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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Back to Regularly Scheduled Programming

Remember a few weeks ago when I wrote about the children's clothing bartering site here? I told you all that I would take a picture of the first box I received:

I received 7 items in the box, which totals out to a little less than $2 per piece (since you have to pay $13 shipping). I was a bit disappointed as the boxes are supposed to be packed full (and many members report receiving 10+ pieces in their box...the littler sizes can fit 20+ items in each box!). The jeans were a bit more worn than I had expected. They were all nice brand names; Janie and Jack, Gap, Polo, Mini Boden, Talbot Kids. Overall I am okay with the box that I have received.

I have started to hear some horror stories of some boxes that have been received. Smelly clothes, things beyond wearable, even mouse droppings in one box. Fortunately, ThredUp customer service is quick and will deal with a situation like that right away. I've also heard wonderful stories of boxes packed full of clean, name brand clothing...even several that still have new tags on. So it seems to be a bit of a gamble but I think that if you stick with the users that already have good ratings you will be satisfied with your pick.

I haven't ordered another box since my first, only because I haven't found one on their site that excites me. I do have a box on my waiting list and hope to be able to snag it when it becomes available before someone else does! I traded my first box a few weeks ago and was excited to get a good review on what I sent - 4 stars (the maximum you can receive) and 8 stylie points (out of 10). Pretty good in my book!

How many of you have signed up and are using their services now?


The past three months, with these money challenges, have been exhausting. I had a reader leave a comment the other day saying that it seems that I think about saving money every hour of every day and I will disagree by saying that I "typically" don't but the past three months I have. When setting myself up for such a limited budget it is not only stressful but also quite time consuming. Planning my shopping takes double, or triple, the amount of time. Deciding plans for the day revolves around figuring out if we have enough money for this or that. It is truly exhausting to have to "think" so much about every little thing.

We do live on a small income. We do have to watch our spending and give up several things in order to live within our means. But we have enough leeway in our monthly income that we do not have to watch every little purchase that we make. It lifts a heavy burden off your shoulders to have that little leeway. These months that I did the $1,200 challenge I was stressed to the max. I felt like I spent hours each week figuring out what to spend and where to spend it and how to save. It was like a full-time job just trying to manage my spending to keep it below a certain amount. I truly feel for those families who have to live like that every single day. Who have no leeway to give them a little relief. Experiencing that has given me a new appreciation for those people who truly have to juggle every single penny they spend.

I've been asked if I will be doing another challenge next month. I need to take a break! With homeschooling added to my plate it is close to overflowing and I feel that I just can't handle the stress of another challenge next month. I do see another budget challenge, or another type of challenge, in my future but I do need one month to rest! :) My blog will be back to it's regular scheduled programing of mommyhood, my daily life, and recipes and frugal tips thrown in here or there. Just thinking of my regular schedule is a weight lifted off my shoulders!

There are also many plans for changing the blog around, so please excuse the dust if I do a little remodeling. I'm considering doing away with third party advertising on here and will be marketing some sponsored advertising. If your business or blog would be interested in advertising on the right hand column please e-mail me at babys_mama1 "at" yahoo.com The first month special is a steal!

Lots of changes and exciting things to come as I begin the second year of blogging; be sure to stay tuned!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Happy Birthday!

Happy 1st Birthday to my blog! In order to celebrate I am going to give one of you a present! I am giving a copy of Happy Housewives by Darla Shine away!

The inside of the dust jacket reads: "Darla Shine asks desperate housewives everywhere: What have you got to complain about? Here's a modern day guide to keeping house, raising kids, and loving life."

Just leave a comment below to be entered. Giveaway ends on Friday, Sept. 3rd at noon.

Savings Is Smart

We have all heard the advice that financial experts tout about having an emergency fund. It used to be three months worth of living expenses but I think that "they" have recently raised it up to six months worth of living expenses. That can be a daunting task, so unrealistic for some that they don't even begin to try.

Having a savings account that is used only for emergencies or unexpected, un-budgeted things is important. If you or a spouse loses a job having a savings account to fall back upon is the difference between being okay or running up debt. When a roof needs repaired or a car needs replaced having something in savings results in being able to replace those things without needing to take out a loan.

We all know that. I don't have to go on and on about why it is important. The question is, how do you start a savings account when you are living paycheck to paycheck? We have three to four month's worth of expenses in savings. Within the last five years we have paid for three vehicles, a bathroom remodel, and a re-roofing job out of pocket and still been able to build our savings back to a fairly good amount in case of emergencies. Actually, we are really saving up to have a good down payment on an acreage someday in the future, but if something unexpected came up we would be able to draw out of savings without being in debt.

How can it be done? Start off small. If you are used to putting nothing in savings, start putting $5 or $10 in your account each pay period. It adds up slowly but it does add up. Another option is to put a small percentage of money into savings each pay period. Our online banking has the option of choosing a percentage to transfer. For example, let's say you got paid on Friday and your checking account showed you had $2,000. You could choose to transfer, let's say, 5% into savings...so $100. If you do this on each payday before spending any money you really won't miss it. If $100 sounds like too much since you are living paycheck to paycheck, start with 1% or 2%. If you get extra money, say from a garage sale, tax return, or gift be sure to stick at least half of that amount into savings. Pay yourself before paying others.

