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8 Nov 2010   ·   111
Money Saving Mom

Make Christmas Clutter-Free with Consumable Gifts

A guest post by JessieLeigh from Parenting the Tiniest of Miracles

Last Christmas, I was bound and determined to not bring more clutter into my home. Having just recently pared down the playroom, the last thing I wanted was more, well, junk filling our house.

I decided to chose a couple of needed articles of clothing and then only gave consumable gifts. Consumable gifts are a great way to have something to put under the tree to rip open on Christmas morning, without cluttering your home or the homes of others.

Here are five of my favorite consumable gifts to give or receive:

1. Favorite treats/snacks

Think about some of the purchased treats your kids love and ask for all the time, but don’t usually make the “budget cut.” Think about those cookies your sister makes that are your son’s absolute favorite in the world! These are great things to ask for as gifts! Your kids will be delighted to have those special treats tucked in a lunch bag or for a fun afternoon snack.

Truthfully, my husband and I do this for each other, too. He adores Monster energy drinks and I love pizza-flavored Combos, but we don’t purchase them ordinarily. Christmas is a fun time to indulge each other. Even better? Once the treats are eaten, there’s nothing left cluttering up our home!

2. Fun bath/shower products

My sister-in-law once gave my children a three-pack of those “fizzy bath bomb” balls that you drop in the bath tub. My kids thought they were amazing and I was thrilled that, after three joyful, giggling baths, they were gone.

My sister and her family gave my kids little Disney soaps one time too… they brought many smiles while they lasted! Aim for small, specialty items in this category, rather than ultra-jumbo bottles of bubble bath.

3. Coloring Books/Puzzle Books/Stickers

When people ask for ideas for my children, these top the list. They are all readily available, inexpensive and cheap to ship for those out-of-staters. My children love sitting at their art table, coloring or solving fun puzzles and decorating with stickers.

What I love? When it’s done, it’s done. I’ve never had a child miss a completed coloring book that I’ve tossed.

4. Cooking Kits

My kids, like most children, love to cook. Pre-measured cookie, quick bread or muffin kits make wonderful gifts! These can be mixes you put together on your own or even mixes you just buy in the store — children will be delighted either way.

We also happen to have a hand-me-down EasyBake oven. If you, or someone you know, does too, you could also make up some fun little mixes to be baked in there. I’ve had great success with the recipes at this site!

5. Craft Kits

By this, I mean craft kits designed to make gifts for others. My kids love to make bracelets, bookmarks and magnets for their grandmas and aunties. The “gift” for them is in the fun they have doing the crafting!

Craft kits keep them happy (and entertained) for many hours and, when they’re done, the results are happily passed on to others with much pride and joy. Win-win!

Do you have any tips for cooking back on the clutter at Christmastime? Share it in the comments!

JessieLeigh is the mother of a former 24-week micropreemie and two full-term blessings as well. She is a determined advocate for the tiniest of babies, including the unborn, and a firm believer in faith and miracles. She shares about raising such a precious, tiny baby over at Parenting the Tiniest of Miracles.

photo by craftapalooza

7 Nov 2010   ·   18
Money Saving Mom

Super Savings Saturday: A quick trip to Aldi

My husband and I attended Dave Ramsey’s EntreLeadership Simulcast most of the day yesterday (I’ll have to share more on that later!), so I didn’t get the shopping done that I was hoping to this weekend. Dillon’s is having some great sales right now, so I did get my coupons printed today and am hoping to make a trip there on Monday night.

However, we made a stop at Aldi to pick up some basics (not everything is pictured because half the bread and cheese got eaten for a snack as soon as we came home from the store. I figured it was more important to feed the hungry masses than to get a perfect picture of my groceries!). We also bought three dozen eggs from my brother and my mom gave us a big bag of pears from their pear tree.

All told, we spent around $42 on groceries for the week.

__________

Did you snag any great deals or bargains this week or save money in other ways? If so, be sure to post about them on your blog and leave your link below. Please remember that this weekly round-up is to share deals you personally got and/or money you were able to save this week. In order to keep this weekly round-up focused on helping and inspiring others in their efforts to save money, links which have little-to-no content other than promoting affiliate links, etc. will be deleted. Also, to make it easy for everyone to navigate quickly through the links, your link must link directly to your Super Savings Saturday post.

5 Nov 2010   ·   32
Money Saving Mom

We Paid Cash! :: A Car Engine (with a twist)

We paid cash!

A testimony from Meagan

The Background

My husband and I got married young, while we were both still in college. Our first year together married, we lived in a tiny basement apartment that didn’t even have heat, much less a washer or dryer. I began to loathe going to the laundromat, and started daydreaming about being able to someday own my own washer and dryer.

