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A Peek Into My Life This Week

Welcome to my weekly Sunday post where we take a break from money-related posts and I share about what I’m loving right now and give you a little peek into our life from the past week.

What I’m Reading

Last week, I finished three books — making my total for 2017 at 6 books finished so far — yay! (I have no idea if I can keep up this reading pace this year, but I’m having so much fun getting back into reading more again!!!)

I finished reading Candles in the Dark — an old reprint by missionary Amy Carmichael. Her writings are some that I’ve loved since the time I was in my early teens. I’ve read this book before, but it was years ago, so it was so good to re-read it.

I also read Grace Not Perfection. In all honesty, I didn’t think I’d like this book. The pictures throughout it just looked so staged and perfect to me that I was all, “How is this a book on grace not perfection?”

Yes, I might have had a bad attitude. But I read it anyway (I’m not even sure why I decided to actually read it with that kind of bad attitude going into it!) and I really ended up liking it and finding a lot of helpful encouragement and practical advice in it.

The author might have beautiful pictures throughout the book, but she doesn’t at all make you feel like she has it all figured out. And there is a lot of wise inspiration in it, as well as heaps of grace!

Finally, I read The Giver for the first time. And you guys, I don’t quite know what to say about this book. At first, I was so frustrated by the ending. That’s it?!?! No! There has to be more!

And then I had to ponder and ponder over the book. I couldn’t get it out of my brain. What am I missing? Why is it haunting me?

The more I pondered, the more I really started to love the book and the powerful way it reminds us that without pain and suffering, we can’t experience emotional connection or truly feel at a deep level. If we took all of the pain away from the world, it would also take away so much depth and the ability to experience life in full color.

I wished I would have read this book with a book club. And I totally understand why some people love it and some people don’t like it at all. Have you read it? If so, I’d love hear your thoughts on it.

This week, since I finished books from my bookshelf from three different categories, I’m letting myself have the freedom until February to read other books that I recently got that were not in my original stack. Answers to Prayer (an old Christian reprint), A Trip Around the Sun (a spiritually encouraging book), Settle for More (a story-driven book), and Thirty Chic Days (a book on life improvement).

I’m hoping to finish A Trip Around the Sun and Settle for More. I’ll let you know how that goes next week! {See my Reading Goals for 2017.}

What I’m Listening To

This week, I was excited that MacKenzie had a new podcast episode and I loved the episode!

It’s on Cultivating Your Mother Culture — which is probably only a term you’ve heard of if you are familiar with Charlotte Mason and/or Karen Andreola.

You can read this post by Karen for more on what the term means. I especially loved this quote from her post: “Mothers should cultivate their souls so that in turn they may cultivate the souls of their children.”

And I loved what Brandy and MacKenzie talked about on the podcast: That as moms, we should be reading, studying, thinking, and learning so that we can always have interesting ideas to discuss with our kids.

That’s one reason I love to read. Not just for my own personal growth, but so that I have interesting ideas and questions to discuss with my kids, too!

What I’m Loving

This picture makes me all kinds of happy. He’s worked SO hard this year to master reading and his hard work is paying off!! He started the school year barely reading 3-letter words (despite multiple years and reading curriculums, it just wasn’t clicking) and read the entire Are You My Mother? book to me this week with almost zero help from me!!!

I love that he wants to read to me and he’s finding so much joy in it! (He was reading so intently that he didn’t even notice I was taking a picture. But I just couldn’t help myself.)

These are the moments we mamas treasure in our hearts. (I also love that he’s sporting dirt on his jeans, because, of course. ;))

I got this beauty out earlier this week… after months of keeping her in the closet. I’ve missed her so much and can’t believe I let her just sit there untouched for that long. And now I want to take up lessons again!!

The girls decided that they want to learn a song on their guitar and ukulele to play together with me. They’ve never acted interested in playing with me before, so suffice it to say that my week is MADE!

(For those who don’t know, I used to be a violin teacher and much of my teen years was spent practicing, teaching, and performing violin.)

One of my favorite things to get in the mail is notes from readers. This note came sharing how I inspired reader, Anna, to start her own business selling pure luxurious handmade soaps. She also generously sent me a bunch of handmade soaps from her brand-new Etsy shop. My kids were SO excited about their little mini soaps she sent and I’ve been loving using the soaps every day!

You can follow her Facebook Page here or check out her Etsy shop here.

What I’m Watching

This week, I loved watching this first video in a 3-part video series from Style and Styleability on designing a wardrobe you love.

My husband and I also watched another episode of Poldark. We have four more episodes left in the season and we are trying to make them last as long as possible! 🙂

I also watched some football with Silas, the girls and I watched a Disney movie one night that turned out to be a total dud, and we watched Left Behind for our family movie night.

