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That Time I Freaked Out About Instagram – An Apology

That Time I Freaked Out About Instagram – An Apology

I was never really a huge fan of social media…until I started using Instagram. And buddy, did I hop on that bandwagon like a bandit. I started asking everyone and their brother to follow me. I was posting every couple hours, talking to you guys, and loving every single minute.

Then I started talking with my BFF about it…and pondering and dwelling on it. Can I just tell you, when I think too hard about something, it usually gets me into trouble. I took a look at my follow list – because I was a public board and anyone could follow me.

I noticed that a bunch of “weirdos” were following me. Now, before you get offended, hear me out. I mean people with “fake” profiles…men who only posted “strange” photos. Wait, what? You mean it’s possible that some crazy person is seeing all these pictures I post of my KIDS?!

I freaked out.

Something you should note about me, I freak out FIRST and think LATER. Yeah, I know that’s a bad habit…but it’s something I just do – and Barry married me even though he knew that was my tendency.  (more…)



Use Sam’s Club “Click-and-Pull” to Save Your Budget!

Use Sam’s Club “Click-and-Pull” to Save Your Budget!

“Honey, let’s stop by Sam’s Club. I need to pick up some toilet paper and milk.” Two hours later, you leave Sam’s Club with a buggy (grocery cart for you non-country folk) full of stuff that you didn’t need and wasn’t on your list. Am, I right? If you’re laughing right now, I’m talking to YOU. ;-)

Today, I am speaking to you guys who cannot pass the free samples without buying what they are offering. If you’re laughing right now, I’m talking to you.

Today, I am speaking to those of you who buy something that’s on display, even though it’s not on your list, because the price was too good to pass up. If you’re laughing right now, I’m talking to you.

Today, I am speaking to those of you who are tighter than Dick’s hat band and never go over budget. If you’re  not grinning right now, I’m totally not talking to you. You don’t need this post. Pass “Go” and collect $200.

nuts-and-raisins

I’ve always been pretty tight – I don’t like to spend money very often…but even I fall prey to the free samples sometimes. Would I like a free processed dino shaped chicken nugget?! ABSOLUTELY! SIGN ME UP! And I almost always leave Sam’s with something that wasn’t on my list. Oh! This is a new product! I must try it! GET THOU IN MY BUGGY!

I wish someone had told me about Sam’s Club Click-and-Pull a loooooooooooooooong time ago. It’s actually now known as “Club Pickup” but if you’re like me, once you hear something called one thing, you’ll always call it that thing. Creature of habit —-> me.

sams-buggy

Here’s the gist of it: you order online after you create an account. You specify a time to pick it up. You go to Sam’s and tell them you’re here for pick-up. They bring it to you. You pay. THE END! How awesome is that?! Let me hear a woot! Woot!

Pros:

-You only buy what’s on your list so you are so much more likely to stick to your budget.

-You save time because you’re not running around the store. We usually go right after church and I’m able to avoid the crazy lines because I just go right to the service desk.

-You don’t pay online, so you can make sure your order is correct before committing to pay.

-You can even get cold and frozen items! They keep your order in the cooler until you arrive.

Cons:

-Only someone with a card can pick up your order.

-You can’t get certain items, like meat. They will do produce for you, but if you’re OCD like I am, you have to pick your own produce…so I just save those items for times when I do have the ability to shop.

-You miss the free samples…aka the Sam’s Free Buffet.

Sam's-click-and-pull

So really, this is a great way to save your budget if you’re always going over in a big-box store. I’m sure other stores offer this same service, so make sure to check around.

I’m usually out within 5-10 minutes which is so nice! Barry just drives around the parking lot, slowly, while waiting for me. Otherwise, people get testy if he just waits in the pick-up line. Don’t mess with people after church on Sunday, y’all. It can get serious. ;-)

Now, I just need Sam’s to deliver everything for free right to my door – kinda like Vitacost. We can hope.

sam's-order-online



The Cost of Being a Stay at Home Mom

The Cost of Being a Stay at Home Mom

Post by Barry

Stacy has stayed at home since before we had children. We made the choice that her time and energy would be best spent taking care of our home and family. We have made sacrifices to do this, but it has been totally worth it.

I don’t make an exorbitant salary; we’re not trust fund babies. We don’t live up to our eyeballs in debt; we don’t live in squalor. We are a relatively normal-looking American family that decided we would be willing to live on a single income so Stacy could stay at home with our children.