After that first year, we found a new apartment that had hook-ups, and my husband agreed that we could use the summer to save up for a pair of energy-efficient washer and dryers.

How We Did It

My husband got a fantastic internship in a city 1500 miles away from where we went to school, so we spent the summer there, saving money for my dream washer and dryer. We even picked them out and scheduled them to be delivered a week after we were to arrive back at school.

However, on the way back to school, in the middle of a New Mexico highway, our car totally broke down. After spending a night sleeping by the road, my husband and his brother managed to tow our car to a repair shop, where it was determined that the engine was un-fixable and we’d either need to replace it or give up on our car.

We Paid Cash Car Engine

We decided that our best option would be to replace the engine with a refurbished engine. It turned out that the new engine cost only $200 more than the washer and dryer we had been saving for, and we had enough left over from our summer moving budget to make the difference.

This all happened the day before we were to have the washer and dryer delivered, so I canceled the delivery and cried because I was so sad.

The Best Part

I was so bummed about not getting my washer and dryer that my husband suggested looking on Craigslist for something cheaper to use while we saved up for nicer ones.

I found a washer and dryer set for free! The owners didn’t know if they’d work, and they were in pieces, but when we put them together (using a generous amount of duct tape and other odds and ends), they both worked. And it’s been three years and they have still kept going!

We paid cash Care engine with a twist

They are not even close to as nice as what I was hoping for, but they get the job done, even with two kids and cloth diapering. We consider every day our washer keeps running a miracle.

Meagan and her husband Tyler currently live in Little Rock, AR while Tyler attends medical school. Meagan stays home with their two daughters and is having a blast learning how to be a mom.

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

4 Nov 2010   ·   84
Money Saving Mom

Time Management 101: Create a Time Budget (Part 2)

For years, we’ve used a cash envelope system for much of our budgeting. For those unfamiliar with the concept, it basically works like this: We have different envelopes for each area of spending (for instance food, clothing, gifts and so forth) and we have a budgeted amount of cash that we put in them every month. That’s the allotted money we have to spend on clothes and food and gifts and so forth.

Because we have a budget, we know where our money is going, we know how much money we have to spend in each category and we’re able to make sure that we’re spending our money on what matters to us — instead of just letting it pass through our fingers like sand. Having a plan for our money and sticking to the plan gives us peace, allows us to make financial traction and frees us from a lot of worry and stress.

Budgeting our money is a no-brainer for us. But truth be told, I’d never considered how this concept could be applied to my time. To me, time management had always meant trying to find a way to be as productive as possible every day.

I equated busyness with productivity. So I’d have these big, lofty plans and make these detailed schedules, but I’d always crash and burn quickly because I was trying to cram in about 32 hours’ worth of projects into a 24-hour day.
busyness does not equal productivity

When Amy shared the concept of creating a Time Budget with me, it completely revolutionized my life.

I’d never thought to approach my time like I approached my money. Instead of starting with everything I wanted to do in a day and then trying to find a way to fit it all in (it never did because my list was way too long to begin with!), for the first time, I started with the time I had and then divvied up my responsibilities and priorities into time brackets which equaled less than 24 hours.

My Daily Time Budget

30 minutes Bible reading/journaling
1 hour with Jesse
4 hours of homeschooling, reading and playing with the children
1 hour of exercise
30 minutes shower/dress
2 hours cleaning/home management
7 hours sleeping
2 hours meals/meal preparation
4 hours blogging/computer work
2 hours of extra/”margin” time

It probably goes without saying, but I’m going to repeat it anyway: Please remember that this is my time budget which currently works for me in this season of my life. Yours will likely look much different. Do what works for you. Do not pattern your time budget after mine because it won’t work for you. I only share mine as an example, not to encourage you in anyway to emulate it — unless you want to try and get as much (or more!) sleep than I do, okay?

Keys to Success When Making a Time Budget

1. Make Sleep One of Your Highest Priorities

I used to think that burning the midnight oil would make me more productive, but I’ve actually found that I’m much more productive if I get at least seven hours of sleep almost every single night. I’ve found I’m most productive in the mornings so I make it my goal to go to bed by 10 p.m. and get up between 5 and 6 a.m.

You might be the other way around. Do what works best for you, but whatever you do, put getting enough rest high up on your priority list.

You’ll feel better and more energetic and I’d wager to guess that you’ll also find an extra hour or two of sleep at night helps you to be more productive than if you spent that time trying to pry your eyeballs open with toothpicks and get more work done!

