Monday, July 21, 2014

This Week's Goals: July 21-27, 2014

Goal Line

Last week's goals:


Classroom Goals
  • Collaborate with my coworker on our 8th grade units of study/curriculum changes
  • Start planning for August summer school program
  • Start setting classroom back up when floors are finished
Household/Family/Mommy Goals
  • Continue our Total Money Makeover by following our July budget
  • Build storage shelves in the basement utility room (This is actually my dear husband's job!) 
  • Get power washer to finish the back deck
  • Purchase two more cans of deck stain in preparation for that project at the end of the month
  • Organize my son's closet and create list of items to purchase at garage sales
  • Change heating/cooling filter
Personal Goals
  • Exercise at least twice this week
  • Journal at least once this week
  • Give myself an at home facial spa experience
  • Enjoy the company of my family while on vacation 
  • Continue rereading the Outlander Series (I'm currently on book #4)
Blogging Goals
    This Week's Goals:

    Classroom Goals
    • Collaborate with my coworker on our 8th grade units of study/curriculum changes
    • Meet with coworkers to plan for our August summer school program
    • Research "following procedure" science labs (ex. PB&J lab for those of you that teach science like me)
    Household/Family/Mommy Goals
    • Continue our Total Money Makeover by following our July budget
    • Fill my new storage shelves with holiday and seasonal stuff from the basement
    • Get power washer to finish the back deck
    • Create list of items to purchase at garage sales for my son's closet in the coming year
    • Change heating/cooling filter
    • Organize shoe/coat closet and replace broken shelf
    • Prepare side yard for fencing that will be going up in our dog area next week
    Personal Goals
    • Exercise at least twice this week
    • Journal at least once this week
    • Continue the Doctor's Diet - Stat Plan (started over the weekend)
    • Paint my nails (every girl needs some ME time every now and then)
    • Continue back to school shopping - I'm looking for some jeans & shorts this week :)
    • Continue rereading the Outlander Series (I'm currently on book #5)
    Blogging Goals
    Wish me luck! What's on your schedule this week?



    Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate marketing links that compensate me for sales.

    Thursday, July 17, 2014

    How To Make A Food Budget AND Stick To It: Mini-Series Part 3


    In part one of this mini-series we looked at cutting back your "eating out" expenses. Then in part two, we took a look at the other major food category - the food you prepare at home, better known as your "grocery budget". Now we're ready for part 3 - meal planning!

    The Basics

    In part 2 of this food budget mini series you calculated your family's monthly food budget range. For the purpose of this post, I'm going to use my family's budget as an example. Our monthly grocery budget is $300. That includes all food purchased (except $50 per month for eating out) plus other 'grocery store items' such as toilet paper. Once you know your monthly food budget, the best way to help your family stick to it is through meal planning!

    What Is Meal Planning?

    Meal planning is exactly what it says... a plan for your meals. I know it sounds obvious, but we know from experience that tons of us aren't doing it on a regular basis. Prior to starting our Total Money Makeover journey, my idea of meal planning was to make a list of everything I needed for Thanksgiving dinner in order to ensure I'd purchased everything prior to that morning. Turns out, that WAS meal planning, but the problem was I was only meal planning for one meal (a year)! Yikes!

    *Side Note: If you aren't on a tight budget you can still meal plan to help keep your family organized, just list the meals you'd like to eat each week and make your list from there. But for those of you like me, that are on a tight meal budget, keep reading!*

    Let's Get Started... Breaking Down The Numbers

    Now that we know what Meal Planning is, it is time to break down the numbers.

    My family has 3 people (two adults and one toddler). That means that I have $100 per month to feed each of us, but obviously my son eats a lot less than his dad does, so I prefer to break down the numbers by day and meal.

    $300 per month divided by 30 days means that my family has $10 per day to spend on food. That is an average of $3.33 per meal. Wow! That can sound really intimidating since just a package of chicken is likely to cost that much - how on earth are you supposed to supply a whole meal for such a small price? Thankfully there are a few tips to making that happen...

