Category Archives for "Finances/Saving Money"

TIRED OF DEALING WITH DEBT? You’ve got to deal with this one big issue FIRST (hint: It’s not just a money issue but has everything to do with how we spend money!).

#1 Reason Why You’re Stuck In the Debt Cycle

I gazed longingly out the front window of our house at the neighbor’s shiny brand new minivan.

We’d bought a used minivan two years before when our first son was born, but my dependable, well-loved Dodge now looked ridiculously hideous parked on the curb next to my neighbor’s beauty queen model.

Suddenly, I was convinced that every scratch and blemish on my minivan seemed to scream in high-pitched tones to every neighbor on that block, “Wow. Can’t they afford anything better than that dumpy model?”

Hmmm, my husband did just get a raise… I considered. I did some quick mental math and realized that now we probably could afford the car payment on a new van.

Then I started questioning my minivan’s safety. Sure, we hadn’t ever had any problems, but I thought, “You know, it does have 50,000 miles on it now so perhaps it’s time to trade it in.”

Needless to say, a new minivan—the same model as our neighbor’s—was parked in our garage a few weeks later.

And thus began another step in our family’s journey toward debt. Big-time debt that eventually totaled over $100,000.

TIRED OF DEALING WITH DEBT? You’ve got to deal with this one big issue FIRST (hint: It’s not just a money issue but has everything to do with how we spend money!).

What’s Your “Minivan” Story?

I know our minivan story isn’t unique. In fact, I’ve heard different versions of it over and over as I’ve talked to others about their struggles with debt. Sometimes the “must-have” item is a certain house in the “right” neighborhood. For others it’s an RV or boat that promises to give hours of family-fun vacations.

Either way, if we’re not careful, these simple wants can turn into full-fledged screaming monsters that long to not only empty our pocketbooks but to steal our sense of contentment, joy and self-worth.

In her new book Love Your Life, Not Theirs author Rachel Cruze shares her story on this theme.

She tells about the time when she had just returned from a lovely vacation with her husband to South Carolina. All was well… until she noticed some photos in her Instagram feed from a fashion blogger who was proudly sharing her glamorous trip to the Greek Isles.

So she did what at first seemed rather harmless: She began pricing airline tickets to Greece! Makes sense, right?!  When her newlywed budget snapped her back into reality, here’s how she described what she was feeling:

Suddenly our fantastic trip to South Carolina seemed a little dull. I let a total stranger’s exciting vacation steal the joy from the wonderful trip I had just taken with my husband… What was it about her trip that made my trip feel inadequate? I was chasing someone else’s life instead of enjoying my own. I was letting someone I had never met influence not only how I was going to spend my money, but how I was going to live my life.

Yes. Exactly. That. Have you felt that feeling before?

The Big Secret Why You Can’t Get Out of Debt

There’s something really sobering when we get down to the true reasons behind how and why we want to spend our money. Especially when that spending requires that we go into debt.

Oh, we all seem to have excellent, in-the-moment reasoning:

  • It’s an item that will keep our family safer.
  • It’s a vacation to take that would be great for the kids.
  • It’s the kind of gift we feel obligated to give because someone else has given us a gift of similar value.
  • We don’t want our kids to miss out or to feel slighted.
  • We believe that a well-deserved vacation to a tropic island with our spouse will finally change our marriage issues once and for all.

All well-intentioned thinking. But in actuality, what happens when we do spend the money or do take that much-deserved trip?

We do find immediate pleasure, but we also find ourselves feeding a monster that continually seems unsatisfied.

That monster is comparison.

And friends, it is impossible to break free from debt’s clutches without first attacking it at the root of the problem—comparison. 

Even if you eliminate all your debt, if you don’t deal with the inner issue of comparison, your debt-reduction strategies will be just as effective in keeping you financially secure as yo-yo dieting is in maintaining a healthy weight.

Rachel labels comparison as “chasing make believe” in her Love Your Life, Not Theirs book. And she admits that comparison is not a new problem (reminding us that coveting is one of the 10 Commandments!).