2. Deduct at Least Two Hours for “Margin Time”

I know that there is a great temptation to fill up every single waking moment with something, but may I heartily encourage you to include at least two hours of margin time in your budget? It’s sort of like our “blow” category for our cash envelope system; we can use it for those little incidental expenses which come up that we weren’t expecting. Or, we can choose to “blow” it on something fun.

If you have margin built into your time budget, when you have someone knock at the door, or the phone rings, or the baby has a diaper blowout or the washer overflows and there’s water all over the laundry room floor, your whole day didn’t just go down the toilet. Instead, you can just stop what you were doing, deal with the unexpected interruption and then go back to what you were doing — and you know that you still have plenty of time to get everything done you needed to get done!

You know what else I love about including margin in my time budget? It means I have time to stop and really enjoy my children and seize teachable moments with them.

For instance, the other day I discovered a four-foot long black snake in our backyard. If I didn’t know that I had a time cushion in my day, being the Type A person I am, I likely would have just run on to the next task. But instead, I called the girls outside and we spend 45 minutes observing and taking pictures of the snake.

We emailed the pictures to Jesse and he looked up what kind of snake it was and researched more about it so that when he came home from work, he was prepared to give the girls an impromptu “lesson” on our backyard visitor — which they just lapped up and then enjoyed sharing with me and anyone who would listen for the next few days.

If our lives were so packed full that we didn’t have any margin in them, we would daily miss out on fun opportunities like this. Planning margin into our day gives us the freedom to be spontaneous.

3. Be Ruthless About Eliminating the Unnecessary

As Americans, I think we are sometimes addicted to busyness. We always have to be on the go-go-go. And I sometimes think we find fulfillment and self-worth in piling our plates too high. As if, the more busy we are, the more important it makes us feel.

In reality, I think our culture, by and large, is exhausted, overworked and overwhelmed.

What’s the solution? It’s really very simple: just say “no”.

Stop doing things just because you feel obligated to do them by something or someone else. Stop doing things just because you’re afraid of what people might think of you if you don’t do them.

Stop over-committing yourself. Stop letting people manipulate you into a miserable existence. Just say “no”.

Want more step-by-step help in creating a time budget and becoming a better time manager? Be sure to get a copy of Amy’s ebook.

She’s offering it for almost 50% off through midnight tonight (Friday, November 5, 2010) when you use coupon code MoneySavingMom. What she shares in this ebook has revolutionized my life — and brought so much more peace and order to our home!

Beginning Monday, I’ll be sharing more about our daily routine, my homemaking/cleaning systems and, if there’s time, some time management tips for bloggers.

If you have created a time budget, I’d love for you to share yours in the comments section so that we can all be inspired and glean ideas!

3 Nov 2010   ·   53
Money Saving Mom

Time Management 101: Create a Time Budget

Guest Post by Amy Andrews who helps with much of the behind-the-scenes work at Money Saving Mom® and blogs at BloggingWithAmy.com

Hey there Money Saving Mom® readers! I’ve communicated with many of you behind the scenes via email, so it’s fun to have the opportunity to talk to you on this side of things. Crystal asked me to introduce myself and tell you more about time budgeting as part of her Time Management 101 series. So here’s a little bit about me…

My name is Amy Andrews (not to be confused with the very classy Amy McGuire of Amy’s Finer Things — the advertising/giveaway guru here at Money Saving Mom®). My husband Brian and I have been married for 13 1/2 years and we have 4 children.

Amy Andrews and Family

Online, I blog at BloggingWithAmy.com which is aimed at teaching others how to start a money-making blog from scratch. I also do some blog consulting and I just released an ebook about time management called Tell Your Time which, incidentally, came to be after helping Crystal with her schedule.

Time Budgeting

If you’ve read Money Saving Mom® for any length of time, it’s likely you have heard Crystal talk about the envelope system for money management. The goal of the envelope system is to pre-determine where you will spend your money so as not to overextend yourself financially.

Earlier this year when Crystal and I discussed how to make her schedule more workable, I told her about a similar concept which I refer to as “envelopes of time.” They work the same way in that you pre-determine where you will spend your time so as not to overextend yourself commitmentally (is that a word?).
time budget

This is how the concept works (excerpt from Tell Your Time):

  1. Total up the hours in a day (or week). That’s easy, 24 (or 168).
  2. Make a list of the activities you want to accomplish in that time (i.e. your envelopes).
  3. Divvy up your activities between your allotted time envelopes.
  4. If there isn’t enough time in the day to cover one of your activities, you have four choices:
    • “Steal” time from one of your other activities.
    • Figure out a way to streamline so it takes less time.
    • Get someone else to do it for you.
    • Drop it completely.

