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Saturday, January 31, 2015

saving $ - how I save money for my family

Thank you for submitting your responses and answering questions about how you save money in the Mommy Stories Facebook group this month. I've personally learned a lot from each of you. Now, in this last post from the Saving $ series, I'm sharing my own personal tips for saving money.

This past month while promoting the Saving $ series on the blog and in the discussion group, I realize I'm not in the minority, MOST moms are actively trying to save money, cut corners and make their lives better by buying things cheaper and being frugal. So, thanks for giving me the boost I needed to promote this and share all my little money-saving ideas.

I think a woman and mother who cuts corners, saves money and re-uses things is a SMART person. She's keeping money where it belongs- in her family's pockets so they can do fun things together. Love that idea!

Just like everything I've promoted on the blog since the New Year in January, it's all baby steps, prioritizing what's important to you, and making ONE small change, just like the Small Change Project lady Katie Lee has taught me this month. LOVE her blog, you must follow it! Pick ONE area on the list below and make one small change in how you save money. You can do it!

Happy saving, mommies!

GENERAL money-saving tips
  • No credit cards. Don't use them. We have two for emergencies only, don't keep them in our wallets. It's hard to not keep up with everyone who do use credit cards, we have to say no if we don't have the money but it's a choice we made since before we got engaged after having to use credit cards in college to live (groceries and gas) and still paying off that debt.
  • Dave Ramsey is the MAN! We LOVE his book and radio show. We believe wholeheartedly in his plan. Before we were engaged we paid off THOUSANDS, I can't remember exactly how much but a lot of money, cut up credit cards, paid off several small student loans, paid for our household things in cash, etc. It was awesome! Then we bought a house and had kids and it's been hard to stick to that snowball debt effect ever since, though we chip away at it every chance we get. Tax money time is a good one- we buy groceries and then every other penny goes toward our debt, even if it's few hundred dollars, we toss it in the mail to an old debt to chip away at it. LOVE this plan. 
  • Live simply, no perfection or high expectations. We aren't big spenders. We don't travel tons, we don't care about name brand stuff, we eat store brand food because it tastes the same. We're simple. I find that sometimes it's hard for people to save money or cut back because of their preferences or tastes for more expensive items. I find us to be lucky to not care about that stuff because it saves us tons of money! We aren't picky eaters or shoppers, that helps a lot. 
  • Believe that every little bit counts! I have this philosophy that if I buy the cheaper bread even if it's only like $.75 cheaper than the expensive bread, that's going to add up at the end of my grocery trip if I did that about 5-10 times on various items. Every little tiny bit helps. 
  • Credit Unions - cheap interest rates for cars and other loans!
  • Talk about finances often. Unfortunately it leads to some arguments occasionally, it stinks not having enough money for all the things everyone wants to buy for a family, BUT talking helps! We need to be on the same page in order to take care of our kids, house, etc. and that includes money. 
  • No waste, recycle, re-use, reinvent. I love the concept that nothing is wasted, everything is used and has a purpose. I find things in my house all the time that we have no use for, but I KNOW someone else will love so I donate it. It doesn't ever just get trashed. I'm always seeking things to trade, move out of my house and then move other things in that we do need. No shame in buying used items, you can find awesome deals. I grew up this way and because of that had a fun childhood with dance lessons and vacations to Disney. My mom tells me all the time she barely spent any money on our clothing so we could go do fun things instead, and we never cared! I love that. We're lucky my niece gave us all of her clothes for my daughter. Hand-me-downs are the BEST! 
  • Store brand items. They are by far the cheapest, even with name brand coupons, and honestly a lot of it tastes the same. A few items I won't buy store brand, but 90% I do. 
  • Make a list ahead of time. Stick to it! Meal plan!
  • Buy one ingredient that can be used in multiple dishes or for snacks. 
  • Buy what's on sale. 
  • Wal-Mart-  cheapest store by far to buy groceries. I love Hannaford's produce better, but Wal-Mart is cheap. 
  • Don't shop with kids as much as possible so you can focus! It's hard to stay focused on deals and coupons with kids complaining. 
  • Read labels. When I tried decreasing the food color dyes from my children's diets I thought I'd have to buy name brand Stonyfield yogurts only… but found that actually Wal-Mart brand peach yogurt had no dyes either and was at least $2 cheaper than Stonyfield. Check labels when buying "healthier" stuff, you might be surprised to find some cheap store brand items just as healthy. 
  • Don't go every week to the store. I find our family spends way more if we go weekly. We go about every other week for the basics (bread, milk, yogurt, fruit, etc.) We do large shopping trips a couple of times a year so we save tons there, also. 
  • Clean the fridge weekly. I don't do a top to bottom scrubbing job on the fridge once a week, but definitely every weekend I go through every food in the fridge so I know what's in there, what's about to go bad and needs to be eaten so we don't waste food, what could be used for a meal this week, etc. Takes me 5 minutes, it's time well spent. 
  • Use the heal of bread that typically people toss in the trash. I found this out one day years ago when my son wanted a peanut butter sandwich yet we only had the heal of the bread left… so I flipped it over so he couldn't tell it was the heal and he ate the whole thing! I couldn't believe it. I'd been tossing the heal out for years personally not liking it. Now I just flip it over so you see the real bread part and it looks normal. It's one small thing that saves money. 
  • When the bubble bath container for the kids is empty and not squeezing much out I put some water in it to get a little more out so we can get a couple more baths out of it. I do the same with my face lotion. About two weeks ago my face lotion bottle stopped pumping anything out of it. Most people would toss that in the trash. Instead, I open the cover, and take out the tube and there's still tons of lotion left in there, so I wipe it on my finger and use it… two more full weeks of not having to buy another bottle! 
  • Breakfast for dinner once a week and eat leftovers! That saves money for sure. 
  • Make your own lunches. 
These tips may sound extreme, but I find cutting corners like this in little ways that don't take much effort or time helps us to have money to spend on things we want like traveling or birthday parties or healthier foods. 

  • I don't end up using tons of coupons because I find store brand items are cheaper than when you use coupons on name brand things... but I do print them from and, flip through the free local newspaper I get in the mail and cut things out for restaurants, etc. I also get the Sunday paper coupons once in a while. We always use BJs coupons and get a second book at the store to double them up! 
  • I do use an Irving gas card to save $.10 a gallon every month or so from filling up. It's easy and it's the gas station that's easiest for me to get to at home or at work so I use that most often.
BABY ITEMS (diapers, wipes, pull-ups, breastfeeding, formula, etc.)
  • BJs for wipes, diapers, pull-ups - once a month, great deals, cheapest by far! Always coupons every month in the books they send to us, too. 
  • Luvs - they are cheapest ones that are sturdy and hold up well. 
  • I tried cloth diapering one summer, so to get cheap ones of those I found some great deals on Facebook consignment swap groups of gently used or brand new ones for cheap. 
  • Formula-I stocked up while pregnant with my second, "just in case" we needed formula in case breastfeeding didn't work. I had about 20 cans of Similac formula that I got free from the doctor's office. I ended up not needing any of it, and gave it away to a friend. But during pregnancy I think if your office has it, stock up just in case! It's much cheaper than buying it. Also, I got on some mailing list I guess and kept getting coupons from the formula companies, so if you use formula contact the company and ask for coupons. 
  • Breastfeeding- well I saved tons of money by breastfeeding! Also by getting a used breast pump. I replaced all the tubing and cups, etc. so just the machine was used. I used it for two full years no issues. So I encourage other moms not to spend the money until they know for sure pumping is in their future. I know TONS of moms who bought the breast pump at a few hundred dollars at the store while pregnant... only to use it like two weeks and realize pumping wasn't their thing. I respect pumping not being someone's thing, but don't waste your money! Just wait, rent one from the hospital, borrow from a friend, etc. then see if it works and get a good one. 