However, she hits the nail on the head as to why comparison has such a steady hold on our culture right now. Past generations had to keep up with Joneses whenever they saw them in the neighborhood.

But today, as she so aptly puts it, “We carry the Joneses around in our back pockets.”

Ah, yes. Social media strikes again. She writes:

Our cell phones and social media apps are little windows into the lives of other people. If a friend on the other side of the world bought a new purse today, a picture of it could hit my phone before she even left the store…[social media channels] make it easier than ever for us to wish we were living someone else’s life.

At first, having a “window into other’s lives” doesn’t seem like such a bad thing. That is, until we witness how others’ purchase decisions dictate our daily money decisions and our stress levels.

Simple, innocent social media sharing can easily transform itself into ugly comparison.

After a few minutes on Facebook, it’s easy to wonder why our life doesn’t look like everyone else’s perfect life. If left unchecked, these feelings can slowly eat away at our self-esteem. If we’re not careful, we can easily find ourselves angry and disgusted at our out-of-date kitchen appliances after seeing a friend’s kitchen remodel photos.

Suddenly, without even realizing it, we find ourselves engaging in all kinds of craziness in the name of “must have” and “must do.”

I know these feelings too because I’ve felt them over and over. How about you?

3 Ways to Keep Comparison in Check

Please don’t get me wrong. I’m not here to bash social media or convince you that it’s the root of all evil in the world. I love hearing about all my friends’ adventures and new purchases in my Instagram and Facebook feeds, and post regularly myself.

But, ladies, these three things help me when I find my heart moving toward discontent:

Reality Check. First, I remind myself that this is one slice of this person’s reality. Despite what I may see online, they still have problems and an imperfect life like everyone else.

What do I really want? Do I really want this specific thing, or is my heart longing for the perceived feeling behind it (peace, happiness, relaxation, etc)? What else in my life can I look to as the source for those things?

Budget Re-Focus. I go back to our family’s budget. It may sound strange, but I now view our budget as a blessing and protection over our home. I don’t see our budget as a restriction but instead as a helpful decision-maker as to how we can and cannot safely spend our money right now. There is room for “fun” spending, but it’s within the confines of what will keep us financially safe. So I ask myself, “If I really do see it as a need, does it fit into the master plan?”

A little back story: About 2 years after our minivan incident, my husband and I made a decision to not only pay off that $100,000 debt but to never be in debt again. Our debt-free journey is another story for another time, but suffice it to say that being on a budget kept us on track through that journey and continues to keep us debt free today.

Speaking of budgets, I wanted to give a quick shout out here to Dave Ramsey’s Every Dollar budget tracking app. Every Dollar is an incredible resource for keeping track of your money and keeping you accountable to how your money is spent. We are grateful for this system, and I would highly recommend it whether you’re facing money struggles or not right now!

One Last Word About the Relationship Between Comparison and Debt

I wanted to share one final thought from Rachel Cruze’s excellent book Love Your Life, Not Theirs (which I hope you have a chance to review for yourself!):

Too many people in the world are letting cultural expectations–that is, other people–dictate their own values and family priorities. I’ve been there too. I know it’s an empty and endless battle to try to keep up. You feel like a hamster on a wheel, running as hard and fast as you can, but ultimately going nowhere. Doing that for a lifetime will leave you completely exhausted. Don’t do that to yourself anymore. That doesn’t have to be your life. There is hope; there is an antidote. There is one and only one cure to comparison living, and that is contentment. 

Well said. Let’s deal with these financial issues at their root by honestly examining the balance between comparison and contentment.

FTC Disclosure: This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Ramsey Solutions.

Other Posts on Managing Your Money

Is Money Tight? 10 Ways to Stretch Your Budget

 

3 Ways to Keep Money from Ruining Your Marriage

Are you a homeschool family on a tight budget (like my family is)? It’s still possible to homeschool well, even when money is tight! Here are 18 secrets that can save you money big time! #18 and #6 are my favorite…

On a Budget? 18 Ways to Homeschool On the Cheap

Are you on a tight budget like our family?

