beautiful family photos on the cheap



compulsion took over me a couple weeks ago and after i saw an ad for a new photographer doing mini sessions for $30, i emailed her right away. i mean, i love when a good deal comes along, but now that we’re on our budget it’s hard to enjoy it when we haven’t set money aside for it.








when we moved to our new place, i joined several facebook groups relating to our area. that’s how i found out about the wild poppies.  they were great and really friendly.

after some thought of how to pay for it, i did some finagling and pulled out $30 from our shutterfly envelope. shutterfly deals with photography, so i thought that would be most appropriate. i also wouldn’t need the money for shutterfly for a while, so i’d have time to recoup the fund. i didn’t want to use our debit card, if possible, because i’d forecasted through the end of april and we don’t have that much of a cushion and i really didn’t want to use our emergency fund.

we decided to stick near our new place and had the photos taken at dog beach in ocean beach (san diego), ca. poor arya wouldn’t look at the camera and just wanted to run off the whole time, but the photographers were able to get some good photos regardless.  since it was only $30, we got high resolution prints that we can print off ourselves.  i may print one out to frame, but for sure they will go into our annual photo book.

we also got some good photos on our own that i’ve been posted to instagram the last couple of days.

so it pays to join local facebook groups to find good deals, but it would also pay to have a fund for these unexpected (or is it expected…) expenses.

what have you have saved money on that usually expensive?

meal plan :: sunday-saturday #2

last week went ok.  i made most of the meals in our meal plan, however almost none of them were on the days i said we would eat them.  so, this week, i’m going to list the meals that way i’m not tied down to a specific one each day.  hopefully, it will still make me think i have a choice for what to eat for dinner!

we ran out of fresh veggies too soon last week, so i need to stock up.  we’ve been steaming most of our veggies since my mom gave us her steamer that i remember having when i was a kid. i absolutely love using to get our veggies ready. the bowl is cracked and it’s definitely old, but i’ll keep using it until it doesn’t work anymore!

i’m going to attempt to make the bulk of our meal plan from what we have in our pantry, fridge and freezer this week.  i had some expenses from work that i pulled money out of the food budget.  i’ll get reimbursed and could put the money back in the food budget, but i’m going to see if maybe we can just set it aside for our debt snowball instead.

here’s our meals for this week:

tuna noodle casserole (make ahead)

baked potatoes


soup and bread

crockpot fried rice with shrimp


steak tacos

for breakfast, we’ll have a mix of bean burritos, hash brown bakes and oatmeal.

for lunches, we’ll either have leftovers, peanut butter and jelly, or sandwiches.


we were debt free once :: our story, part 1

debt free part one

back in 2007, i graduated with my master’s degree.  i had racked up 15K in four years of undergraduate school and 25K in one year of graduate school.


a little history:

we decided to move to my husband’s (fiancé at the time) hometown in minnesota to plan our wedding and to get married. at that time we were both working 2 jobs, each paying just around minimum wage.

so, what jobs did a girl with a masters degree have?  well, for most of that year, i worked at the front desk of a hotel and also in a chocolate shop, first working the register and cleaning up messes, but eventually getting to make fudge and caramel.  the hotel job was absolutely horrible, mostly because of the management, and the chocolate shop wasn’t that bad. i was just working with high schooler’s for most of the time.  i hovered between 60-80 hours a week.  my husband, with his undergraduate degree (but no debt), was a dishwasher and a paper stuffer at the local newspaper, also 60-80 a week.

our jobs were embarrassing. it’s still hard to talk about them years later. but we were in the mindset of we need to make money!

our jobs were pretty easy and low stress.  in fact, now that we are older and have more professional jobs, i sometimes miss some of that time in 2007-2008. i can’t say i’d ever go back to job’s like that, but it was a starting place and i think many people fresh out of college have to have jobs like that.  we treated it like a stepping stone.

my dad shared this debt pay down calculator in 2008 when i got the better paying job in california and my husband got a job in his field of interest. i got super excited, the nerd in me came out, and i had amortized everything and had spreadsheets for everything. i anticipated we could get out of debt in 5 years, instead of 10, but that wasn’t doing it the dave ramsey way. it was living without a budget and just putting what was left toward the debt. we also cash flowed his master’s degree.  oh, and we bought a used car and got another loan of 11K.

now, our total debt was around $51,000!

our last debt payment was in 2013, so we were debt free in 5 years, including the car.  we paid it off mostly with tax refunds and extra paychecks (we each get paid every two weeks, so 4 times a year we get 5 paychecks a month instead of the normal 4.) if we could go back and do it the dave ramsey way, we probably could have paid it off earlier than that, saved up 3-6 months er fund and probably even started to save for a down payment on a house.

then, in july 2014, we decided we just had to buy a condo. we went back into debt again and again in february 2015…but that’s another story, to be shared soon, i promise!



our 2015 cash envelope system

cash envelopes 2015

if you are a follower of dave ramsey, then you probably know about  the baby steps. baby step #1 is saving up 1k as your starter emergency fund.  baby step #2 is the debt snowball.  we are currently on baby step #2 and with that, we needed to create a budget, stop using credit cards and use all our extra funds to pay down our debt (other than our mortgage) as fast as possible.

back in november 2014, we created our cash envelope system to use for 2015. basically, you try and figure out what you are going to need to spend money on throughout the year and then break it down into 12 and put money in every month.  so far, everything is going pretty well. like i’ve mentioned before, we’ve gone over budget on our food, but i’ve also been known to steal a little money from one envelope to pay for another envelope. i’m trying to stop that!  march is going to be the month for that.

we started using the plain old white envelopes and for some of our sinking funds, we are still using those.  for the categories we dip into more often, i started using the dave ramsey cash envelope system basic wallet that we got with our financial peace university kit. eventually, i think i’d like to get a newer system, but i’ll wait until my envelopes wear out.  my mom is a huge sewer, so maybe she’ll make me one! 🙂

The five envelopes in my dave ramsey wallet are:

food, my blow money, arya’s money, personal (haircuts, etc), and house. (my husband keeps his blow money in his wallet)

the plain, old white envelopes are:

car registration & insurance, car care, birthdays, christmas, amazon prime, shutterfly (for annual photo book), vacation, date night (new as of this month), & clothing.

there is one category that I’m not sure how to handle yet. every once in a while, i have to buy something for work and i get reimbursed as soon as submit my receipts.  its usually not more than $20 or so, so i usually just use the debit card and then deposit the check back into our account when i get it.  it hasn’t been an issue yet, so i’ll probably keep doing it that way.

i’m interested to see how everyone uses the cash envelope system! what categories do you have?