Sunday, April 29, 2012

Five hundred sixty. - UPDATE!

5-6-0. That's how much money we spent on groceries and household supplies last month. A big trip to SAMs (which included toilet paper, paper towels, and meat), a couple of $60 trips to Wal-Mart and lots of little runs to Publix landed us $40 shy of doubling our grocery budget.

Groceries and household supplies are my weakness. I am pretty iron-clad about most facets of our budget, but this is one area where I feel like we have a license to spend. We need toothpaste, we need toilet paper, we need food to eat. 

But $560 for two people is absurd. Absolutely absurd. Part of the problem is our budget spreadsheet. I do the numbers around here and I'm usually very good about knowing exactly where our money is going. But, I don't really like the spreadsheet I downloaded and I haven't found one that I really like. I want one that is more detailed... almost like a checkbook register, where I can enter every purchase rather than lumping everything into one cell. I don't know how to explain that! 

I do not want to coupon, so please no one comment about couponing! I've been there/done that and honestly found that despite the fact that I was spending less, I was wasting more - which is a bigger problem to me. 

So the next month is going to be pantry-raid month... trying to figure out meals I can make with the random items we have. And I'm sticking to the grocery/supplies budget and we're not eating out. 

But I am curious what other people use for budgeting... like I said, most other areas are well-accounted for. I keep up with it in my head how much we've spent in what areas. But I was SHOCKED when I actually added up this area and I feel like I have wasted money we could have saved!!! 

So, what do you do? I know in many families, the man does the money. Blake will probably handle ours one day but right now his work is more demanding than mine plus I really like doing the budget. But, I need help!

Update 5/1/12: Wow! I should write more about budgeting because I got a lot of response here and on facebook to this post. I like all the ideas I heard, but I have to say the Mint website is pretty sweet. One of the biggest challenges in budgeting for two is making the numbers accessible to both of us. Mint is accessible through both a computer and our phones. So, I think we're going to go that route for a while and see if it helps us keep better track of money spent on groceries.

Speaking of groceries, there were a lot of ideas about shopping! I usually make one "large" trip to Wal-Mart, usually towards the beginning of the month. As much as I honestly hate shopping at Wal-Mart, their prices really can't be beat (and as I said above, I don't want to coupon! Not interested!). Then as the month goes on, we make small trips to Publix for produce and other little items. What I haven't been doing much of this spring is menu planning. I planned better in the winter, which helped cut down our spending on groceries... so today I made a 2-week menu and I'll only buy what we need for those recipes. We're going to try to stay under $300 if not $250 this month! I hope we can do it!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Rules for Fighting: Ten Months, Ten Tips

Blake and I have been married ten months as of today, which basically makes me an expert in all things marriage. It's been an interesting journey thus far and I'm sure it's going to get that much more interesting as time goes on. Many people say your first year of marriage is the toughest. And I have to agree with that - it has been tough. Not "why-did-we-get-married/did-I-make-a-mistake?" tough. But the kind of tough that makes you realize why you did get married. Because you have the argument and you see your own faults and you realize that this person loves you even in your ugliest moments.

Believe it or not, Blake and get on each others' nerves a lot. It's kinda funny at times, because we love each other so much but we also bug each other to death sometimes. I bug Blake because I am impatient, I want everything (and make it known quite often!), and I ask him to do things that I could easily do for myself. He bugs me because he talks over my head sometimes about history and he acts like he's the co-manager of the Bulls AND he asks me to repeat myself a lot (which I guess I should stop mumbling but STILL).

We also argue more than you think! We have established some rules for fighting that we generally stick to and we end up having productive arguments that don't end in complete ugliness. We usually argue about the things that annoy us about each other, or at least that's what it comes down to in the end. We've only had one or two arguments that were REALLY ugly, so I'd say we're doing pretty well!

These things are the two aspects of marriage I didn't expect to appreciate. Not that I enjoy arguing or annoying each other, but I appreciate those moments that really make me realize that I chose the right person. We always come to some greater understanding of one another and all is well in the end.

So, without further adieu, as our ten-month-aversary gift to you, I bring you Blake & Katie's Ten Rules for Fighting:

1. Focus on the matter at hand: Argue about what you're arguing about. Don't bring up past events and don't try to add new issues into the mix. Stick to the topic or you'll argue for hours.

