Our Minimal Christmas

We decided last year to take a minimalistic approach to Christmas, all in the efforts to make Christmas more of an enjoyable season and less of a financial burden for us. It was probably our best Christmas ever in that sense! It was a tough call we had to make to stay within our means, and it didn’t come easily. We had many tough conversations in our house wondering if there was any other way, but we believe it was the right decision for us. I’m really glad we did it, even though it meant that we weren’t able to give gifts to everyone on our list.

Our family and friends were very understanding of our situation and our desire to stay within our budget. Many also let us know that they felt the same way about the burdens of Christmas. Since we prioritized giving gifts to our children and the children in our families, we weren’t able to give well-thought out gifts to the other adults in our lives that are important to us. However, they still desired to give gifts to us… This has been the hardest part. It’s hard to receive a gift well and not feel guilty at the same time for not being able to reciprocate by having a gift for them also. We have some pretty awesome people in our lives that bless us in so many ways… I’d be lying if I said that it doesn’t hurt my heart to not be able to give them a well-thought-out gift. We have just had to somewhat get over this though and realize that we couldn’t spoil someone else’s joy of giving just because we aren’t able to right now. Whenever it fits into our budget, you better believe that we will be purchasing nice gifts for them again. We can’t wait for that day. But for now… this is where we are, and this is what we do.

*This post contains affiliate links. I will earn a small commission if you make purchases through these links, at no extra cost to you, but I thank you for helping to support my family in that way. 


Here is how we navigate Our Minimal Christmas: 

 

We set a Christmas Budget.

To be honest, I had every intention of setting up a Christmas Sinking Fund so that we had actual money to pull from for this… but alas, that didn’t happen. Sometimes plans just don’t work out like we hope, and that’s okay. It’s a part of life sometimes. So basically, we just do the best we can and cash flow our Christmas to make it work for us, and it does help when we find great deals and start early so that it’s spread out over several months instead of just two. The Christmas Budget we set is more of a means of helping us keep track and keep it to a minimum. Going into debt for Christmas is simply not an option for us.

Here’s our Minimal Christmas Budget for 2018:
$50+/- per member in our family (We will have 4 children by Christmas, plus the two of us, so this equals $300.)
$50+/- for other children in our immediate family, collectively (We used to spend $30/each on them, but then I realized that we were spending almost as much for them as we were our own children so it may have been a bit excessive. We can still find them great gifts that stay within our set budget.)
$50 +/- for stocking stuffers for our family (This is one of my favorite traditions, but those things can add up quickly.)
$100 +/- for all the extras (This includes gift wrap, decorations, supplies for handmade gifts, gifts needed for gift swaps, ingredients for holiday meals, traditions, etc.)

Our minimal Christmas Budget for this year is $500. I realize this number may seem extravagantly low to some, but for others it may also seem ridiculously high. We are all in different economic and financial seasons, and that’s okay. I would actually love to have a bit more to spend on Christmas so that we could give gifts to more people that we love. Heck, I would even love to be able to pay for another family’s entire Christmas someday! But for now, this is where  we are, and we are making the decision to live within our means… even at Christmastime. If you’re unsure where to begin with setting a Christmas Budget, I recommend this series from Jordan at FunCheaporFree.com. She also offers some great tips in this video where she shows exactly what they bought for each of their kids last year.

We decorate minimally and use what we have.

There was a time when I used to have a themed tree where I would buy new ornaments and decor every year, but then I realized that I’d rather spend that money on gifts for my children or things they would enjoy instead. So now we decorate our tree with rolls of burlap that were given to us and the handmade ornaments and crafts from the kids instead. It’s definitely nothing fancy, but I still love it so much! We do enjoy still picking out a special ornament or two each year when we see ones that we really like. I really love how different ornaments are made unique and can tell a story on a Christmas tree. And as you can see from my picture, my tree usually gets “undecorated” by my children on a daily basis anyway. I usually keep a box or basket near the tree to collect the ornaments, and I re-decorate it several times throughout the season. Memories, right?

We make Christmas Wish Lists.

We ask our kids what they would like for Christmas, and I make a Christmas list in my planner or in the notes section of my phone. We don’t have a TV service with commercial advertisements so my kids do not really know what’s out there, unless they see it in a store. This one comes in handy for us though. We have always let our kids look at the toy section, and they are always quick to tell us what they like. Sometimes, I’ll snap a pic of the item with its price so I can remember it for later. One thing that’s great about this, is that I also always have a list handy for family members who ask what to get them for Christmas. We decide which of the gifts will be special gifts that we can purchase for them to give them on Christmas morning and which ones we can delegate to other family members to purchase for them.

We research, watch for sales, and keep our eye out for good deals.

I subscribe to MoneySavingMom.com as well as a few others, and I always check my email for special deals of things I might be looking for, and I buy things when they go on sale. I’ve been checking these daily for months so that I’ve been able to purchase several gifts early when I found things on a great sale.