In the ebook I move on to talk about how to determine your priorities/life goals and how to accomplish them by incorporating them into your daily schedule, but here I’ll expand on the four choices we have when we don’t seem to have enough time in the day.

1. Steal time

When the total hours of our daily activities exceed the number of hours we have in a day, it often results in us stealing time from other activities in our schedule.

For example, too much time on the computer might steal from my personal time, too much time studying for an exam might steal from my sleep or too much time shopping might steal from one-on-one time with my kids.

Often we steal time from other areas without even realizing it, or, we realize it only after it leaves a gaping hole. Life happens of course, and occasionally we have no choice but to steal time from other time envelopes. Stealing will happen, we just need to proactively make room for the deficit elsewhere.

Also, we need to remember that stealing time has a domino effect. Whenever we steal time from one area, another will always be affected.

2. Streamline

I am a streamliner. Whether I’m contemplating how to get from my house to the grocery store or thinking about a new giveaway entry system on Money Saving Mom®, I’m constantly thinking, “There must be a more efficient way to do this.”

I’m on a neverending quest to figure out how to do things quicker and cheaper. Streamlining is, no doubt, very handy when it comes to shaving off precious minutes in my schedule, but it can cause its own trouble too.

Streamlining itself takes time — time which must be accounted for. If I’m determined to find a faster route to the grocery store but I end up getting lost every time, streamlining doesn’t really work in my favor at that point.

Another downside to streamlining is paring down your schedule just so you can pack more in. It’s great to be productive, but if you’re so productive that you end up cramming your day with things that do not help you accomplish your life goals, it’s not benefiting you in the long run.

Streamlining is great when it reduces stress, however, if you’re streamlining but your stress level remains the same, you might have to consider another option.

3. Get help from someone else

Another way to combat a too-full schedule is to figure out how to get others to do things for you. In our house, my husband and I take care of various responsibilities and our children are expected to help as well. We all work together to share the load.

I’m also in favor of looking to others outside our home for help. I loved what Crystal said the other day about focusing on the things you’re good at. I am guilty of trying to do everything because I’m either too cheap to pay someone else or too prideful to ask for help.

Granted, we are on a limited budget so paying someone for help is not always an option, but I am 100% in favor of this idea. I see it as a win-win — I am relieved of something I don’t like to do or don’t know how to do, and someone else gets to make a little money doing something they’re skilled at.

But lack of money doesn’t have to be prohibitive when it comes to getting outside help. Be creative! Bartering, swapping babysitting with another mom so you can go to the grocery store alone or making a few homemade pizzas to feed a group of friends willing to pitch in and paint your house are all great ways to get help, without spending money.

And there are plenty of people who are more than willing to respond to a humble, un-reciprocated request for help. All you need to do is ask.

4. Drop It

You are only one person working within a limited amount of time. You can only do so much. If you’re like me, you might simply need to let some of your commitments go. Gone. Finished. Done. Outta here.

Now, I’m the first to say this is not always easy, nor is it pleasant, but if you constantly feel overwhelmed and stressed out, it’s likely you simply have too much on your plate.

For a long time, I kept looking for things to cut out of my schedule. The problem was, I couldn’t find anything to cut! It took me a while to figure out that I was looking for the “bad” stuff to eliminate, but all the activities on my calendar were “good” things (church ministry, building my business, excellent learning opportunities for my children, etc.). It was freeing to realize that I could choose to let go of “good” stuff in order to make room for the “best” stuff.

This is how I said it in Tell Your Time:

Are your daily activities really helping you achieve your life goals, or have you gotten swept up in the tumult of your to-dos? Whether it’s an inability to say “No,” the fear of missing something, the need to keep up with the Joneses or just careless planning, many of us are masters at committing to things that sound like great ideas, but do nothing to get us closer to [reaching our life goals]. Frankly, if they’re not getting us closer to [reaching our life goals], they’re a waste of time…no matter how amazing they are.

Amy Lynn Andrews shows step by step how to make money blogging at BloggingWithAmy.com and is the author of the time management ebook, Tell Your Time.

Note from Crystal: Use the code MoneySavingMom if you want to get a copy of Amy’s ebook (and I highly recommend that you do!) for only $7! The code MoneySavingMom is good through Friday at midnight only. Tomorrow, I’ll share more about how I’ve implemented a Time Budget in my own life and how it’s revolutionized my life.

3 Nov 2010   ·   77
Money Saving Mom

Thanksgiving Tip: Wash your potatoes in the dishwasher!

