Ways to $ave money

Saving money is definitely important in all aspects of life, but especially if you are trying to pay off debt.  The average American household as of April 2014 has $203,163 worth of debt including mortgage, student loans, credit cards, etc. (Source).  I’m almost positive that this number must be higher now.  Our cultural mentality is gimme gimme more more more.  I’ve written about de-cluttering in a previous post.  Less is more, especially when you don’t really have the money.  So, with that being said, let’s talk about some ways to save some dough.  These are listed in no specific order…….

  • IMG_3075Make a Budget and stick to it!  Have a monthly budget meeting.  You can learn more from Dave Ramsey here.  In fact, if you are trying to pay off some debt, I strongly recommend going through the Financial Peace University.  That will give you some ideas and tools to really attack your debt.  Great starting point.
  • Shop second hand.  Consignment shops, thrift stores, used/refurbished online items.  There are many great items in my closet and home that we have purchased used.
  • Cancel monthly trash pick up.  You will have to check with your state to see if you are able to do this.  We live in Delaware and order cards from the state to take trash bags to the transfer station.  There is an upfront cost of purchasing a large container to hold your trash and recycled materials, but it is well worth it.  We were spending about $35 per month on trash and recycling services.  Now, we are spending about $30 per YEAR!  My husband takes a load about every two weeks.  It does take some time, but the financial gain was awesome!
  • Cancel Netflix/Hulu/DirecTV services.  My household has talked about this, but we haven’t actually done it yet.  Families spend too much time watching television when they could be doing other things together.  This not only saves money, but gives a gift of TIME.
  • When preparing meals for dinner, double or triple the recipe.  This also gives you the gift of TIME.  Make two or three of whatever you are preparing and freeze the extras.  It’s not that hard to make more when all of the ingredients are already out.  Then, you have extra meals that you simply take out of the freezer and bake/warm-up.
  • Don’t go shopping.  We stopped going to the mall after doing the Dave Ramsey Financial Peace University.  We were spending too much money on things that we really didn’t even need.  Instead of going to the mall, we take a walk, go to the zoo, etc.  Read more about family activities here.
  • Get creative on dates.  See who can find the best coupon, price, deal, etc.   We like to put J to bed and then do something together at home.  It’s easier and cheaper.  Minimal planning.
  • Call companies and ask for a cheaper rate.  Usually when you threaten to to cancel a service, companies will find all of these great deals for you, which has always frustrated me.  If they can offer it when you complain, why not just give it to me to begin with?!  We have called our car insurance, Internet provider and cell phone provider.
  • Grocery shop using a list.  During your budget meeting, you will need to decide what amount you have available to spend on food.  Use that to meal plan and create your list.  We use the Buy Me a Pie app to create our grocery list.
  • Don’t buy things just because they’re on sale.  This one is really hard for me.  I love a bargain.  But, I was buying things because I liked the price, not necessarily the item itself.  Now, I decide whether I like it before I see the price, and then decide if I will buy it after I see the price.
  • Sleep one night before making major $ decisions.  Buying cars is not a fun process for most people.  Even though you just want to get the process over with, we have found that if you leave the lot and then decide, you are less likely to make the wrong decision.
  • Ditch the drugstore.  Stock up on homeopathic supplies instead of going to the drugstore.  Essential oils, Rescue Remedy, and Sovereign Silver are all great ways to support your body’s systems.
  • Amazon subscribe & save.  If you sign up on Amazon to receive items monthly to save a percentage.  You can have items shipped every month, every two months, or any amount of time.  You are allowed to skip a shipment.  If you get more than one item doing the subscribe & save during one month, you get extra savings.  Read more here.
  • Use the envelope system.  This is another Dave Ramsey trick.  After budgeting, put specific amounts of cash in envelopes.  When the cash is gone, you can’t buy any more.
  • Empty all change into a jar.  When you use cash, don’t pay for things with change.  Put your change in the jar and when it’s full, use it to do something special.
  • Don’t buy clothes.  This was really hard for me.  I love to shop.  And I love clothes.  When you think about it, we really don’t need that many clothes.
  • Use online banking.  Stamps are so expensive!  Save the money on stamps and checks by setting up online banking.  This also saves TIME!
  • Make your own bread.  I love bread.  After looking at the ingredients and doing my own research, I learned that High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is really bad for you.  Read more about food here.  All the bread that we were purchasing had HFCS in it.  I found a great recipe online here.  It is a process because you make the dough in the bread machine, let it rise, then bake it.  I usually double the recipe.  It is the best bread I have tasted!  Sweet enough to eat plain, perfect for sandwiches.
  • Remove saved credit card information online.  It is much too convenient to make a purchase!  If you know that you have to find the card and enter all of that information in manually, you will think twice about making the purchase.  Online shopping is great, but it can be expensive because of how easy it is!
  • Make breakfast sandwiches ahead of time and freeze.  Stopping at fast food places to grab breakfast on a busy morning is bad for your health and your wallet.  When I was pregnant and eating several meals a day, I would eat breakfast at home, but was ready to eat again by the time I got to work.  Teaching made it difficult because I’m not really supposed to eat in front of the students.  I would bring in breakfast sandwiches and eat one right before the students came to school.  It’s really easy to find lots of recipes for these on Pinterest.
  • Embrace a simplistic lifestyle.  LESS is MORE!  Think birthdays & Christmas…… We decided that J would only receive a few presents for her birthday and Christmas.  Something to wear, something to read, something she wants & something she needs.  Although she is only two, we plan to continue this so she doesn’t learn to expect all of this STUFF.  It makes me sick to hear how much money people are spending on their children for Christmas and birthdays.  The retail industry really has ruined holidays.  I want to teach her about the meanings behind why we celebrate, not set her up for a life time of expectations.