Important Disclaimer: Before we get into the details, let me make clear I’m not out to hate on women in the workplace. I’ve worked with and for several women over my years in the workforce. I’m perfectly okay if you decide for your situation and for your family that wife/mom should work. Please don’t hate me for using our example and showing the math. I simply want to encourage those who are considering becoming a one-income household it can be done and point out that mom’s decision to go to work isn’t as simple as looking at the salary she will earn.

Important Disclaimer 2: I will use numbers below. They are simply a guideline based on national averages. Do the math for yourself and BE HONEST in your assessment.

With all that aside, let’s get into the discussion. What is the cost of being a Stay-at-Home Mom?

The Income Side

Let’s take a look first at what income we miss out on. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for full-time women in the workforce nationwide (2013 is the latest available data) is $36,712 ($3,059 monthly). That’s a lot higher than the average where we live, but for the sake of easy math, let’s go with an average of $3,000/monthly. So…we’re probably giving up the potential for my wife to earn as much as $3,000 per month (more maybe, but probably less where we live, especially to start out).

The Expense Side

To earn that, we’re totally gonna need day care. We have three small kids. One of them is old enough to be in kindergarten at public school only needing after-school care; the other two need all day care. Asking around at my office, it seems most pay roughly $500 per month, per child, for day care. Since Annie would only require after-school care, that’s a lot less. So, let’s say goodbye to $1,200 of Stacy’s monthly pay. She now has $1,800 of income to bring to the table.

Next, she’s going to need a car. Right now, we have my 1997 Ford Ranger which we use to haul stuff and work with. It isn’t beautiful, but it works. Then we have our daily driver, a 2008 Ford Taurus. Hmm…my truck wouldn’t last me too long driving my 80-mile daily round trip so we’d have to buy her a reasonable used car, and then it needs gas and ongoing maintenance that we don’t have to pay for now. Since we wouldn’t buy new, annual cost of ownership wouldn’t be too terrible, but buying a reasonable, used, full-size car and keeping it for at least five years, KBB.com, Edmunds.com and others agree it will cost at least $3,000 per year ($250/month) to buy it, insure it, and keep it road-ready (probably more). That takes us to $1,550.

Then that car’s gonna need gas. Since where we live you have to drive quite a bit to get just about anywhere, we’d better set aside at least $200 a month for that. So Stacy’s down to earning $1,350 per month.

Assuming my beautiful bride doesn’t go to work as a stripper (…and she isn’t…no offense to strippers…I think), she’s gonna need some decent clothes, shoes and accessories. Could we grant $100/month to that cause? We’re down to $1,250.

Now let’s keep in mind she’s gotta eat. Chances are, the days of her cooking all our meals at home and packing my lunches for work would be mostly over (maybe not). But there would definitely have to be more convenience foods. Our grocery budget probably needs to go up by at least $100 per month, and our entertainment budget, which is where we include eating out, probably needs to go up by at least that much as well. Now we’re making $1,050 for Stacy’s efforts.

Oh yeah…our kids need clothes too! While they aren’t dressed in rags at home, I’m sure there would be necessary wardrobe upgrades for the kiddos + required snacks, etc. for all the school and daycare-related activities and so forth. Kid clothes are EXPENSIVE! We’d better put aside at least another $100/month for this stuff, so Stacy’s making $950 now.

Let’s see here – what are we missing? Oh yeah – the government. They want their tax dollars…and they usually don’t take kindly to being told ‘no.’ So, since we have to pay those off our gross earnings, we need to take 15% of her $3,000 per month (as a bare minimum), which is $450. Now she’s making an even $500.

I’m sure I’m leaving out a few other things that we’ll have to deal with, but I think you get the idea. Assuming my wife earns the median income as a full-time employee and I’ve accounted for all the big extra expenses, we’re talking about a $500/month decision for our family. This is how we decided our lifestyle could better fit a single income situation than having both of us take on full-time jobs. We sacrifice $500/month in income for my wife to stay home, take care of our children, homeschool them, cook, clean and do all the other things the hardcore feminist would chastise her for but is our daily norm. …And that’s the way we both like it.

Some Other Thoughts

My wife works a lot harder than I do. I have it EASY in comparison to my wife. Raising kids is extremely hard work, and there are no real breaks. If my wife has a tough day or feels like crap, she can’t call in and get a day off. If she just isn’t “feeling it”…too bad. Being a stay at home mom is probably the hardest job I can think of.

Some women don’t want to stay at home. That is okay! As I said early on, this isn’t about men dominating women or suppressing their rights or insulting their intelligence or anything else like that. This is purely a mathematical discussion. Women are smarter than men. I admit it. If you are called to the workforce, by all means, get out there and kick tail at the office. One of the best supervisors I ever had was a woman (and come to think of it, I’ve had more women supervisors than men). If being a stay at home mom isn’t for you, NO GUILT. Am I clear?

