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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Choosing Seizures

Last fall Austen went 48 days without a seizure, but as January turned to February she was having seizures every four days on average. On March 13th we decided to try another non-traditional approach and admitted Austen into the hospital with the hopes of transitioning her onto the ketogenic diet. The diet is hard, with everything that goes in her mouth being carefully weighed an measured, but we had high hopes that this would help our girl.

That was not the case.

Within 12 hours her potassium levels skyrocketed and she developed a cardiac arrhythmia. We stopped the diet immediately and were told it was simply not going to be an option for her at this time. I was devastated. We had made the difficult decision to put her on this diet with the hopes that it would help her, instead it very likely could have killed her.

I want to pause here to say the her reaction to the diet is super, super rare. Her dietician had never seen it, and the epileptologist had only seen it once in his career.

Ever since the fall when Austen’s 48 day seizure free streak ended people have been asking the same few questions on repeat. These questions picked up momentum in January when the seizure frequency picked up, and again a few weeks ago when the diet failed.

“Do you think it’s time to add another med?” “Do you think it’s maybe time to stop this whole cannabis thing?” “Have you thought about that new med trial?” and my personal favorite,  “Maybe it’s time to consider Onfi?”

My answer to all of these is NO.  If it comes to choosing between another drug and all of it’s side effects, and choosing seizures, I will choose seizures every single time at this point in our journey.

Why? To me it’s simple:

With Austen’s Cannabis nasal spray her seizures last less than 2 minutes on average, with only Diazepam and Clonazepam her average was about 11. That is a huge difference. In addition to that new meds are highly addictive and come with new side effects including, dizziness, sleepiness, nausea, slurred speech, aggression, and hallucinations.* Shorter seizures with fewer side effects gives us the opportunity to give Austen a life worth living. Before cannabis a seizure would incapacitate her for an entire day, now she is up and going within an hour like nothing ever happened. Losing days of your life at a time is no way to live, and neither is living the days you are awake dealing with all those horrible side effects.

The fact of the matter is Austen will probably never be 100% seizure free. Her epilepsy is caused by a gene mutation, and unless the CRISPR gene editing reaches human trials during her lifetime there is really no chance of her getting a shiny new SCN1A gene. It sucks, but facts are facts.

So no, our goal is not seizure freedom, instead our goal is as few seizures as possible, as short of seizures as possible, with as little day to day side effects as possible. Even though she is still having some seizures, Austen’s disease is progressing slower than doctors thought it would based on her history. We attribute that in large part to cannabis.

So yes, we are choosing seizures, even though conventional meds might give us more seizure free days. The seizure free days are never guaranteed, and the side effects are not worth it to us. To us choosing seizures means choosing life, choosing to really live. And as long as that is the case we will continue to do so.

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*All side effects are listed as possibilities for the drug Onfi. We are not against Onfi indefinitely but it is a very highly addictive drug with very serious side effects, we moved here in large part to hold off on adding Onfi and would like to hold off on adding it as long as possible.

 

Free Printables!

I’m so excited to officially announce the addition of free printables on my blog! Included are budget worksheets, meal planning printables, cleaning recipes, and more!

Are you interested in free printables? Just click here to sign up for our newsletter, you will receive an email containing the password to access the free printables page located in the menu bar.

My Top Ten Winter Medicine Cabinet Must Haves

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If you have follow me on Twitter or follow Austen’s Facebook page (which you should totally follow me on both, just saying), you know that the winter germs have hit us hard this year. In January we had a respiratory virus that put Atlas in the hospital and caused a massive influx of seizures for Austen, then a stomach virus rampage through the house, and to round out the month we all got colds.

Needless to say, it was miserable, and I’ve had enough.

So the researcher in me came out and I have spent the last week pouring myself over ways to both help build our immune systems as well as cut the sicknesses out when they do enter our doors.

So folks, I would like to introduce to you our winter medicine cabinet. And yes, I have taken the time to explain why I chose each and every thing. Because I’m a nerd like that.