The next step is to not touch this money! This is the hard part for so many because if it is there it is so easy to use $20 here and $20 there. You need to realize that this is a savings account and that you are saving for something. It is not for going out to eat, buying new clothing or electronics, etc. If it is not a pressing need then it does not come out of your emergency fund. If you do think you will be grabbing cash out of the savings account for a vacation or Christmas gifts then open another account. Most banks have something called a "Christmas Account" where you can deposit a set amount each month and withdraw it when needed. This would be a good account for you, which is separate from your savings account.

Be sure to keep on saving. If you need to withdraw money (we all do at one time or another) be sure to build that account back up as soon as possible. Start small again if you need to. You decide what a good amount of savings is good for your family. A good rule of thumb is at least three months worth of living expenses.

What advice do you have about savings accounts/emergency funds?

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Failure x 2

Yep, I failed my challenge again this month. On Thursday evening we had $183.75 left for the month. Then I paid a $133.00 electric bill. Then we went grocery shopping and spent $65.00. Well, I take that back. When looking at my grocery receipts I saw that they charged us twice for the same watermelon, so we will be getting $5 of that grocery bill back next time we are at that particular store (another reminder to check those receipts!). It still means that those two purchases alone brought us $14.25 over budget. Then my husband bought some sneakers that he desperately needed (seriously, his other ones are falling apart!) so that was another $40 over budget. Looks like right now we are around $1,254.25. I don't foresee much shopping for the next three days so we are still under what we were in June when we attempted this budget (we went over about $150 that month).

I'm okay with that. I'm actually impressed with it. This challenge was for myself and I came pretty darn near to making the goal. *pats self on back*

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Shopping Can Be Fun AND Frugal!!

My husband was off work on Friday because he will be working this weekend. Which happens to make for a very LONG weekend. So we decided to make it a day of shopping fun.

First my husband wanted to drop off some scrap metal at the recycling yard. This is all just junk metal that would have been thrown away. He walked out of the recycling office with $77!

We headed to the mall to shop at Gap. Remember the Groupon certificate that I told you I bought last week for $25, which gave you a $50 certificate? I actually received it and wanted to do a bit of shopping in their clearance sections. I found all this which added up to $48.80:
With tax it came to $53 something but for some reason the Groupon coupon took the tax off too and the cashier said there is nothing she can do about it so I didn't have to pay a cent for tax! I really got everything above for the $25 that I paid for the certificate. Becca will wear the jeans this fall/winter and the rest of the stuff is summer wear that will be saved for next year for the kids. The jeans alone were originally priced at $34.50!

I also hit a garage sale today. I was able to get everything below (nice brand names too! Wes & Willy, Gap, Mini Boden, Lands End) for $4.25.

That $4.25 includes a small doll house that I bought for Joe and a few little toys that the kids wanted.

Hy-Vee is having an excellent cereal deal right now so I had to get in on the action. In their store ad they have a coupon for "Buy 6 General Mills Cereal get $10 off" coupon. They also have a promotion where when you buy 6 boxes of cereal you get a $6 catalina coupon from the register good for your next purchase in store (use like cash). They had several boxes on sale for 3/$8. So basically, you buy 6 cereals and end up getting them for free. It gets better! You can also use manufacture coupons on the cereal. The plain Cheerios had $1 off coupons and I had a $2 off 5 General Mills coupon so they actually paid me $5 to buy 12 boxes of cereal! (I did two separate orders of 6 cereals each to be able to get each $6 catalina coupon.)

Is it the healthiest of cereals? No. Is it cereal that we occasionally buy? Yes! I can put this away in the cupboard and we probably won't go through more than a box or two of it a week. This was free plus a $5 profit! If I lived closer to this store I would go back a few more times before the sale ended to be stocked up on cereal for such a long time. If you have a Hy-Vee near you be sure to do this deal! Even if you don't eat this type of cereal (come on, the Cheerios are at least healthy!) you could donate it to a food pantry or give it to a family going through a tough time.

Since I already subtracted the $25 I spent on the Groupon Gap coupon from last weeks budget, I only spent out of pocket today $4.25 for everything above. If you factor in the fact that Hy-Vee paid ME $5 to buy the cereal I come out +$1 for everything above. So we have $183.75 for the rest of the month. We did do other shopping though and I will add that to my budget post for tomorrow. I just wanted to show you some examples of when shopping can be both fun AND frugal! :)

Thursday, August 26, 2010

How Does Your Garden Grow?

Yesterday I spent some refreshing time in my garden - weeding. The weather was finally comfortable enough and the bugs weren't bothersome so I caught up on some much needed TLC for my plants. My garden has been a bit of a disappointment this summer. Because of the rain, humidity, and heat my plants have done poorly. Not only because of the fungus, bugs, and wilt but also because I couldn't spend time out there when it was so muggy, rainy, or buggy.

I didn't realize how bad the garden was until yesterday when I went to work in it. The weeds were choking the plants and not letting sunlight in. I spent a good hour weeding and mediating. Weeding, come to find out, is a very relaxing thing where you are able to pull all the bad out of the garden to get down to the sweet fruit.

