Hi friends! Man, I have been a slow reader the past few months. Although, I find when I read “heavier” books it takes me longer to process them.
Here’s what I’m reading in May with links to Amazon.
Awe by Paul David Tripp- I love what the cover of the book says, “Uncovering the lies we believe about all the earthly things that promise us peace, life, and contentment, Paul Tripp redirects our gaze to God’s awe-inducing glory– showing us how such a vision has the potential to impact our every thought, word, and deed.”
Comforts from the Cross by Elyse Fitzpatrick – I’m doing a study on this book with a few friends. It’s a devotional format. The price just dropped on this one and the Kindle version is only $2.99.
Stopping Stress Before It Stops You by Kevin Leman- As I mentioned in the Friday Five, I started reading this last week and I’m almost finished with it. It’s making me realize how my parenting style may indeed be adding more stress to my life- Go figure!
The Fringe Hours by Jessica Turner- I’ve been eyeing this book for a long time, I even listened to this podcast last year when Jessica was featured. Right now the Kindle version is only $2.99 on Amazon so I could not pass it up.
It’s President’s Day! In honor of the day that celebrates Washington and Lincoln, I thought I could save you some Benjamins (who wasn’t a President, but whatev). 🙂 Here are three more things we do to save money.
We don’t give it to the government
Seems a little ironic, right? While I’m patriotic to the US of A, the tax code should always be used to one’s advantage! It’s YOUR money, anyhow. Since my husband is self-employed, we do our best to keep track of all business write-offs, everything from meals while he is away to our cell phone bill to mileage accrued.
It’s important to know what you’re able to write-off and keep great records. We also get our taxes done by a CPA (Do not do H& R Block, they will rip you off). Yes, it’s an investment up front, but they know the tax laws and they are able to package everything up for it. Your time is valuable. That said, if you have a small business (I see you Miss Scentsy, Noonday, Jamberry, It Works!) make sure you know if you need to be paying quarterly taxes. A huge bill come April is one definite way to get your budget off-track.
Another way we avoid taxes is living in a city that doesn’t have high real estate taxes. If we had the same home in a neighboring suburb, we’d pay 2-3 times a year more because of better schools, which would be appealing, but we aren’t sending our kids to public school. 😉 It’s worth it to do loads of research before you buy. Consider the schools your children will be going to. Look at the income tax that your city requires, plus the school district income tax.
We were unclear about homeschooling before we bought our home (and we still are some days, Ha!), but it’s good to base your decision not only on what you can afford, but the education you desire for your children. That said, don’t overpay in the area of real estate taxes. I cannot imagine paying $200 or $300 more per month to live in a similar home, only to complete a tax payment. No way!
Food is important
We need food to live (thanks, Captain Obvious), but more than that, food can control our budget! For our family, groceries are our highest monthly expense after our mortgage- and I’m sure in a few years as the kids grow a bit more, it will easily PASS our mortgage! So making good choices with our spending on food is absolutely necessary! I’ve blogged before about shopping at Aldi and how we pay cash for groceries, but I wanted to go into a little more detail.
The easiest ways to save money on groceries are to only shop once per week (or once bi-weekly) and plan meals. I’m not organized enough to plan breakfast, lunch, and dinner so we stick to staples for breakfast like cereal or frozen waffles (try the fit & active waffles from Aldi!). Lunch is typically pb & j or a cold meat sandwich. I do plan most dinners (and yes, I even plan pizza nights, as I need to know if I have money in my envelopes!).
I hate cooking, so planning meals helps not only save money, but sanity. I buy 3/4 of my groceries at Aldi and fill in things like meat and some produce at Kroger. Some ideas for quick and inexpensive meals- chicken & noodles, sale-priced meat with baked potato and salad, spaghetti and meatballs (I’ve heard good things about Aldi frozen meatballs).
Some of my favorite recipes:
Chicken and vegetable pot pie from Real Simple (Tip: Use split chicken breasts. You’ll spend an extra 2 minutes pulling out the bones, but you’ll save about $1,50/lb on the chicken).
What do cribs, cars, and children’s clothes all have in common? We buy them USED. About 6 months ago the rocker we had in the baby’s room was falling apart. Literally. Thanks to some rambunctious boys, the arm was falling off. For 6 months we read books with a broken arm. Then one day I sat it out for a garbage man. About a month later I saw a rocker/glider on a Facebook selling wall. FOR$20! I nabbed it.
Just today I met a lady at Wendy’s to buy a winter coat for C for next winter. $5. Ok, yes, so looking for deals will take some time and a little effort. However, instead of needing to find a coat in October when we get our first cold spell- and shelling out $25- I’ll now have one clean and ready to go- and a savings of 80%.
90% of our children’s clothing except for shoes and underwear
Specialty children’s wear- Easter outfits, Christmas dress, snow boots. Most are worn very lightly and you’ll save 50% or more!