2. No name calling, insults or cussing: Sounds simple enough, but it's easy to start saying ugly things when you're in the thick of it. Keep your arsenal of insults locked up for road rage.

3. NEVER leave the house. If you need time to chill, ask if it's okay if you take 10: Sometimes Blake and I can go 'round and 'round and 'round an issue and feel like we're both hitting a brick wall. There have been times when one of us has pulled the "I'm leaving!" card and tried to escape the apartment. We've learned this is stupid. If we feel like we're getting nowhere, we need to agree to take a little time-out. Sometimes a few minutes is all it takes to calm down, refocus, and come back with a fresh attitude ready to work through the issue rather than continue to argue about it.

4. No hitting, slamming, or throwing: This should go without saying, but you're not allowed to hit anything (or anyone, for that matter) or slam doors or throw objects. I'm a door-slammer and a stuff-thrower - you would have never thought! :)

5. Keep it quiet: When things get heated, it's easy for voices to get louder and louder. Yelling will only hurt your vocal cords. If you feel like you're going to start yelling, you might need to utilize Rule #3.

6. Keep it private: Do not argue in front of friends, family, or your kids. It's between you and your spouse and it's not meant for public viewing. We also have a rule that we don't really talk about what we've fought about with anyone. We agree that it's okay to talk about silly fights we have - like how Blake and I had a drawn-out fight about a Monopoly game (!!) - and we joked about it with a few friends/family.

7. Don't take it out on each other: Sometimes arguments start because one of us is tired/anxious/overwhelmed/stressed by outside factors. If something external is really what's bothering you, then leave your spouse alone. Go do something relaxing, hide in the bedroom, or take a nap. Let your spouse know what's really bothering you and allow him/her to comfort you instead of letting them add to to the stress.

8. Go to bed angry: A late-night argument is sparked and it looks as though it's not going to get better before bedtime. Instead of trying to duke it out until the wee hours of the morning, just go to bed. Usually, a night's rest will help us put things into perspective and we'll wake up apologizing. I should also add that even if you're angry, you should still sleep in the same bed but I am guilty of sleeping on the couch like a mean girl. Mostly because we have a full sized bed. Maybe if we had a king, I'd still sleep with him when I'm angry!

9. Get to the heart of the matter: "I'm mad because I always have to remind you to do your chores!!!!" Are you really mad that the trash runneth over or are you mad because his forgetfulness sends the message that he expects you to do it (or remind him to do it which could lead to you nagging him to death)? Most of the time when we argue, there has been some sort of external display of an internal issue. Think about how something makes you feel, what message it sends, and how you have been hurt.

10. Four magic words: The best advice we got in marriage counseling was to employ the power of these four words: Will you forgive me? As children we are taught to deliver a reluctant "I'm sorry" which is more like a surface-level band-aid than a soul-soaking medicine. Asking for forgiveness shows vulnerability and an earnest spirit. When you've finally gotten to the point of asking for forgiveness, it's like all the hurt and frustration melts away. And really, both parties should apologize because arguing isn't about one person losing and one person winning - it's about coming to a greater understanding.

We don't always follow all the rules all the time, but keeping the majority of them in mind has really helped us argue better. We work through our issues the best way we know how and we usually find that we love each other more because we learn more about each other. Sounds cheesy, but I hope you can take something away from this - even if you aren't married. These rules work for all relationships and can save you a great deal of heartache... trust me!

Do you have any rules you follow when it comes to fighting? Have you ever had an awfully horrible argument that ended in disaster? Have you ever had a fight about something embarrassing? I want to hear!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Strange Events of #504

There have been some strange things happening in apartment #504 lately. Probably because we watched Paranormal Activity 2 last weekend. But they're happening and we can't explain them.

- Finally got a replacement for our ginormous coffee table. Moved the old coffee table into the office (aka room full of crap - wait, that's gonna be a funny line after you read what happens) until we could take it to my mom's for storage. The office is Elaine's room. She uses it more than anyone in this little apartment because her litter box is in there. So she scoped out the new furniture and then got so mad we moved it in there that she pooped on the floor.

- I brought a dead snapdragon back to life.

- I had a dream that I moved in with our weird neighbor so we could save some money AND have granite countertops.

