Planning on working on this over the next few months.
I know it’s been a while, but I had some things on my mind I would like to share. And I’m hoping I get some feedback from this. My plan is to focus on different areas and share my processes with you as I go through this “journey”.
I’ve been working hard lately to cut down on the “stuff” around here- the main things I’m dealing with lately is clothing. Specially, the kids’ clothing. As I anticipate adding a third child’s wardrobe to an already full bedroom currently shared by two girls, I know something drastic needs to be done. I know I need to do some major paring down, which I am pretty sure will help with my laundry dilemma (keeping up with putting it all away) as well as the finding and coordinating of clothing during dressing time issues. Another issue is the changing over of seasons/sizes. This tends to be a dreaded headache of a task for me that takes entirely too much time, usually spanning the course of several days to sometimes longer because it doesn’t fit in the space, I get distracted, or I just start pulling items out of the piles before I’m done organizing it. Not to mention the stress it causes me! I know it does not have to be that difficult. A solution can be found to make it less tedious.
We have been blessed with clothing and various other items being given to us, as well as being bought at great prices, but I know now I’m at the point where I’m feeling burdened by too much and I need to take some action!
I tend to be a person who is resourceful and I attach value to items, but I know there is a point where excess can steal peace and order. I highly value peace and order, but for me, I have found that it is something I need to “fight” for! Not to mention I have excess that could be blessing others, instead of being a hindrance to me!
By the way, I think a lot of this has to do with a book I recently read by Jen Hatmaker. 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess. That book has certainly given me a different perspective on the “stuff” I have in my life and what changes I could be making to make a difference in many ways.
So I’ve decided to do an experiment. It’s something I thought of the other day, although I know it is not original. I’m going through one size at a time (starting with the ones my girls are currently moving out of and into), pulling out the obvious/glaring excess and selling or donating those items. Then I’m going to do another sweep with what’s left and choose a limited number of items (I’m still doing some figuring on the specific numbers for each item) and then put those items alone in the bedroom drawers and closet. The rest will just get put away somewhere else for the time being and I will only use the items that are available for a specified amount of time and see how that works out (probably 1-2 months). I may start with a few more items than I think are necessary and try to make a system for rotating through them (like turning hangers around until they are worn) so I can determine if everything is getting worn on a regular basis.
My hope is that I can find some success with first beginning this task with my girls’ clothing and then moving on to my own (although I feel like my wardrobe is in a constant state of change, especially with switching in maternity/summer and switching out non-maternity/winter, but that’s no excuse! I know my maternity wardrobe can be pared down, too- and I have already purged that some!).
I would love and appreciate some accountability on this. If you struggle with this same thing, I’d love to hear from you. Or if you have conquered this issue or it’s something that has always come easy for you, I’d also love to hear your insight and feedback!
I’ll be updating with progress!
So I’ve been doing a lot of contemplating on what to focus on for the blog and what direction it may go.
I feel like God’s been working on me in many areas and I’m definitely considering sharing some of those in hopes of gaining some insight and perhaps being a source of encouragement to others.
My blog and life “theme” of “living on purpose” spills over to so many facets of my life that I realize how important that is to stay focused in this area and to really be aware of that at all times. I’ve become aware recently of some practical ways that plays out in my own personal life.
With the change of seasons and the undeniable return of autumn, this is a great opportunity to consider what my priorities are. Now the garden is nearly finished producing the harvest, which provides a welcomed break after a great and “fruitful” summer season! The grass is slowing in its growing. The crisp nights and mornings are a reminder that, before we know it, the cooler weather will be here to stay (at least until spring!). Never a huge fan of the long winter months, I do love the change of seasons and the beauty that each season boasts. I have always found each to display the wonderful handiwork of my Lord.
Stay tuned as more blog posts will be on the horizon. I will continue prayerfully contemplating the content.
So today I’m going to talk about the tasks we avoid. Speaking of avoiding things… yes, it has been a really really long time since I have posted, for which I am not proud of! I also know that I have 2 more chapters to post about in the Money Saving Mom book. I promise I will come back to that, at some point, but for now, I’m just going to do some random posts and am hoping to get some feedback and insight from anyone who still may be reading this.