Baby supplies – carrier, exersaucer, high chair
Post-baby outfits. (i.e. clothes to after childbirth before your original clothes fit again)
There are some things you have to avoid when buying used.
Do not overbuy. Just because something is a great DEAL does not mean you NEED it. I don’t go to Goodwill/Thrift stores unless I’m specifically looking for an item, because I know I can be easily sucked in by a deal.
Join a local buying/selling wall but ALWAYS meet at a public location. I will never pick-up or drop-off from someone’s home. Let a friend or spouse know what time and where you are meeting someone.
Bargain. I’ve asked people to go lower on their price at yard sales, on selling walls, and even at Goodwill! If I see a small stain or pilling, I”ll ask for a discount. The best way to do this is at a yard sale. If you are buying 10 items and say they are about $1 each, say, “would you take these 10 items for $8?” As Mom always said, “The worst they can say is NO.”
I don’t think you can save yourself to wealth, you must work on your income as well. However, sometimes we need to start doing things the old-fashioned way, handling money like our grandmothers did.
What’s one way you save money? Have you thought about your tax rates before? Are you a thrift shopper like me? I’d love to hear!
15 Things to Buy at Trader Joe’s– I don’t shop at Trader Joe’s often (it’s 30 minutes away). However, when I do go, I’ve never had much of a strategy. This is a good post to help you buy only the best products.
The Challenge of Getting Rid of Stuff– I love this so much. Spending time in Australia made Brian and I realize that Australians live with way less STUFF. There are no basements or attics, so it’s difficult to hoard. We got rid of about 8 small boxes of things right after Christmas. I’ve already started another box. Clutter sucks. “Remember, an ideal life is one where you get a lot of fulfillment out of how you spend your time and that you have possessions that support that fulfillment. Possessions that don’t support that fulfillment are unnecessary. They just soak up your money and your financial freedom. They fill up space and make you live in a larger home than necessary. They require you to spend more time doing maintenance – dusting, moving things around, and so forth.” Amen
I’ve been following Kristen Welch for a long time. Her oftentimes raw prose about parenting, marriage and raising kids is always something I’m eager to read. So when I was accepted to be on her Launch Team for Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World, I did a little happy dance for the opportunity to read the book (for free) before every once. Of course these opinions are my own.
I will admit it’s empowering for me to hear a mom that is 10 years ahead of me (in parenting years- her oldest is 16) say, “It’s okay for our kids not to be rewarded all the time.” In a world where kids get a goody bag at the party or a trophy at the game JUST FOR SHOWING UP, we’re swimming upstream when we show our kids a life that looks any differently. I’ve been pressured into feeling like my kids are due something, when they really aren’t.
Kristen also thoughtfully reminds parents that kids will cling more to what they catch than what we teach them. Our parenting will look different when we choose to raise un-entitled children. Kristen points out, “This involves not just fitting Jesus into our lives, but fitting our lives into Jesus.” I had to say that phrase a few times over and ask myself whether I’m all in for Jesus or I’m just expecting him to be all in to my plans. I can’t preach “take up your cross” if I’m expecting my kids to learn from my sometimes whiny demands for take-out or new clothes.
Kristen shares many stories from her own family’s quest to live differently. She gives real-life examples of how to help kids gain perspective on our wealth and abundance in the First World. In the chapter named Gratitude, Kristen shares how each family member put a rubberband on their wrist and snapped it when they made a complaining comment. (Yikes! I think my wrist would be raw.) She shares how it was a wake-up not only to her children, but herself as well.
Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World would be a great book to read for the new year. I’ve definitely implemented some of Kristen’s parenting strategies and taken note of my own behaviors that scream “entitled.” If you have older children, you’ll appreciate the time spent discussing social media and the Welch family’s social media contract! I better tuck that away for the near future. 🙂
Happy 2016! Below are some of my goals for the New Year. I think it’s important to declare these things publicly because it makes me accountable. If I tell everyone I know via the world wide web, I better stick to my word, right?!
Run the Blackhand Gorge 10k trail run in August (I ran the 5k in 2015)
Eat one fruit and one vegetable everyday (It’s that bad. Why aren’t M & Ms a fruit?!?)
Rest. Like really rest. Nap without guilt. Take a day off from cleaning. Repeat. Read a book and lay down.
Implement things I am learning in Boundaries with Kids
Read to the kids during daylight hours (we read a lot before bed, but incorporate this more into the daytime)
One date night/month
Make Brian’s lunch once per week (ok, I know that sounds simple, but I know it’s a way I can serve him and make his mornings easier)
This could be listed under all categories, but for the past six months Proverbs 18:13 has hung on my fridge, “He who answers before listening- that is his folly and his shame.” Just a few verses down the page, you’ll find Proverbs 18:21 and it states, “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” It’s probably been since, you know, I was just old enough to talk, that my mouth has gotten me into trouble. Yes, I’ve even had Dial soap squirted into my mouth (Thanks Dad!). I’m realizing more and more (now with kids in the house and a marriage that is witnessed daily by 3 little humans) that I can either use my words to build up or tear down. My go-to is negativity. So my goal this year is just to try to put an end to negative speak, whether it be “you kids are driving me nuts” or “how come you NEVER do x, y, or z?” There’s always a different way to phrase things.
