making frugal & simple beautiful

Recent Posts

6 ways I save $ on groceries

6 ways I save $ on groceries

    We are going through some life changes in our household! They are all good ones, but will require us to tighten our belts for a few years to see my husband change careers and go back to school. This has got me back […]

opening my young living essential oils starter kit

opening my young living essential oils starter kit

    It was finally here! My Young Living Starter Kit had finally arrived. Many months of debating and research and hemming and hawing had finally culminated to this beautiful moment. Okay… Maybe I’m being a bit dramatic. But it was almost that good.   […]

no junk easter basket ideas

no junk easter basket ideas

 

 

I just love planning and stuffing an Easter basket for our daughter. It just tickles me! Every year I try to think of cute things to give her that isn’t all candy, and that isn’t all plastic junk that will break in 5 minutes.

I usually add one nice quality chocolate item, a Lindt bunny, or like this year, their cute chocolate carrots.

Last year I sewed her this bunny myself, she really loves that thing!

 

 

 

Here is a list of all the cute, non-junk Easter basket ideas I could come up with:

  • handmade item like this bunny or this sweet little baby doll
  • bubbles ~ I got some no spill ones similar to this at Target. Cheaper though. Or you could make some!
  • sidewalk chalk
  • jump rope
  • books ~ I like I am a Bunny for little ones and Linnea in Monet’s Garden for a bit older
  • play dough ~ homemade in cute little mason jars, or store bought
  • diy play dough surprise eggs ~ you could put cute little animals like this in the eggs! They have Toobs at Michael’s and of course you can always use at least a 40% off coupon there.
  • small excavation kit ~ Here’s a nice one, I found one in the Target Spot for $3
  • craft kit or project ~ Also check the Target Spot for this type of thing.
  • kite
  • Shutterfly photo book ~ If you can catch it, they have a coupon code about 2-3 times a year for a free photo book, all you pay is about $8 shipping. Kids absolutely love looking at themselves and family and friends in a real book.
  • watercolor palette
  • sketchbook and pencils ~ maybe with one of these easy little pencil wraps
  • flower and veggie seeds to plant themselves
  • summer sun hat
  • gardening gloves and tools
  • lip balm
  • apron for kitchen helping and projects
  • puzzle
  • music ~ i love this album, and this one.
  • special socks
  • stickers
  • ball
  • water bottle
  • mad matter ~ this stuff is super fun, like kinetic sand. Easy cleanup. Michael’s carries this.

If you have any ideas I didn’t think of, let us know in the comments! Have fun filling a basket for your little somebunny!

Happy spring!

seed starting 101

seed starting 101

      Right about now, is the perfect time for starting seeds inside. I am full on into the project myself and thought it might be helpful for someone if I shared how I do it. I am in no way an expert, I […]

cozy butter eggs ~ a quick meal

cozy butter eggs ~ a quick meal

Eggs are some of my very favorite things to eat. And this is one of my favorite ways to eat them.I call them cozy butter eggs because doesn’t it look cozy tucked into that little ramekin? I start with a nice, deep fry pan and […]

how we got out of DEBT and learned to manage our money like ADULTS

how we got out of DEBT and learned to manage our money like ADULTS

 

(Originally written 7/1/16, updated 3/20/17)

This post has been on my mind for a long time. 

I’m really excited to share our story with you, and I’m nervous too, because I’m exposing our mistakes and blunders on the internet for all to see. But if it could help or encourage one person to change their financial situation, it would be worth it.

When my husband and I got married, we were both free from credit card debt and always said we would never go into debt or use credit cards, and that we would always be “smart” with our money. We were very pious in our belief that financial trouble could never happen to us. I now know, our idea of fiscal responsibility was very different than what it should have been.


I continued to work in early childhood education and childcare and my husband continued with his job in construction where he made fairly good money. Not lots of money mind you, just decent, lower to mid middle class money. Plenty to live on and have a little bit of fun too. He worked, hard. Manual labor, in the sun, working like a dog. He liked it enough, and he was young, in his early to mid twenties. 


