the bell? bell rang- V

3. Rang how? loudly- ADV

4. In- P

5. In what? ears- OP

6. Whose ears? my- PP

7. What kind of bell? church- ADJ

8. The- A

9. SN V P1 check

10. (in my ears)- Prepositional Phrase

11. Period, statement, declartive sentence

12. Go back to the verb- divide the complete subject from the complete predicate.”

(Shurley Instructional Materials, Inc. p 396, Lesson 27)

They will also be able to give you the capital and postal abbreviation for all of the states.

Does she like it?

Recently, her tutor from CC asked if she did and she said no. I have no idea what prompted her to say that because she really does. She LOVES the jingles. At first, I had her doing the journaling that is supposed to go along with each lesson. I quickly nixed that. Maybe next year, but for this year she can choose to write in her own journal or write a letter to someone. I think the journaling was not up her alley. She does like to journal, but on her own terms, in her own secret journal. I respect that.

I am actually super excited about Shurly’s. Over the summer when I first looked at it, I thought it was too soon for a second grader to learn and understand all of the parts of speech. That just isn’t so if it is presented the right way. I wish I had learned it this way. If your child is in CC they already know all of their prepositions and helping verbs which is helpful. Again, the curriculums pair nicely. That is about all that I can give you for now as far as knowledge about the curriculum. Feel free to ask me more as I dive deeper into it over the summer.

Which leads me to our plans for next fall. Since Thing 4 has arrived, I find myself missing the simplicity of being a SAHM and not a homeschooling SAHM. Please don’t misunderstand where I am coming from. I do enjoy watching my children learn and all that jazz… but I miss the crafting, the coloring, and the goofing off. Since Thing 4, I just can’t find the time for that. Next year is going to be different. I am thinking of schooling for a few weeks, then taking one or two off just to craft, enjoy the pool, and be a family. School a few weeks then take 2 off again. We start so early every year that I don’t see this as being an issue. Also, I believe the breathers will be welcomed in the midst of our ever- changing busy schedules. Maybe four weeks on one week off, or six weeks on and two off? I haven’t decided yet, but I need to build those breaks in. My Things are growing up before my eyes and even though I homeschool, and I am a SAHM, I am missing out on all of the things I love to do and want to do with them. That just doesn’t sit right with me so that is definitely going to have to change. Does anyone have this type of schedule for homeschool? How does it work for you? I would really love input here. I am on this adventure/journey, call it what you will, right along with ya’ll. If we can’t bounce ideas off of each other, then what?

I have a few very exciting things coming soon that I can’t share yet. Soon! Because of these exciting things, I will be making some changes on the blog. Once they are all done I will let you know. Stay tuned!

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How We Became A GF Family

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I have had a few of you ask how we became gluten free so this post is for you.

We made the decision to become a gluten free family in January. A few years ago, I had a hunch Thing 2 had gluten issues based on his behavior after meals. He would bend over holding his stomach in pain after a sandwich. He had some other signs as well that made me wonder. We decided to have him tested for Celiacs during an operation to have his tonsils and adenoids removed. He had already been on a GF diet for a few weeks by that time. I did not realize going GF before the test would mess with the results until a year later. When the test came back negative for Celiacs, I was really confused. I decided from that point forward to limit his bread intake. At that point in our menu planning you can see that I changed up our lunches from sandwiches. I limited bread to maybe 2 times a week. I saw an improvement in him, but not enough to make me not try to do more so I added more fruit and vegetables.

Right after I came off all of my pain medications from my last c-section, I started noticing the intense pain my body was in. I thought something was really wrong with me. My shoulders have hurt for a large portion of my adult life but I had always assumed it was stress. When I would get massages, the only place they ever focused on was my shoulders and they tried to teach me exercises to help relieve the tension, but it never worked. The summer before my c-section I had been using a shampoo to help stimulate re-growth in my hair. Everyone assumed my hair was falling out because of my last pregnancy and that my hormones had not caught back up with my body. After using the shampoo one day, my scalp felt like it was on fire. I immediately quit using that shampoo, but still had no idea what really triggered it. I sent out a question on FB one day asking if anyone ever felt like they had the flu from stress. I received a few emails, but one caught my eye. Someone suggested an intolerance to gluten. I looked it up and thought, really? Me? No way! This whole time I was sure Thing 2 had a sensitivity, but not me. I looked into it and sure enough each of us deals with a gluten intolerance differently and it doesn’t always show up in the form of stomach issues.

