Friday, August 31, 2007

Frugal Fridays - Attitude and Money

If I had a nickle for every time someone said to me "I'd like to stay home but I can't afford it" or "How can you afford all those kids (3! horrors!) on a pastor's salary?" or "You can't live without a credit card" or "But what about your credit score?" or "But if your kids were in public school you could really help improve public education in this country". Oh wait, that last one isn't about money and frugality. But it annoys me. So that's a freebie for you. Anyway, if I had a nickle for all the negative money comments I've heard I'd probably have... $2.50? Wow, it seemed like it would be more than that.

What is the primary difference between Prince Charming & me and some of the folks around us? It's attitude. When you have an outlook that says "It can't be done" then you're right: you won't be able to do it. When you see challenges as not only a way to improve yourself but as fun too, you can do what you need to do. Now I'm not advocating a "power of positive thinking" seminar here. All that philosophy strikes me as kind of silly. What I am calling for is the realization that we all make choices.

Whatever happened to personal responsibility? Why can't people realize that they make choices every day and it's not their parents', their friends', their employers' or dare I say, the government's job to make sure those choices are successful. I will now step off my soap box - you can find more of that on our political blog if that sort of thing floats your boat.

My point here is that only you (and your husband!) with God's guidance can lead your family. You make the choice to give up a temporary pleasure for a reward down the road. I suppose that Prince Charming and I would have more disposable income if we didn't have three daughters. But do you think I would honestly trade my three sweethearts for another chance to eat out or buy another box of cereal?! (O.k, I admit that some moments it might tempt me more than others...)

Here are some of the choices we've made along the way:

- no credit cards. We operate on a cash budget. We use the envelope system for groceries, toiletries, baby items (might as well call this the diaper & wipe fund), and a few other things. We use our debit card (just like a credit card) for gas and a few other things. Our only debt is our mortgage.

- we make a budget at the beginning of every month. Together. This is a plan not a dictator. Neither of us dread this time. It's pretty much the same all the time anyway. As an example, we have $40 a week grocery money plus one envelope a month for "stock up" money just in case we come across a really good deal.

- we set aside money every month for gifts. We have a big family. We have to plan year round for Christmas and the inevitable birthdays.

- we set aside money for our HSA. We have to pay our own health insurance costs. God has blessed us with a very healthy family, something I'm more grateful for since we'd have to pay for all the doctor visits/medicine, if we weren't.

Those are just a few of our choices. Lest you think Prince Charming makes the big bucks I will tell you that our first year of marriage (1999-2000) Prince Charming made $14,000. I made probably half of that. Thankfully our income has increased in the past seven years. Then again, our family has more than doubled since that time as well. God provides.

Sorry for the preachy tone of this (long!) post but these are a few things I felt I needed to say. You can actually useful frugal tips and lots of encouragement in the frugal walk at Biblical Womanhood.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

WFMW - The Beach with Baby

As some of you are aware my family just returned from a long awaited visit to Aunt Lulu's house. Aunt Lulu is married to an airman in the USAF and they are currently stationed just 1 1/2 hours away from a beach. I knew we would go to the beach at least once on our visit but I was concerned about Sweet Pea. Obviously she has not yet experienced the joys of sand and sea. And, as a baby younger than six months (at the time), she was too young for sunscreen and any prolonged sun exposure.

Now I know there are expensive "baby beach" items that you can buy. But I don't buy expensive things. And I didn't have time to order anything. I had only known about this vacation for months. I just put off dealing with the fact that my baby wasn't going to get magically older in time. But I digress.

What's a mom to do? Well, here's what I did: I bought a wading pool with a sun shade on clearance at one of my favorite "box stores" (hint: it ISN'T the one that starts with "W"). It was a bit of trouble to inflate at the beach because it was really windy, but all in all it worked great. We put our canvas bag of beach "stuff" in it to weigh it down and we made Sweet Pea a little shady nest on beach towels.

Here's a similar pool from Amazon, but watch your local stores for the clearanced summer items!

She had a sun hat (with SPF) and the cutest little sunglasses that she found quite amusing (they had a velcro strap so she couldn't remove them but she sure enjoyed trying!) for when she was out of her "nest". She napped there out of the sun, wind, and most sand, and we had a great day at the beach. Plus the pool can be used again, when we go to a beach this October or even next year as - wait for it - a wading pool. Worked for us!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Travel Tips

When at the seashore your first course of action should be to pour sand in your hair. The adult reactions will be priceless. After this you can thoroughly enjoy the sand and water because you're already a mess. Besides, some people actually pay money for such exfoliating! - Tigger


Sitting while the tide comes in can be as exciting as any other beach activity. You should have your daddy take you out as far as you dare first, of course. Then you should sit where the tide comes in and let it wash over you, proving that harder work isn't always smarter. Or something. Anyway, it's fun! - Polly


