How We’re Supporting Our Family with a Handmade Business on Etsy {And a Weekend Giveaway!}

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Guest post by Melissa Kaiserman

In the spring of 2013, my husband was in his seventh year of a position that had gone from dream job to highly toxic work environment. The stress was getting worse by the week and affecting both him and our family. Despite his best attempts to just focus on doing his job well and not let it get to him, it reached a point where he really believed he was supposed to quit.

While my husband is (thankfully!) not a big spender, he is definitely the Free Spirit while I am the Nerd. I’m the one who knows the budget inside and out, divvies up the cash into spending categories, and pays the bills. So I was trying my best to be supportive and not panic as I analyzed how the finances for our family would be impacted since I was a SAHM with just a little side business that I was doing mostly for fun.

At this point in our marriage, we had been completely out of debt (except for our mortgage) for about five years, which was a major factor that allowed us to even entertain such a drastic change. So for the next few months, we saved the profit from my handmade business as well as our tax return and anything extra from paychecks. After we had accumulated about 3-4 months worth of living expenses, Dave resigned from his job.

He immediately started looking for another position in his field. While he was going through the process of applying and interviewing, he mentioned that I may as well teach him some ways he could help with my business since he was home and had time. So I did, though neither of us had any idea how vital this would turn out to be!

A few weeks after my husband left his job, I received an Etsy convo from a credit union many states away that resulted in an $1800 order! There is no way I could have fulfilled that request without my husband home.

From that point forward, we clearly saw God blessing my business and my shop continuing to grow. But while Dave had made it to the final interview round for three different jobs for which he was highly qualified, he wasn’t offered any of them.

After some initial discouragement, it hit us: Maybe God is closing doors because He wants us to do this together! We had assumed my husband would continue in his field and I would continue to be a SAHM who operated a side business that simply provided extra for Christmas gifts and vacations. Having a family business and working from home seemed like too big and lofty a dream.

For the past 2 1/2 years, we have supported our family of six with a handmade business which, despite the warnings of the pundits, has sold products exclusively on the Etsy platform. My husband gets to work in his field from time to time and keep his skills sharp, and while that only accounts for a small percentage of our yearly income, the opportunities always come at just the right time.

People often express amazement at our story and wonder how we are able to make it work. While there’s no magic formula–and while as Christians we believe the main reason for our success is that we’re doing what God has called us to do–I believe there are three very practical areas that contribute:

1. We are out of debt.

My husband quitting his job was a step of faith, and we couldn’t have taken it with confidence if we had been under the burden of debt. If you have a dream of one day quitting your day job to work from home doing something you love, I strongly encourage you to get “gazelle intense” about eliminating debt!

We have also stayed completely out of debt with our business. In the very beginning, I used cash to pay for a limited amount of supplies until I created some profit and could purchase more, increasing inventory as I went. We’ve never used and don’t even own a business credit card–only debit.

2. We work as a team.

While I am the one who manages pretty much every aspect of the business, my husband does not view any job I need him to do as beneath him. He doesn’t perform any of the sewing, but he completes so many of the intermediary and finishing tasks that I find tedious, freeing me to focus on the areas where I thrive.

The same teamwork principle applies to our home. In addition to being an excellent handyman, Dave washes all of the laundry (and passes it along to our four who fold!), does virtually all of the transporting of children as well as many errands, and is quick to jump on anything he sees that needs to be done around the house.

3. We live frugally and on a budget.

If we didn’t tell our money where to go, our money could easily tell us this won’t work and that my husband needs to return to a traditional job. The truth is, we love our life and want to do this for as long as possible. So for us, it is worth it to make sacrifices and forgo doing and having some things in order for that to happen. It wouldn’t be possible without choosing to be content and having a spending plan.

When I made my first cash envelope system wallet for myself over four years ago, I discovered that ditching the paper envelopes and having a pretty and durable way to organize our cash made living on a budget seem a lot more enjoyable.

MSM collage May15

Enter to Win a $50 Gift Certificate to Our Store!

I would love for you to experience that same feeling I experienced, so I’m giving away five $50 gift certificates to be used on any of our envelope system products and accessories.

Also, through May 9, MoneySavingMom.com readers can receive free shipping on any purchase. Just click “Apply shop coupon code” at checkout and enter MSMMAY15. (Free shipping applies to domestic orders only, but international customers may leave a note at checkout requesting a refund equal to the shipping amount a U.S. customer would save on that order.)

Giveaway ends Saturday, May 9, at 11:59 pm, CST.

Enter the Giveaway

Melissa Kaiserman is a wife, mom, and handmade business owner who designs cash envelope system wallets & accessories that put the beauty in budgeting. She also blogs at A Time for Everything and uses her experience and passion to support and mentor fellow makers at Makery Space.

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How I Simplified Our Home and Became More Content

simplified home

Guest post by Sarah of The Jelly Jars

Over the course of the last year, my husband and I have completely rewritten our life plans, moved away from the city we thought we would retire in, said goodbye to our best friends, gave away 1/3 of our possessions, and downsized our living situation from a 2600 square foot home to a 900 square foot apartment as we pursue this new dream.