We let our kids do their own Christmas shopping for each other, us, and other family members they’d like to give gifts to.

To do this, we take them to the Dollar Tree. We help them, of course, but we let them choose gifts to give to everyone on their list, which takes a few different trips so they can buy for extended family and also for each other without them knowing. Then, we let them wrap these gifts up to give away at our Christmas gatherings and on Christmas morning. Even though it’s a super, inexpensive idea – I love that it lets them focus on the aspect of giving instead of receiving. They get really excited to pick out, wrap, and then give their gifts. This also gives us more presents under our tree to unwrap. Most of the smaller boxes in the picture above are their Dollar Tree gifts wrapped up.

We celebrate Advent.

Contrary to popular belief, Advent is not actually about opening a little present or piece of candy every day until Christmas. 😉 Advent is the arrival of a notable person, thing, or event… hello, Jesus?? Yes, the actual reason for the season. I loved the Advent Bible study from Kari Denker at Stone Soup for Five that focuses on the Old Testament Prophecies and how they are fulfilled in the New Testament. It even has a coloring book and “Countdown” page for your children to color so they can do it alongside you. This past year, I also printed a set of Advent Countdown cards where we listened to a different Christmas song everyday that helped our family to focus on the real meaning of Christmas.

 

We give handmade “happies”.

Last year I embroidered hand towels. I used fabric and thread that I already had on hand. Of course, I also already had an embroidery machine too so this helped. I purchased hand towels for about $30 total and made many of them. Yes, it required a great deal of time on my part, but time is a resource that’s easier for me to find than money.

We get creative with how we wrap gifts.

Since there aren’t quite as many gifts to wrap, I don’t need to purchase much for this. Last year, I used Christmas-colored fabric, clear treat bags, and ribbon I already had on hand to wrap the hand towel happy gifts. I think they turned out great!

I don’t always do this, but I’ll also let you in on another secret for my gift wrapping… I love to buy a simple roll of brown paper. The brown paper can be used year-round for birthdays as well as Christmas gifts. My other secret is to buy gift bags from Dollar Tree. I’ve always been able to find simple, brown paper neutral gift bags there 3/$1.00 or 2/$1.00, depending on the size you choose, and they work perfectly! You can easily dress up the brown paper wrapped gifts and bags with colored tissue paper, colored ribbons, or other art supplies you have on hand.

We focus on Christmas traditions.

Some of our favorite Christmas traditions include making Christmas cookies on Christmas Eve, finishing our Advent countdown on Christmas morning, opening our stockings, and then taking turns opening presents to make it last longer. We also have a special Christmas morning breakfast… something easy that I can make ahead and put in the oven while we open presents.

Stockings were one of my favorite things I remember from Christmases growing up so I tend to go a little overboard here collecting things throughout the year. The kids usually get things that they “need” in their stockings like new toothbrushes and bath soaps as well as some fun items I’ve found for them too. I love to include things like snacks and special treats that we don’t have on a regular basis…. like a box of fruit snacks that I’ll open and disperse among their stockings or fun candies that we’ll add to our candy box later to give as treats and rewards. This past year, I even bought a box of Froot Loops with marshmallows and wrapped it up like a regular present, and they were thrilled!

2017 Stockings & The Chalkboard We Gave the Kids as one of their Shared Big Gifts

Would you like to see what each of our kids are getting for Christmas this year?!

I’ll share with you… only if you promise not to tell them. Can you help me keep it a surprise for them please? 😉

Linkin (Age 4)

The Paw Patrol Ultimate Rescuer is Linkin’s big gift that he requested. I saw it at Wal-Mart for around $55, but then I found it on Target.com for $44. I’m sure this one will still be on sale or at least go on sale again before Christmas as it’s a popular, newer item. He also requested the Guess Who game that he played with Daddy on one of their father/son outings to the ice cream shop in town.

 

Lawson (Age 6)

Lawson asked for a remote control airplane or drone this year, and I found this one at Sam’s Club for $30. (I wasn’t able to find an online link for you guys anywhere there. This style must’ve been a last-in-stock item. But I did see them in store again when I was there last week.)  He also asked for the Checkers game.

 

 

Layten Bradleigh (Age 2)

We decided to get Layten a kitchen because she’s always very interested in what I’m cooking and making in the kitchen. She also brings me foods she’s made for me all the time from the playroom and the kitchen-type toys she has now. It was important to me that I find one that would look nice and not “like a toy” because I want it to go in out kitchen/dining area so she can cook alongside me. This was a more affordable option ($79.99 from IKEA), and since the boys will probably play with it too, I justified spending a little extra on it. (I was way under budget on her birthday gift in October, and I also spent less on Lawson’s gifts so it rounds out to be about the same.)

