Posts Tagged ‘Budget’

Play It Again, Momma: 35 Ways to Reduce That Grocery Budget

Thursday, June 18th, 2009


I wanted to bring back this entry because it really is the best showcase of all of our grocery saving advice on the site and on our blogs. If I could add only one tip, I would urge you to pull your fruit basket up so your child does not sink her teeth into each piece of fruit to stake her claim on it.

With grocery prices rising and package sizes shrinking, it can be difficult to stay within your grocery budget. Here are 35 steps towards improving your grocery budget and making the most of your money.

1. Buy the least expensive ground beef and rinse the meat instead to reduce the fat content.
2. Stop buying baby carrots and chop the carrots yourself.
3. Milk your milk budget by using powdered milk when the milk prices are too high.
4. Try making your own coffee syrups and coffee creamers to help save on your coffee expenses.
5. Dispose of the disposable items and switch to cloth napkins, washcloths, and and microfiber cloths to replace your paper napkins and disposable wipes.
6. Try making your own bread using a bread machine or making bread the good old-fashioned way.
7. Start keeping a price book to cash in on the best deals (you can download a free one here).
8. Take advantage of grocery delivery services or free in-store shopping services to help avoid impulse shopping.
9. Give wholesale club shopping a try for items that you use frequently, just be sure to use your price book to compare the prices.
10. Start making your own homemade cleaners.
11. Learn the art of stockpiling and create a system for storing your stockpile that works for your family.
12. Create a series of menu plans that you can rotate so you can make your grocery shopping easier and keep yourself under budget.
13. Try using coupons and utilizing free coupon services to help you score the best deals for your money.
14. Start gardening with simple foods that are easy to grow like tomatoes, herbs, cucumbers, and squash.
15. Try canning items from your garden to help cut costs in the winter months.
16. Make your own baby food or find a way to buy it cheaper.
17. Give cloth diapering a shot! They have come a long way and can save you hundreds and hundreds of dollars.
18. Sign up for free samples of food and toiletry items. You will waste less money trying new items out and these samples can help get you by when times are more lean.
19. Make your own mixes instead of buying them.
20. Try shopping at a less expensive supermarket.
21. Bring your own grocery bags for a grocery bag credit at most supermarkets.
22. Shop at stores that will double your coupons.
23. Bring cash and a calculator instead of using your debit card. This will help you to stay on budget better.
24. Utilize a slow cooker so you can buy cheaper cuts of meats and use the slow cooker to tenderize them.
25. Try making your own condiments like pancake syrup, croutons, and salad dressings.
26. Take inventory in your fridge, pantry, and freezer before shopping to avoid buying repeat and unnecessary items.
27. Try replacing one evening meal with breakfast foods instead. Most brunch dishes are less expensive and you can omit or stretch meat in these dishes a lot further.
28. Instead of buying prepackaged bagged ingredients, try packaging your own ingredients once a week instead. It will help get dinner on the table faster and it will save you money in your grocery budget.
29. Make a homemade pizza instead of buying pizzas in the frozen section.
30. Schedule a day in your kitchen every week to make cooking easier and to help save on the cost of buying convenience foods.
31. Feed your freezer and/or give once-a-month cooking a try to save on time and money.
32. Eliminate meat or make one night a m
eat-free night.
33. Make snacks items convenient so you don’t have to buy the prepackaged goodies.
34. Buy and prepare whole chickens instead of buying chicken breasts as a meal or shred this meat for your casseroles.
35. Buy your meat in bulk.

Am I missing a tip? Feel free to share the ways you reduce your family’s grocery budget?

Six Easy Ways to Save on That Weekend Getaway

Tuesday, June 16th, 2009

My husband and I celebrated nine years of marriage last month. We wanted to celebrate our anniversary in a special way and so we decided to take a little trip to Traverse City, Michigan and enjoy a weekend getaway for just the two of us. My husband’s family was kind of enough to take care of the little ones and we were off for two days of sightseeing, window shopping, and delicious eating.

