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7 Dec 2010   ·   82
Money Saving Mom

Time Management 101: Home Management (Part 2)


If you missed the first part of this series, be sure to read it here. You can see a video of my Homemaking Binder here.

4) Clear the Clutter

You know one surefire way to add more time to your life? Get rid of excess stuff. I truly believe that the less you have, the less time you have to spend on upkeep, maintenance and cleaning. Either you control the clutter or the clutter will control you.

If you feel overwhelmed with clutter, don’t throw your hands up in despair. Instead, create a realistic plan of attack. Take one room at a time and commit to working on it for 15 minutes five days each week until it is thoroughly gone through and then start on the next.

I’ve written quite a bit on this topic before, so I encourage you to go read my posts on Dealing With Toy Overload and Five Ways to Cut Down on Clutter.

5) Tame the Laundry Monster

While I might be pretty good at keeping on top of most of the clutter in our house, I struggle with keeping up with the laundry. In fact, after my third child was born, for a few months, there was almost always a massive pile of clean laundry in our room waiting to be folded.

I never seemed to have the time or energy to tackle it. So, truth be told, most of the time it didn’t get folded and put away; we just took the clothes straight out of the pile and wore them. (Does that make me Worst Homemaker of the Year?)

I constantly felt guilty about this and overwhelmed by laundry. It just seemed I could never come close to staying on top of it. And finally, I decided enough is a enough. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life overloaded by laundry. So I devised a plan (with my husband’s help!):

::Do a load of laundry from start to finish every day. My goal is that there is never a clean laundry pile of any sort in our room. This isn’t always the case, but if I aim to do a load every day from start to finish (wash, dry, fold put away), I usually stay mostly on top of the laundry.

::Get help. I mentioned before that, after our third child was born and I was struggling with postpartum depression, we hired a girl from church to start coming over once a week and helping out. One of the tasks she often helps with is doing a few loads of laundry.

It is such a huge relief and blessing to know that, if I get behind on laundry, someone else is going to help me get caught back up so I don’t fall hopelessly behind and we resort back to piles of laundry in our room again. I’m also teaching the children to help with laundry and we have a time block in our schedule where we all help fold and put away the laundry.

Maybe these solutions won’t work for you (or quite possibly, you don’t struggle with staying on top of the laundry like I do!), but I encourage you to evaluate areas in your homemaking which you struggle with and work on coming up with possible solutions. It might take you a few tries to find a solution, but you’ll likely hit on something which works well in the process — or which at least helps you see some noticeable improvement!

6) Simplify Meals

You know my mantra is “Keep it simple.” There’s no need to over-complicate life any more than it already is.

If you love making six-course gourmet dinners and you have time to do so, than go for it! But if you’re feeling stressed and overwhelmed with life, can I encourage you to give yourself freedom to keep meals simple?

In fact, if your family is okay with it, you might find it helpful to just have two weeks’ worth of go-to quick and easy meals that you rotate. Or, you might consider taking one day a month to prepare most of the food for your main dishes for the next month to stick in the freezer.

We stick with really basic meals around here and it works well for us at this season of our lives. Breakfasts are cereal or oatmeal, lunches are leftovers, sandwiches, salads or macaroni and cheese, dinners are some type of meat (fish, chicken or beef), some type of carb (bread, rice or potatoes) and a veggie. Most meals can be put together in 15 minutes or less, with pretty minimal clean up, too.

Having this simple plan and giving myself the grace to not feel like I needed to be making more than this (unless I was inspired and had time!) has really provided me a lot of freedom from guilt — and it’s saved me a lot of time and energy, too!

7) Let Go of the Myth of a Perfect Balance

I’ve shared a lot of thoughts and tips on time management in this series, but I want to reiterate to you that, while things are so much better in our lives and my priorities are in order much of the time now, please don’t get the impression that I have found a perfect balance in my life. There are still those days when I don’t get enough sleep, the house looks like a tornado came through, I stay in my pajamas all day and Jesse brings home dinner.