You have to choose. I can’t tell you that staying at home or being in the workforce is the right thing to do. All I can tell you is our experience and what the math tells me about how the choice for mom to go to work (especially when the kids are small) really does to her potential for adding income to the family budget.

Now I leave it to you:

  • If you’re a stay at home mom – why did you choose this path?
  • If you’re a working mom – why did you choose this path?
  • If you’re a husband – should your wife work outside the home? Why/why not?



Stacy Goes to Kindergarten

Stacy Goes to Kindergarten

I have never felt as dumb as I felt when I started teaching Annie Kindergarten. Do you know how many times I use Google per day to answer questions that my 5 year old asks?

“Mama, how many eyes does a fly have?” 

“Mama, what sound does a camel make?” 

“Mama, why do you dance around like that?”

Yes, I should know the answer to all of those…but sometimes my mind totally freezes up. And sometimes…I. Don’t. Know.

annie-calendar

My child is in Kindergarten…and so am I. Learning everything right along with her. Yes, me – a 4-year college graduate with a B.S. And there is irony in my degree title. ;-)

Some of you have asked about our choice for homeschool curriculum, so I wanted to make sure I had this information on the blog – we chose My Father’s World, a Charlotte Mason approach to homeschooling. I first heard of this curriculum from my bestie, Nikki. She knew I wasn’t happy with what I had tried to use for preschool, so she asked me to give this a look – and I loved it immediately!

MFW is available for preschool through 12th grade. I had ended up doing my own version of preschool using stuff I found online and also using Teach Your Child To Read in 100 Easy Lessons (which is an excellent book and Annie is now reading SO well).

lesson-plans

So, today I want to tell you what I like about the program and what I don’t like. If you’re looking for a curriculum or looking to switch to a new one, maybe this will help you. :-)

There is no such thing as a neutral education. Every education, every curriculum has a viewpoint. That viewpoint either considers God in it or it does not. To teach children about life and the world in which they live without reference to God is to make a statement about God. It screams a statement. The message is either that there is no God or that God is irrelevant.” –RC Sproul

science-experiment

Pros:

  • Faith based – The main reason we are choosing to homeschool is because we believe it’s our Biblical mandate to teach our children “as we walk along the road.” I love this curriculum because it’s based in the Christian faith and makes Bible part of the daily program.
  • Daily lessons are already planned – Every single day is laid out for you. For someone as task oriented as me, this is a HUGE plus. I couldn’t do a wing-it program without losing my marbles. I’m not spontaneous. I like plans.
  • Includes fun activities – School shouldn’t be boring. This curriculum gives great ideas for crafts and fun outings. It also includes outside time (season permitting) which I really like.
  • Book lists – Have I ever mentioned I like lists? Well, I do. Each weekly lesson is themed and includes a book list. I simply take my teacher’s manual to the library and check out the corresponding books that are available. Lists: I heart you.
  • Doesn’t require that you sell yourself on the street to purchase – Some homeschool programs are EXPENSIVE. Some are free. This one is kinda middle of the road. I like the middle of the road – less chance of running off a cliff. I paid around $220 for Annie’s entire Kindergarten material…but the best part is, except for the student sheets ($43), I can use everything again for Andy and Eli! Whoop!
  • It can incorporate all your children, no matter the grade level – I think this might be one of my favorite aspects of this curriculum. It’s based on the Family Learning Cycle, which means once your children reach 3rd grade, they will all be learning about the same things – just on their level. It’s kinda hard to explain until you click on the link to see the photo. It’s pretty awesome.

science-kit

Cons:

  • Every week is written out for 6 days – that didn’t really work for our schedule, so I’ve easily condensed the days down to 5.
  • If your child can read, it might be a bit boring for Kindergarten – because we used the 100 Lessons book, Annie already knows how to read. But I didn’t want her to get bored because she was ahead on the reading…so I’ve incorporated more crafts and printables I found online. Check out my Pinterest board for great ideas.
  • It’s not free – I pride myself on trying to do things super cheap and/or free when possible. But I look at it this way…it could be more. And I would likely spend MORE if she were in public school: clothes, books and other activities add up quickly!

homeschool-pinterest

So, there ya go. I was so excited and so in love with the Kindergarten level that we have already purchased the First Grade package as well.