- My car is messier than Blake's. (That's a HUGE mystery.)

- When we moved the aforementioned coffee table, I noticed a small pee stain (or some sort of neon yellow stain) where the table had been. This coffee table had a bottom shelf only about 1-2 inches from the ground....

- I folded a load of laundry (two, actually) IMMEDIATELY after the drier went off. It was like I had ESP or something and just KNEW when it was done (our drier doesn't have a buzzer).

- I noticed two roach legs in between our washing machine and the wall. Just the legs... no bug. That's got to be some sort of omen.

-  Finally, our garbage disposal started leaking last weekend and the maintenance man REPLACED it with a brand new one this week. I mean, when do you get a BRAND NEW garbage disposal when you live in an apartment!? :)

I hope someone can explain the phenomena happening at our apartment. Maybe it's just our imaginations...

Friday, April 13, 2012


Help me out, Rebecca: 

I woke up today with a huge smile on my face. There's just something about hearing the alarm clock ("bell tower" on iPhone if you must know) going off for the bazillionth time. I hopped out of bed this morning ready to go. It probably doesn't hurt that I fell asleep around 9:30 - an hour or so earlier than usual!

We don't have many plans for the weekend, which is probably why I am so excited. The past two weekends (maybe three?) have been booked and I don't like to be booked. I don't like to be bored, either, but I need some balance.

I just know that I have to get through today's work routine and I'm home free for over 48 hours!

Anyone doing anything fun for the weekend, weekend?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Interaction Needed - Buy Me a River

This is an interactive post. If you read this and do not comment your response, I will hunt you down and de-friend you. For realz. (Okay, not for realz.) But, I do want some feedback!

As I have been working on our budget, I have noticed that I am the big spender in the Ball household (raise your hand if you're surprised...). Blake and I both have "blow money" each month, but I always find an excuse to ask Blake if I can spend a little more on something else. And I noticed a trend: I have spent most of my extra money on beauty/appearance stuff. Nail polish, face lotion/creams, jewelry, clothes, shoes, tanning, hair stuff... you catch my drift. Beauty supplies.

At first, I thought about how VAIN I must be! But Blake told me he likes that I like to take care of myself and our home. So, that made me feel slightly better. I feel a little guilty buying such frivolous things, but at the same time, a new bottle of nail polish can go a LONG way for my morale!! And, what else would I spend my money on?? I have Spotify/Pandora for music, Netflix for movies, the Public library for books... 

I guess beauty supplies are just my thang. I like lookin' good. I like smellin' good. And I like feelin' good. :)

So here is the interactive part - what do YOU like to spend extra money on? Anything you're constantly tempted to buy when you have a little extra chump change lying around?

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Death and Dying, Sin and Suffering

But they all cried out together, "Give us Barabbas" - a man who had been thrown into prison for an insurrection started in the city and for murder. Pilate addressed them once more, desiring to release Jesus, but they kept shouting, "Crucify, crucify him!" A third time he said to them, "Why, what evil has he done? I have found in him no guilt deserving death. I will therefore punish and release him. But they were urgent, demanding with loud cries that he should be crucified. And their voices prevailed. So Pilated decided that their demand should be granted. He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, for whom they asked, but he delivered Jesus over to their will.
Luke 23: 18-25, ESV

It's funny to me how after all these years, each Easter brings to light a new facet of my faith. From understanding Christ's sacrifice to feeling more like a traitor than a disciple to rejoicing in the resurrection to replaying his final days. Each Easter, God has allowed me to experience it differently. My prayer for this year (to become more aware of my sinfulness) has shaped the lens in which I see Easter 2012. It has shaped the lens in which I see Jesus, and I think this lens is one worth sharing.

Last night, Blake and I (along with 50,000 other people around the world - so I'm sure I'm not the only person with this topic on their brain today) went to Secret Church. I like to call it not-so-Secret Church. :)  The idea is that there are people all over the world who meet in underground churches, risking their lives to know and honor the Word of the Lord. And they risk their lives to live the Word. I listened to David Platt while drinking Starbucks in a temperature-controlled room and brought one of my twenty-or-so Bibles... not to mention I tweeted during the simulcast on my iPhone 4. Needless to say, our experience is not much like the experience of our brothers and sisters who truly meet in secret. But, it was an experience to gather with tens of thousands of people to be equipped to share what we have - freedom in Christ. 

