Friday, October 30, 2009

Name changes

Okay, so when I first started this blog, I thought I should hide our kids' real names for security purposes. Most of the blogs I have looked at, however, have not done that. I'm thinking it's probably not an issue. So, having said that, I will be using our real names instead of our made-up ones. Ready? Meet my kids....Makenna, Wyatt, and Ayda! Yea!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Family Funnies

The kids painted today. I can't say that I enjoy letting them paint because of the big mess, but I was up to the challenge this morning. When they finished, they wanted me to see their pictures. Here's Wyatt's:

He said he "painted a picture of everything God made."

Here is Makenna's picture:

She said, "I painted a picture of a rainbow and Jesus. Jesus is the purple one." :)

Ahhh, kids. At least their thoughts are set on Jesus!

Our St. Louis Trip

We recently took a mini-vacation to St. Louis, MO. In light of the previous post about being cheap, I thought I would share how we did this on a budget. My mom and grandma were going to visit family in Dallas, TX. Their flight was out of St. Louis, so they needed a ride there. So, the gas was paid by them. When we got there, we were planning on going to the zoo. We had packed peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and capri sun drinks and ate a quick (cheap) lunch in the van just outside the zoo.

We knew ahead of time that parking was going to be $11 and were prepared to pay it. We found out, though, that if you are willing to walk a couple of blocks, you can park for free. Want to try to guess what we did? :) Here we are a couple of blocks from the zoo....ready to go!

We found a cheap hotel that was still nice enough that I felt comfortable staying in it for that night. I made sure the hotel had an indoor pool so we could swim for--you guessed it--free! A few weeks ago, my husband and I had become fans of TGIFridays on Facebook, and in return we each received a free hamburger/fries. So, that night, we went there to eat and only had to buy food for the kids. We all 5 ate for under $15. Doesn't get much better than that!

The next day, we went shopping at the St. Louis Mills mall. It was huge. Granted, the kids don't like to shop a whole lot, but they loved looking in the toy shops. They even got to sit at Old Navy and color Halloween pictures while Mommy shopped. We found a great play area in the center of the mall, too, and the kids had a lot of fun playing there.

After that, we went to the St. Louis Science Center. It is free to get in there too, but parking is $8. Leave it to us, though, to find a way to avoid that cost. We found on the street parking just about 2 blocks away and parked for free. While the kids weren't old enough to understand all that they were doing, they had fun playing! Here are all 3 of them trying to figure out a game:

And here is Wyatt just moments before he pushed "Start" and had his arm squeezed. He then proceeded to panic thinking he was going to have to leave his arm behind in the machine!

And, finally, the only thing we didn't have time to do was to visit the arch. Not to worry, though. They made their own arch with some help from Mom and Dad!
It was such a weekend of fun and "freeness" (I just made up that word). We really had a great time, though, and look forward to going back to St. Louis. There is a lot to do for free there! It makes for a great weekend getaway.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Living on One Income in a Two Income 2

Okay, so how do we do it? After all, the price of living has only gone up since the 1950's when most women did, in fact, stay home. I'll admit, again, that I do not have all of the answers. I have, however, complied a list of things I have learned along the way that may help you learn how to live on one income!

Here's how we do it:

1. The number one rule that we do not break is that we will never rob from God. (see Malachi 3:8) He is the giver of all we have and we happily give back to Him a minimum of 10% of it.

2. East at home with the food you prepare. We do not eat out...well, rarely. I do mean rarely too! We maybe eat out 3-4 times a year at the most. It is so much cheaper to buy groceries and prepare a meal at home (not to mention the health benefits). In addition to buying food from the grocery store, try to stretch the food you buy so that it lasts as long as possible. My grandma (from whom I inherited my cheapness) always added pasta to things like chili and soup so she'd be sure to have enough to feed 5 kids. I'm still learning other tricks like that to make our meals feed more. One thing I have always done is water my kids' drinks down 50 percent. I didn't start this to save money actually. I started when they were about 1 year old or so giving them about 10 percent juice to 90 percent water. I eased it up over the months until it was 50/50 and just never stopped. I do it with Kool-Aid too. They don't need all of that sugar anyway. I realize that I won't always be able to do this, but I have a friend who was still doing it with an 8 year old, so there's hope that I'll be able to keep it up for a while!

3. Plan ahead. I try to plan out what we're going to have for dinner all week. I like to write it down, but that doesn't always happen. I at least try to have it in my mind, though, when I make out my grocery list. Then, I take my list to the grocery store and stick to it! The only exception is when I spot a really great in-store deal. I can't pass up a good deal. Which leads us to...

