Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Yes, another!

I know, you are shocked to see so many posts within such a short period of time! I am usually pretty good at staying on top of Abby Kate's blog...she is just fun to photograph! But lately, there have been so many nonsensical subjects that have leaped to my mind and I stored them away thinking, "I must blog about that later." So here they are, a random assortment of subjects that may or may not interest you.
First of all, I have working friends ask me all the time if I enjoy staying home with Abby Kate. I reply almost every time (depending on how hard the day has been), every job has its up and downs. However, I feel SO blessed to be able to catch the little moments with her throughout the day. Sure it is a test in patience, sure it is a stretch in my selfishness and I am sorry to admit, it is a pull on my pride. Here I am with a Masters degree, a lifetime full of ambition and confidence and a love of people and good conversation and I am staying at home with a little girl that cannot talk or thank me and making nothing monetarily. However, I always end it saying, "I wouldn't change a thing." The next question and/or statement I get is "how to you all do it financially?" I will talk about that in a second.
I had a friend comment the other day that "they would love to be able to stay home"...and another friend bluntly commented, "you are able, but do you want to? It takes sacrifice." I know many people are in positions of debt before they have children that make it impossible to stay home. I also have many single parent friends that do not have the opportunity either. But if you can, I am the first to advocate it. That is why I am sharing this....
I will say, it has been hard financially. We have made some sacrifices and thankfully, we have family that can help occasionally. But recently, we listened to Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace Cd's and were extremely challenged to get our budget in order. I cannot recommend these Cd's highly enough. You may borrow mine if you are struggling with extra money as we are. I have a college friend who stays home with her 3 girls and was disciplined enough financially that they are debt free (including their house being paid off) at 28! It so inspired me. If they can do it, we can do it! Even on one income. We started making significant cuts...slower Internet, no extras on our phone (no caller id!)(and we are still considering cutting phone altogether saving $30 and just using our cell phones), no more allowance, etc...I have a few friends that also do this and it has become a bit of a game to find deals. For it is only temporary and in the end, our family will have financial peace and wealth. I contacted one insurance agency and saved $400/yr on home insurance thus lowering our mortgage payment each month and saved $375 on car insurance every 6 months. I also invested our extra money in a ING account which was recommended by a friend in the investment industry. It has a much higher interest rate than traditional savings accounts and each time you refer someone, they put $25 in your account. Not bad. In a cliff notes version, Dave recommends putting together a budget with NO MONEY unaccounted for at the end of the month...basically as he says, "tell your money what to do." That is what got us in trouble...having a vague sense of where our money was going but not knowing entirely. He recommends using the envelope system for non-billed items such as groceries, gas, medical co-pays, car repairs, etc...he says it may take 3-5 months to get this budget to work. With items like neighborhood dues, medical deductibles, etc...that you would pay once a year, take the total and divide by 12 and put that total in your monthly budget. Do the same if you have purchases coming up such as furniture or a car. Divide the total the amount of months you want to purchase it by the price and place that in your budget as well (we are a LONG way off from having enough for those things) but paying cash for these items will also gain you savings. Then he recommends having a $1000 emergency fund and then paying off debt (unless the loan interest is less than what you would make in an investment account...ie: school loan). After debt is paid, then save 6 months of living expenses in case of emergency. I am by no means an expert but I love getting good advice and wanted to pass on that which has blessed us. If you are interested in the ING account or our insurance, let me know. I am by no means plugging companies but every cent counts...many of these savings were passed on to me.
I found that Braums milk is almost $1 cheaper than the Walmart off brand. For families such as ours that goes through a gallon every 4 days, that savings adds up.
For those of you buying diapers, www.1800diapers.com is one of the cheapest places I have heard of and they ship to you for free.
For gifts, we are giving of our time instead of gifts. Homemade gift certificates for things like free organization of pantry, closet, etc...lawn work, ironing (gasp, I hate this!). Also, wedding gifts can pile up and are expensive and I made a recipe album of my favorite recipes through shutterfly.com and change the picture on the front for each couple and it is around $18 with shipping. Great personalized gift. Let me know if you want to see it.
I also try to cut coupons, though I have found it they are mostly for name brand items and the off brand is usually cheaper without the coupon.
We also do the traditional savers...no lights if not necessary, cooler in winter, warmer in summer on thermostats, turned down hot water tank unless we have company, cooking in crock pot when I can to save on gas...
Perhaps one of the hardest things as a stay at home Mom is finding inexpensive activities to get us out of the house (and not far away from home as a result of $2.50 gas prices!). We do things like the library, the pool in the summer, some communities have stay and plays for toddlers through the school system, discounted memberships to local attractions (ours is an aquarium), our community has free matinee movies for kids in the summer. Also, ask for things from family for birthdays and Christmas. How many more toys to they need, really? We go to Little Gym once a week from a gift, and it is a blessing to AK and to me!
Finally, I am enclosing a recipe that is cheap and will go a LONG way. We all love it! My Nannie always has these and has batter in the freezer. It reminds me so much of my childhood! Hope this hasn't been too boring. Love you all!
Raisin Bran Muffins
15 oz box raisin bran (can use 17 or 20 oz)
3 cups sugar
5 cups flour
5 tsp. soda
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. each of cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon
4 eggs beaten
1 cup oil
1 quart buttermilk
2 tsp. vanilla
Mix bran, sugar, flour, soda, salt, spices in extra large bowl. Add eggs, oil, milk and vanilla. Mix well. Store in refrigerator in tightly covered container. Grease muffin tins. Bake 15 minutes at 400. Will keep for weeks in refrigerator and are ready to bake and serve warm. Makes approx. 3 quarts.
*My Nannie wrote on this recipe card
"This is a favorite of mine. We heat 1 or 2 for breakfast. I like to keep batter on hand. They are great to take quickly to a friend (illness, death, new neighbor or b-day). I have taken plates of them to friends at Christmas."