    How To Stretch Your Grocery Budget Strategically


    1. Make a list of your family's favorite meals - I divided my paper into 3 categories: breakfast, lunch & dinner. I listed things like spaghetti, lasagna, chili dogs, grilled chicken salad, etc. All of my family's favorite meals.
    2. Price Out Your Ingredients - Spend an hour at a local store (or break it into many smaller trips) to price out your recipe ingredients. For example, my family likes macaroni & cheese with hot dogs. That meal requires: 1 package of hot dogs, 2 boxes of macaroni and cheese, one cup of milk & a scoop of butter. The total cost for these ingredients is approximately $1.94. (Using this method does mean you need to estimate the cost of the cup of milk compared to the whole gallon for example.) Add the total cost of each meal into your list from step 1 above. 
    3. Analyze Your Results - Now its time to take a look at the trends. Are your favorite meals on the cheap or expensive side? How do your meals compare to your per meal budget? In our case, my goal is to have each meal cost $3.33 or less. My mac & cheese with hot dogs example only cost $1.94 so that means it fits our budget well. Consequently, meals that are more expensive appear less often in our meal plan. You can also consider a few other questions: are these meals ones you like to have a on a weekly/monthly basis? Are there cheaper alternatives - such as generic brands or homemade versions? Answers to these questions will help you to have a more clear vision of your meal plan.
    4. Filling In Your Meal Plan - Now the fun begins... its time to fill in your meal plan. Our normal breakfast costs us about $1 per day. So on a day where we have our normal cereal, followed by our hot dog with macaroni and cheese lunch that leaves us with just over $7 for dinner. That means we can have a slightly more expensive dinner and still stick with our $10 per day budget. By pairing together expensive meals with less expensive ones you can do the same thing quite easily. Fill out your meal plan on a calendar or our helpful printable (link in resources below).
    5. Make Your Shopping List - Since you know exactly what you plan to eat in the coming weeks, you know exactly what to purchase. Make your list and head to the store with cash in hand. Stick to your list and your budget without cheating and you'll be successful!
    Helpful Meal Planning Resources
    • EMeals: (Save 20% with code SCHOOL on any eMeals Meal Plan) - Perfect for busy working families that don't want to take the time to make their own meal plan. EMeals will deliver a meal plan & shopping list to your email for less than $5. 
    Congratulations! You've reached the end of our 3 part How To Make A Food Budget AND Stick To It Mini-Series. Now you have all the tools needed to make a food budget for your family to follow and a long list of tips to make it work. I'd love to hear about your experiences in the comments below. Let us know what positive and negative experiences come up during the process - I LOVE hearing from my readers. :) 

    Happy Meal Planning! :)



    Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate marketing links that compensate me for sales.

    Monday, July 14, 2014

    This Week's Goals: July 14-20, 2014

    Goal Line

    Last week's goals:


    Classroom Goals
    • None! It's our summer vacation week. 
    Household/Family/Mommy Goals
    • Continue our Total Money Makeover by following our July budget
    • Build storage shelves in the basement utility room (This is actually my dear husband's job!) 
    • Get power washer to finish the back deck
    • Purchase two more cans of deck stain in preparation for that project at the end of the month
    • Clean house before leaving for vacation (I hate coming home to a messy house!)
    • Change heating/cooling filter
    Personal Goals
    • Exercise at least twice this week
    • Journal at least once this week
    • Spend countless hours enjoying the sand dunes of Lake Michigan
    • Enjoy the company of my family while on vacation 
    • Continue rereading the Outlander Series (I'm currently on book #1)
    Blogging Goals
      This Week's Goals:

      Classroom Goals
      • Collaborate with my coworker on our 8th grade units of study/curriculum changes
      • Start planning for August summer school program
      • Start setting classroom back up when floors are finished
      Household/Family/Mommy Goals
      • Continue our Total Money Makeover by following our July budget
      • Build storage shelves in the basement utility room (This is actually my dear husband's job!) 
      • Get power washer to finish the back deck
      • Purchase two more cans of deck stain in preparation for that project at the end of the month
      • Organize my son's closet and create list of items to purchase at garage sales
      • Change heating/cooling filter
      Personal Goals
      • Exercise at least twice this week
      • Journal at least once this week
      • Give myself an at home facial spa experience

      • Enjoy the company of my family while on vacation 
      • Continue rereading the Outlander Series (I'm currently on book #1)
      Blogging Goals
      Wish me luck! What's on your schedule this week?



      Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate marketing links that compensate me for sales.