So, everyone seems to have those tasks that we all enjoy and then others that we just put off for whatever reason. One of mine that I avoid is putting clean laundry away.
I actually enjoy the sorting, loading, even folding parts, but then that’s where it stops! I end up with laundry baskets (or piles) of clean laundry all around and it just sits there… for quite some time typically! Then I’m out of laundry baskets since they’re all tied up and sometimes that motivates me to put some away… or just take the pile out and set it down, so I can use the laundry basket to put another pile of clean clothing in! :/ Yikes! I just tackled quite a few large loads of it yesterday and was pleased to discover some clothing I had forgotten about. I like that feeling because I sort of get that “high” like I just got something new, except that I didn’t have to pay money for it again. It’s also nice to have the space back that was being taken up by the clothing piles! (That’s definitely an energy-stealer!)
So, I really am going to work toward tackling those clean laundry items right away, but first I am trying to figure out why I am avoiding them to begin with and I think it’s because it can be a nuisance to put them away! It’s never a quick, easy task. The reason being- there is just not enough space in our closets and drawers when everything is clean! The fact is- we usually don’t even miss most of the items when they sit in the laundry basket for a few days- okay, okay- maybe a few weeks… So, this leads to another project- more weeding out and purging! I feel like this is a never-ending cycle, but this battle must be fought!!!
I would like to know what your dreaded task is and what you could do to claim the victory over it! Also, if you are already a pro at my avoided task, please share any tips you have!!!
Please leave your comments below- thanks!
Here’s a post that everyone should be able to at least pick up one helpful tip, if not many!
Here are Money Saving Mom’s 25 Ways to Lower Your Grocery Bill Without Clipping Coupons!
Ready, set….. GO!
1) Frequent the Dollar Store
2) Don’t be brand dependent (vary brands or consider store-brand/generic)
3) Buy in bulk
4) Use a crockpot
Helpful sites: http://www.crockpot365.blogspot.com
5) Have a meatless night once a week (or more).
Consider: breakfast foods, vegetable soup/bread, lasagna, baked ziti, bean burritos, etc.
6) Bake your own bread (with a bread machine)
- Costs approximately 50 cents versus $2-$4/loaf
- Many recipes for breads, rolls, etc on http://www.moneysavingmom.com
- She suggests borrowing a bread machine before purchasing your own
7) Shop at the bread outlet
8) Look for marked-down groceries (meat, produce, dairy)
9) Use half the recommended amount (laundry detergent, dish soap, shampoo)
10) Serve meat as a condiment (in soup, on pizza, in casserole)
* Mix meat with lentils for taco meat mixture
11) Stick with simple meals that use inexpensive ingredients (certain meals should be saved for special occasions only)
12) Eat from the pantry
*Tool: http://www.myfridgefood.com – Helps make meals out of items you already have on hand
13) Use bone-in chicken breast
14) Price-match at Walmart and Target
15) Order groceries online
Tools: http://www.camelcamelcamel.com – Tracks grocery prices and sends notifications of price-drops
16) Use your freezer to stock up on good deals and for batch cooking. Example: cook a big batch of chicken breasts and chop and freeze for soup, casseroles, pizza, stir-fry, taco meat, meatballs, burrito filling.
Taking time to plan ahead saves time in the long run and helps resist the urge to get pizza or fast-food when in a hurry.
Tip: Dedicate an hour or 2 on weekends to prep meals for the week OR make multiples of meals 1-2 nights during the week and freeze for later.
Tool: http://www.lifeasmom.com – Freezer cooking tips
17) Don’t throw out your leftovers
- Eat them for lunch
- Once a week have a leftover buffet
Tool: http://www.leftoverchef.com – Ideas for leftovers
18) Make your own homemade cleaners
Tool: http://www.momsbudget.com – Homemade cleaner recipes
19) Eliminate paper products
20) Ditch cereal for breakfast
- Pancakes/waffles/french toast – make a big batch and freeze!
- Instant oatmeal packets – make your own (Google for recipes/ideas)
- Smoothies – use marked-down fruit from freezer
- Homemade granola over yogurt with fruit
21) Invest in reusable water bottles
22) Shop every other week
23) Buy a roast on sale and have it ground (lean cut bottom round- have ground at meat counter)
24) Buy product in season and on sale – freeze what can be frozen
25) Plant a garden – freeze or can extras!