We remained true to our budget through careful planning and research and I wanted to share with you a few ways we found to save on our memorable weekend getaway!

We Researched Hotel Rates- There were tons of great places to stay in Traverse City and I wanted the place that we stayed at to be close to the downtown shopping and a fun getaway for us. We checked Kayak for room rates and found the Grand Traverse Resort to be approximately the same price as the other hotels, but it had many amenities. The reviews on the hotel were great and we were thrilled to find a rate that saved us about $70 a night versus the hotel rates.

All of that being said, it seemed because we had booked this discount rate, we also got the discount room. Our room was the one without the view, on the ground floor, and smelled like a smoking room. We also had no idea that they would charge a resort fee of $9.95 a day for all of those amenities that we did not use.

We still did score a great rate, but realized that the amount of time we spent in our room was not worth the grandeur and we will find a less expensive place next time!

We Requested A Visitor Packet- While the visitor packet for this town lacked coupons, it did give us some ideas for neat places to visit and offered great historical information on the places we planned to visit. Through this packet of information, I was able to jot down some ideas for places to eat and see while we were in the town.

We Found the Best Places to Eat- I wanted to eat the coolest spots in town and we were able to do that with just a little research on my part. I hopped on Chow and checked through the forums for information on the town we were visiting. People offered honest opinions on the best spots in town and we decided to eat at two of the restaurants that had been recommended.

This first restaurant is called Trattoria Stella and was a fantastic Italian place in a renovated insane asylum. No, I am not joking! My husband, who watches many of those ghost-chasing shows, was thoroughly creeped out and it made for great conversation with our waiter. The food and wine choices relied heavily on local farmers and local wines which made for a fresh and delicious dinner.

The other recommendation was for Don’s Drive-In, which was absolutely everything that I adore about diner food. Greasy burgers, giant shakes, and the best fried mushrooms ever. We took our shakes to go and drove near the water for a view. It was far too cold to sit too long, but we prided ourselves on making the most of our two day getaway!

We Talked to the Local Folk- When someone comes to my town, I love to be a local authority. Isn’t it fun to share all of the hidden gems of your town? We talked to anyone who would chat with us and they shared their special places to eat, shop, and their favorite wineries to visit in town. People just love sharing about their home and that is how we were able to discover an out-of-the-w
ay winery that was not listed on maps. It ended up closing before we arrived, but we were able to take some wonderful pictures of the view.


We Put Together Our Own Tours & Packages- The Grand Traverse Resort offered a room package that you could take to tour the local wineries. The package included a two night stay and a tour of three wineries. The price? A whopping $224.50 per person. They had the wineries listed where they would be touring and I jotted them down and we decided to do our own tour. The price for us to do our own wine tour? Gas plus $3-5 per tasting at the wineries. With the money saved, we were able to take home a bottle of wine from each of the three wineries as a memento of our special anniversary. The two highlights for us were Shady Lane & Black Star Farms.

We saved ourselves even more time and money by trying wines at the restaurant and even picking up a bottle at the gas station. We discovered what wineries were not worth visiting and which ones we could not wait to enjoy at their winery.


We Put Our GPS To Good Use- We had a gift certificate last year and we put it towards a little GPS unit for our car. It has saved us so much money in gas and an inevitable divorce because we always get lost. It has been one of the best investments for our family- I truly could go on and on!

If you have a GPS unit, program it with all of the places that you would like to go before heading on your trip. I visited all of the sites of the restaurants, our hotel, even the downtown shops that I wanted to hit so all of the information was right at our fingertips. We enjoyed a scenic view to the town and we were able to navigate our way around without any problems to all of the places we wanted to see.

If you don’t have a GPS, print out maps for the places you would like to go and tuck them in a folder for your trip.

We Stuck To Window Shopping- I won’t say we didn’t make any purchases, but the majority of the day was just spent window shopping and picture-taking. I was able to take pictures of all the beautiful windows and antiques that we saw and that seemed to satisfy any urge I had to shop. We did enjoy oodles of free food samples downtown and shared a slice of pizza on a park bench to people watch over our lunch.