Did I get tested? No. Why? Well, I decided to try to go GF for a few weeks with Thing 2 and truly see if I felt different. I didn’t see any reason to get poked and prodded if in the end I did or did not feel better. I figured the proof would be in the bread so to say. A few weeks went by and without me even realizing how quickly my body changed, it did. The pain I carried around in my shoulders disappeared, my mind felt clearer and not foggy, I had engergy  and did not experience the 3pm downward spiral everyday (it still happens because I am human, but the lack of energy is not immobilizing). Interestingly enough, veins showed back up on my eyeballs. I am not a doctor, and I didn’t see one for a diagnosis, but I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt, I am sensitive to gluten. Beyond that, what it means for me, is that every shampoo, piece of makeup, lotion, toothpaste, food I handle, gum I chew has to be GF or I feel it. I feel it like I have never felt it before. I only tested myself a few times to make sure, and I am positive after accidentally having gluten or handling gluten foods, or using shampoo with wheat, that I am sensitive. I don’t need a label or a doctor to tell me that. We tested Thing 2 after he went GF for a few weeks and after giving him a small handful of gold fish he threw up. We put him back on a GF diet for a few weeks and tried one more time with a few cubes of french bread and he threw that up. That solved that. So, that’s interesting and all but you are wondering how I made the switch.

I remember the moment I started looking at everything in our pantry and freezers and realized almost all of our food contained wheat. I was overwhelmed and freaked out. Wheat, processed in on machines that contain wheat.. it was on everything. The first thing I did was make a mental note of how I felt at that exact moment. I felt horrible. I had just finished testing myself for the last time and my body hurt. Even my fingers. I knew it was going to be a hard transformation for me unless I mentally got on board with this new life and so I did. I took note of every pain in every joint on my body that day and I remembered it.

Next, I grabbed boxes and started filling them up with all the food that contained wheat.  Don’t worry, I did not throw it away. I gave it to some good friends. It was so discouraging to see a bare pantry and know I had no flour. Next. I went to Vitacost and ordered flours and snacks. My first order was $68, but it contained all that we would need to start fresh with a healthy life. I knew enough about GF foods to know better than to buy what I needed to restock my pantry from a grocery store. That’s not to say I don’t buy Udi’s pizzas or bread from the grocery store, because I do. When it comes to buying flours and snacks, those come from Vitacost. I use GF noodles when making pastas or lasagna (I do spend the extra money to pick those up from the grocery store or Whole Foods), I make my bread when I have time, and now I have to plan a little more to have really cool breakfasts like pop tarts or cinnamon rolls that are GF. Do I miss bread filled with gluten? Am I alive? YES! What I miss most is a buttered biscuit with ham from Bojangles. I am so country. I own it.

If you are doing this for a lifestyle change (because let’s face it, it is healthier to be GF), or because you feel like you may have sensitivity to it, try be budget conscience about menu planning. Go with meals that do not need extra purchases for flour or noodles.

Here are some suggestions:

1. GF Chicken or Italian Dish

2. GF Crock Pot Roast

3. Stuffed Peppers

4. Chili

5. Butternut Squash Soup

For breakfast, go with a smoothie or yogurt. For lunch, I always eat salad and fruit. Being GF doesn’t mean you need to spend hundreds of dollars a week in groceries, but you do need to get use to the idea of eating healthier. Salads, nuts, fruits (fresh and dried), and brown rice are your friends. Once a mom always a mom. If you have an Aldi in your area, try shopping there to keep your grocery bill low. Our BJ’s (A Costco or Sam’s) carries a large variety of GF snacks and breakfast bars. I do grab a few things from there as well.

I hope I have been able to encourage those who asked for this post and shed light on easy ways to become GF without borrowing from the bank. Please feel free GF veterans to leave comments sharing recipes or ideas to help those of us who are new in this journey.