From The Happy Housewife:

If you have 20 pounds of potatoes to wash for your Thanksgiving meal throw them in the top shelf of the dishwasher. Set on the quick rinse cycle and let your dishwasher clean the potatoes. Not something I would do every day, but definitely a space and time saver during the holidays.

Thanks to Habits for a Happy Home for the post link and picture!

2 Nov 2010   ·   92
Money Saving Mom

Time Management 101: Determine What Your Priorities Are

Yesterday, I encouraged you all to stop trying to do it all. You only have 24 hours in your day and when you let go of trying to be superwoman and just be content with being who God has made you to be, you’ll find your life is so much more peaceful and calm.

In addition, if you want to be a better manager of your time, you need to determine what your priorities are.

I promised you I’d share my list of priorities and what I don’t do. However, I want to remind everyone that this is just my own personal list for this current season of my life. Your list will likely look much different — and it should!

Everyone’s list of priorities is going to look different because we’re all different with different family situations, different needs, different commitments, different struggles and different strengths and weaknesses. What works for one person won’t necessarily work for another. And what works in one season of our life might not work at all in another season.

determine your priorities

My Current List of Priorities:

1. Having a strong and vibrant relationship with the Lord. I make it a goal to spend around 30 minutes first thing in the morning reading God’s Word and praying. In addition, I seek to continually be nurturing my relationship with the Lord by reading spiritually uplifting books, spending time with other Christians and being involved in our local church.

2. Having a wonderful, open, no-holds-barred relationship with my husband. My goal is to flirt with my husband at least once every day. I know it might seem trivial, but it’s the little things which keep the spark going in a marriage. We try to never let anything come between us. So when we have disagreements or misunderstandings, we take the time to discuss these and talk things through until we reach a point of unity — even if it takes a long time! We try to set aside at least an hour to spend together one-on-one every day and then have at least one at-home date night each week and a monthly date where we leave our children and go out to dinner or on a fun outing.

3. Teaching and loving and enjoying my children. Next to the Lord and my husband, my children are my top priorities. In addition to homeschooling, reading, teaching, discipling and playing with them, I try to spend at least 15 minutes with each child one-on-one every day. I also try to take one child with me on an outing every week and we rotate whose child’s turn it is each week.

4. Staying healthy and energetic and constantly seeking to improve my mind. I’ve found that if I’m exhausted and burnt out, I’m not a good wife and mom. So I make my own health a big priority. I try to exercise at least four hours each week, get at least seven hours of sleep every night and eat healthfully. It’s also important to me that I constantly seek to be improving my mind through reading, thinking through issues and learning new things; I don’t want my brain to turn to “mush”. My husband also encourages me to go somewhere by myself (to the coffee shop, grocery shopping, an evening with friends, etc.) for a few hours once a week as this refreshes me and energizes me as a wife and mom.

5. Keeping a fairly clean and orderly home. Our home is never perfect — and often far from perfect! — but I aim to have it completely picked up at least once a day, to stick with my cleaning and laundry schedule (I’ll be sharing more about this next week) and to always keep it 45 minutes to “Company Ready” or less. We don’t have a lot of clutter, so this helps tremendously in keeping things more organized.

6. Running a blog. I really enjoy blogging — especially when I’m able to have my other priorities in order! — and it’s also a way I can minister and help people from a laptop in my living room. So my husband and I feel it’s something God has called me to do right now. That may change as my children grow older; we’ll see how God leads! For now, I am blessed to have a team of six people working for me to help shoulder this load so that it’s not overly-burdensome to me.

7. Sticking to a cash budget. This involves, among other things, setting financial goals, looking for the best deals on items we’re planning to buy, waiting until we have saved up enough to pay cash for something and making sure we stay within the cash budgeted in our cash envelopes.

8. Ministering to people in our community. In this increasingly virtual world of social media, real-life relationships are very important to us. We try to open our home for hospitality at least once a month and then I aim to minister in specific, practical ways to people in our church and community at least a few times each week. Usually this is something simple like having my children write notes to someone or put together a care package, getting together with a friend who’s struggling, jotting a quick email to let someone know I’m praying for them, bringing a batch of rolls or a frozen casserole to church to give to someone who just had a baby or something of this nature.

Things Which Aren’t On My Priority List Right Now:

::Crafts

::Gourmet Meals

::Gardening

::Sewing

::Watching TV

::Decorating (My sister is helping me decorate our house as I already told you this is an area I have absolutely zero giftings in!)

::Ironing (We try to buy mostly wrinkle-free items and my husband takes his work clothes to the dry cleaners.)

