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″.

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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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8 Ways to Use Your Garden Surplus

garden surplus

Guest post from of OneThingAlone.com

Are you drowning in produce?

Right about now, vegetable gardens around the country are bringing in their harvest. And if you’re a gardener, you probably have more cucumbers, zucchini, and tomatoes than you know what to do with.

Letting them go to waste is a shame, but exactly how many ways can you cook zucchini before you hear collective groans at the dinner table? With a little creativity, you can both save money and make others happy with your garden surplus:

1. Save it for later.

You don’t have to eat everything now, you know. Many veggies freeze well if blanched first.

Simply drop a handful of veggies (carrots, green beans, peas) into boiling water, boil for 30-60 seconds, and then “shock” them ice water to stop the cooking process. Drain excess water and freeze in zip-lock bags. They should keep until the next harvest and will come in handy mid-winter.

You can also save spices like oregano and basil by placing them in an ice cube tray and covering them in olive oil. Once frozen, you can pop them out and store in a freezer-safe gallon-sized bag.

Fruit can be flash-frozen on a cookie sheet for 15 minutes and then stored in freezer bags for yummy smoothies, muffins, or healthy snacks throughout the year.

2. Make convenience items.

With just a bit of work, raw produce can become the base for many quick dinners. Use tomatoes to make a few batches of pizza sauce, tomato juice, or spaghetti sauce. Peppers can be sliced and bagged with onions for a fajita kit. Berries make delicious jams and great Christmas presents.

Veggies can also be used in lasagna, pre-made pizza toppings, and kebab kits. Simple, healthy, and money-savvy.

3. Bring them to work.

Obviously, not everyone has a vegetable garden in their backyard. While you may be up to your ears in cucumbers, others may have cukes on their shopping list. Be generous with what you have and make someone’s day.

Note: if you leave cabbage in the break room, check to make sure it’s gone by the end of the day so you don’t come back to a stench.

4. Invite friends into your garden.

I love bringing friends into my garden and letting them pick whatever they want for dinner that week. Nothing says friend like free food, right?

I get rid of extra veggies and they get dinner on the table with fresh, local, and organic produce.

5. Make a stir-fry or stew with remnants.

If all you have is a handful of peas or a small bowl of green beans, combine them all together for a quick stir-fry. Or throw them all in a pot, add some onions, seasonings and sausage, and make a stew!

Bonus: you can freeze half of the recipe for a later time when you don’t feel like cooking or when eating out tempts your wallet.

6. Double up and send it out

Whatever you’re cooking, make a double batch and surprise a friend with dinner. Whether it’s a new mama, a friend with sick kiddos, or your new neighbors, everyone can use a cooking-free night.

7. Try a new recipe

Whenever there’s a particular veggie that overproduces, try searching Pinterest for yummy recipes, print them all out, and have them handy to reference when the basket is full.

According to Google, there are 30,000,000 zucchini recipes out there, just waiting for you to give them a try. Who knew that zucchini fries, zucchini tortellini soup, and chocolate zucchini soup could taste so good?

8. “Auction” it online

Everyone likes free. Give your local Facebook friends something to smile about by “auctioning” off your produce surplus to the funniest comment or the most embarrassing mommy moment.

Create your own giveaway and make someone’s day, or offer it in exchange for babysitting, lawn services, or help with a freezer-cooking day. It’s a win-win either way.

With a bit of creativity and effort, your low-hanging veggies can save money, make smiles, and brighten days.

Asheritah is married to her high school sweetheart, Flaviu, and together with their daughter, Carissa, they make their home in Ohio. She blogs at OneThingAlone.com about the One Thing that makes laundry piles and midnight cries worth every second: walking with Jesus. 

photo source

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We Paid Cash: A Cross-Country Move

We paid cash!A testimony from Laura

My husband was getting ready to graduate from college when we decided to move our family of four from Southern Oregon, back to our home state of Colorado — a 1,000 mile move!

Since we had been living on a college-student-sized budget, we didn’t have a lot of money to spend on moving, but we were committed to doing it debt-free.

I went to a do-it-yourself moving company to get estimates, and found that to move all our stuff would cost around $2,500, including gas and lodging. But if we chose to pare down and move our stuff in a trailer that we could haul, we could move for less than $1,000, including gas and lodging.

The largest trailer we could rent from this company was 6×12. Yes, that is six feet by twelve feet (the inside of the trailer is just 11.7 x 5.5, don’t ask me how I know that)!