This is another resource for those of you who would like more information: Gluten Free on a Budget- ThriftySue

GF Italian Chicken or Fish Dish and letting Things help

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

Matthew 11:28

We have had a long week over here. It has been filled with SAT preps, Memory Master prep for Classical Conversations, some colds, and an ear infection. I will be glad to finally get to our weekend! Some weeks are just like that, right? Thank goodness I know Who to go to, or cry out to when I am weary.

I have a few goodies coming up soon. I have had a few requests lately for posts. The following are coming your way: The Change of Plan in Homeschool This Year; How We Transitioned to a GF Diet; A Guest Post TBD.

Today we are going to chat food. This recipe was inspired from a recipe my sister gave me for Salmon. You can use this recipe on fish or chicken. I know you are thinking, “FISH?!” Would I steer you wrong? We are not fish eaters, especially Salmon, and this was just wonderful on it! No fishy taste or smell in the house!

So, don’t hate me, but I don’t have exacts for this one. It’s an add until it looks good type of recipe. This recipe is great for the little sues chefs in your home. I have a few of those, so when appropriate, I allow them to help me. Allowing your Things to help you in the kitchen builds memories, teaches them patience (especially needed at 2-3 years old), a beginning and ending, and process forming thoughts. Not a psychologist, but I do know these things to be true because I watch the wheels turning in Thing 3’s mind when he is helping me. Also, when they help, they are proud of what they have helped create and are more likely to eat what you serve.

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GF Italian Chicken Dish
Author: Tara Norman

4 chicken breasts
2 large tomatoes
Basil
Olive Oil
Onion Salt
Minced Garlic
Oregano
Salt to taste

Preheat oven to 350
In a small bowl mix olive oil, basil, and minced garlic. I had my assistant Thing 3 do the mixing. Feel free to sing a song while mixing. His original song was, “I mix, and a mix, and a mix, and a mix, and miiiiiiix!” Lay your chicken breasts in an oven safe dish. Have your sues chef help spoon the mixture onto the chicken breasts. Mamma or daddy, go ahead and cut your tomatoes. Let your sues chef place the tomatoes whereever they can find space in the dish. Let them hold the olive oil bottle with you while you drizzle some over your tomatoes. Hold onto the shakers, but let them sprinkle just a little Oregano, onion salt, and salt over the whole dish (I say hold on to… maybe I should say be ready to tilt up the shakers, ha!). Bake for 1 hour. Baking time may change based on how thick your chicken breasts are.

If you are Thing 3, you will wait by the oven the entire 60 minutes so you can watch your creation cook. It’s amusing to me how Things never have patience until they are waiting for their creations to finish cooking! This is not something I asked him to do. He just grabbed his little stool, pulled over all his toys, and sat. At one point, he pulled every pot and baking pan he could get his hands on and had all of his Toy’s Story guys taking a swim in the pots. I think there was a car chase involved, but I digress. This is real patience for this Thing. Waiting for me to open a breakfast bar proves to be too long for him at times.  I enjoy the moments I see him truly exercising patience on his own.

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Oh yeah, the food. Once your chicken is cooked through, remove from oven and serve. You could eat this by itself (with another side) or serve over a GF pasta with extra sauce and mozzarella. This is how we ate our last night.

For Fish

Roast tomatoes first in oven preheated to 400 for 15 minutes. Lay the fish over the tomatoes and season your fish the same way you seasoned the chicken above. Cook for 15 minutes or until the fish is flaky and cooked through. Enjoy!

Find order in cooking, make memories at the table, and feel good about what you are feeding your family as it was made by your loving hands.

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Peanut butter Oatmeal Muffins

Can you believe Easter is almost here? This year is going by incredibly fast! Just as I was mentally wrapping up our school year, I had a “oh no!” moment when I realized I needed to change up Thing 1’s curriculum. More to come on that in another post. I did a curriculum change mid- year as well as moved Thing 2 up to kinder. I have no idea what this all means for summer break. I really think I am going to switch up what a school year looks like for us. More to come on those ideas as well. Haha. I’m thinking as I type (from my phone). That’s how I roll sometimes. I’m a mom of 4 who just sat down for the evening at its 10:30pm; and that’s the simple truth.

