Setbacks

It seems like whenever I get my budget in order, something always comes along to mess it up.  It doesn’t matter how much money I try to put aside, something comes along to try and pull it out.  It would be very easy to say, “forget it” and use a credit card when things happen. But personally, I take it as a challenge to see how I can stay on task, no matter what bumps we encounter along the way.  How do you feel when something happens that takes up your hard earned money that you scrimped to save? How do you feel when you get set with a budget only for it to be turned upside down unexpectedly.  This past year, we have been saving to buy a house.  We planned on only renting for one year, which has already turned into two years, and may even linger on into becoming three years of renting.  I have changed my budget a number of times in this year alone!  Since January, we have had a baby, needed braces (yes, needed, definitely not wanted!), my baby had to have surgery unexpectedly, the a/c went out in our car, and a number of other unexpected things have found there way into our savings account.  It would be really easy to just forget saving and pay for everything all at once.  However, that isn’t what we did.  We decided to tighten our belts: my husband worked a lot of overtime, I began cooking more meals at home and finding ways to save money in our budget.  We have a savings goal we are trying to meet by May.  We have been hit hard this year, however, I am still determined to do whatever we can to reach our goal by May.  What seemed like such an easy task has turned into something that has us on our knees in prayer. It has us leaning more on God, and working together to make it happen.  We still have money set aside for fun and for family activities, we wouldn’t have gone on vacation if we were REALLY hurting for money.  That would not have been wise!  This is more of a personal goal, not something that HAS to be done in a certain timeframe. I like setting a yearly goal, because it pushes me to try harder.  To learn something new, and to stretch myself and see how much I can grow.  My husband and I, every year, sit down on our anniversary, and plan our goals for 1 yr, 2 yrs and 5 yrs.  We also go over our goals from the previous year and see how well we did.  It is amazing that every year we have setbacks, but we also most often have met the important goals.  Some we cut very close, and some took a little longer to achieve, but we have tried to stay on task and God has been faithful to hear our prayers and answer as He sees fit.  So, the next time you have a set back, don’t throw up your hands in frustration.  Take a step back and see how you can use this to grow you and change you.  A challenge can be a hard thing, but can really be worth it in the end.  I am praying we can say we met our goal when May 2015 rolls around.  However, if we haven’t, we will keep plugging away and keep striving to reach that goal!  You can do it too!  Make a list of important goals, and then do what you can to obtain them.  You will find peace and satisfaction when they are completed.  It is even more amazing to complete a goal after having a setback.  We really have seen God work miracles in our lives!  What a blessing! 🙂

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Great Wolf Lodge

We had a great time this past weekend on our little mini-vacation to the Great Wolf Lodge in Grapevine, TX.  The room was huge.  We just got a basic room, but it had a bathroom, 2 double beds, a pull out couch, a table with 2 chairs, and a mini fridge and microwave.  It was a really nice room.  Very clean.  We had a problem with the fridge which was taken care of right away.  The kids had a blast with the Magiquest game.  I would not recommend the accessories for the wand.  We had to return everything we got! But the wands and toppers were nice.  And, bonus, it came with a free cape.  We were told the unactivated wands would light stuff up, but that was wrong.  We only had one activated wand that they shared, but they would have had more fun having all the wands activated, which we will do next time.  They had a blast at the water park and even played a laser game where you have to maneuver around the lasers and beat the high score in your group (Ashley won!).  We were going to eat out of the hotel, but the pizza and ice cream were reasonable and it was nice to stay in where it was warm!  We brought food for all other meals besides dinner, which saved a lot of money!  We paid cash for everything, so no headache when we got home about bills that need to be paid.  We had a very fun mini-trip.  So glad we saved up and went there.  We all want to go back when the baby is older, so I can enjoy the water park too!  I would highly recommend a weekend stay there at the Lodge.  Next time I think we will stay for 2 nights.  It is nice to have a full day there without packing/unpacking.  Also, it will give more time to play the magi quest game and swim.  Start saving up, and you too can have a great family vacation that won’t follow you home and haunt you with bills you have to pay later.  Even a short trip will be remembered!