While I pulled I realized that my garden was a symbol of life. Not just vegetative life - but life in general. We all start out as tender young plants who need loving care. As we grow we become stronger (in our convictions) but are still fragile to attack. The weeds in life are people in our life who we care about who smother us and choke us by leading us on the wrong path. The bugs are those other people who we can't choose whether to have in our life or not but are there regardless (bosses, co-workers, neighbors, etc.) who eat little pieces of our happiness from our life. The storms that can beat down on a plant are those struggles which we all deal with: job loss, marriage issues, illness, money problems, etc.

What plant is the most venerable to the issues above? The young ones that are still growing. As I pulled and tossed those weeds I thought about my children. I realized that weeding my garden was a symbol of why I homeschool. My children are tender little plants right now who are being protected in their "greenhouse". They aren't strong enough to be stuck in the ground in the blaring hot sun to be surrounded by weeds, eaten by bugs, and put through storms.

Are there big issues to deal with in Kindergarten or First Grade? Not major ones; maybe teasing here or a swear word there. Nothing that my children couldn't deal with on their own at the moment. The problem comes from the fact that those weeds sneak up so quickly. They start out with just one or two growing but within a week the garden is covered with them. The first line of defense is to pull the weeds, but some of the damage has already been done. A tender plant or two never fully recovers from being strangled by those weeds, the soil has been damaged by having some of it's nutrients sucked out. The plants will never be as strong or healthy as they could have been. Keeping the weeds at bay from the beginning is far better.

One can far better weather the bugs and storms as well if they are healthy and strong before facing them. A tough, thick tomato plant is going to withstand the hail beating down on it better than a tender, spindly one. My children will deal with issues in their life, but I am not going to throw them out at a young age so that they "get used to it". I will raise them to be strong in their own convictions so that when they are faced with meanness, temptations, or wrongness they will be able to stand up to it, instead of bow to the pressures.

This is not to say that those in public or private schools are hopeless. It just means that they have a lot more weeds, bugs, and storms to deal with and sometimes these things don't make you stronger, but rather make one much weaker. Hence the reason that self-esteem is so low in America's teenagers, and why eating disorders, self mutilation, teen pregnancy, drugs and drinking, and even suicide are all prevalent in our schools today. There is no denying that there is a problem. Some "plants" are strong enough to weather all that and be okay. I don't want to take that chance.

For me, that means fending my children from the wolves until they are old enough to fight for themselves.

This isn't just about children. This extends to us grownups as well. Who and what we choose to have in our life affects us just as much as weeds, bugs, and storms affect my garden. Having hateful negative people in our life can zap us of our own happiness. Hanging around those with completely different morals can make us weaker in our own convictions, or make us begin to see those things as "not so bad".

As a matter of fact, this is a proven theory. It has been said recently that divorce has been proven to be contagious. If you have a friend who is divorced you are 140% more likely to become divorced yourself. Why? Listening to your friend's reasoning for her divorce may make you less satisfied with your own marriage as well as hearing support from your friend for divorcing (i.e. "You don't have to put up with that! I didn't!"). Whereas having a strong circle of married friends can increase your likelihood of not divorcing (i.e. "I know how you feel and you can work through this and have a happier marriage). As sad as the fact is, humans are a little more like lemmings jumping over a cliff together than we would like to admit. We are influenced by our peers and the only way we can better this is to only surround ourselves with those we want to be influenced by.

Little things may sometimes not feel like a big deal at first. Flirting with someone other than our spouse at work (did you realize that the majority of affairs start in the workplace?), watching porn or unhealthy movies, gossiping, being dishonest. Those weeds grow though, and soon we are smothering ourselves with what we have surrounded ourselves with. It is possible to pull out those weeds and start anew sometimes. But sometimes we let those weeds surround us and suck out all of our good and once we realize what happened it is too late. Addictions, ruined marriages, financial failure and more can be the result when the weeds win.

We all have weeds surrounding us. We all have a few weeds within us. I hope to teach my children to nurture their garden and pluck those weeds before they become a problem. And I will continue to remind myself of the same thing.

It had been planted in good soil by abundant water so that it would produce branches, bear fruit and become a splendid vine.'Ezekiel 17:7-9

"Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit.Matthew 12:32-34

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

This & That

We are finally having some cooler weather that feels more like Fall. Today looks to be beautiful, superb, and perfect...weather-wise, anyway. Right now there is a family issue that is taking a lot of my attention and bringing heartache. Nothing that I care to elaborate, and it's not within my very immediate family (so no worries for us directly) but it's something that brings home the fact that life is precious and that we need to let those who are precious to us know it every single day. Even amidst chaos and confusion there are those little moments in the day that we can stop and be still in awe of God's grace and glory. A perfect weather day, such as today, is one of those little moments. One of those breaths of fresh air. A reminder that no matter what we have to go through, God is there to hold our hand through our trials, or carry us through them if needed.

My goal for today is to just be. To find the joy in the little things. Hanging out wash on a sunny day. Holding grubby little hands that clutch mine as we take a walk. Watching my two oldest learn as they sit around our own kitchen table, knowing that I am giving them my best. Creating sandwiches from the tomatoes that our garden produced. Hearing the birds in the trees. That will bring peace to my soul today.