  • We're grateful to receive hand-me-downs from family, but almost everything else my kids wear is from consignment sales. I attend two yearly consignment sales at the local elementary school. It's awesome! I get tons of great clothes there for my kids. Last fall I got a pair of Carhartts barely used for $5 for my son! Those cost about $40. He wore them 5 months before they didn't fit anymore… not worth $40 to me. Kids outgrow clothes SO fast, it's silly to me to spend full price on things. Anything new we buy new is always on sale. We buy all new underwear and socks of course and some shoes. 
  • My favorite consignment stores are Children's Orchard in NH, Lots for Tots in Scarborough, ME, North Berwick Children's Resale and Sanford's Children's Bundle Resale. I take in things that my kids didn't wear enough, don't like, outgrew, etc. and trade them in for things we want now or need. I find AWESOME deals.
  • I also attend several yard sales in the summer. I got my daughter a Lands End snowsuit for $3 two summers ago, it fit her for the last two winters! You cannot beat a deal like that.
  • The orange and pink skirt in the pic above was from a great sale… FREE with consignment store credit. 
  • I also love Facebook swap groups. I've found TONS from those. I got a whole bag of the next size clothing for my son for $10… it was at least $100 worth of clothing in there. Saving money on clothes helps us have more money for healthy food and outings that are fun and memorable. 
ACTIVITIES (extracurriculars like dance, swim, etc.)
  • Shop around. I'm lucky to live in one town but work in a second town and have family in a third town in one small 30-minute area... so we look around at various surrounding towns to find out which town has the cheapest rates for lessons. 
  • Ask grandparents to pay for these for Christmas and birthday gifts. Last year my mom paid for my son's swim lessons for his birthday, it was the perfect winter gift. He got so many gifts, it was nice having something we could do for six weeks, just he and I, that was active and really fun. 
  • As for the attire for the activities, I look around ahead of time. This summer I found BRAND NEW dance tap and ballet shoes at a yard sale for $4 each! The price tag on them was about $30 each! I snatched them up very quickly! I don't even know if they'll be the right sizes for my daughter this fall when she starts dance, but at that rate I can sell them again if they don't work for us. I also found leotards at a consignment store for $3, so cheap! I also ask for the swim clothes from family and friends for birthday gifts. 
  • Don't join several things at once, focus on one or two at a time. I don't think it's a good idea for kids to be over-stretched at such young ages anyway, so that saves money not doing too much at once. 

  • Free activities are everywhere, you just have to look around! We have not paid for a visit to see Santa Claus in all the 5 years I've been a parent. There are many options to see Easter Bunny and Santa if you want - FREE! Just read the free weekly newspaper that comes in the mail or online, etc. 
  • Library events. We went to a free activity yesterday - reading stories with a real dog and his owner, building blocks, checking out books - no money and tons of fun for a date with my daughter. They always have puppet shows, magic shows, musical instruments to play, story hour in the summer, etc. FREE. Just sign up for their newsletter and go. You can also attend local surrounding towns' events, so that makes it more fun. 
  • Libraries also offer discount coupons to Children's Museums, etc. You just call ahead to reserve the coupon. 
  • We do one-on-one dates with our kids about every month. We get small treats, maybe spend $3 and instead go outside for a walk, to the beach, to a playground, etc. so they get our undivided attention but we barely spend much money. 
  • Playgrounds - we have found every playground from here to Canada I swear! Seriously though, we frequent playgrounds in the spring, summer, fall. They are cheap fun. 
  • Join Facebook mom groups or Macaroni Kid lists or Seacoast Calendar lists, also on Facebook, that give you a heads up about upcoming events that are cheap or free. We love these!
  • Maine Half Price They are on Facebook also. Last spring/summer I saved TONS by getting 50% coupons for Aquaboggan water park, Story Land, and Saco Drive-In theater. NH has a site like this, too. 
  • Packing our own snacks and lunches. I don't spend money at amusement parks or fairs very often. They are little kids, they don't care much for food that looks different or tastes different, so after wasting money on food they were  not eating out, I decided we'd just pack what we know they like. Win-win. We even pack our own water bottles and re-fill at fountains at the parks. Again, may seem like extra work, but it saves TONS and it's not much effort. As a mother of little kids, you already are packing spare clothing, pull-ups, hand sanitizer, etc. so why not toss in a few granola bars, water bottles, and peanut butter sandwiches? 
  • Churches. We always find cool things to do at local churches, even churches we don't belong to are super fun! Never pushy or expecting you to join the church, I've not found this at all. I find the opposite- just plain old FUN! This past Halloween we visited a church in the area that we do not attend and my two kids ended up in a bounce house, eating popcorn and hot dogs, face painting, crafts, free pumpkins, apple cider, games for prizes and a candy bag, and then they both won costume contests! I think we spent like $5 on the food, otherwise all free. We went to another Halloween event at another church and it was all free to have food, bounce house, pony rides, and candy bag. Churches are great places to get connected to other great families, too. 

BIRTHDAY (parties and presents)
  • Buy ahead of time. I am always planning ahead for birthday parties and gifts. I pick a theme months in advance and then just keep it in mind as I shop for groceries or house items at Target. The Target dollar bin helps tons, too!
  • Dollar Tree or Wal-Mart for paper products, silverware, table cloths, SO cheap. 
  • I've given snacks as part of the treat bags for birthday parties, such as Pirates Booty, a huge bag of 12 I believe was $4. Kids love that stuff, it's something I know won't be tossed out. I hate buying "junk" for birthday treat bags, as I'm always afraid the money will go to waste as the kids will break the items or the parents will just toss out. Stickers are always fun for treat bags. 
  • For decorations and activities at birthday parties I do coloring print pages from the computer FREE with the theme of choice. TONS online and then mason jars of crayons. Easy, kids love it, and costs me nothing. If kids don't end up using them all, we just keep them and my kids color all year round. 
  • Save birthday candles. My kids are two years apart. I know it's a cheap thing to buy, birthday candles, but with them so close in age and with the fact that you light the candle one time… I save the candles. My sister's son is 7 months younger than my son, so I've given her a lot of our candles, too. I find it to be such a waste to buy that big #3 candle at like $2-3 and then toss it out after ONE light. So… save them in a plastic bag and use again with another child. 
  • I attend the party store LAST on the list with party planning. Things are so expensive there! So I start at Wal-Mart, Dollar Tree, etc. first, usually find tons of what I need. 
  • I write a list of what I've purchased for the party and keep it with me so I don't double-purchase something. Since I buy things for months in advance, I forget what I bought so the list helps. 
  • Make my own cakes/cupcakes. Not as fancy, I admit, and we've done a really super fun cake for 1st birthday and LOVED It… but it's cheaper to make my own. 
  • Evite invitations! FREE. And honestly I find it's easier to get RSVPs this way instead of snail mail invites. People toss out the invite anyway, so it's saving paper! I will admit I LOVE receiving snail mail invites… but when saving money, this is definitely an area I cut corners and don't find it to matter much. 
  • For birthday gifts- I find great deals at the July Target 70% clearance sale! I stock up and think ahead. 
  • For birthday gifts, TJ Maxx is awesome! I try to limit gifts for kids' friends to about $10-15 a gift and I can get a great gift at TJ Maxx- Melissa and Doug, Crayola, etc. - for cheap money! 
  • I re-use gift bags and always have tissue paper, blank cards, wrapping paper, etc. on hand. It's MUCH cheaper and easier than going to the store for $5 gift bags when you need them for birthday parties. I always have it on hand saved up so never have to waste money going to the store... where you'd likely buy other things, too. 