These were inspired from a cookie recipe I saw on Instagram yesterday. They truly do not need the icing, but I had some left over from making poptarts so I drizzled some over the muffins. Best served with milk (or coffee). Before I forget how I made these yummy things…

Peanut butter Oatmeal Muffins
Author: Tara Norman

2 C GF Old Fashion Oats
2 mashed bananas
2 Tbsp (heaping tbsp) peanut butter
2 Tbsp Vanilla Almond Milk
3 Tbsp raisins
1/2 Tbsp cinnamon
1 Tbsp Agave

Bake in muffin cups at 375 for 25 minutes.

For icing:
Mix 2 Tbsp powdered sugar with 1Tbsp milk. Drizzle over muffins as desired.

These could be made into bars as well. I think next time I’m making a bar version just to keep it interesting.

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Budget Series Part 2: Creating a Debt Buster

The rich rule over the poor,and the borrower is servant to the lender.
Proverbs 22:7

He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”
Matthew 17:20

In case you are just finding me, this is part two of a budget series I am running on my blog. This part is about how to create a debt buster. I started with the intention of just writing two posts about budget and debt. I have at least two more on the horizon. Turns out there is more I wanted to share than I initially thought! Let’s just dive right in today, shall we?

If you are in debt, even a little, you understand the pull of the noose from debt. It sucks the joy, the fun, the hope right out of your world. It can seem like no matter how much you plan or how much you put towards a debt, it never seems to make a dent. The devil will tell you there is no hope so why even try. Been there. Twice actually. The Man and I know first hand what it is like to be debt free. The freedom, the joy, the huge, huge strain that is lifted from your marriage. From your life. As I type now, we are on our second journey to wiping out our debt. We hope to be completely debt free of credit card and student loan debt by next spring. The first go around we never paid off college loans. If you will be prayerful, purposeful, mindful, and obedient, you will get out of debt. I will talk more about that when I wrap up this series. First, let’s talk about your plan for a second. Now that you have a clear picture of your income versus spend every pay check you can lay out a clear plan of attack. First order of business is to trim the fat. What is fat? Cable, land lines for phones, nails, pedicures, coffees, movies, eating out… all of that is fat. Trim it off. Secondly, in order to be really serious and really committed you have to get in the frame of mind to really truly pay off your debt. What do you mean? I am all about getting rid of my debt. Really? Then cut up your credit cards right now. Stop reading this post and go do it before you talk yourself out of it. As long as that plastic is still whole, you will mentally use those cards as your back up system, your bail me out money. Don’t believe me?

Look, this is our second go around with this. I can tell you exactly where we went wrong. We paid off credit card debt BUT 1.)didn’t keep with the Dave Ramsey plan after we paid off our CC debt. We did NOT continue to build savings, start college funds, and pay off our home. 2.) We didn’t cut up our credit cards because we knew we could both restrain from using them. That is, until we got scared. Two years ago the Man took a HUGE step in faith and left his job. We had just had Thing 3. He was a newborn, literally 5 weeks old, when the Man left his job. Without a back up job. That job was tearing us apart and turning him into a man of fear who made his job his idol. We prayed for 7 solid months for God to only open one door for him to walk through. We were afraid we would take the wrong job. Seven months! Out of fear, we started using our credit cards. We had money in our accounts but he had just quit his job in the absolute worst economic climate of our lifetime. No one was crazy enough to walk away from a job during that time. We received confirmation from God that it was time for him to leave and so we obeyed and he left his job two days later. We trusted God to bring us through it, but we used our credit cards just in case. Fear. Fear. Fear.

Do Not Fear! It is the most repeated verse in the Bible. It is said at least 365 times in the Bible. One time for every day of the year. Fear will make you do or not do a lot of things. If we had continued with what God had told us to do in the beginning, pay off our debt (including our home), we would not have used those cards to begin with. Fear took over. We knew about fear. We had faith enough to obey, we had confidence enough that God would provide, but fear allowed us to justify using the cards. *Shaking my head* You could build a sermon around our story. Really. Just cut up the credit cards. If you are going to trust God to pull you through this, then trust God to pull you through.