If you must sleep on an air-mattress with your older sister, you might want to wear warm jammies. Those sisters can be pretty selfish with the covers. At Aunt Lulu's there are plenty of doggies that would be willing to keep you warm but they might slobber on your pillow. Best to just curl up with your personal blankie and bear it. - Tigger

When your uncle is in a hurry to get to work, be sure to make funny faces at the adult holding the camera, thereby insuring that none of the multiple pictures is quite what the adults wanted and you all look like no one knows each other. Maybe they'll learn and stop posing you for pictures with every relative that comes along? Probably not. - All girls

Friday, August 10, 2007

Reunited

After an entire week spent apart the older girls were really happy to see Sweet Pea. Sweet Pea enjoyed her week of fun with Gram at camp but I know she was happy to see her sisters too. She seems determined to be as big as they are as quickly as possible!

6 Simple Tips for Traveling with Kids

 Well, the travel season is upon us. For the early part of the summer our family can't get away as Prince Charming's obligations to our church are too numerous (end of year programs, VBS, camp...). But now we are ready to roll!

The only place I really want to go is to visit my sister, Lulu. And of course, it is more frugal when you can stay with family. Because of that generosity we can get away for an actual week of vacation, which we have rarely had in our marriage. It's almost enough time to relax. Kidding.

But we have new issues now, that we didn't have in the early years of our marriage. Namely: Polly, Tigger, & Sweet Pea. Not that I'd routinely call my children issues, you understand. Still, they tend to complicate even a short trip and our trip next week is not short. What to do?

- Plan to stop for bathroom breaks, often. This is because one of our daughters (cough Tigger cough) is just about to be finally potty trained after much weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth.

- Plan to stop to nurse Sweet Pea. Just yesterday evening Sweet Pea, who has been trying to get her hands on all food, had her first taste of baby cereal. I wanted to hold her off longer, but even at only five months old she already knows what she wants and she wants food! I'm still nursing her (what feels like constantly!) but we're adding cereal to her daily repertoire now.

- Plan to stop for meals and snacks. And here's where the frugality really comes in. Prince Charming and I talked about it and decided we'd rather not eat fast food on the way to Aunt Lulu's. So yesterday I went grocery shopping and bought things for a quick breakfast (we plan to leave very early) picnic lunch and some special snacks. I dislike feeding children a bunch of junk food but for this trip I bought a few things they don't usually get to eat: Jell-o in individual cups (who knows why but that makes it more special), packaged trail mix (the fruit kind not nuts, because I don't want any choking girls), and (this is the real treat) Little Debbie Oatmeal Cream pies. When we are forced to stop at a gas station these are the treats my little sweet-toothed girls are drawn to: Little Debbie snack cakes. It's for a special occasion, it cost less than "convenience" store prices, and it insures a few minutes of happiness on an otherwise tedious trip.

Our other trip tips?

- Lots of books on tape / cd. We check these out at our library. We also bring along a few children's books on tape.

- Lots of music, especially things we like to sing along with. Polly will sing anyway so we might as well join in.

- Activity bag for the girls. This usually holds Twistables crayons (how did we get by without these!), coloring pages, blank paper, magnet dolls, small "Doodle Pro" (a magnet drawing thing), stickers, books to "read" and a small toy or two. If you have small children like I do the bag should never, ever, under any circumstances contain markers, play-dough, silly putty, or beads. I speak from experience.

Find lots of great frugal tips at Biblical Womanhood. See you soon, Lulu!

Thursday, August 9, 2007

A Little Catch-Up

Sorry for the unintended blog vacation, folks. I'm sure all five of you were disappointed. Next week is the long, long anticipated visit to the girls' beloved Aunt Lulu (and her husband and her four dogs!) so the web silence may continue. Or I may decide to blog from her computer. You know, if I have the time between the beach going, the talking, the shopping, the talking, the movie watching, the talking, the eating, the talking, the game playing...

Anyhow, while Prince Charming, Sweet Pea and I were off at the insanity ministry that is Church Camp for 7-12 year olds, Polly and Tigger were at their grandparents' (aka Pop & Mem, the wonderful folks who gave us my Prince Charming) house, being spoiled well looked after. Here follows some small taste of the excitement:

Cowgirls in jammies stringing necklaces. (Doesn't everyone put on their hat & bandana before bed?) Looks like Polly may be singing as well. Is that girl a multi-tasker or what?

Nothing like a Fairy Princess Outdoor Tea party in 100+ Tennessee humidity!
Only at Mem's house is cleaning actually fun... But it leads to some tuckered out little girls:

Yes, they actually fell asleep this way. These photos are not posed in any way, not that I wouldn't pose the girls this way!