HOLIDAYS (Halloween, Christmas, Valentine's, Easter, etc.)
  • I give out things like pencils, stickers, etc. instead of just candy at Halloween, because I've found tons of parents limit the amount of candy their kids get so my money would be wasted it seems. Also, there are kids with allergies, so it's a waste of money to give them things they can't eat. It's also cheaper to buy a pack of 10 pencils at the dollar store or Wal-Mart than candy. 
  • I go to Target the day or two after Halloween and stock up on costumes at 70% off! The last two years I've done this (last year I did it online, didn't know you could do it from home!). I got a Ninja Turtle costume this past Halloween for $10 instead of like $30, and gave it to my son at Christmas time, he LOVED it. Last Halloween I did the same thing - Elmo for my daughter and Superman for my son - cost me $10 total, and then we gave them to the kids at Christmas for costumes. They loved it. 
  • For my kids' Halloween costumes, we think ahead and try to shop around. I have gotten their costumes either homemade or used at a consignment store. Children's Orchard has GREAT costumes. I've found good ones, too, on Facebook swap sites. I found a brand new Disney Piglet costume for like $8. I've never spent more than $15 on a costume, typically it's less than $5! 
You can find deals if you don't wait until the last minute, instead you plan ahead and look around for the good deals. 
  • Easter- we re-use the eggs every year and fill them with treats like goldfish and jelly beans, fruit snacks, etc. I also shop ahead at consignment sales for their Easter Sunday outfits so that it's cheaper than buying something new. 
  • Christmas- I do TONS to save here… 
    • starting with shopping EARLY. I have to break it down otherwise we could not afford to shop for all the people we do. 
    • I keep a running list of what we've bought people, highlighting their name when they are done. 
    • I go shopping the day after or few days after Christmas to re-stock up on gift bags, labels and wrapping paper if we need it. 
    • I save all gift bags and boxes we are given, none of that goes in the trash, such a waste of money and paper. 
    • I don't do frilly things like bows or anything like that, I find it looks cute but is a waste of money and time. 
    • I shop the Target July 70% off sale, always spend about $50 and get like $200 worth of items that are for Christmas or birthday gifts, HUGE sale, totally look forward to this every year. 
    • I shop consignment sales for my two kids and my sister's two kids because we love that stuff, I got my niece an American Girl Bitty Baby doll for $30 instead of like $70 this Christmas! 
    • I buy tons on Etsy, which is nice and things people will really use but also cheap in a lot of cases. TJ Maxx has GREAT gifts. 
    • I try not to buy only "stuff," but rather books and experiences, things they can go DO, clothes, something they need, etc. so that my money doesn't go to waste. 
    • I buy Shutterfly pictures and calendars and magnets every year, too with coupons. I've gotten free magnets for my sister the last three years in a row, calendars either free or free shipping or 50% off… saves TONS of money. 
    • I also get FREE photo cards in the summer and fall, I just plan ahead and know the sale is coming so have the card ready to go. I got 20 free cards last year. Then that's it, I don't order more photo cards because they are expensive. All others who don't get a photo card just get a regular Christmas card from Wal-Mart, which I bought the year before after Christmas with the sales. 

HEALTHY (exercise, better food, etc.)
  • I'm so lucky to have a treadmill at my house. After we saved tons of money before we had kids on the Dave Ramsey plan, we bought me a treadmill. It was the best investment we've ever spent. I use it all the time and it makes working out as a mother much more possible. I"d NEVER work out if I didn't' have a treadmill at home in the winter to use with kids. I do it when they go to sleep at night or before waking up in the morning - times that I would not be heading out to a gym. It's also free now, no gym memberships. 
  • You Tube videos. I found a video last week that KICKED MY BUTT. I'd never been so sore in years! And it was FREE. 
  • Coupons for things like Annies crackers or Stonyfield yogurts. 
  • BJs sells Annies mac and cheese in bulk so that's how we can afford those, sometimes we find coupons for it, too. 
  • Fruit and veggies in the summer I try to buy at people's farm stands at the end of their driveways. In Maine there are tons of those and the produce is super cheap. We also go blueberry and strawberry picking, much cheaper! We spend like $40 and it lasts us all summer, fall, winter in the freezer. 
  • Drink water. It's cheap and healthy! 
HOUSEHOLD (cleaning items, etc.)
  • I make my own shower cleaner - vinegar, Dawn dish soap, in a squeeze brush. AWESOME stuff! 
  • I love Mrs. Meyers cleaners but they are expensive. I put that on my Christmas list this year and got one to last me months. 
  • I got a natural cleaner from Wal-Mart a few months ago and it was GREAT. It was all natural stuff, but at least $2 cheaper than the expensive all natural cleaners out there. 
  • I use water for mirrors. It's a trick I learned when I was pregnant 6 years ago with my first child and working in a hotel as a chambermaid. This is a fancy hotel and they use WATER to wash all mirrors. Try it! It works great, no streaks. And FREE. 
  • When the cleaner bottle is empty and nothing else is spraying out, I put water in it and keep spraying and cleaning. It works for at least a few weeks to keep cleaning instead of tossing in the trash. 
  • I make my own laundry detergent. SO easy. Costs like $2 for two huge jugs of it. I don't do this religiously, but a few times a year and it lasts a long time. 
  • No cable TV. We never watched it anyway so we canceled it a long time ago. We live on Netflix, which is cheaper than cable would be and it's all we have time to watch at night anyway. 
  • Line dry clothes in the summer. 
  • For Christmas we ask for date night gift cards... to restaurants we love, movie tickets, to Dunkin Donuts or ice cream places. We save them and they last quite a while. 
  • Also for Christmas, the last two years my husband and I have given each other date night gifts that we then use in the winter. He got me tickets to a play last year, a huge sale in Thanksgiving he found, and I got him Dairy Queen gift card so we could get out for a cheap date. 
  • We do date nights IN a lot by renting a movie on TV for $3 or renting something FREE on Netflix. (We pay like $8 a month for Netflix, which has tons of shows that we watch at night together for date nights in.) Sometimes we'll buy ice cream or pizza or something to spice up the watching a movie IN date night, which is still cheaper than going out. 