Since we had been living on a very tight budget, nearly all our belongings had been purchased used and they were looking quite used. We considered that the amount it would cost to move everything was not equal to the value of our belongings, and that if we chose not to move those items (and get rid of anything we weren’t in love with), we could fit into the trailer. Besides, if the Oregon trail pioneers could move a household in a covered wagon, then surely we had no excuse!

Once we decided to move, we had a month-and-a-half before the big day. Here is what we did:

I dug through every room in the house and ruthlessly purged. I kept only the items that we absolutely used and wanted, and everything else was either listed on Craigslist or went in a garage sale pile.

I listed our furniture and nicer items on Craigslist.

Then we had 3 garage sales. At the end of these three sales, we had sold almost everything we wanted to eliminate.

Between Craigslist and the garage sales, we earned $1300!

Then came moving day. When my husband went to pick up the trailer, the trailer wasn’t ready on time, so we got $50 refunded to us. What a great way to kick off our money-saving adventure.

I packed breakfast, lunch, and dinner food in a cooler to save money on restaurants, and then we camped one of the nights.

By the time we paid for the trailer, gas, food, lodging, and even a visit to a zoo along the way, we only spent $900 on our move. That meant we had a whole $400 to get us started in our new home.

Even though it was challenging to eliminate so many of our possessions, we have what we need to get started. And though we will need to spend money to replace items we originally sold, I am confident that we will find a debt-free way to do this as well!

moving

Laura Coble blogs over at Short and Sweet Moments and shares her journey as a mom, wife, and woman learning to stress-less and live in God’s grace. She is a mom to two boys and wife to her best friend. Her move taught her a lot about minimalist living and practicing Eccl 5:15 which says “We all come to the end of our lives as naked and empty-handed as on the day we were born. We can’t take our riches with us”.

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

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PSST!! Sign up to earn money promoting our Crazy, Can’t Miss Sale next week!

Grocery University Sale

I’ve got some pretty exciting news to share with you all tonight. My team and I have been working hard on a project for a number of months and we can finally let the cat out of the bag!

One of my goals as a blogger is to offer really practical tools and tactics to help you cut your grocery bill. Which is why I’m thrilled to let you know that we are now offering the Grocery University course by Carrie Isaac.

Carrie is a long-time friend of mine (her husband is actually my brother-in-law’s cousin!) and she’s been a true inspiration to me in so many areas — especially in the area of keeping your grocery budget low!

A few years ago, Carrie produced Grocery University and has since sold thousands of copies of this course and inspired countless people to cut their grocery budgets! When I found out that Carrie was planning to discontinue selling Grocery University because her plate was too full, I approached her and asked if we could buy the rights to the course.

We’re so excited to have the opportunity to now sell this course as part of the MoneySavingMom.com product line. We’ve spent the last few months updating and tweaking the course handbook a bit to match our branding, but the information is still the same valuable information Carrie put together in 2010. You can read all about Grocery University here.

Sign Up For Our Affiliate Program & Earn 50% Of All Sales!

If you’re a blogger or someone who loves to share deals with others via email or social media, we’d LOVE to have you on board as one of our affiliates. You can earn 50% commissions on all sales made through your referral link.

But that’s not all!

We’re re-launching Grocery University next Tuesday (August 19, 2014) with a crazy, can’t miss, one-day-only sale. We expect that this sale will be a HUGE success for our affiliates and — just to make things even more exciting — we’ll be offering 60% commissions on all affiliate sales made on August 19, 2014.

Go here to sign up for the Grocery University affiliate program (it’s free). After you sign up, you’ll have access to your referral link and graphics and everything you’ll need to promote Grocery University to your readers and friends.

And then get ready to promote this sale and (hopefully!) earn some great affiliate income.

P.S. If you’re new to affiliate marketing, be sure to read this post on what affiliate marketing is and 5 ways to maximize your success with affiliate marketing. You can also download my free ebook on How to Make Money Blogging.

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Get a behind-the-scenes look at my blogging processes

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I was honored to be interviewed by iBlog Magazine recently about blogging, online marketing, and what I’ve learned from this crazy and wild adventure I’ve been on as a blogger for the past almost 10 years.

In this interview, I share a behind-the-scenes look at some of my blogging processes, how I’ve grown my team (and some key advice for those of you who are thinking of hiring a virtual assistant), my Pinterest strategy and how much time I invest in it on a daily basis, the platform I’m currently experiencing with, plus a number of lessons I’ve learned the hard way as a blogger.

If you are a blogger, an online entrepreneur, or just want to know more about the behind-the-scenes of MoneySavingMom.com, I think you’ll enjoy watching this interview. Head over here to view it.

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