4. Be a bargain hunter! Each week, I scour grocery adds from 2-4 different grocery stores and make lists of what I want from each store. When I find items really cheap, I stock up on them. At any given time, we have about 20 lbs. of meat in our freezer. I buy it on sale, divide it up, and freeze it. My theory is that if something you use is cheap, go ahead and buy as much of it as you can store. My most recent "stock up" item was salad dressing. A local store had name brand dressing for $1 per jar. I bought 15 of them. It's fun, also, to see the looks you get from the check out people. :)

5. Use the same theory when it comes to clothes. I am a rummage sale addict! There is just nothing like getting a $10 pair of jeans for 50 cents! If I find a rummage sale with really cheap prices, I buy any clothes my kids can wear or will wear in the next few years. Even if a few of the items don't fit in the right season (it occasionally happens), I can resell the item for the same price (if not more) in my next rummage sale. Just a few months ago, I found a rummage sale with a table full of boy's jeans and shirts for 25 - 50 cents each. They were name brand too! I nearly cleared the entire table off! I put them all in a big tub in Wyatt's closet and I get them out as he grows into them. I have enough clothes for him for the next 2 years and I didn't even spend $10! Okay, you can tell this stuff really excites me.

6. Avoid debt whenever you can. We do our very best to avoid debt, but I will admit that this is one area in which we are still trying to improve. We aren't credit card free, but we're not far from it. We feel like we're doing ok as long as we keep our balance under $1,000, and then we use our tax refund to pay off the balance each year.

7. Probably the biggest secret to our money management is that we always buy used. From cars to clothes to furniture to gifts (yes, gifts). If you are willing to put in a little time, you can find quality items at a fraction of the price you would pay new. Plus, when you buy used, you can usually get a higher quality item. If you have $300 to spend, you could go buy a cheap new couch. If you buy used, though, that same $300 would buy you a high quality used name brand sofa. It's the same with clothes. I can go buy a brand new pair of jeans from Target for $10. They're fine, but they tend to wear out sooner than jeans from Children's Place jeans (which I buy used for $1). Our family is so committed to saving money that a few years ago we started what we call "Second Hand Christmas." We made it a rule that when you buy a gift for someone, it either has to be used or off of a clearance rack. The kids love it because they get more presents, and the parents love it because we are all spending half as much!

8. Another rule that I think most people don't live by is this: You have to get past what I call the "just one dollar" mentality. It's never "just one dollar" around here. A dollar can buy so much! While it's true that a soft drink might be just one dollar, we always realize that instead of a drink, I can use that one dollar to buy a shirt, pair of jeans, and even shoes for one of my kids. Trust me, I've done it!

9. Finally, try to find things for free....yes, free!
a) If aren't already a member, I encourage you to become a member of your local Freecycle group. Freecycle is an online local group in which you can give away things you don't need anymore and get things from other people in the group. It's wonderful. It's not just trash that people want to get rid of, either. Our best Freecycle find to date was our trampoline (with the safety net). Our kids love it, and we likely would have never put out the money for a brand new one. We have also gotten things such as a package of diapers, shoes, and many trash bags full of clothes for the kids.

b) Get acquainted with your local library. We go there at least once a week for movies. They have all of the latest DVDs if you are willing to wait until you can find them on the shelf. We watch movies a lot, so this saves us a lot of money each year. Also, familiarize yourself with the library's website. I found out about a year ago that I could request a book or cd and the library would purchase it and put it on hold for me when it came in. How easy is that?

c) Find free places to go for entertainment. Our kids look forward to the first Thursday of each month because it's the free night at our local children's museum. Being so young, my kids think it's only open once a month. :) They love it, though, and we don't have to pay $100 to be a member!

So, those are my secrets of the trade, if you will. I realize this post has been a little lengthy, but I wanted to pass along every tip I could think of that I've learned along the way. I'm still learning too, so there may be more to come soon! These tips help our family live on one income, and it allows us to teach our kid the value of a dollar. Our children will probably never dream of going out to spend $50 on a pair of shoes. Wyatt proved to me just last night just how much he's learning from watching us. I was putting his pj's on him before bed and he noticed they were "new" (new to him). He said, "I like these, Mommy. Which rummage sale did you get these from?" We had to laugh. He made his momma proud!