Hope this can help another family!  Money issues always bring tension in a relationship.  Don’t let your stuff take over your life.  Take control of your finances today!

 

 

Family Fun for Free or on the Cheap

Have you ever noticed that planning activities for a family can be an overwhelming and expensive task?  You have to figure time, gas (if driving), food and cost of whatever you are doing.  It can seem like nothing is free, but there are some easy things that you can plan for free or cheap.  Family fun time is so important!  I feel like the enemy is always trying to distract me with things that aren’t as important as they seem.  Here’s a few activities that my family do on occasion:

Family Fun

Some Ideas:

1. Walk.  This is great for your health because it is exercise and forces you to spend time relationally with each other.  No electronics allowed!  That might make you dizzy anyway.  I have read that walking helps flush out your systems – that’s detoxing – plus it gets you out in the fresh air.  Obviously, this one is weather dependent.  My family loves to walk when the weather cooperates.

2. Build forts inside the house.  Okay this one is a must for building creativity in your kids.  It’s terrible how many hours young children, teens, and adults for that matter spend on screens (myself included!).  Using cushions from furniture, a few chairs, and some sheets, you can easily construct something for kids to play in.  Add something extra by eating a snack in the fort or playing a game.  This is great because it can be done at any time, regardless of the weather.

3. Play outside.  Here’s another one that brings back memories from my childhood.  It seems like kids don’t even know how to play outside anymore.  I remember being outside all day with my younger brother, only coming inside to eat.  We made up our own games which were really silly, but we had fun.  When it’s nice outside, send kids out to play.  It’s not hard to build a sandbox; if you’re not into DIY, you can pick them up pretty cheap.  *Trick: sprinkle cinnamon in the sand to keep the creepy crawlies out.

family fun

4.  Go to the zoo.  Most zoos run specials and smaller town zoos are even free.  Pack a lunch and cameras.  My daughter is only two and we have already been to the zoo dozens of times.  I just read that the Philadelphia Zoo (pictured above) offers free summer admission for educators!  Check it out here.  The site is dated for 2015, so I will keep checking to see if it is updated for this current year.