(The kids had never seen Left Behind before, so it definitely opened up the door for lots of questions, thoughts, and discussions on different viewpoints Christians have on the End Times. We like to present viewpoints we don’t necessarily agree with to our kids and let them ask questions, think for themselves, discuss it with us, and come to their own conclusions.)

What I’m Changing

After a long time of having a pattern in what posted on Instagram (quote, b&w photo, color photo), I decided to buck my system and go back to just posting whatever strikes my fancy again.

I made this decision for a few reasons:

1) I was feeling a little constrained by the system I had created.

2) I wasn’t posting as often as a result — because I didn’t always have a good picture for whatever photo was supposed to come next, so I’d just wait to post until I found the right picture.

3) I wasn’t loving how it was looking in my feed — it just felt a little too dreary and cluttered for where I am right now and felt it was a poor representation of the joy and renewed clarity in my heart and life.

So, since I get to be the boss of my own Instagram, I’m going back to eclectic posting. 😉 And it feels good! (If you’re not following me on Instagram, you can follow me here.)

In Case You Missed It

YouTube Videos I Posted This Week:

Posts I Wrote This Week:

What are you loving, reading, watching, listening to, or changing this week? I’d love to hear!

10 Ways to Make Extra Cash if You’re Good at Photography

Guest post from Ashli from The Million Dollar Mama

I have a lot of friends who are talented photographers and I know that for many of my photographer friends, there are periods of feast and periods of famine. This got me to thinking – how can photographers make extra money?

After doing some brainstorming, I’ve come up with 10 ways to make extra cash if you’re good at photography, beyond your standard session fee.

1. Sell Stock Photos

Selling stock photos could be a great way to make some passive income from your photography. Once you’ve taken some great photos, you can upload them to a site like Shutterstock or iStockPhoto and make money every time someone downloads your photograph.

2. Teach Photography

There are many people interested in learning more about photography from a talented photographer. You could teach classes at your local community center, or even create your own online course and upload it to Udemy.

3. Social Media Photography

For social media sites like Instagram, having great images is absolutely essential. You could work with businesses taking photos specifically for their Instagram feed, or you could specialize in flat-lays, a trend that’s super popular on Instagram right now.

4. Take Pictures at Local Events

Local events such as county fairs, spartan races, 5k’s, etc could be a great way to make some extra money. Get in contact with the organizers and see if they’d be interested in hiring you to take photos for the event, which people can download and purchase. You could also sell pictures to local newspapers.

5. Make Greeting Cards

Another way to make extra money from your photography is to start making your own greeting cards, featuring your unique, beautiful pictures. You can upload and sell these on a site like Etsy.

6. Start a Photography Blog

If you’re also talented at writing, you could start your own photography blog featuring product reviews, recommendations, tutorials, photography tips – the possibilities are endless!

7. Take Real Estate Photos

Great photographs are an essential part of successfully marketing a house, but if you’ve looked on Zillow recently, you might have noticed that a lot of realtors are sorely lacking in this area. Do some research on local realtors in your area, and offer to take professional photos of their listings.

8. Make a Calendar Featuring Local Businesses

Each month you can feature one of your photographs, and a local business can offer a special deal or coupon. You could charge businesses for advertising space, or you could offer free advertising in return for local businesses selling your calendar in their store.

9. Sell Products Featuring Your Photography

Graphic t-shirts, mugs, pillows, baby onesies, baseball caps – there are endless possibilities when it comes to products you could sell featuring your photography, and sites like CafePress make it super easy to set something like this up.

10. Enter Photography Competitions

An often-overlooked way to make some extra money is by entering photography competitions. A local Tennessee magazine that I receive in the mail every month regularly holds photography competitions that offer cash prizes! I’m sure most states have something similar, not to mention the many online photography competitions.

Do you have any other ways you make extra money from your photography?

Ashli Sweat is a freelance writer, blogger, wife to an active duty soldier, and mama to a sweet little boy named Sean. She loves finding ways to save money, make money, and live life to the fullest. She currently lives in Tennessee, but home is wherever the Army sends her (next up is North Carolina!)

photo source

Brigette’s $39 Grocery Shopping Trip and Weekly Menu Plan for 6

I didn’t spend as much on groceries this week – but that’s only because we were out of town last week and so we made a quick grocery run this past weekend when we got back (one of those unorganized, unplanned kinds of grocery trips… you know, where you are in a hurry and just start throwing stuff in the cart because there’s no food in your house and you are hungry??! :)). Since we still have LOTS of food in the house, from THAT trip, we didn’t need too much this week. As far as meat goes, I will be relying on our freezer stash of venison (my husband got three deer hunting season!) and Zaycon chicken. I think we are done with traveling for a few months, so I’m back to (slightly) more organized shopping trips and meal planning. Hope that everyone had a great holiday season!