On that note, I haven't updated my budget plan in awhile. Due to sickness and stress, it slipped my mind. I went through my records today and it looks like my hubby spent $32.54 at the grocery store on Saturday, I spent $35.48 at Kohl's the other day, $15.00 in gas, $4.96 at Dollar General, and $21.15 at the grocery store yesterday for a total left for the month of $182.75. With six days left in the challenge. Unfortunately, I have a large electric bill coming up to pay and also need to do a big grocery shopping trip yet this week so I doubt we will come in under budget, but fairly close is good enough for me! :) How are all of you doing?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


What do thrifty people do about tipping those who serve us? Should one be stingy with tips, since a tip isn't 'required'?

I've seen very heated debates about tipping before. There is one extreme that feels you should tip 20%+ even if the service was bad. Then the other extreme who feel you shouldn't tip at all since the servers were just doing their job; after all, you wouldn't tip a cashier at Walmart or your garbage man, would you?

I don't often frequent businesses where a tip is even considered. Not because I'm against tips but because these types of places are typically more expensive to begin with. Sit down restaurants, hair stylists, nail salons, pet groomers, and so on. We are lucky to go to these types of places once or twice a year (well, never the nail salon or pet groomer...we do our own!).

We do tip. If our service was good we tip 15-20%, a few times it's been more than that. If the service was bad, or non-existent, we have been known to leave a very small tip, or a few times, none at all. I don't feel that it is our duty to pay our server to do a job that was done badly. A tip, to me, is a thank you for a job well done.

I suppose I could elaborate on tipping but I don't have a lot of experience with it as it only comes up a couple times a year in our life. I would love to hear from those of you who work in the service industry and also those of you who do/don't tip. How do you feel about tipping?

Monday, August 23, 2010

Not Me! Monday

After only throwing up once in thirteen years I did not break that streak on Saturday when I came down with the same illness that the rest of the family went through last week. After throwing up I did not crawl into bed and stay there the rest of the day, only getting up to take a bath two different times because my body was aching so much.

I was not eternally grateful to my husband for keeping the kids busy for the majority of the day so that I could be left alone to sleep and be still. BUT, I was also not a little miffed to arrive downstairs to a completely trashed house by the end of the day.

I was also not a little sickened when I looked into the grocery bags of what he brought home on Saturday so that they could fend for themselves while mama was sick. The sight of Tostinos party pizza, pizza rolls, Little Debbie snack cakes, and pop made me want to go throw up again. Granted, there was also cantaloupe, watermelon, and salad in the bags as well. It makes me wonder what most single dads feed their children...

It won't be me trying to play catch up on a trashed house the next few days or trying to get my kids back to a (more) healthful diet this week. Nope, not me!

As a side note, I really am so grateful that I was afforded a day of rest while sick. That is a huge thing for a mama of little ones! Thanks honey!

Friday, August 20, 2010

One Of Those Weeks & Reader's Updates

It has been one of those weeks. Those crazy busy, filled to the brim, don't have a moment to think weeks.

School started this week. As a homeschooling family that means that mama is just a tad bit busier these days. Becca is in first grade and Jacob is in Kindergarten so their book work doesn't take all day. We can get their seat work done in less than an hour and then devote time throughout the day to work on art projects, PE, and various hands on experiences. Daddy is teaching them History this year so that is one thing less on my plate.

School started off great the first day. Then the kids all got sick. Throwing up sick. Grouchy sick. Cranky sick. Hyper in between sickness sick. Not only the kids got sick, but mama and daddy haven't felt so hot the past couple days either. I got off easy with an upset stomach but hubby even came home early from work yesterday because he felt so bad.

We've done school in between these bouts of sickness but it hasn't been fun.

I got a sunburn on Monday when we were at a park all afternoon for a homeschool picnic and have been dealing with the pain and peeling the past few days. I have taken up jogging (somewhat) and have been dealing with shin pain. Walking/running 3-4 miles last night with the dog gave me blisters on both heels, so more pain. I won't complain too much because I love, love, love the peace and quiet and the energy boost I get from these walks/runs.

I think we are all finally on the mend so here is to a brighter next week!

For a budget update: Wednesday hubby ran to the store for pop, Popsicles, and a few other things for a total of $8.91. Life Insurance was due which was $22.36. $20 in gas was put in the van. Yesterday Groupon had a deal where you could buy a $50 GAP coupon for just $25. This can be used on clearance prices as well so I bought one. I figure I can get some pretty cheap clothes or underwear and socks for the kids by matching this with clearance prices. I bought one for $25...at least I hope I bought one. I never received a confirmation e-mail and can't figure out how to check my account to see if it was bought. So I will tentatively say that I spent $25. We are down to $291.78 left for the month.

I forgot to have reader updates last Friday so now if your chance to check in if you have been taking a Budget Challenge along with me. How are you doing close to three weeks into the month? If you are blogging about this please share your blog link as well!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Quick Thrifty Tip for Thrifty Mamas

I love kids clothes. I love to barter. I love a good deal. Recently when my mom mentioned a new kid's clothing bartering site on the internet I didn't pay it much attention. Then I started to hear about the clothing that she was getting from there for my younger siblings and I looked into it further. Now I am slightly addicted, though I haven't even sent my first box out yet, nor received my first box in the mail (it should be on it's way, though!).

