Updates Galore! June Debt and No Spend Month

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So I have good news, and I have bad news. Which would you like first? I’ve always been a bad news first kind of girl myself, it’s kind of liking ripping off a bandaid and the good news ends up being like a soothing balm. How’s that for poetic?

So here it goes, the bad news is our no spend month hasn’t really been no spend. Although I will say we have spent a lot less than we normally would. I had thought we were doing great, and then I balanced the checkbook last week. I noticed that the little trips I sent my husband on to the store were adding up a bit more than I had budgeted for. That’s right, he was great at talking the talk all month about our no spending pact, but when it came to the things he loved at the checkout he apparently couldn’t help himself.  To the tune of about 50.00.

That honestly wouldn’t have been so bad, but I have this little chip on my shoulder called the unfair monster. As in, it’s really unfair you got to spend extra and keep it from me, I didn’t spend any extra this month! Yea, I’m really mature. So out I went to do a couponing run I had been talking myself out of (in my defense I got both toilet paper and laundry detergent at my stock-up price) and a swimsuit top for my no longer nursing assets.

But hey, we spent a little over a hundred non-budgeted money this month, and actually came in under budget on things like gas. So while our no spend month did not go as planned, it still wasn’t all that bad.

And now for the good. Our debt update. We didn’t go crazy and cut our debt a ton this month, but we did cut it some! As of today our total is 146367.97. That’s 1267.53 less than it was last month!

In all fairness this is just from us paying minimums-let that sink in. And starting next month three of our cards will start to accrue interest (they’ve been interest free for the last year) so our debt will not go down nearly as much.

But tonight we go to week three of Dave Ramsey’s FPU. We’ve created our first budget and are talking about both big and small things we can cut. We’re chugging along, but we’re not using our cards anymore and are committed to tackling this mess we’re in. We can do it!

Free (Or Cheap) Things To Do With Your Kids This Summer

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Summer is finally here! No more homework checks, or school lunches, or uniforms. The kids get to have sleep in, have fun, and enjoy some time being kids.

And it took all of three hours for mine to say I’m  bored.

When you’re on a tight budget the idea of keeping your kids entertained throughout the summer can seem pretty daunting. So many things cost so much money. With three kids a single day at an amusement park can easily cost us 200.00 or more…that is definitely not in our budget! But summer fun doesn’t always have to break the bank. Below are some ways you can have fun with the kids this summer, without dishing out a bunch of cash in the process.

Parks and Splash Parks  

They are fun, and they are free! Pack a few snacks and some sunscreen and hit the park for an afternoon of fun. The best part is that the other kids there will keep your little one occupied, so mama can sit down and snag a small break…maybe.

Museums

Although many museums do charge an entrance fee, if you do your homework you an often find once that offer free admissions or search out the few days a year when your local museum offers free or reduced price admission. For example the Smithsonian Institute, Pioneers Museum, Bronx Museum, and Olympic Sculpture park all offer free admission. Museums are a great way to keep your child’s mind engaged and learning this summer, and they usually have air conditioning which is always a plus for me.

Movies in the Park, or in the backyard

Movies in the park is one of our favorite summer activities, we pack a cooler with our favorite snacks and a blanket and load up to go spend a night watching movies under the stars. Every place we have ever lived has offered this activity 100% free. If your community doesn’t offer this activity you can still turn your backyard into your own drive in. You can get projectors fairly inexpensive on Amazon and hang a sheet on an outside wall as a screen.

Invite some friends over for some DIY Jenga, or a water balloon fight using reusable water balloons, and it turn it into a party.

Craft Your Heart Out (DIY sidewalk paint, bubble paint, make a bird feeder)

My kids love any chance they have at making a mess, it’s honestly just a bonus to them if something cute comes out in the process. In the winter time I find myself trying to keep our crafting low key, because I don’t want to spend 3 hours cleaning up a 20  minute craft while my kids destroy the rest of the house. Can you blame me?

But in the summer, the kids can craft outside, and they can make any mess they want as long as the water hose will clean it up! We’ve tried DIY Sidewalk paint, making bird feeders, and adding food coloring to a homemade bubble mixture to create bubble paint. To help with our budget, I generally look for crafts with ingredients we already have, as well as things like thread spools as bubble blowers so we don’t have to spend extra money.