Aldi

1 3-lb bag Pink Lady Apples – $2.99

1 pkg Green Peppers – $1.19

1 64-oz carton Orange Juice – $1.69

2 cans Evaporated Milk – $1.38

1 gallon Whole Milk – $2.59

1 24-oz tub Cottage Cheese – $2.29

1 Spicy Mustard – $0.99

1 Horseradish – $1.29

3 containers Blueberries – $2.98 (Great price! And they are GOOD!!)

1 16-oz carton Egg Whites – $1.99

1 pint Grape Tomatoes – $1.29

1 bag Red Onions – $0.98

Total: $20.65

 

Harris Teeter Trip #1

(Double Dollar Coupons – I wasn’t able to go until the last day of the sale, so they were out of almost all the best deals. But I did manage to score everything pictured without paying a penny! :))

2 bags Steamfresh Frozen Peas – $2.00, used $1.00/2 Birds Eye Varieties – 1-8-17 SS (exp. 02/27/17) (doubled) – FREE after coupon

3 Snickers Bars – $2.97, used 3 $0.50/1 printable (doubled) – FREE after coupon

1 32-oz tub Stonyfield Organic Yogurt (B1G1) – $1.99, used $1.00/1 Stonyfield Organic (3) Single Serve Products or (1) 30 – 32 oz or Larger Cup or (1) Multipack, 4 pk or larger – 12-4-16 SS (exp. 02/01/17) (doubled) – FREE after coupon

6 pkgs Yakisoba Noodles – $3.00, used 2 $1/3 Maruchan Yakisoba Products, exp. 1/31/17 (SS 11/06/16 R) (doubled) – FREE after coupons

Total after coupons: $0.00

Harris Teeter Trip #2

2 boxes Annie’s Cereal – $5.00, used 2 $0.75/1 printable (doubled) – $2.00/2 after coupons

3 boxes Annie’s Mac and Cheese – $3.57, used 3 $0.50/1 printable (doubled), plus $0.50/2 evic – $0.07/3 boxes after coupons

4 Larabars – $4.00, used 2 $0.50/2 printable (doubled), plus $0.50/2 evic – $1.00/4 after coupons

3 boxes Special K Bars – $6.00, used 3 $0.75/1 printable (doubled) – $1.50/3 boxes after coupons

1 Mazola Cooking Spray – $2.59, used $0.55/1 Mazola Oil Spray Product – 11-6-16 SS (exp 12/30/16) (doubled) – $1.49 after coupon

1 Maruchan Bowl – $0.40, used $0.25/1 printable (doubled) – FREE after coupon

2 Snickers Bars – $1.98, used 2 $0.50/1 printable (doubled) – FREE after coupons

1 bag Frozen Okra – $1.29

1 64-oz carton Almond Milk – $2.77

1 pkg Butterball Turkey Bacon – $2.97, used $0.55/1 printable (doubled) – $1.87

1 Family-Size Bag Picsweet Frozen Spinach – $1.74

2 bunches Romaine Lettuce – $1.50

3 Zucchini Squash – $3.36 (Yikes! Too bad Aldi was out this week!)

Total after coupons: $18.50

Grocery Total for the Week: $39.15

Weekly Menu Plan

Breakfasts

Cereal x 3

Oatmeal with Blueberries x 2

Hard Boiled Eggs (veggie omelets for me), Yogurt, Toast x 2

Lunches

Baked Potato Bar x 2

Macaroni and Cheese, Apples, Carrots x 2

Leftovers x 3

Dinners

Spaghetti Carbonara, Homemade French Bread, Roasted Zucchini

Venison Roast in the Crockpot, Baked Potatoes, Carrots

Baked Chicken Breasts with Parmesan Crust, Tossed Salad, To Die For Blueberry Muffins

Homemade Pepperoni Pizza and Breadsticks, Tossed Salad

Mom’s Night Out (I’m going out with some friends, and my husband is in charge of dinner for himself and the children. 🙂)

Chicken Noodle Soup with Homemade Egg Noodles, Butterhorns

Leftovers

2 Proven Systems to Track How Much You’re Spending on Groceries

This is Day 3 of the 5 Days to a Better Grocery Budget series. If you missed the previous posts, read Day 1 here and Day 2 here.

Once you’ve decided on a grocery budget amount that works for your family, you need to set up some sort of accountability for sticking with that budget. This is key for the success of your grocery budget.