Romans 12:12 says we (Christians) are to “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” My goal for this year is to live that out. Exude joy. Have more patience (yikes!). Be faithful in prayer. If I say I will pray for something, really PRAY for it (you do it, too).
Continue funding Roth IRAs and 529s
Buy a flip/investment house
I’ll cover this in my next blog!
Did you make resolutions or goals for the new year? Do you write them down and display them?
(i.e. How you afford to do the things you want to do)
You can read lots and lots of financial advice. There are books and blogs and e-courses,oh my! However, we’ve found that truly the ONE thing you must have if you want to succeed financially is the dreaded B word- a BUDGET!
The months when we get off track with our budget are the months that we lose sight of the big picture. Creating a budget gives you the space to save, invest, and prepare for emergencies. Even if your income is small, giving “every dollar a name” (Dave Ramsey stuff right there) and living under your means allows you to do this.
If you don’t have a clear picture of what money is coming in each month and what your set expenses are each month, how can you prepare? What happens when 2 of your little ones get strep and the Dr visit + the medicine is $190 (hmm, wonder who this happened to?), now your sickness becomes a financial crisis.
Once you budget consistently for 3-6 months, you’ll notice something. You will hardly check your bank account! There’s no need to check it- you’ll know that you have the money because you told that money where to go!
We’ve been doing a budget each month since 2006. It’s never one-size-fits-all. You must meet each month and discuss the changes for that time. Utility charges vary by season, kids need clothes and shoes at different times of the year- you must anticipate these things.
A few friends have asked what we have in our budget, so I thought I would post the Excel list of our budget below. Obviously, you may have more or less categories, but this gives you a good idea to start with!
Here are the items that we budget for every single month, along with some notes:
Life Insurance 1
Life Insurance 2
Husband’s spending money
Planet Fitness Membership
Should Equal Total Pay
Some items are not listed (like car insurance) because we’re able to swing them through my husband’s commission. In your own budget, I would recommend breaking down your larger expenses into monthly expenses (you’ll notice I do this for our term life insurance policies). For instance, maybe you pay your car insurance twice per year and the cost is $600. Instead of trying to come up with $600 in June and December, allot $100/month in your budget and then DON’T TOUCH THAT MONEY. When the bill comes, the money will already be in your checking account. You can also do this in saving for Christmas or other big purchases.
You must use (some) cash. It’s very hard to adhere to a budgeted number if you only use debit or credit. We take out cash on the 1st and 15th each month to pay for groceries, eating out, blow money (usually ends up being eating out) and babysitting. Having money that can be physically touched causes a different emotion than swiping a card. I’ve tried using debit/credit for groceries and I always underestimate how much I’ve spent. Seeing that there’s only $30 in my grocery envelope shows me that it’s time to buckle down and eat from the pantry or freezer, instead of making another trip to Kroger.
A budget works better when you stay out of debt. Don’t look at your monthly budget like, “Oh, we have an extra $165 dollars every month, we could afford an upgrade on xyz.” Negative, ghostwriter. You’re looking for money to save, invest, and give. Stop asking if you can afford the payment and start asking if you can afford IT. (Notice there are no lines for a car payment?) You can’t get out of debt if you keep taking on more! Whatever you need to do to push yourself- do it!
If there is money leftover, start saving for an Emergency fund (if you don’t already have one). A $1,000 should be enough in the short run to cushion you against car repairs, a leaky roof…or strep throat. 😉
Notice these are just expenses. I didn’t add lines for saving, investing, or even vacations. Add whatever you need to add as long as you aren’t spending more than you make!
Do you do a budget? Is it like napkin-worthy or do you really stick to it? What’s your #1 budgeting tip?
Oh friends, I have two half-written posts, scrap paper with blog ideas overflowing, and social media shares still residing safely in my bookmarks. Everything is just there. Waiting for me.
It’s funny how every week I set out to do things and every week I’m buried somehow between loads of laundry, a crockpot soaking in the sink, and homeschool and shopping and well, LIFE. Short of having a Jessie Spano meltdown (THERE’S NO TIME, THERE’S NEVER ANY TIME), I muster through until back-up arrives (i.e. Daddy) and then get 30 minutes to myself before bedtime rituals and I’m sunk.
I’m not saying this to complain. Oh, no. I know that many people dream of having little babies under foot! I’m a blessed lady.