Just like a personal family budget, staying on a homeschool budget can be a real challenge.

There’s just so many great curriculums! So many cool field trips and experiences!

And before we know it, we find ourselves spending WAAAAYY more than we said we would.

I’m far from perfect in this area (my weakness is new curriculums!) but I’ve learned a lot over the years, and there are some key concepts that keep our spending down (without sacrificing our homeschool experience).

It is possible to homeschool well… even when money is tight!

Are you a homeschool family on a tight budget (like my family is)? It’s still possible to homeschool well, even when money is tight! Here are 18 secrets that can save you money big time! #18 and #6 are my favorite…

Top 18 Ways to Save Money While Homeschooling

18) Come up with a list of supplies and track your spending.

Before you begin purchasing, make a list of all the supplies you’ll need for the next year. Have a plan before you begin spending. 

While we do spend most of our homeschooling budget in the summer when we are purchasing new curriculum, “homeschooling” is a line item in our family’s monthly budget.

We consider it a “cyclical expense”— one that doesn’t occur every month but still needs to be allocated for in the budget. We put money away for homeschooling (and other “cyclical expenses”) in a savings account and pay ourselves back out of this account whenever we spend money on homeschooling.

This helps us see how much we’ve really spent, and how much money is still available. This simple strategy alone has helped me to say “yes” or “no” to homeschool spending.

17) Get as many books at the library as you can.

The library is an amazing resource for free materials that will keep you on budget!

If you do plan to use library resources in our homeschool, I recommend requesting the materials 2-3 weeks before you need them.

That’s why the only tradeoff with using the library in your homeschool is that it requires a little more planning and organizing. But you can’t beat free books!

16) Frequent used book stores and keep an eye out for upcoming needed materials.

Right outside our local library, there’s a wonderful used book store that the homeschool moms in my area drool over!

I can’t tell you how many treasures I’ve found in there for a dollar or even a quarter!

15) Use what you already have.

What may not have worked for one child may work for another. Or perhaps you may chose to use a something that you just ran out of time for in previous years.

Dust off some older curriculums you may have hanging around to see if they’re a good fit.

14) Borrow curriculum from another homeschooling family.

Do you have a trusted homeschool friend that you can borrow books from? This is a great way to try-before-you buy or to perhaps trade resources with another family.

13) Consider certain books that may be equivalent but may cost less money.

Is there another book or curriculum that can teach the same material, but at a cheaper price? Or maybe you can just focus on one aspect of a topic this year instead of a entire learning concept?

12) Discover free resources available on the internet.

Some of my favorite freebie sites can be found here.

11) Make copies of curriculum to share (only when legal of course!).

Look at the fine print here, but in many cases, publishers allow for you to make copies of a resource as long as its within your own family.

10) Substitute something else for your first choice curriculum.

If you find that a curriculum pushes you over your homeschool budget, ask yourself: Is there something fairly equivalent that’s cheaper; or can I put together my own version from multiple free sources?

9) Purchase used curriculum from other moms via homeschooling re-sell groups.

If you must buy a certain curriculum, see if someone else has the item for sale on a homeschool curriculum re-sale group or from within a local co-op or charter.

8) Get the used or “scratch and dent” version.

Consider purchasing a used copy of a book from Amazon or eBay (when available). Sometimes publishers also have “scratch and dent” type deals on some of their curriculum if you’re willing to live with a slightly imperfect product.

7) Go in as a group.

Often curriculum publishers, book sellers, or field trip destinations are willing to lower their prices if there is a large number of purchasers. Homeschool co-ops or charter organizations often can coordinate these types of purchases.

6) Take advantage of teacher discounts.

Did you know that Michaels, Barnes & Noble and the Apple Store give teacher discounts?

This post lists 90-plus places where you can potentially get a educator discount! And there may be additional local places in your area with this type of program. Hey, it’s definitely worth looking into.

Plus, nearly every large museum or amusement park offers free or highly discounted “educational days” where they offer some sort of educational experience as part of the visit (and also greatly lower the price).

5) If necessary, make concessions in some areas.

