What I’ve Learned About Controlling Grocery Costs

I started blogging just over a year ago. At the time, my husband and I were in a lot of debt, and it just kept accumulating. Sure, high credit card interest charges made it difficult to to dig out from under it, but the bigger issue issue was that we were continuing to add to the debt.

Around the time I started this blog, I also started reading lots of PF books and blogs. I learned a HUGE amount from them, and continue to do so today. One of the most valuable lessons I learned was the importance of tracking our spending. (There are many online tools and apps to help with this, but I use a good, old-fashioned Excel spreadsheet.) From the very first month I tracked our expenses, I was shocked to see how much we I spent on groceries. I was spending up to $700 a month on groceries for our family of three. Gulp.

From the many great blogs I’ve been reading, here are the key strategies I’ve learned to help reign in my grocery spending:

  1.  Plan ahead. Before I started reading PF blogs, the concept of “meal-planning” was completely foreign to me. As a result, I often had no idea what was for dinner, leading to desperate, last-minute pleas for my husband to pick something up on his way home. I now create weekly meals plans, which has eliminated the guesswork around our dinners.
  2. Shop with a list (and stick to it!). Shopping with a list helps ensure that I have everything I need for the meals I’ve planned. No more giving up because I don’t have all the ingredients I need for a recipe, or making extra trips to the store for forgotten items. And sticking to the list keeps my costs under control. If it’s not on the list, don’t buy it!
  3. Use what you have. I used to scrap my plans for a recipe if I realized I didn’t have all the necessary ingredients on-hand. Now I look for appropriate substitutes in my pantry, or forgo the missing item altogether.
  4. Maximize your savings. There are so many ways to maximize savings in the grocery store, from buying in-season produce and using coupons, to meal planning, stockpiling sale items, and using coupon apps. Finding the right mix of these options helps make the most of every grocery store trip.
  5. Embrace the freezer and the slow-cooker. If I didn’t have ample time to prepare dinner on busy nights, I used to make it a take-out night. Now if I know we’ll be getting home at dinnertime, I plan to make dinner in the slow cooker, and it’ll be ready when we’re home. To increase efficiency even further, I’ll sometimes prep two sets of the same meal, and freeze one for future use. When I pull the bag out of the freezer to defrost the night before, and dump it into the slow cooker in the morning, I feel like I’ve won the homemaking MVP award!

The Ultimate Homemaking Bundle, a complete library of 99 eBooks and eCourses covering a wide range of home management topics, includes great resources for all of the above strategies:

  1. Meal-planning: Backwards Meal Planning, Frugal Real Food Meal PlansGluten Free Aldi Meal Plan, Healthy Mom, and Simply Scheduled: On the Go
  2. Shop with a list: ListPlanIt: Meals ePlanner
  3. Use what you have: Coffee Filters to Cheese Graters: Creative Ways to Use Just About Everything and From Your Garden to Your Family
  4. Maximize your savings: Supermarket Ninjas: How to Find Real Food in the Store Without Losing Your Mind and Grocery University
  5. Embrace the freezer and the slow-cooker: Costco Slow Cooker Freezer Meals and No Cook Freezer  Meals

At $29.97 for all 99 resources – plus bonuses, like a free Craftsy course up to a $60 value! – the Ultimate Homemaking Bundle is an amazing steal! Seriously, that’s less than $0.30 per eBook/eCourse!! But it’s only available for purchase through 4/27, act quickly if you’d like to take advantage of this deal.

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4 Steps for Moving from Grouchy to Great

When I first saw the title of the book, From Grouchy to Great: Finding Joy in the Journey of Motherhood, I thought, “Now there’s a book I have to read!” Seriously, it sounds like it was written with me in mind! I’m an introverted, impatient, slightly controlling wife and mother of a five-year-old, and parenting challenges me every single day. (Yes, I know some people may be rolling their eyes and thinking, “Really? With just one kid? Try having two/three/four/more!”)

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So many of the experiences and anecdotes in this book sounded familiar to me:

  • Getting frustrated, snapping, then feeling guilty almost immediately? Check!
  • The desperate need for quiet time when it’s simply not possible? Check!
  • Feeling conflicted about the competing desires to maximize “alone time”, and getting enough sleep? Check!
  • Explaining away unkind words with, “I’m just cranky”? Double-check!
  • Reacting out of anger at someone or something, when I’m really upset about being out-of-control? Most definitely.

