“Use it Up, Wear it Out, Make it Do, or Do Without”

Use it Up, Wear it Out, Make it Do, or Do Without

During the Great Depression, a popular aphorism was “Use it Up, Wear it Out.  Make it Do, or Do Without.”  If you have spoken to or spent time with someone who lived through the Great Depression, you will notice that many consider frugality a virtue.  Our grandparents learned the hard way how to make things last.  Getting through hard times means changing your mindset.  If you want to get out of debt and live within your means, you have to stop buying new things.  In fact, you may even have to do without some things.  What follows are some of the things we do without, or have done without, during our eight years of marriage:

Although you may not be able to do without all the items on my list, you may have some things in your home or lifestyle that you could do without.  Could you learn a new skill (like hair-cutting), cut an unused service, or refuse to replace something when it breaks?  Don’t try to give up everything at once, but instead choose one thing at a time.  It will take time to adapt to your new frugal lifestyle, but you may be surprised by how much you can do without.

What are some things that you have had to (or chosen to) do without over the years? 


7 Ways to Save Money on Landscaping

7 Ways to Save Money on Landscaping

With the advent of spring, our family has been spending a lot of time outside in the yard.  This is our third spring in this home, so it’s very satisfying to see all of our efforts from the previous years paying off.  Trees, bushes, and bulbs are blooming in the right places, and our lawn is bright green with new growth.  What follows are 7 ways that we have saved money on landscaping:

  • Use What You Have–Who needs to buy plants when you probably already have them in your yard?  I spent this past weekend transplanting dozens of bulbs from our back and side yard to the front yard.  Brad has transplanted a number of small trees and bushes since we moved in.  You can also transplant plants from your friends’ homes (with their permission of course!)
  • Find Free Stuff–We have been given a lot of free things for a yard over the years, including sod, firewood, tomato plants, a play house, a climber, a grill, insect sprays, and picnic tables.
  • Utilize Free Labor–There’s nothing cheaper than doing the work yourself, but you can also ask friends (or your children) to help you.  A friend helped Brad build our grape arbor, and his guys’ Bible study helped him trim back some large trees.  We pull our weeds by hand, and a friend seeded our front lawn for us when we first moved in.
  • Fertilize Your Gardens with Compost–We love our nutrient-rich little compost pile and spread it over our flower beds and around our bushes.
  • Shop Yard Sales–Most of our gardening equipment originally came from yard sales.  Go out first thing on a Saturday morning and see what you can find!
  • Shop Store Sales–Buy things for your yard when they are out of season, or otherwise on sale and you’ll save big!
  • Fix It Instead of Replacing It–When our 8-year-old lawnmower died this spring, we tried to fix it ourselves, and then we paid $74 to have it fixed rather than purchase a new lawnmower.

What landscaping tips would you offer someone landscaping on a budget?


Why You Need to Call Your Service Providers Regularly

Why You Need To Call Your $ervice Providers Regularly

One of the things I have had to learn over the years is how to be more confrontational with bill-collectors.  I am not talking about being angry or mean on the phone to a perfect stranger.  I am talking about politely calling a company to question a bill, and request a better deal.  As the protector of your pocketbook, you need to advocate for your family’s finances.

When I first subscribed for Internet with AT&T, it cost me $38/month.  However, about every 6-12 months my Internet bill goes up again.  Today I received a bill for $46/month.  Whenever this happens, I call AT&T and talk to a representative.  The same thing happens every time; after a few minutes on the phone and a brief explanation of the charges, the representative offers me a great promotional rate.  Sometimes I get faster Internet, or an even cheaper rate than before the increase.  Today, my phone call brought my bill back down to $39/month and tripled my Internet speed.

Never hesitate to make a phone call when you receive a questionable bill.  I pay my auto insurance bill every 6 months.  One year ago the bill was $477.  6 months ago it was $431.  This month my auto insurance bill was $503!  I called my Auto Insurance company with my concerns about the $72 bill increase.  My insurance representative explained the reason for the increase, and then asked if he could call me back in 20 minutes.  When he called back he had found the same coverage with a different company for $444.

