Saturday, July 31, 2010

Taking Charge!

We're on our way to take charge of this debt in our lives. We have the debt goal chart made and posted, with the awful, ugly, horrible number at the bottom and we are working on making our way up the "ladder" to being debt free! Having a garage sale today and already have $90 in our pockets to put toward debt, not bad for it being 9 AM! I'll update with our total later. How are you taking charge of your debt? Go make some money today!!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

We're Diving In!

That's how it feels at least--like a huge plunge into a financial whirlwind that feels really scary, uncertain, a little dangerous and risky. Although, I know once we take the plunge and are floating, even swimming in the new "normal" financial realm, we'll become quite used to the shifts and turns we'll be making and be satisfied and proud of our accomplishments and ability to "hold our own" in the mess! Yep, you guessed it we are going to go through The Total Money Makeover by D.R. Last night as we decided we really were going to go all in, I was starting to get a little panicky, but the quickly got SUPER excited about the possibility of being completely debt-free. Doesn't it just sound magical and peaceful. I can't wait!! :) So, here we are, taking one baby step at a time and walking into what will be a life changing, powerful adventure.

So for those of you who haven't heard all of the Dave Ramsey stuff, I'll give you the quick run down. First order of business is to get a budget and stick with it. You have to literally assign a place in your budget to EVERY dollar. Then, you leave the credit card option at home, cut up or hidden and pay cash for everything. This right here is going to be a challenge--keeping to a cash only budget without cheating. So, we have done a quick budget, mostly estimates right now, but it gave us a good idea of where we have a little extra to work with. Throughout the process you revisit the budget every month to make changes that may be necessary, so as we move through this we'll have a better feel for the real situation. Once you have the budget in place, you move onto the first baby step: start up your emergency fund.

The start up emergency fund is $1,000. The exciting news is that we can already cross that one off our list! :) YAY!! One down, six more to go.

Next, you hit your debt hard. Baby step #2: The debt snowball is going to be the most challenging of all. This is when you start getting a little "crazy" about pulling every penny from every where to put toward debt. Sacrifices are inevitable, changes are likely and selling things is a must! So, this is where we are. Getting serious about cutting back any where we can and adding extra income any way we can. We'll be  paying extra payments every month until we can declare freedom from all and any creditors! :) Hallelujah! I'll explain the other baby steps later.

Let me explain a little better the "snowball" analogy a little better to give you a feel for how it really works. You first list out every debt you have from the smallest balance to the largest balance, except for your mortgage. Then, you take the first one and you add every bit of extra money toward it every month until it's paid off. Then you take all the money you were paying toward that bill and the extra every month and put it toward the next largest and so on. In the end you're putting large amounts each month toward the last bill and paying it off quickly.

Our current game plan:
1. Move to the cash budget ASAP and stink to it!
2. Set $1,000 emergency fund aside for EMERGENCIES
3. Make a goals chart and reward system for each $1,000 mark of debt paid off
4. Pay off the first amount in full with remaining savings and extra money from this month
5. Have a garage sale
6. Sell larger items with value on online sales websites
7. Put extra income raises and extra shift income toward debt
8. Lower our contributions to our retirement and put that amount toward debt
9. Pick up odds and ends jobs to help bring in extra income to pay things off faster
10. Make sacrifices along the way to find "extra" in the budget
11. Save for all large purchases to pay with cash.

It's gonna kick our butt a little...maybe a lot, but I can't wait to cross off our first $1,000 off and watch as it snowballs it's way out of our life!! :)

If you have other ideas or cool ways that you've paid off debt let us know--we are always open to hearing other success stories and maybe giving them a try too!

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Total Money Makeover

During the last couple days I've been listening to The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey. It's been a great book. In a lot of ways I've always thought we've done a good job with our money, staying out of most kinds of debt-including credit cards, but boy, there is still room to grow! We've been so thankful that we've only had student loans and our mortgage, but even with just those things, there are ways to do better. We really want to strive towards being debt-free and I think this book is going to get us the tools and information we need to go at it with more determination and better tools. I'm excited to keep learning about ways to invest properly, the best retirement funds to use, and how to be better savers. I'll keep you posted on all the tips we try! :) In the meantime, if you have a library card and want to check it out for yourself, go out an check it out!!