ThredUp is where you can list your gently used clothing items that your children have outgrown. Some sizes are in high demand so you earn credit for them towards a box you want. When someone chooses your box you print out the postage on your computer and drop it off at the Post Office, so no out of pocket expense for yourself. When YOU order a box you pay $13 shipping (if you have credit from one of your boxes it will be even less than $13)! These boxes are packed to the brim with clothing, so you may be paying as little as $1 per piece of clothing. There are very good brand names listed and the majority of people who are swapping their clothing are highly impressed with the boxes they receive. If there is a problem with a box, I hear that their customer service is very good and will resolve any issue you have.

If you sign up through this referral link you will receive one month of PRO status for free, which means you get to see boxes earlier than the members who aren't PRO, as well as several other perks. I'll receive another month of PRO status as well, so I thank you if you do sign up through that link. :)

I'll update when I receive my first box and let you know how I like it. Have any of you had experience with ThredUp? How do you like it?

Feed the Freezer

My husband grew up in West Virginia. When we went back to visit on vacation once I met his cousin and her family. We decided to run to a gas station late at night for some snacks and on the way there she kept asking me if we should get pepperoni rolls. I had no idea what she was talking about and just said "I don't know".

It turns out that in some states pepperoni rolls are staples at most convenience stores. It is basically like a roll with pepperoni baked inside and many have cheese as well. We did end up picking some up and I ended up enjoying mine immensely. We have nothing like that in our state so I improvised and came up with one that we all love.

Pepperoni Rolls

12 Rhodes frozen dinner rolls (I think these were called Texas rolls. You can also use a handmade dough.)

8 oz. shredded cheddar cheese

8 oz. pepperoni

Place 12 rolls in 13x9 pan. Let rise according to package directions. Once risen, pull rolls apart. Stretch each one into small circle with hands, sprinkle a bit of cheese on circle, add three to four slices of pepperoni. Take all four corners and bring into the middle and seal, essentially closing the ingredients inside of the roll. Place back into pan sealed side down and bake 20 to 25 minutes at 350 until just starting to turn light brown. Serve alone or with pizza sauce to dip in.

I doubled this recipe, baked both pans of rolls, and then stuck the extra pan into the freezer. This I will thaw for a few hours on the counter or in fridge and then microwave or heat in oven until warm.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Stop Throwing Your Money Away Part II

A few days ago I wrote about paper plates and paper towels. I mentioned finding a new favorite thing for cleaning windows.

Micro Fiber Cloths!

I've heard about them before but was addicted to paper towels for cleaning windows and picking up spills that I didn't want to give them a chance. A month ago when I met some ladies for a fun filled day of shopping we stopped at a little Amish General Store and there was a large pile of micro fiber cloths with a little booklet about them. We all grabbed one to try at home and paid around $2 each.

I am in love with this product! I have not bought a roll of paper towels for over a month now. As I mentioned in my previous post, I am using rags for messy messes and am now using the Micro Fiber cloth for mirrors. It works 100 times better than any paper towel, leaving no streaks or fibers behind on the mirrors and windows. I have children who love to peer out the window and I have two full length mirrors attached to both sides of the bathroom door, so there are always oodles of fingerprints to wipe off. This cloth does the trick.

It is thick, soft, and reusable. Once it's dirty just throw it in the wash. No more paper towels to buy...or throw away!

Micro Fiber is plastic (80% polyester, 20% polyamide). A microscopic plastic wire cuts through dust, grime, and moisture and picks it up like a magnet without scratching the surface. It absorbs up to seven times it's weight in moisture and can be used on any surface.

Can also be used for:

carpet spots and spills, dish drying, vegetable and fruit cleaning, computers, hair drying, pet care, and more!

I've seen these at the dollar stores before and am fairly certain that even Walmart carries them in the car care section. My towel is called a "Miracle Towel" but I am sure all micro fiber cloths are fairly similar. Try one - it will save you money and save the waste that paper towels create.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Teach Those Kiddos!

Once again, I was bad and went to the grocery store without a shopping list. We were out of toilet paper, milk, and several other necessities and I was just too brain dead to sit down and come up with a list. We spent $79.79 and walked out of the store with barely anything. Since I am mad at myself for not organizing this shopping trip better I am going to make these groceries last all week anyhow and get creative in the kitchen. Serves me right. We are down to $368.05 left for the month and it is just half over.

One thing we thrifty people should think about is our children. Are we teaching them the value of a dollar?

I grew up fairly poor. Probably poorer than most of my peers growing up in the 80's and 90's. Being poor means that you didn't get allowances and didn't have money for extras. If we went to the movie theater it was during Christmas vacation when they showed movies free. If we went out to eat it was to Hardees where we would get a hamburger and then a large fries to share with everyone at the table. It means that a stray cat that I claimed as a pet for seven months was dropped off in the middle of the night at a park because your family didn't have money to vaccinate and feed it. It means that if you wanted something extra you paid for it yourself.

From the time I was 8 years old I remember hoarding any money that came my way. The only time I can recall having money of my own is when we had a garage sale and I sold some of my toys or on my birthday when I would typically get about $30 in cash from relatives. I didn't use that money on myself though. I often had a gerbil, guinea pig, or rabbit as a pet and their care was my responsibility. Food and litter costs came from my little stash and I could make that $30 last all year. Occasionally I would go to the rec center with my friend to go roller skating and if I recall correctly it was $1 to get in. Often times I didn't feel like spending the money so told her that I wasn't feeling good or would rather play at a park. I never told my friends that I couldn't afford to go. They all had membership passes after all and could get in whenever they wanted.

