A Peek Into Our 12-Day Road Trip

Peek Into Week

It feels like we were on a road trip the whole month of August. Truthfully, it was only 12 days… but that’s a long time to be on the road! And it came right after a 5-day roadtrip to North Carolina and South Carolina, so that made it feel longer than it was, I think.

We’re not quite finished with road-tripping, because we’re headed back to South Carolina next week. I was planning to fly there for a few days to spend time with a few of my close friends, but as we looked at the map and realized it was well within an easy day’s driving distance, Jesse suggested we just drive and he’d take the kids sight-seeing during the days I was with my friends.

It’s weird because we used to not really be a road trip kind of family at all. But I think as our kiddos have gotten older and now that Jesse and I are both self-employed and can work anywhere, we’re probably going to become more and more of a road-tripping family.

Our kids love visiting new areas and studying the history, we can homeschool on the road (our core curriculum this year is the Monarch Online Homeschool Curriculum for the girls and LIFEPAC Kindergarten for Silas), and we’ve learned how to travel very inexpensively by using hotel points accrued through my business travel (we always sign up for the rewards programs for everywhere we stay and it’s amazing how quickly the points have built up this past year!), gift cards earned through Swagbucks (in big part to the many of you who have signed up through my referral link! Thank you!), and looking for the best deals in whatever area we’re going to be traveling to.

Peek Into Week

The first stop in our 12-day trip was to spend the week with my entire extended family on Bull Shoals Lake. This is a yearly tradition that we’ve had even before I was married.

Our kids had a blast being with all their cousins on my side of the family. It’s so fun to see them all growing up!

Peek Into Week

The highlight for me of our time at the lake was going jet-skiing with my husband. It’s been a big year for us as a family and there have been many hard moments in the midst of some pretty big life changes, and I’m so grateful that our marriage has stayed strong through it. Truly, I love my man so much more than I did than when I married him 11 years ago… and I didn’t think that was possible.

{Note: That does not mean that there haven’t been many tense moments and harsh words and even all out arguments. Trust me, we’ve had more arguments and fights in the past three months than we’ve probably had in our whole married life, but we’re truly growing together instead of apart. And I’m so very grateful for that. Our commitment these five things have been key to helping our marriage stay strong in the middle of the storms of life these past few months.}

Peek Into Week

Another wonderful memory of the trip was when my older sister (Brigette), my younger sister (Gretchen), and I somehow managed to all fit on the tube at the same time for a wild tube ride courtesy of Dad, the boat driver. There was much laughter, squealing, and holding on for dear life, but we had a blast! :)

Peek Into Week

After our time at Bull Shoals Lake, we headed for a day and a half in Springfield, MO to take a breather. And trust me, when I say “breather”, I mean that quite literally.

We slept, we watched movies, I worked on my next book some, and we just totally took it easy for a day and a half. We’ve found our kids need some “down” days on longer vacations otherwise it’s just too tiring for them and then that turns into a cranky situation… for kids and parents alike. ;)

We then went and met up with Jesse’s extended family in Branson, MO. Growing up, we went to Silver Dollar City just about every single year from the time I was a toddler. We have so many, many wonderful memories there and we’ve tried to take our kids there every year to carry on the tradition of my childhood.

After going to Disney World for the first time earlier this year, I realized that, for me, Silver Dollar City is one of my “happiest places on earth.” {Yes, I know, sorry Disney. You don’t hold a candle to Silver Dollar City, in my humble opinion.}

Peek Into Week

Word to the wise: if a ride at Silver Dollar City warns you that you will get bathtub wet, they aren’t kidding. We had so much fun, so it was worth being sopping wet.

{I was so soaked, I went in the restroom, and wrung my clothes out. I probably wrung out at least a few cups of water. I kid you not.}

Peek Into Week

Our last stop in Missouri: Bass Pro Shops… One of the boys’ favorite stores in existence. I’m pretty sure they could spend hours in there and never run out of things to look at. :)

As for me, I chose to have a cheerful attitude and go along with it even though it’s one of my least favorite stores. And it ended up being a fun family outing!

Peek Into Week

And this is my favorite picture of the whole trip. Why? Because it represents me punching my fears and “I can’ts” right smack dab in face. And it gives me courage to continue to showing up and living with wholehearted courage. You can read the story behind this picture here, in case you missed it.

How have the past two weeks gone for you? Did anything interesting or exciting happen at your house?

