Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Homeschooling Supplies

A friend came over to visit yesterday who just started homeschooling. She looked at the kids play/homeschooling room and commented about how much stuff I have accumulated. I am a planner. I like to plan ahead and have what I need. I shop at book sales, garage sales, Ollie's (like Pic 'n Save), and the clearance racks at Target when I get the chance. I am looking at the big wooden box of construction paper that I bought from a garage sale for $1 with the big roll of clear contact paper in it and a bag of foam pieces that my garage saling buddy found for me.

But, honestly, I don't see it as me finding all of these things. I see it as God helping me find these things and as blessings from Him. I am thankful for the blessings He has given some friends I know who don't have to shop the sales and can simply go buy what they need. I am thankful too for the friends that I have the chance to pass things on to and who are given a lot of things by family and friends. And I am thankful for friends who are in the same boat I am--scouting out the sales and finding ways to make our finances stretch. In the end, it all comes down to the same thing, I think, loving our families and doing our very best to take care of them--with God's help and His provision! That provision just looks a little different for each of us, I think.


There are a few food items that we spend a little more money on because we love them. And one of them is Coffee. Bad coffee is just bad. Coffee is a very personal thing, I've discovered.

We love Trader Joe's Coffee. We like a medium-dark roast. Starbucks at home usually seems really dark. Which by the way--the Kirkland brand at Costco is roasted by Starbucks. I wish it was a coffee we really liked, but we like Trader Joe's better.

Right now, I'm mixing Decaf Columbian and the new Joe's blend from Trader Joe's. It was a great deal (the Joe's blend) at $3.50 a can! I hope it stays that price, but we'll see. It is a really mild, mellow coffee (similar to the slow and mellow by TJ's), but when mixed with the Columbian and because I brew it really strong, I really like it. When I make Decaf, I make it from solely from TJ's Decaf Columbian. I didn't realize until recently that the folks in our small group thought I was making caffeinated every week--they thought it tasted so good.

Dunkin' Donuts Coffee is an interesting one. I like their Decaf, but not their Regular Caffeinated coffee. I was trying to use some up and not waste the beans, so I was adding 1 Tbsp in with 9 Tbsp of TJ's coffee and we still tasted it--and it didn't taste good. I was surprised that 1 Tbsp could throw the taste of the coffee off so much!

We have a Bunn Coffee Maker. I love it. It doesn't have a water filter, so I use the purified water from the sink that my husband installed (the water purifier, not the water). But, that means that I don't have to replace a water filter on the machine. It does brew hot coffee. I learned that you do have to use the Bunn coffee filters because the sides are taller than regular basket filters. You can buy them at Walmart or online in a big box. Interestingly, they aren't any more expensive than regular basket filters.

One thing that is interesting to me about coffee machines is that they all serve a different size cup of coffee. Our old Krups machine made a 4 oz. cup. Our Bunn now makes a 5 oz. cup. I had always assumed that most machines made a 6 oz. cup!

When our Krups died in July (it started leaking after 2 1/2 years of use), I looked at a lot of coffee makers and decided on the Bunn because of the customer service. I called and the lady was so nice on the phone! She sent me a new sprayhead that makes the water go through a little slower and thus makes the coffee stronger--for free. All you have to do is call and ask for it. I was really impressed. And after 3 months we're still really happy with our coffee maker! The one down side is you really aren't supposed to make less than 4 1/2 cups at a time. I do make 4 cups sometimes, but hopefully it won't get me into trouble.

Sticking to the Budget

One of the hardest parts about budgeting, I think, is the end of the month and saying no to yourself. Each month we have the tendency to roll things into the next month. Sometimes that's okay and sometimes it's really not. I'm glad that what we're rolling into next month right now is a few books for the girls from ebay and my husband's car service that would have been done on Friday, but he had the time to do it on Tuesday. Not too bad. =)

I'm realizing that I have to make sure that there's money left for the end of the month, because unexpected things always come up at the last minute! We've been married for 8 years and have been budgeting for 8 years, but there's always room for improvement =)

Monday, September 28, 2009


I think that every mom ponders the diaper question. Cloth or disposable? If disposable, which kind? Most of it comes down to preference, I think.

I read an article one time that said, the waste for cloth is equivalent to the waste for disposable--I know that's debatable depending on how you look at it, but in general it takes a lot of water and chemicals to clean cloth diapers. And disposable diapers do definitely go into the landfill. It's a puzzle as to which is better. I'm not sure, but I've gone with disposable. Mostly because I couldn't handle juggling cleaning the cloth diapers while taking care of my little ones and worrying that they would get into the bleach water where I've put the diapers or in the toilet as I've heard a few mothers say they've thrown their cloth diapers.