- Tool: http://www.localharvest.org – Find local farms who sell produce to the general public
Whew! So there you have them! I hope you can find at least a few tips from the list that you can implement and save some of your hard-earned dough!
There are only 2 more chapters in the book. For some reason, I’ve had a hard time finding the motivation to finish the blog posts on the book, although I have nearly finished the book. I will be finishing up soon and then moving to something else, blog-wise. I would like to get back to some original ideas/thoughts, since that is what I enjoy and was more of the point of my blog to begin with. Any suggestions or input is welcomed in the comments below!
Also, I’d love to hear what you think of this list of 25 ways to lower your grocery budget. Have you already been doing any of these things? Are you planning to do anything from the list? Do any sound totally ridiculous to you?
Whew! It’s been way too long since I’ve blogged! Ick! The good news is that I was able to finish another book that I had been putting off, but that’s no excuse for this big time lapse! I did read almost 2 more chapters from The Money Saving Mom’s Budget book. There are so many tips and ideas! I will share some of them here, but again, it really is too detailed to share it all, so I will continue to recommend you read the actual book for more info. I’ve had to reset my goal of finishing this book by March 17 and my new goal is to finish it March 25.
Here’s chapter 6!
Chapter 6: Beyond the Basics: Advanced Couponing Techniques
~The key is to combine coupons with sales
~Shop at more than 1 store to keep your budget down
-Scout nearby stores each week and pick the best deals (base grocery trip only to those stores)
~How to shop at more than 1 store without spending hours each week shopping
1) Consider your options (not just grocery stores- Drugstores, dollar stores, etc.)
2) Make a price book (track prices for regularly bought items)
3) Find out local store’s coupon and mark-down policies
4) Shop at different stores each week
~Play the drugstore game (many many details in the book on this one!)
~Implement the “Buy-Ahead” Principle
-Aim to never pay full price for anything other than dairy and produce
-How to implement:
-Set aside a small portion of your grocery budget (5-10%)
-Designate a small area of your home for storing extra groceries
-Determine when enough is enough
-Don’t buy 35 bottles of something you’ve never tried the brand before
~”Stack” manufacturer’s coupons and store coupons
~How to use great deals to feed your family
-You need a plan
-It’s a waste of time and effort if you get 25 free cans of tomato sauce if you never do anything with it.
-It is vitally important to learn how to plan a meal based on what’s on sale and what you already have on hand.
-Menu-planning also saves time, effort and stress.
~Get the best bang for your buck
-Plan a menu based on what’s on sale and what you have on hand.
1) Shop your cupboards (use items you already have and then you only have to pick up a few items to make a complete meal).
2) Consult the sales fliers (for deals on what you need or will use in the next few months).
3) Survey your coupons (combine with sales for even greater deals).
4) Make your final menu plan and grocery list (use a list of recipe ideas and sale items to create menu and list).
* Ideas for meals – for inspiration when you are lacking it:
-Create a list of 30 meals your family loves
-Have a recipe folder to keep recipes from magazines, newspapers, food packages, etc.
-Online sites (allrecipes.com, supercook.com, recipematcher.com. I must add my own fave: tasteofhome.com!!!)
~ Take it slow and pace yourself!
~ Focus on cutting your grocery bill bit by bit
~ Focus on how much you are SPENDING, not how much you are SAVING.
~ Don’t just be “spaving” (spending money to save money)
~ Stick to your grocery budget, even if it means passing up good deals.
~ It’s okay to take a break every now and then (shop Aldi!) so you don’t get coupon burnout!
I’d love to hear your input on these coupon ideas and if you’ve had any great couponing success lately!!!! Please share in the comments!!!
Chapter 5 – “Coupons Are Not Just For Junk Food”
Rule #5 – “Use Coupons”
~There are coupons for organic and natural products (not just processed foods!)
~If you use coupons correctly, you’ll save at least $25-$50/hour
~There are lots of ways to get free coupons. Her website has lots of links as well as this really awesome tool to find specific coupons!