What a happy 9th anniversary that was and almost 15 years of being together!

Do you have any weekend getaways planned? What is your favorite way to save on your vacation travels? Please share!

Play It Again, Momma: The Poor & The Sick

Wednesday, February 4th, 2009


Is there such a thing as being sick on a budget? Our family seems to think so! We try to even address our budget when it comes to our illnesses in life. Here are some ways that you can save money when you are sick:

- Try home remedies before reaching for the cough syrup. There are tons of wonderful remedies that you can do that don’t require a big expense. I am a big believer in chicken soup, a warm bath, hot tea, and lots of rest. The rest alone is sometimes enough for me to kick what is ailing me.

- If you need over-the-counter medications, try and stock up on these items when doing your drugstore rebates. Usually CVS & Walgreens both will run rebates on these medications and you can get them for free or really inexpensively. Other great resources are the Dollar General, the Dollar Tree, and the generic equivalents available at your large superstores. The best way to save a buck is to have your medicine cabinet stocked with these items before you are ill. A 24 hour drugstore with no sale will run you quite a bit more than what you would spend normally.

- Organize your medicine cabinet so you know exactly where your items are. We have a three drawer plastic container where we have our medications divided by ailment (cough/cold, pain relievers, stomach) and we put these in there. I get really mad at myself when I have run out to get a medication, only to find it days later in a hidden drawer. Keeping this and your First Aid kit organized are the best ways to know what you have on hand when sickness and emergency situations arise.

- When you go to the doctor, ask if they have any samples of the medications you might need. Sometimes, particularly with my children, I am able to get enough for a few days.

- If they don’t have any samples, ask if there are any prescriptions that they could give you off of the $4 list or free antibiotics from your local retailers. Call around and price check before you fill your prescriptions and always ask if you can get the generic version of any medication.

- If you start to feel ill, try right away to get in the doctor for treatment. A visit during normal office hours will be a lot less expensive than an urgent care clinic.

- When choosing a doctor, ask about evening hours and Saturday appointments. Pick a doctor with extended hours and this alone can save you quite a bit. I love that our doctor’s office is open until eight in the evening and that I have many more options for appointment times.

- If you do become ill, try after-hours clinics or places like MedPoint to get the care that you need (unless the illness is life-threatening). I have saved our family a lot of money by visiting these places instead of the emergency room. Just walking into the emergency room can put me in the negative, before I have even been checked, so these after-hour clinics can be a wonderful option for the frugal family.

- If your illness does require a hospital stay, make sure to check your bills. There are many expensive and unnecessary charges that can be added to your bill. This is one of those types where diligence will be your best defense in lowering your hospital bill. Don’t be afraid to ask what the charges are and have them explain the vague & general charges. You don’t have to be rude, but you can be very firm and polite when asking someone to explain what a “lab fee” is for. You are your own best advocate when you are educated about what you are paying for.

- Don’t forget to set up your emergency account for these types of situations. Check into getting a flexible spending account for your medical expenses. Consumer Reports offers this advice…”If your company offers a flexible spending account for your out-of-pocket health-care costs, go for it–but don’t go overboard.” Flexible spending accounts are usually use-it-or-lose it accounts. Figure out a rough estimate and go a little under that. Don’t know what to do with all that leftover money at the end of the year? Check out these 24 suggestions for spending your leftover flexible account money.

- The best way to stop yourself from getting sick is prevention. Exercise, take a daily multivitamin, and make healthy lifestyle choices. People who do these things save tons of money on doctor visits and medications. If that isn’t a powerful motivator, I don’t know what is!

(image credit: Bryan Warman)

Potential Monthly Savings: $20 or more

What are some ways you save money when your family is sick?

Going Without Prescription Coverage

Wednesday, December 31st, 2008

(originally aired: October 14, 2007)

I debated a long time about whether or not to post this, but I figured it might help someone else out there so I thought I would share my experience.