He eventually worked up to crew lead man. And then when a position in sales came up in his company he went for it. And he got it! I was so proud of him! He worked at this new job for a year or so before we found out we were expecting our daughter! I finished out the school year at my job and then 2 months before my due date, I went home to be a stay at home mom. Our girl was born, healthy and perfect and we were so happy! All those strong emotions after the birth of a child, especially a first child… Extreme happiness, joy and elation, along with exhaustion, fear and stress. But things were good. 


We had not calculated the cost of the birth into our budget prior, (we have insurance, we don’t need to worry about it!! And who am I kidding, we had no budget) so we added some debt owed to the hospital to our bills, which we paid in monthly increments.


Money started to feel tight along the way, as I was no longer bringing home a check and we did not adjust our lifestyle. We by no means have ever lived a luxurious or fancy life! But when you don’t tell your money where to go and have a plan and goals, it just seems to fall through your fingers with nothing to show for it. We lived paycheck to paycheck for a long time. I don’t think we really even realized that’s what we were doing. Some months were great and plentiful and some months were bare and tight. We never changed our spending habits and never stuck to a budget. We ate out a lot. We shopped. We wasted a lot of food. We just were an undisciplined mess. When a paycheck would come in, we would feel good for a day or two, feel like everything would be okay, we had plenty of money… Then we would spend the weekend eating out, shopping, and doing whatever the heck we wanted with no plan and before you knew it we would barely have enough money in the account to pay the bills. 

 


At this point, we owed money on our vehicle, our home, a credit card with a smallish balance that we just never felt the need to be done with, and we owed the hospital. By the time we payed all these other people, we were done. And ticked off. Bills, bills, bills! Is that all we are alive to do is give our money to other people?! Just sharing that that is how we felt makes me want to slap my forehead now, but nevertheless, there it is.


The feeling of stress, disappointment and insecurity that this lifestyle brings is a real downer. We felt like we were spinning our wheels. 


We made excuses for why we were the victims and why it wasn’t our fault. Things went on like this for awhile after our daughter was born until the other shoe dropped. My husband had the worst year at work he had ever had. His commission income pretty much dried up for 9 months. We had a little bit set aside that we blew through quickly. We kept thinking things would get better. That one big check would fix all our problems. But everything that could go wrong at work did. No jobs were coming through and he just didn’t get paid. We got so desperate. We started selling things. Guns, antiques, clothes and shoes, jewelry, whatever we could think to sell. That wasn’t enough, so we started paying bills and buying groceries on a credit card. It was so scary y’all. It was hands down the toughest time in our marriage. The feeling of not knowing if you would be able to pay your mortgage, and keep your electric on was heavy and all consuming. And knowing that it was all our fault made it worse. We felt like failures. But because we knew it was all our own fault, we insisted on pulling up our bootstraps and fixing our life!

I do not like feeling like a victim, because victims don’t have any say in what happens to them and cannot change it. I refused to be a victim anymore. This was a big, hairy mess and we made that mess one dollar at a time. One meal out, one clearance blouse, one movie date at a time, like stacking up blocks one at a time until they all come falling down on top of you.


My husband bit the bullet and got the dreaded second job so that I could continue to stay home with our daughter. He worked at his regular job about 50+ hours a week, then added about 24 hours a week with the second job.

Bless his heart. He’s a good man. 


I started looking for a better way to handle our money. And I found Dave Ramsey. I won’t go into every detail of what Dave Ramsey teaches because if you are interested, you can read his books for yourself. But I had his book Total Money Makeover, and I started listening to his radio show religiously. And I started to see the light at the end of the tunnel!


The main principles that we started to implement when a little money started trickling back in were these: 


1. Cut up your credit cards. Like right now.


2. Make a written budget together and STICK TO IT. Every dollar gets told where to go.


3. Stop eating out and live on beans and rice, rice and beans.


4. Use a cash envelope system. When it’s gone, it’s gone.


5. Put $1,000 away in an emergency fund.


6. Pay every spare cent towards your debt.


7. When all your debt is gone except your mortgage, throw money towards building up 3-6 months of living expenses. 


Oh y’all. Those previous months were so scary and so hard that we were ready to do the budget and we didn’t care if we couldn’t shop or eat out. We were just thankful to have some sensible advice and help that pointed us in the right direction. When we finally had a little income again to budget, it was the most satisfying thing I ever experienced. I relished in budgeting our money and planning for the month.