Go for a hike

Whether it’s a state park with long and winding trails, or exploring your town on own two feet, getting out and hiking together is a great way to spend time as a family. It also will wear the kids out, so that’s always a plus.

Stargazing

Any reason to stay up late earns a big thumbs up in my kids books. Lay out a blanket and grab an astronomy book for kids. Make a game out of seeing who can find the most constellations, or count the most stars. My kids love to play ‘connect the dots’ to see what kinds of shapes they can come up with on their own!

Lowe’s and Home Depot Workshops

My grandpa always told me that he was so glad I loved to learn, but to make sure I learned skills as well as books. Lowe’s and Home Depot must feel the same way, and both provide the perfect learning environment for our little ones. Lowe’s offers Build and Grow Clinics every Saturday, while Home Depot offers theres once a month on average from what I’ve seen. The best part is both are completely free, and kids get to keep what they build.

Volunteer

I mentioned that giving back can be a fun activity in my Date Nights post a few weeks ago, but it’s not just for grown ups! There are a lot of areas where kids can get involved in communities too. Like playing with animals at the pound, collecting food for shelters, or helping to organize the inventory at the local food pantry.

Library Fun

Story time, crafts, foreign language classes, cooking classes, and so much more are offered at our local library for kids. And all of it is completely free. As a family we try to go once a week to get new books, and we try to schedule it at a time that an activity is scheduled. This summer our local library has programs teaching kids about music and movement, recycling, and the Rain Forest, and community helpers.

What kinds of things do you plan to do with your kids this summer? Let me know in the comments below!

Six Ideas For A Fun (And Free) Date Night

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“Never stop dating each other.” 

It was a piece of marriage advice I heard once while I was a teenager. I think during a sermon but I’m not 100% sure. It’s funny how you can remember a quote or a saying, but not take it to heart until much later. It’s definitely true about me and that sentence.

Tomorrow my husband and I will celebrate seven years of marriage. Not a lot in the grand scheme of things, but it sure seems like a lot to us. Our marriage has not always been a walk in the park, and there have been times when both of us wanted to give up. But we’ve persisted and held strong. The other day I was thinking back on the last seven years, both good times and bad. I was trying to pick out what made the good years good, and the bad years bad. And while I truly believe it was several things, there was one common denominator during the good years: we dated.

During the good years we made a point to nurture our marriage and each other, and it showed.

It’s easy to stop dating your spouse. To make up excuses about why it’s not practical.

We don’t have a babysitter.

We work too much.

We don’t have enough money.

It’s so easy to come up with excuses, but let me tell you now there is no excuse to stop dating your spouse. Not even money. A date night doesn’t have to be an expensive extravaganza to be fulfilling, in fact some of my favorite date nights haven’t cost us a penny at all.

Here are some of my favorites:

  1. A Walk in the Park: I love this one because it can be done with the kids in tow if the need arises. The kids are distracted by the playground and you can take some time for yourselves on a park bench. Just sit and talk, reconnect.
  2. Netflix and Chill: Put the kids to bed, grab a cup of tea or a bottle of wine and some popcorn and sit together to watch that new series you’ve been eyeing for weeks but can’t let the kids see. Grab a blanket and cuddle, you don’t even have to talk if you don’t want to.
  3. Game Night: You know that game of Scrabble that’s been sitting in the closet since college? Take it out and have fun! See who can come up with the longest or craziest word. Up the ante by declaring winner makes dinner and does the dishes tomorrow night.
  4. Volunteer Together: Volunteering cost 0.00 and it’s always fun to help others out, doing it with your spouse is even better.
  5. Budget Meeting: I can see the eyes rolling now, but hear me out. When you and your spouse are both on the same page, planning a budget, seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, and allowing yourself to just dream can be fun. I love sitting with a glass of wine and dreaming about what we will do when our debt is all gone.

Blow Money – The Budget Category You Should Not Be Slacking On

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Were you the person creating your budget and wondering if blow money was really something you could justify? Have you ever found yourself in the midst of your debt free journey and found yourself thinking, “well I’m doing so great now, if I gave up my blow money I could put all that towards my snowball and get done with my debt x amount of times faster?”

Don’t do it!

I was you, and it was a huge mistake, seriously.