When my husband started his new job, we started a ninety day lapse in insurance coverage. We have purchased a temporary policy with a high deductible, but we are going without some of the perks that we had with our old policy. One of those perks was a reimbursement program on my prescription drugs.

I do want to begin by saying that the medication I was on was not working for me. I have IBS and I have depression and the drugs that my family physician had me on were not helping me at all. If there was a side effect listed with the medication, I had it. I am one of those people who experiences terrible side effects, which makes me hesitant to ever fool around with a good thing when it comes to my medicine. Unfortunately, since I have had Emily, I have not found that magical sweet spot where I have felt good and we have been bouncing me around on all sorts of medicines and no relief from either ailment. When my stomach medication was pulled by the FDA due to people dying from complications, I threw my hands up in the air and knew that I needed to make a change.

Desperate times call for desperate measures, so I talked with a girlfriend who is a firm believer in homeopathic remedies. My feelings towards these types of treatments have always been disbelief. I will admit it, I have always considered many of these remedies a waste of money. Her sister-in-law has three homeopathic practices and a long line of happy clients, so she said she could ask her some of the things that I could take after I explained everything that I was looking for, what wasn’t working, and so on. I remember thinking that if it sounded too “weird” or “out there” that I would not take them.

Another important element to me was that I was not paying more for my treatment than I was for the prescription drugs. Always the frugal girl, I wanted my treatment to be affordable, but also to feel better.

My friend gave me a list of what she had suggested and none of it was strange or unheard of. For my stomach, one of her recommendations was a cup of hot water with lemon before bed (how frugal is that?) She also had a substitute for my anti-depressant and a few items that would boost my immune system.

I have been doing this for about a month now and I have never felt better in my life. My constant tiredness and that cloudiness that I felt is gone and I am feeling more like myself than I have ever felt before. I am amazed at the difference that I feel and how I react towards my family. I am experiencing no side effects and I see a noticeable difference in myself. I feel like me again and it has been a long time since I have felt that way.

The icing on the cake is the extra $200 that will be sitting in my account each month. My new medicines only cost me $50 each month! What a savings!

If medications aren’t working for you, homeopathic remedies might be worth looking into. My depression and stomach problems were mild, but were having a negative effect on my life. With care from an expert in the homeopathic field, you might be able to relieve yourself of your symptoms and keep a little extra money in your pocket at the same time.

If you do have to take medications though, my articles on going without health insurance and my article on going without prescription coverage might provide some help! I also blogged on treating ailments when you are without coverage or are looking for the cheapest way to treat sickness.

Have you ever substituted homeopathic remedies for prescription drugs? What are your feelings towards these types of remedies?

Great Budget-Friendly Gifts for Men

Tuesday, November 18th, 2008
(Image Credit: Craig)

I don’t know what it is about men, but it seems that people are always looking for gift ideas for them. I have never really had a problem with buying for guys, in particular, but struggle more for those people in my life who seem to have everything. Buying gifts for the guys in your life doesn’t have to be difficult and I want to arm you with some of my favorite gifts for guys that are always a hit.

Give the Gift of Music- I am a big music-lover and the men in my life are music lovers too. Music is always a great gift to give because it is something that can be enjoyed for a very long time. I love to make a “mixed tape” of great music and then follow these instructions for making a very personalized CD cover with pictures that I know the recipient would like. Print the covers on heavy card stock and add a personal message to the recipient.

If the man in your life is more into the digital music, why not give him an iTunes gift card that can be redeemed for picking his own favorite music? These gift cards start at just $15, which would make a great gift for any music lover.

Give the Gift of Movies- One of the best gifts I have ever given has to be the gift of movies. Netflix offers a wide range of plans that you can choose from and you can purchase a month or two for your recipient for very little money. Their plans start at $4.99 and you can present the subscription in a fun way or even tuck the gift in with a popcorn tub and and some movie theater snacks.