Here are some pictures:

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They give kids the wolf ear headbands at check-in 🙂

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View of the from of the hotel from my sister-in-law’s room.

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Marissa showing off the pool

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The kids playing MagiQuest.

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These two take the game VERY serious LOL 🙂

Overpacking

Our family is taking a mini-vacation and the kids came in my room to pack and brought half their wardrobe “just in case”.  Which made me think that overpacking would be a good topic to write about today.  I understand bringing an extra outfit or two for a baby (and an extra shirt for the parents!), but when you are going on vacation, you really don’t have to take everything but the kitchen sink!  You can pack light and still have everything you need. I like to use the packing cubes from ebags to pack for my family.  One cube per day of clothes.  They grab a cube and there are the clothes they will wear that day.  No one is looking for clean clothes, or matching clothes, it’s all right there.  You can share most toiletries, but please bring your own toothbrush! 😉 You can get along very well without bringing a ton of extras.  With 6 people in the family, we will have a lot of stuff even packing light, but we can easily fit everything into one suitcase.  Take away half of what you plan to bring and you should be off to a good start to packing light.  You won’t miss what you leave at home but you will really like the feeling of lugging around a much lighter suitcase or backpack!

Here is a picture of my kids clothes in a packing cube.  Their ages are 10 and 8, for sizing purposes.  These cubes hold 2 pairs of undies/socks, one long sleeve shirt and one long pair of pants for a child.  I also use one for toiletries and one for everyone’s swimsuits.  They make bigger sizes which I use for the adults/teen.  They just grab their bag and go.  It makes vacationing so much more enjoyable! Try to pack less and see if it makes traveling a little easier!

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Saving money easily

Well, my list making last week was very successful.  My house stayed a lot cleaner this past week and hopefully will continue to do so!

 

This week, I am going to tell you an easy way to save money.  Are you ready for it?  Eat the food that you already have!  See, I told you it was easy.  In America, we waste so much food from having it spoil.  How much food do you throw away that has gone bad?  That got pushed to the back of the fridge and forgotten?  I realized a long time ago, that I can save money, and also keep my pantry and fridge clean by doing one simple thing.  Eating the food I already have!  The last few days before pay day, my kids are complaining that there is nothing to eat, even though there are still plenty of things in the fridge and pantry.  When it is shopping day (A.K.A. pay day), we buy enough food for 2 weeks, except for bread/milk.  Everything else has to last us two weeks.  We save money by staying out of the stores (you can’t spend when you aren’t shopping!) and by eating everything we have before it spoils.  It has been a very long time since I had to clean out a moldy Tupperware container!  We can cut our budget significantly by not buying snack foods, and only buying food for meals, drinking water and not soda/juice, but mostly because we eat what we already bought!  It also is a very easy way to clean the fridge when it is nearly empty.  The shelves can be quickly cleaned before you put the new groceries in there.  I challenge you to try to eat what you have before it spoils, and see how much you can save by being creative making new meals with the food already in your pantry and fridge.  Here is a picture of my fridge two days before payday.  Try holding off buying more food until payday and see how much money you can save by not eating out, but by getting creative.  And BONUS, an easy to clean fridge and pantry 🙂