As I’ve given myself grace and sought to put the “big rocks” in first, I’ve realized that it’s okay if everything isn’t perfect or even close to perfect. Life is full of disruptions, messes and curveballs.

At different times in your life, you’re going to need to put more energy and effort into some things while other things are going to slide or be put on the back burner for the time being. Something’s always going to be somewhat out of balance… and I believe that is perfectly okay!

True balance is not spending exactly equal amounts of time on every facet of your life, but it’s making sure that, over the course of a few months, you are giving focused attention to each important area in your life and that the unimportant things aren’t creeping in and crowding out what really matters.

Beginning on Wednesday, I’ll be sharing some excellent guest posts on time management from readers who are in much different seasons and situations of life than me. I think you’ll be blessed and encouraged

5 Dec 2010   ·   30
Money Saving Mom

Super Savings Saturday: Organic bread for $0.99 per loaf!

I scored big time at the health food store this week! They had a cart full of Rudi’s Organic Baker bread and buns marked down to $0.99. I picked up ten loaves/bags and filled up our freezer with enough bread to last at least a month! I also picked up my free bag of Food Should Taste Good chips.

And I stopped by Hallmark this afternoon and used my $5/$5 coupon. They have wrapping paper on sale for Buy One at $4.99, Get a Second Roll for $0.99. So I bought two rolls, used my $5/$5 coupon and got both rolls for $0.99 plus tax.

So those were my best bargains of the week. Can you believe that I actually ended up not buying anything on Black Friday or Cyber Monday? I was planning on possibly getting a few things, but when I took inventory of our home and children’s clothes, there wasn’t anything we needed. Plus, I already have almost all of our Christmas gifts purchased, so I just kept my money.

But I sort of felt like I bought stuff since I had fun finding and posting deals for you. I guess that gave me the same thrill of shopping — without any money leaving my bank account or wallet! 🙂

_____________

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.

3 Dec 2010   ·   14
Money Saving Mom

We Paid Cash! :: Our Home Renovation

We paid cash!

A testimony from Courtney

After looking for our dream home for several months, we quickly realized that what we had in mind as the home to raise our family didn’t exist on a police officer’s salary. I was working too, as a teacher, but only for another year or so before I quit to become a stay-at-home mom.

We decided to get used to living on one income early by purchasing a home based on my husband’s salary and using my salary to build our savings.

The Background

Finding a home under our budget and fit all our requirements was a difficult and sometimes frustrating process.

We realized if we were going to find a home we could live in for the long-term it would not come without some flaws. We were careful though, and knew we had to find a home at the low- to mid-range end of our budget so we wouldn’t be financially stressed to complete the renovations.

We also decided that we didn’t want to buy a home that needed a kitchen remodel since those can tend to be more expensive.

Having these things decided, we found a home we loved and fit our budget, but needed some cosmetic changes. The kitchen had been remodeled eight years earlier and was in great condition. We just changed the handles on the doors to update it a bit. New hardware for the cabinets and drawers cost us around $60.

What We Did

  • New carpet throughout
  • The hardwood floors in the kitchen sanded, sealed and extended
  • New interior doors
  • New paint throughout

We budgeted $5,000 to get this done and were successful.

We Paid Cash TV RoomWe Paid Cash TV Room After

How We Did It

  • It was hard to be patient when we wanted a new, beautiful house right now, but we saved carefully and did projects as we had the money to — not charging anything.
  • We shopped around and had several businesses gives us estimates on supplies to ensure we were getting the best price.
  • We did much of the labor ourselves. We ripped out the carpet and pads, pulled carpet staples and prepped all the floors. Removing the carpet, combined with a 10% discount my husband gets through his work at a home improvement store, we were able to save almost $2,000 on our carpet, compared to some bids we received.
  • We borrowed supplies and labor from friends, co-workers and neighbors. Professional paint equipment was offered by a co-worker who used to own his own business; my husband’s parents had drills, saws, and sanders we used, and countless friends offered their labor to get the jobs done.
  • Carpet was the only thing we had professionally installed.