~Choose the best filing system for your coupons to use them effectively
This chapter is chock full of the nuts and bolts of couponing and lots of tips, even for someone such as I who have been using coupons for as long as I can remember, thanks for my mom teaching me their value from a young age. I won’t go into the nitty gritty, but basically please know that you can find lots of info in the book, as well as links to some great coupon websites as resources. She also goes into detail about a few filing systems to choose from for keeping your coupons organized. This is something I need to crack down on and be disciplined about keeping organized. I’ve gotten some good ideas I plan to implement.
Also, she mentions sending expired coupons to military to use. Does anyone do this? I’d like to send mine for someone to use.
I’d love to hear some stories about your couponing success or your plans to embark upon the couponing journey.
Chapter 4 – “Go Totally Plastic-Free – Temporarily”
So Crystal’s suggestion is to do this for 3 months. She’s talking no credit cards, no debit cards. No plastic at all.
Rule #4 – Take The Cash-Only Challenge
Yes, this may seem very drastic to some. To me, honestly, it would feel next to impossible. Or at least very difficult- even just thinking about it is sort of scary for me!! Maybe just the change it would involve is the cause of my trepidation. I would venture to say that many of us have taken advantage of the ease of using a credit or debit card, even if we pay the credit card in full when the bill comes due.
Sometimes I do like to do scary things. I know that usually in the end, the result will make the fear it caused well worth it. So, I will soon be taking the plunge on this one. <GULP> Planning to begin in April and taking the month of March to prepare.
Our Money Saving Mom says one of the main reasons to give up the plastic is that plastic gives you something to fall back on. “Just this one time.” or “Just until payday.” It gives a false sense of security and the opportunity to cheat on your budget when temptation arises.
Commit to buy only what you can AFFORD. If you don’t already have the money set aside for it, you can’t afford it. (This is an eye opener!!!! So true!!!!)
Here are her steps toward taking the “Cash-Only Challenge”:
1) Cut up, freeze or otherwise completely remove the ability to use all credit or debit cards for the next 3 months.
2) Make sure you have created the Full-Fledged Budget. This must be done first.
3) Determine which categories from Full-Fledged Budget will be paid from cash envelopes and which will be paid by direct withdrawal or check. Use cash for as many as possible.
4) Divide up paycheck immediately. Deposit enough money in checking account to cover all monthly payments paid by check or auto withdrawal. Withdrawal in cash the total amount needed for cash envelopes and divide accordingly.
5) Bring only the cash envelopes and calculator with you when you shop. Do a quick estimate on how much the items on your shopping list should cost. Bring this amount and a little extra (she recommends $5-$10 extra).
6) Calculate purchases as you add them to your cart. This motivates you to evaluate each item carefully, being aware of the cost, looking for the best deals, and prevents you from having to put items back at check-out.
7) For online purchases – use PayPal, prepaid cards or giftcards. Take cash from cash envelope and deposit into bank account ASAP.
8) Any extra budgeted money in category or cash envelope should be saved and rolled into next month. This gives some wiggle room.
She addresses a FAQ:
~ Q: What if I find a good deal but I don’t have the cash on hand?
A: Use “extra” cash or skip another item in order to buy it. Otherwise, do not buy it.
She also gives several reasons why credit cards can be our worst enemy
- spending money we don’t have
- buying things we don’t need
- encouraging you to bank on the future (planning to pay it off and what if something happens that you can’t?)
- discouraging self-discipline and stealing the fulfillment of working hard and saving to pay cash for purchases
She is not “anti-credit card,” although she has never had one. She does, however, warn of the dangers and feels strongly that credit cards can only be appropriately used by someone with extreme self-discipline and a strict budget already in place.
There are several other credit-related issues addressed in the book, but I’d rather not go into too much detail here. I’m trying to just give an overview and bring you along on my journey. I’ve been hard at work re-vamping and adjusting our budget. I think I’ve actually been able to simplify the Excel spreadsheet that I have been currently using, thanks to some of the information and tips I read in the book. I’m really excited to get our budget a little more “full-fledged” and functional. This will be a work-in-progress, since budgets can vary from month to month and normal tweaking typically needs to be done.