Friday, July 23, 2010

A Spiritual Journey

I guess I should also share about how a large part of this "simplifying" is a spiritual journey. This all came about because of listening to sermons, podcasts and books that all addressed, in different ways, what Jesus demonstrated through his lifestyle, messages and life in general throughout Scripture. When you look at His life you clearly see he wasn't chasing after wealth, fame, superiority, power, stability, convenience, etc. He was a "simple" man, in a really complex sort of way! ;) But truly simple in the way he lived. He didn't have a large house, big buildings to preach in, a lot of wealth or power. He taught outside along hillsides and by bodies of water. He walked from town to town. He slept as a guest in other people's homes as he traveled. He was born in a manager. He rode on a donkey, not a horse, which was borrowed even. He didn't carry money, based on the passage where he had Peter (I think it was) pull money out of the mouth of a fish while speaking about paying taxes. So, if Christians are meant to be "Christ-like" and Christ lived an example of a life that was counter our culture, shouldn't we be doing the same? Trust me, I'm not sure I like the sound, feeling or idea of all of these things, which is why it's a process and why it takes learning on my part. I quite frankly, like the idea of stability, home ownership, space, a reliable car or cars, having the financial freedom to do what I want to. Although, I'm not sure that it means not having all of those things, but maybe it's just putting all of them into a different perspective. A perspective of gratitude, knowing that ALL things come from His provision and not our efforts. A perspective of giving, generosity and compassion towards situations and people around us. A perspective where you eliminate the "ownership" of it all. By that I mean, you stop looking at things, money, jobs, stuff as mine. If you have these new perspectives on our "stuff" it's easier to not be so attached to the world's ways of doing things. You start to see other people's needs as equally important as your life/needs. Suddenly you're not so self-absorbed, self-centered, self-focused, selfish--all those words that don't have a very positive meaning! You become more Christ-like. A journey it is, and a spiritual one, for sure! This could be a tough one!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Homemade Laundry and Dishwasher Soap

So, one of the first things I decided to try was to make some homemade soaps. Our son has sensitive skin which has forced me to look for alternative laundry and soap options. When using regular chemical filled soaps, even those for sensitive skin, he would get a rash. As a mother, I had to find something that would stop it. My search began for natural products, chemical free. I found a laundry soap called Nellie's Laundry Soda. It cleared up his rash, so I knew that naturally it was a good product, which made me happy. Although, I started to have some trouble with it not getting all of my kid's stains out of their clothes and even things that usually wouldn't "stain" weren't coming out. As a mother of two toddlers, I needed something with some strength to get all kinds of "treasures" out of my kid's clothes, so another search began! My girlfriend, Sarah, was telling me about her homemade laundry soap, which was an intriguing idea so I explored it further. While on vacation with them, she let me use her soap to do our loads and all our clothes came out perfectly clean! There were no more stains left on items and my son did not break out in his usual rash from the soap. Then she told me it only cost pennies a load to make this great stuff and I was hooked! Amazingly enough, as soon as we got home I used up the last of the soap I had and it was time to make some of my own. I needed a recipe and nowadays where does one go for such information--online, of course! I ran across this amazing website that I'm sure I'll use a lot. It's called Tipnut and it is full of helpful tips on cleaning, DIY projects and household items to name a few. I, naturally, saved it as a favorite on my bookmarks, because a site like that is bound to come in handy on a regular basis! Anyway, they had a list of 10 laundry soap recipes--beautiful! They have ideas for powder and liquid and with a variety of ingredients so you can chose the one that fits your household needs the best. I chose option number one for a few reasons:

1. It included a bar of soap and I wanted to use Fels-Naptha (a stain removing bar soap) for extra stain removing power for the above noted children's clothing! ;)
2. It made a large enough batch that I wouldn't have to keep making it frequently.
3. It only used 1/4 C per load, so it would go further.

So, here's the recipe I used with the break down on products, pricing and some helpful tips.

1 Qt of boiling water

1 Bar of  Fels-Naptha Soap- about 2 C (you can use others like Ivory)
Here is the product description I found online at "The Fels Naptha 5.5 oz. Soap Bar from Dial Corporation is a powerful laundry soap, used for over 100 years, that takes out any kind of stain simply, safely and completely, including grass, grease, oil, wine and more.  Just wet the spot, rub the bar on it, lather it up, and throw it into the wash. Also used as a poison ivy home remedy!" 
It can be found at some local stores for cheaper, but I ordered mine online (because I was having trouble finding it) through Amazon for $4.11 (which included shipping, it can be found for around $1.20 + shipping).  This does increase the overall price of the laundry soap, but it still ends up being much cheaper than the alternative store bought soap.

*Directions say to grate the bar of soap and melt it in the quart of water. This was the part of the process that took the longest and seemed to be a little troublesome. Instead of grating, I chopped it into small pieces, it doesn't grate well. Also, due to the bubbling effect of soap, I would recommend using a large pot for the melting. I had a spilling over episode because I didn't think through the bubbling of soap! :( 

2 C of Borax 
This stuff is awesome! According to the box it can be used for all kinds of household cleaning and for only $2.98 a box, I say that's a great deal! I found mine at Walmart in the laundry aisle.