  • So far the only real vacations we take are long weekends to see family in northern Maine or New York, so we save by staying in their home. 
  • When on vacations we spend tons of time outside or at free things like lakes, beaches, playgrounds, etc. so we don't spend any money. My sister is really good at finding cheap things for us to do. 
  • Last June we did take a long weekend vacation to Sesame Place in Pennsylvania. I spent time beforehand researching coupons and discounts, we went on an early season weekend to save ticket money. We got a huge hotel room for us to stay with my mom which cut costs. We packed tons of snacks and sandwiches, etc. ahead of time. 
  • I know that someday when we go to Disney World we'll be all over the Facebook and other sites that give you specific tips on how to save money. 
There are so many ways to cut finances, you just have to plan ahead and put a little effort into it. It becomes second nature, really, not a huge amount of work, and you get big pay-offs toward making your family happier and having more fun! 

Thursday, January 29, 2015

saving $ - in every aspect of your mommy life

None of us are rich. Some have more money than others, sure, some have better paying jobs, some spend money on various things that we may not spend money on… but none of us are totally rich. We ALL could save more money in some aspect of our lives.

I hope you've enjoyed hearing from fellow moms like you on how they saved money using the Dave Ramsey budget system. I intend to share with you my personal money-saving secrets in the next part of this Saving $ series. For now, here are YOUR tips, suggestions and GREAT ideas for saving money in all areas of your life.

I REALLY appreciate all the moms who participated in answering these questions in the Mommy Stories Facebook group the last week or so. It's been SO helpful to me personally already, I'm sure many other moms will benefit from these great suggestions.

Enjoy saving some cash so you can live a more fun life with your babies!

  • GENERAL money-saving tips:
    • Pay yourself first - take even $20 out of your paycheck and put it aside for yourself to use at the end of the year.
    • Save those returnable cans and bottles!
    • Never stop at a store to get water, soda, snack, etc. Pack ahead of time!
    • Buy store-brand items as much as possible.
    • Credit unions for cheaper interest rates.
    • Start by tracking where you're currently spending your money to see where it's going before you can start cutting back and saving.
    • Set a weekly budget for food and don't go over it.
    • Shop at thrift stores, yard sales, etc. and limit clothing to necessities only.
    • Buy ahead by the season - so this winter buy the next size or two up for snow pants, etc.
    • Call every single company you have a bill with to be sure you have the least expensive bill from them and interest rate.
    • Use Babies R Us rewards card for coupons that are sent to your home.
    • Meal plan ahead of time, know what you are buying before entering the store
    • Avoid purchasing processed, packaged food -that cuts the budget, those are expensive.
    • Don't eat out, make your own food at home.
    • Buy what's on sale.
    • Make more from scratch
    • Stock up at BJs or Sam's club once a month
    • Buy meat in bulk at meat shop
    • Using a self-scanner at the store to tally up how much we're spending as we shop.
    • Shop the perimeter of the store instead of the middle where it's more expensive.
    • Instead of two chicken breasts into a stir fry, cut it down to just one.
    • Never leave home without a list, and only buy what's on said list.
    • Combine ingredients- if you need an item for one meal, then your second meal should also use that ingredient so no waste.
    • Shop every other week, the less you go to the store, the less you buy.
    • Using cash so I don't overspend, and also using a calculator to tally it up as I go.
    • Checkout 51 app
    • ibiotta app
    • Krazy Coupon Lady
    • Target coupons (print online), Target Cartwheel app
    • coupons online
    • Totally Target has match ups for manufacturers items
    • snip snap app
    • print coupons at CVS in store
    • and
    • Buy two newspapers each Sunday for the coupons
    • If starting out with coupons, watch You Tube videos to learn how to start.
    • Watch Extreme Couponing episodes to get a visual idea
    • Deal Seeking Moms Facebook page
    • Learn the store's coupon rules - do they double them? limit one per item?
    • Find a way to organize your coupons... some use binders, envelopes, etc.
    • Make a list of brands/items you use and start looking for those so you don't get overwhelmed.
    • Donate what you don't use after you get good at using coupons you'll see you get tons of items!

  • BABY ITEMS - Diapers, wipes, breastfeeding supplies, formula
    • Cloth diapers!
    • Register for breastfeeding supplies for your baby shower- you will need those more than other things!
    • Breastfeeding supplies on sale at Target
    • Sam's Club or BJs memberships
    • including Prime for free shipping
    • Buy wipes in bulk
    • Double the coupons at BJs, use your booklet that comes in the mail and ask for another booklet at the desk!
    • Facebook groups online to purchase cloth diapers
    • Babies R Us with coupons that come in the mail
    • Walgreens, use their card and after about 6 months get a $50 credit to use for diapers!
    • Buy one size up, bigger
    • Kohls has great deals, coupons, etc.
    • Hand-me-downs for younger siblings
    • Mom buys clothing, dad spends too much!
    • Buy, sell, trade Facebook groups have great deals, local to your area
    • Buy sneakers at the start of the school year when sales are happening
    • Consignment stores like Children's Orchard, Nana's Kids in York, North Berwick Consignment Boutique, Bundle Children's Resale in Sanford, the Growing Place in Bangor
    • Ebay
    • Clearance items only at Old Navy, TJ Maxx, etc.
    • Consignment sales at local elementary schools twice a year
    • special sales for more name brand items
    • Living in warmer climates (FLA), don't need winter items
    • When people ask what they need at birthdays and Christmas, ask for a couple of outfits
    • Buy Nothing Project on Facebook
    • Carter's pajamas sales in winter
    • Buying gently used because the kids grow out of them so quickly 
    • Save them for the next kid, don't get rid of them until you know that you are having a different gender, etc. 
    • Osh Kosh Outlet
    • Payless Shoes
    • Gap Oulet
    • Target
    • Children's Orchard or other consignment stores
    • for cute Bogs!
    • Reds Shoe Barn
    • Nordstroms rack
    • Stride Rite outlet
    • New Balance tent sale in the summer for 40% off
    • Burlington Coat Factory
    • Online or Facebook buy/sell/trade groups- brand new shoes !

  • ACTIVITIES - Extracurricular activities like dance, sports, etc.
    • Consignment stores for leotards, etc. and buy bigger sizes so you have them on hand.
    • Buy the next size up for swim rash guard and gear so that you can get an extra season out of it or at least so it fits a little big in the winter swim class but fits well in the summer for beach trips.
    • Trade them in for gently used things at the dance class. 
    • Ask grandparents, etc. to give swim lessons, dance lessons, etc. for birthday gifts!
  • OUTINGS, events like zoos, children's museums, etc. 
    • Groupons
    • Discount coupons from local library
    • Maine's Half Price Outlet.Com, NH has one too, on FB too.
    • Teacher or Military discounts
    • Attend free library events - puppet shows, magic shows, etc.
    • Buy a membership to a place you know you'll visit a couple of times, saves money instead of paying the ticket price once.
  • BIRTHDAY parties and presents 
    • for favors that are cheap
    • Make your own cakes and cupcakes
    • Pick a theme months in advance so you can pick up deals for the party decor and giveaways for kids, etc. 
    • Order a JPEG invitation and print yourself
    • Try Goodwill or Dollar Tree for decorations, especially to avoid paying full price for things that will be tossed in the trash like paper plates, napkins, balloons, etc.
    • Couponing!
    • TJ Maxx always has Melissa and Doug toys, great books at cheap prices, cute clothing on sale, etc. GREAT gifts there for Christmas or birthdays! 