However, when having little ones you’ll often hear the adage, “This is a season…” You know what, it is. It is definitely a season. Then there are 3 weeks maybe where life seems easy and everyone is fit-free and happy and then we’ll hit a plague of the stomach flu. Cue a week of chaos.
But while we think of the seasons of babies and diapers and exhaustion, there is probably a new season on the horizon and it may involve bullies or girlfriends or (gulp) the driver’s license. I was texting with one of my dearest about her teenagers and the new season she has entered that doesn’t seem easier (she’s a baby whisperer, though, which I am not. Arguing, now THAT I can handle). I digress. I think at that point when we’re past 8 pm bedtimes and wiping their own butt, there will be new challenges that will pull me from the all the things I hope and aspire to do. This conversation also kept me up at night- realizing I’d have an 18,16, and 15 year old some day- FOR THE LOVE.
Here are my options:
Hire a babysitter to help more. At $10-$12 dollars an hour, this is an investment I have to consider.
Bemoan my life and cry myself to sleep
Roll with the Seasons, knowing that I’m confident in what my life looks like as long as my value system is in place (God, family, schooling my kids, 284750 other things).
You know when I get most off track? When I take off my blinders and look what everyone else is doing. I discuss that here.
So all this mumbling– since I’ve hit the aforementioned sunk-– is to say this. THIS IS A SEASON. And before long, there will be another season of motherhood. And then another. And by God’s grace I’m going to give myself some grace.
My self-examination this week has led to the following thoughts:
I’m not sure I will ever enjoy cooking mostly because cooking makes a giant mess. If my family eats 1 pizza a week, NO ONE IS GOING TO DIE.
Sleep is important. When I do not sleep enough I am crabby. I would rather be crappy at life (you know, as in failing at some things) than crabby in life! My kids (and husband) remember crabbiness. The most toxic people I’ve been around just weren’t joyful. Now we don’t have to run around like Buddy the Elf all of the time, but I choose joy (and this is why again, that newborn stage is sooo hard).
ORDER THE PIZZA BECAUSE NO ONE IS GOING TO DIE AND KIDS LIKE PIZZA AND THEY DON’T CRY OVER PIZZA.
I’m happy to end the mom guilt. This season will turn into the next one and there is no way I’ll ever feel like I’m doing enough. Moms, let’s all show each other the grace that we want. Let’s bask in it. And let’s be less crabby and more crappy! Ha!! (<- And 5 people just stopped reading my blog forever).
How a Garth Brooks concert reminded me of my daily battle with my smartphone
One of my favorite quotes is “Wherever you are, be all there.” Jim Elliot was wise beyond his years when he died at the hands of Ecuadoran natives in 1956, he could not have foreseen the technological advances the world would acquire in the next 70 years. It’s hard to “be all there” when a 4″ long device that sits in the palm of your hand can take you on an exploration of someone else’s through YouTube, Instagram, or Snapchat. Why be all there with your own family when you can stream a valuable podcast or music video?
This hit me even more this past Friday night when we saw Garth Brooks in concert. The first time he had been to Ohio since 1996 (I was 13? What?), we had friends that had tickets come available at the last minute. To say that I was excited was an understatement, but as Brian and I stood up and sang every song like it may be the last time we’d ever sing it, I noticed something- Row after row of people in front of us were not standing. Not singing. They were holding their phones and recording every minute.
Ok, maybe they can post these videos to YouTube and make an extra buck or maybe they wanted to show their kids the fun night out. My question is this: How are you fully present in life if you’re viewing everything through a 4″ screen? Why pay $75 for a seat at a concert if you’re not really going for the concert? How do we show value to the people we’re with if we’re not engaged with them but engaged with a device?
I struggle with my cell phone as much as anyone else. It can be addicting to check-in on Facebook, post a photo to Instagram, or record a snap of my kids! As I’ve thought more and more the past few months about how I can be fully present with my family I’m convicted (and convinced) that many times I’m with my family in my body but not in my mind. This has been difficult as a new blogger, too. Jackson thinks that we go on walks for “blog.com” (he’s a funny kid!) and I worry that maybe he’ll see everything as a social media post instead of fun, family times. I’m often behind the camera and admiring the view only through the eyes of a pending photograph.
Friday night reminded me that nothing beats being fully present with my husband, belting out each tune. I’d rather enjoy my children’s funny sayings firsthand, not while I point a tiny camera at them. My phone is a lifeline but it’s also a shackle.
A.W. Tozer said, “Among the enemies to devotion none is so harmful as distractions.” While Tozer was speaking of our relationship to God, his words could be used for any relationship- distraction IS an enemy. I want to keep my eyes on the prize (God, my husband, my family) and not on the little device that begs me to draw away.
Do you struggle with spending too much time on your mobile device? Have you been to a concert and noticed no one is actually watching the concert anymore? How do you deal with this?