While blow money might seem like an easy thing to cut in order to reach your goals faster, in my experience it actually did the opposite.

That’s because while blow money also provides you a little bit of freedom, it also provides you with structure. The structure of having a set amount of money you can spend on you is often a huge motivator in continuing your journey.

It allows you to get that Venti Starbucks Caramel Mochiato you’ve been craving.

It allows you to buy that fancy CC Cream that’s the only thing you like on your skin.

It allows you to take the kids to grab a snowcone as a treat on a hot summers day.

It allows you to say yes to the new Melissa & Doug Puzzle your kids have been drooling over.

And it allows you to do it all guilt free.

Let me tell you a secret: taking away your blow money is not going to stop you from spending money on yourself. All it does is take away the structure, the boundaries, and the that it’s line in the budget creates. Taking it away is a breeding ground for guilt, and it’s not a fun way to live.

So allow yourself a little bit of freedom, your conscience and your wallet will thank you. I promise.

Going Minimal Waste?!

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Hi Guys!

I’ve always considered myself kind of crunchy. I cloth diaper my kids, breastfeed as long as possible, and try to go the more natural route with both our food and our health. But I recently came across a few Zero Waste YouTube channels, and then read Zero Waste Home by Be a Johnson and I came to the realization that even though I am a little crunchy, I am not making anywhere near as much of an impact on the planet as I would like to.

So I’ve decided to tackle our waste output, to bring less packaging into our home, and decrease the amount of waste going out of our home as well. I know I can’t be completely Zero Waste, Austen’s medical needs would never allow that, but I want to make an effort to combat the amount of trash we are sending to the landfill.

I know that a lot of people assume that by going green we will be spending a lot of green, but I am going to tackle that too. I actually thinking that going green will help us on our debt free journey. Because by reusing what we have, recycling what we can, and buying the least amount of extra stuff as possible we will be saving money along the way.

I look forward to taking you on this journey with us, don’t forget to sign up for my weekly newsletter to stay up to date on everything going on, as well as subscribe to my YouTube channel so you never miss a video!

Love,

Meagan

The Budget: Why It Is Your Most Important Financial Tool

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Ah, the dreaded budget. The list of rules that dictates your life and your wallet. Most people hate the idea of a budget, many say that they do not need it, they are doing fine without it, it’s just not a necessity. They are wrong.

If there is anything, anything at all you take from this blog in regards to financial advice, I hope it is the importance of a budget. Not because I want to you to live a life restricted by the numbers on a list, but because I want to experience the freedom that a budget can give you.

Freedom, from a budget? You heard me, the budget is your number one tool to gaining financial freedom, and here is why.

It shows you where your money is going.

We made our first budget by analyzing our last three months of expenses and averaging out what we spent in different areas each month. Things like rent, internet, and our utilities were not a surprise. They rarely changed each month anyway. The fact that we spent almost 200.00 eating out in one month, yea that we didn’t expect. By seeing where exactly our money had gone in the past we were able to see what changes we could make to achieve bigger goals in the future.

You are in charge of your budget, not the other way around.

You tell your money where to go, you set the rules. Your budget isn’t this big bully trying to confine you into a rigid set of rules. You can choose how much money you want to spend each month eating out, or going on dates, or on that awesome new toy you’ve been eyeing for the kids.. All that matters is that it fits into your budget, that it equals zero when your done. Seriously, that’s the only rule, the rest is up to you.

Your budget is fluid.

Our needs change monthly. Sometimes unexpected events come up, last minute plans are made, or spontaneous opportunities arise. These things do not have to be budget killers, only budget changers. Did you just get invited to see Hanson on tour? I can only dream. Well, you don’t have to say no, you just have to adjust the budget to make it fit. Spend a little less eating out, save up your blow money, don’t buy that new mascara you’ve been dreaming of. It’s all about the give and take. It’s up to you.

Your budget is an asset, not a jail sentence. Simply take charge, be vigilant, and chances are you will discover your money can go a lot farther than you thought.

Want a copy of my free budget planning printable? Simply sign up for my email list to gain access to the free resources page!