More Ideas:

5. Look at older pictures/watch old home videos.  I have dozens of scrapbooks I made back when I had time –  before I was a mom.  My daughter loves to look through the pictures and that gives me the perfect opportunity to talk to her about what happened in the pictures.  It also helps her with name recognition of family members.

6. Scavenger hunt.  This one takes some preparation so you need to plan ahead.  My mom was great about doing scavenger hunts when they had a surprise for us.  One year, she sent me & my brother on a scavenger hunt with all of these clues hidden all over the house to tell us that we were going to Disney World.  She picked up Disney / Florida things on the cheap – yard sales, thrift stores, etc.  It is fun and exciting for children.

7. Prepare a meal together.  This would work best with older children.  J loves to be in the kitchen, but she’s not old enough yet to actually help.  I give her kitchen utensils and bowls so she can pretend, but older kids could really be a part of the preparation.  It’s always fun to get everyone in the kitchen, as long as your kitchen is not super tiny!  Prepare, eat, clean up, relax together as a family.  It’s always a good idea to eat together as a family at the dinner table.  Talk about your day; you could even plan your next fun activity as a family.  No electronics!

8. Play games.  Break out the board games!  Candy Land, Monopoly, Checkers, card games (My husband’s family plays Hand & Foot, but this is very difficult for younger children.  Would be great if your children are teens or older!), JengaCootie, etc.  So many families allow themselves to be distant from one another and do not interact.  Have a weekly game night – again, no electronics allowed!

Make Time for Your Family

The main goal for family activities is to do things together.  Be in the present.  Put down the Smart phone.  In fact, put it on silent.  Communicate to others that you will be spending time with your family and allow them to leave a voicemail or text.  Keep the family time sacred!  Be a part of your children’s lives.  Know their friends, dreams, goals, ambitions.  Make sure that they feel that they are important to you and that they matter to God.  Listen to your children with all of your attention, not “listening” while checking your e-mail or texting.  I know that this is extremely difficult in the culture that we live in, but it is super important! Make time for your family.

Overall Health and Wellness

My family has been on a health journey for a few years where we are trying to improve our overall health and wellness.  So, I’ve been doing a lot of research on the various products that consumers use on a daily basis.  Its seems that for whatever reason, our country is very slack about regulating dangerous ingredients.

In addition, the average consumer doesn’t even really pay attention to the ingredients.  I can’t tell you how many people I have talked to who have no idea what natural flavors are…….. They are in almost everything!  What surprises me the most is that these same people are not concerned or bothered in any way that their food has this general ingredient in it.  Over the past two years, my family has slowly made the switch to eating more wholesome foods.  You know, like the kind where you can spell/say ALL of the ingredients.  There are some companies that are getting it right.  Every now & then, we will find a new product that has real food as ingredients.

Take Time to Do Your RESEARCH

Many food companies unfortunately are only in it for the profit with little or no regard to the general health of the consumer.  It is up to the consumer to do their own research and spend the extra 10 seconds in the aisle looking through the ingredients.  There are so many people who do not want to do that!  I wonder how many of our diseases are prevalent because of the food/junk that we are filling our bodies with.  Do your research.  Know what you are eating.  If I can’t pronounce or don’t know the ingredient in something, I generally won’t buy it.  The chips below were a recent find at Sam’s Club. Three ingredients!

Read the ingredients of what you are putting into your body. If you can't even say the ingredient out loud, do you think you should be eating it?

I like to apply the real ingredient rule to all products in my home.  Home care products are perhaps the worst.  Many ingredients of well known and used companies are known carcinogens and endocrine system disruptors.  The skin absorbs ingredients too!  If you wouldn’t eat it, don’t put it on your skin.