I knew that we would probably assemble this one on Christmas Eve after they go to bed and set it out for her to find, but since she’s still so little, she’ll probably love unwrapping presents as well so I didn’t want her to miss out on that experience either. Luckily, I’ve saved some of the well-made kitchen toys we’ve had in previous years from the boys, and they’ve been in storage. She’s never seen them, so we’ll wrap those up for her to open and use with her new kitchen. I call that winning, and we didn’t pay a thing for them this year!

 

Baby #4 (Due just before Christmas)

Since we are literally going to have a newborn this Christmas… and one that’s probably going to just sleep right through our Christmas celebration…. we’re getting this baby something practical. I found a really good deal on a product I’ve been eyeing for a while. We’ve had a baby play gym with all three of my littles… a little mat that they can lay on with some dangly things over them for them to look at and focus on. It’s probably one of my favorite baby items, but unfortunately we don’t still have the one my other kids used anymore. I fell in love with this one when another mom on Instagram shared it. It’s so neat, yall! It was designed by child development experts and has Montessori, wooden, and organic accessories that all detach for greater learning experience. It’s meant to be used for the entire first year and even comes with a play cover that makes it kind of like a tent for more imaginative play. I’m sure my older kids will love it too!

**I contacted the LovEveryBaby company, and they’ve agreed to give my readers $10 off the purchase of this play mat or their play kits which are also really neat and would make fantastic Christmas gifts for the babies in your life. I will earn a small commission if you purchase through my link, at no extra cost to you, so I’d like to thank you for doing that!

 

Family Gifts

Sometimes we will give a gift to all of the kids together, to share, but not always. We have no real rules here. Last year we did give them a chalkboard/dry erase easel from Ikea ($14.99), and that was a great (and inexpensive!) big gift for them.

Our family has been really into games lately, and I happened to find this Scrabble Junior game while I was in Dirt Cheap one day so I grabbed it for the kids to open together. I love that it has different levels. I can use it with Layten for letter-recognition, Linkin can match the letters on the printed side, and Lawson can begin to spell his own words with it so…Three different ways to play! I also bought a set of magnetic building blocks and a set of Play-doh tubs for them a few months ago when great deals were posted! I love taking advantage of deals like this throughout the year so it makes the burden of Christmas spending a little lighter.

So here’s an estimate of what we ended up spending on actual kids’ gifts this year…

$44 Paw Patrol Ultimate Rescue (after sales & discounts)
$10 Guess Who Game
$30 Video Camera Drone
$8 Checkers Game
$10 Scrabble Junior Game (purchased from Dirt Cheap)
$80 Ikea Kitchen
$16 Play-doh Set  (after sales & discounts)
$40 Magnetic Building Set (after sales & discounts)
$70 Baby Play Gym (after sales & discounts)

$308 Total
So yes, I spent a little more on the younger two and with the family gifts, so I ended up spending a little more than I thought I would. When I did my Christmas Budget planning, I had forgotten that I had already purchased and put away the two family gifts of Play-doh and Magnetic Set, so those were technically paid for a long time ago, but I wanted to include them in our total cost, of course.

However, I’m not upset by this technically “going over budget” at all. We didn’t go into debt to do it, and It’s all already paid for. We spent about $300 to provide Christmas for 4 children, and I don’t look at that as a bad number.

Just remember not to compare your Christmas to others. Every family is different, has different financial situations, different methods of saving up and affording Christmas, and different values. If you need help setting up an appropriate Christmas Budget for your family, here’s the post I recommend from Jordan Page at Fun Cheap or Free.

Our kids are going to have a great Christmas this year. Especially remembering our past Christmases and how they open one gift and want to immediately play with it… then they usually don’t even care about the others, and we have to remind them that they have more to open. I think Christmas is definitely more fun for us as parents than it is for them anyway. 😉

In case you missed it, here’s another post of how our family takes a minimalistic approach to Christmas… how we decided to make our Christmas more enjoyable, less of a burden, and how you can too! 

I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas!
Best holiday wishes to you!

My Monthly Goals

After reviewing my yearly goals, here is an update for September and a preview of the things I will be working on for the month of October…

I like to share my Monthly Goals with you here because it holds me accountable for one, and also I just hope that it can inspire you in some way to create goals of your own and find something that you can be working on. I believe that to be purposeful and intentional, we have to sometimes make an effort to do so. I like to make a plan of how I will accomplish certain goals, and I’ve found it to be really helpful for me. Your plans may not be as detailed as mine, and that’s perfectly okay. I’ve been doing this for quite some time now. Just start somewhere with something, and make a plan to be more purposeful. You’ll be glad you did!

Spiritual Goals:

Continue reading the One Year Bible & praying strategically

Mothering/Family Goals:

  • Football season with Lawson.
  • Bi-weekly trips to the Library with my kids
  • Linkin has a special goal he is working towards for a prize, but I won’t share it here. (He’s almost finished!)