I started babysitting when I was 11 years old. I babysat for a 6 month and 2 year old boy every single day for a few hours each day. I couldn't believe it when after two weeks I was given $80 for my work! $80 to me was so much that I was giddy with excitement. I didn't spend the money though, I socked it away to save it for something really important. Soon I had several hundred dollars socked away. At that time my dad had lost his job and been out of work for quite awhile. My parents dreamed about starting a bookstore and after a loan and careful planning they opened one. Being short for something (was it shelving? Moving expenses?) they asked to borrow some money and I handed it over. I don't recall every getting the money back in cash, but my mom would keep a running tab of what they owed and deduct certain things from that tab (a shirt here. a case of pop there. Things I asked her to pick up for me).

Throughout my teenage years I babysat and socked the money away. Once we moved out into the country and I couldn't get to babysitting jobs I started to sell things on Ebay when I needed the extra money. I wasn't ever responsible for my necessities, but stamps, pet food, phone bills, and any extras came out of my pocket.

And you know what? I wouldn't have it any other way. I learned financial responsibility that way. I learned to put my wants before my needs. I learned what is important to buy and what is a waste of money. I learned that just because I had money didn't mean that it had to be burning a hole in my pocket. It was a good thing.

I've had a checking account for 18 years now (yes, I got one when I was 10 years old!) and never once bounced a check or had an overdraft fee. Ever since I had money coming in I've learned to set aside some (or a lot) for savings. I've learned to buy only what I really really want because it is my hard earned money and it better be a purchase that is worth it.

Our children don't get an allowance either. It may change sometime in the future but for now I don't feel the need to pay them to do chores that they should be doing anyway. They do get money from garage sales (Becca made $18 at the last one alone) and occasionally get money for their birthdays. We've recently sat down with them and told them about saving money. We opened a savings account for both of them and they now deposit half of all their money into savings. Already they are learning the value of a dollar. Becca carries her own little purse to garage sales and has been known to exclaim "Why would anyone pay that much for this?" when a tag is marked too much. Quietly, of course. We aren't doing this because we can't afford it, but rather because it is good for them.

And it is. When opening up the bank accounts the kids got a little backpack full of goodies at the bank. In it was a little bank to put their change in. I can already see the wheels turning in their heads about how to fill the bank up. One day they set up a little box outside and put some of their toys inside and had a makeshift garage sale. Neighbor kids actually came and bought items and they deposited the money in their banks. Becca came up with the ingenious idea of looking underneath shelves near the checkout lanes in stores (where most people drop change) and came up with close to $1 at just one store!

Necessity is the mother of inventions! We have some entrepreneurs on our hands!

How has your growing up affected your financial decisions?

Monday, August 16, 2010

Back To School

“I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.”- Mark Twain

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Get Out Of The House Much?

I was shocked today. Shocked, I tell you! This may make me sound pathetic and like a real loser. Some of you will be shocked that I was shocked about this. Others of you may feel my pain. We went out to eat today and the total came to $38.02! Okay...uhmm...most of you are probably not impressed and wonder what the big deal is. Here is where some of you may feel sorry for us...

Except for one time when we took the in-laws out for their anniversary, we have never, ever spent that much at a restaurant before. 1. Because we rarely go out to eat and when we do it is to a fast food restaurant. 2. Because when we go to a fancier restaurant we typically just go out sans children and choose one of the less expensive meals off the menu. 3. We don't eat at expensive restaurants.

Here is the kicker. This was not a fancy restaurant, nor a fancy lunch. We ate at Chili's. We had normal food such as hamburgers, chicken, and a sandwich. And it came to $38.02.

When we eat out we never get soda with our meals (unless it comes with a value meal). Today we all opted for soda. The kid's soda came with their meals but I was even more shocked to learn that a normal sized glass of soda was $2.29 each! $4.58 for two glasses of watered down soda? Totally not worth it!

What I mean to say with this whole speech is that while some of you are wondering why I am shocked at a $38 lunch, I am wondering how it is even worth it to pay $38 for a lunch that I could have made at home for less than $10. Don't get me wrong, the food was good, but I can't fathom paying $38 for such a normal meal. It just seems, well, extravagant to pay $38 for some burgers and fries when people in other countries are trying to live off $1 or less a day. It seems like...well...a waste.

The truth be told, we didn't spend $38.02 on lunch today because I had won a $30 gift card on an online game. We paid $8.02 for our meal. So I'm not upset about our out-of-pocket expense for the meal. I was just shocked at the initial bill...that some burger and fries and chicken and sandwich could come to $38. I guess I really don't get out much - but I do save a lot in eating out costs! :)

We also spent $20 in gas, and stopped at the bread outlet and loaded up on bread to stick in the freezer, where we spent $11.22. We are down to $447. 84 for the month.

What is the most expensive restaurant bill that you remember (and for how many people)?

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Naturally Clean

Housekeeping is a large part of any mother's day. From laundry and dishes to counters and floors - there is just plenty that needs to be cleaned each and every day.
What helps us define clean, though? Is it a pine needle scent? Lemon? Chlorine? Does it need to be antibacterial? We now have cleaning products for every single item in the house. Floor cleaner, counter top cleaner, bathroom cleaner, toilet cleaner, tub and tile...the list goes on and on. Not only do all those cleaners get expensive but they aren't healthy for you. Unless you are buying all natural cleaners, you are essentially filling the air in your home with chemicals while trying to get things clean. Is trading a dirty floor for a chemical laden one any better? I think I'd almost prefer the dirt.