The last one – reacting with anger at someone or something, when I’m really upset about feeling out of control – is a BIG one for me. I like feeling in control, especially in my home, and parenting tests this on a regular basis. One of my most painful mommy memories was finding my then-four-year-old daughter frantically trying to clean up a yogurt she had spilled, without me knowing about it. She was using a torn napkin to try to clean the spill on the floor, to no avail. The look on her face when I walked over to investigate broke my heart. She looked frightened. Undoubtedly, I had gotten upset with her over past spills, and she was trying to prevent this from happening again.

Woods ladies

While I remain far from perfect, that experience was a turning point for me. I never want my daughter to look at me with fear, at least not over something as small as spilled yogurt. (Wrecking the family car when she’s older? Maybe…) I’ve noticed over the last few months that she tells me about spills and messes most of the time, and even asks for help with them. There may be a little reluctance in her voice, but she no longer seems afraid to tell me. I’ve made of a point of saying things like, “Okay, no big deal,” in my better moments, and “Let me help you clean it up,” (sometimes said with a hint of irritation), in my less-shining moments. Sure I get crabby and grumble a bit, too, but I try very hard to stay away from the dark mommy place. Here are several strategies I’ve used to help keep myself in-check in those difficult parenting moments:

  1. Try not to let things escalate. This is easier said than done, but it’s critical. If I can put the brakes on at the beginning, things will go a lot more smoothly. As cliché as it sounds, I really do take a deep breath and respond as calmly as I can, early in the incident. I do not wait until I can’t take another second of the noise she’s making, or the mess has completely taken over the dining room table/living room/front walkway.
  2. Ask myself what’s really bothering me. Nine times out of 10, I’m feeling out-of-control, frustrated with myself for not imposing limits appropriately, or feeling overwhelmed by all I have to accomplish, and one additional thing is sending me over the edge. I use the stop-and-take-a-breath time mentioned above, to ask myself what’s really going on in my head. That quick acknowledgement usually forces an internal reset, and keeps me from taking out my feelings on someone else.
  3. Ask myself what message I’m sending, or impression I’m giving. Nothing stops me in my tracks like asking myself if my words, tone of voice, or actions, are giving my daughter the impression that I don’t love or value her.
  4. Follow through on expectations. Getting my daughter to consistently remember to clean up after herself is a one of my biggest parenting challenges at the moment. I have to remind her to bring all of her meal/snack dishes and/or wrappers into the kitchen on a daily basis. I finally realized that I never attached consequences to her not meeting this expectation. I really don’t enjoy punishing my daughter, but sometimes losing the day’s screen time or a favorite toy temporarily, is the only way she gets the message. No consequence = lesson not learned.

From Grouchy to Great: Finding the Joy in the Journey of Motherhood is one of several great parenting books in the Ultimate Homemaking Bundle. What else is in the Bundle? Oh, just about 90 other eBooks, eCourses, and bonuses on topics such as homeschooling, marriage, meal planning, green cleaning, and running a business from home. (Check out my full description here.) But it’s only available until Monday, 4/27, so act quickly to take advantage of this great gift for yourself and your family!

**This post contains affiliate links. These affiliate links help support this site, and cost you nothing. Thank you for supporting my blog!**

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Blogging as a Business

When I started blogging just over a year ago, I saw it as a way of sharing my debt story and learning from others, and also as a way to force accountability with our debt repayment. I’ve been surprised at how much I’ve enjoyed blogging, but it can take a lot of time. Since I only work two days per week and have the summer off, I’m always looking for ways to increase what I earn. However, I feel guilty devoting a lot of time to blogging, when there are other things I could be doing around our house. (Did I mention that I’m not an especially great homemaker?) As a result, the thought of earning some additional money, while doing something I enjoy, from home, is very enticing.