As far as disposable, I've tried Pampers, BJ's generic Berkely and Jensen's, Luvs, Huggies, and Walmart's generic diapers. I've found that there really is a difference with the generic diapers. They don't fit as well and they don't hold as much as well.

Huggies always seems to have a smell for me. A friend gave me a package and I was so thankful when I had used them all up. Little ones can't wear them very long before I start to smell the pee =( But, the biggest thing about Huggies for me is that I found they are for skinny babies. If not, you have to go to much bigger sizes for rounder kids much earlier than with other brands. And the bigger the size, the fewer the diapers in a package = more expensive.

I love the Pampers for newborns. I do like them the best and I think it is a great thing now that there is a stripe on the bottom of them that will appear when the baby has peed. =) Since we have to make sure they are doing that those first few days.

With my girls, I couldn't afford to do Pampers, so I went with Luvs. BJs always had great coupons for them and carries them by the case (the only store that I've found that does). They were better than the generics, but not as nice as the pampers. My kids did leak some--but I think that when they're little no diaper is perfect =) Luvs, as opposed to Pampers and Huggies, are great for round babies--which both of my girls were.

I wish, though, that I had tried Pampers with Sami. She had really bad diaper rash for a very long time and I didn't think switching diapers would help. I wish I had tried. With Eli, his diaper rash started early too and someone mentioned to me that they had switched to Pampers for that reason. Eli is my first and only skinny baby and so I thought I would try it. I did and it helped a ton! His diaper rash went away and now he only has bouts with it once in a while. I do keep an eye on it. I did have to work the Pampers into our budget, but I go with the really absorbent ones so I don't have to use as many and so he doesn't soak through at night. I like them =)

Wipes are another story. I think wipes can be divided into two categories--thick and thin.
Thick: Huggies
Thin: Luvs, Pampers, BJs, Kirkland
I like to go with the Huggies wipes because I don't think I have to use as many wipes. I also feel like I have a good grip of the wipe. I've tried Pampers and will buy them on occasion with coupons, but they're just okay. I don't feel like I can grip them very well.

Coupons: Each of the diaper/wipe manufacturers have websites. If you go to their websites and sign up for their mailing lists, they will periodically mail you coupons and samples.

One last thing: Diaper Rash Creams
Everyone has had a different solution on this one. I tried everything with Sami. I even used the Hair Dryer. In the end, I used baby powder, and generic Eucerin cream from Walmart ($4 for a 16 oz. tub). It's far cheaper than Aquafor ($15 for 16 oz). When the diaper rash would appear, I would use the generic antifungal cream from Walmart and the Eucerin and it would go away after a few days. For Eli, I just use the Antifungal and generic Eucerin when his rash appears. One day I took care of a friend's little girl and had to change her diaper. I noticed her diaper rash and her mom hadn't mentioned anything. So, I put the Eucerin on her and mentioned it to her the next day. She told me it had gone away and had wondered what happened =) Yay! I did try Desitin, Butt Cream, A & D, and another one, but the generic Eucerin was what I really found has worked for my kids =)

I also had a friend who signed up for Amazon's diaper delivery and felt it was a good deal, but I have never tried it. I get my diapers and most of my wipes at BJs because they regularly run coupons for them, which makes their prices for them better than Costco.

So, that's what I've found about diapers and wipes. One of my good friends is always telling me about when her twins were born 40 years ago, there were only Pampers =) There's a lot more selection now, but I think it gets a lot more confusing sometimes because of it.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Grocery Shopping with 3 kids

A month ago, a dad of 2 little boys asked "How do you grocery shop with 3 kids?"
I replied, "Well, I just do. I have to. But, it is definitely tricky at times."

I look back now and go "wow. Grocery shopping with one was so much easier!" I shopped with lots of coupons and went to multiple stores whenever I needed to. Went into little stores even.

Then I had two. I still went to regular grocery stores once in a while, but not very often. My shopping started to shift. I started shopping at BJ's and Costco because they have bigger carts. I shopped at Target for a few staples at good prices because the aisles aren't crowded and they're easy to get around. And my trips to Trader Joe's became once a month to once every other month. I still went to a regular grocery store but maybe once a month.