I can’t promise you that every time you call you will see results, but keep it up.  Call your service providers (Insurance, TV, Internet, Cellphone, Medical, and Utilities) regularly to see if you can reduce your expenses.  You might be pleasantly surprised!

How have you gotten results when you called to question a bill?



33 Reasons it’s Great to be 33

33 Reasons It's Great to be 33!

I recently celebrated my 33rd birthday.  An older woman at church that Sunday wished me a happy birthday, and then followed it up with, “You don’t have to tell me how old you are.”  I laughed and told her I’m 33.  For some people I guess 33 is a sobering (or embarrassing) number.  If I live to be 100, I’m about a third of the way through my life.  But for me, 33 is a wonderful number.  I am not ashamed of my age.  I have lived a full, beautiful, amazing life.  I wouldn’t want to lose any one of those 33 years, or the things I learned along the way.  At 33 years old I am doing what I always dreamt I would do.  In fact, I wish I could freeze time and stay 33 for the next 67 years because I love these “little years” with my children.  Here are 33 reasons I think it’s great to be 33:

  1. 1 Fantastic Husband
  2. 2 Great Parents
  3. 3 Incredible Children
  4. 4 New Shirts From Twice.com
  5. 5 Amazing Siblings
  6. 6 Kids’ DVDs to Distract My Kids
  7. 7:15am Waking Up to Naomi & Oliver Singing “Happy Birthday!”
  8. 8 Years of Marriage to my Wonderful Husband
  9. 9 Years Since Our First Date
  10. 10 Adorable Fingers & 10 Adorable Toes on my Baby Girl
  11. 11 Countries I’ve Visited in the World
  12. 12pm Phone Call from my Sister
  13. $13,000 Until We’re Debt-Free!
  14. 14 Years Pimple-Free
  15. 15 Years Since I Graduated From High School
  16. 16 Years Since I Grew Out My Perm
  17. 17 Sprinkle Pancakes
  18. 18 Months Living in China
  19. 19 Years of Schooling (Elementary, Middle, High, UnderGrad, Grad)
  20. 20 Days Until Our Taxes are Due…Which Means Tax Refund!
  21. 21 Minutes on the Phone with my Sister Last Week Hearing about her New Baby!
  22. 22 Bags of Frozen Pumpkin & Squash Still In Our Freezer
  23. 23 Days in Arizona This Summer
  24. 24 hours since I was Exempted from Jury Duty
  25. $25 Birthday Check from my Grandmother
  26. 26 Candles on my German Chocolate Birthday Cake (that’s all we could find!)
  27. 2720 Miles from California to Visit our Family in Maryland every Thanksgiving
  28. 28 Years Old When I Found Out I was Pregnant with Naomi
  29. 29 Inches Tall: Evelyn’s Current Height
  30. 30 Years Since my Parents Moved from Pennsylvania to Maryland
  31. 131,598 miles on our Truck (which has been paid off for 4 years)
  32. 32 Years Since I Became a Big Sister
  33. 33 States I’ve Visited in the United States

If you’ve celebrated a birthday recently, or will be celebrating one soon, I challenge you to generate a list of reasons why it’s great to be your age.  You might be surprised by how much you have to be grateful for!

“Do not regret growing older, it is a privilege denied to many.”–Unknown

3 Kids in 1 Bedroom: New Bunk Beds!

When our family moved to California from Maryland, we knew that one of the primary ways that we could save money was by finding an affordable place to live.  We planned on having more children, so that meant fitting a lot of people in a small space.  When Brad saw our house, he knew it was the perfect fit for us.  It has 3 bedrooms, 1 bathroom, a garage, trees, a fenced-in backyard, a fire pit, and it’s only 2 blocks from the high school where he works.