2 C of Washing Soda
Another great product to help with stain removing. This one was a little trickier to find around here. According to some posts online some people have been able to find it at Walmart and at Ace Hardware. I didn't find it at either, but finally found it at our Kroger chain, called King Soopers for $4.99 a box. It's also in the laundry aisle. 

2 Gallons of Water

*After the soap is melted, pour it into a large container (I used a 5 gallon bucket) along with the borax and washing soda. Mix it all together and then add the water. You should end up with over 2 gallons of prepared laundry soap, which I figured out to be about 280 loads! So for our family (we do about 4 loads/week) that equals about a years worth of laundry soap. How exciting is that?! 

Finished product-one of the gallons. Does anyone know how to rotate these? In my photos it is rotated, but on here it only shows up flipped.

I also figured out the price break down for each batch and load. It ended up costing me about $6.17 for the years worth of laundry soap, the most expensive ingredient being the Fels Naptha because I had to get it online. Even with that extra expense, it'll only cost me $0.02 a load! :) 

So here's to that great find! A chemical-free, natural soap for pennies a load--simpler on the budget, the earth and our skin. Give a try and let me know how it goes. 

Now, if that wasn't exciting enough, here is my other soap recipe for the day!

Powder Dishwasher Soap, which I also found on Tipnut. This was even easier then the laundry soap. 

The recipe called for 1 C of baking soda and 1 C of Borax. Sift it together, store it in a container and use about 2T per load. I don't think it could get easier then that! They also recommended using vinegar in the rinse cycle to keep from getting a cloudy residue on your dishes.

So the breakdown for that recipe is $0.52 for the batch and about $0.03 a load. BTW, this price does not include the vinegar in the rinse cycle because amounts are harder to measure.

I think I'll double or triple this recipe when I make it next time just so it'll last longer. If you use the 2T per load, that'll equal one ounce a load so you'll have 16 loads per batch.

Happy Cleaning! Let me know how it works for you!


I started this blog a while back, but only had two things nailed down: 1. I was going to write a blog and 2. It had something to do with a simple lifestyle, kind of a back-to-the-basics feel. Well, I didn't start anything right away because I wanted to really figure out what I was going to be writing about first. Plus, we got super busy planning and preparing for our family vacation, going on our family vacation and recovering from our family vacation. The blog was put on hold. Well, now I'm back and I have a much better idea of what this will look like! :) Yay! During our traveling we listen to some audio books and podcasts that transformed this idea into something a little more specific, so I'm going to lay it out a little better now.

What does the Simple Life look like?
We, by we I mean my family, are on a journey to explore and learn about that idea. By simple I do not mean easy. I think that the American culture has already done a great job of finding the easiest, most convenient and quickest ways to do just about everything, so that's not what we are learning and discovering. What I'm referring to is a lot more complex than that. It's trying to do things more simply in a whole new meaning of the word. Here are some specifics:
1. Finding ways to do things that are better for the environment--simpler in their ingredients, processes, chemical-free, home-grown, cleaner, safer.
2. Simpler financial life--living debt free, avoiding getting caught up in the "rat race", passing on a financially sound heritage to our children, living within our means, enjoying pleasures without guilt or burden of finances.
3. Learning trades and processes that have been lost. This would include things like gardening, canning, crafting, building, DIY projects, cleaning without chemicals, sewing, etc. All kinds of things that our grandparents and great grandparents did and did well because it was their means of survival and life style. Now those arts have been lost in the "convenience" of our modern day. So, we want to explore those again and wonder, would our life feel more "simple" if we didn't depend on others to do these things for us?
4. Living in community. Remember the saying, "It takes a village to raise a child". Well, when that saying began, a village really was raising the children. Now, we rely on the knowledge of usually two people--a mother and father. It's a really limited idea and our children & parents alike are missing out on the benefits & wisdom of an extended group of adults working together. Would life feel more simple if we were raising our children together, supporting each other, helping each other? What about those around us that hit a rough spot in life? What if we had resources, food, shelter, abilities that we could share with them? Would life be more simple if we were looking out for each other rather then judging each others circumstances?
This is not an exhaustive list, I'm sure others could add more ideas and I welcome them. These are the things that have been coming to mind recently and we've been exploring how our life could look if we tried to simplify some things. That brings me back to the blog, we're going to be sharing our journey with you--our readers. Not because we have all the answers, but to share some of the lessons we've learned with you and hopefully you'll share your ideas with us. Maybe a few more people will join us on this idea and effort to explore a new way of living--a little bit of the "old school" way some may say! ;)

So, if you like this idea, follow along! We're looking forward to the journey.
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