Charmingly Modern

June & July Grocery Spending and Eating Out Update

We’re mid-way through August so it only makes sense for me to update you on how our grocery and eating out spending went in June and July.

Just to refresh your memory, my plan (which is in this post) for spending is -

  • Groceries – $400/month
  • Eating out – $225/month
  • Coffee – $50/month

In June, I actually upped the grocery budget to $434 because I had $34 extra in our budget.

So, how did June end up? Let’s look at groceries first -

june 2014 grocery spending

I blew our budget out of the water in June by spending $508.26. Oops. That’s the most I’ve ever gone over-budget on groceries in the history of my tracking! And I can tell you what is at fault (apart from myself, of course) – coupons. Yes, you read that correctly. Coupons! June is when I started really getting into coupons and I definitely was encouraged to buy things I wouldn’t normally buy (and in multiple quantities since a lot of the time a coupon requires you to buy two of something). I was printing coupons off, clipping them from inserts, adding them to my iPhone…I was on a coupon high!

Unfortunately, June was also rough for eating out. Our budget was $225, but we ended up spending $306.36. Again, really bad. We went over by $81.36.

While I’m used to a little overage here and there, June was really shocking to me. Clearly, something wasn’t working. So, I sat down and looked at our system and had a laugh at myself.

This has been our “system” the last few months -

    • Setup a budget at the start of the month.
    • Pay every bill for the month the first week of the month.
    • Keep the rest of the budget generally in mind.
    • Spend money.

Yeah, not a good system. Well, apart from paying every bill up front. I do like not having to worry about any bills for the whole rest of the month.

Anyway, I’ve been out of the habit of writing down every dollar we spend for awhile now, but when I was doing that regularly we were way more in check so I knew I had to start with a system that involved daily accountability.

Because let’s be honest. I’m a spender.

Of the two of us, I’m the one who shops. It’s my debit card that makes up the bulk of our monthly spending, and that’s mostly because I’m the one who is primarily home and making sure our home stays stocked with groceries and fun things for a toddler to do. But that also means it can be hard for me to be honest with myself about how I’m spending, because in my mind it’s all justifiable when I look at it week-by-week. Not to mention, I know Alex is busy, and that means I’m not getting as much accountability from him.

It can be a really bad slippery slope of misspending if you don’t stay on top of things and clearly that’s what happened when it came to eating out in June.

So, my new system involves post-its and lists. Because I love both of those things separately, so why not combine them together.

budget on post it notes

I took one post-it note and wrote “JULY EATING OUT” (and you’ll notice I was being really optimistic, thinking we would only spend $200 eating out) on the top, and on another I wrote “JULY GROCERY SPENDING” (I kept the $434 budget for groceries for July, too). On a third, I wrote “JULY BILLS”. I think these post-its are pretty self-explanatory, so I’ll just jump straight to describing how they worked for us.

Short version: They worked like a charm.

Long version: I took the three post-its and stuck them in our kitchen, above our monthly calendar so they would be very visible and we would see them multiple times a day.

On the July bills post-it, I itemized each bill for the month. Even though I take care of the bills early on, it was really handy to have a daily reminder of the basic living costs for our house. Particularly the mortgage payment. It’s a big number, so when you look at it every day it kind of motivates you to not frivolously spend because it may be taken care of for July, but there’s August to consider, and September, and so on.

I wrote the budget we’d established for the grocery and eating out categories on the post-its and treated them like general ledgers. With each restaurant and grocery visit, I wrote down where we went and how much we spent and subtracted the amount spent from the budget. As we watched our budget decrease over the days and weeks, it became less fun to spend money eating out and it became more fun to challenge myself to really work my coupons in order to save as much money as possible at the grocery store. And here’s how our spending shook out -

july grocery spending spreadsheet

July groceries: $441.34
July eating out: $218.91


Okay, so we still went over budget on groceries, but only by $7.34! And…I can’t believe it…we were under budget on eating out by $6.09! And that tells me my post-it system is a keeper so it’s sticking around for August.