3 Kids in a Bedroom: Before & After New Bunk Beds 1

At the end of 2012, Brad moved everything from his office across town to our house.  All of his office storage is in our garage, and he began working exclusively out of our home office.  So when our third child was in early 2013, we knew she would eventually need to share a bedroom with her older sister and brother.  During her first two months we wheeled her bassinet back and forth between our master bedroom and the office.  Eventually she upgraded to the pack-n-play in the kids’ room, where she slept until she was almost 9 months old.

3 Kids in a Bedroom: Before & After New Bunk Beds 2

I had been daydreaming about bunk-beds for years, but we had to put off the purchase until it became a necessity.  In 2013 we bought a third car-seat, paid off the hospital delivery bill, paid off both of my surgeries, and put new tires on our truck before I could finally shop around for bunk-beds.  I knew exactly what I wanted, so when I saw these bunk-beds (with mattresses) on Craigslist for $250, I was sold.  We borrowed a trailer and trailer hitch from a friend, and drove down to Sacramento with cash in hand.

3 Kids in a Bedroom: Before & After New Bunk Beds 3

Transporting bunk-beds is not as easy as you might think.  We had to dismantle them in Sacramento, and reassemble them in our house.  As with many “used” purchases, we had a few hiccups along the way.  One of the drawers broke in transport, and a couple of the bolts were stripped from dismantling and reassembling the beds.  Eventually I had to repair three out of the five drawers with wood glue and screws.  Still, because the bed is solid wood, we can make repairs as needed.

3 Kids in a Bedroom: Before & After New Bunk Beds 4

Purchasing bunk-beds for our kids’ room definitely increased the floor space and storage.  Saving our money for  bunk-beds was definitely the right move for us financially.  Our crib was a gift from my mother-in-law, our pack-n-play was a gift from my parents, our bassinet was a hand-me-down from a friend, and Naomi’s mattress was once Brad’s.  So we waited more than 4 years after the birth of our first child to purchase beds for our kids.  We are more than satisfied with our purchase, and the kids love their new beds.  They were worth the wait!

3 Kids in a Bedroom: Before & After New Bunk Beds 5

Have you ever saved up to pay cash for a large purchase?  What did you buy, and what did you learn in the process?

Our White, Tan, & Turquoise Bathroom

Our White, Turquoise, & Tan Bathroom

When we moved into our house in September 2011, our youth ministry committee was kind enough to prepare it for us.  They spackled, sanded, sprayed, and painted our entire house white.  Later that week they helped Brad and I paint 5 of the 6 rooms a solid color.  However, the bathroom linoleum and plumbing were being repaired by another person, so we never got around to fixing up the bathroom.  I have to admit that I was disappointed when I saw the turquoise tiles.  I tend toward warm-colored neutrals, and I didn’t have a single thing that would suit turquoise tiles.

Do you have a room in your house that you dread entering because of the amount of work required to fix it up?  Well, that was our bathroom.  Gradually we’ve made one small change at a time.  We removed excess bars and towel hangers from the tile and walls.  We patched large holes.  We washed the light fixture.  We removed the contact paper from the windows.  We hung blinds.  We hung pictures.  We installed door stoppers.  A year after we moved in the landlord replaced all the plumbing in the house, including all the fixtures like the faucets and shower head.  Just last month I finally installed child locks and removed the old magnetic latches that refused to open or close properly.

Still, the room lacked unity.  I had a dark red rug on the floor that was a wedding gift, and the plastic trash can covered in a pastel baby design was a baby shower gift.  The only shower curtain was a shower curtain liner, which was looking worse and worse.  Last April when I cleaned the shower curtain for my 30-Day House Cleaning Challenge, it inspired me to think of other ways I could spruce up our bathroom.