You can’t just mentally kind of, sort of have an idea of a grocery budget for it to work.

Really think through what would work best for you, your spouse, and your family when it comes to tracking your grocery budget. There are two different systems I would recommend…

(Download a free Envelope System Template here.)

1. Cash Envelope System

A cash envelope system is just that — you take out your allotted Grocery Budget amount in cash every month (or weekly or bi-weekly, depending upon when you get paid) and just take that cash to the store.

The benefits of using cash are that you can’t go over budget. When the money’s gone, the money’s gone! It forces you to stick with your budget and to really analyze each purchase as you’re putting it into the cart.

The drawbacks are that you have to mess with going to the bank or ATM to get cash — which can be a hassle for some people. In addition, some people find that they spend more or spend the cash on non-grocery purchases because they have it in their wallet and it’s “burning a hole in their pocket”.

Need some more encouragement to try a Cash Envelope System? Read these posts:

2. Virtual Envelope System

If messing with cash seems tedious to you, a great alternative is to use a Virtual Cash Envelope system through a program like YouNeedaBudget or EveryDollar.

These apps allow you to set up your “cash envelopes” or budget categories and then deduct your purchases throughout the month. This way, you can always have a running total of how much you’ve spent and how much you have left in each budget category you’ve set up.

The benefits of using this system are that you can keep better tabs on what you’re spending your money on and when you’re spending it and how you’re doing on your budget overall at a glance. It’s also nice because you don’t have to mess with sharing cash envelopes if you’re like our family and both spouses pitch in with grocery shopping and other shopping at different times throughout the month.

The drawbacks are that you are swiping a card — which means that you can more easily go over budget than you can when you use cash. Plus, it’s more sophisticated than cash (i.e. you have to mess with inputting the data after each shopping trip and tracking how much you have left in each budget category.

Need some more encouragement to try a Virtual Cash Envelope System? Check out these posts:

A Note About Overspending

With both of these systems, you still can overspend. Because YOU are ultimately the one who is in charge of what you spend and what you don’t spend. A budget doesn’t work unless you do! 😉

Overspending could be the result of a self-discipline issue. Or, it could be even deeper than that: you could be overspending because you are trying to fill a void in your life of some sort.

When you are tempted to spend money that you either don’t have, isn’t budgeted, or is an impulse buy, start training yourself to stop and ask: Why?

Why am I wanting to spend this money? What need am I trying to fulfill? Why do I want this thing or experience? What do I think it’s going to do for me?

The more you can step back and ask, “Why?”, the more you’ll be able to get to the root of the issues and deal with those versus just trying to slap a bandage on surface problems — which will never resolve the issues longterm.

Do you use a system to track your grocery purchases? Tell us in the comments!

How Much Should You Spend on Groceries?

This is Day 2 of the 5 Days to a Better Grocery Budget series. If you missed Day 1, read it here.

One of the questions I get asked all the time is, “How much should I spend on groceries?”

I wish that there was a simple one-size-fits-all answer to this question. But like I said yesterday, what works for one family won’t work for another family.

We all have so many different variables that play into what a good grocery budget amount is for us. I really encourage you not to just pick some grocery budget number out of thin air because it “sounds good” or you “think it’s doable” or you “know someone who has a budget that low”.

That’s a surefire way to set yourself up for grocery budget failure or at least a whole lot of stress trying to stick with a grocery budget that wasn’t designed with your family’s needs in mind.

What To Consider When Determining Your Grocery Budget:

  • Your own situation: Do you have young kids or a crazy work schedule which means you need to buy more convenience foods/products?
  • Your family’s dietary needs: Are you gluten-free, dairy-free, or eating according to a nutritional plan that might cost more money?
  • Your family’s priorities: Do you like to host lots of people into your home or bake/cook for others?
  • Your family’s preferences: Do you like certain foods that are more expensive or like to have more meat and less beans and rice?
  • What you’ll include in your grocery budget: Will you include hygiene products/pet products/diapers, etc. in the grocery budget?

There are no right or wrong answers to the above questions. Well, okay, I take that back. There ARE right answers and wrong answers! The right answers are what is best for you and your own family. The wrong answers are trying to do what you think works well for another family.

How to Determine a Reasonable Grocery Budget

After taking all of these things into consideration, also look at your recent grocery receipts to get an idea of how much you have typically spent on groceries over the past few months. I encourage you to come up with a weekly amount that you think is very doable to start with.

If you have the wiggle room in your budget, choose a number that feels somewhat high. Why? Because I want you to set yourself up for success from the get-go.