If you’re wondering why there is a 0.00 spending for the week ending July 12th, it’s because that huge grocery trip ($155.14) was for about two weeks worth of groceries. I saved a ton that week, too. I added the Remke spending that’s listed on the post-it to my $120.57 spending at the end of the month. But you can also see that in July I was still kind of figuring out the couponing thing. My totals are so high throughout June and July because I’ve actually been stockpiling things like detergent, toothbrushes, toothpaste, toilet paper, etc.

Anyway, for August, I’m moving the grocery budget down slightly to $420 and the eating out budget to $210. Could be crazy talk, but these post-its are magic. We’ll see what happens. Already this month I’ve had my best savings to date so I’m excited to see how the rest of it goes. I’ll keep you posted!

Posted in In My Kitchen, Money Monday No comments

It’s not about stuff – shop update

It’s true, it just isn’t about stuff. Having stuff, buying stuff, making stuff, and so on.

I mean, sure, we all have stuff. Some more than others. The places we live are full of our things and those things do have meaning but still, they are only objects. And any meaning they have is from what we put on them ourselves. Take away the object and we still have that meaning.

I have always struggled with my desire to make and my aversion to stuff (which is complicated in and of itself, since by nature I’m inspired by design and interiors…which means I’m inspired by stuff. Things are never just plain black and white!). I have never wanted to make things that have no meaning – that just sit on your shelf and collect dust. So that was why knitting was appealing to me. Finally, a craft where the output was something really useful (most of the time).

But still, I struggle.

I thought if I pared down what I make, that nagging feeling would go away. Or that if I did custom work, something would be different because my customer was telling me what he or she needed. And then I thought if I just made what my own heart desired, maybe that would fill whatever this hole was that I kept feeling.

Nothing worked. Then, yesterday, I had an epiphany.

I love to encourage people. I love listening for what’s not being said, and thinking how can I best help them (if they need it…sometimes all someone needs is to just talk). I try to speak love as often as I can (and I don’t always succeed, so thank goodness for grace), and I’ve dreamed of putting that into my knitting but I have never really thought hard and long about what that would look like.

Until yesterday, when I had that epiphany, and I realized the reason I half-heartedly promote my shop, half-heartedly knit what I plan to knit, is because I can’t promote consumption for the sake of consumption. I just can’t. It has to be functional, it has to be meaningful and, ideally, it has to be encouraging or uplifting in some way.

Do you remember my plan that I wrote about a few months ago? Yeah, I’m tossing that out the window. It was a good plan, but it isn’t quite right for me. I’ve never been one to do things traditionally, so forcing myself into a production schedule that came to feel unnatural and pushy was a bad move.

I can hear that voice in the back of my mind. It says, “Here she goes again. Stopping and starting. Never knowing if she is coming or going. One day, she’s all in in. And the next she isn’t. Unpredictable. Incapable of consistency.”

It’s true, I do change my mind a lot. But I’m cutting myself some slack because the reason things change is I am still learning how this is all going to look – this blog and this shop. Two things are constant – I love writing and I love knitting. The way I engage in those two things is what changes from time to time.

So yes, it’s time for a change again. The change is focusing on encouragement. I’ve realized that the momentum I had at the start of the year with Making Things Happen has fizzled to a certain extent, but the one thing that’s stuck with me is this emphasis I put on serving, simplicity and committing myself to something bigger than my little life. I honestly think that’s where my dissatisfaction is coming from – why just the act of making something to sell isn’t enough for me anymore.

Anyway. What does all of this mean? It means that what I make will be organized by how a person lives their life. And people live their lives in cycles. There are tiny cycles, when you wake up in the morning to when you go to sleep at night. There are medium cycles, that go week-to-week, like your job schedule or your school work. And then there are the big cycles. These are marked by a life event, where you’re either pushed to the bottom or you skyrocket to the top, just before things settle into a new normal. These are the moments where babies are born, where a job promotion happens, or where you find yourself in difficult circumstances. These are the moments when you want comfort – either to help you make it through, or to ground you through the highs of celebration. This is where I want to knit from.