Now, I have three. When Eli was in an infant car seat, it was tricky. It takes up so much room! Thankfully, that time isn't that long. And BJ's has the shelf under the carts so I always had to use that with the girls up front. But, now Eli is bigger.

So, I shop at Aldi's each week. Sami usually ends up in the back of the cart and Eli up front. Autumn walks. Sami and Autumn together play a little too much and end up falling in that store. During the summer I shop at my little farmer's market and go see the bee lady, the apple (orchard) lady, and the vegetable man. I put Eli in his stroller and the girls stick with me. Everyone knows them so they help me keep an eye on them as I get what I need. I still shop at Target, but with homeschooling, it's becoming 1-2 x a month. And I shop at Trader Joe's, where both girls have to walk, 1x a month. They do have a storytime once a week, so I think I'm going to try and start going then =) It will cut down on the chaos a little. I also go to BJ's and Costco. They both carry a few different things and I like them both. BJ's is great because you can use regular coupons there and still buy the larger packages. I go 1 x a month with the kids to food Lion to get Tortillas. We go in, we go out. =)

It's been interesting because Autumn has piano lessons now and so I am faced with 30 minutes with Sami and Eli and nothing to do. We have started to go to the Giant nearby and I let them walk. We practice walking and counting. I think I'm going to use this time to pick up a package of chicken or a roast or meat that I don't buy at the other stores and take advantage of whatever is on sale. It gives us a place to go and it isn't as stressful as regular grocery shopping would be in the store with all 3.

But, aside from the balancing act of juggling 3 kids in a store, there is another reason I don't shop at regular grocery stores much. They're really expensive. I've been really surprised. I buy rice at Walmart and the same package is 2x the price at Giant. I shop at Aldis and buy Graham Crackers which are 2x the price at a regular grocery store. I love remembering prices so there are different things that I buy at each place.

At BJ's: Pampers, bananas, baked beans, mac and cheese, lunch meat, yogurt, milk, half and half, deodorant, spices, laundry soap, coupon items, orange juice, listerine, pasta
At Costco: Dog Food (their dog food is all natural), cheese, milk, meet, steak (special occasion =) ), Izzes, spices, bananas, fruit, raisins, ground beef, dish soap and detergent, chocolate chips
Aldis: Canned goods, graham crackers, flour/sugar, vegetables and fruits, chicken, plain yogurt, cream cheese
Walmart: CalRose Rice
Target: Peanut butter, cereal, yogurt, sour cream, toiletries
Panera: Bagels--I buy the big pack (18) have them sliced and freeze them.
Trader Joe's: Coffee, Spaghetti Sauce
Lohr's: the orchard nearby sells McCutcheon's jam and jellies which are made with fruit juice or sugar instead of corn syrup
Amish Market: wheat to grind, bulk spices

I'm sure there are a few things I've missed, but it surprises me how simple my list is, but I think I make a lot more stops than I realized! =) I just try not to make them as often anymore and stock up more.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


I think budgeting is a doubled edged sword, but one side is duller than the other. When I was single, I didn't write everything down and stick to a budget. I just didn't spend much money. Every time I was switching jobs or my income would change, I would sit down and see if I could make it work. Based on that, I kept it in the back of my mind and was just very careful about how I spent the money I had.

There were two really lean times in my single life when I had very little and it made me very frugal. The first was my senior year in college when I made $441 a month the first semester and somehow paid my books, sorority dues (one of my part time jobs cooking at my sorority on the weekends), rent ($220/mo), food, and gas. I didn't pay for my car or tuition. The second time things were really tight was when I was in grad school and I made $752 a month. My rent was $250 and I was paying for my insurance and gas at that point. The only thing my mom helped me with was my health insurance--which was such a blessing! I had 2 part time jobs plus grad school. I am so thankful for those two times in my life. I learned a lot of lessons during those times...I had to trust God to provide for me when extra things came up (and He always did!). I had to let go of money--I couldn't spend whatever I wanted. I had to really learn what needs and wants were. I was convicted to get through grad school with debt--I didn't know why, but I felt that conviction, so I pursued that wholeheartedly. It made me really appreciate school and be thankful when I was done and had a full time job! But, one of the other lessons God taught me through that time was how to be generous to others. My friends modeled were very generous to me when I couldn't afford things and I have never forgotten that.