Slowly things changed. We finally started to get enough income regularly that we could pay our bills and pay towards our debt. We threw money at that credit card. We eventually paid it off about six months later. That was a happy day in our house, let me tell you! It was like cutting free a cement block that was dragging you down in the water, drowning you. 


Then we got even more sense about us and decided to sell our new car. The car I affectionately refer to as “the dumbest purchase ever”. 


Yeah.


The car that cost us hundreds of dollars a month and dropped in value greatly the moment we drove it off the lot. The car that we purchased because of the lie out there in the universe that says that you deserve a “nice reliable car” even if you can’t afford to buy one with cash. We took a loss on it, but it was worth being rid of the payments. You would think we would have been sad to see it go, but the day we handed that car dealership the keys and $1,000 check and said good riddance was a happy, happy day. I started driving our older, paid off pick up truck full time. My husband drives a company vehicle for work, so we only had the one car for awhile. Eventually we had enough money to buy a second car with cash. It is an older model, very used, high mileage, beat up car. But it’s a second car and it’s all ours. Do you know how good it feels to buy a car with cash money? It’s pretty great.

We continue to save our money, and one day we’ll buy a little bit nicer vehicle, and then maybe a little bit nicer after that, and then one day maybe I’ll have a paid for car that’s as nice as my debt cars were. And maybe I won’t y’all. Maybe I’ll always drive a older car with a few dents. But you know what? If it’s ours free and clear, I will be a happy lady.


Here is a truth that I am confident in, and it may be an offensive one to some, but never the less, it’s the truth.


If you can’t pay cash, you don’t deserve it. We don’t automatically deserve certain things. We are not entitled to anything.


I am obviously not talking about every single circumstance on the face of the planet, but I am talking about the average folks like us, out there working a job, making some money, capable and semi-healthy. If you can eat out fast food, or buy beer and soda pop or have cable TV, then I’m talking to you. 


Good, smart financial principles apply to us all. It doesn’t matter if you make a little bit, or a lotta bit, it is our responsibility to handle our own money responsibly.


We are not entitled to own certain things just because it is the general opinion the we should.


Gasp! I was not fond of this principle when I first confronted it. I told myself lies. 

“I have to have a newer car so it’s safe and reliable.”

“I deserve to travel here and there and go on vacation once in a while… Making memories is important, right?!”

“I have to have nice clothes for work.”

“We make good money, there’s no reason we should be punishing ourselves.”


On, and on. Gross.


Something we somehow missed, was that our outgoing money has to be less than our incoming money. 


No matter how you figure it, or what your personal priorities are, or how much you choose to work and earn or not, if you are spending more than you are making, you have a big problem.


Our life is so much more meaningful and relaxed and things are more meaningful and appreciated when you make a plan, and respect yourself enough to stick to it.

I can not tell you how much more meaningful many things in my life are now.


I don’t go out and throw a bunch of clothes in my buggy at Target because they’re on sale or because I feel like it. I keep track of my wardrobe, what my needs and wants are, and then I prioritize. I plan on spending a certain amount and then when I go to the store and find what I really, really love and what is flattering. I buy it and bring it home and it gets an honored spot in my closet and I wear the crud out of it. And it is appreciated and well used. And I don’t feel any guilt!


One of the greatest discoveries for me has been how freeing a budget is. People think a budget is constricting. A budget is freedom! I can go to the store and spend money within our budget and feel zero guilt. Before, I felt guilt every. Single. Time. I spent money. I haven’t felt that guilt in two years thanks to our budget.


We sit down together at the end of the month and plan for the next. We write a paper budget, talk about all our plans that require money, our special events, needs and wants, and we prioritize. If I really want to buy a new outfit or two, but we have several holidays and outings coming up, I wait on the clothes because they are not as important as the other things. My blender has broken, and I could go out and spend the money to buy the new one I want. But other things have been more important, and I decided that smoothies and soups were further down my list of priorities. So maybe next month! And I promise you, when I have the money set aside to get the blender that I really want, it will be very exciting to go, pick it out and bring it home. (update: It was a thrill. I have a great blender now.) I will appreciate it more than if I was to swipe a card, and feel guilt every time I see it. And while we are on the topic, I am soooo excited for the day we can go to a dealership and choose the car that we want and pay for it in cash, right there. Doesn’t that sound like such a thrill?!