We are really enjoying homeschool so far. I won’t lie – it’s not easy. Some days, I don’t want to do it – but some days I don’t want to get out of my pjs or cook either. Most things in life that aren’t easy are TOTALLY WORTH IT. So, remember that the next time you don’t feel like doing laundry. Clean panties are worth it.

homeschool-library



Why We Stopped Funding our Kids’ College Savings

Why We Stopped Funding our Kids’ College Savings

Post by Barry

We’re huge Dave Ramsey fans used most of his principles to become completely debt free (including our home) a few years ago. One of his baby steps (baby step 5) is to handle college funding for children. When our first child was born, we started her college fund in a 529. With small, but consistent contributions, that fund is up to roughly $5,000 (she’s 5 now). When our next was born, we started him a college fund, too. He’s 2 now, and he has almost $2,000 in his fund. Along comes baby #3 and what do we do? Well…you’d think we’d just keep the 529 thing rolling, but we haven’t. Why did we stop funding our kids’ college savings? Read on.

Retirement is Inevitable; College is Not.

We are a single income family. While this blog does generate some income, we are not like most families where mom and dad both work, kids go to daycare and we have retirement savings from two working family members. We have a 401k through my current employer, as well as our Roth IRAs. Per Dave Ramsey’s baby steps, we’ve got the 15% of income going into retirement baby step covered. We decided committing to consistently and intensely saving for retirement now was more important than saving for college (at least for now).

Annie coloring

Our Kids May Not Choose College.

I used to think college was a requirement to get on in this world. After reading Cy Vanover’s book, Earn a Debt-Free College Degree, and then Steve and Teri Maxwell’s book, Buying a House Debt Free: Equipping Your Son, we started doing a lot of thinking, discussing and soul searching. Where did we land? College isn’t for everyone and for those who decide on college, it doesn’t have to cost a fortune. While we want our kids to be well educated, intelligent and productive members of society, why does college have to be the answer to get them there? If they decide on college, Stacy and I are both living examples it is possible without debt or huge infusions of cash from Mom and Dad. Plus, spending 529 savings is pretty restrictive, and so what happens if one of the kids wants to pursue something that a 529 doesn’t cover? (Yes, we know you can transfer the monies to other kids; withdraw with penalty, etc., etc.)

Andy coloring

“Retirement” May Come Before Age 65

Stacy and I have talked for a few years now about the idea of me coming home. Monday-Friday, I’m up at 6:00 am and leave the house at 7:00. I get off at 5:00, get home about 6:00 and the kids are in bed around 8:00. Then we’re in bed around 10:00. Do that math: assuming I have no errands to run or other things that would keep me away, my kids see me for roughly 2 hours each weekday; Stacy and I have about 4 hours total. As the leader of our home, I want more time to be there. I’m not one of these dads/husbands who goes to work to escape. I go to work to provide for my family and I don’t want to be gone any longer than necessary to do an excellent job for my employer in return for my pay.

In mid-2014, Stacy and I committed to start a “pre-retirement” account to start saving in the hopes that I may be able to “retire” earlier than age 65. This doesn’t mean I’m not going to work when I “retire” – quite the opposite. We are just praying that one day I may be able to come home to work. That probably means doing our small business hustles full time instead of on the side. It probably means (at least at first) a pretty big cut in pay. It probably means we’ll be paying our own health insurance. It is a RISK. But even if I “retire” at 45, that will mean Annie (our oldest) will be 16. I will have SERIOUSLY missed out on a lot of things with her by that age, but I don’t want to do something rash that would jeopardize providing for my family in the name of being home. Anyway, I still bet she’d be tickled to have her Daddy home at 16 (or even later, although at that age she probably wouldn’t admit it).

Eli 4 months old

I Didn’t Say We Weren’t Saving.

We are setting aside money for our family’s future – our entire family’s future. If you don’t know us, we’re natural savers. We currently have my 401k, our Roth IRAs, an emergency fund, a car savings fund, a pre-retirement fund and a general savings fund. Why? We aren’t big spenders and we want to save for tomorrow. We don’t do debt.

How SPECIFICALLY are we saving for our kids’ future? I don’t know. Right now, we have their Christmas money in cash envelopes with their names on them while we pray through and ponder the best course of action. We will possibly (probably) put that money in their 529s, along with at least some of all future gift money. We may put it in something else designated for them that isn’t education-bound. We’re still figuring that out (and we’re open to ideas, if you have any). But we have stopped putting money in their 529s from our income – all that extra is going toward retirement and “pre-retirement” savings. We have consciously stopped funding our kids’ college savings. I think it is the right decision for our family. What do you think?