Determine which subjects are a higher priority than others (and thus may require specific curriculums), and be willing to invest in those areas (and to come up with lower cost solutions for other subjects).

4) Pray over your choices.

This seems like such a simple thing, but really, I have been amazed over and over as the Lord has shown me a cheaper (and better!) curriculum option when I’ve just taken the time to ask Him.

3) Think on it before you buy it.

Homeschool conventions are wonderful for seeing nearly all the curriculum out there. But oh my goodness… I have for sure made some in-the-moment curriculum choices that (in the long run) did not turn out to be the best ones because I felt pressured (or was caught up in the excitement of the convention).

Personally, I have pledged to not purchase any curriculum at a convention unless I’ve taken the time to research beforehand.

2) Be willing to think outside the box.

Can a new book become a birthday present?  Obviously this won’t work in every situation (“Honey… aren’t you happy that we got you a new math workbook for your birthday?”).

But in some cases a really nice set of classic literature (like this box set of The Chronicles of Narnia ) or a learning game could also be a nice present from Grandma. Or how about if a fun field trip doubles as a family vacation or birthday event?

Our family has different categories in our budget for “gifts,” “birthdays,” and “vacations,” and I’ve used these funds to pay for homeschooling items before if they doubled as both.

And my final tip?

1) Stick to your plan and seek wise accountability.

Self control, right? It’s so easy to get caught up in the “we must have it” game, especially when it comes to something as important as providing a quality educational experience for our kids.

Sometimes we need someone else to help us just say no. That can be a spouse or even a fellow homeschool mom.

However, it’s also true that we need be realistic. If a child desperately needs a curriculum option, it may be worth going over budget (or using money from another area in the budget) to find a new option (obviously that’s up to you and your husband). We’ve had to do this a number of times over the years.

Seek accountability from someone who can help you make these decisions well (and of course, if you are confused, pray for God’s help in making the best choice for both your child and your budget)!

 

Your Turn:

How about you? What are your homeschool budgeting secrets? 

Share them in the comments below!

Due to some recent changes at my husband’s work, our income has dropped and we’ve had to make some big changes to our family budget. We’ve had to learn new ways to budget our money, and remember some old techniques we used when we worked really hard to get out of debt five years ago. It’s not been fun, but it’s reminded us of what’s important and how faithful God is to always provide. Is money tight for your family too? I want to encourage you by what we’re learning.

Is Money Tight? Here’s 10 Ways to Stretch Your Budget

Today I’m sharing something really personal. Due to some recent changes at my husband’s work, our income has dropped and we’ve had to make some big changes to our family budget.

We’ve had to learn new ways to budget our money, and remember some old techniques we used when we worked really hard to get out of debt five years ago.

It’s not been fun, but it’s reminded us of what’s important and how faithful God is to always provide.

Is money tight for your family too? I want to encourage you by what we’re learning.

Due to some recent changes at my husband’s work, our income has dropped and we’ve had to make some big changes to our family budget. We’ve had to learn new ways to budget our money, and remember some old techniques we used when we worked really hard to get out of debt five years ago. It’s not been fun, but it’s reminded us of what’s important and how faithful God is to always provide. Is money tight for your family too? I want to encourage you by what we’re learning.

First we identified our family’s biggest budget busters. For us, that’s food! So in this post I wrote for For the Family, I shared 5 tips for meal planning on a budget, plus 5 other ways to stretch your budget.

I also included 9 encouraging scriptures when money is tight. Because let’s face it, living on a budget isn’t always easy!

Read the rest of the post here on For the Family.

This post is linked up at the Grace & Truth Link-Up.

 

 

Ever thought about selling crafts online? People are successfully doing it everyday (why not you?)! Here's REAL advice and tips from an online marketer (and mom)!

How to Sell Crafts Online (A Great Idea to Make Extra Money!)

You love crafting, and you want to make money selling crafts online, right?

It’s totally possible! In fact, before I became a blogger, I used to sell crafts online! It was a very fun and rewarding business.