The boys also asked how they could earn some extra money so that they can buy things they want when we go shopping, so I considered this. We don’t give a regular allowance for chores that are expected of all of our family members, so this would have to be something extra. I did come up with a few extra things that I would pay them to do. Lawson took me up on this twice, but since then nothing. I’ve offered it to Linkin too, but he really would rather not do extra work, so there ya go. 😉

Homeschooling Goals:

This month I started grading some of Lawson’s work to help me to better track his progress and to also make sure that things like handwriting and spelling actually get done correctly. I don’t know the correct way to teach this, other than to have him “fix” the mistakes so he doesn’t continue to make the same ones over and over. I introduced the “You Can Read Sight Words” curriculum to Linkin to test out. It’s a more hands-on approach, so I think we may either switch over completely or at least add in some of these activities each week. Layten is continuing with her Tot School Printables. For more on our Homeschooling… you can visit our Homeschool Page. 

My Personal Goals:

Blogging –


I’ve got several small goals that I’m working on currently with this blog, and it’s all just kind of a big learning process for me. I actually merged my blog to a whole new hosting site this month, and you may have noticed my new newsletter feature. I’m trying to work at it at least a little each day and hopefully, I’ll get even better at consistency and gain some momentum. It’s all part of the bigger goal and vision that I have, but I’m just working through one thing at a time. Thank you for your patience with me and support!

Home Organization –

(Kids’ Clothes)

I went through all of the kids’ clothes storage this past month to see what we have/what we needed for the upcoming Fall/Winter season. Turns out, we have plenty for them from all of the hand-me-downs we’ve been given, and it wasn’t necessary for me to take a shopping trip to the kids’ consignment sale this year.

(Desk Solution)

I didn’t purchase a new desk, but I did reorganize all of my office, home school, and planning supplies into bins on a 4-cubby shelf that I moved into the dining room. I purchased two chalkboards that we can use for school or our memory work. I can use the dining table as my “work surface”, and I just have to put everything away when I’m done. It’s working well for now, because everything has a place.

(Baby Items)

This month I will be going through all of the baby boxes we have. Since we don’t know the gender of our baby coming in December, I will get all of our newborn things for both genders together to see what we have and what we still need. We’ve got 10 weeks left, but I’m working on this mostly during our home school break week.

Marriage Goals:

  • Weekly Budget Meetings as a Couple to keep us on Track with our Goals (Sometimes these happen through text messaging, but we try to stay on track and keep each other updated.)
  • Weekly Quality Time Together at home (This one has been hard to come by because our kids are so needy and demanding *insert chuckle*. We have movies we’ve started but not finished. We’ve got to get better at this one.)
  • At Least One Date Night This Month – We had an at-home date night this past month with take-out sushi, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, and a movie.

Health & Fitness Goals:

Health, Smealth! I’m kidding, but this has been a FULL month so it has not been something I’ve been able to prioritize as much. I had several deadlines and things that needed to be completed so I didn’t prioritize making it to the gym to workout as much. I still made it about once-twice/week but it’s definitely not where I was used to.

Financial Goals:

  • Continue in the grocery store & drugstore game for saving money with our food, toiletries, & household purchases.
  • I know I’ve mentioned sinking funds here before. We have tried for two months and four pay periods to make them work for us, but so far, we haven’t had much success in that area. I’ve had to cut some lines from our budget, and of course the sinking funds/planning ahead were the first to go, unfortunately. Maybe one day we will get it. It doesn’t mean we aren’t trying.
  • Prepare for Christmas. (Baby coming in December – I’ve gotta get on it!) I purchased a few gifts this past month, including one for our children, collectively, and I’ve been working on solidifying their Christmas lists with the things they tell me. I’d like to purchase or make a few more gifts this month.

What goals will you be working on this month?

If you’re just starting out, you can read my series on My Purposeful Planning. Choose one goal to start working on, learn how to reach that one goal, and I think doing this will only lead you to want to achieve more.

Whatever you do, let’s go make a plan to be more purposeful! 

My Winn Dixie Shopping Trip 8/3/18

Do you always wonder what things other people buy for groceries and how much they spend?? I know I do. I love to see breakdowns like this, but I also feel like sometimes it’s been unattainable for me because either we don’t have the same stores available to us here or we eat and use totally different products than the things they do. I think I just need to see the whole process from start to finish in order for me to grasp the entire concept.

So that’s exactly what I’ve done with this series of posts. (If you missed my planning and preparing process in part one, you can find it here.) I’m taking you from the very beginning to the end. Who knows? We might even have a continuation where I show you what meals I cook from the things we buy and how we use the purchases we make! Maybe that would be really helpful? We’ll see what I can get done for you.

For now, I hope you enjoy the breakdown of my trip to Winn Dixie this week. Here goes! 

Here’s my Winn Dixie grocery list for this week. I like to mark it up and make notes all over it as you can see. I add in quantities I want to buy. I add in coupons I have. I highlight the ibotta rebate offers so that I remember to submit them. I add up about how much I will be spending to make sure I’ll be within my budget. Of course the starred items are the ones that are priced based on pound so I don’t take those into account when I add it all up, and I just know that these will add to my total a little bit.