Clutter is bad

…….. Having clutter says a lot about the current culture that we live in.  Many people believe that more is better, but I’m here to tell you that it is NOT.  Having more stuff means you have more stuff to clean/clean around.  It means that you have spent time & money on something that does not serve a purpose.  I’m not saying that you shouldn’t have nice things.  Just remember: they are things.  I hate cleaning to begin with, but when you add moving 50,000 things around just to dust, it becomes completely overwhelming!

This tiny living movement is encouraging, although, I don’t think at this stage in my life that I am willing to sacrifice that much space with a child and God-willing more to come.  At least, it’s making people think about what is important and what can be relocated.  Sell your stuff to make some extra cash, donate to a local thrift store, give to needy.  The options are endless.  And although it may be really difficult to get started, it is well worth the effort.

I think the hardest part of the home for me to get rid of was in my closet.  I don’t know what it is about women and clothing, but man was that hard.  Once I made the first step, it has become really easy and FREEING to scale down my wardrobe.

I read somewhere that everything we own holds a place in our subconscious mind.  Whoa.  Every. Single. Thing.  I have moved several times, so I know how much stuff we have.  Just that thought alone has made me more willing to let go of things that really have no purpose or meaning.

I encourage you to try it.  Pick one room in your home and look around.  Is there anything in it that doesn’t serve a purpose?  Could you do without something for two weeks?  Two months?  Two years?  If you don’t even know that you have it, shouldn’t it be used by someone else?  I promise that once you start, you will feel so much better.  If one room is too intimidating, try one area.  I used to be big into scrapbooking, so I focused on my scrapping stuff.  Start somewhere.  This week.  Challenge accepted?

My Top Ten: Infant

  1. blog pic 2 Phil & Ted’s lobster high chair.  This thing is really expensive, but worth every penny.  J is almost 2 and we can still easily use it….. I think we put her in it starting around 6 months.  It clamps onto the table and is VERY secure.  Trust me, as a first time mom I was a little skeptical about how safe this was until I used it once.  Sold.  Will never be without it again.  It also travels very nicely, folds up & has a carrying case.  It is worth the spurge for my family.
  2. Lotus bed.   Another pricy option compared to the Pack n’ Play.  I especially liked this one because I nursed J and could lay next to her with the side zip closure.  And for all of your worry wart moms like me, there is a secure closure with the zipper so the baby can’t get out.  This is another thing that can be used well past the infant years.  We recently stayed in a hotel and J slept in it without a problem.
  3. Violet singing dog.  This stuffed dog is made by Leapfrog and can be programmed with your child’s name, and you can select what kind of music it plays.  We used to turn this on every time we wanted J to sleep: nap & bedtime.  She is almost 2 now and turns it on herself.  Great for travel also.  We don’t stay anywhere overnight without it.  I was leery about having a mobile for the crib, so we went without and used Violet instead (on the floor in front of the crib when J was really little).
  4. Baby Bjorn stool.  I am short.  We purchased a super nice convertible crib and dresser set before J was born.  We were thinking long term and the dresser is very tall.  This stool has been a life saver for me – invest in one if you are vertically challenged also.  When J gets a little older, we plan to use this for in front of the sink.  The other stools seemed to give a little when I stood on them – this stool seems like it could hold hundreds of pounds.   We know that it holds at least 180 pounds.  Another more expensive option, but remember: you often do get what you pay for.
  5. blog pic Puj tub.  My husband and I are not really into clutter (see other posts) and did not want to purchase those infant tubs.  They take up so much room and we did not want to have to think about storing.  This tub fits in the sink and travels amazingly!  We used this until J was old enough to sit up on her own in the sink.
  6. Chicco Keyfit car seat.  Sadly, I was unable to find the travel system including stroller that we used.  This car seat has amazing reviews and really makes transition from car to house / house to car easy on mom and baby.  There were many times that J would fall asleep in the car and we could just unlock the car seat, set the car seat inside, and let her SLEEP.  The base stays in the car and the seat can lock/unlock in place.
  7. Tommee Tippee bottles.  I nursed, but having bottles was a nice option.  We used them when we were out for shorter trips and if we wanted to go out on a date.  When I went back to work, obviously, bottles were needed.  We bought smaller ones for when J was an infant, but I wish we had just purchased these larger ones from the beginning.  These bottles do not leak like Dr. Brown bottles and they are shaped so babies can easily hold them. I’d recommend at least a three pack.  You go through these things like crazy!
  8. Nose Freda.  Okay.  Hear me out on this one.  At first, when hubs showed me this, I was grossed out – which takes a lot because I’m a science teacher and usually enjoy weird things.  But, this thing was the only way we could really clear J’s nose out.  Forget those nasty bulb aspirator things that the hospital gives you.  Talk about germ infested!  How do you clean it?  Anyway, this thing works.  The only snag we have run into is now that J is older, it is hard to keep her still to use this.  We use after squirting saline up her nose.
  9. Dream Baby grooming kit.  Another struggle we had in the beginning months of bringing J home was trimming her nails.  It is absolutely terrifying when you have to trim those tinny tiny little nails!  These scissors are slightly curved upwards, which is oh-so-helpful.  The traditional nail clippers have a larger portion for you to grab ahold of which is also helpful.  We actually got a different set with the toothbrush that came with three different ones.  It helped when J was teething and helped get her used to putting something like that in her mouth.
  10. Bibs.  I know all of the stores sell those cutesy little fabric bibs that everyone wants to get.  Especially for baby showers.  Don’t you know what that little baby will soon be eating?!  Squash, sweet potatoes, beets.  Those stains were extremely difficult to get out of WHITE fabric bibs.  I wish that we would have found these bibs sooner.  I don’t know if I would have even wasted money on the tiny fabric ones.  Ok, maybe a few when J was really young, but I got plenty of those from friends and family.  These plastic bibs are the stuff.  You can unsnap it so it lays completely flat – awesome for cleaning.

