“I need to stop learning and start doing!”

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The following is a testimony from Evangeline that I thought many of you would find encouraging:

Thank you for your blog. I’ve been following it for years, and as a young mama of 3 littles, your posts have taught me, sharpened me, and most of all encouraged me when I was feeling overwhelmed. Thank you. You have been such a friend and mentor to me! :)

Today, I put the kids down for a nap and checked what you posted for the day, as I often do. But then I realized something important. I needed to stop learning and start doing.

Thanks to you, I KNOW the importance of routine, of saving money, of stopping and taking the special time with my kids, of doing a load a day all the way through and so much more. But knowing isn’t the final step! I need to get to the doing!

Sometimes I’m tempted to just read how great your goals are and not set my own. To see you tackle your laundry pile while my grows as I sit behind the computer. I applaud you grabbing life by the horns, but my dreams and visions just stay on the back burner.

Just wanted to write this because I feel like many of your readers may be in the same place. There are many people daily discovering your blog that have a lot to learn. But I feel that more than them, there are many of us long-time readers that KNOW a lot, have learned a lot and it’s time to roll up our sleeves and put it into practice!

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3 Things I Learned After a Year of Being Debt Free

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Guest post by Lydia of Frugal, Debt Free Life

For many years, I felt like being debt free was the impossible dream. And then it happened. In February 2014, my husband and I were able to declare ourselves a debt-free family.

We had trampled down a mound of credit card bills and gotten out from under an avalanche of student loans.

In the year since we became debt free I have learned so much. Here are three lessons:

1. Budgeting doesn’t stop just because the debt is gone.

For so long, it felt like we were walking around with a backpack full of bricks. Once the debt was gone, we were able to take off that backpack and breathe for the first time in years.

But it didn’t take long to realize that savings and frugal living don’t stop once you pay off that debt. If you’re not careful and you don’t live with intention, you will fall back into the older patterns that got you in debt in the first place.

2. You still need to set goals.

For months and months, our number one goal was to get out of debt. Once we achieved that, we needed a new goal.

Without a purpose to work toward, you will stagnate. Without a purpose, it is difficult to stay motivated or even want to budget to begin with.

Our new goal became to purchase a home. When that goal was achieved, our new goal became to pay off that house early.

3. You are allowed to splurge responsibly.

Because we had been in debt-paying mode for so long, it became difficult to switch that mode off and allow ourselves to have some fun.

When the opportunity arose to take our children to see a life-sized Thomas the Train in a town a few hours from us, we balked. After years of holding onto every dollar so tight, it felt like too much money to spend. But we looked at our budget, saw we had the extra money to go, and decided to treat our family to a rare outing.

It’s okay to have fun and spend money responsibly and that’s not something to feel guilty about.

There are few feelings greater than being debt free. That feeling is an excellent motivator, why not let it carry you into other parts of your financial life?

Lydia Senn is a wife and blogger. She lives on a growing homestead with her bearded husband and two energetic boys. She loves Jesus and coffee.

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If Our To-DO List Was a To-BE List

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Guest post from Lisa of True and Faithful

I have a confession. I’m not an organized, work down the list kind of gal.

I’m the second-born child and I’m pretty sure my older sister got every Type-A gene in our family. The hand-me-downs from her boys are spotless, birthday cards arrive early and she has Christmas presents bought and wrapped by Thanksgiving. (Best of all, she never makes her Type-B sister feel bad!)

While I’m learning routines to organize my time and house, my to-do lists and I still struggle on many days. As I added to my to-do list today, I thought, you know what I really want? I want to make a to-BE list.

What if my days were governed by a to-BE list rather than a to-DO list? I began to imagine what that list would look like.

To BE present.

One of the things I like least about a busy schedule is that it keeps me from savoring moments with my kids. I say “hurry” too often and brush past the day’s simple treasures with my children.

I want to soak in Annalise’s expressions as she shows me the insect she found outside. I want to pause my agenda and listen to my college girl’s heart when she calls. I want to forever imprint the scene of boys playing basketball barefoot on the driveway.