We Paid Cash RenovationsWe Paid Cash Renovations 2

It was a long, time-consuming process but definitely worth it to see the finished product and know that we improved the value of our home without going into debt. It’s also a good feeling to know we didn’t finance our renovations with our mortgage so we aren’t paying interest on it either.

Courtney and Blake have been married for seven years and have a two-year-old daughter. They reside in Utah where Blake is a police officer and Courtney teaches seventh grade. They love spending time as a family and doing things outdoors.

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

3 Dec 2010   ·   23
Money Saving Mom

Do-It-Yourself: Make a gift bow from a magazine page

Did you know you can skip buying bows and instead use magazines pages (or any paper of your choice) to make your own gift bows?

If you’d like a different look, Oh Amanda gives a tutorial for using wrapping paper to make a bow.

Do you have a fun and frugal Christmas DIY idea to share? I’d love to hear about it! Read the submission guidelines and submit it here.

2 Dec 2010   ·   170
Money Saving Mom

A Shiny New Car is Not Always All It’s Cracked Up to Be

As most of you know, we finally replaced Old Blue Van and paid cash for a new-to-us car recently. We’ve never had a car with less than 60,000 miles on it (most of ours have been purchased at closer to 100,000 miles!) so buying a less-than-three-year-old car was a pretty monumental purchase for us.

When Jesse brought the car home, we were so excited for him to have reliable transportation. But I have to admit that we both were excited about more than the reliability of the transportation: we liked having such a beautiful car in impeccable condition.

A few nights later, we drove it to an event and when we parked and got out, a random stranger hollered from a few parking stalls over, “Nice car, man!” I looked over at my husband and said with a huge grin, “I bet that’s the first time someone’s ever said that about your car, isn’t it?”

However, our big bubble of pride was just about ready to be burst.

A couple of weeks ago, I heard Jesse pull into the garage but he didn’t come in the house like usual. Instead, he called my phone.

“This is weird,” I thought. “Why not just walk in and tell me instead of calling me from the garage?”

After answering the phone, I heard him say in very upset tones, “I can’t believe it. I can’t believe it. I can’t believe it!

I started getting worried at how frustrated he seemed. It’s very rare for him to get upset and he was really worked up about something.

But my heart went up into my throat when he said, “I just shut the garage door down on the back of the car!”

It was my turn to be upset now. “You what? How could you have done that?? Please tell me the car’s not ruined!” I exclaimed in harsh tones without waiting for him to answer.

The car’s back bumper was no longer in impeccable condition. Instead, it had an indentation and gash from our garage door imprinted on it.

I was angry at my husband. He was angry at himself. And we were both sick that our beautiful car was now marred.

After 30 minutes of huffing and puffing over it, we both finally stepped back and realized how stupid we were being. Here we were all upset over a dent on a vehicle when people all over the world are wondering where their next meal is going to come from or how they are going to pay the medical bills for their child with cancer. A dent in our shiny new car is very microscopic in comparison and it’s certainly not worth having a fight over or losing sleep over.

This incident has taught us a very important lesson: when you buy nicer things, it’s easier to become more attached to them. If we had shut the garage door down on Old Blue Van, we would have laughed and let it go because it would have just been one more flaw to add to the van’s character.

But our reaction was completely different when it came to our new car — and it made us realize how we’ve wrongly become too attached to this car. Three months ago, we were content to drive a clunker. But, after buying a new car, we were all of a sudden getting angry over a dent in the bumper!

It was just the reality check we needed to jolt us out of our selfishness and pride and remind us that things are just things. We can’t take them with us and they are all God’s anyway.

We likely can get the dent fixed on the car, but at this point, I’m not so sure we will. It’s serving as a constant reminder to us that it’s just a car. There are much more important things in life than driving a shiny new car in impeccable condition.

1 Dec 2010   ·   75
Money Saving Mom

Enter to win my favorite Grain Mill!