Now that you have shredded your plastic let’s make a plan. I am a person who likes simple organization. I don’t like complicated things that take me forever to figure out or put together. The simpler, the better. What that means for you is that you are going to build a debt buster plan from the very same spreadsheet you created your budget from. I like to see an immediate picture, an overall picture, and a future outline of what and when. This is a snap shot of our very first Debt Buster. Again, if you click on the picture it will be enlarged for you.

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The first tab of the Debt Buster Spreadsheet is a summary tab that reflects the total debt for each credit card, the starting balance of each card (start column), the ending balance (current), and the annual percentage rate (APR). To the right of each card (Payment plans) I was using each row to estimate how long it would take to pay off each card with each paycheck. At the bottom of the spreadsheet is a running total showing us how much was left in debt by adding all the ending balances together. Use the formula =sum(Cell number to start adding + cell number to end adding). That formula will auto calculate your totals for you. Why did I include the starting balance of each card? Well, I am a visual person. I need to see progress to feel progress. I hope that makes sense. I need to be able to look back at where we started and say, “Wow! Thank you, Lord!”

The rest of the spreadsheets in the workbook entails a tab for each credit card. We created a column for date payment paid (Date), the amount paid (Payments), and the remaining amount owed. At the top of the tab we noted the starting balance and the annual percentage rate of that particular credit card. As we paid off each card, we turned the tab green to show it was PIF (paid in full). Dave’s plan of attack with credit cards is to start with the smallest debt to the largest. Snowballing the payments into the next debt and the next debt and so on. Thus he calls this step the “debt snowball”. His logic is that getting out of debt is an emotional process not a logical process and seeing debts fall off gives you the momentum to keep going. We have followed his method as a whole, but at times we have cheated to pay off a higher APR debt out of order to the original plan. Choose the method that gives you the most motivation.

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This should help you start to visualize and create how you want your debt buster to look like, what you want to see, and what order you want to pay off your debt. Sometimes creating a plan is the hardest part. Hopefully this helped you get over that hurdle and get you on your way. For those who get pay checks every two weeks, there are two times in the year that you get an extra pay check. This month and again in August. As you budget and plan be sure to have those extra pay checks (if you receive them) already accounted for in your debt buster. That is what I like to call chunk change. You can throw it at one debt and make a dent! Take a look at your pay schedules for the rest of the year so you can have a better grasp of it all and can prepare for those moments to throw chunk change at your debt.

I have decided to write a third post in the budget series about what we did with chunks change that would come in from stock, income tax returns, or bonus’. I will also talk about how planning ahead is a life style when you decide to be debt free. Tomorrow I will have a guest blogger, Ashley, share how she is tracking her families’ finances and debt using a binder instead of a computer.

As part of our journey we read a number of books on money. We found that Dave Ramsey’s teachings are some of the best out there.

Finally, one more resource you will want to know about is mint.com. It’s the new online tool that helps you keep track of all of your accounts, spending, and debt automatically. Go to Mint to watch the video and see if it’s something that could be your solution.

I am here to offer suggestions and encouragement in this journey. I can show you how we did it and what worked for us, but in the end, it is yours to play with and make your own. Please feel free to come to me with questions and suggestions.

I love to hear from my readers. Sometimes there are crickets out there. If you haven’t yet, please sign up to have my posts sent directly to your email account. The field to do so is directly under the Mommy Blogger Button!

Budget Series Part 1: How to build a budget

Since I am Organized SAHM, I thought it was time to show you how I organize our budget. I am sure many of you have your versions of this. I am always looking for easier, more organized ways to do things so please share your secrets. This is Part 1 of a 2 Part series I am writing. So there is time for you to share! PS if you would like a copy of this budget, please comment below and I will email it to you so you can get started right away!

Budgets are a very tricky beast. It’s always changing. I feel like I am always moving things around or changing what I thought I had set in stone. That’s how a budget works. If you do it right it’s as simple as telling your money where to go without thinking about it. Paul and I paid off around $36,000 in debt back in 2007. Crazy right? We prayed over every seed that was sown and every check that went out. We give all the glory to God because it was a mountain that we could not move alone. It was a daily prayer and it was God that moved that mountain.