We have a certain amount of money in our eating out envelope and we go about once a week. I have a grocery budget and a cash envelope for that as well.

We each get some personal spending money to use how we want.

Everything is planned out, written down and talked about.


Think about it this way. Money is our time. For us, money that gets put into our account is time my husband spends at work, away from us. I always try to think of it that way when I spend it. Is this item worth two hours of my husband’s work? How much will I use this item? Could I find buy it second hand? Can I do without it for a while?


So what are we doing now? We are debt free.


Do you know how much more money we have, now that we don’t have to give it to other people anymore? 


Ahem. So much more. 


All the work and long hours separated and the stinkin’ beans and rice eventually paid off and our life is completely different now.


We are organized and deliberate. My husband quit the second job after a year, when all the debt but the mortgage was paid off.

Our income is about the same as it has always been, but it feels like a heck of a lot more, because it lasts so much longer and it is respected.


Now on to socking away money to meet our next goals!

We have freedom that we have never known. Thank you God! And I wish everyone that is struggling with money could feel that freedom too.

diy mud mask

diy mud mask

Here is a recipe for a homemade face mask that I have been using regularly. It’s very easy to make and it really does good things for my skin. It cleans and tightens pores and helps dry up breakouts.  I always seem to make too […]

9 tips for a simpler life

9 tips for a simpler life

      1. Write lists of everything: As soon as something flits through my mind, I better write it down or suffer the consequences! It is very helpful to have an ongoing list for the day/week of things that need to get done, be […]

homemade elderberry syrup

homemade elderberry syrup

 

Elderberry syrup is something that I like to keep on hand in my natural home “medicine cabinet”.  It is safe and delicious for the whole family, but not only delicious, it’s loaded with immune boosting goodness! I find that when we take this regularly during cold and flu season it really seems to help us fend off bugs. Also it’s just plain yummy.  Making my own has saved us quite a bit of money, as buying it in the bottle can get a little expensive.

 

 

Someday I would love to forage or grow my own berries, but for now I order dried ones and that works just fine. Here is where I like to get mine.

Elderberries are packed with antioxidants and properties that boost the immune system. They have some very interesting information on elder and elderberries over on the Bulk Herb website that is worth a read.

 

 

Sometimes I use dry, ground ginger. But if I have it, I love chopping up fresh. I just love ginger!

 

 

I like to keep a bottle in the fridge and some extra in the freezer. This recipe makes a good sized batch, so I usually divide it in half. I have been using plastic freezing jars, but you could even use a freezer zippie bag to store it. My bottle shown here is an old, glass salad dressing bottle that I washed thoroughly and scrubbed the label off of. If you pay attention, a lot of nice jars and bottles come through the house that can be cleaned and reused for things like this! A little tip for getting of yucky labels is to use a metal scouring pad like an S.O.S pad. A little elbow grease will have that sticky goo off in no time!

 

________________________________________________________________________________

Elderberry Syrup

1 cup dried elderberries

4 cups water

1 teaspoon cinnamon or 1 or 2 cinnamon sticks

3/4 teaspoon ground clove

1 teaspoon ground ginger or 2 Tablespoons fresh, chopped ginger

1/2 to 1 cup raw honey (depending on how sweet you want it to be)

 

Simmer all ingredients except honey together in a covered saucepan for 45 min. to 1 hour. (Gently simmer on a low heat.)

Remove from heat and allow to cool a bit. You want it still warm enough that the honey will dissolve easily, but not so hot that it will kill all the beneficial goodies in the raw honey.

Strain berries and particulates from syrup. ( I like to use a mesh strainer with a paper towel inside, over a bowl with a pour spout.)

Add honey and mix until dissolved.

Pour into storage container of your choice.

Stores well in fridge for about a month. Freezes beautifully.

________________________________________________________________________________

 

This doesn’t need exact dosing, it is a food  that people have been eating for a very long time, in jellies, pies,  in beverages and over pancakes and ice cream etc. I feel comfortable with taking a Tablespoon or so a day as a preventative, and upping the dose when sick.