When I got married, the finances changed! Everything got more complicated. Budgeting was one of the things we started doing to keep track of everything. We discovered that when we didn't write everything down, we were always over budget. Even now, I find that when I lose track and forget to write things down, I overspend. So, I write things down and we're able to stay in our budget because we know when we have to say no to ourselves. I made a simple Excel spreadsheet to track everything. We evaluate our budget and adjust it anytime my husband's income changes and we make sure we're staying in it. We struggle. A lot of unexpected expenses come up. I think that's the hardest part. But, we press on and do the best we can.

The thing I've found is that there's stress involved in keeping a budget and saying no to yourself (the dull side of the sword), but there's even more stress when you spend not knowing if you have the money or not (the very sharp side of the sword). I grew up with a father who always over spent and a mom who was frugal. When I got older, I resolved to always pay my credit card balances every month. Credit cards can be useful tools and make life easier and more convenient. But, I think they only work well when you pay them off every month. If you care a balance, it takes a really long time to pay it off--especially if you only pay the minimum balance.

Monday, September 21, 2009

MSG and Partially Hydrogenated Oils

One of the tricky things about making things stretch is making choices when it comes to groceries. I have found that we are not able to buy everything organic. And Organic is a discussion of its own. But, here's a few of the things I try to do instead.

During the summer (May-October) we're locavores when it comes to fruits and vegetables. Two of the folks I buy from at the farmer's market aren't organics (because they've both told me that getting certified is a big pain), but they basically raise their plans organically.

There are 4 ingredients that I avoid as much as possible: MSG, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Artificial sweeteners, and Partially Hydrogenated Oils. All three weren't meant to be digested by us. We don't eat that many processed foods anyways, but here's a few we do eat: General Mills Cereals, Aldis canned goods and graham crackers, Bush's baked beans, Annie's or Trader Joe's Macaroni and Cheese (I couldn't not let my kids have mac and cheese), and regular condiments. For jelly, I've found McCutcheon's, a MD brand, that makes a juice sweetened or regular sugar sweetened grape jelly (instead of high fructose corn syrup). For cereal, I stick with General Mills or Post---Kellogg's uses Partially Hydrogenated Oils in their cereals and snacks! Keebler does too in their snacks. Aldis is a store that sells only generic groceries--if you have one near you and haven't shopped there, give it a chance. When I was working for General Mills years ago, I discovered that sometimes generics taste as good and sometimes they don't. When it comes to canned goods, it really doesn't matter and for the other staples that I buy there. High Fructose Corn Syrup is the one to watch out for in baked beans and the oils in the mac and cheese.

Unfortunately, I haven't found a good ranch dressing on the market that tastes like real ranch that doesn't have MSG in it. My husband says that MSG is the flavor of ranch. So, I switched to primarily making the Good Seasons Italian as our staple dressing. I make a lot of dressings from scratch, too, but the Italian I can't replicate. I just got one of the cruets made for their dressing this weekend and it makes it so easy!

The reason I stay away from MSG is because its been linked to Migraines.
Artificial Sweeteners make my body feel all out of whack like my blood sugar is going crazy.
The hydrogenated oils are supposed to kill us (or so the internet says) and make us fat. I avoid them as much as I can--but unfortunately I can't with tortillas and I don't have enough time to make my own. So, hopefully, we'll be okay since that is all we're eating it in.
High fructose Corn Syrup is an interesting one as well, but when I looked into it a while back, I realized that when you consume a lot of it, it immensely increases your desire for sweet things.

I try to be balanced about what I feed my family. I don't think we're too extreme, but I feel pretty wary of chemicals that chemists have invented in foods that aren't naturally occurring. And I don't know what the long term effect of them will be! It's been very interesting to me as the articles have come out this year that the our bodies see the artificial sweeteners in diet sodas as regular sugar and process them that way--so they can still make you gain weight if you drink too much of them.

Well, I better run. I hope you have a great day!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Funny thing...

I realized that Blogger posts your posts according to when you start them, not when you finish them. So, today, I finished a post, but it's buried in the middle. It's called God's Provision and it's about the books that I have enjoyed and not enjoyed reading about finances =)

Garage Saling

People are often surprised by what I find Garage saling--and I am too! Last year, my rocker broke just before I had Eli. I knew we didn't have 300-400 to buy a new one. Autumn asked me that week, are you going to go find one at a garage sale on Saturday, Mommy? I said, well, we'll see. When I set out that Saturday morning, I prayed and asked God for a chair. In the course of the morning, I met a couple who felt they were done having children. I explained that my goal for the morning was to find a chair. The husband said they wanted to sell theirs. I ended up buying it for $45.