You need not despair. There are natural products on the market which are made of essential oils, or you can make your very own cleaners which are healthy for you and for your budget.

White vinegar is the jack of all trades in my house. Once I read that it killed 99% of germs (as effective as bleach) I was sold on it. I can buy a huge gallon of it at the store for less than $1.50 and it lasts and lasts. One reason some people shy away from it is the smell is quite strong. Once dry, you can not smell anything but a fresh smell. What do I use it for?

*Washing floors. As stated above, it kills 98-99% of germs, so it is as effective as bleach without being the poison that bleach is. Just add 1-2 c. of it to a big bucket of hot water and mop the floor.

*Cleaning counter tops. Mix 1/2 a cup in a spray bottle with warm water and wash the sinks and counters in the kitchen and bathrooms. It is excellent for removing hard water stains. Dampen a washrag with vinegar and let sit on your faucets for 15 minutes, then rinse clean.

*In the carpet cleaner. It kills germs in the carpet and softens the carpet fibers. Not so great with stain removal so along with your normal carpet shampoo. Just 1/2 a cup works well in the machine.

*Laundry. It makes towels and blankets soft and fluffy (no more fabric softener!). Vinegar also reduces soap residue, breaks up grease and oil, and is a natural bleach. Also prevents static cling. Pour half to a cup of it in the fabric softener dispenser.

*In the dishwasher rinse compartment. It clears detergent spots from glasses and silverware without having to buy those expensive, chemical laden rinses.

*Cleaning out teapots and coffee makers of hard water deposits. Just run a cup or two of white vinegar through the coffeemaker or teapot, then rinse.

*Mold. It kills mold almost as well as bleach. Also works wonders for washing musty smells out of clothing or other items.

One of my favorite natural cleaning books is Organic Housekeeping By Ellen Sandbeck. It has everything you need to know about changing your cleaning habits for the better.

I'm not sure why the price above says $700! It may be a wealth of information, but it shouldn't cost that much. :) You can find it on Amazon for much cheaper than that.

What do you use white vinegar for?

Friday, August 13, 2010

Don't Throw Your Money Away!

In this challenge to save money (as well as be green), I have come to realize that buying the majority of disposable items is literally just throwing your money away...as well as disrespecting the resources that God has given to us on this earth.

We have not bought a single package of paper plates in close to three months. We haven't bought paper towels in about a month. We have found that our real plates are just as good as paper ones; better in fact. It involves a few more dirty dishes in the sink but not so many to be too noticeable. With paper towels I bought them for washing windows (found a new favorite product for that, which I will discuss soon!) and for pet messes. I used to have a few favorite rags that I would wash and reuse but never wanted to use it on pet messes because, well...ewww..., I don't want to rewash it! With three messy kiddos I have found the perfect solution this summer. I cut up all their stained beyond repair t-shirts, cut them into pieces, and stick them under the kitchen sink. When there is a mess I wipe/pick it up and toss it in the trash. It was something that was going to go into the trash anyway but had another use before tossing. These two substitutions are saving us at least $5 a month.

Another reusable cleaning tool? The Libman Wonder Mop. I am not getting paid for this review and I'm sure Libman doesn't even have a clue who I am; I just love this mop so much that I had to share!

For years I was buying a gross sponge mop at the Dollar store and tossing it after using it just once or twice because it got so disgusting after it's first use. It didn't even work that well but it was cheap so I put up with using that type of mop for years. When we moved to this house several years ago I noticed when washing the kitchen floor that the sponge mop was just squishing dirty water all over the floor. I purchased a Libman wonder mop for about $6 at Walmart and have been in *love* with it ever since. It works, is easy to use...and best of all...reusable!

The mop head is washable up to 50 times. I seriously bought my first mop 5 years ago, used just two mop heads in that span of time, and just recently had to buy a whole new mop as around the plastic that holds the mop head in place started to rust away. One mop and one extra mop head refill lasted 5 whole years?! That means in five years I only spent around $10 on mop purchases! As opposed to a new $1 mop several times a year. I consider that a bargain, as well as a way to reduce waste.

Later this weekend I will be posting some of my natural cleaning recipes!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Comment Moderation

I just want to let you know that I have now put comment moderation on all posts that are 2 days old or older. Not because I *need* to moderate them, but because I often only check comments on my newer posts and just realized that several people have been commenting on my older posts, which I never realized and therefore never read. Now I can be notified when an older post is commented on. Just wanted to clarify why some of your comments on older posts will now need to be "approved" before being published.

Day 12

I haven't been keeping up with my challenge on the blog this month as well as I did back in June. Not because I am spending more money, but because I have been staying out of stores and therefore not spending as much money and having nothing to report. My husband did pick up some treats at the grocery store tonight and I can't find the receipt so will add that to my next expense report. We did spend $8.25 today at the meat market for 3 large cantaloupes, 1 package of beef sticks, and a large bag of onions. Which brings our total down to $487.08 left for the month.