      1. Multivitamins: In an ideal world we would get all essential vitamins and nutrients through the foods we eat, but then there are days that my children refuse to eat anything other than chicken nuggets. In short, life happens. Multivitamins help fill in the gaps that our diets leave behind. I like the Rainbow Light multivitamins because they are food based, meaning the nutrient sources are as close to those they would get in their ideal diet as possible. They also contain no sugar, no preservatives, and no artificial flavorings which make me even happier about giving them to my kids.
      2. Probiotics: According to Harvard Health, probiotics secrete a protective substance that some believe turn on the immune system and can help to prevent major diseases. This happens because the good bacteria balances out the bad bacteria in your gut, which can make you sick. I like the Kyo-Dophilus chewable probiotics. The vanilla flavor makes my kids think they are candy, and I don’t have to worry about refrigerating them.
      3. Cod Liver Oil: When I first told my family I was giving my kids cod liver oil the response was a unanimous ‘why?!’. All my grandparents remembered was being forced to take it in school when they were kids, and how awful it tasted. There was a reason they were given it in school though. Cod liver oil is an excellent source of Omega-3 fatty acids which are not only great for brain health, they are also provide excellent cardiovascular and immune support. But what about the taste? Carlson Labs makes a kid version of cod liver oil, and their lemon flavor is very easily hidden in my kids morning orange juice. They never even know they are taking it.
      4. Essential Oils: I’ve written before about my love for essential oils. I diffuse the Plant Therapy Immune Boom every day in our house to try and boost our immune systems. I’ve also  started rubbing a roller onto the kids spines every morning to see if that helps as well.
      5. Emergen-C: Everything mentioned above has been focused on building the kids immunity. When that isn’t enough and I get sick I turn to Emergen-C for myself. The high dosage of vitamin C has always kicked my colds in the butt, especially if I start taking it when I first start feeling symptoms emerge. The new pink lemonade flavor is my favorite, if you’re wondering.
      6. Elderberry Syrup: Many take elderberry syrup daily to help build immunity, but I like to save it for when we start to feel something coming on. Black elderberries offer excellent immunity support and anti-viral properties. I make mine by myself with honey and ginger. The kids love it and think it’s candy. Mom win!
      7. Bone Broth: I admit it took me awhile to jump on the bone broth band wagon, but I don’t think I’ll ever want to get off. Bone broth is super easy to make, is a great use for all the veggie scraps that get left behind, and is actually really good for you. It’s an awesome source of protein, the collagen supports skin health, and studies show that chicken broth in particular really does help us get over colds and illnesses faster. Plus, nothing feels better going down a sore throat than a nice warm cup of broth or tea.
      8. Natural Cough Syrup: Let’s face it, hearing your little ones hacking away at night is not only heartbreaking, it’s freaking annoying. Having our babies sick beside us already has parents on edge and unable to sleep peacefully, and the sound of their coughs kills any kind of rest we might get. Cough suppressors are simply a must if anyone is going to get any rest. In our case Austen is too little to take most cough medicines, and even when she is big enough we have been told to avoid anything labeled DM, PM, or benadryl unless it’s in an emergency situation due to her disease. Because of this we have decided to try and rely on natural cough medicines as much as possible to help our kids get some rest. We have tried several brands but the Hyland’s 4 Kids Cold and Cough seems to be the winner amongst the kids for taste and effectiveness.
      9. Garlic, so much garlic: The National Institutes of Health might say that there is insufficient evidence to support whether or not garlic helps with a cold, but from my experience it does wonders. Because of that if one of us is sick, or pretty much all winter really, we go through a lot of garlic. I’m talking a whole head in a chicken soup recipe. It’s a good thing we like the taste!
      10. Tylenol and Ibuprofen: And last but not least, the good ole fever suppressors. Let me start off by saying that I know fevers are not actually bad. In fact they are a good sign that your body is trying to fight whatever is attacking it. The problem in our household is that fevers also cause seizures. Austen has been known to seize with a fever as low as 99 before, so if her normal 97.6 temp rises about 98.6 I bust out these bad boys and start on an every two hour swap. It sucks, but it’s a lot better than the alternative. For Addi and Atlas though, we use these a lot more sparingly. They do not get them unless their fever reaches at or above 102.

And those, my friends, are my top ten winter medicine cabinet must haves. What does your winter medicine cabinet look like? Do you have any tips and tricks for keeping all those nasty winter germs away?

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.