::Frequent Shopping Trips (I don’t do that much shopping and I prefer to shop online whenever I can.)

::Elaborate Freezer Cooking

::Lots of Extra Curricular Activities for My Children

::Making Homemade Gifts & Cards

::Playing the Drugstore Game

::And much, much more!

I also don’t take care of any of the bill-paying/book-keeping (my husband does this as he’s excellent at it and loves it). We don’t have pets to care for. I’m not in any regular playgroups or Bible Studies. I’m not on any committees. I don’t pack lunches for my husband to take to work. And I only make dinner four to five nights per week (we eat out once a week and we often go to extended family’s homes for one to two dinners each week).

So yes, there’s so much I don’t do right now. And I believe this is one of my biggest keys to efficiency: I say “no” often and I try to carefully choose my activities and commitments so that I don’t overload my plate.

Stay tuned tomorrow when we’ll talk more about streamlining, prioritizing and finding breathing room in your life by creating a Time Budget.

2 Nov 2010   ·   99
Money Saving Mom

Q&A Tuesday: Help! What meals can I cook without an oven?

We are in the middle of a kitchen renovation, which, when finished will result in a fantastic update of a 60-year-old tiny city-apartment-sized kitchen. This project, however, has been subject to the inevitable delays and we’ve been without a working kitchen for a month and a half now and we’re expecting to be without one for another month and a half.

My creativity is running out and my food bill rising dramatically with eating out too often. What meals can you brainstorm that can be cooked using just a microwave & stove top? The oven does not work and dishes must be *very* minimal as the sink does not drain properly: we have to use the tiny bathroom sink (or the tub) instead. The disposal is also broken.

One pot/pan dishes are ideal. We do not own a crockpot. -Karyn

Back when I was 11 years old, we lived without a stove for seven months while we were living in a construction trailer and building our house. We only had a microwave, crock pot and electric skillet and we learned to make all sorts of pretty delicious meals sans an oven. So I just wanted to encourage you that it is totally possible to survive without an oven and eat at home.

Do you have a grill? This would be the time to pull it out. You can grill chicken, steak, hamburgers — and even pizza!

Do you have a waffle iron? If so, waffles are a simple dinner. Just fry up some bacon or sausage on the stove and add some fruit and you’ve got a delicious dinner.

There are multitudes of meals which can be made on the stove top. Check out this huge list of Skillet Meals.

If you’re still feeling like you need more ideas, I would heartily suggest you consider investing in a crock pot. You can find one at Walmart for under $30 and it will pay for itself over and over again. Check out the Crock Pot 365 Blog for more crock pot ideas than you could use in, well, a year!

You might also check out a post from a few months ago on Meals You Can Make in a Hotel Room. There are lots of ideas there which you might find inspirational and helpful.

What suggestions do the rest of you have for meals Karyn can make without an oven?

1 Nov 2010   ·   67
Money Saving Mom

Time Management 101: Stop Trying to “Do It All”

In the past year, I’ve received numerous emails from women begging me for my “secrets” to time management. They ask me to please share how I manage to seemingly “do it all”.

Every time I get an email like that, I wish I could invite the woman to my home. Because seriously, I think it’s easy to make bloggers out to be someone they are not when you’re basing all your conclusions of them upon the little sliver of their life that they share on their blog.

I know, because I’ve been guilty of it myself. I’ll read a woman’s blog, see the pictures and ideas she shares and begin to wonder if really and truly she might be superwoman’s clone. And I feel badly because I don’t measure up in any stretch of the imagination to this blogger. When in reality, I know good and well that every single woman has their strengths and weaknesses and no one has it all together.

I’m An Ordinary Person, Who Serves An Extraordinary God

I think some people somehow think that I actually do every deal I post about, shop at five stores and save $200 on my grocery bill every week, cook six-course gourmet meals from scratch every single night, spend 10 hours of quality time with each of my children every single day, have my children involved in all sorts of extra-curricular activities, volunteer in our community at least five hours every week, hand-sew our clothes from the fabric I wove from the wool I spun from the sheep I sheared… okay, well, maybe not that last one.

But seriously, folks, I am just one person. I only have 24 hours in my day — just like you. And I don’t have limitless energy or creativity. I often get tired, cranky and irritated. I sometimes go to bed feeling guilty that I’m not spending enough time with my children or feeding them healthfully enough. There are days I want to quit and give up.

Anything good you see in me is not me, but God in me. I’m just an ordinary person but I serve an extraordinary God. He is the One Who gives me strength to keep going when I want to quit. He’s the One Who gives me joy when I’m feeling discouraged. He’s the One Who gives me hope when life feels overwhelming.