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Stephanie,
I love your post. You will never reqret staying home with AK or other children you may have. I have often thought of the dollars available, but not earned during those years I was a stay at home mom and I always say...I would not change a thing. I did work a few part time jobs during those years, but always found I liked being with my children more. It is a well worth sacrifice for those that are able to do it. After all, motherhood is one of the greatest callings from God. I am also living proof that there will be many years to use that degree and work later.

I admire your wisdom in seeking good cost saving methods. We have all had struggles, but my experience has been that most people live off of whatever they have--be it little or much, we learn to adapt.

It is obvious that you are enjoying your child and have the greatest "job" in the world.

LaNell

Anonymous said...

I would like to see your recipe album. Is it possible to view online?

LaNell

Stephanie said...

LaNell,
This is the site for the recipe album. Thanks for the encouragment. You are precious to me!
stephanie
share.shutterfly.com/action/welcome?sid=8KZtWzhy3YZ0

Anonymous said...

Fantastic post Steph! I love your ideas. We have been working hard to bring down costs too, and here are a couple more things to consider:

- Matt did some research and bought those new energy saving light bulbs. They are a little more expensive than regular bulbs, but they last 10 times longer than regular bulbs and use 75% (!) less electricity. If you replace 10 or 15 bulbs in your house, that's a LOT of electricity! We got the info from an article in Reader's Digest (I know, dorky, but I love it!), and the article had a lot of good statistics about savings when you buy energy efficient stuff. On top of saving money on energy, most of the stuff gets you tax credits too. The link is http://www.rd.com/content/get-more-green/0/

Also, and I'm sure you've thought about this, but I do a garage sale every year to get rid of old toys and clothes and all the "stuff" that accumulates in our house. Usually, we decide beforehand where our profits will go--towards an upcoming big purchase typically.

If you can't bear to part with any of AK's toys, but you are tired of the same stuff, I have heard of groups of women doing toy exchanges, where they get together once a month, each brings a bag of their child's toys, and they trade bags. You get an entirely new set of toys once a month, and in the end you get your stuff back.

Since I know you are like me and love to eat out, but are NOT like me and can actually cook, you should get America's Most Wanted Recipes. It's a cookbook with the best recipes from great restaurants in it. They even have Red Lobster's cheddar biscuits! The website is:http://recipesecrets.net/cookbook.html

I know there's more that I can't think of, but I'm sure I'm taking way too much space. I'll email you if I think of more. Can't wait to see you!

Nancy

Christin said...

Steph!
Chris and I read Dave Ramsey's "Total Money Makeover" last year. It was recommended by our community group and we LOVED it!! It really awesome because we were able to implement A LOT of those things. We finally got our emergency fund set and we use the envelope system. It has really helped us control our money and not our money controlling us. Our community group leaders were saying how much they wished that they had had the book when they got were first married.
I'm so excited that you are following his stuff... he is a REALLY awesome adviser/writer. We've been doing it now for about a little less than a year (Dave's recommendations) and we've really seen a difference. More savings so we won't be in debt with big purchases (houses, cars, etc!!) and we are preparing to finally have two incomes (hopefully) so it has really been great. It is awesome to see how God blesses you when you are wise with the little that he gives you!
Just wanted to tell you I love the post! We miss you guys and AK! We're praying for you! Love you! :)

HarrimanFamily said...

Steph, your blog and this entry in particular has been SUCH a blessing to me. During a week when I was just generally discouraged and the thought of ever staying home with kids seemed impossible, Nathan showed me your blog. Thank you sweet friend. We'll have to talk soon.