Here are some of the coupons I printed and clipped for this week’s shopping trip. I haven’t started buying the Sunday paper again yet, but I really need to.

Here’s my car full of groceries! I was kid-free when I shopped so I was able to use my entire backseat to hold everything. (You can also see the freezer bags and the broccoli from my Sam’s trip I made right before this trip.)

Here’s what all I bought today. I thought you might enjoy seeing it all spread out. It was definitely fun for me to set it all up this way to show you.

And here’s the breakdown of today’s shopping trip!

I bought…

4 boxes of Kellogg’s Raisin Bran Crunch Cereal – B1G1 $4.29 ($2.14) x 2
*I had a digital coupon loaded to my Rewards Card for $2/4.
*These will definitely last us at least a couple weeks or more.

2 boxes of Krusteaz Pancake Mix – B1G1 $2.89 ($1.44)
*This should last us at least until they go on sale again in a month or so.

2 boxes of Quaker Instant Grits – B1G1 $4.49 ($2.24)
*I haven’t had grits in a really long time so I’m really excited about these. 🙂

2 boxes of Lance sandwich crackers – B1G1 $3.29 ($1.64)
*I got these to fill our snack box since it’s getting low. It wasn’t on my original grocery list, but it’s okay because they were on sale. These will be good to grab for on the go snacks like when we go grocery shopping next week!

2 containers of Planter’s Peanuts – B1G1 $4.49 ($2.24)
*This isn’t something we buy on a regular basis, but I got them to use for our favorite “Snickers Oatmeal” recipe. We can also eat them for snacks, and these should last us a good while!

2 jars of Hormel bacon bits – $2 each x 2
*I used a $1/2 coupon for these.

2 containers of soft Philadelphia Cream Cheese – $2.50
*I earned 100 SE rewards points for buying 2 of these, and I needed them for an upcoming recipe in a few weeks so I grabbed them now since they were on sale.

4 cans of SE Grocers fruits – $1/each

3 packages of Seasoning Blend – B2G1 = $3.18
*I didn’t originally plan to buy these, but I saw the deal and decided to grab them. I love to always have these on hand for various recipes.

2 packages of Dole Salad Mix – B1G1 = $4 ($2)

Fresh Snap Beans – $1.49/lb = $4.10

Fresh Strawberries – B1G1 $4.99 ($2.49)

Fresh Plums – $1.99/lb = $2.47

Fresh Zucchini – $1.49/lb = $2.19

2 packages of Gorton’s fish fillets – B1G1 $6.99 ($3.49)

3 lbs. of Butterball Ground Turkey – $3.50
*I planned to buy 2 of these, but when I was in store I saw that one package had been marked down by $2 additional for a quick sale so I grabbed three instead. We’ll use the quick sale one first, and I can freeze the others to use later unless I’m planning a meal with them this week.
*I used a $0.75/1 paper coupon of this and also a $0.75/1 digital coupon for this.

1 lb. Butterball Turkey Sausage – $4.99
*This was also marked down for a quick sale and savings of an additional $2 so I grabbed it too. My kids love sausage so I knew it would be a good buy for us.

Pork Chop Ribeyes – B1G1 $9.44 ($4.72)

Hillshire Farm Smoked Sausage – B1G1 $4.99 ($2.49)

Ball Park Franks – B1G1 $3.99 ($1.99)
*We’re planning to build a campfire soon with the kids as it’s on our Summer Bucket list, and I thought it would be fun to roast these over the fire.

1 half gallon of Tru Moo Chocolate Milk – $2.50
*I planned to get this anyway because one of my kids LOVES chocolate milk. It was marked down for a quick sale so I found the one with the latest date, and I knew it would be fine because my family will definitely have it gone by then anyway.

2 pints of Halo Top – $4.50 x 2
*My husband loves these so I got them as a treat for him. They weren’t necessarily “cheaper” but I earned 120 SE Rewards points by purchasing two of them. And this is one of those things we would run out and get if we have a craving anyway… so now we won’t have to. Totally worth it.
*Let’s see if my husband actually reads my posts…. I hid these in the back of the freezer for him and haven’t told him yet. I’m waiting for a good time to let him in on my secret little purchase for him. 😉

Tropicana Essentials Probiotic Orange Mango Drink – 10/$10
*Did you know that if something says 10/$10 in a sale ad, you don’t actually have to buy 10?! It’s true. I’ve been craving orange juice lately, and so I grabbed this since it was also on sale to drink on the way home from my shopping trip. Fruits from all my labor and efforts! (And still better than the jumbo bakery cookies they’ll try to tempt me with at the register.)

2 containers of Purex Laundry Detergent – B1G1 $4.99 ($2.49)

2 boxes of SE grocers plastic spoons – $1.50 x 2
*I earned 40 SE Rewards points for purchasing these. I like for the kids to grab and use these to eat their disposable yogurts or fruit cups with so that we don’t dirty up any extra dishes for those snack times. So, sadly we aren’t a “green” as we could be in this area…. but it’s one of my “mama conveniences”.