I get up early — before my children — and spend time reading the Bible and praying. This quiet time encourages my heart and gives me strength for the day. I also usually pray over my day and ask the Lord to bless my day and multiply my time. It might seem like a strange thing to ask, but when I ask the Lord to bless my day, I’m always amazed at how more peaceful and joyful my days are.

Determine Your Passions & Gifts

In addition to starting my day with God, one of the biggest things which has helped me to be a better manager of my time is to let go of perfectionism. Once I finally gave up and realized that I can’t do it all so I should just stop trying, my life has been so much more calm and enjoyable.

It’s easy to want to try to “do it all”, but you can’t. The truth is: you’re not gifted in every area and you’re not good at everything.

For instance, I stink at most anything which requires domestic creativity. Ask me a question about starting a business or marketing and I can give you a list of a hundred and one creative ideas. But ask me to decorate your home or plan a party and I’ve pretty much got nothin’ for ya.

I used to wish I could be one of those women who whipped up hand-smocked petticoats for my girl’s dolls on the fly and decorated three-tiered wedding cakes while in the middle of canning forty-two batches of pickles. I wanted to learn to quilt and knit and crochet and tat and make soap and candles. I pictured myself restoring antique furniture, owning a spinning wheel, planting a massive garden and sewing all our bedding.

But the reality is that I’m just not skilled in those areas. Oh sure, I still try on occasion to improve my knitting or sewing skills, but I’ve learned to accept that I’ll likely never be really proficient at most of those things.

Instead of beating myself up over what I can’t do, I’ve been trying to focus on and exercise those areas which I am gifted in. And to appreciate the gifts God has given others which I don’t have, instead of wishing I could “do it all”.

I’m reading a great book right now called 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think and one of the key points the author makes in the book is to focus on your core competencies. I really agree with her premise (though not everyone will!) in that it’s pointless to spend a great deal of your life trying to do something which you don’t excel at.

If possible, invest your life in those things which you’re truly passionate about and gifted in. It will cause you to lead a much more productive and fulfilled life. At least, it’s made a world of difference for me!

Once you’ve let go of perfectionism and determined your strengths, then it’s much easier to prioritize and streamline your life. We’ll talk more about this tomorrow (and I’ll share my list of priorities and my promised list of many, many things I don’t do!)

…To be continued

1 Nov 2010   ·   59
Money Saving Mom

P90X on a Budget: Phase Two Downloadable Menu Plan

So, I started round two of P90X today. I have to confess something: I thought since I’d already gone through the program once that the second time around would be a piece of cake.

Well, I forgot that I took a two-week break from exercising. And apparently I’m not in quite as good of shape as I thought I was.

Or my body forgot how to exercise. Or something.

At any rate, I could hardly make it through the warm-up (I even ended up lying down for about 30 seconds because I was so winded!). My get up and go had gotten up and gone.

But then, after a pathetic warm-up where I felt like a total exercise failure, it was like my body remembered, “Oh, yes, P90X! I remember this! Bring it!” Because once I started in with the push-ups and pull-ups, I just floated through all of it and then did Ab Ripper X and then I even considered hopping on the elliptical for a little while, too. But I nixed that idea because I was out of time.

I’m pumped! I’ve missed the rush that comes from exercising and I’m ready to knock this second round out of the park. Of course, I might be taking all that back after I puff and pant my way through Plyo tomorrow. 🙂

Download the Phase Two Menu Plan

I got smart this time around and am completely skipping the Phase One Menu Plan as I don’t have fat I need to burn and know that my body needs the extra carbs. So, I put together a menu plan for Phase Two which you can access here.

Please keep in mind that this is my own rendition of the P90X diet. It’s not perfectly in line with everything they say to eat, but it’s what I’ve found seems to be a good balance of carbs and protein for me at this intense level of exercise.

I’m only doing a six-day menu because I take Sundays off from exercising and am not as strict with the diet that day, either. Though I still try to eat pretty balanced and healthfully so as not to completely ruin the efforts from the rest of the week!

If you missed it when I posted it before, you can download the Phase One Menu Plan here.

The children eat somewhat similar meals, with some variation since they don’t particularly care for lots of salads and definitely aren’t consuming the level of protein I am!

My husband is eating very similar to me for breakfasts, snacks and dinners. And then he usually buys his lunch, as he’s often on the road throughout the day (he has his own law firm and does a lot of traffic court work in small-town courts in our state).

Anyone else doing P90X or another intense workout plan right now? I’d love to hear how it’s going for you!