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Are you still confused about your financial situation, or are completely overwhelmed by the idea of a budget and just don’t know where to start? Adam Hagerman, a certified financial planner, has set up a program designed to help. Adam will walk you through the steps of why you need a budget, how to implement it, as well as how to go beyond it to the path of financial freedom. And the best part? Whether you go with his payment plan option or pay upfront the whole 97.00  fee for the class, Adam’s Budgeting for Budget Haters Class will help you control your finances without emptying your wallet in the process.

5 Ways You Can Go Green While Saving Green Today

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I love to talk about going green in real life, especially coming from a small town where it wasn’t really the ‘cool thing’ to do. My cloth diapers, reusable grocery bags, and glass water bottle were always great conversation starters to let me share my views in comfortable and easy going way. But while people were intrigued by my crunchy ways, my conversations always seemed to end with the same results. People were interested in going green, but were worried that the transition would cost them too much money.

At first this really caught me off guard, I admit, because a lot of my green ways came about because I come from very very frugal roots. As in my dad literally never had paper towels in our house, not because he was trying to save the planet, but because he was too cheap to waste money on something so disposable.

But nonetheless I do know that even though things like cloth diapers and reusable water bottles will save you a ton of money in the long run (more on that in later posts), I want to let you know that you do not actually have to shell out any money at all in order to start making green changes in your life. That’s right, you can totally go green without spending any green at all. In fact, many of these ways will help you save green as well!

So here are my top five tried and true ways to go green, and save green, without spending any green. How about you try to say that five times fast!

Brick in the toilet

Okay it doesn’t have to be a brick, really anything that takes up a large amount of volume and is heavy enough to sink in the toilet tank can be used in this little hack, like an old coke bottle filled with pebbles or something similar. The purpose is to take up volume in the tank, so that the tank holds less water. Less water used in every flush means less water being used by your household every day. This will add up to not only a savings in your water bill, but also helps to save your community on energy needed to treat water and pump water to your home as well as helping to protect the wildlife that rely on the rivers and lakes in which our water comes from.

 

Turn off appliances you’re not using

Okay, turning off lights when you leave a room is kind of a no brainer, but do you know that many appliances continue to use energy even when they are turned off? That’s right, your microwave, lamps, coffee maker, and radios are all adding to your energy bill, even when you aren’t using them. The Energy Star website actually says that US pays 11 billion dollars on average annually in stand by energy costs. That’s roughly 87 dollars a year per household.

Line dry your clothes, and wash them in cold water

This is one of my favorite money saving hacks, because I personally love the smell of line dried clothes, especially in the summer. But if the fresh air scent isn’t your thing, maybe the fact that a small load of laundry costs you on average .36 to dry will make you change your mind (that’s about 131 dollars in savings a year if you do a small load of laundry each day). For my family those savings double because we also do a load of cloth diapers a day too.

As for washing in cold water, the savings are even more substantial. A hot wash/warm rinse will cost you an average .68 a load, whereas a cold wash/cold rinse will cost a mere .04 a load. Using the same standards as above of a small load each day, the average american family would then save a total of 233.60 a year just by washing in cold water.

And if the money savings aren’t enough, know that switching to cold water washing eliminates about 1600 pounds of carbon dioxide commissions every year per household. It also helps your clothes to last longer, saving you even more money in the long run.

I line dry clothes even in the winter, using foldable laundry racks such as this. Although it is a little bit of an investment, it does pay off in the long run.

Make your own cleaning solutions

One of the biggest ah-ha moments in going green to me was that I didn’t have to go out and spend a ton of money buying cleaning products for everything from glass to the toilet. It is so easy to make effective cleaning products from items you usually have in your home. Baking soda, vinegar, peroxide, and lemon juice can all be used to make great cleaners for almost every surface of your home. Sign up for my email list (located on the left hand sidebar) and gain access to my free printables page to get a list of some of my favorite cleaning recipes.

Choose to Reuse

Let’s face it, we live in a disposable society. Whereas our ancestors used to reuse items until they couldn’t anymore (and then they often went in the compost) we throw away everything from paper towels to shampoo bottles to endless amounts of food packaging. Do you know American’s use 500 million drinking straws every single day? That is insane! And while I do advocate buying your own reusable items such as water bottle and straws, you can reuse the items you already have in your home just as easily. For example old rags and towels can be repurposed for cleaning, so can old t shirts. Cotton fabric scraps can be composted, so can newspaper and a lot of junk mail. I even use my old prefold diapers as swiffer mop heads. You can fix items such as mixers and blenders instead of disposing of them and buying new ones, and even if your not ready to give up your plastic ziploc bags you can still rinse them, dry them, and use them again. I mean, they’re going to be around forever anyway, why not use them as much as you can?