So, the very first book I read from my Ultimate Homemaking Bundle was How to Blog for Profit Without Selling You Soul by Ruth Soukup. I had heard a lot about this book from other bloggers, and had recently just put it in my Amazon shopping cart. (For whatever reason, none of the libraries in my area have it.) Literally about two hours later, I learned that, as an affiliate, I could advance-purchase my Bundle, and that this book was included in it. I quickly set aside the other book I had been plodding through reading, and finished How to Blog for Profit, in a couple of days. Wow. Now I get why people rave about Ruth and this book.

I learned a great deal from How to Blog for Profit, not the least of which is that I have a lot of work to do, if I want to turn this blog into a business. As Ruth herself says, it’s impossible for one person to do everything she recommends, so I’ve picked the things she emphasizes, that I believe are most achievable for me, will be the most impactful for this blog, and can be done for free, or relatively cheaply. Here’s what I’ll be working in for the next few months:

  1. Site redesign. I already wanted to do this; in fact, it’s one of my 12 goals for 2015. But after reading, “You can write the best, most interesting, most compelling articles in the whole world, but if the package doesn’t sell it, you are doomed,” in How to Blog for Profit Without Selling Your Soul, I feel a greater sense of urgency about getting this done. It probably goes without saying that I can’t spend much money on it, but I also have NO IDEA what I’m doing. I plan to price paid WordPress templates, as well as a consultant who can maybe talk me through it, without actually doing it for me. (If you know of anyone good who fits this bill, please feel free to let me know.)
  2. Incorporating more images. I take pictures with my phone, which limits their quality, but paying for images can get pricey very quickly. I obviously need to figure out a better DIY photography solution, not to mention tackle photo editing. (My completely non-creative head is aching just thinking about this…)
  3. Figuring out Pinterest. Perhaps because I’m not at all creative, Pinterest has always been a mystery to me. I just don’t get the appeal. But How to Blog for Profit Without Selling Your Soul raves about it, and really stresses its importance to bloggers. Of course, I first need to have more images to make the most of it, so I’ve clearly got my work cut out for me!
  4. Plan ahead. I tend to blog by the seat of my pants, meaning that I don’t have an editorial calendar, or even necessarily know what I’ll be posting in a given week. Some weeks I have a million things I want to share, and others the well is completely dry. To help even this out, I plan to put together a monthly calendar of post ideas. I’m not sure how far ahead I’ll get in writing them, but at least having a schedule put together in advance will be a big help.

Do you earn money through your blog? Have you read How to Blog for Profit Without Selling Your Soul? What were the most important things you learned from it?

The Ultimate Homemaking Bundle – which includes this fantastic book – is available for purchase through midnight on 4/27. The amount of high-quality content in the bundle truly blew my mind, and I think you’ll be amazed, too. Learn more about the 100 eBooks, eCourses, and bonuses in the bundle here.

 

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What’s In It For You

As I mentioned yesterday, I’m VERY excited about the Ultimate Homemaking Bundle. When I first purchased mine, several components jumped right out at me as immediate must-reads. But with so many great resources included in the bundle, everyone has a different list of must-reads. Here’s an overview of what the bundle includes, and no matter who you are or what your homemaking challenges, I’m certain you’ll have a your own list of must-reads. Because as rewarding as it is, homemaking is hard work and it doesn’t always come easily.

The Ultimate Homemaking Bundle is a complete library of carefully selected eBooks, eCourses, audios, online conferences, and printable packs designed to help you turn your house into a home… without all the overwhelm.

What’s in the Ultimate Homemaking Bundle?

The first step in putting together this collection was to find the critical homemaking skills that you need to transform your house into a home.

Here they are:

  • Cleaning… create a healthy, toxin-free home
  • DIY/Homemade… fun and frugal ways to express your personal style
  • Devotionals and Faith… take a break from the daily grind to renew yourself
  • Finances… build a budget that works
  • Cooking & Meal Planning… serve easier, tastier meals in less time
  • Holidays & Special Events… brighten up old family traditions and create new
  • Homeschooling… homeschool with grace and ease
  • Marriage… heat up your marriage
  • Motherhood… find peace, balance & joy in mothering
  • Organizing… conquer the clutter and simplify your life
  • Pregnancy & Babies… enjoy a healthy pregnancy and prepare to nurture your baby
  • Health & Wellness… soothe aches & pains with natural remedies
  • Working from Home… hone your talents, live your passions and earn money to help your family

… a complete library of 99 eBooks and eCourses to help you nurture the beauty and productivity in your home and family relationships.