1 Nov 2010   ·   92
Money Saving Mom

Co-Housing :: Save Money, Share Resources, Have Fun!

Important Note from Crystal: I thought this guest post was a unique and creative idea which might work in some situations — especially in the case of family members and/or a single person living with a family. However, I’d urge people to proceed with great caution, thought and prayer before setting up an arrangement like this. It’s not worth putting the health of your marriage or family at risk for the sake of saving money.

Guest post by Alexis at Mined Like a Diamond

My husband, daughter and I share a house with my sister-in-law, her husband, and their son. Each family saves several hundred dollars per month (based on what we would pay to rent an apartment) and we get to live in a house, with a yard, in a great neighborhood. Not only do we save quite a bit of money on rent, we also save money through combining resources and sharing some of the load of general home-keeping.

Co-housing benefits we’ve discovered:

By living in a house rather than an apartment, we enjoy:

  • A big kitchen – wonderful for bulk cooking and group meals
  • A basement – great for storage, extra pantry space, and a chest freezer
  • Room to comfortably host overnight guests
  • More space for dinner guests and other group hospitality opportunities than an apartment would offer

While sharing a house, we also share:

  • Group meals and cooking duties (each family cooks and does dishes three nights per week, which means the other three nights we get home-cooked meals with no cooking and no dishes to do!)
  • Household chores
  • Free babysitting trade-offs
  • Internet service
  • A cell phone plan
  • Utilities
  • Some bulk purchases
  • News and magazine subscriptions
  • Kid gear for our similarly-aged toddlers

Almost every item on this list is a financial benefit!

It’s also fun! We enjoy a lot of built-in socializing and entertainment, while still saving money.

  • We go out to eat much less frequently – with planned at-home meals six nights a week and easy leftovers on our no-cooking night, it’s more convenient to eat at home.
  • We can easily take turns leaving sleeping kids for simple date nights without the hassle or expense of hiring a babysitter.
  • During daily life, we can work more efficiently together to get things done that save us money in the long run, such as freezer cooking, cleaning, and DIY projects (e.g. sewing, making laundry soap, fixing up a guest room in the basement). Having at least one other adult around most of the time makes life easier and more fun!

Co-housing by choice is not for everyone (we definitely face some challenges due to this lifestyle!), but in this season of building up our savings and caring for our young families, it works for us. And even though it isn’t a utopian arrangement, we feel that it has really helped us to learn about community and brotherly love on a much deeper level, and has strengthened our relationships for life.

How to Pursue Co-Housing

Most people consider roommates to be a feature of their college or single years, but it can work to everyone’s benefit to share housing in less traditional scenarios.

Co-housing or multi-family living situations come in all shapes and sizes. If you are interested in attempting something like this, try to think creatively!

You could:

  • Live with parents or other relatives who own a larger house than they use or need
  • Rent a house with another couple
  • Consider combining a family with a single renter or childless couple or single parent or some other configuration of individuals

Interested?

How To Get Started

  • Do some research. Read about or ask people you know who have tried living with relatives or friends about their experiences.
  • Identify people* you would be willing to try co-housing with and talk it over with them.
  • Once you have the willing parties in place, determine which features are necessary (and/or preferred) for your particular situation, including cost, location, size, layout, and time frame.
  • Start looking!

*IMPORTANT: Choosing potentially compatible housemates is something that may take quite a bit of thought, prayer, and wise consideration. Take the time to explore this decision as thoroughly as possible!

Make It A Positive Experience

  • Before you move in, take some time to discuss expectations, hopes and fears, and ground rules.
  • Expect a bumpy transition! This is likely a big change for every individual involved, and there may be an uncomfortable (but perfectly normal) adjustment period. Work to maintain an atmosphere of patience and grace, especially in the first few months.
  • Communicate often, with love, respect, grace and truth. Make an effort to connect frequently and honestly with your housemates – weekly check-ins are a great idea. It is important to place relational health and harmony and the well-being of your marriage and family above financial and convenience factors, and it is not worth ruining relationships just to save a few thousand dollars.
  • Have fun! Most likely, this will be a relatively short season in your lives. Try to enjoy the unique opportunities it presents for friendship, community, and memories.

Alexis loves being a wife and mom, and writes about her life, family, faith, and the ins, outs, ups and downs of co-housing at Mined Like a Diamond.

Do you have an idea for a guest post? I am always looking for high-quality, original (i.e. not published anywhere else online) content with tips and ideas Money Saving Mom® readers can use. If you would like to submit a guest post, please follow the Guest Posting Guidelines.

photo by dalylab; Caro’s Lines