Hope this helps you save a dollar here and there. Afterall, there's so much you can do with a dollar! Please share any of your money-saving tips here as well!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Straight to Heaven

I just found out from a fellow blogger that October 15 is "Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day." Michelle over at "She Looketh Well" encouraged women to share their stories of loss in hopes that they will encourage other women who may be going through such a difficult time right now. So, I thought I would share the story of my first child.

Big Daddy and I were married in October 2003. We were so excited to start our journey together and anxious to start out family. As we were entering into our first Christmas together, I found out I was expecting. We were thrilled! We decided we would keep it secret for at least a few weeks. It was fun to have a secret just between the two of us!

On December 26th, we were planning to make a 7 hour road trip to visit Big Daddy's family. That morning, I started having what I would later find out were contractions. At the time, however, I knew absolutely nothing about pregnancy and even less about miscarriage. Maybe it was actually best that I didn't know that in the two hours before we were to leave for our trip, I was losing our baby. The pain I was experiencing eventually went away and we left town. While we were aware that what I was going through would have to be discussed with our doctor, we were completely unaware of how serious the problem was. We could think of little more than how our lives were going to change over the next year. We had many moments throughout our trip in which we talked about how different our next Christmas would be. We were just so excited!

When we came home a few days later and called my Dr, she wanted to see me immediately. The Dr. came into the room, walked right over to shake my hand, and didn't let go. She looked at me and said, "I'm sorry, but you've had a miscarriage." My heart just broke. I didn't know what to say, what to do, or who to talk to. What I think made it worse is that in that moment, I felt so alone. Who could possibly understand what it's like to lose a baby?

After crying over our loss with my husband, I called my mom. We cried too over the loss. The only advice she could give me was to call the only two women I knew at the time who had lost a baby. That's why I wanted to share my story too. It was encouraging to me to know that someone actually understood just what I felt. I wasn't alone.

I will pass along the most encouraging words I heard then in hopes that they will help any other woman who has had a miscarriage. My sister-in-law told me, "If we truly believe that life begins at conception (Jeremiah 1:5), then we know that it was a baby and he/she will be waiting for you in heaven." While I have 3 children here on Earth, I will have 4 when I get to Heaven! One of my babies just went straight into the arms of Jesus! Praise the Lord that day wasn't the end...I will one day hold that baby!

Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Why I love nap time

I love nap time at my house for so many reasons. I can choose to get a lot done around the house with no little "helpers," or I can choose to just sit and have some "me" time. Either way, it's a nice break in my day. I have to say, though, that one of the best perks of nap time is seeing sights like this:

Somehow, just the sight of something so precious makes me forget the hours I spent listening to her whine. I forget the number of times I picked her up, put her back down, picked her back up, etc. I suddenly am less aware of my shoulder that she has used as a kleenex all day. It's just difficult not to realize how blessed I am when I see a sight like that.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Living on One Income in a Two Income Society

Okay, I have heard this so many times. If you stay at home with your kids, you are probably as frustrated as I am with it:

"You can't live on just one income these days."

Well, let me tell you that I beg to differ! I assure you that you can not only survive, but thrive on one income! For those who may not know us, Big Daddy and I have a reputation for being cheapskates. I don't mind it at all, though. In fact, I consider it a compliment. It has become more apparent to me lately that knowing how to live this lifestyle doesn't come naturally to everyone. Also, it actually requires some work on our part. So, call us cheapskates. We'll likely thank you for acknowledging our skill and work ethic. :)

I get excited about saving money. I know, I know...there are bigger and better things to get excited about, but it just excites me. I am always looking for a new corner to cut or a new way to save money. Reading books on this subject, however, have been little help because we are usually already doing most of the things the author suggests. Usually the first step is to stop eating out or stop paying to go to the gym. We couldn't do those things anyway. Now, does that mean that I have all the answers? Absolutely not! It just means I have more to discover--new ways to save!

I'll be an open book here just to give some perspective. I don't share this to glorify myself, but to glorify God and show what He will do if we only obey. I've often noticed that many people who claim to be "poor" end up making 40 - 50K annually. Let me just state for the record that we do NOT make that much....although it would sure be nice! I'm sure that by most people's standards, we are making enough to just get by. Instead of just "getting by," though, we have managed our money and saved. Because of that, we now have a $100,000 house, 2 vehicles we own, and all the fun extras like cable, DVR, internet, and cell phones. So, remind me again what we're missing out on that would require us to have a 2nd income?

Now I'm sure I have you wondering just how we do it. I'll tell you!

Stay tuned for part 2.....