Are there too many books in the Ultimate Homemaking Bundle?

Let me ask you a question.

Have you ever stood at a buffet… and then been disappointed when you couldn’t eat every single morsel on display?

Of course not!

Sure. There’s that first, breath-taking moment when you see and hear and smell the amazing meal spread before you… and you think, “Where will I even start?”

But that’s the thing… because you do start… with something.

Maybe it’s a tender flaky biscuit, or a piece of delicious roast beef, or maybe you’re like me and start with a piece of pie (mmm, cherry or apple with ice cream)?

So relax, enjoy, and start anywhere you like. Come back to the Ultimate Homemaking Bundle “buffet” as many times as you like. It’s all here for you.

Is the Ultimate Homemaking Bundle worth it?

In a word… yes!

To be absolutely certain, the Ultimate Bundles Team asked questions, tried techniques and just about drove themselves crazy making sure that the Ultimate Homemaking Bundle was the very best homemaking resource anywhere.

They dug through hundreds of websites and connected with dozens of authors and teachers. And then they worked to make these resources the most affordable possible.

And They Were Delighted to Help…

The result? This collection is a fraction of the price of what someone would pay for each resource individually!

For a short time, the Ultimate Homemaking Bundle… a complete library of:

  • 76 eBooks
  • 6 eCourses
  • 1 audio download
  • 2 online conferences, and
  • 14 printable packs

…99 carefully selected resources designed to help you nurture the beauty and productivity in your home and family relationships… is only $29.97. (A total value of $984.74.)

That breaks down to $0.30 per book. Yes, you read that right. Thirty. Cents. Per. Book.

Your 30-Day 100% Satisfaction Guarantee

If for any reason, you decide that the Ultimate Homemaking Bundle is not for you, then please send an email to customerservice@Ultimate-Bundles.com and we will refund 100% of your investment. No questions asked.

Don’t Forget the Bonuses…

Of course, no Ultimate Homemaking Bundle would be complete without the generous, inspiring gifts donated by companies that understand homemakers like you. Every gift is yours to keep and enjoy.

  • Choose 1 FREE Online Class from Craftsy (Select from 24 of Their Most Popular Classes – Up to $60 Value)
  • 1 FREE Kids Discovery Box from Green Kid Crafts ($19.95 Value)
  • FREE $15 Credit to Hope Ink PLUS 2 FREE 8×10 Art Prints ($71 Value)
  • FREE 90-Day “Good Deal” Subscription to She Plans Dinner ($15 Value)
  • Choose 1 FREE Stylish Spring Scarf from Deborah & Co. ($20 Value)
  • FREE $80 Healthy Moving Class Credit ($80 Value)
  • FREE 90-Day Pro Membership to ListPlanIt ($30 Value)
  • FREE 65 Tyndale Rewards Points to Be Used for a FREE Book or Towards Any Book of Your Choice ($15 Value)

Now It’s Your Turn

The proven, simple, and effective skills you need to transform your house into a home are all waiting for you in the Ultimate Homemaking Bundle.

This is your chance to get all the love, support, guidance and inspiration you need to nurture the beauty and productivity in your home and family relationships with proven, simple, and effective tools that really give you a boost as a homemaker.

But time is running out! The Ultimate Homemaking Bundle will only be available until 11:59 p.m. EST on Monday, April 27.

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After that, the shopping cart closes and the deeply discounted price is gone.

Act now!

Click here for more info or to buy now.

Best wishes and happy homemaking!

Read the fine print about this bundle and read the answers to frequently asked questions about the bundle.

 

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I Am So Excited About This!!

When I was growing up, my mother was primarily a stay-at-home parent, as were most of my friends’ mothers. Naturally, this is what I assumed I would do, too, and for the most part, I do. (I currently work outside my home two days a week, plus run a very small business out of my home.) But like many things in my life, I romanticized it, and never really considered some of the less romantic parts of being a (almost) stay-at-home parent.