To BE content.

Oh how this would change my days. To be satisfied, not striving. To be content in this house with its quirks and flaws and in this season right now.

To be at peace with the kind of mom I am rather than wishing I was the fun mom, the energetic mom, the crafty mom, or the (imaginary) mom that has it all together.

To BE kind.

How about a day where one of my chief goals is to be kind to every person I deal with? Those in my house, first of all.

To instruct and discipline in kindness looks much different than instructing and disciplining when it affects me and my tasks.

My to-BE list would include being kind to the cashier who mixes up my order and patient with my elderly neighbor’s conversation.

To BE grateful.

How different my days would look through the lens of thankfulness. When picking up books or shoes left out, I want to be thankful for curious and healthy kids rather than irritable at the mess.

Instead of begrudging the scratches on my stovetop, I want to be grateful for a full pantry and working kitchen.

To BE brave.

Some tasks on my to-do list never get done not because of time, but because I’m scared to tackle them. Maybe it’s a hard phone call or financial decision. Or that big, hairy audacious goal that seems overwhelming.

I want courage to do the hard things, to get off go, and to take manageable steps today toward those big goals.

What about you?

What would be on your to-BE list?

Lisa Appelo is a single mom to 7 and recent widow writing about the faithfulness of God and the crazy good lessons she’s learning everyday at True and Faithful.

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The Real Reason For My Clutter

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Guest post from Ashley of Lies About Parenting

Hi, I’m Mom. Otherwise known as the Finder Of Stuff.

We could never find anything, because clutter was a way of life. If there was an empty spot in my house, we found a way to fill it.

I had enough cleaning supplies to run the hospital’s sanitation program. Not-quite-right beauty products piled under every bathroom sink. Closets vomiting clothes, shoes, and bags. My garage was piled high with stuff, the kitchen full of outdated spices, and there was an endless cycle of always-dirty laundry.

My partner is a we-might-need-it-one-day kind of person, and I’m a this-is-old-and-special kind of girl. Our clutter just got worse with the birth of our daughter.

Sunday afternoons were often spent in the garage (or closet) sorting, stacking, and trying to create some order. Pinterest, Real Simple, and Martha Stewart never had a solution to my problem of having too much stuff.

I bought so many storage systems, that I’m still waiting for my thank-you note from The Container Store stockholders.

I found myself organizing my organizing. Like a teenager who can’t decide between two identical pairs of jeans, I was stuck, sorting through options that were not going to change.

Sick and tired of the last-minute hunts that made me feel resentful towards my family, disappointed in myself, and unhappy with my home, I read a book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, by Marie Kondo, that solved my clutter problem with one simple explanation.

Guilt is why I have clutter.

Why was I keeping things I didn’t love, use, or need? The answer was guilt, whether from the expense, a gift, or a poorly executed plan (Pilates reformer, anyone?).

Guilt was making me stockpile my possessions.

Clothes that never fit cost money, gifts from loved ones were supposed to be special, and family heirlooms were meant to be cherished.

I took a deep breath, and just let go.

It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. 90% of my closet is gone, and I’m left with what I love (and wore most of the time, anyway). A handful of favorite books remain, surplus furniture is out, and holiday decorations got to stay only if they made me smile.

Decluttering worked this time, and my partner is now working through the decluttering, and de-guilting, process.

A surprising benefit is we clean less, because there’s less to clean.

By focusing on decluttering my belongings, I now breath happy, dust-free air. Try it. Just let it go, and you won’t be disappointed.

Ashley loves honest talk about parenting and life choices. She blogs about the good, the bad, and the funny at Lies About Parenting. She is known for debunking popular parenting advice that just doesn’t work, and is a passionate believer that clean homes create clean minds. She’ll consider herself a parenting success if she can, somehow, manage to raise kind and compassionate kids.