See, going green and saving green really is easy. Do you have any free tips on going green? Share them in the comments below!

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Debt is Dumb: Why We Are Getting Rid Of It, And Why You Should Too

When people find out we are working towards getting out of debt we generally get one of two reactions:

The first group of people think it’s really neat, but then explain to us the 5,975 ways they would never be able to do it.

The second group of people just blatantly tell us how ridiculous that is, car notes are just a way of life-you know?

Of course there is a small group of people who cheer us on; who have gotten out of debt already, or are currently on this journey as well. Those people are the ones that keep me encouraged and going as we begin what I know is going to be a hard time. “Living like no one else,” Dave Ramsey calls it, “so that later you can live and give like no one else”

By far the question we get asked the most frequently is simply, why? Why get out of debt? Why say no to everything? Why live on such a tight budget for so long just to say you’re debt free? I’ve thought long and hard about the answer to the infamous ‘why’; and have come up with not one, but several reasons. Reasons why we are getting out of debt, and why you should too.

I want to build experiences for my children without the burden of debt on our shoulders. I want them to tour Europe, to see the Northern Lights, to surf in Australia. I have so many dreams that I want my children to experience, and I want to experience with them. These things are expensive in and of themselves, but they are unimaginable when you have the burden of debt on your shoulders.

I want to be able to give. I want to sponsor a refugee child, to pay an entire months bills for my church without batting an eye. I want to set up a foundation to help families like ours get to Colorado to access medical cannabis for their loved ones. These are just a few, there are so many ways I want to give back to this world. But I can’t do that when I feel like the money I’m making isn’t really mine yet, it belongs to all the people and business’ I have borrowed from. I have to pay them back before I feel comfortable calling my money my own, and then giving it away to people who need it more.

I want to retire. I want to retire, and I want to retire comfortably. I don’t want my husband and I to have to work until the day we die (unless we are doing something we love, then we might want to keep working). I don’t want to rely on the government’s meager social security pay out to live on, or worry that I will have to go in a Medicaid funded nursing home when it’s needed. I want us to be able to live comfortably, on our own money, until the day we die. Without being a burden on our children, the government, or our community.

I want to leave a legacy for my children. I mean this in two ways. I, of course, want to leave a financial legacy for my children. To help them buy their first house, send their children to college, or just have money sitting in the bank. But I also want to teach them financial responsibility. I want them to know how to say no to things they cannot afford, to know the importance of telling every dollar where to go before you spend a penny, and to never fall into debt themselves. Money is a big responsibility, and I feel it is our place to teach our children how to handle it.

So there you have it, my reasons for getting out of debt. And for the record, yes when we say debt free we mean no car payment, no mortgage, no student loans. No money owed to anyone but ourselves.

The road ahead is both daunting and exciting. But we’re ready, are you?

What’s the Point

Full disclosure: These are neither my legs, or my dog. I do have a dog though…and legs.

I owe y’all an apology.

You see, normally when you come to a blog you know right away why you are there. What the blogger’s purpose is. Why they do what they do. I have failed to give you that information. My purpose. My point.

Everything up to now has been a jumbled mess of this and that, and for that I am so sorry.

So…why do I blog? Well over the last couple weeks I have been taking some time to ponder that question. What am I passionate about? What makes me tick? And I have come up with three answers for you.

Green Living

I have a passion for sustainable green living and making as little impact on the planet as possible. I don’t know if we will ever be able to go zero waste (although I’d love to), but I would like to minimize our waste as much as I can. Think one garbage bag a month or less for my family of five. Those are my longterm goals of course, and it will take us awhile to get there, but that’s what I am moving towards.

Debt Free Living

If you follow my YouTube channel you know that we were previously on a journey to get out of debt. Well over the last year that has been put on a major hold thanks to many things, but mostly Austen’s medical condition and the many life changes we have made to accommodate it. Starting this month we are back on the debt free bandwagon though, and we’re hoping you will tag along with us.