If you’ve been a regular reader here for awhile, you know that I buy my wheat in bulk and grind it myself. There are so may advantages to doing so — and it saves us a lot of money, too!

So, for my Christmas Gift Guide post this week, I’m giving away my very favorite Grain Mill so that one of you can also enjoy the benefits of milling your own flour, too. Go enter to win it!

1 Dec 2010   ·   81
Money Saving Mom

Vlog: My Very Simple Homemaking Binder

I was first introduced to the concept of a “Homemaking Binder” when I first started reading blogs almost seven years ago. I read about all these incredible and massively-detailed binders other women had put together and thought, this is it! This is going to solve my homemaking issues and help me have a beautifully organized home and life.

So I tried to make up an elaborate system but quickly discovered there was one major problem: The system wouldn’t work unless I worked the system! And because I had bitten off more than I could chew and was trying to make someone else’s system work for me, it left me more frustrated than ever. To be honest, I even felt like a failure when I just couldn’t make a Homemaking Binder work for me and it seemed it worked flawlessly for everyone else.

Over time, I’ve learned that it’s okay to do what works for me — even if it’s much different than what works for other people. So instead of trying to conform myself to another person’s system, I’ve set out to create my own.

This video tutorial walks you through what I’ve been using for the past four months. It’s working really well for us right now, though I can’t promise that it will be what I use for the rest of my life. I’m learning that tweaking and overhauling things as seasons and needs change is what works best.

But I share this in hopes it might inspire some of you. Please don’t copy mine — because it likely won’t work for you! — but I’m hopeful maybe those of you who are struggling with home management might be able to glean a few ideas from it.

By the way, all of the pages I use in my binder can be downloaded for free here. You can also read more details about our daily schedule here.

Do you use a homemaking binder or another system to keep your home and life in order? I’ve love to hear what works for you!

Next Monday, I’ll share the final installment of the Time Management series and then I’ll be posting at least 10 incredible guest posts on time management from readers here who are in different seasons and situations of life than me.

30 Nov 2010   ·   19
Money Saving Mom

Ask Jesse: Should We Use Our Emergency Fund to Start a Business?

There have been a lot of questions coming in recently which I don’t feel qualified to answer as they involve topics which aren’t my areas of expertise. So I’m so excited that my husband, Jesse, has kindly offered to occasionally tackle these questions in my place on Tuesdays! -Crystal

We have been thinking of making the transition to my husband becoming self-employed for a while and are currently looking at all the ins and outs of that. We have no debt, a paid-for car and house, the capital needed to start up the business he is thinking of and an emergency fund which will last us 5-6 months of living expenses.

Part of me thinks that this choice to transition to self employment, isn’t really an emergency, and so we should build up another fund to allow for that transition to happen rather than using our emergency fund. On the other hand, that is going to take us literally years at our current savings rate and the potential to rebuild our emergency fund (or top up whatever we have used from it) when my husband is self-employed is greater.

What is your perspective? What should (and shouldn’t) emergency funds be used for? -Karen

Starting a business from the ground up is always an exciting and daunting prospect at the beginning. You have the thrill of realizing you can work for yourself and make your dream into a reality, accompanied by fear of the unknown and of providing for your family. How will it all work?

Well, I certainly don’t know all the answers, but what we have learned from our experience and observation, the key to starting any business is to start small. And grow when you can afford it.

Granted, this is not the make money hand-over-fist, get rich quick answer, but it is what will create staying power in this economy. We have started three businesses with $2000 each, with each succeeding business stretching that money farther each time.

Bear in mind, also, that, unless you have created a market for your business to succeed, you will probably not make a living wage after expenses and for a couple of years. This is why it is generally a better idea to start the business on the side while being employed full-time.

I know one man who did this for 10 years before jumping out on his own. He worked several nights a week and on Saturday mornings until the business was at a place where it could support his family and any new employees who needed to be hired in the transition. If your husband can at all squeeze even an hour at night or a few on the weekends and put that time into starting a business, you will be in a much better position administratively and financially to jump onto the self-employment band-wagon a few years (or months!) down the road.