It seems incomprehensible. How to combine a tangible object with an intangible feeling? But we do this every day. We see an object that sparks something and we begin to weave a story around the object that makes it fit into our lives.

I want to create objects that fit into your life, that tell your story and that bring you encouragement in just the way you need it.

The obvious way to do this is to accept custom work again, which I will gladly do but this time around the structure is going to be a little different. I don’t want to knit a knock-off project that you saw on Pinterest for $5.00, because there is no meaning in that. Come to me for that special blanket you’ve dreamed about, that reminds you of quiet evenings spent with your mother. Or a baby hat knit from the softest cotton for your best friend’s newborn. For information about custom work, you can send me an email (amanda [at] and we’ll talk.

Apart from custom work, I’m spending time thinking about these events that mark the bigger life cycles and what we need when those happen. And from there, I will get to the business of knitting for encouragement. With each finished object, or commissioned object, you purchase from me you’ll also get an encouragement card. These are meant to be special surprises, from me to you, as a way to tell you “thank you” not only for connecting with something I’ve made, but for being who you are.

Because I’m still going to be making stuff. This change is a paradigm shift. It’s a different outlook, a different motivator. I’m not motivated by filling your house with things you don’t need. I’m motivated by helping you find that one object that fits into your story and shares a little bit about what makes you so unique. The mindset behind the knitting is what’s making all the difference in this new scenario. This is a matter of lining up my head and my heart.

Does this sound like a plan to you? It sounds like a plan to me. Here’s how I know it has sticking power – I feel a quiet assurance. In the past, my ideas bring on quick, hurried excitement and I blow them up in my imagination to epic proportions that they can’t ever live up to. This time, there’s none of that. I don’t know where this will go, or how long it will last, but I’m okay with that because I never get tired of stories and I never get tired of listening.

Posted in Charmingly Modern Shop, Daily Journal, Knitting, Making Things Happen No comments

When I needed the dark

I’ve always needed the light.

Needed. Rooms flooded with sunlight. Open spaces. Billowing curtains. The breeze through an open window. I’ve needed that space, my whole life.

Because I’ve always felt space. I mean really felt it. Even when I was small, what I dreamed of was beautiful rooms. I was not the little girl who thought about weddings and happy endings. Instead of dresses, I thought about space and interiors and light. I wrote pages describing how I would one day live on my own and, in the meantime, I kept the windows open for the breeze. And I listened and learned, because a room is not something that’s silent.

Then, one evening, I sat in the dimness and I rested my eyes. It was all too much. I don’t know what changed, but that night I needed the dark. I couldn’t listen anymore. I had reached a point where I had given so much with very little in return, and the light only amplified that. Even now, I can’t fully describe the feeling other than to say I knew, to my utmost core, that I needed to be in the quiet, in the dark.

The quiet, in the dark. And the strange piece to this whole experience, because it was an experience, is that up until that point I had a fear of the dark. Doors closed, windows shut – feeling trapped. Like a sort of blindness. It was never a refuge. It was always something of a nightmare to me. Until I needed it.

I’m not very good at being quiet. But, at that moment, I realized that while the light, the openness and the breeze are integral to who I am, I have to temper it with the quiet and with the dark. Not dark as in evil, but a kind of dimness that gives rest. Where I don’t have to listen because I can’t see anything. If open spaces give me strength, the silence spent in a quiet room gives me resilience.

When I lay down for the night, and the darkness covers me like a blanket, I crack open a window because I will never not be who I am, but I appreciate the silence. I close my eyes and, with each breath, I settle into the night. There is both the assurance that light is only hours away, and in the meantime there is the dark and the silence and the rest.

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Frabjous Fibers, the zoo, high heels & church – Looking Back, Looking Ahead #6

It’s Sunday night! And our week and weekend were so much busier than I thought they would be.