2 packages of Quilted Northern Toilet Paper – B1G1 $4.99 ($2.49)

Fresh Grapes – $2.49/lb = $5.90

I’ll let you in on one of my secret little pleasures. It’s so fun, yall! When you start shopping sale cycles at a regular grocery store, you’re going to have to try this one too. They always try to ask me for my reward card first thing, but I never pull it out too quickly. Instead, I leave it in my purse and wallet tucked away until the end. I let them ring up ALL of my items, and I watch that number get really big. Today it was over $200! Seeing that number go up and up and up used to scare me, but now it totally THRILLS me!  (When that number goes up and up at Walmart, it’s a different story. Am I right?) But anyway. Let the cashier finish, and look at the big number. THEN they scan your loyalty rewards card, and all of your sale items register and the price drops way low. It’s super fun to see! And finally, you can hand over your additional coupons, and you can choose to use your rewards points balance for even more savings. It’s just really fun to see how much you are actually saving by shopping grocery sale cycles.

Total – $126.54
Coupons – $16.00
Points Used – $5.26
Final Total – $121.28
Today I earned – 322 points + $3.75 in ibotta Rebates
Today I saved – $102.68

Ibotta App
If you don’t already have or know about the Ibotta app, I’d like to share that with you. This app will give you rebates from purchases from TONS of stores. It doesn’t matter if you buy the item on sale or full price – whether you used a coupon or not. Chances are – you could (and should!) be getting rebates on many of the things you are already purchasing. Shopping online? Shopping in stores? Always check the ibotta app before you shop, and watch those rebates add up – which is money in your pocket later on. You can choose to put it on a giftcard or transfer it to your Paypal account.

If you’d like to sign up for ibotta and earn your savings, here’s my referral link!

This is my Rebate earnings from this particular Winn Dixie shopping trip!

And this is my lifetime earnings. Do you SEE that amount?! This is money that I have been able to transfer to my Paypal account over time! It’s REAL money, and it’s been nice to have a little bonus cash, or what I like to call “Free Money” just from buying things I was already buying anyway.

If you’d like to sign up for ibotta and earn your savings, here’s my referral link! 

In my next posts I’ll be sharing with you the breakdown of my shopping trips to CVS and Sam’s Club!

Whatever you do, Let’s make a Plan to be More Purposeful! 

My Meal Planning and Grocery Sale Preparation Process

When we first got married, I used to love couponing and shopping for good deals. Of course, we also lived in a bigger city and had a multitude of stores to choose from. AND I didn’t have children so it was easy for me to just run in a store pretty much any time I wanted to. When we moved to where we live now, we were at least a 30 minute drive away from the good stores. I tried to make it work for a while, but after a while it just got to be too much. Maybe it was when I had my home daycare and just couldn’t find the time to get there to shop, but at some point I just gave up trying to coupon and embraced Walmart’s “every day low prices”.

Fast forward to now. I am a stay at home mom. We live on one income, and we are expecting our fourth child. A few months ago we had our little family budget meeting, and my husband told me that I had to cut our grocery spending somehow. I wasn’t really sure where to even begin because I was already struggling to make what I thought was a low budget work for us. Even just getting to the store was a challenge for me. But I decided to work on it. I made the decision to say goodbye to Walmart, and begin shopping at actual grocery stores with sale cycles again. I also bought us a Sam’s Club membership and decided I would also tackle drugstores again, but I would only focus on one right now… CVS. So while it’s still not perfect, and it’s taken me a month or two to get back in my groove… I think I’m figuring it out again. I’ve already cut our grocery budget category down by more than half! Before we were budgeting $450/pay period for groceries. Now I budget $200 per pay period for my grocery trips. (Sam’s Club and Drugstores have a separate budget line now, and I’m in the process of deciding exactly how much these amounts should be. I’m in the gathering stages right now, and I’ll track my patterns over the past months to get a good idea.)

And we also now always have food. We don’t run out of things as easily, and I seem to always have a back-up of whatever the item might be… I have a small stash now of extras and things like Ranch Dressing, Ketchup, Dishwasher Tablets, Laundry Detergent, Pancake Mix, Shaving Cream, My favorite Lotion, etc. It’s also been really nice because there are some weeks that I don’t even have to grocery shop! I’m not even kidding! We have plenty of food, and there might not be anything on the sales list that we really need so we just skip it. This was the case one week when we went out of town in June and another week in July when we just wanted to wait and make a larger trip the following week instead.

I’m definitely not an extreme couponer. I only buy what we use and love. I only buy what’s on sale… at least for the most part. And it’s been working really well.

Today, I’ll share my planning and preparing strategies with you.