      Wednesday, July 9, 2014

      How To Make A Food Budget AND Stick To It: Mini Series Part 2


      In part one of this mini-series we looked at cutting back your "eating out" expenses. Now in part two, we're going to take a look at the other major food category - the food you prepare at home, better known as your "grocery budget".

      What Does Your Grocery Shopping Look Like?

      A few years ago I went to the grocery store with: no plan, no budget, no meal ideas and often on an empty stomach. In the blink of an eye, my cart would be over flowing with over-priced and unnecessary items. Worse yet, it would make me so angry when a few days later I would realize how much food was literally being wasted because we couldn't eat it fast enough. But I seemed to be on a downward spiral - even though I hated spending so much and didn't like wasting food, I didn't change my actions and the pattern continued. Have you been there before? Perhaps you're there now? If that sounds like you, then this post is for you.

      The Turn Around

      Since starting our Total Money Makeover journey in 2012 - we've been working hard to limit our family's budget and pay off debt using the debt snowball. As I shared in part one of this series, I frequently talk to other women about our family budget and experiences while following Dave Ramsey's financial plan. It turns out many of us are in the same boat, but we never talk about it. Well the gigs up ladies, it's time to talk about it. It's time to plan ahead and get our finances in order one step (or meal) at a time!

      Setting A Grocery Budget

      In order to set a grocery budget, it might be good to take a look at your current spending. Using your online banking or old receipts, try to get a ball park idea of how much money you spend on average in a month on groceries. How does that number make you feel? Dave Ramsey recommends that your total food budget (eating out AND groceries) is between 5 and 15 percent of your monthly income. Do you fall in that range? (Our family shoots for the 5-8% range, sometimes less if we can manage it.)

      Now that you know how much you're spending, there are few other questions you need to ask yourself to start finding a budget to aim for:

      • How many people in your family? 
      • What ages are your family members? (A 16 year old active boy will eat a lot more than a 5 year old.)
      • What is everyone's physical activity level? 
      • Do you work outside the home? (It's harder to prepare home cooked meal for work lunches and sometimes requires a little extra planning.)
      After answering all of these questions, what did you come up with? If you're like most families, you've realized you're spending way too much on food. What would be a good range for your family? To figure this out, take your monthly household (bring home) income and multiply to find out what your 'recommended' grocery budget range would be on the Dave Ramsey program. Here's how that might look:

      Monthly Household Income: $3,000 If you multiply $3,000 by .05 (or 5%), you'll get $150. This is the low end of your 'recommended' monthly grocery budget. If you take the same $3,000 and multiply by .15 you'll get $450. That means that a family bringing home $3,000 per month should spend (with groceries and eating out combined) a total of $150-$450 per month on food. 
       What is your 'recommended' grocery budget range? How does that compare to your current grocery shopping habits? If you now realize your monthly food budget is in need of an overhaul, I'm here to help.

      Tips For Making This Transition Successful

      Just like in part 1 of this series, there are some specific steps you can take to start limiting your food budget. Some of these ideas are easier than others. Some require more time, some don't. You have to do what works for your family. If you're a busy, single, working mom you may not have time to look into options that use up extra margin time, like couponing. But if you're a stay at home mom with school aged children, that might be a perfect option for you. Just be aware that we're all different, and if you can't do something right now that doesn't mean you can't ever do it, just not right now.