  • HOLIDAYS - Halloween, Christmas, Hanukkah, Valentine's Day, Easter, etc. 
    • Dollar bin at Target
    • Stock up on holiday clearance the days after the holiday - some 90% off
    • Get Halloween costumes the day after the holiday and buy size or two larger for next year or to use as dress up
    • Reuse items like gift bags, Easter eggs, etc.
    • Homemade gifts
    • Budget every month to save money for the bigger holidays
  • HEALTHY - exercise, organic foods, etc. 
    • Target cartwheel app to get more healthy items
    • Gluten free- many items are labeled gluten free and cost more, but then there are foods that are naturally gluten free and not labeled, those are cheaper!
    • You Tube exercise videos - FREE
    • Planet Fitness offers $10 a month membership.
  • HOUSEHOLD cleaning items 
    • Make my own household cleaners - vinegar and water 50% of each; 
    • Soak orange peels in vinegar.
    • Order from Melaleuca...the cleaning products are all natural, about $6 and concentrated so you mix them yourself. I get about 6-8 bottles out of each one and they last forever!
    • Dawn/vinegar/water to clean the bathroom
    • Using a steam mop
    • Baking soda on the bottom of the dish washer with only a few drops of dish soap in the soap compartment, doesn't leave the dishes with that bleach smell
    • "I soak orange peels In white vinegar in a mason jar for 2 weeks then pour into a spray bottle. Acts as a disinfectant and antibacterial. I use to clean everything with it! Very inexpensive  white vinegar does have a string scent, especially if it's not diluted, but works like a charm!"
    • "I use Dr. Bronner's Castille soap and lemon extract. Just a few drops in a spray bottle. Does an amazing job on glass and my kids help me clean."
    • "I'm obsessed with LA totally awesome oxygen from the dollar store ($1!!!!)'s the best cleaner for hard to clean things (grout, stains, bathrooms) and it's also great for laundry instead of bleach, just add a scoop to hot water. Also big fan of vinegar and water...natural stuff is the best kind of cleaner...baking soda to clean matresses, add to laundry, etc. Lastly "bar keepers friend" is awesome at cleaning any of those stubborn grease on stove, or any marks on toaster oven, etc."

  • CARS - gas, oil changes, etc. 
    • Cumberland Farms app to save $.10 a gallon
    • Fill up once a week regardless of if empty
    • Synthetic oil changes, which is more expensive but lasts longer so cheaper in the long run.
    • Awesome partners who work on the cars at home :) 
    • Quik lube for oil changes, about $20
    • Get to know the local mechanic and see about trading.
    • Shell Fuel Rewards, save $.03 a gallon
    • Car washes in winter to protect against rust
    • Pay yourself every month and put money aside in savings account for "in case of emergencies" related to car maintenance. 
    • Rewards Cars, Chase, Discover
    • Oil changes with the dealership
    • Irving rewards card, you save $.10 a gallon every few fill ups
    • Cartland Farms Smart app
    • All gas and oil changes at BJs, by far the cheapest!
    • Ask for gift cards for Christmas and birthdays!
    • Local restaurants that offer dance lessons, etc.
    • Tuesday night movies are cheaper!
    • Get coffees and take a walk just us to talk
    • Use the money from the change jar and go out for coffees, etc.
    • Drive around together and talk.
    • Window shop at the mall.
    • Stay home and just put away iPad, phones, etc. and be together.
    • Hotel reward credit card
    • Travelzoo
    • Kayak 
    • book late fall for winter months for cheaper rates
    • Travel to the southern coast (Virginia, Carolina, etc.) in May or September, at least 50% cheaper
    • Travel agents for big trip plane tickets
    • Put away $5 per week from your paycheck and deposit into a vacation fund. This doesn't pay for plane tickets, but can be spending money or pay for food on the trip. 


Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Liebster Award - all about me... and some new bloggers!

So I was nominated for the Liebster Award for bloggers. YAY SO EXCITING! It's super fun!

Thanks to Born Imaginative's Jackie for nominating me. I enjoyed this challenge. You MUST check out her blog, it's definitely one of my favorites:

Jackie asked me to answer these questions:

1) What's the last delicious thing you made? 
I made some yummy granola at Christmas time for some gifts for babysitters, and a few weeks ago for my SIL who had twin babies. Yummy! So easy to make. I've cooked since then, don't worry, but nothing that stands out as a-ma-zing.

2) Is there a recipe you will be trying soon? 
YES PLEASE! I'm always seeking out new recipes. I find tons from other moms and on Pinterest. Anything Italian, with chicken or Mexican are my favorites. Actually, I'd love a new soup recipe or stew.

3) Favorite Season?
LOVE the fall! I just wish that the school year didn't start in the beginning of September (I work in a school so that's when I get busy and go back to work after the long summer). I love the warmth, cool nights, colors in the trees, pumpkin and apple picking, etc. Summer is a close second, if not a tie though. I get the summers off with my two children. We spend at least 1-2 days a week at the beach. So lucky! I feel more carefree, less tired, more energetic and relaxed in the summers while not working and rushing here or there. 

4) Favorite part about homesteading?
I'm so far from a homesteader guru, but I try to make a few things myself to help cut costs and increase our health. I make my own laundry detergent, not all year long, sometimes I get into a rut where I can't find the time, which is silly because it takes like an hour at most. I make pancake mix and taco seasoning- so easy and better for you, no salt. I admire those moms who stay home, make everything, garden, take care of animals and children and bake everything. I'm far from that mom, but I'm proud of how I take care of my kids and home. Oh, I swear by vinegar and dish soap for cleaning the shower! 

5) Least favorite part about homesteading? 
I think finding the time to do all the things you want to do is hard for all moms, but must be so especially for the moms who are home and creating everything while taking care of their families. Amazing moms! 

6) Best vacation spot?
My home state of MAINE! I know I'm biased, but seriously, MAINE is amazing. Beaches, lakes, wilderness for camping, speed boats and lobster boats within a half hour of each other, amazing seafood, mountains and state parks.... it's the best place for kids to grow up, so I think it's an awesome place to vacation. My father is a lobsterman on an island off of Bar Harbor so we're lucky to take at least two mini vacations there every summer. I love being outside with the kids, it's all of our happy place, so any vacation we'd take needs to include sunshine and outdoor fun! I'd love to take them to Virginia, North Carolina and of course Disney World in Florida. My husband and I are planning when the kids are probably in middle school to take them on a drive across country in the summer for a few weeks. I've always wanted to do that and think it'd be a great memory for the children. 

7) Best day trip?
Bar Harbor, Acadia Mountain! Love that area of the state. A whale watch outside of Portsmouth, NH is fun, too, we did that years ago. Story Land in NH is so much fun also! We go to Lake Wentworth in NH a zillion times a summer, so fun there, and only about 45 minutes from my house. 

8) What you cannot wait to eat from your garden?
Sadly, I don't have a garden.... we have a big piece of property that we've waited and waited until we have more money to really re-do and make it the way we want it. In that plan is to have a large garden full of veggies and then plant some fruit trees. In the meantime, I buy fresh veggies and fruits all spring, summer, fall at the local farm store Chase Farms, LOVE that place! We pick our own strawberries and blueberries and freeze those, too from the summer. The first things I will plant when I have a garden include: cucumbers, tomatoes, green beans, carrots and peppers. All of our favorites! 