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To Do Lists

I don’t know about you, but I am a list maker.  I love checking off things I have accomplished, and I love making budget spreadsheets, vacation checklists, and even grocery lists are a weekly occurrence in our home.  Lately I have been feeling overwhelmed with everything on my plate.  So, today, I decided to start making a daily list of the most important things I want to accomplish. It can’t be a long list or it will feel overwhelming, and I won’t get anything done (did I mention I’m a procrastinator!).  I am going to try to just put 4 or 5 things on the list each day and see what I can get accomplished.  I also have read organization books that say to just spend 15 minutes a day quickly cleaning up each room in your house, and it will stay a lot cleaner.  And having a clean home will make you happier!  So I am going back to doing that as well.  After having a baby 3 months ago, my life kind of got out focus.  Now that things are settling down, I am determined to get back to my routine.  So, 15 minutes of quick cleaning per room, and deep cleaning/organizing one room a day is on my list.  Also, of course, is homeschooling, and making my meal/grocery lists.  The last thing on my list, I hate to do almost as much as I hate doing dishes.  Laundry.  It seems like no matter how many items of clothing I give away, we accumulate 10x that!  Don’t get me wrong, I am very thankful that my kids have clothes without rips and stains, and I am soooo thankful for the hand me down’s people have blessed us with and the awesome deals I get shopping for clothes.  But, having a baby with reflux is like having a never ending cycle of laundry to clean.  But, anyway, that is on my list for today as well.  Learning, cleaning, organizing.  Doesn’t seem like too much to handle.  I hope the baby cooperates and lets me get this stuff done. I forgot how hard it is to get things accomplished when all you want to do is snuggle all day 🙂  So, if you are having trouble getting motivated.  Try to make a list.  Just a short list.  And see what you can get accomplished today. Doing something is always better than doing nothing!

Vacationing while trying to save money

One of my very favorite things in life is going on vacation.  It is getting very hard to do, now that my husband’s new job only allows 2 weeks off a year.  He doesn’t even get the day after Thanksgiving/Christmas off.  Only the holiday itself, so we can’t squeeze in a good sized mini-vacation.  I wonder if maybe God is using this lack of time off to help us with saving for a house.  We are currently renting (in a new state), and are saving to buy a house.  I think we found a good area we are interested in living, and we are saving all we can. Not only for a down payment, but for an emergency fund as well.  It is never a good idea to buy a home without having an emergency fund in place.  You WILL have problems happen, you NEED to be prepared.  Anyway, back to vacationing 🙂  We have decided to go away for just one night this month to the Great Wolf Lodge.  We were able to save some money by only going for one night, and also by bringing our own food.  It is incredibly expensive there.  I am very excited for our mini-trip and we are still able to save, save, save, and not touch the money set aside for moving.  We usually pay cash when shopping, so we save all our coins into what we call our “vacation jar”.  This Friday we will be cashing it in, and that will be the kids spending money while we are on vacation.  They throw their coins in there, and we are all excited to see how much they have to spend.  This is a great way to save without thinking.  We can easily save over $150 in the jar a year.  And we don’t even notice it.  You can save coins, not only for vacation, but for anything.  If you need a new sofa, shoes, TV, whatever, start saving those coins.  It can really add up quickly, and you won’t notice a dollar here or there that is now tucked away for a rainy day.  If you don’t have the money to save for a real big vacation, try to find a fun hotel nearby, or a campground if you like.  Save even $5 a week, and in a year, you will have $260 saved.  You can find a cheap hotel on http://www.expedia.com, then call the hotel and see if they will give you an even cheaper rate.  If you have AAA you can get the best prices out there.  I have stayed at some very nice hotels for just $60/night.  Bring a cooler with food, or grab a pizza for the family and you are all set to have a great family vacation for very little money.  Even though our mini-vacation is only 2 days, I am sure it will be memorable.  No cell phones allowed! Time to enjoy the family, face-to-face! We will be spending time making memories together, and having a blast at the pool will definitely be worth the small cost.  Getting the kids excited for the trip is half the fun too!  I have been telling them about all the fun things we can do together at the Lodge.  They can’t wait to get packed up and head out!  Don’t spend time feeling bad if you can’t afford something extravagant.  Do what you can afford, be happy with what you get, don’t mope that it’s not a 3 week trip to Europe.  Be excited that you get to spend time with the ones you love.  Take some pictures, sit back and enjoy your family.  The kids grow up way too fast!