(My strategies and things I take into account might be a little different because I almost always have my kids in tow. So you can just take those kinds of tips into consideration when you are making YOUR plans.) Then, I’ll come back and share with you my actual shopping trips with you… what I buy, what I spend, and how I make it all work. I hope you enjoy, and I hope you get some inspiration.

Wunderlist App 
We use this app for some of our church lists, and I thought it would be great to have as a “shared grocery list” for Justin and I. It works out so well because both of us can add things to it and see it at any time on our phones. I also especially love those times where he runs to “get a few things” from the store, and I can see where’s he’s checked things off that I added to the list. It really makes my heart go pitter patter inside. 😀

Being real though, this is kind of my “catch-all” list for needed items instead of writing it down in random places or not writing it down at all and forgetting we need something. If I notice we are running low on laundry detergent or I see that we need poster board for a school project, I add it to our Wunderlist. I also made a Household Staples Sub-list and a Grocery Staples Sub-list which I can glance at to make sure we have our basics covered each week. Obviously this Grocery Staples list needs to be updates since our shopping style has changed dramatically in the past few months. (You can imagine how expensive my Walmart grocery bills were from purchasing all that.)

My Planning Process
1. I go to SouthernSavers.com, and make a grocery list based on the weekly sale ads. I’ve been using this website since my couponing days nearly ten years ago, and I love that Jenny pairs all of the applicable coupons with the actual items that are on sale. It makes things really easy! I also make a list for drugstore shopping. Winn Dixie and CVS are my preferred choices right now.

2. Print and clip any applicable coupons.

3. Write out a meal plan based on the sale items and what’s already in our fridge and pantry. I jotted down a quick plan (in messy handwriting) to give you some ideas, but most of what I planned to buy I knew that we would put up in the freezer for later actually. I like to plan the main parts like the shopping and the deals, and then I’m more laid back and “go with the flow” during the week based on how busy our days are and my moods and how I feel, which aren’t always predictable. Can anyone else relate? 😉

4. Check Wunderlist, and add any items we need that aren’t already on the sale lists. Usually, we we run out of things, they go on sale pretty soon after so it works out, but it’s not always the case.

5. Add any other meal components we need for the weekly meal plan to my shopping list.

6. Go back through the lists, and add up the total costs. It won’t be exact, but this way I can know about how much I will be spending before I even put anything in my shopping cart. You can see how I’ve kind of done this on the lists below. Of course, it’s not exact. Sometimes things are unavailable in stores, and sometimes there are extra deals that I stumble upon and decided to get. Also, I starred the items that are priced by pound because there’s no way to determine an exact cost for those ahead of time so I knew these would be added to my totals that I have shown written in pencil.

7. Go back through the lists and eliminate things we “don’t really need” from it if we are over-budget.

8. Print my lists, and organize my coupons. (Obviously, sometimes I change up the order of these steps. I really like to just add things or cross things off and make notes with pen or pencil once I’ve already printed my list.)

    

Getting Ready for Shopping Day
1. Gather my shopping lists, coupons, store loyalty cards, Extra Care Bucks for CVS if I have any from previous weeks, freezer bags for cold items, etc.

2. Grab my cash envelope wallet and system. Make sure I’ve gone to the bank and filled it based on what our budget allows so I’ll have some money to spend. This is really helping me stay on track with our budget.

3. Clean out my car and make room for the groceries. Right now, they mostly have to fit in my front seat because I have car seats on the two back rows, and that takes away all my trunk space. It’s especially difficult on Sam’s trip days, but we just make do with what we have right now. (When December comes, I don’t know what we’ll do with adding another car seat, but I’m praying about that for sure. Maybe I can find someone to keep the kids once a week, hire someone to shop for me, or maybe somehow God will bless us with a bigger vehicle. I’m not too worried. It will all work out.)

4. Prepare for the day with my littles. They are always with me, and I’m learning to embrace this and make it work for us. There was a time when one of my kids could NOT come with me because he had severe anxiety and meltdowns in stores. Now that he’s a little older, we are learning how to manage this a little better and be prepared for it. To prepare for the day, I fix water bottles, prepare sandwiches or grab snacks to have in the car. I make sure I have my Tula carrier for my squirmy toddler. I grab a bag of candy to use for good-behavior rewards. They each get to choose one piece to have after each store if they listened and behaved well. while we were shopping. If I had to stop shopping to discipline them or something, they lose their candy reward. I have only had to do this one time in the past month of shopping so it works like a charm! I’m not above bribery here, but I make it work for me.

5. Plan the order of stops to make based on location and practicality. Sometimes we plan to do something fun like go to Lynn Meadows or the park while we’re out, but we definitely need to do that before we make our big grocery store haul with all of our cold items. Planning ahead is definitely necessary.

Once these steps are completed, it’s time to hit the actual stores! You can see the breakdown of my actual shopping trips in those posts that will be coming soon.

Whatever you do, Let’s make a Plan to be more Purposeful! 