My daughter was born a few months after my husband and I bought our first house, and suddenly I found myself caring for a child, cooking meals, cleaning a house and everything else that keeps a household running, essentially on my own. Despite this, I’ve never really considered myself a “homemaker,” as I discussed in this post. But the truth is, I am a homemaker. (I prefer the term “family manager,” though.) As any homemaker knows, this is a pretty huge job, and no one  excels at all aspects of it. I’m pretty used to meal-planning and cooking, but cleaning isn’t always my first priority. Regardless of whether I’m good at something or not, I’m always looking for better, more efficient, and cheaper ways to do it. So I’m absolutely thrilled to have found the Ultimate Homemaking Bundle, which is chock-full of books, ecourses, printables, and bonus offers, that address a wide range of homemaking topics. And I’m not talking about just better ways to mop your floors – although that’s an area where I’m particularly in need of help! I’m talking topics like becoming a happier parent, organizing paperwork, running an at-home business, homeschooling, and spending your grocery dollars more wisely. Be still my beating heart!!

Because I’m an Ultimate Homemaking Bundle affiliate, I was able to purchase my bundle in advance, and have spent the last ten days poring over the resources included in it. Right off the bat, here are a few that got me really excited:

Just those five components cost more than the $29.97 that the Ultimate Homemaking Bundle costs, and it includes 95 more eBooks, eCourses, and bonuses!

Also included are several items that I’ve previously read and reviewed, like Build a Budget That Works, and the List PlanIt Meals ePlanner, where I found the document I use to create my weekly meal plans and grocery shopping lists.

And have I mentioned the bonuses? One of them is one of Craftsy’s 24 most popular online classes, up to a $60 value!! I haven’t made my final decision yet, but I’m thinking of taking either Decorating Essentials: Designer Cookies, Basics of Digital Photography, or 20 Essential Cooking Techniques.

The number of truly fantastic resources (100!) included in the Ultimate Homemaking Bundle will truly blow you away, as it did me. Learn more about it here.

Happy Homemaking!!

 

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2015 Meal Plan #16

Since putting together my weekly meal ranks pretty low on my list of favorite weekly chores, I listened to a podcast about meal planning, by Mark and Lauren Greutman, while working on this one. Lauren is a meal-planning and couponing expert, and the founder of IamThatLady.com. She and Mark also collaborate on their other personal finance website, MarkandLaurenG.com. (Plus, they’re fellow upstate New Yorkers!) I’m a big fan of both sites, and Lauren’s Gluten Free Aldi Meal Plan is one of the 100 amazing eBooks, eCourses, and bonuses included in the Ultimate Homemaking Bundle, which will be available for purchase 4/20 (tomorrow!) through 4/27. It’s really an impressive set of resources, so be sure to check it out!

Gluten-Free-Meal-Plan-Cart2

I’m very excited about this week’s meal plan because it’s brief and cheap! I made this Cuban Rice Bowls recipe at the end of last week, and we have lots of leftovers. So we’ll be finishing it up tonight and tomorrow night. We’re having sausage lasagna on Tuesday, but I’ll be at work that day, so I plan to cook the sausage and assemble the lasagna tomorrow afternoon. We’ll eat those leftovers for dinner on Wednesday, and I’ll take it to work for lunch on Thursday. I don’t want to make anything that will create leftovers on Thursdays, since we’ll be away for the weekend. (I’m meeting my sister in MA for our annual girls’ weekend, and my husband and daughter are heading to NJ to visit my in-laws.) We’ll all be home for dinner on Sunday, and my mother-in-law typically sends food home for us. If she doesn’t this time, it’s going to be a plain-pasta-with-grated-cheese kind of night! (Our daughter won’t even notice, since it’s one of the four or so meals in her very limited rotation.) Here’s what the full plan looks like:

2015 Meal Plan 16001(Like my meal planner/grocery list sheet? It’s from the List Plan It Meals ePlanner. It’s another one of the great resources in the Ultimate Homemaking Bundle!)

The fridge and cabinets will be pretty empty by the end of the weekend, but I love having weeks that enable me to clear them out a bit, and start fresh.

What’s for dinner at your house this week?