My rule of thumb is that at garage sales typically things cost 10% of what you would pay for them retail. I've tried this theory out many times and it's held true more times than not. And in this case $45 was 10% of the retail price of the chair. It was a huge blessing to us and still is to have found this chair. And I am so thankful for the Lord's graciousness in helping me find it. I still remember that morning as much because of the chair as because of the conversation that I got to have with the wife.

Last weekend, I went out garage saling with my good friend and garage sale partner. No kids, just us. Usually, we have all 3 kids with us and they're troopers. They have fun seeing what treasures we'll find. But, sometimes it's fun and much quicker to go without them.

Anyways, we had been rearranging our tv/adult reading room and I felt like we needed a chair for it, but I knew we didn't have the money in our budget to buy something expensive. So, I went garage saling and I found this Poang Chair from IKEA, a foot stool, 2 older poang chairs and 2 kids chairs for $27. Usually, I'm really able to fix things myself and so I saw them and thought I could. Little did I know how much I needed my friend for this one. I just saw potential. I didn't realize how dirty they were--they accepted $27 for a reason! So, my friend took them home and sprayed oxiclean all over them and then a few hours later used her carpet cleaner on the cushions. She knew all about them since she had several of the chairs and told me that you can't put the covers in the wash because they will shrink (even just going through the wash). I couldn't have fixed them without her! My job was to sand the arms and legs of the little chairs--I don't know what was so rough on them. But, I polyurethaned them and now I need to make some new simple covers for them. I saw online that lots of people do that anyways.

In the future, I will try and remember to look closer before I buy =) and really make sure that I can fix it. I do always look at DVDs before I buy them to make sure there aren't many scratches. There have been times when I've bought things and couldn't fix them. But, I've always tried to keep in mind with any purchase I make, I'm taking a chance that it won't work. And because of that, I hesitate to spend too much on one item.

Garage saling here runs from April-May (busiest months) through the beginning of October. Sometimes it's busy in September and sometimes not. Yesterday, I did go out in the morning and I found some clothes for Autumn and Sami and a princess sheet for Sami's bed that I know she's going to love, some homeschooling books, a nerf gun target dart board for my husband, a star globe, some Christmas towels and vinyl tablecloths (super handy for when the kids are doing crafts), a decorative clay tea pot, addition bingo, a box of yarn for homeschooling crafts, a little sticker Xyron machine, a cruet for our salad dressing and a black purse, the Little Tikes tool bench I had wanted for Eli, and a few other little things. I think I spent $16. It probably sounds like a lot of junk =) but it's amazing how much stuff is handy when you're homeschooling and raising 3 kids and a puppy! The Xyron was just for fun--I've always been curious about them. But, that's usually what my list sounds like after garage saling. A lot of random things that make our homeschooling a lot more fun. I discovered after I got home that I was looking over what Autumn's art lesson is this week, and I bought a book with rubbing plates that was exactly what I need! I didn't know it--it was such a fun little blessing to discover that!

God provides for all of us in so many different ways--and as one author I read said--she wasn't advocating that everyone garage sale or think of someone as not wise for not doing so--she realized that it was important that people buy things and then have garage sales so she could then buy them. =) But, it was right for her family. And I guess that made sense to me. For some people, it is easiest to buy in the stores. For some people, consignment stores and consignment sales (which are getting a lot more popular and frequent) are a great resource. And some, like me, love garage saling and finding treasures that can be recycled. And I guess that's another thing to talk about at another time--when it comes to hand me downs and garage saling--it feels good to me to know that I'm recycling and not consuming more resources of the world. =) So, those are my random thoughts this morning since I couldn't sleep!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Napkins and Nightgowns =)

The tricky thing for me about blogging sometimes is that I think about something I want to write about and then I forget! But, I thought of 2 things this morning...