Give the Gift of Reading- Guys love magazine subscriptions and I have found that magazine subscriptions can be bought very inexpensively off of eBay. Make your own card and tell your guy that the gift is redeemable for any magazine of his choice (except those filthy magazines which will never be purchased for your guy thankyouverymuch) and that you will get him a gift subscription. I have found subscriptions to magazines for $3 or $4 for an entire year versus the newsstand prices. If it is in your budget, you could subscribe to two or three without breaking the bank and let him think you spent a mint on him.

Give the Gift of Food & Drink- They say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach and I have found this is absolutely true. Whip up a special batch of his favorite snack and pair it with some of his favorite coffee. You could make him a batch of these sugar and spice nuts and pair it with a little bucket of his favorite beer. By pairing your homemade specialty with a store-bought favorite drink, you have a great combination for a perfectly budget-friendly gift.

If you want to extend the gift further, wrap up his favorite snack and give him coupons to redeem the snacks for later. This is especially effective with college-aged guys and we have made more than a few college students happy with our boxes of goodies. You can download and print our free college coupon template and mount these to card stock for holiday gift-giving.

Give the Gift of Accessories- Just like women love a good handbag, a pretty scarf, or a hot pair of shoes, men have a desire for accessories too… just not the same kind as us. If your man is into gadgets and already has them, why not supply him with some accessories for the items he already has? For example, if he has a Nintendo Wii, you could give him some Wii points to put towards one of his favorite old Mario Brothers games. Likewise, if he uses any other game system, you could buy an extra controller or a different style of controller so he could play with more of his friends. If he has a Kindle you could give him a gift certificate to Amazon to buy some book downloads. Is he into computers? Why not try and find some computer software that he could put to good use by taking advantage of those rebate offers from the office supplies stores. We often forget to reload the tech gadgets we already have so this is a cost-effective way of building upon investments that have already been made.

There are the other accessories in life too so take a peek at his belt, his wallet, his hat, his scarf, his planner. While not maybe as much fun as some of the other gifts on the list, upgrading your man’s accessories can be very thoughtful and will be used for years to come. I love to go to stores like TJ Maxx and Marshall’s to find these accessories because they are so deeply discounted and you can get some really great brand-names for an affordable price.

Give the Gift of Believing In Your Man- I know how much I appreciate it when someone believes in me and what I do so why not try and make that into a gift for someone you love? Are they self-employed or trying to start their own side business? Why not place an order for business cards for them? VistaPrint offers very affordable prices on business cards and think how much that would mean to someone who is trying to start their own business. You could pair that with a business card case that has been engraved with his initials which would make the gift even more personal.

Does the man in your life have a hobby that he is passionate about? Why not get him a book, a tool, or some items off of his wish list to support that hobby. Make these gifts more personal with a note that tells them that you are proud of them and give him a free pass to watch the children so he can go and pursue his hobby for the day… with no flack from you. Men value their alone time just as much as women so give him permission to go hit a few of those golf balls that are wrapped under the tree and enjoy some of your own quality time alone with the kids.

Give the Gift of Memories- Do you know something about the man in your life that you could use as a creative gift? Think of their favorite book as a child or think of a gift that he said he always wanted, but never got when he was young. Try and find those items on eBay and write a personal message to them about how you always remembered that this was special to them. You don’t have to pay to get a first-edition of the item, remember that the thought is there and he will
appreciate that you remembered that about him.

Another way to capture those memories is by finding an old picture that would have significant memories for him and have it printed up through a photo place and frame it for his desk at work. Maybe it is a picture of you with your father? Maybe it is a picture of you and your spouse on your honeymoon? Maybe it is a picture of your grandfather with his grandkids? Frame it and give it to them as a way of remembering all of those wonderful memories.