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Gretchen’s Walgreens Shopping Trip: Spent $6.85 out of pocket for $34 worth of products

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Walgreens Shopping Trip

Transaction #1

1 Almay Eye Shadow – $5.99 (Buy 1, Get $3 Register Rewards)
Used $4/1 coupon from the 8/10 SmartSource insert

1 Walgreens Perfection Tampons – $1.49 (Buy 1, Get $1.50 Register Rewards)

Total: $3.48, Received $4.50 Register Rewards

Transaction #2

1 Almay Mascara – $5.99 (Buy 1, Get $3 Register Rewards)
Used $4/1 coupon from the 8/10 SmartSource insert

1 (4 pk) Kid’s Plastic Bowls – Marked down to $0.50 (filler item)

Used $1.50 Register Rewards from Transaction #1

Total: $0.99, Received $3 Register Rewards

Transaction #3

We really needed diapers so I decided to use the rest of my Register Rewards to get them inexpensively.

1 Huggies Diapers – $9

2 Wexford Eraser Caps – $0.19 each with in-ad coupon

Used $6 Register Rewards from Transactions #1 & #2

Redeemed 1,000 points (like $1)

Total: $2.38

Total for all transactions before coupons, sales and Register Rewards: $34.14

Total for all transactions after coupons, sales and Register Rewards: $6.85

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We Paid Cash: A New Patio

We paid cash!

A testimony from Julie from The Family CEO

When we bought our house 13 years ago, one of the things we liked best about it was the patio off the dining room. We loved the shape of the patio, the curved steps leading down to it, and the fact that it allowed us to enjoy our private back yard with a tree line running the length of it.

Fast forward ten years or so, and that same patio was shifting and settling and becoming less and less enjoyable, even a little bit dangerous.

We nursed the patio through another summer or two because we wanted to pay for the improvements in cash. Eventually we had the money to tear out the old patio and put in a new one without using any debt. We kept the same shape of the patio and the curved steps we loved. But we made it larger and including a seating wall and some outdoor lighting.

Now we’re enjoying not only the new patio, but the satisfaction of knowing that it was paid for in cash.

Here’s what helped us pull it off:

1. We’ve paid off a lot of debt.

Getting rid of a couple of car payments, some credit card balances, and a home equity loan in the last five years or so has meant that more of our cash flow each month is ours to keep. In the time leading up to the new patio construction, we were able to add to our savings most months and also set aside a bonus or two, which would have normally been applied to debt.

2. We delayed gratification.

We weren’t able to replace the patio at the first sign of an unsettled brick. We had to live through a few years of settling and even some exposed rebar before we felt ready to take on the expense of replacement.

3. We scaled back our expectations.

Our original plan was to build a deck off the kitchen that wrapped around the house and met up with the new patio off the dining room. We got several bids on that and realized that the cost of doing that – along with an easement complication – meant that plan wasn’t in the cards.

We adjusted our plan to include only the new patio off the dining room, with some terraced steps leading down to the lower part of the yard. It’s not quite what we had envisioned, but it’s still a lovely space. And we may someday do the deck in a scaled back “phase 2″.

new patio


Julie is a freelance writer and blogger specializing in personal finance and lifestyle topics. She blogs at The Family CEO.

Have you saved up and paid cash for something — large or small? Submit your story for possible publication here.

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Does it cost $245,340 to raise a child?

I was asked by a news outlet today if I would share some commentary around this recent report from the USDA on how much it costs to raise a child. Here’s the blurb on it from The Boston Globe:

A message for new parents: Get ready for sticker shock.

A child born in 2013 will cost a middle-income American family an average of $245,340 until he or she reaches age 18. And it’s more in the Northeast, roughly $282,480, according to a report out Monday.

The cost does not include college, or expenses if a child lives at home after age 17.

Those costs that are included — food, housing, child care, and education — rose 1.8 percent over the previous year, the Agriculture Department report said. Adjusting for projected inflation, a child born last year could cost a middle-income family an average of $304,480, the report added.

In 1960, the first year the report was issued, a middle-income family could spend about $25,230, equivalent to $198,560 in 2013 dollars, to raise a child. Housing costs are the greatest child-rearing expense, as they were in the 1960s, but current-day costs like child care were negligible back then. Housing expenses made up roughly 30 percent of the total cost of raising a child.

I found the prices fascinating and enjoyed getting to answer some questions on how to cut costs for this particular media piece. (I’ll let you know if and when it goes live — they may or may not use any of my commentary, but regardless, it was a great exercise to think through.)

What do YOU think? Does it cost $245,340 or more to raise a child to age 17? Have you ever calculated how much you’re spending on raising your kids? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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