Everyone’s experience is different, but I know that if we had to start all over, we would definitely purchase all of these items again.  They may be a huge investment upfront, but the time and hassle they will save you is soooooo worth it.  Besides, that little love bug of yours will soon be big & walking around, too busy for so much cuddle time with mommy.  Snuggle while you can!

Einkorn Waffles

Making healthy foods doesn't have to be difficult. Easy recipe & great taste.
Ingredients needed

Einkorn flour is the purest form of flour, you know the stuff before humans get involved and modify/denature the plant.  Although I love teaching science, I do not love scientists messing with the foods that I eat!  My family prefers the closest we can get to natural ingredients.  There are no long-term studies on all of these GMO that are used in foods and how it affects our bodies…… but I digress.  That’s another topic for another post.

Above are the ingredients that I used to make my first ever Einkorn waffles.  The batter’s consistency was thinner than I am used to, so I burned the first batch.  Oh, and I forgot to read the directions before I started and realized that I had the temperature up too high.  The back of the box gives you the recipe for pancakes / waffles.  I added some flavor-infused olive oil and my favorite essential oil for breakfast recipes: Young Living‘s Orange.

Once I mastered the temperature and consistency, these came out great.  They are not as crunchy as your typical waffle, but still tasted great.  I think I added 3 drops of the Orange essential oil; next time I will add 6 drops.  There was a hint of orange, but not too much flavor.

I haven’t tried the pancakes yet.  We are currently doing a fast, so that will have to wait!

Update: The pancakes were SOOOO much better than the waffles!  They were slightly denser than your brand name box mix, but had a great flavor.

Introduction

Ok, so I’m new to blogging.  I am a wife and mother to a sweet little girl.  My healthy journey began over two years ago after deciding to have a baby.  Having a child just brings a whole different perspective to life!  My husband and I decided that we would try to address a few areas in our life including clutter, diet, products we use in our home and on our bodies and exercise.  While we are nowhere near perfect, we have made some major shifts in our lives to help us live better.  I’d love to share the lessons that we have learned along the way.