Whatever you do, just remember to make the gift as personal as you can. Wrap your gift creatively and tuck in a letter of what that person means to you. Everyone wants to feel loved and appreciated and nothing says appreciation like a little time invested into a personal gift. Don’t just give him the supplies to wash the car, give him a coupon that says it is good for one car wash done by you. Don’t just give him a magazine subscription. Buy one magazine to wrap that says that it is good for the subscription and then tag the magazine with sticky notes with funny notes from yourself. Don’t give him a generic coffee mug, have the children create one with you and fill it with his favorite snack. Make it as personal as possible and your gift will say a lot more than any expensive gift that is wrapped under the tree.

I hope these ideas have helped since this was a topic our readers really wanted to see!

Please share-what do you like to give to the men in your life? Have you done any of these ideas from this list?

Vrooming Through Our Debt

Wednesday, July 16th, 2008

Two envelopes came to us this week filled with two things that I had never seen before. No, in my entire life I have never held a title in my hand and I am now the owner of not one, but two old cars. This calls for some celebrating!

Just like our credit card free party, it was time to bring the kids into the celebration and share with them our great news. I decided we would have a Cars Party and hunted in the pantry for what we could fix.

Ethan worked on the centerpiece and picked his favorite cars to display. We put it out on our patio table and started gathering up the food.

No steak for this celebration? I had enough time to throw some hot dogs in the slow cooker and we put out all the hot dog fixings, a big bowl of pretzels, and cheese wedges.

In an incredible twist of good luck, Ryan had a presentation at work so he came home with a projector. I climbed on a patio chair and rigged up that old sheet from this weekend and made a very hillbilly-esque kind of outdoor theater for the kids. Yeah, you know it, they thought I was the coolest mom ever.
What did we watch? Walt Disney’s Cars movie of course! They have seen this movie a ton of times, but it is like the first time every single time for Ethan.

We put our centerpiece to good use and played with our cars on the real and rugged road.

If that road feels too bumpy though, you can always use your legs for the road.

What’s a movie without snacks though? I whipped up a batch of our homemade slushies and we brought the popcorn popper outside and popped a big batch of popcorn to share. Slushie sloshing and popcorn throwing were completely fine at this outdoor event.

If you need to take a nap while watching the show, seating is also available. Ethan pulled his clean blanket off the clothesline and took a little rest while he watched the show.

My liens on cars have been released. With credit cards and car payments behind us, we can start making a dent into those student loans and finally… our mortgage. Each step brings us closer to our goal and each step brings me more peace of mind.

The beauty of it all wore off yesterday as I screeched and clunked my way to stop. My car will be spending this week in the shop for some repairs. My husband’s car is lacking A/C and will need a turn in the shop as well.

They might be a couple of old clunkers, but they are OUR clunkers now.

Boy, am I proud!

Our Debt-Free Party

Wednesday, April 16th, 2008


We finally celebrated our debt-free party, after making the final payment on our credit cards today. I wanted to make sure that it was really special and that the kids would be an active participant in our joy and elation of all we did to work towards this day.

Above is our centerpiece for the event. As cheesy as it was, it was symbolic of the fruits of our labor. I put the amount of money that we paid off into the basket to show Ethan what a big sum it was and how excited we were that we didn’t have to pay this anymore. The money came from our Monopoly game and we were able to let him count it out and also used it to show how borrowing money works. This made things more tangible for him and we tried to make this a great teaching opportunity for why debt it so bad.

What should a debt-free family eat for their celebration dinner? Steak, of course! I used this marinade recipe and marinated the steaks while I prepared the rest of the ingredients for the meal. I got a big loaf of crusty bread with oil to dip it in, I made this Creamy Spinach Ravioli (minus the dill and prepared with half & half instead of milk), and I made a big batch of brownies for dessert.

Even Emily seemed to appreciate my modest culinary efforts. Most of the ingredients came right from the pantry so it was still an affordable dinner. The writing didn’t turn out on the brownies, but we devoured them anyway. That will teach me to get anxious and pipe before they are throughly cooled.

What’s a party without a good toast? I got a bottle of wine for our celebration and used our cut up credit card as an accent to our wine glasses. I poured pink lemonade for Ethan in the fancy wine glass so he could celebrate a toast with us.