I have to say that this chapter has been the hardest for me to swallow so far. It’s caused me to be convicted to make an uncomfortable, but necessary change. I know it will be worth it, but it will not be easy! I’m excited to see where this journey takes my family!!!
Baby steps and bite-sized pieces!
Chapter 3 – “Give Yourself An Instant Raise Without Increasing Your Take-Home Pay”
She says this proven method to give yourself a raise without actually MAKING more money is called a BUDGET.
Crystal says a budget is for ANYONE, especially those barely keeping their heads above water.
I have to say that budgeting is something I am very familiar with, so I was going to just skim this chapter, but honestly, I have found there is a lot to learn, even for someone who already has a budget set up. I have found ways to SIMPLIFY our budget and also ways to be held accountable.
She talks about doing the THREE MONTH CHALLENGE.
RULE #3 – Set up a realistic, workable budget
Once again, I love how she is so realistic and practical and all about taking BABY STEPS and doing things in bite-sized pieces, in order to have greater long-term success.
She suggests starting small (especially for first time budgeters) and taking THREE MONTHS to “ease in” to the whole budget thing.
First month: The Food Budget
She considers this one of the greatest areas to cut down expenditures significantly.
To determine your grocery budget, look back over grocery expenses for the last few months and average out the weekly amounts. Multiply by 4 to get the monthly budget to start with. Withdraw the full monthly amount for grocery budget in cash for the month and put in an envelope. Take the weekly allotment to the store each week.
~ You can’t go over-budget. When it’s gone, it’s GONE!
**Don’t be alarmed if the first month of this is really a struggle. It takes time and practice. If it’s not working after a few months, it may need to be adjusted.
Second month: The Bare-Bones Budget
I’m not going to go into deep details over this, although the book expands upon each topic and how to set this up. This is such a great idea, though. I like this initial basic approach. It’s so simply and non-scary!
One great tip she talks about is to figure out how much your actual MONTHLY expenses are, even if a particular bill is not paid monthly. For example, under utilities is “trash”. My trash bill is due quarterly. So, I would take that quarterly bill and divide it by 3 months and then set aside that amount each month (she recommends a separate checking account). Then, when the bills comes, that money is already available and budgeted for the trash bill. No big surprises, etc. It’s basically what your mortgage company does for you if you have an escrow account set up through them. Every month, part of your payment goes into an account so that when your real estate taxes and insurance premiums are due, the money is already there. It’s such a simple thing to do but I have to admit that I had to learn this the hard way several years ago. I got so tired of the semi-annual bills coming and “surprising” me, that I finally decided to start putting aside the amount needed each month so that it was there when the bill came and didn’t have to eat into the budget for when it was due. Make sense? It’s made a world of difference for us!
So, after the bare-bones budget month is done, then on to…
Third month: The Full-Fledged Budget
This takes the bare-bones budget to a whole new level and includes every area where money could go. This is awesome. Honestly, some people may at first see a budget as being too restrictive, but it really tells your money where to go, and allows you to control your money, instead of the other way around. It is actually quite freeing to know where it’s all going and to be able to manage it.
For more details on setting up this complete budget, along with lots of tips on how to allocate amounts, cut expenses, etc, consult the book. There is great, concise information that is very easy to understand and simple to implement.
Now I will be using these tips to simplify my own budget and get it on track!
Would love to hear any tips from you relating to your budget experience. If you are setting one up for the first time, or the second time, etc, then GOOD FOR YOU!!! Please share and insights you may have!
What I’m loving about this book is that, even though it all really “revolves” around finances, it ties in so many other aspects of life that affect one another. Yes, all of the different areas she addresses affect finances, in one way or another, whether directly or indirectly, but they do not ONLY affect finances, so there is much to be learned, no matter what we are trying to achieve.
Chapter 2 is titled “Are the Chaos and Clutter in Your Life Keeping You from Financial Success?”