 

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What a Difference a Year Makes!

colorful balloonsIt’s official: I’ve been blogging for a year! I started this blog on April 17, 2014, fueled by my frustration and fear around paying down our significant debt. We had just made an unexpected $1,800 tax payment, and I had to take a lot of the funds out of our paltry savings. We had about $50K in credit card debt, and I felt out-of-control and very scared. I had recently begun reading personal finance blogs and books, and was amazed at the amount of information out there, as well as the supportive nature of the PF blog community. I started this blog to tap into the wisdom, experience, and support of the community, because I really, really needed it! I also wanted the accountability of sharing our debt totals with the world.

Throughout this year of blogging, I’ve learned a tremendous amount, and developed many habits that are enabling me to have a better handle on our spending. Our debt total continued to increase for a while, until I finally opened up to my husband, who was blissfully unaware of what the total even was. We now communicate regularly about finances, and took the huge step of taking out a home equity loan to consolidate our debt and repay it at much more manageable interest rate.

Here are some of the biggest changes of the past year:

  • I track our spending. (Wow – what an eye opener!!)
  • My husband and I are on the same page, and we’re tackling our debt as a team.
  • I have annual goals, most of which were chosen to help me live more frugally and/or earn more money.
  • I read a lot more books than I used to.
  • I plan ahead for out-of-the-ordinary expenses.
  • Our liquid savings have increased substantially. (Although I’d like to have a good bit more.)
  • I feel more content with what I do have, rather than wishing for more.

A very sincere thank you for reading and for sharing your stories, wisdom, and support. Here’s to an even better second year!

Want to help me celebrate? Please consider liking my brand-new (read: work-in-progress) Facebook page. Want to keep in touch in other places? Try Twitter or Pinterest!

 

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My Monthly Chore List – Finally!!

One of my 12 goals for 2015 was to create a monthly chore list and make it a part of my routine. If you’ve read any of my monthly goal updates this year, you know that I’ve made pretty minimal progress on this. Sure, I identified a list of chores to do monthly, but I haven’t put together a schedule, let alone made it a part of my routine. Between the embarrassment of having to admit this on a monthly basis in my goal updates, and all the awesome spring cleaning posts I’ve been seeing lately, I’ve decided that the time has come. (Also, I promised in my most recent goal update to put it together by April 15, and I’m very motivated by the fear of public shame.)

So, without further procrastination ado, here’s what I came up with:

May 2015 Chores

(Like this form? It’s from the super-helpful List PlanIt Homemaking ePlanner.)

Needless to say, I did not include regular daily tasks, like washing dishes and making lunches for school/work. I pretty much do those on auto-pilot, so I don’t need the schedule to remind me about them.

Initially, I envisioned my monthly chore list to be the same every month. However, as I was putting together next month’s schedule, I realized that every month is different, and therefore the chore schedules will be, too. I’d like to complete all of the same tasks, with the same regularity, every month, but the distribution of tasks throughout the weeks and the month overall, may be different. For example, I typically work on Tuesdays and Thursdays, so during months when I’m working, I won’t assign myself any chores on these days. But there are usually almost five months out of the year (May, June, July, August, and December) when I’m home full-time, so I can distribute the chores on more days during those months, than I can when I’m working. I don’t know exactly when my last work day will be in May, so I left most of the Tuesdays and Thursdays free, just in case.

I also don’t view this schedule as being set in stone. If I find out that we’re having overnight guests or hosting a playdate in a given month, some chores will likely end up happening at times different from what I’d planned. Even though I hate don’t love change, I’m confident that I can go with the flow on that.

One final thing that really motivated me to get this schedule together was the free, mini video-eCourse I recently took, “4 Simple Steps to Stress-Free Homemaking“. I loved both the calm and reassuring demeanor of the two presenters, as well as the truly simple tips they shared to at least start and end my days on a calm and organized note. The eCourse includes four videos, four printable worksheets, and lots of inspiration. There’s even a reward in it for you, if you share it with your friends! Sound promising? Take a look at this preview:

Want more? You can sign up for the complete, free, mini video-eCourse here.

Do you have a monthly chore schedule?

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My Five Debt-Free Splurges

I recently came across this post about splurging when debt-free, and it really got me thinking: what would I splurge on without any debt?? That day seems a long way off at this point, as we have our mortgage, a car loan, student loans, and the recent home equity loan, which enabled us to consolidate our significant credit card debt, not to mention our commitment to ramp up our retirement savings. In short, there’s a lot of work to be done before we can start splurging on a regular basis. But a girl can dream, right?