Monday, the local yarn shop had a Christmas in July event that featured a Wonderland Yarns/Frabjous Fibers Trunk Show. The yarn is all hand-dyed in the US and the colorways are inspired by Alice in Wonderland. I picked up a mini skein kit (that also has a full size skein in it) and a skein of some fingering weight yarn. For the kit, I think I’m going to do the Aranami Shawl and with the fingering, the Westbourne tee.

Tuesday and Wednesday were pretty standard. I cast on the Linum Tee in Knit One Crochet Too Cozette yarn (which is incredibly ethereal, by the way) and I also decided to jump back into The Well Educated Mind. I still have the price tag on the book – which I had originally purchased at Borders! And our Borders has since become a local bookstore chain – and the price tag tells me I bought the book in 2010. But the cruel joke is that I actually had a copy of this book even earlier – like back as a freshman in college, so in 2002 – because I started to go through it back then. I started it in the summer and I remember reading Don Quixote aloud to my sister and the two of us laughing hysterically. I got rid of my original copy when Alex and I got married and I couldn’t bring my 800+ books into our tiny apartment.

Anyway, I’m back at Don Quixote and The Well Educated Mind again. But I’m not promising anything.

Thursday, my mother-in-law came up for a visit and we took Ezra to the zoo. Ezra got really lucky this week because my mom took him to the zoo the day before. So he got double zoo visits this past week. Spoiled kid!

That evening I met up with a new-found friend for dinner at this Mexican place downtown that’s been around for years but I have never gotten to try. It did not disappoint! And since Alex was not going with me, I decided to put on some high heels. I normally don’t wear heels because Alex is just 1″ taller than me so the three pairs I have (I know, I know) usually just hang out in the shoe organizer. But not that night!

So I had to take a pic. Obviously.

Friday, Ezra had a playdate with one of his neighborhood buddies. Afterwards, we all went out to O’Charley’s for lunch. I haven’t been there in forever but, rolls. How could I have forgotten about the rolls.

I have to say, it was a little challenging eating out with Ezra by myself. I wasn’t really by myself – my friend was there, obviously, and so was her husband – but I was nervous because Ezra isn’t the best at eating out. Which is funny considering how often we eat out. But we normally eat at Panera so it’s very casual and there’s pretty much no wait time for food. It’s the waiting time at a normal, sit-down restaurant that always does us in with Ezra. We did have to wait about 20 minutes and, while Ezra was definitely being very toddlery during that wait time, everyone survived so I count it a win. It was kind of a confidence booster for me, too, to know that I can handle him by myself in a situation with a long wait time, and very little to do. Did I mention this was an impromptu lunch date? It was. Which meant I didn’t have a diaper bag packed full of distractions.

Friday evening we stayed in and ordered pizza. I actually lived all of Friday thinking it was the last day of July and I already know that we went over budget on our July eating out spending so I was kind of in a “oh what the heck, what’s another $20 at this point” mood. Then I realized it was August 1st, which left me feeling robbed of my own money because I spent some August eating out budget before I was mentally prepared to start doing that. You can laugh at me, it’s okay.

On Saturday morning, I went to a gym and I took a class that my sister-in-law was teaching. It was a cardio sculpt class so there were a lot of moves using weights. I left the class thinking “okay so my form isn’t the best, but I totally rocked that class. I am awesome.” Today, Sunday, I woke up feeling a little sore. As I type this, I’m currently laying on the couch with icy hot slathered all over my legs. I hope to walk again one day.

That brings us to what we were up to today! We checked out a church in the area. We haven’t been to church in months. We were regularly attending a church that’s about 5 minutes from our house but we fell away for no real reason and haven’t made it back. One of the couples we met in our neighborhood mentioned they attend this other church and it’s one we had been curious about so we decided to attend since now we could say we knew someone there. If you’ve ever visited a church before, you know it can be really, really awkward as a first time visitor. But walking in with someone who’s already a member? You can avoid all of that awkwardness!