But this post isn't about the difference in first-world and third-world Christians. This is a post about the one thing we all have in common. 


And the consequence of sin is death. (Rom. 6:23)

What we deserve is death. Spiritual and physical death. We deserve everlasting agony - pain on earth and pain in eternity. David Platt included this quote from D.A. Carson in his teaching last night, "Do you really want nothing but totally effective, instantaneous justice? Then go to hell." That, my friends, is the justice we deserve.

So this year, as I have reflected on Christ's death, I feel an overwhelming sense of guilt. For the first time as a Christian, I feel guilty that Jesus took my place. It's an elementary principle - Jesus died for our sins. They teach that to preschoolers. But for me this year, it's personal. It was hard for me to "enjoy" Good Friday knowing that it was because of my own betrayal, because of my own rebellion, because of my own selfishness that He suffered and died on the cross. 

I am Barabbas, standing in the crowd, rejoicing because I am free! I got away with it! And these people all agree that I'm worth it! I'm worth saving. 

But I am not. And neither are you. 

I am not what was worth saving. I was not on Jesus' mind while He hung on the cross and neither were you (thank you David Platt for confirming that). Jesus didn't die just for me. He didn't die just for you. 

He died for the glory of God. He suffered and bled and ached on behalf of all humanity for the sake of God's glory. That God's glory would be revealed to all people. 

And as a result, that you and I would be grafted in to the family of God and would be covered by the blood of an innocent Lamb (Rom. 11:17). That we would no longer be slaves to sin but that we would be free in Christ  (Rom. 6:5). That we would come to know, love, trust, and obey the Risen Savior who will lead us into a life we don't deserve. 

The guilt I have felt is washed away by overwhelming gratitude. 

For the first time, I am feeling the real weight of my sin. It is so heavy, but He took the load. He bore the shame and suffering that I deserved - that we deserve - and He did so willingly. 

I am amazed. 

I hope this Easter is a revelation for you in whatever way God is communicating with you in this moment. Maybe you have already experienced Easter the way I am experiencing it. There are a million facets to the wonderful God we serve and I am always astonished when people get tired of the message of the Gospel. There is so much more to the story than a 3-step plan to salvation. May you find a fresh perspective on the Cross this year and may you be challenged to accept the weight of sin and therefore accept the grace of God. He loves you and cares deeply for you. He pulled you out of the reigns of Pilate and said "Crucify Him." Because He knew that only by the death of His precious Son could we ever truly experience life and life abundant. 

What a sacrifice. What a Savior. What an amazing God He truly is. 

Thursday, April 5, 2012

the long & short of things

Let me just get one thing clear: I am about to write a post about my hair cut.

That's how much I love it. I look in the mirror at least five times a day thinking, Why didn't I do this sooner?

Technically, I did do this sooner. I had a similar short crop in 8th grade and in 2004. Neither of those 'do's did it for me, but this new cut for sure takes the cake.

My entire life, I have been a long-to-short kinda gal. As a kid, I liked to let it grow and then chop it all off and start all over again. It may be a LONG while before I go long again, but I'm sure I will do it again. I just like the excitement of seeing years' worth of grown hair fall prey to the cutting shears only to be swept away and thrown into the trash.

It's kinda like shedding skin.

The best part about this cut is that I can wash it at night and actually let it dry by itself and then style it the next morning. I have never been able to do that because my hair is so wavy!! I just figured this out a few months ago (I have had the cut since November), so I fell in love with my hair all over again. Cute, no-fuss, low-maintenance AND I can ditch the hair dryer!? Thank-you, hair girl!!!

I've also had some pretty awful hair experiences. That 8th grade short cut I mentioned? I went in asking for Meg Ryan's Sleepless In Seattle 'do:

 and ended up looking more like Britney Spears when she shaved off all her hair (okay, it was not that bad).

  I also let my best friend's sister "frost" my hair at home... hello, I have DARK BROWN hair. Frosting nearly-black hair was never cool. 

 Okay, okay. Rihanna makes it cool. 

But I like what I've got now... and apparently butterflies like it, too! Maybe they think I am some sort of beautifully coifed fairy!? :) 

Have you ever had an amazing/awful experience at the hair salon?? I wanna hear about it!!!