1) Cloth Napkins. We have a basketful. Instead of using paper napkins like I grew up with, we use cloth napkins at our meals. The kids do, too. Have you ever noticed that there are some meals that you don't use your napkin at all, but if it's paper--you still throw it away? Using cloth napkins for me is more about not using up trees and paper, but it also changes the look and feel of our table. It seems nicer some how. Before we had kids, I always had to set out matching napkins on the table. Now that we have 3 little ones, I'm doing good to get the napkins on the table and my husband has gotten used to them not matching if I don't have time to think about it--which I usually don't. Oh, but back to what happens if you don't use the napkin at the meal. If you're using a cloth napkin and you haven't used it, you can either leave it on the table (if you don't have a dog who will pull it off like we do) or set it back in the pile to use for the next meal. Anyways, that's what we do =)

2) Little girls' nightgowns: Until kids are about 3 and are doing well with being potty trained through the night, I found that we really have to change their pajamas every day. They can't wear them every day because they smell--I don't mean to be gross. But, I'll be honest, I just put Eli in a onesie for him to sleep in at this point. At about 1 1/2-2 years old is when I start putting them in pajamas. Pajamas are quite expensive when you need multiple pairs, I think. My favorite pj's for little kids are Gap PJ's from the outlets and Old Navy second, but I don't usually like the designs as well. I always watched for the clearances at the stores and outlets. Pajamas don't tend to wear very well, but the Gap or Gap outlet ones hold up enough to go through multiple children. The other reason I really like them is the design. My children never have been able to wear the ones with feet. But, the Gap ones are gathered at the bottom of the legs and are 2 pieces with elastic around the middle (good for skinny or round children). My children are round and short =) I like Carter's and their equivalents at Target and Walmart, but the arms were always a lot tighter and I ran into big problems with that for Sami when she was 2-3.

But, when they turn 3/or are potty trained well, they can start wearing pajamas for more than one night. This was the trick I found that worked for my girls. They were so in the habit of putting their nightclothes in the dirty clothes that they wouldn't save them for the next night. So, I found them each a nightgown that they really liked--Strawberry Shortcake for Sami and Ariel for Autumn. Character pajamas/nightgowns are about $12-15. I was lucky enough to find the Strawberry Shortcake NWT at a garage sale and the Ariel one barely worn for $1.50. Yay! I was so thankful. When I got those two nightgowns, the girls quickly changed their habits and remembered because they wanted to wear their nightgowns the next night, so they put them under their pillows instead of in the dirty clothes hamper.

But, anyways, if you buy 2 for each child and they wear them 2-3 nights, they're washed by the time they're ready for the other one. Another option for summer nightgowns for girls that worked for Autumn this summer was a light Hawaiian sundress that I found at a garage sale. Last summer, I got the girls some bigger girls' shirts and they used them as nightgowns, that was another way that I saved money on their nightgowns, but Sami wasn't potty trained then so I needed more of them and that worked out well.

And by the way, yes, I know that there are labels inside true pajamas about whether or not clothes are for kids to sleep in, but what I realized when my kids were babies is that they take naps in their clothes anyways-- so why wouldn't be okay for Eli to sleep at night in his onesie =) I just make sure there aren't any buttons that could come off in the night and be a choking hazard when I put him down for a nap or down to sleep.

So, those are my random thoughts this morning =)

Friday, September 18, 2009

Car Seats Cont...

I had a great talk with a good friend of mine this morning and we were talking about my blog and what I wrote about car seats. I learned some things from her that I didn't know. The first was about add-ons. If the add on comes with the car seat then it has already been approved for use with that car seat by the manufacturer. So, the other day when I saw the updated version of our Graco convertible car seat--it had a head rest that came with it. So, that head rest would be approved for use with it. My friend also felt that it is important to be aware of the highest standards, but realize that then we have to be realistic and practical. For example, the government recommends that nothing--NOTHING--be loose in your car that could hit your child in the case of an accident. She and I both agreed that we don't know anyone that doesn't have something in their cars that is loose. That would include the board book that you give your child to keep them occupied while you're driving on a long trip =) So, it's something to be aware of and wise about, but not exactly feasible all the time. I have 3 kids and there's always stuff in my car--I don't think I could avoid it.

Second, we are a highly, HIGHLY regulated country when it comes to safety--almost hyper conscious about it. In China, they don't even have car seats. My friend has a friend who lives in Asia who she visited when the friend's daughter was 2 years old. She sat in a bike seat on the back of her mother's bike--that had no belt! Wow. Imagine that one. Tricky. Her daughter fell asleep and she rode using one hand until she got home so the daughter wouldn't fall out. So, obviously, yes, there's good reason for our seats and regulations, but sometimes we do as a country go a little overboard.

Well, that's all for now, but I learned a lot from my friend and it was fun talking about it =)

Things to Write About

Last night, I told my husband about the blog I started yesterday and he said that made a lot of sense--because more than anything else, I enjoy being thrifty--frugal sounds extreme. But, I do love saving money! So, I've made a list this morning at the side of the blog of some of the things I want to write about so I won't forget. If they interest you, please check back to my blog =) And please when I write about them--I love comments and to know what other people think about them and if they agree/disagree with me!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

God's Provision

I find that I think that finances are as much about us being wise as they are about God's provision for us in spite of our failings and faults.