As far as using your emergency fund is concerned, I would not touch it if I were in your shoes. The emergency fund is a necessary cornerstone of any financial plan, one that should not be lightly moved or reduced.

You are in a great position right now as you are debt free and have a steady, full-time income and a good cushion in savings. If you were to remove that cushion to finance the business and remove the steady income, you will have added stress and unnecessary risk that will potentially put your paid-for assets on the chopping block should the business not take off.

If you cannot run a small portion of the business on the side in the wee hours, I would suggest taking the next year to save up as much money as you can in addition to your emergency fund. If you have enough saved up so you do not have to touch that money, and can reasonably foresee being able to get the business off the ground (with a lot of sweat equity, mind you) and taking advantage of today’s technology and free internet tools, then come and jump on in. The water is nice!

Jesse Paine is a licensed attorney who owns his own law firm. He’s married to Crystal and is the numbers nerd of the MoneySavingMom.com team! If you have a question you’d like him to answer in a future column, you can submit it here.

29 Nov 2010   ·   62
Money Saving Mom

Time Management 101: Home Management (Part 1)

I wanted to end this series on Time Management with some thoughts on managing your time when it comes to homemaking. I’m still learning right along with you, so I hope you’ll chime in and share some of your tips and ideas, too!

1) Streamline Your Homemaking Routines

Most of you know that my mantra is, “Keep it simple.” There’s no need to have an elaborate system if something really basic works for you (though, if an elaborate system works for you, more power to you!).

And there’s no need to feel like you have to scrub every little nook and cranny of your house all the time. Give yourself grace to let some stuff go.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, stick with the basics. In our house, if we have clean laundry, sufficiently picked up rooms, clean bathrooms, the dishes are loaded into the dishwasher and the floors are swept, I consider things to be in pretty good shape.

I aim to complete the tasks on my Daily, Weekly and Monthly checklists, but I don’t always get to all of them. However, I’ve found that if I shoot to get them done, even if I skip a few things every few days, the house stays in pretty good shape. It’s never perfect, but it’s usually 45-minutes to Company Ready. And I’m satisfied with that at this point in my life.

2) Take Time to Plan

I touched on this before, but I’m going to talk about it again. Without a plan, you don’t know where you’re supposed to be going. You’re aimless and purposeless and you’ll usually be more apt to just run around in circles putting out fires.

Planning one cleaning project to do each day and actually doing it, is much better than waking up with 447 projects in your head you feel you really should do but you’re so overwhelmed that you end up doing nothing.

I encourage you to set aside time in your schedule each week to make a simple plan of action as well as goals for the coming week. I usually make out this list for the upcoming week on Saturdays and then try to review my list the following Saturday bumping whatever didn’t get accomplished during the previous week to the next week.

Reviewing this weekly list of goals is always so encouraging to me because even on those weeks when it feels like nothing really got done, when I review my list at the end of the week I’ll realize that yes, I really did accomplish some things — despite what it may have felt like!

I use a list similar to FishMama’s (above), only mine’s not so detailed. It just has sections for Home, Jesse, Children, Personal, Ministry and Blogging. I try to set 3-5 goals for each section each week.

In the home section, I might write an extra organizing or cleaning project and two cooking projects. In Jesse’s section, I might write to set a goal of writing him one note, doing something fun with him and a specific prayer request to pray for him daily. In the children section, I might set a goal to finish a book we’re reading together, do an extra craft project and plan one fun outing.

In the personal section, I usually set goals for Bible memory work, a book I want to finish and some other area I’m working on improving in (such as going to bed on time!). For the ministry section, I might set a goal to have a friend over, write a card to someone and make food for someone. And in the blogging section, I’ll usually set goals for whatever posts or projects I’m hoping to finish that week.

Now obviously, I don’t always do everything in every section every week. In fact, some weeks I only get a few things off my list done. But planning these at the beginning of the week and then referring to my list of goals as I make out my short daily to-do lists helps me to be a lot more purposeful in living my life.