I recently added an Amazon widget on my sidebar, about halfway down the page. I'm going to "go all Oprah" and have my 'favorite things' listed on there. Everything listed is something that I personally use/own and love. You may see that we like some of the same things, find a new product that looks interesting to you, just want to snoop around to see what types of things I like, or just ignore the widget altogether. Whatever floats your boat. :)

Books. I love books. My favorite place to find books is at
Trade Books for Free - PaperBack Swap.
You are essentially bartering your books and just pay postage, which averages around $2.30 per book, though often a smaller paperback is much cheaper. They have over a million books listed on their site and if you don't see the book you are looking for you can put it on your wish list and they will contact you when it is available. I have done over 100 transactions on there since signing up 5 years ago and get almost all my books through there. If you haven't heard of it, do check out their site. Just for signing up and posting 10 books you no longer want (a good tip is to pick up books at garage sales for as little as 10 cents and post them, or clean out your own bookshelves) you get three credits so can start "purchasing" books immediately!

Amazon has quite a few books for good prices as well, especially when buying from the used section. One book I recommend is:

America's Cheapest Family by Steve and Annette Economides (what an appropriate name!). There is a lot that I don't utilize from their book. This probably isn't a book for someone who already is a huge tightwad. But I do think it is an excellent book for someone who doesn't know where to start to control their spending habits or wants to find a few more areas in which they can cut. Their story is enough to make this book interesting to anyone.

They show you how they manage to feed their family of seven on $350 per month, pay off their first home in nine years, buy cars with cash, take vacations, and put money in savings. They also show you how to live debt-free. It has earned a permanent spot on my bookshelf.

A few other places that have good prices on books are Ebay and Half.com. Don't forget garage sales, thrift stores, and library books sales as well.

What is your favorite place to purchase books?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Feed The Freezer

Another recipe perfect for the freezer...

Enchilada Grande Casserole

1 lb. ground beef

1 16 oz. can refried beans

1 15 oz. can tomato sauce

1/4 c. water

1 pkg. enchilada seasoning

8 7to 8 inch flour tortillas

2 c. shredded cheddar cheese (8 oz.)

sour cream, green onions (optional)

In large skillet, cook ground beef until browned. Drain. Stir in refried beans, tomato sauce, water, and sauce mix. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer 15 minutes. Grease baking dish. Arrange 4 tortillas in bottom, overlapping. Spoon half of meat mixture over tortillas. Sprinkle with half of cheese. Repeat layer. Bake uncovered @ 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Top with sour cream and onions, if desired.

Double the recipe and have one for supper and stick the other in the freezer in order to kill two birds with one stone!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


The winner of the $40 CSN gift certificate is:

I am not sure how old I was, maybe 5 or 6 when my mom had a party for me with some of the neighborhood kids. We bobbed for apples, played games and of course had cake and ice cream. My brothers are all older than me and they gave my friends piggy back rides and played with all of us. Except me. All I did was sit there and cry. Don't ask me why, I just did. I can remember some of it, but to this day mom will bring it up and we have a good laugh. Beth

Beth, please e-mail me at babys_mama1 "at" yahoo.com before Thursday to claim your prize. Congratulations!

Be Aware!

Today we took the dog back to the vet to get the pin taken out of her leg, since it has been eight weeks since she was hit by a car and needed surgery to fix her broken femur. Unfortunately, when they took the pin out they saw that it was still not fully healed, so she will be coming home tomorrow with a splint on her leg. I'm hoping that soon she can be fully healed and back to using her hind leg. I'm nervous about how much it is costing though...

Since we drove out of town to take her to the vet and were melting in these temperatures without air conditioning in our van I decided to give the kids a treat and got each of them a kid's meal at McDonalds. Usually when we grab a quick bite to eat it is just a hamburger and fries to share, so getting your own kid's meal is a real treat! It has been over six months since they have had this treat. And I'm thinking that they raised their prices because for three kids meals and the cheapest value meal they have the total came to $14.39. Ouch! $20 in gas for the van and we are down to $495.33 for the rest of the month.

As the title of this post suggests, we always need to be aware of where our money is going. One very helpful hint is to always check your receipts. Just in the last two weeks I have noticed three mistakes on my receipts and they add up to close to $10 total. Unfortunately, these were all mistakes from out of town stores and I didn't notice them until we arrived home. Two of the mistakes I will forgive and forget but one is close to $5 alone. I already called Target about it and they said it is fine to bring the receipt in next time to get a refund.

The fact of the matter is, when I shop I like to get good deals. I love to shop the clearance sections and bargain bins but I wouldn't have bought these things for more than what I thought I would be buying them for. It isn't a good deal if it ends up costing more than advertised.

This happens much more than you think. Many auditors that go from store to store to check grocery store practices say that on almost every receipt their is a price discrepancy from the shelf prices. Whether it is an extra 10 cents for the store, or an extra dollar or two, we tend to loose a little bit of our hard earned cash at stores without even realizing.

The best way to control this is to make sure you know the prices of the products and to watch the screen as the cashier scans the items. Unfortunately, most of you reading this are mothers and I'm sure that the majority of the time that you are shopping you have little ones with you, who help distract you from the task at hand. The next best thing is to scan your receipt before leaving the store, so that you don't have to trek back into the store. Even at home it isn't too late. Many stores trust their customers and will make an adjustment the next time you are at the store.

Check those receipts with every shopping trip and I'm sure you will be saving $5 or more of lost money each month!


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