9) Any good books lately?
I'm a middle school counselor so I read a lot of young adult books to keep up with the kids! I also just loooove these books, ever since I was a young adult myself. I read the Hunger Games series over Christmas and am finishing the third book now. My favorite authors are Jennifer Weiner, Jodi Piccoult, Anita Shreve, Emily Giffin, and e. Lockhart. I looove libraries! I did read this fall the Orange Rhino's book, AWESOME read for any parent, but especially those who lose patience and have difficulty with yelling. I reviewed her book here if you're interested:

10) If you had a super power, what would it be?
Hilarious that you ask me this now... this past week I was meeting with all of my sixth grade students at the school where I'm a counselor, getting to know them better. I asked them this question, tons of them answered that they wanted to fly. I would LOVE to fly! But then one kid said he'd want to be food, like to be able to turn into food... so then I realized my favorite super power would be to be able to MAKE FOOD! How cool would that be? If someone I was with said, "Oh, wish I could have an ice cream right now" or "I haven't had tacos in forever..." I could make those instantly! 

11) How do you manage doing all you do? 
I get asked this question all the time. I'm a full-time school counselor, mom of two with my husband, have a hobby of taking photos, 9 nieces and nephews whom I adore, this blog along with the Facebook discussion group... among whatever else I do, who knows. We're all busy as mothers, really!

How do I manage it? I manage it because it's FUN to me. All of it. Not every day is great, there are hiccups along the way. It's chaotic and overwhelming and not everything is perfect. Like, I wish I worked out more than I do sometimes, and I wish I made more gourmet dinners for the kids. But that's how I manage it - I don't have high expectations, I do it for ME, to have fun, and to make sure my kids are enjoying their childhood. I live simply as much as possible.

I also am very organized, everything gets written down and I routinely check things off the to do list because it makes me feel better. I also am a very fast typer, so the blogging and FB stuff comes quickly for me. I'm an early riser, that helps, too, when the kids are groggily waking up I've already written a few posts.

I also have an incredibly helpful husband who does everything alongside me. I could not do any of what I do if he weren't here helping me out. I'm also not into perfectionism. I might do tons... but I don't do it all perfectly well. I don't believe in being perfect, just doing your best with what you can do at that time. I'll take ideas from Pinterest, but then make them my own so it's easy for me to do. Whatever works right?! :)

For me, it's about prioritizing. I make sure I find that balance between work-hobbies-motherhood-me time - marriage. It's HARD. But I'm constantly trying to work it out and that helps.

11 Random Things About Me:
  1. I went to see Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood perform in Boston on Sunday night with my husband and two good friends. It was the most amazing concert EVER... which is saying a lot since I've seen Madonna, Shania Twain, Maroon 5, Fleetwood Mac, Journey, ETC. I used to go to many concerts! 
  2. I love chocolate. Obsessed. Dove dark chocolates and Hershey's hugs are my favorite. 
  3. I am also obsessed with Iced Chais. I don't drink coffee, never have, hate the taste. I loooove chai though. They are my go-to drink when running errands and exhausted with the kids, probably get it like 1-2 times a month.
  4. I had never seen Toy Story until yesterday when we were snowed in during the blizzard. How I could have missed how great this movie is, well that's beyond me. It's HILARIOUS!
  5. My favorite movie is The Cutting Edge. Along with The Sandlot and Stand By Me. Little Women is in there, too. 
  6. I start Christmas shopping in the summer. Last year I started in June when I randomly found a handmade wooden tool box for my nephew that they painted his name on. SO cute, I HAD to start shopping then. 
  7. My favorite ice cream used to be French vanilla. Then I had pregnancy cravings and it turned into chocolate chip cookie dough being my favorite. Funny how pregnancy does that to you.
  8. My dad's a lobsterman and his boat is named after me and his grandmother, Angela Rose. 
  9. My husband named both of our children. We don't really remember where he found the names, just liked them. I named my son's middle name though Joseph, after all the men in my life - dad, grandfather, stepdad, and brother's middle name. My husband named our daughter's middle name Rose after me. I also gave my daughter's name a different spelling than the typical. (AddisYn, changed out the "o" that is usually there so the "y" would match our last name)
  10. I would take college classes forever if I could afford the money and time. I love learning. I know, boring... but it's fun to me. All summer long I get books at the library. I hope to get my doctorate degree someday when I grow up.
  11. I believe in the philosophy that "it takes a village to raise a child." My husband and I made a pact when our son was born almost 5 years ago that we would not solely be raising him, that we'd let grandparents visit whenever they wanted, aunts and uncles hold the babies whenever they asked, and that we'd update them with pictures, notes, text messages, etc. to keep them in the loop. We'd ask them to babysit so they could have one-on-one time with our kids, and we'd make sure our kids knew all their family members' names. We can't do this parenting thing alone, and we think our kids benefit greatly from having so many other people who adore them like we do. 

(me in my happy sunny place - SUMMER! 
wishful thinking after we got about 20 inches of snow the last two days! )

Blogs I'm nominating to answer the questions below:

Chronicles of a Knaptime Knitter by Amanda, my crafty sister

Beth Wallace Photography by Beth, my favorite photographer and college friend

Coley Burke by Nicole, a high school friend and fellow hilarious momma

Bren Did, she seems to have a great variety of awesome topics, including things you CAN do, too

Melanie from What's Happening in the Acker Family, she's such a great, stylish mother!

The Happenstance Domestic - Jill is awesome!

Ever After Land - Jen seems awesome and is a friend of a friend

Fit With Misty Van Hooser, a friend of a friend, totally inspiring and healthy!

Minion Madness Mommy Notes by Christel - hilarious!

My 11 questions I'd like the above 
SUPER STAR bloggers to answer:

  1. What are 3 words to describe how it felt when you learned you were going to be a mother?
  2. When did you start your blog? Why did you start writing?
  3. What is the coolest thing about your life right now?
  4. If you could not do the job you do now (and tell us what it is), then what job would you want to have and why?
  5. What is one of your child's names and where did you get name from?
  6. Where in your home do you write your blog posts most often? Why there?
  7. What would you do with an extra $100 that you can only spend on YOU?
  8. Favorite meal you make? Bonus points for the recipe.
  9. 3 things you typically do on Sundays? 
  10. What is something you do often to make yourself a healthier person?
  11. What is something you want to be sure your kids learn from you?
THANKS for participating, everyone!

Here's some info I found on another blogger's site about the award:

Thanks to Jackie from Born Imaginative, this was SUPER fun to do on these snow days off from work! :) 

Sunday, January 25, 2015

saving $ - Dave Ramsey Plan - Christine Coutu

I am SO excited to feature my close friend, Christine Coutu, on the blog today, as part of our Saving $ series. She is SO incredibly dedicated to her family, making sure they have everything they need financially and otherwise. She's the most giving person I've ever met... so for her to be forced to save her money instead of give give give, that was a huge transformation for her. I witnessed how hard it was at first, and yet how easy it becomes once you realize WHO you're saving money for - your family! I admire her honesty in this piece... she shares how HARD this was, yet how easy it became, and quickly, as they started to see their debt snowball into nothing! She paid off thousands of dollars in just over a year! WOW. Impressive.