        1. Start Small - If your family is accustomed to spending hundreds of  dollars on groceries each week, instantly dropping down to a budget of $100 is going to be a disaster, and you'll all be left thinking that budgets don't work for your family. Instead take baby steps - maybe try decreasing your budget by $100 per week for the next few weeks until you've reached your grocery budget goal for example.
        2. Shop With Cash & Calculator In Hand - Seriously. Even without meal planning, couponing or budgeting, this one step alone WILL make a difference in the way you shop. Studies have found that people spend more when paying via card compared to cash. If you go into the store knowing that you only have one crisp $100 bill to pay then you have no choice but to limit your unnecessary purchases and stick within you goal. As my son and I complete our grocery shopping every two weeks I walk through the store with my phone in hand, adding up prices while we go. It's also a great way to start teaching your kids about budgets and money. Although my son is only 2, he is already very accustomed to hearing phrases like "we don't have enough money in the grocery budget to buy orange juice & chocolate milk this week, so you need to choose one." Since we've started early, I know it won't be a difficult transition to when he's 10, and we need to explain the reason he can't have every new toy he desires. (Budgeting bonus!)
        3. Make A List & Never Shop On An Empty Stomach - Plan ahead. Although meal planning, coming up, is the BEST way to plan ahead, just making a list and sticking to it will go a long way. Avoid the moment in the butter aisle where you ask yourself - "do I need more butter?" Make a list before you go to the store and commit to ONLY buying what's on the list, period. No exceptions for any reason. If you get home and realize you missed something, guess what? You'll improvise and survive. And seriously... never shop on an empty stomach. Everything will look tastier on an empty stomach and you'll fill your cart with those unnecessary tasty treats.
        4. Shop At A Cheaper Store - This won't surprise many of you - but I am a huge fan of Aldi. I've found that I save an average of 20% every time I shop there and the quality of their products are fantastic. Find a local Aldi or similar store and check it out. Even if you only transition to doing part of your shopping there, you'll save money. Don't believe me? Check out my price compare post from last September.
        5. Do Not Buy In Bulk Unless You Have The Funds - O.K. just go with me for a minute. I know that buying in bulk can help you save money in the long run, but the problem is, we're not going for long run, we're going for right now. In order to limit your food budget you need to only purchase the items you need this month. If you get to the end of the month and you have an extra $30 in your food budget, then by all means go purchase a gallon of pickles, but otherwise leave the bulk buying for when you have more money in your monthly food budget to play around with.
        6. Meal Plan - This is the BIG ONE. This is the number 1 way that my family has cut down our food budget and feed our family of 3 on only $300 per month. But it's also the hardest. Meal planning requires time, effort and commitment. By all means start with my other 5 tips first, but when you need to do some major cutting meal planning is the only way to go. I've posted about meal planning before - how to eat what you already have on hand, how to create a themed meal plan & even a free meal planning printable - but part 3 of this series is going to be the full gamut, everything you ever wanted to know about meal planning, so stay tuned next week!
        Well, that's the end of part 2 of our How To Make A Food Budget AND Stick To It mini series. What are your action steps? What will you start doing today to save your family money? I'd love to hear from you in the comments below and don't forget to come back next week for part 3 - All About Meal Planning. 

        Jump to Part 3



        Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate marketing links that compensate me for sales.

        Monday, July 7, 2014

        This Week's Goals: 7/7-13/14

        Goal Line

        Last week's goals:


        Classroom Goals
        • Laminate reminder cards & pencil wall of shame 
        • Send confirmation and deposit for nature center field trip this August
        Household/Family/Mommy Goals
        • Continue our Total Money Makeover by following our June budget & creating our July budget
        • Build storage shelves in the basement utility room (This is actually my dear husband's job!) 
        • Get power washer to finish the back deck
        • Purchase two more cans of deck stain in preparation for that project at the end of the month
        • Attend library story time & turn in our June summer reading program activities
        • Purchase heart worm medicine for dogs
        • Change heating/cooling filter
        Personal Goals
        • Exercise at least twice this week
        • Journal at least once this week
        • Take a bubble bath! :)
        • Attend my coworkers Author Reception for her new book (check it out!) SO EXCITED for her! :)
        • Continue rereading the Harry Potter Series (I'm currently on book #6) 
        • Write my "30 Before 30" List (AH!)
        Blogging Goals
          This Week's Goals:

          Classroom Goals
          • None! It's our summer vacation week. 
          Household/Family/Mommy Goals
          • Continue our Total Money Makeover by following our July budget
          • Build storage shelves in the basement utility room (This is actually my dear husband's job!) 
          • Get power washer to finish the back deck
          • Purchase two more cans of deck stain in preparation for that project at the end of the month
          • Clean house before leaving for vacation (I hate coming home to a messy house!)
          • Change heating/cooling filter
          Personal Goals
          • Exercise at least twice this week
          • Journal at least once this week
          • Spend countless hours enjoying the sand dunes of Lake Michigan
          • Enjoy the company of my family while on vacation 
          • Continue rereading the Outlander Series (I'm currently on book #1)
          Blogging Goals
          Wish me luck! What's on your schedule this week?



          Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate marketing links that compensate me for sales.

          Saturday, July 5, 2014

          30 Before Thirty


          Today is the big day - my first 29th birthday! :)

          Many of my friends, and lots of great bloggers such as Making It Lovely, have taken part in the 30 Before Thirty challenge, so I've decided to join in. Here's my list of 30 things I'd like to complete before turning 30 - wish me luck:

          1. Run in a 5K.
          2. Take a family vacation.
          3. Pay off all debt except student loans & our mortgage. 
          4. Go on a classic American road trip.
          5. Plan a super romantic 5 year anniversary date with my dear husband.
          6. Dance under the stars.
          7. Convert my blog from Blogger to Wordpress.
          8. Go urban camping in our back yard ;)
          9. Have family photos taken.
          10. Read 50 books this year.
          11. Treat myself to a day at the spa.
          12. Bike the entire length of our river walk.
          13. Write my husband a love note every month.
          14. Plan a monthly girls date & make my friendships a larger priority in my life.
          15. Increase our household income as part of our debt snowball.
          16. Decide whether or not to have another child. :)
          17. Learn to make sushi.
          18. Go on a laser tag date.
          19. Visit the water park as a family.
          20. Attend BloggyCon in September.
          21. Host a BBQ & fire party.
          22. Visit Frankenmuth, MI for Chirstmas.
          23. Go to Mackinac Island and enjoy delicious fudge.
          24. Boost my wardrobe through careful clothing shopping over the course of the next year.
          25. Go on a horseback trail ride.
          26. Enjoy a concert.
          27. Visit a local festival I've never been to before.
          28. Continue to grow Wife.Mother.Teacher.
          29. Start tutoring a student face-to-face in addition to online tutoring.
          30. Host a holiday dinner party.
          Wish me luck - I have 365 days... and counting! :)



          Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate marketing links that compensate me for sales.

          Wednesday, July 2, 2014

          How To Make A Food Budget AND Stick To It: Mini-Series Part 1


          Last month, our neighbors invited us over for dinner on a Sunday afternoon. We were excited to spend some time with them, because after the brutal winter we experienced in Michigan this year, none of us had really spent much time outdoors and it had been months since we'd actually spent time with them. While the men grilled dinner outside on the back deck and the kids played together, us women had a chance to talk. Our life paths have a lot in common, so unsurprisingly, it wasn't long before the topic of household budgets came up. (See... even away from the blog, I can't stop talking about budgets!) I told her about how we have been working really hard to stick to a budget each month in order to accomplish our debt snowball goals. As is often the case when I have these types of discussions with other women, we got onto the topic of food.

          Besides our mortgage & utilities, most American families spend the next largest chunk of money on either food or transportation, depending on their location and life circumstances. (Obviously a family that uses public transportation, instead of owning their own car, will spend a lot less in that category - but lets be real - I live in rural Michigan, you either own a car or you don't go very far.) Although it is possible refinance your mortgage, cut your energy bill and alter your driving habits to save money - they aren't nearly as easy to adjust as your food budget.

          Food costs can be broken down into two main categories: food you make at home and food you eat outside of your home (a.k.a. "eating out"). Dave Ramsey teaches that eating out shouldn't really be a part of your baby steps while you're trying to tackle debt because the average person fighting through the debt snowball needs less than 2 years. Unfortunately, at our current income we're looking at a 13 year debt snowball. I know that we'll never survive 13 years without eating out, so instead our family budgets a very modest $50 per month for eating out. We usually use this money for a date night or a couple of fast food meals for our family of 3. That's where I want to start this food budget mini-series...

          Your "Eating Out" Budget

          I challenge you to take a look at your food spending over the last few months while doing your regular online banking this week and ask yourself the following questions:

          • How much money does your family spend eating out each month?  
          • How often do you eat out? 
          • How much are you spending on items you could have brought from home - water, snacks, etc.? 
          • How frequently do you purchase lunch instead of packing your own? 
          • Do you find that your family gets take out for dinner far too often because you didn't take the time to plan a meal ahead of time? 
          The answers to these questions can be very insightful (and in our case alarming!) When we first started our Total Money Makeover in 2012 we realized just how much money we had been accustomed to spending on food every month - and the totals were staggering. An average month we were spending around $400 on eating out (and at the time that was only the two of us). Eating out was something we valued (and something we still REALLY enjoy to this day), but the problem was - we couldn't afford it!