We clinked glasses several times to get the best shot for you! Ethan loved clinking the glasses so he didn’t mind the extra takes.

I finished the evening by reading my entry that I wrote about our happy return to the land of no credit cards. It actually was quite emotional for me to read it out loud to my husband because we went through so much to get to this point.

Thank you all for sharing in our journey with us and for supporting our efforts on the site. Cheers to you!

This American’s Dream

Wednesday, April 16th, 2008

When the American dream consists of a McMansion, giant flat screen television, and an expensive car, I often feel like my American dream seems modest and unremarkable.

Yet, as modest and unremarkable as it is, I feel as though I am living what I would consider a dream come true. After battling a year of unemployment with my husband and a mounting pile of debt, we made our last credit card payment today. $13K of debt stands behind me and in front of me is a future that seems as bright as sunshine.

Yes, my dreamy life is now simple and delightful. I am living in a house that I can afford, in fact, we have been paying extra on it each month so it can feel more like OURS than theirs. My house is nestled in a safe neighborhood with people who care about and for us.

Our house rests on a bit of land that I can do whatever I want with. I can grow food for us to eat and sit outside with my children while they play on their hand-me-down swing set. My clothing can flap in the breeze on the line and we can eat outside in that beautiful fresh air.

My husband goes to work and comes home with a paycheck that we can rely on. When times of self-employment faced days of wonder about whether he would get paid at all, when he was laid off from job after job, when he worked for employers who did not appreciate what a great employee he was something like this almost seems foreign. We are so grateful for this amazing opportunity and for him to have a boss that says, “Please don’t ever leave- we need you!” is nothing short of phenomenal.

I am able to put food on my table and gas in my car, despite the rising costs. We might not buy as much or go as many places to make up for the hike in prices, but we go where we need to and eat when we are hungry.

I stay home with my children, which is exactly where I had hoped to be. I cut every corner I could to make it possible, and I sit here amidst a pile of blocks in the floor and a crunching of Cheerios as I scoot my chair back, but one kiss from my peanut butter & jelly smeared daughter makes all of the noise of my life come to a standstill.

When my daughter lays down for her nap and my son enjoys his moments of quiet time, my house is quiet and still. The phone does not ring with collection calls, but it does ring on occasion to let me know that my library materials I request are in. To enjoy answering my phone and to not be fielding these calls is a relief.

Best of all, I share my stories and someone reads them. I never thought anyone would read anything I ever wrote and to know that our site continues to grow and that I am paid to write about my ordinary and extraordinary days is beyond what any person could ever hope for. I have a community that supports me and a family that loves me and it so wonderful to know that the people around me care about what I am doing.

I share these accomplishments, not to brag, but to show how you can overcome debt and that you can lead a simple and beautiful life with your family. As an American, you can chose to live whatever dream you could ever want, but it doesn’t have to be a dream of consumerism and being hostage to a credit card company.

And if you are a person who can’t answer your phone without worry, if you are struggling with an unemployment situation, if your credit card debt is bigger than your yearly income and you wonder how you can ever get out, I am telling you now that it is possible. Take it one day at a time and put as much as you can towards reducing your debt and building a safety net for your family. We started out with only minimum amounts put towards the debt and slowly worked our way up from there.

It was not without struggle, but rarely have I ever read a good story without a good struggle. Would I even want to read a story where it was smooth sailing and happy rainbows? Probably not! But a story where the heroine overcomes a mountain of debt, struggling each step of the way and documenting her wild ride to the top of the mountain, and then slides down her credit card statements to a rosy finale…now that is a story I would love to read.

So here it is…this American’s dream came true and she tackled that mountain. And here she sits with Cheerios crunching under her chair and living that happily ever after that she always dreamed of.

A Truthful Journey & Then a Party

Monday, March 24th, 2008

Circled and etched in my mind for the past four years has been the 17th of each month. I have it circled on my calendar, I get an email reminder that the date is approaching, and the number to make my payment is programmed on my telephone. Yes, American Express and I have had a long relationship together… a relationship that has went on for far longer than I had ever dreamed.