Thanks, Christine, for sharing your financial journey with us. I know this will inspire someone else to try this out!


1. When did you start the Dave Ramsey budget program?
My husband and I started Financial Peace University (Dave Ramsey’s finance class) in February of 2012.

2. Why did you decide it was time to start a real budget and goal-setting financial plan with your family?
Ryan (my husband) and I were always on 2 different pages when it came to money.  Growing up, our families handled money VERY differently and that accounted for our different philosophies.  He was a saver, very nervous about not having enough.  I, on the other hand, was a spender with little to no regard for the savings account.  I knew that it was important to save money, absolutely.  However, I had no idea how to go about doing so.  I was in the middle of graduate school when we got married and my only source of income was a work study job that I earned $10/hr at and worked only a few hours a week.  My husband was in his second year at a new company as a drafter and wasn’t making much.  We lived the first few years of our marriage constantly fighting about money.  Ryan would check the bank account and then question me about why I spent what I did etc.  I felt like I was being interrogated and would get defensive, he was just trying to keep us afloat and didn’t understand where all our money was going.  I was interning as a school counselor so I “needed” to buy things for work with my kids, for projects for school here and there, and I baked (a lot) as a way of coping with all the stress.  When I look at it now, my ability to hold onto money was like trying to hold onto water….it wasn’t working out so well.  

3. Why did you decide to go with the Dave Ramsey plan - what did you love about it?
Honestly, we knew nothing about Dave Ramsey when we started.  We just saw an advertisement for the PFU class at our church and we knew that with all the school debt etc that we had, we needed something!  What harm could it do us? If anything, we could learn a few tips.  We were hoping to buy a house in the next year or two and thought that this class could help us learn how to budget for a down payment and whatnot.

4. What did you owe at the time you started the plan? 
When we started FPU we were in debt approximately $33,000 between school debt and a brand new car that I had bought.  We had no credit card debt because we had no credit cards.  We had been on opposite pages about this too.  I wanted one, Ryan didn’t.  We had applied a few times despite Ryan’s concerns and were denied because we didn’t have enough credit.  I thought it was crazy and got frustrated because I didn’t understand how I was supposed to obtain enough credit if they wouldn’t let me get a credit card to establish credit with!  God was definitely watching out for us on this, because I know for sure if I had gotten my hands on a credit card, we would have had much more debt than we already did.

5. What were your first 3 steps to starting the budget plan?

First - we had to both commit to the program.  After the first class, I remember thinking “Oh my word!  This is going to be intense”.  We both had to be all in.  It wasn’t going to work any other way. 

Second - we had to attend each class.  We made a commitment to each other to not skip one class, not one!  It was difficult because the classes were after church on Sundays and we tend to get together with our family on Sundays for celebrations, lunches, dinners etc.  We only ended up missing I think one or two classes because we had prior weekend commitments that couldn’t be changed, but we made sure we listened to the teaching from that week and did our homework.  Third - perseverance.  Dave suggests having monthly budget meetings, and warned everyone that the first few would probably be painful.  Ours was frankly an all out battle, with papers literally flying in the air at least once (maybe even twice! lol).  It was rough.  I think it may have even lasted over the course of a full day or two.  We had to take breaks because discussions got so heated.  However, we knew what the goal was - to create a budget and stick to it.  We HAD to make it through this first budget meeting, if not - we were toast!

6. What were some of the most challenging parts about this plan of saving money and paying off debt?

Saying “no”.  To ourselves, to our family, to our friends.  It was really hard sometimes when we knew people were waiting for us to get out of our Sunday class before having family time.  However, we were determined that our immediate family and our future was more important during those moments.  

As a school counselor, before FPU I had a snack drawer dedicated to my kids at school.  I would buy healthy snacks for them and whatnot.  I was also constantly baking things and bringing them in to work or buying fun things for my office. Ryan made me realize that I needed to slow down.  I couldn’t do this if we wanted to pay off our debt.  Saying no to those kids and my coworkers who now expected those goodies (like literally, the principal said once “you know that Coutu had a rough day when she shows up the next day with cookies!") was very difficult.  

I am a natural giver, and to not give felt selfish.  I had to step back and realize that I was giving.  I was giving to my husband, to our future children and our future grandchildren.  It was just giving in a way that I wasn’t used to.

7. What were other people's thoughts and opinions about what you were doing during your saving money process?
People were proud of us, would say “I couldn’t do that”, or really just stare in disbelief when we would explain what we were doing.  We did a lot of crazy things to pay down our debt.  One was to continue living in very tiny apartment my parents owned that we had moved into “for just a year or two” after we got married because the rent was cheap - we were there 5 years.  We so badly wanted to move out to a bigger place but stayed because we knew if we did we could pay down our debt faster.  We also sold a TON of stuff.  Anything that wasn’t nailed to the wall or breathing was sold.  No more “save it for later”.  If we hadn’t used it in the last 6 months, it was gone.

I’d say the biggest protest we got from anyone despite all of our “crazy” moves to pay down debt was from my parents when we told them that we had taken our close to $11,000 we had saved for a down payment on a house and put it entirely toward our debt.  At that point, we were telling them and ourselves that we were absolutely, hands down all in on this program.  We weren’t turning back.  They were not happy.  They were happy that we were working on paying down debt, don’t get me wrong.  However, they thought this move was far too extreme and weren’t so sure about “this Dave Ramsey guy”.

8. What were some things you decided to cut out in order to save money for your family?

We only allowed ourselves a small amount of “blow money” every month.  It started out at only $10.  That was for us to use however we wanted.  For me this meant no more stopping at Starbucks every few days for a latte.  If I wanted one, I had to REALLY want one because that latte was HALF my blow money for the ENTIRE MONTH.  That puts things in perspective for you REAL fast.  

We also only allowed ourselves a certain amount of money to go toward eating out every month.  This meant take out became a treat!  Again, saving for a house was something we also decided to stop doing.  It sounds counterintuitive but it’s the way the program works.  The first thing you do is save $1,000 in an emergency fund, the second is to then pay off all debt.  Meaning that EVERY PENNY you have goes to paying off your debt.  You don’t even put money aside for retirement.  You work on getting rid of your debt as fast as you can!  The rest comes later.

9. What came easy for you with this program?
Saying “no”.  I know, I said it was the most difficult thing.  However, over time it became really easy - especially once we started seeing our debt amount decrease like crazy.  Toward the end of our debt snowball we bought magnetic letters and numbers and stuck our debt amount on the fridge and every month, Ryan would change the number.  

It was SOOO exciting to see the light at the end of the tunnel as the number started to get smaller and smaller.

10. How long did it take you to become debt free? Or are you still working on it, and how long do you predict you'll be working on that? 
We got out of that $33,000 hole in 14 months making about $62,000 a year.  It took a LOT of hard work, dedication and TONS of delaying of immediate gratification.  If we had gone with what we had wanted to do and bought a house during that time, I don’t even want to know where we’d be right now!