          Are you like we used to be, are you spending too much on eating out? If you answered yes to either of these questions then I have great news for you - this is one of the EASIEST ways to cut your families food budget each month. How? Simple.

          Getting On An "Eating Out" Budget

          Set a budget, pull the cash out of the bank & go to the restaurant knowing that all you have to spend is the cash in your wallet. You'll order your meals completely differently. Instead of the $2 soda, why not a FREE water for example. (Added bonus... it's healthier and sets a great role model for your kids!)

          Pardon Me... Soap Box Speech Coming Through

          No matter what you decide to spend your restaurant budget on, there is one thing you need to remember - just because you're on a budget and have less to spend doesn't mean you short the wait staff. I spent many years as a waitress before getting my full time teaching job, and one of my personal pet peeves are bad tippers. If you make the decision to eat out, then you are making the decision to tip. In our family we tip 20% or higher EVERY TIME we eat out. And by the way, that's not 20% of the discounted price or after promotional offers, that's 20% of the actual pre-discount total. How much is your time at the restaurant worth? I don't know about you, but the time I saved not having to cook, clean up & serve dinner is worth much more than a measly $5 tip!

          So how does that work out in real life? Our family has a budget of $50 per month for eating out and we tip 20% or higher regardless. That means that if we decide to visit a local eatery in our area, I know that $10 of my $50 budget is for the tip. That means the total of our food, drinks, etc. has to be $40 or less before coupons or discounts. (Ok, forgive me, I'll step off my soap box now).

          Tips For Making This Transition Successful


          1. Start Small - If your family is accustomed to spending hundreds of  dollars on eating out each month, instantly dropping down to a minuscule food budget is going to be a disaster and you'll all be left thinking that budgets don't work for your family. Instead take baby steps - maybe try decreasing your budget by $100 per month for the next few months until you've reached your eating out budget goal for example.
          2. Meal Plan to Avoid the "Need" to Eat Out - Eating out is often a way to feed your family quickly with little effort. How many times have you had your kids say "I'm hungry" and you look at the clock and realize dinner time is here and you never got anything out? "Hello, pizza delivery, how fast can you be here with a large cheese pizza?" Have you had one of those nights? Instead - plan ahead by meal planning. (Check out the link for our FREE meal planning printable! You can check out some of my previous posts about meal planning now, but stay tuned because eating at home (including meal plans) is the topic in part 2 of this food budget series.)
          3. Price Compare Before You Pick A Restaurant - Many eateries offer promotions for different occasions. This could be a night of the week where kids eat for free, or a buy one get one free offer, or just a printable coupon from their website. Start learning to take advantage of these offers as a means of helping meet your budget. This may mean that your family has less choices on the night you eat out - but less choices doesn't have to a bad thing. For example, a few months ago my husband and I joined our family for a meal at Applebees. They were offering a 2 for $25 menu, so my husband and I didn't even bother looking at the rest of the menu. We knew the 2 for $25 was the best option for our budget and we didn't want to be tempted by the pricier options. (Don't set yourself up to fail by tempting fate.)
          4. Avoid Eating Full Meals Out - This could mean eating lunch out instead of dinner, or going out just for dessert after an early dinner at home - either way you're limiting the amount of food you need to purchase but still enjoying the experience of eating out. That translates into saved dollars!

          What Are YOUR Action Steps?

          This post, part one of our how to stick to a food budget mini-series, is all about cutting down on eating out expenses. What are your action steps going to be? What specific tasks can you complete to start decreasing your monthly eating out budget?

          Be specific and hold your family accountable. A great way to make that happen is to post your budget in a public place - such as a family organization board - in your house. Make sure everyone knows the goal and understands WHY this change is important to your family. Single? Find an accountability partner - someone who can help talk you out of eating out (this should not be the friend you regularly meet for coffee or dessert - that would be a bad accountability partner choice!)

          While we're at it - why not make one another our accountability partners! Share your action steps in the comments below and stay tuned for part 2 of our food budget mini-series as we start talking about cutting back on our home food budget. :)

          Jump to Part 2



          Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate marketing links that compensate me for sales.
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