3) Involve the Family

My husband and I are firm believers in families being a team. No one person in a family was designed to carry the load of everything; it should be shouldered by each individual member to the level of their ability.

Now, I know I am very, very blessed to be married to a man who doesn’t shirk when it comes to work — whether that’s in his professional role as an attorney or when he’s at home changing a dirty diaper. He works from sun up to sun down and then some and I’m constantly challenged by his discipline and work ethic. [I often tell him, “Would you stop making me feel so lazy?!” :)]

My husband and I are a team through and through and we both contribute to our family economically as well as keeping up our home, training our children and doing the myriad of tasks, errands and chores which must be done to keep a home and family humming along. While I know our particular family dynamics wouldn’t work for everyone, I do encourage you if you feel like you are shouldering too heavy of a load to talk openly with your family members about how to shift some of that load elsewhere so that it doesn’t crush you!

We’re also in the process of training our children to also be assets to our family. While we very much want them to enjoy their childhood and just revel in that carefree state, we also feel like one of the greatest gifts we can instill in them is a strong work ethic.

No matter where you end up in life, a hard-working, persevering attitude is always going to be a huge benefit. Plus, I believe it is so much more fulfilling to live a life of service, rather than a life of selfishness.

We have found that modeling hard work and servanthood before our children is one of the best ways for them to learn, as well as encouraging them to work alongside us from an early age. And we give them age-appropriate chores to accomplish each day, as well as encouraging them to take initiative in helping outside of their daily chore list. (By the way, you can download some fun and free printable chore lists here, if you’re interested.)

We are still learning the practicalities of imparting this to our children in a Godly and balanced manner, so I won’t give you any tips for what works. But ask me in about 25 years from now, and hopefully I’ll have some words of wisdom to share. 🙂

On Wednesday, we’ll talk more about clearing out clutter, taming the laundry monster, simplifying meals and letting go of the myth of a perfect balance. If I have time, I’m also going to do a little video blog tour of my extremely simple homemaking binder for those who are looking to set up a simple home organization system.

How do you encourage your children to help around the house and develop a strong work ethic? I’d love to hear your ideas and suggestions!

29 Nov 2010   ·   32
Money Saving Mom

Make Christmas Clutter-Free With Charitable Giving

A guest post by JessieLeigh from Parenting the Tiniest of Miracles

I love Christmas! I love the decorations, the music, the wrapping, the anticipation…I love it.

What I don’t love? Clutter.

So I love giving consumable gifts. It’s fun for children to have things to unwrap and it’s nice for me to know that once they’re gone, they’re gone.

Another way I like to cut back on clutter and help my children learn a little about giving is through gifts of charitable donations.

But how can we make this, well, more fun for our kids? How can we hold on to the joy and elation of surprise on Christmas morning while making the real gift something for others?

Here are a few tricks that help keep it exciting even for toddlers and preschoolers:

  1. Double up. Rather than purchasing a new, trendy game, pick up two copies of an old classic. Candy Land, Chutes & Ladders, Hi Ho Cherry-o, etc. often go on sale for $5 each during the holidays. Wrap them both together for your child to open and he gets to keep one, the other gets donated to a child in need.
  2. Give a small toy that represents the charity. Want to give to an animal shelter? Wrap up a little stuffed dog or cat. Is this the year you donate to the March of Dimes? Give your child a small baby doll. Let your little one know that while she takes care of her new treasure, your donation will help take care of even more in need.
  3. Give them a gift card. Children have amazingly giving spirits. They also love to get to choose things and to be “in charge”. Consider giving your child a ten or twenty dollar gift card to a local supermarket and letting them choose canned goods for a local food pantry. The adventure of getting to shop is as good as a new toy for many little ones!

Those are my three favorite ways to keep Christmas clutter-free and encourage a giving heart all while making sure there’s something to open under the tree.

Do you have any tricks for making charitable giving fun for children? 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.

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 Fearless