Family

I consider myself a lot of things. A writer, a friend, a coffee lover, and Harry Potter fanatic. But above all that-I’m a mom. My kids are very much my life, and 99% of what I do revolves around them. So just as much as I will be sharing our green lifestyle and our debt free journey, I will also be talking about my kids. I’ll talk about Austen’s cannabis journey, Addi’s diving, and Atlas’ antics. I’ll talk about the things we are doing to raise them to be the kind, hard working, compassionate people we hope they will be. Basically anything and everything kids is within reach here, if I am being honest.

So there it is, that is why I blog. I promise to try my hardest to keep my posts to these three topics. Although we all know a political post might slip in a time or two, but I will try to keep it at a minimum.

I look forward to sharing with you.

Persistence and Purpose | 2017 Goals

First off, yes I know it’s a little late in the month for this post, but persistence and such. I am trying to take my word of the year to heart and power through some of the posts I had planned to complete before the kiddos got sick. Just bear with me here.

Now although I am a very avid list maker and planner lover-extaordinaire, I have never been a really big fan of New Year’s Resolutions. I do feel like the new year is a perfect time to start anew with a clean slate and all, but I have always found something cheesy and almost unlucky about them. Almost as if just by making them you were setting yourself up for some sort of cringeworthy failure.

But this year as the calendar turned on 2016 I couldn’t help myself but to think forward to 2017 and beyond. What did I want out of my life, my finances, my blog? Where do I want to be in five years? Ten years? And what can I do this year to push myself towards those goals? It was these thoughts and questions that led me toward the list below.

It is not a hard core to do list, I will not crumple up and feel the weight of failure if they do not all happen, or even if none of them happen. They are simply goals to move towards, but also a path to follow to the success I hope to find in my future.

So without further ado…

2017 Goals

Personal Life:

My main goal for my personal life in 2017 is to simplify. This means less things, less commitments, less idle fillers that get me through the moment but do nothing for me in long term. In order to do this I have to find a way to find out what things in my day are the most important to complete and create a routine that makes them doable in a timely manner. This will give me time to not only get things done, but also time to spend on the things and people I find most important-my family and friends. I want to be present for my husband and my children, I want to spend time making memories that will last our lifetimes.

Business:

This goal is a little more concrete. I am a very avid dreamer, but I often have a hard time with follow through. There are so many things that I want to do, but I tend to give up if it seems my project(s) won’t turn out as perfectly as I had imagined. I am told this is a symptom of OCD, but that is neither here nor there.

For awhile now I have been really thinking and looking deep inside of myself to find out that age old question of what do I want to be when I grow up. This might have better suited me before I got the college degree I now hold (and have never used professionally) but alas, it is what it is. As I thought, prayed, and reflected during this time I was able to lay out dreams that involved goals for both the near future as well as where I’d like to be later on down the road. It was very freeing actually, to have a clear(er) path I want to follow. For example in the future, when are completely debt free, I’d like to invest in real estate. But not just any real estate: I want to buy old houses, restore them to their glory, and both sell them and rent them out. But that is years down the road.

In the present time I would like to focus on this blog as a business and not just a hobby.

  • I want to work on my writing skills and steadily put content on here at least three times a week (Monday, Wednesday, and Friday).
  • I want to upload videos to my main YouTube channel at least twice a week (Tuesday and Thursday).
  • And, after a lot of thought and contemplation, I have decided I want to upload weekly vlogs on my vlog channel as well (Sundays).
  • I want to reopen Papa Publishing, a company I started last year that sold book inspired t-shirts, and I want to expand it to sell printable, prints, and eventually other items.
  • Finally, and the biggest goal of all, I want to finally finish a novel I started last year. Something that no one else may ever want to read, but it’s an item on my bucket list that I feel it is time to check off.

Giving Back and Advocating:

This goal is a little trickier than the others, but it is one of the ones closest to my heart. This year I really want to focus on the need for cannabis to legalized. I want to help give the chance that Austen has to others, not just kids with epilepsy, but everyone who could benefit from this plant. I’m not sure how exactly I will go about this, but I am praying and thinking, and I know it will come to me eventually.

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What is your feeling on New Years Resolutions? What are you hoping to accomplish this year? Comment below and let me know!