Let’s chat real quick about how you make a budget. If you are married, you are going to have to decide at some point if you are going to combine accounts. We have tried it both ways. I am here to tell you our marriage is alive and well because we have one checking account and one savings account. End of story. Those of you who can operate separately, I have no idea why or how you do it. Now that you have that figured out how you are going to budget lets work on the what. Jot down every single thing that you spend per paycheck. If you don’t know, pull up your bank account on line and start making categories: groceries, food, gas, tolls, tithe, clothes, haircuts, credit cards, mortgage or rent, car payment, insurance, health insurance, doctor bills, lawn care, home care, pest control, and oil changes. These are just some right off of the top of my head.

Next, jot down any income that you can count on coming in week to week. Once you have time to do that it’s time to make a budget that you can work with online and not track on paper.

Let’s build a spread sheet. I am going to include a snap shot of a blank one for you. I use Excel. It’s my favorite for budgets. The formulas are simple and I know it best.

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Across the top, going from left to right are these columns: Paycheck amount (the amount you get paid each pay check), Due Date (the date your bill is due), Debtor (who you owe money to), Amount due, Highlight if paid/check number (I highlight the whole box if it is paid using the fill bottom at the top of the excel spreadsheet. I like to use yellow for paid.)

Box 2 on the left has $0.00. This is generally where the amount you receive each pay check will be.

Starting in line 4, you would fill out all of those boxes going horizontally for each debt. Below is a example of a filled out spreadsheet.

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If you click on the picture, it will enlarge for you. I didn’t know if you knew that so I thought I would share that tip. Back to the picture above. I have filled it in with made up numbers to give you an idea of what a filled out spreadsheet looks like. Every other week is a different budget based off of your bill schedule and needs. My pretend budget is planned assuming you get paid bi-weekly.

Notice in the March 8th budget I quit putting money into savings. At this point we are going to assume you have a nest egg of $1,000.00 in your savings account. We follow the Dave Ramsey method, so that is your first order of business before paying off debt. Build an emergency fund of $1,000.00 first then tackle the rest. So, lets say you know (knowing and planning ahead is key in a budget) that you have to kennel the dog for a night or two while you travel for work sometime in March. Go ahead and put that in your budget so it’s there and you aren’t taking from your emergency fund. Again, March 22 budget, you know that HOA fees are due, go ahead and budget that ahead of time.

Go to field F15 it should read $2,481.00. Did I manually add up all of the amount dues to get this number? No. The formula you need to get this number is =Sum(D2+D15). What does the stuff in the parenthesis mean (I only bolded and italicized so you would find it quickly)? Those are the cells that have the amount dues in them. I highlighted from the top down with my cursor so my formula would add those numbers together. Now you can compare cell F15 (what you spend) with cell A2 (what you make). You could go a step further and have it automatically subtract the two numbers from each other to leave you with a positive or negative balance, but I want to keep this simple for today.

If there are certain things or habits that you want to enjoy but tend to over do, budget them with a visa or gift card. For instance, if you are a Starbucks addict (guilty as charged so I have to do this part myself), get a gift card and budget $15 per pay check and charge up your gift card with that $15. Once you run out of money on the gift card that’s it until the next pay check. If your spouse or you like to eat out for lunch, get him or yourself a visa and put that amount you have budgeted just for work lunches. I can’t tell you how many times we use to fight over that very thing. Budget your lunch! Better yet bring it, but I understand the need to network over lunch as well. If you like to get your nails done, budget it. At the end of the day you play with it until you get it to a point where you can afford your lifestyle. That may mean you actually get to see for the first time that you can’t afford your lifestyle and have to trim the fat so to say.

Next week I will show you what our debt buster looks like. Not our actual one, but one with made up numbers so you can see how I track it. Because I am the more organized of us two, I do take care of the budget. We do have budget meetings, we do plan out the order we knock out our debt and the man pretty much let’s me run with it and trusts me to take care of it. I don’t take my responsibility lightly. It is covered in prayer between us both. We will talk more about that next week when we talk about paying off debt.

That’s it. I hope this wasn’t too confusing. Please feel free to ask me questions.

Look for a post from the Man this week about the Marriage Challenge. I am praying for ya’ll. I hope you are praying for me!

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