However, in order to be successful, there are some important “dos” and “don’ts” that no one will tell you about.

I’m sharing the inside scoop here!

Ever thought about selling crafts online? People are successfully doing it everyday (why not you?)! Here's REAL advice and tips from an online marketer (and mom)!

Once upon a time (before I entered the blogging world) I owned a small online business where I designed custom home decor and sold it on my Etsy shop (and in person).

It was a great creative outlet for me as a mom of lots of little ones. And yes, I helped support my family doing it.

One of my biggest challenges, however, was taking quality photos!

Have you ever tried to get just the right lighting on something?! Even if you can eliminate everything in the background, there’s always some weird shadow somewhere. Ugh!

How do the “professionals” do it? They have a well-paid photographers, fancy cameras and the perfect studio lights–three things completely out of reach for 99% of people!

ShotBox-adHowever, people expect professional, well-lit photography online because, let’s face it–this photo is the only image they have of your beautiful item!

That’s why if you’re selling anything online, you need a Shotbox–an affordable, portable lighting studio that gives you that perfect professional lighting, without having to have a professional camera or professional studio lights!

I didn’t have a Shotbox back when I was selling crafts online. And let me tell you–it would have solved this big dilemma for me!

Shotbox makes professional-quality photography available to anyone. You just place your item inside the Shotbox, turn on the lights and use your cameraphone to take an image.

 

LEARN-MORE-

 

So now you know the importance–and the secret!–to creating killer photos of your items.

Don’t miss these 4 other truths these truths will make or break your success as an online marketer!

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12 Ways to Bust Your Homeschool Budget

Today’s post begins a week-long look at all things curriculum!

I’m going to be sharing about our tried-and-true, all-time top curriculum picks in several different subject categories, along with any great resources we’ve found.

LOGO--Favorite-Homeschool-Curriculum--Ult-PreK-Teaching-Tools--WEB

We’ll be talking about the following topics:

Wow! Totally excited about this!

But first… before we get into any sort of conversation about curriculum, I thought you’d appreciate a fun little twist on a conversation that goes hand-in-hand with talking about curriculum: staying on budget.

Ah, yes… that old taskmaster. Are you guilty of any of these? I know I am!

12-ways-to-bust-your-homeschol-budget--WEB

So without further ado, I give you:

Top Twelve Ways to Spend As Much On Your Homeschool Budget As Possible

12) Remind your kids that they have cooties and aren’t allowed to share books.

11) Never use the library. Ever. (Cooties, remember?)

10) Never take advantage of curriculum bundle sales.

9) Purchase the teacher’s guide for each subject. And all the supplemental guides (in every color). Plus the answer keys from last year’s edition.

8) Tell your friend, “No, I don’t need to borrow your curriculum! Are you silly?”

7) Run the other way when you see a used book store. Those places are lethal.

6) Ignore that big pile of half-used (and unused) curriculum in your hall closet.

5) Never buy those “scratch and dent” versions of your favorite curriculum! Your kids need books without any creases or marks whatsoever (especially since you know they’ll keep them that way all year).

4) Plug your ears when you hear about cheap field trips.

3) Sales and coupons? Bulk discounts? Free shipping? Why in the world would you need those?

2) When walking the floor at a homeschool convention, hand your credit card to the person at each curriculum booth and say, “I’ll take it. All of it.”

1) Never, ever take your kids outside! Talk about a place to get a free education! Yikes!

Hope you enjoyed that little chuckle. And by the way, I excerpted that little list from the brand-new subscriber freebie The Ultimate Resource Kit for Homeschool Moms e-book. Be sure to download it, if you haven’t already.

Come on back tomorrow for our first post in this series: Ultimate Preschool and Kindergarten Teaching Tools!

Here’s another post on how to homeschool on the cheap:

20 Ways to Stay on Your Homeschool Budget--so many great tips and tricks here. Budgeting is key!

and you’ve GOT to check out this–the Dollar Store Back to School Supplies Shopping List printable!

Dollar Tree Back to School Supplies Shopping List. 191 items, divided into 14 categories! What a great resource!