And remember this: Success in the beginning is just setting up a budget and following it. As you get better at it and more comfortable with it, then you can work on lowering it. But for now, just focus on picking a number that you feel is a reasonable number that will not make you feel stressed or frustrated to try to stick with.

If you need a ballpark idea to go off of, I’d say anywhere between $25 to $40 per person is usually a good figure to start with. (But don’t stress if that feels too low for you right now! It’s better to start somewhere and choose a higher number and stick with it, than to just give up because you can’t get it as low as you’d like to get it.)

Our Grocery Budget Evolution

For the first 8 years of our marriage, our grocery budget was in the $10-$15 per person range. That’s really low, I know, but we were barely eeking by some of those years and I knew that our grocery budget was one area where I could really save a lot of money since I had the time, the know-how, and I found it a fun “hobby” to see how far I could stretch every grocery budget dollar.

I was a hardcore couponer and drugstore game shopper + I planned super simple menus that were based almost entirely around what I could get on a really great deal at the store. This worked well for us and saved us thousands of dollars over those eight years.

However, as our kids came along and got older and our season of life changed, we’ve slowly raised the budget to allow more breathing room. I still LOVE finding a great grocery bargain and am always on the lookout for them when I’m shopping, but I’ve given myself grace to not feel like I need to have the grocery budget super, super low or spend a few additional hours of my week going to multiple stores in order to cut my grocery bill by $50 to $75.

A reasonable amount for our family at this season of life is allotting about $25 per person per week. This allows us to eat higher quality foods, purchase a few convenience foods, have more meat, and keep our menus simple and nutritious.

I could still keep our grocery budget really, really low and I could still enjoy doing it. However, it would take me an additional 2-3 hours per week to realistically make that happen. Right now, because we have the wiggle room in the budget, I’ve chosen to spend those hours on the business where I can make significantly more per hour than I could ever save by using coupons.

For me, that’s what wise financial management is. It’s about weight the return on your investment of time versus your priorities and deciding what are the best use of your limited resources in that season of life.

Your turn: What is your grocery budget, where do you live, and how many people are you feeding? Has it changed over the years? I’d love to hear!

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


5 Days to a Better Grocery Budget (new series!)

Note: I’d been planning this series for a few months, so I had to laugh when I had scheduled the first post for today and then saw that my friend, Laurie, from Passionate Penny Pincher just started her own series called The Ultimate Guide to a Better Grocery Budget. She does such a great job of sharing things and is so inspiring, so if you want some different ideas on how to cut your grocery budget, be sure to check out her series, too!

Are you wishing that you could find a way to get a better handle on your grocery budget? Welcome to a brand-new series I’m running here over the next week called 5 Days to a Better Grocery Budget. It’s been awhile since we’ve talked about grocery budgets and I thought it was high time for a refresher!

As we begin this series on setting up a better grocery budget, I want to start by giving you three important reminders:   

1. There is no right way to set up a grocery budget.

I think one of the big reasons people don’t create a budget in the first place is because they are worried they will “do it wrong”.

Here’s what you need to hear loud and clear: there is no right or wrong way to set up a grocery budget. All that matters is that you set one up that works for you and then stick with it.

Yes, I know, I’m sharing such amazingly, incredible stuff here today. {Insert sarcasm.}

But seriously, if you set up a grocery budget and stick with it, you have yourself a successful grocery budget. You are a success!

So stop stressing over the how of setting up a grocery budget. Stop feeling frustrated that you don’t think you’re going to do it right. Just get up and do it and follow through with it. I know you can!

2. There is no magic number that is the “perfect grocery budget amount”.

I promise. I know that you can read other blogs — or even this blog! — and feel like you need to have a grocery budget that is lower than XX amount or you are failing at the whole grocery budgeting thing.

There is no way to fail at your grocery budget except for not having a grocery budget at all. ANY grocery budget that you set up and stick with is a successful grocery budget. And ANY amount you choose that works with your income and takes care of your family’s needs and doesn’t make you miserable is a great amount.

3. There is no grocery budget competition.

Spending less or spending more doesn’t make you less or more of a success or failure. It just makes you uniquely you.

Pick a number that works for YOUR family. For YOUR own needs. For YOUR own season of life. And don’t apologize for it or feel that you need to explain it.

Trust me, I get how easy it is to do both of those things — especially if you have a frugal blog or lots of frugal friends! But this past year, I’m really stepping into the freedom that comes from being okay with doing what’s best for our own family — even if other people don’t agree, don’t approve, or don’t get it. 

So breathe a big sigh of relief. You can do this!

Tomorrow, we’ll talk about how to actually start setting up a successful grocery budget!

Related: Why We More Than Doubled Our Grocery Budget