So we went this morning and it was good. I was a little surprised at how traditional the whole thing was, but I don’t mean that in a negative way. It was kind of refreshing, to be honest. Church is so often this huge production. In fact, I found myself almost expecting the production – where’s the huge, hip band? Where are all the lights and the screens? Where’s the coffee? (I didn’t find the coffee… so that was a little upsetting. Just kidding. Not really.)

It made me think how church has changed. Honestly, the service tripped me out because it was so traditional. It was like a timewarp back to when I was younger and my family attended services at a local Church of Christ. There was no pretense at this church we visited today. I’m still trying to figure out my reaction to it, and I know it’s because of the feelings I have around the Church of Christ so I’m also trying to separate that out from this whole visit. But the bottom line is, I didn’t not like it. Neither did Alex. And best of all, Ezra really enjoyed his time in the preschool room and he stayed there for the entire service. That never happened at the church we had been attending. I don’t know if it’s because he’s a little older now and is more independent, or if it’s because there were quite a few children there so he was distracted… I’m just happy he felt safe enough to stay and play.

After Ezra’s nap, we joined up with some fellow knitters from the yarn shop (plus my family!) and caught a Florence Freedom baseball game. Ezra had such a great time! He clapped and cheered, he gave people nearby us high fives and booms (fist bumps). He tried an Airhead (and loved it because duh).

It was a special event for the knit shop, and it was also UK night at the stadium so knitters who purchased tickets got a special skein of Team Spirit yarn in UK blue colors. What’s awesome about this yarn is all you do is knit a 2×2 rib and the yarn does all the pattern work for you based on how it’s dyed. Pretty cool.

No links to share this week. I gave you all my good stuff in my catch-up post. This upcoming week, it’s going to be pretty standard. But then again, I said that about this past week and it turned out to be pretty busy.

Hope you had a great week and weekend :)


Posted in Daily Journal, Looking Back Looking Ahead No comments

Busy Weekends of July – Looking Back, Looking Ahead #5

So my last Looking Back, Looking Ahead was end of June. I officially stuck with it more than my past attempt at journaling our weekly happenings, so I’m counting that as a win. And had things not gotten so crazy after I got hired by that local yarn shop, I think I would have stuck with it more. That’s what I tell myself anyway.

I’m just going to jump right back in and do a recap of July – only my favorite moments from the last few weeks – plus some links I’ve found interesting over the course of this past week. And then I’ll be back on track come Sunday for Looking Back, Looking Ahead #6!

For Fourth of July, we headed to my parent’s house and hung out most of the day. We grilled out, Ezra got in the little baby pool my mom had grabbed up for him, and he played on the new swingset they’ve got in their backyard.

Alex left work early Thursday, the 3rd and was on vacation until Wednesday, the 9th so we had a lot of family time packed around the holiday. Sunday was a zoo visit and we were lucky enough to catch the tiger, Who Dey, hanging out by the front glass with no people around. On Monday, he and I had a date night downtown to see the Cincinnati Reds beat the Cubs. I stupidly wore blue to the game. Don’t know what I was thinking. But we enjoyed ourselves – even though the game was almost rained out! – and we were witness to one of the most incredible sunsets I’ve ever seen.

If you’re wondering what’s up with the chip photos in the collage up there, it’s showing you my chip versus Alex’s chip. The general consensus was that Alex’s chip was winning but…. no. Just no.

Wednesday of that week, I went down to Riverbend with my friend to see Dave Matthews Band perform. I’ve been in Cincinnati my entire life and not once have I been to Riverbend. We had lawn seats and, luckily, it wasn’t really humid that day so being out on the lawn wasn’t so bad. The concert was great and I’m so glad I got the chance to see DMB live.