I think I have 2 favorite books about finances and a 3rd if you're in the military.

1. Miserly Moms: If you're thinking about staying at home or for your spouse to be a stay at home parent, this is a great book. And Jonni McCoy really talks about how much it costs to be a working parent as well as how to save and make it work if you decide to stay home.

2. I read a great book this summer by Matt Bell called Money Strategies for Tough Times. This is a book that is great for both men and women. He talks in the first chapter about how our finances are not separate from our walk with the Lord--they are a part of it. He also talks about needs/wants and loans. One reviewer talked about how she thought it was extreme. I'll be honest, I didn't think it was extreme at all! It was very mild, actually, but full of good information.

3. For military families, I really like Ellie Kay's book Heroes at Home. For new military wives, I thought Ellie Kay did a great job of talking about things that they need to know--one of them being finances.

So, I think those are my favorite books about finances. I've read some bad ones too. One of them is Living More with Less. It was so extreme. That's my benchmark, I think. And I struggled with the examples that the author gave--like a couple with PhDs who worked as a waitress and janitor so that they would make the least money they could--so they would pay the least taxes they could to a government they didn't like. That book also included stories about people who refused to pay their taxes. But, the Bible says to give to Caesar what is Caesar's--and we know that God is sovereign--He has allowed the people who are in power to have that power. WE may not always understand why, but HE does. =)

The other books that I'm not so crazy about are Mary Hunt's books. It is a struggle for me to come to terms with the fact that even to access her website (at least it was this way a while back) you have to pay a fee. It seems like if you are wanting Christians to be better stewards with their finances and they're having problems--then it doesn't seem right to charge them for it.

I haven't read any books by Dave Ramsey, but have friends who have and have really enjoyed his books. I've listened to hims speak on Focus on the Family and have really liked what he had to say.

I've also heard good things about resources from Crown Financial, the late Larry Burkett's ministry, but again, most things on the website you have to pay for and to take their course to become a financial counselor to help people in your church, the training is expensive.

Sometimes books make me chuckle and their definition of the average family and the advice they give. One book I reviewed this year for Amazon was Busy Family's Guide to Money. They're definition of the average family must have been well over $150k/year. And the sample budget they included was for who? It was way off base, in my opinion about what a family budgets and what expenses you have for children and yourselves.

So, those are my favorite and not so favorite books about finances. I enjoy reading what people have to say about finances. I'm a pretty average person, I think. I don't read books all about investing or saving, but I know that it is important. I'm skittish about the stock market after growing up with my dad, but I do save and believe it's important. I believe it's important that we not live beyond our means and be good stewards of what we have. So, that's me for this morning, I guess. =)

Motorcycles =)

That may seem like a very funny thing to talk about on a blog about making things stretch, but my husband loves motorcycles. It is one of the biggest things that has taught us some financial lessons about purchases and sort of steeled what I believe about big purchases.

My husband's first motorcycle was a basic Harley Davidson 883 Sportster. It was beautiful and classic, but after an hour his hands would be numb from the vibrations. It handled well on the curvy backroads near us, but my husband yearned for the open road. I think the appeal of the Harley was the name and some pride. It was beautiful =) Motorcycles can be, I think.

So, he traded it in.

For a BMW something or other. I think and RT something. Anyways, the dealer was 45 miles away and it was a pain to get any work done. When he traded his new 883 in for a used BMW, we knew it would come with some quirks, but we didn't realize how many! Within a day of bringing it home, he realized it wouldn't do what he wanted it to--ride the backroads great and the open highway/freeway. One of the hardest things about motorcycles is that you can't test drive bikes except at the Harley and BMW dealers. Honda, Suzuki, Yamaha, Kawasaki...there isn't anywhere around here that will let you test drive--you'd be buying blind.

So, after a while, my husband realized the BMW was a bad bike for him and our family--the maintenance alone was crazy expensive. The frequency of required maintenance and repairs was going to be very costly. So, he sold it.

He waited a few months and wanted a new bike. We talked through all of it. We considered what we could afford and what we couldn't. We considered the new vs. used question. We ended up purchasing a Honda 919. It's really a bike in the middle of the Harley and BMW bikes that he had. It has the Honda name and not the Harley or BMW name. But, it has a reputation of reliability and lower maintenance. So, far a month and a half into it, he's still happy with it and I'm thankful.