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Reader Tip: How to Get Free Toys As a Toy Tester

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Kyle from The Penny Hoarder sent in the following tip:

Toys are expensive, right? Smart parents use coupons to help offset the cost of those must-have toys, but what if there was a way to get some of the newest and best toys for free?

There is, and it’s probably one you haven’t tried: sign your child up to be a toy tester.

How Toy Testing Works:

Toy testing is pretty simple. A company sends you a toy, your child plays with it, and then you provide a review, complete a survey, or otherwise let the company know how your child enjoyed the toy.

Sometimes, toy companies hold lab-style tests, where children are invited to come to a company location and play with toys there.

Interested?

Here are some tips to get your child on that toy-tester list.

Check out your favorite toy companies’ Facebook pages and social media accounts to see if they offer toy testing opportunities. Here are a few good accounts to follow:

  1. Mattel Imagination Center Facebook Page
  2. Step2 Facebook Page
  3. Mega Bloks Facebook Page
  4. Discovery Toys Facebook Page

You can also contact companies directly to ask about their toy testing opportunities. When we reached out to Fisher-Price, for example, we learned that you can find out about toy testing opportunities for both Fisher-Price and Mattel products by signing up for their Family Club.

You probably can’t expect toy testing to take the place of all of your toy shopping, but getting a bonus toy now and then is fun, and it’s a great way to save some money.

Have you ever tried toy testing? Do you have advice for other parents?

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4 Tips to Avoid Food Waste

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Guest post from Abigail of They’re Not Our Goats

I thought I was pretty good at avoiding food waste, until I cleaned out my fridge a couple weeks ago.

Ugh. Do I really have a science experiment growing on the back of the bottom shelf?, I thought to myself. Why yes, yes I did. I found myself disgusted with the amount of food I had let slide past my attention.

While it was a disheartening cleaning session, I finished with renewed vigor to cut back my waste — and hey, maybe save a few bucks at the same time!

Is food waste a problem in your house too? Here’s how you and I can put less food in the garbage and more in our bellies.

1. Keep stock of what you’ve got.

Knowing what you have on hand is half the battle. Consider the following:

  • Keep leftovers dated and visible so you always use the oldest food first.
  • Make an inventory of your freezer/pantry.
  • Shop your inventory regularly so you don’t let usable food go by the wayside.

2. Use & re-purpose leftovers.

Don’t dispose of perfectly edible food. An untouched kid’s plate should be saved rather than tossed, and the bottom of the pot can be given new life.

  • Eat leftovers for lunch instead of eating out or buying sandwich fixings.
  • Try your hand at “planned-over” meals — ones in which you purposefully use the leftovers from your first meal to serve as the base for the second.
  • Turn leftover veggies and meat into soups, stews, casseroles, omelettes, and stir fries. A half cup of steamed broccoli is a welcome addition to the breakfast frittata, and taco meat can easily be thrown into a pot of chili. Be creative!

3. Preserve the extras.

  • Use ready-to-expire fruit for smoothies, breads, muffins, popsicles, and juice.
  • Freeze extra meat, veggies, and fruit before they reaches their life expectancy.
  • Learn how to preserve extra produce while it’s in season (and on sale) by water bath canning, pressure canning, or dehydrating.

4. Put your scraps to work.

  • Throw your coffee grounds, apple cores, washed eggshells, and fruit and vegetable scraps into the compost bin to become great food for your plants and flowers.
  • Use your chicken bones for homemade stock, pan drippings for gravy, and vegetable cooking water in place of regular water in soups. You’ll get lots of flavor and nutrition out of a minimal labor.

With a little planning and extra effort, we can save a lot of food from the garbage, keep more money in our pockets, and hopefully keep our fridges a little cleaner too!

What are your creative ways to avoid food waste?

Abigail is an aspiring homesteader, homeschooler, music-maker, and birth doula. She lives with her husband and soon-to-be-three children on her acre-and a half homestead in scenic Pennsylvania. You can visit her blog about living the homegrown life (and seeking contentment while doing it) at They’re Not Our Goats.

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