Last fall I finally began shopping around for a shower curtain that would suit our turquoise tiled bathroom.  I had a number of Target gift cards, and began to look at their selection.  I fell in love with the curtain you see above, because it reminded me of a woman’s skirt.  I also picked up the silver curtain hooks, the tan rug, and the woven trash can to match.  There is still a lot of work to do: curtains, a curtain rod, sanding, spackling, painting walls, painting cabinets inside and out, and installing some new towel hooks.  However, I could not be happier with the accessories that I bought at Target (at no cost to me!)  They made an unbearable room, bearable.

Do you have a room in your house that you dread entering?  What small changes could you make to spruce it up?

How to Make DIY Shampoo & Conditioner

How to Make DIY Shampoo & Conditioner

Some time ago I decided to see how long I could go without buying shampoo and conditioner.  I had so many free samples on hand, and so many arriving in the mail each month that I just started going through them.  I started in May 2012, and last week I finally caved and bought my first bottles of shampoo and conditioner in almost 2 years.

When I had gaps between free samples, I began experimenting with going “poo-free,” a technique I had read about on Pinterest.  When a friend of mind admitted that she’d been going “poo-free” after reading an article by Tsh Oxenreider, I decided to give it a whirl myself.  I have naturally curly hair that is a mystery to me, so I’m up for trying anything to manage it.

I used the recipe Tsh suggests on her website, The Art of Simple:

  • 1 Tbsp Baking Soda + 1 Cup of Water = Shampoo
  • 1 Tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar + 1 Cup of Water = Conditioner

I actually hesitated to share my experiment with anyone, because I was pretty sure it would gross them out.  Even my husband thought I was a little weird for trying this DIY experiment!  The transition period to “poo-free” can last from a few weeks to a few months, so I often went back to using shampoo and conditioner again as soon as I got another free sample.  So I admit I didn’t really follow Tsh’s advice to the letter.

One thing that I noticed right away was that my hair was oilier, but for you non-curly folks out there, that was a good thing for my hair.  When my hair is too dry, it won’t curl well.  It needs moisture and its natural oils to curl well.  I also have very long hair now, which began to get more tangled without regular conditioning.  If I were to do this experiment again, I would also want to find better applicator bottles than the two empty soda bottles I used.

In the end, I have gone back to regular shampoo and conditioner.  Old habits die hard.  But I’m still willing to try going “poo-free” again, when I can spend more time adjusting the amounts of baking soda and cider vinegar to the right chemistry for my hair.

Have you ever considered, or gone “poo-free”?  What was your experience?

How to Save Time & Money Packing Lunches

As a stay-at-home Mom to three children who are also still at home, it may surprise you that I’m talking about packing lunches today.  Well, this month as I learned how to use Google Calendar for the first time, I again became aware of how so much time in my day is spent on meals.  I prepare meals, set the table, eat meals, clear the table, wash the dishes, put away the dishes, wipe down counter tops, and sweep the dining room floor all day long.  Meals consume my entire day!

Here are two ways that I save time and money by packing lunches:


Save Time & Money: Freeze Your Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwiches!


1. First, I remember reading some time ago on Money Saving Mom that Crystal freezes her peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  I thought this was unusual (and a little gross) when I first read about it.  But recently I decided to give it a try.  I cannot believe I never tried this idea before now!  Freezing PB&J sandwiches in freezer bags saves me a lot of time and mess every day.  They don’t take long to thaw, and they’re ready for a trip to the park or when we get home from church or running errands.  I even like to eat them frozen, when the peanut butter snaps with each bite!  Using the freezer takes one day each week, instead of making fresh sandwiches seven days a week.


Save Time & Money: Cut Veggies & Cheese Once A Week


2. Second, I cut all of my vegetables and cheese once a week and store it in air-tight containers.  I save money by not purchasing pre-cut vegetables and cheese, but save time by only cutting them once a week.  Having healthy snacks already prepared is also a great way to encourage healthy eating.  Just open the fridge, grab a carrot stick or celery, and go!  Again, doing the work ahead of time means having snacks available when you’ve just come in, or are just going out of the house.

How do you save time and money on lunches?