The biggest surprise for me in this whole journey has been how much I’ve loved downsizing!

Here is what I have learned in the process:

1. I only own what I love.

In cutting down on our possessions, we asked a lot of questions. Did the item have great value – was it of high quality, an investment that we made? Did the piece have great sentimental worth – were we tied to it because of family history or special memories? Did the item serve a specific purpose – does it serve a necessary function in our home?

If an item met certain criteria, we kept it. If not, it was donated.

2. I don’t need as much as I think I do.

Because of this process of downsizing, I realized I had accumulated so much stuff without even realizing it. Our basement was filled with boxes of decorations and extra clothes and anything I wanted to hold on to “just in case I need it one day.”

But now, without these extra items, I realize that I am still content and still can live a full and joy-filled life because life is not made full by material possessions.

How I Simplified My Life & Became More Content

3. I opened up room in my life for things that mattered.

I am no longer worried about that season’s trends or decorations or the fact that I need a better mail organizer.

My heart is less tied to material possessions and is now more available to the little gifts that I see in our moments and sprinkled throughout our days.

4. I gained perspective.

It’s so easy to compare yourself against advertisements or movies or even your neighbors and friends, thinking you need more and more to keep up. But when I looked at our possessions with a different perspective, I saw how very much we have and that we actually are very well taken care of.

Once I silenced the driving need to keep up with friends or commercials, I have been able to find contentment with what we already have rather than being discontent with what I wish my life looked like.

The process of simplifying helped me to clean out our home yes, but even more so it helped bring about a new way of thinking for us.

Now we are much less apt to buy something without truly evaluating if it is worth it to us or if it is just a purchase to satisfy a short-term desire, and we have found much more contentment through no longer buying into the belief that we always need more.

Sarah is a mountain-loving, dark chocolate-eating, Frank Sinatra-listening, owie-kissing, truth-telling, freelance writer/blogger who seeks out a passionate life with her husband and two kiddos. She writes at The Jelly Jars.

Feeling overwhelmed with managing your home and life?

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6 Ways We’re Keeping Our Grocery Budget Low — Without Using Coupons

6 Ways We're Keeping Our Grocery Budget Low Without Using Coupons

So, I figure it’s high time I let you in on something that’s changed for us this past year. Some of you have probably already guessed this was the case. Some of you might be shocked and disappointed.

But regardless, I need to come clean about it. Because I don’t want you to assume something is the case when it isn’t.

So here’s the truth: I’ve basically not clipped or used any coupons on groceries this past year.

Nope. Nada. Zilch.

I had slowly been easing out of “extreme couponing” the past few years as life picked up its pace, we baby-stepped our way to fewer processed foods, and I fell madly in love with Aldi.

Then we moved to TN and lost our wonderful full-time assistant/babysitter. I had every intention of getting back into couponing, but with all of the transition and processing involved in moving + writing another book, Jesse ended up taking over most of the grocery shopping and cooking for us.

I would have never seen my husband as someone who would rock out as a chef (when we got married, I’m not even sure that he knew how to make toast!), but the guy has taken to the kitchen like white on rice.

In fact, he now runs circles around me when it comes to recipes. He loves experimenting with new ingredients and spices and he finds great delight in cooking things that require many pans and steps… which is the complete opposite of me!

6 Ways We're Keeping Our Grocery Budget Low

As a result, we more than doubled our grocery budget and we eat much healthier. However, we’ve still found many ways to keep our grocery budget relatively low without using coupons and while eating a diet comprised of lots of quality, whole foods.

I’ve been surprised and excited that we’re able to eat very healthfully for our family of 5 and only spend an average of $100 to $120 per week.

Here’s what’s working for us:

1. Shop at Aldi

I know I’ve sung the praises of Aldi over and over again, but I cannot help but include them on this list. When Jesse first started doing the shopping, I encouraged him to try doing most of the shopping at Aldi and then just shopping at Kroger for anything he couldn’t get at Aldi.

It took a few weeks of suggesting it, but he finally tried it. And he came home all stoked exclaiming, “I saved SO much money by shopping at Aldi!”

He’s now a diehard Aldi fan. Which is just one more reason to love him all the more. :)

6 Ways We're Saving Money on Groceries Without Using Coupons

Aldi has introduced so many new features and products in the last few years, including gluten-free foods, organic foods, and more. If you have an Aldi nearby, I cannot stress enough how much you need to go check them out. Just do it and maybe soon you’ll be singing their praises along with us!

2. Keep It Simple

While Jesse continues to add in new recipes to our weekly rotation, we still keep a lot of things very simple.

Breakfast is usually oatmeal, bacon & eggs, or cereal. Lunch is often sandwiches or leftovers. Dinner is usually just a main dish and veggies of some sort. Sometimes, we’ll throw in a side of fruit or sweet potatoes, too, but we’re good with just having a few options at dinner time. It saves time and money — and makes for less food waste.