Sometimes when people talk about their debt, they have a period of “fun spending” where they bought great items for themselves and their homes. They reference their shoe collection or expensive furniture that they just had to have and ended up charging them to a card. My debt had no element of fun in it. There was no rush of fun spending and then a feeling of doom and gloom afterwards- it has been doom and gloom all of the way.

The sad thing was that we were doing everything right. We were excellent at saving our money and had socked away well over the recommended amount needed to fund our emergency account. We both worked hard at our jobs and we lived well, but modestly within our means.

The loss of a job, we figured would be an annoying setback, but nothing more than that. The setback went on for almost a year though and sent our world into a tailspin. The only job that replied during my husband’s search was in the Midwest and they could offer him less than half what he was making at his current job.

I remember sitting on a moving box and crying, as my son crawled at my feet. I remember the feeling of hopelessness and despair. As we packed, my husband suggested giving away stuff or getting rid of our things so it would be easier for us in the move and I remember telling him that we EARNED our items and that we DESERVED to keep what we had. Yes, everything felt like it had been taken away and I was keeping everything that I owned and no one was going to stop me from that. You could take my husband’s job, you could take my car, you could take my house, you could take away my church and my friends- but I was taking EVERYTHING out of that house with me.

As we journeyed to our new home, I peeked at Ethan behind us and looked at my husband’s sad face. I was so angry at God and angry at the world for what was happening to us. We had done everything right and here we were…with everything so wrong. I wish, at the time, that I realized that I had everything I needed sitting in that car with me that day. I didn’t need that moving van of stuff that represented what I was. These two people who rode in the car with me were everything that I could ever want.

As we settled into our new home, we started our life behind on all of our bills and with over $13K of debt. The kicker was that almost $8K of it was the cost to move all of our belongings cross-country. The rest was my husband’s student loans that we had gotten behind on and then the occasional, “Oops, we are overdrawn again” and a frantic writing of checks to ourselves from those convenient checks that they kept sending me.

Finally, one day I decided to not be a victim anymore and decided that I was going to be proactive about tackling our debt. I made a plan for how we would pay everything back and make our financial lives right again. It was a simple technique of snowballing our debts, but just to have a plan made me feel far more liberated and in control then I had felt in years.

We have been working on our financial goals since then, sticking to our plans and meticulously documenting the progress that we have made towards our goals. I am so happy to say that April 17th will be the last date that I have with American Express and I am ending our relationship for good. Our time together was never fun, we never had that great of a relationship- they just always seemed to be at an advantage. Frankly, I am tired of paying for our dates and I am moving on.

In honor of our final payment to the company, I am going to have a wild and crazy party (within our means, of course). I was wondering if anyone had any fun ways to celebrate ridding yourself of credit card debt? I am looking for fun party ideas- cheesy ideas, wild ideas, symbolic ideas for celebrating.

Remember, this is a party that has been four years in the making! I am ready to party like it’s 1999…or um, something like that but a little bit hipper.

I can’t wait to get your feedback and ideas!

Thank You Writers Strike Part III

Tuesday, March 11th, 2008

We are down to basic channels, thanks to the writers strike! I am finding my life to be much fuller since we cut down our television watching. Direct TV had raised our rates again (just another $5 after the numerous $5-8 rate increases) and I just thought to myself, “Now what sensible person would continue taking it from the man?”

Ryan isn’t really as on board with this decision, but I suggested all of the great things we could do with our thirty dollar a month savings. We could maybe get a couple of new Wii games, we could have a great date night (and TALK!), we could read the same book and talk about it, we could play board games, we can enjoy taking walks… the possiblities are endless!

I went on the website, I picked the option to change my plan, and then I thought of all the shows we couldn’t see and that I would miss.

We will see how it goes, but I am committed to trying!

Sound Off: Do you have cable or satellite television? What type of plan are you on?