So, this is something I can relate to. My confession is that there are definitely many negatives as a result of my “chaos and clutter.” While I can say that finance issues are not a big problem, my chaos/clutter/disorganization does indeed cause other issues, such as stealing the potential for more peace and simplicity, as well as saving time, sanity, patience and having more tolerance! I can, however, definitely recall a few times that I’ve gotten myself into trouble (money-wise) and not to mention additional stress, due to being cluttered and disorganized (and KNOWING I had a coupon for that item, but having NO IDEA where it got to- which pile/bag it got in, misplacing or forgetting about a bill, etc.). Soooo frustrating! So, of course, I’m open to any help I can get here!
Crystal encourages us to GET OUR LIFE IN ORDER!
Rule #2 is Streamline your life and cut the clutter
The key points here are that being disorganized makes us waste time -looking for things, not knowing what we have (and ending up buying duplicates, etc), and MORE!
Clutter can also have to do with our SCHEDULES! She says “if you’re drowning in clutter and your days are completely overbooked, then implementing any of the money-saving tips from this book is going to be a feat of sheer willpower.”
BECOME THE MASTER OF YOUR MINUTES. It’s about eliminating our PERSONAL CLUTTER.
MAKE IT HAPPEN.
RESTRUCTURE priorities to make time to get finances in order.
“When you have too much to do, you can’t devote the time and energy to what really matters because you’re spread too thin and just barely keeping your head above water.”
***CAN ANYONE RELATE???
I can’t stand that feeling! When I DO something, I want to give it all I’ve got and do it to the best of my ability. If I know that I can’t give it 100%, then I either need to say NO or give up something else.
When we say YES to one thing, we say NO to another.
How to Streamline Your Life and Have Time for What Matters:
1) STOP trying to DO IT ALL!
- Worrying about what others think
- It’s OK to say NO!
> No to overspending, buying things you can’t afford
> No to over-booking your life
2) Create a list of personal PRIORITIES
- Helps us to spend our time doing things that help move toward our goals
3) Develop a TIME BUDGET
- If we don’t have a plan for how we will use our time, we will end up succumbing to what Charles Hummel aptly called “tyranny of the urgent.”
We’ll be BUSY, but not really make any MEASURABLE PROGRESS.
When setting up a time-budget, start with the 24 hours that we all have in a day.
Block out 8 hours for sleep (yeah, I know that sounds a bit excessive for those of us with little ones, but just do it!)
Set aside 2 hours for “margin time” (because things happen- unpredictable things!)
Prioritize the remaining 14 hours. (She has some nice worksheets in the book to use)
***Has anyone actually ever done a time-budget or even a time diary type thing to see where all of their time goes?? I’m still working on this time-budget that Crystal describes, but I know in the past when I’ve done a time diary, it is AMAZING to me to see 1) where all of my time goes and 2) how it keeps you accountable when you know you have to write it all down!
For more in-depth details about this time-budget thing, please send me a message or consult the book.
STREAMLINE your stuff: Eliminate Physical Clutter
- Home and life can’t be in shambles if we want to get finances in order. These really do go hand-in-hand.
How to tame the CLUTTER MONSTER
1) Go through your home from top to bottom (she does this twice a year- whole house as quickly as possible)
2) Stay on top of the clutter AGGRESSIVELY
- Set up ongoing declutter boxes
- When you get something new, get rid of something old
- Institute the “no-pile” rule
> Go through mail and all incoming papers IMMEDIATELY
> Throw out sales fliers/catalogs (most can be accessed online anyway)
> Create a SIMPLE filing system for bills
> Have a box for keeping special cards; toss the rest
***I’ve found that a lot of these types of ideas for getting organized need to be what works FOR YOU. I would suggest taking a look around and determining what your clutter problems are and where they come from. For example, if it’s papers, then it probably has a lot to do with the mail, etc. A simple accordion file case or individual file folders like I had suggested in a prior post would help you to tame that problem. It will also take self-discipline to MAKE A HABIT to use the system, but having a PLACE for the items and a SYSTEM, will be half the battle!!
If you have a particular thing or area that is causing you trouble, I’d be happy to try to come up with suggestions to kick the problem on its rear. Or feel free to post a comment and we could see if anyone else wants to chime in with suggestions!
Well, that’s it for Chapter 2. Next up is Chapter 3 (imagine that), which addresses BUDGETS!!!!!
I’d love to hear what you think so far and if you’ve been able to use any of this information so far to help you out. More to come…