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3. Eat Up Your Leftovers

Speaking of food waste, one thing we work hard to do is to use up leftovers or to re-use leftovers in a creative fashion. We’ll often have leftovers for lunch and, if there are quite a few different leftovers, we’ll serve a Leftover Smorgasbord for dinner one night.

Our philosophy: why make new food when you have food still in the fridge waiting to be used up? Save yourself cooking time and money and eat that instead. :)

4. Make Things From Scratch

We don’t buy many boxed or canned foods these days. We slowed weaned ourselves off of them over the past few years and now we not only love homemade so much more, it also saves us money.

Plus, since we keep our means simple and Jesse and I both help out with the kitchen/cooking, it really doesn’t take a lot of extra time to make things from scratch.

6 Ways We Keep Our Grocery Budget Low

5. Cook With Inexpensive Ingredients

As I mentioned earlier, we keep food pretty simple. We do buy higher quality ingredients, but we stick to recipes that use (mostly!) inexpensive ingredients — and mostly ones that can be purchased from Aldi.

We eat a lot of eggs, sweet potatoes, oats, fruits and veggies that are in season, beans, chicken, and some beef and pork. Those are the basic staples that many of our meals include. Jesse does branch out and try new recipes, but he usually only buys a few new ingredients every week. The rest of the ingredients are things we may already have on hand or things that we routinely buy at Aldi.

6 Ways to Cut Your Grocery Bill

6. Pay for Specialty Foods With Swagbucks

We do buy a few specialty ingredients — such as protein powder, Trim-Healthy-Mama approved sweeteners, and olive oil — and we get these with Amazon using gift cards earned through Swagbucks. It’s a great way to be able to afford a few of those high-quality ingredients we love to use in recipes.

6 Ways We're Keeping Our Grocery Budget Low Without Using Coupons

How do YOU keep your grocery budget low?

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How a Family of 4 Happily Lives in 700 Sq. Ft. Home

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After I posted the guest post on Why I Like My Smaller House, Roni left a comment talking about how their family of 4 lives in a 650-square-foot home. I was intrigued and asked if she’d do a post on it sometime.

I loved the post she put together giving us a very thorough walk-through of their small home and how they make it work. It’s inspiring and if you are currently living in a small space or you are thinking of downsizing to a smaller space, be sure to read it here.

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5 Blessings That Have Come From a Tight Budget

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Guest post from Rachel of The Purposeful Wife

Forced frugality often feels like a bad thing. Making cutbacks, adhering to a tight grocery budget, and preparing all of your meals at home isn’t always fun.

Yet many blessings accompany frugal living. I’ve learned so much as my husband and I have tried to get out of debt and grow our savings. Here are just a few of the lessons gleaned:

1. Often the frugal choice is healthier.

Most of the “green” changes I’ve made in our home were in an effort to save money. Making my own yogurt, cleaning supplies, and pantry staples are easier on my wallet and healthier for my family.

Last year I started washing my face with the Oil Cleansing Method. While it is all-natural and feels super luxurious, it also costs mere pennies to make. Frugality for the win!

2. Frugality births creativity.

I knit scrubbies for washing our dishes instead of buying sponges. I can prepare rice and beans in an infinite number of ways. I’ve scored fabulous finds at the thrift store. I make most of our Christmas gifts.

All of these endeavors have expanded my homemaking and crafting abilities.

3. Frugality curbs wastefulness.

My fridge is usually pretty bare, by choice. Each week I purchase only the fresh ingredients needed for my meal plan, and very little of our food gets thrown out. We also wear our clothing until it is worn out, and then cut it up for cleaning rags or crafts.

4. Frugality shapes character.

Thinking so much about how I spend our money, always being on the hunt for a new DIY project, and frequently trying to trim our budget has made me mindful.

I’m more disciplined and self-controlled than I used to be — though I still have room to grow!

5. Frugality can be the training ground of contentment.

It is easy to think wistfully over what we don’t have. But as Crystal recently pointed out, we’re a lot wealthier than we realize. Not having everything we want, exactly when we want it can teach us to rely on God for our needs, and to be thankful for what we have. We choose how to respond to our circumstances: will we grow bitter and resentful, or learn to be content?

My husband and I often discuss how if we’d started marriage with a large income, we probably would have spent recklessly and taken it for granted. Not having it all right away has been one of our biggest blessings.

If the Lord hasn’t given it to us, clearly we do not need it. With greater income comes greater responsibility. Today’s limited finances are the training grounds of our financial future.

Even if our income tripled tomorrow, I would still shop at Aldi, meal plan religiously, and collect Swagbucks. These are some of the things I’ve grown to appreciate on our frugal journey, and I wouldn’t trade them!

Rachel has been married to her husband Niall for 6 and a half years. They live with their two children in frigid Northeast Pennsylvania, where she likes to drink tea, read lots of good books, and dabble in blogging. She writes about faith, homemaking, motherhood, and marriage at The Purposeful Wife.

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