I will say this as a caveat, we have had a TON of life changes since we became debt free.  We had our daughter Olivia in March, and I quit my job to stay home with her full time in June.  In July, Ryan was blessed to start with a new company that provided him the health benefits we need and a salary that allows me to stay home.  However, the position has brought us from Maine to New Hampshire where he commutes to his job in Massachusettes.   When we arrived in NH, we were living with my grandparents until we found a new place to live.  Since our life has been so hectic the past few months, we have not been able to use our cash envelope system as we would like because our bank is a local one back in Maine.  

Thus, we had to go back to the debit card which I absolutely HATE.  I miss my envelopes and cash.  I spend WAY more with my card than I do with cash.  However, we wanted to wait to change our bank until we knew where we were going to be living so that we could find one easily accessible to our new home.  We both felt very strongly that it was now time for us to buy a home, despite the fact that we did not have enough for 20% down and to only carry a 15 year mortgage as Dave recommends.  We found ourselves spending most of our first few weeks here in NH praying a lot about what to do, knowing that we didn’t want to get in over our heads.  We eventually really felt strongly that buying was the right option for us and that we would know our house when we saw it.  At the same time, Ryan’s car (which had over 200k miles on it and was VERY old) was too dangerous for him to drive from NH to MA for work.  As a result we had to make the decision to buy a car.  While we could have paid for a used car out of pocket, we knew that we needed to set some money aside for some form of down payment for our house.  Thus, we ended up financing about $7,000 for the car.  

Our house, which we both felt instantly was our forever home the minute we walked in is SUCH an incredible blessing.  We were one of 5 offers on the property and the seller was very generous with us, leaving things like a snow blower and yard equipment (expenses we now don’t have to worry about) for Ryan.  So - we just moved in the week of Halloween and find ourselves now once again in debt, and with only one income.  However, Ryan and I are so very excited to get back to our FPU plan, kick it into high gear and knock out our debt.  We also know that the Lord will provide for us all that we need to make this happen.

11. What does being debt free and financially stable mean for you personally? What does it mean for your kids and family?
Even though we are back in debt, 

I absolutely know without a shadow of a doubt that if we hadn’t paid off that original $30,000 that I would still be working and not staying home with our daughter.  Being a SAHM has been on my heart since I was little and I couldn’t imagine my life any other way.  

I want Olivia and any other children that we may have to watch Ryan and I work together as a team to pay off his car and this house and to save to create a legacy for them.  When I think about my daughter’s future, I want her to learn the value of what it means to give, save and spend on her own.  I want her to learn about saving for her education, and we don’t want her taking money out for college or to buy a car.  We want her to begin her life as an adult debt free.  I also don’t want to have to rely on Olivia or any of our other children to take care of us when we are older.  We want to be able to enjoy our time with our children and to not burden them with concerns of caring for us when we are older.  

After we paid off our debt, Ryan and I decided to take a vacation.  We went on a week long cruise to Bermuda and paid for the whole thing in cash.  It was SO amazing to know that we could do that without feeling the least bit guilty!  I don’t think I could ever describe the feeling of being debt free after that first amount of money was paid off.  I never realized how much of a weight it had put on our shoulders.  

Equally, I can’t describe how much I am looking forward to that feeling again.  I know that it won’t happen any time soon as a house is a HUGE expense.  However, as soon as we get that car payment out of the way - it’s going to be all about the house and that’s a good feeling.

12. What is your advice to other moms who want to start saving money, paying off more debt? Where should they start?
Start by reading Dave’s book, The Total Money Makeover.  It’s a quick read and will give you the basics of what Dave teaches.  If you have time, you should also take the class.  I highly recommend that - it helped us so much to have accountability partners other than the each other.  Get started on your first “baby step” which is saving $1,000 in a separate fund for your emergency fund then, work on putting a budget together.  Remember that Dave’s plan calls for a zero budget which means that every month you should have NO money left over because you have either put it down on debt or into one of your savings accounts.  

Finally (and probably most importantly) - put down the credit card and back away slowly.  You may think you need it, but really, you don’t.  Besides, if you’re trying to get rid of debt, why allow yourself access to something that  is designed to get you into debt?

13. Now that you're well on your way to not having debt and saving money, what are some things you intend to keep doing to save money, cut corners, not get back into debt?
We are not borrowing anymore money.  We will continue to not use credit cards and are getting back at our cash envelope system.  Our house is not perfect, there are cosmetic updates that need to be made and I will rejoice in the day when we can make our kitchen bigger.  However, these updates, and our garage that we will put in someday will all be cash flowed.  And our 30 year mortgage? We’ve set a goal to knock that thing out before it hits 20 years including having added the garage and kitchen reno!

We’re going to cut back a lot.  No more going out to eat but maybe once a month, home made Christmas gifts, and going back to $10 a month for our blow money.  I’ll also start couponing again.  I did this when we were doing our debt snowball and it was fantastic to not pay full price for simple things like toothpaste, razors, pasta and cereal.  We will be eating everything in our fridge, not wasting and having one “left over night” a week for dinner.  I also plan our weekly meals around sales.  Whatever meat is on sale that week is what we eat.  If there aren’t any good meat sales, then I pull meat from our freezer, find the cheapest meat we can (manager specials are my friend!), or do breakfast for dinner.  

14. How did you prevent your family from being in debt this past holiday season with gift giving? What are your tips for that?
We usually have money allocated for that (along with other birthday etc gifts) and we put a certain amount away every month toward that.  Since we just bought our house, we have told family to not expect much for Christmas this year.  Our daughter Olivia is only 7 months old, so we give out homemade hand print ornaments or whatnot from her.  This being her first Christmas and her being so young, she obviously has no clue what to expect so we didn’t need to give her tons of gifts.  

15. Anything else you want to add?

The program is simple, and it is amazing how fun it can be.  We went from throwing papers at each other in our first budget meeting to really breaking down the costs and finding places we could cut and dump extra money on our debt.  It became our challenge and we were ready for it!  I literally was crawling out of my skin with excitement to do our budget for this next month with our mortgage payment etc and was so happy to sit with him and crunch the numbers - lightyears away from where we started!

I asked my husband what his advice would be, he said “Get started with it as soon as you can.  I was so frugal with our money I didn’t want to spend the $100 for the course itself which comes with lifetime membership to the class (you can take it again at any time for a refresher), your cash envelope system, all the coursework and books for it.  Now whenever we have friends and family who get married, we buy them the book and tell them if they front the money and take the class, upon completion we will give them the $100 they spent on the course because we believe enough in what it can do to continue to help everyone get themselves out of debt and into financial freedom.  In order to live like no one else, you have to live like no one else.  You have to live frugally for awhile, unlike the normal American, so you can eventually live like no one else which means you are debt free and able to afford a good life, free of financial worry, again unlike the normal American”.  

Honestly.  I couldn’t have said it better, as I sit here on our old crappy couch (that we got from friends for free). All I want to do is bring this thing to the dump, get a new one and go buy the Martha Stewart curtains at JC Penney that I really want instead of the ones from Family Dollar gracing my living room windows now.  And I could, because we have the money, and believe me,  I would.  BUT, that’s not how the program works and what’s more important to me is that for the cost of a new couch and some window treatments, we could put several extra payments toward Ryan’s car, or make an additional payment and a half on our mortgage.  Living like no one else and denying ourselves of these material things will allow us to buy one heck of a new couch (hey, maybe even two!) when we’re living like no one else later!!