Why Is It So Important That I Be Debt-Free?

WHY is it so important that I be Debt-Free?

When I first learned about debt-freedom from Dave Ramsey and Crystal Paine, I immediately became passionate about becoming debt-free.  Why?  Because we serve a big God, who has given Brad and I big dreams.

In September 2009, after 17 years of dreaming, Brad had finally accepted his dream job doing full-time youth ministry.  I had also just begun my dream job as a stay-at-home-mom to our first child.

But in the winter of 2010, our dreams were crumbling around us.  Brad’s salary was reduced by 50%, I started substitute-teaching, and Brad started refereeing soccer games.  I cried every time I had to leave my baby behind to go to work.  We were more than $500 short on our bills at the end of each month, and I was pregnant with our second child.  We were eating so much spaghetti and Sloppy Joe sauce that our daughter was getting nasty diaper rashes all the time.  Through that long cold Minnesota winter, we had little food, little heat, little money, little sleep, and a lot of tears and worry.

When I read about debt-freedom, and the inspirational stories of those who had come through dark days like ours, I was hooked.  I wanted to be debt-free like nothing else.  I desperately wanted to stay home with my babies, and I wanted Brad to be able to do the work that God had called him to do.  God placed these passions in our hearts when we were mere children.  I cannot imagine facing my Savior and telling him that I did not do the work He had called me to do, because I had too many debts to pay.

Brad was eventually laid off from the position in Minnesota in September of 2010, we moved into my parents’ basement, and gave birth to our second child.  Those 2 years (June 2009-August 2011) were the most humbling years of our lives.  We learned so much the hard way.  We climbed out of the pit we dug for ourselves even more determined to pay off our debts for good.

We want to live without fear of a reduced paycheck, give joyfully to others, and have the mobility to go wherever God calls us whenever he calls us.  We know what God has called us to do, and we will do everything in our power to serve him with our lives.

I want to be debt-free so that I can do the work I choose, when I choose, where I choose, for whom I choose.  Debt-freedom is exactly that–freedom!

“The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender.”  –Proverbs 22:7

“Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.” –Romans 13:8

Why is it important that you become debt-free?  What motivates you?

10 Tips from 2 Amateur Gardeners

10 Tips from 2 Amateur Gardeners

Brad and I both come from gardening families.  Both of our mothers grow flowers, and both of our fathers have a vegetable garden.  Our grandfathers also had vegetable gardens, and we grew up seeing our relatives tending their little backyard plots.

Yet when Brad and I moved to Northern California, we knew very little about how or what to grow in our backyard.  We have both been very surprised by Brad’s green thumb, and his success in growing all manner of things.  So here are 10 tips from 2 amateur gardeners:

1. Designate a compost bucket, and choose a location to empty it in your yard.

2. Compost your leaves, fruit peels, egg shells, coffee grounds, tea, stems, nuts, charcoal, and even hair clippings!

3. Choose a few vegetables to plant.  (We have tomatoes, squash, pumpkins, and carrots.)

4. Plant fruit trees.  (We have lemon, lime, orange, and peach trees.  We also have a grape arbor.)

5. Plant flowers.  (We have roses, geraniums, sunflowers, wildflowers, and even a bottle brush tree in our yard.)

6. Try container gardening.  (Brad grew carrots in a rubber-maid tub!)

7. Water your garden, and give it lots of space to grow.

8. Enjoy the harvest!

9. Learn to cook from scratch, using your harvest.  (Don’t forget to compost your leftovers!)

10. Use your fresh produce for holidays, or share your abundance with others!

As you can see, the main thing you need to do is venture out into your yard, and begin experimenting.  Some things will work, and some things will not.  Some plants that grow in one place, won’t grow in another.  But you don’t need a fancy box garden, expensive fertilizers, or high-end gardening tools.  Go outside and get your hands dirty.  Plant some seeds, water your garden, and see what grows!

What tips would you give amateur gardeners like us?

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