Another thing that kept coming up for me when I imagined myself splurging, was the most important lesson I’ve learned on this journey: the importance of being content with what we already have. Sure we face lots of financial challenges, but we have our family, our health, a roof (that we like) over our heads, and more than enough money to cover the necessities of life, barring any unforeseen crisis. In short, we’re incredibly lucky people. With this realization front-and-center in my head, it’s gotten a little bit harder for me to let my mind run away with visions of expensive splurging.

1. Books. This may sound kind of lame, but I love reading, and I love books. I’ve been getting most of the books I read from the library to keep costs down, but I really love the look of shelves full of books in a home. Books are something I would shop for freely, were debt not an issue in my life. (Speaking of books and bargains: The Buck Books Baking Event is today. Get 13 baking ebooks for just $0.99 each!)

2. Home decorating and decor. I’m not talking about furniture here, but rather paint (sorry dear, but applied by a professional painter!), art for the walls, and other decorative accents. I don’t like knick-knacks or clutter, but I’d love to have more money to spend on home decor. We moved into our house in almost six years ago, and in the grand scheme of things, haven’t done much to make it reflect who we are.

3. Landscape design and supplies. It probably goes without saying that I could spend quite a bit of money at the local garden center without trying very hard. If debt were not an issue, and the money coming in was all our own, I would buy lots fun stuff there. But what I’d really like is to hire a landscape architect to plan and implement a new look for our backyard, which needs a lot of help. Much of it is junky construction fill from when our house was built about 10 years ago, and it’s very uneven and lumpy. Plus, the previous owner had a very poorly-maintained above-ground pool back there, which we asked them to remove when we bought the house.

Straw bale garden location 4-12-15(Ugly spot where the above-ground pool used to be.)

4. A year-round CSA share, including eggs and meat. I would love to support our local farmers more, but it’s just not in the budget these days. By shopping sales and using coupons, I can get almost anything more cheaply at the grocery store. I do not believe that cheaper is better, but our finances simply don’t have room for buying more expensive produce, meat, and eggs.

5. Regular date nights. This is something that my husband and I just haven’t been able to do very often, as we’ve been focused on paying down debt. We have no family in the area, so every date night requires paying for childcare. Between that and the cost of dinner, date nights can get fairly pricey. Were debt not an issue, I would schedule two dates per month with my husband.

What about you? Were all of your financial objectives met, how would you splurge? Would you live very differently?

 

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Get Your Homemaker On

I admit it: the term “homemaker” kind of makes me cringe. I’ve always been reluctant to associate myself with this term, probably because it conjures an image of a 1950’s-era mom, dusting in a skirt, heels, and a ruffly apron. In short, it’s not how I think of myself. However, Merriam-Webster defines homemaker as “a wife who does work (such as sewing, cleaning, or cooking) at home and usually does not have another job outside the home,” and “one who manages a household, especially as a wife and mother”. While I do work outside the home part-time, I clearly meet the criteria of a homemaker. I plan, shop for, and cook all of our meals; am the primary caregiver for our daughter; do most of the household cleaning and errands; and manage the household finances. I am a homemaker. (Gulp.)

I also struggle with some of these tasks, particularly the ones I don’t enjoy doing. (Meal-planning, cleaning bathrooms – I’m talking about you!) Because I know they’re important and I want to make my home run as smoothly as possible, I’m always looking for ways to improve my motivation and efficiency. In fact, quite a few of my goals for 2015 – creating weekly meal plans, making and freezing meals in advance, creating and implementing a monthly chore list – relate to my homemaking responsibilities.

I also just took this cool, free, video e-course called “4 Simple Steps to Stress-Free Homemaking”, put together by the Ultimate Bundles team. It’s quick, relaxed, and most importantly, it highlights four simple ways to get a handle on the craziness that often accompanies running a household. It also includes free printables, one for each of the four short videos. The mini-ecourse helped me feel less overwhelmed, and much more in-control of the tasks I need to complete on a regular basis. I really enjoyed it, and I think you will, too. Sign up for it here, and get your “homemaker” on!

 

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