So, what did I learn?
1) If you take out a loan for a bike, get both your names on it if you're married--even if it is only your spouse that rides it. The reason is that if you have to deal with any of the finances, the company will not talk to you if your name isn't on the papers. It isn't a matter of who it belongs to, it's really a matter of practicality.

2) The middle road is best =) If you can afford the lowest model of a great brand or a new model of a brand that isn't as much to brag about, but is a quality brand--go with quality, not bragging rights =)

3) New vs. Used: New if it can be afforded. When it comes to a vehicle, it's a safety issue with me. I find it a lot easier for me to trust a new vehicle than a used one--because I know how it's been taken care of by me =)

4) It's important for me to love my husband. I listen to my husband talk a lot about motorcycles--because I love him. It's not my thing, but that's okay. We met a couple at a housewarming party and she reminded me by her example of boating with her significant other of how important this is. She still boats with him and has grown to love it, despite the fact that on their first date they went through a storm while in his sailboat!

5) Were the bike purchases and trades the wisest use of our finances? Maybe not in many people's eyes--which I totally understand--but sometimes you have to learn by doing and I think in this case we did. And more than that--I saw God's graciousness to us in it and the blessing of his provision for something that my husband loves.

So, now, I hope we'll have the 919 for a long time! I'm praying that we will =)

Car Seats

The thing that made me think about starting this blog (since I already have another one that I share stories on about my kids and family and my thoughts about life) is that when I talked with a couple a few weeks ago in Target, they asked me if I had a website. So, now I do!

The couple had twins and were looking at car seats. They had gone with the Britax ($200+ each). But, it was too big and didn't fit in their car.

I remember when we were getting ready for Autumn. We bought the Graco infant car seat and the big stroller that went with it. (I'm so thankful strollers have slimmed down so much in the past 6 years!)

Anyways, we read the book about getting the safest things for our daughter and we thought we needed that big, huge stroller. What we realized later was that it was super heavy and totally impractical for us. I sold it for $20 at a garage sale, I think.

But, back to the car seats =) I've kind of realized that there's an upper tier of children's products that are geared towards wealthy people who are able to spend more than we (my husband and I can). In general, we've found that if we buy the high end item--we regret it because it usually isn't all we'd hoped. And if we buy the low end item--it ends up usually being poor quality or you have to be very careful with it. So, we've found that we try to stick to the middle range.

And in this case, the Graco infant car seat was a great choice. It lasted through 3 babies--but I had to throw it out afterwards. I couldn't give it to a friend because it had worn out. But, to last through 3 kids, I think is pretty good =)

When we transitioned Autumn out of the infant seat--at 9 months, we bought her a Graco car seat ($80) and it lasted until she was 4 because she's so short. She wasn't tall enough for a booster until she was 4. Honestly, it was a great car seat and I highly recommend it. I've been very happy with them. My youngest son is now in one.

Next, we bought booster seats for the girls. I bought Evenflo seats from Walmart for $31 each. I wanted to buy the Graco seat, but it said "Princess" all over it and I didn't think that would go over too well with Eli when he's old enough to sit in it! I've been happy with them. They're basic and durable. We've had no problems with them.

Two years ago, a friend gave me 2 Evenflo car seats similar to the Graco ones that we have. I'll be honest, the Graco is a better transitional seat. The contour for putting a 9 month old into it is much better and I noticed on the new one, there is a head form that will help the baby's head not bobble about. But, you can always buy those separately and put them on the seat.

So, that's my two cents =) Tomorrow, I will write about the gal I met last night at the library book sale and why we chose for me to stay home =)

A New Blog

I think I'm a funny bird. I love to talk--that doesn't make me funny. At least I don't think so =) But, I love to talk to strangers. I love meeting them and hearing about their lives and I love to be helpful. I'm one of those people that if I'm in Target and I'm looking at something and puzzling about what to choose, I love input from someone who has one.

For example, one Saturday, my husband and I were in the toy section and I have no idea how it came up but a woman told us to be careful of the Bounce 'n Play places because of the coxsackie virus/hand foot mouth. I had never thought about it, but it made sense. She said that some places are better than others (and she told me which ones, but I can't remember). I was thankful for the advice and the thought!

Just a forewarning--I'm not very technologically savvy--hence the sideways smile at the beginning!