Fast-forward to the weekend of the 19th & 20th when we visited a local dairy farm to try out some cheese and meet the dairy cows. Ezra is a little obsessed with cows and when I heard Ed Mar Dairy was open every weekend for cheese tastings and cow introductions, I knew we had to pay a visit. I’m so glad we did because it was really cool to see a dairy farm in action. Plus, we learned that Ed-Mar is one of the local dairies that supplies Kroger its milk. The milk they supply is just a drop in the bucket, but still.

It looks like the cows are standing on a weird blanket in the photo at the upper right, but it’s actually water rushing over their legs. There are these incredible jets of water that shoot out and clear all the muck from the stall area. It was pretty crazy to see.

That night we were invited over to a neighbor’s house for a cookout/mini get together. We met a few other couples and Ezra made a couple little friends. I didn’t snap a single pic, but it was a ton of fun!

On Sunday of that weekend, my in-laws came up for some antiquing and we met up with them for lunch. It was a really nice end to a busy weekend.

Last week was also pretty busy. I’ve been working on editing a video for the yarn shop – iMovie is kind of awful to work with – and have an entire garbage full of miscellaneous skeins of yarn to photograph for the online store. They’re all set to be $1 skeins just to clear out inventory and I’m glad I get to photograph them because now I can pick out the ones I want!!! :)

Last weekend, we had my cousin’s 7th birthday party on Saturday morning and Saturday evening was a pool party at a neighbor’s house. We met a few more couples – and their kids! – from the neighborhood and it was a ton of fun.

My in-laws were up on Sunday again, this time to head to the Cincinnati Museum Center to catch the Princess Diana exhibit. The exhibit is closing August 17th and returning back across the ocean and I don’t think it will be traveling anymore so this was kind of a once in a lifetime opportunity. The exhibit was beautifully done. My favorite part was the closet display – so many beautiful dresses. No photography was allowed in the exhibit, though, so I have zero pictures.

I think that’s a pretty decent wrap up of the last few weeks. And that brings us up to this week, which has been fairly low key. This weekend we’ve got a bonfire we’re possibly visiting and a baseball game on Sunday.

‘Year of No Sugar’: The Schaub Family went Sugar Free for an Entire Year via The Huffington Post

Sugar has been on my radar for weeks now. Specifically, how much I personally consume. One of my goals for August is to reduce my sugar intake. Then, a friend posted an article on her Facebook feed about this family’s year-long quest to eliminate sugar entirely for a whole year. I don’t know that I could do that but now I’m kind of thinking – what would a whole month without added sugar look like? Hmm…

Inspired by research and writings by prolific food-industry researchers like professor Robert Lustig, M.D., and journalist Michael Moss, Eve Schaub decided to try an experiment. She, along with her husband and daughters Greta and Ilsa, spent all of 2011 eating no added sugar.

The bittersweet loneliness of motherhood – by Kate Rope, via Huff Post Parents

There is empowerment in realizing one day that you kind of know what you’re doing and making decisions that matter, and then changing course the next moment when an assertive 3-year-old person makes you shift your paradigm. Most days that dance fills me with gratitude and wonder, and it feels like the natural place I should be. I just didn’t expect to feel alone when I got here.

The Skimm – A friend told me about this daily e-news subscription service and it’s actually pretty cool. It’s a little digest of top news stories, summarized in an interesting way. It gives you a headline with a link to the original article, the background behind the headline and any other pertinent information surrounding it. Best of all, it’s not party specific so you’ll see stories from all perspectives.

All 339 Books Referenced in Gilmore Girls – via Buzzfeed, but compiled by Patrick Lenton.

Am I crazy for wanting to take on this challenge?

“I live in two worlds, one is a world of books,” she said. “I’ve been a resident of Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha County, hunted the white whale aboard the Pequod, fought alongside Napoleon, sailed a raft with Huck and Jim, committed absurdities with Ignatius J. Reilly, rode a sad train with Anna Karenina and strolled down Swann’s Way. It’s a rewarding world.”


Posted in Daily Journal, Looking Back Looking Ahead No comments