My Sam’s Club Shopping Trip 8/3/18

So, I’ll admit to you that I’m a nerd about some things, and I’m unashamed to say so. One thing about me you should know is that I’m a problem solver, and I want to do things the best way that I possibly can. I’m like an ultra-planner sometimes because I want to simplify a “system or process” as much as I possibly can for myself to make it easier for me down the road. Who knows if this is actually the case or not, but I do enjoy the process so I guess it’s alright. 😉

This post is a part of a series. If you missed any of the earlier posts in this series, you can find them here…
My Meal Planning & Shopping Preparation Process
My Winn Dixie Shopping Trip 8/3/18

My goal with shopping at Sam’s Club is to SAVE MONEY, not to spend more money. I know Sam’s is full of things that look so fun to buy… I saw a sectional on this trip that caught my attention. 😉 But that was an easy one for me to say no to. That’s not always the case. So I want to be really intentional with my planning process and my purchases here.

One thing I think that would make this easier for me is to only shop here once a month. The more often I go, the more often I will see things that will catch my eye and beg for me to buy them. Another thing that I think would make this easier for me is to know WHAT to buy and HOW MUCH of it… so that it will actually last us a full month. This part takes a little trial and error. I’ve been shopping more often than I’d like, but I think *maybe* I’ve finally got it down now! The things I bought in this trip are things that I think will last me at least a month. So you are here as my accountability. I’m not allowed to go back to Sam’s Club until September 5th. ;-D I think I’ll be just fine.

So you can see here that I tried to write down everything we purchased in various transactions and note how long those products lasted us at our house to get a better picture of how often I should buy those items. I have a bit more to do to get this down to a science, but I planned at least this trip out for now, and it works. I was totally guessing on much of this in June and July, and basically starting from scratch with a lot of these items too. Obviously, I won’t have to buy the same condiments every month, and some of these were just the “fun things” like the Chicken Enchilladas or the Pulled Pork.

For the most part, we are using Sam’s Club to buy things in bulk that we use for meal planning and prepping. We like to have simple, healthy meals prepped and divided into containers in the fridge so that we can easily grab them whenever we need to. This saves me from cooking on those busy nights too! We keep the meals really simple, and it’s the same basic components in each one. I try also to meal-plan and cook some other recipes and dinners throughout the week to give us the variety we crave, but these are always available to us, and are pretty much always the same.

Here are my Sam’s Club purchases all loaded into my car in my freezer bags. I have three bags here, and I actually really probably need even more than this – or a big cooler or something. I try to shop Sam’s Club, drugstores, and Winn Dixie all the same trip usually so the freezer bags are a must to keep things from getting too hot in my car.

And here’s what all I bought at this trip displayed for you to see on my kitchen table!

Here’s the breakdown…

I purchased…

3 bags of Frozen Broccoli Florets – $20.04 for all 3

1 bag of Frozen Edamame – $7.98
*My kids love this so I added it to my cart, and it should last us a while, probably longer than a month.

1 bag of Garlic Chicken & Veggie Pasta $8.98
*A gal I follow on Instagram said this was really good, so I decided to try it.

1 box of Mandarin Oranges cups 24 pk. – $7.98
*I love to have these in the fridge available for kids’ snacks or to put with meals. I really like to add in fruit with all of their meals to give them something on their plates that I know they will eat.

1 box of Angus frozen burgers 12 pk. – $14.98
*We love these, and this has been our go-to cheat meal lately. I actually cook them in the microwave too, and they taste JUST AS good as if we had grilled them. Not even kidding! They’re great!

1 box of Digiorno pizzas 3 pk – $12.98
*I got these for nights where I just need a break from cooking or we’re ready for another cheat meal. Having this kind of thing available keeps us from eating out and craving foods that aren’t necessarily in our budget or our diets. 🙂

1 box of Chewy bars 60 ct. – $8.98
*I got these to add to my kids’ snack box for on-to-go snacks, and I’m hoping that since there are 60 in this box that it will last us a really long time! I’ll let you know how that goes.

Powdered Sugar – $4.48
*I needed more powdered sugar for an upcoming recipe, and it’s not one of those things I see go on sale often. I decided it was worth it to buy the big pack of it, and it should last me QUITE some time since I don’t bake that often.

1 large can of Green Beans – $3.37
*They didn’t have the box of 12 canned green beans in store today, so I got this instead. Sometimes we just like a change up of veggies in our meal-prep boxes.

1 package of Butter 5 pk. – $11.98
*We are running low on butter, and since I didn’t place an Azure order this month I figured I better stock up. Butter usually freezes pretty good too.

Mustard 2 pk – $4.99
*Mustard seems to last a really long time in our house, but it was on our list of things needed so I went ahead and grabbed it. These should last us even longer.

3 packs of Boneless Skinless Chicken Thighs – $14. 93, $15.50, and $15.39
*This is our protein of choice for our meal preps so I needed to get enough to last us the full month. I hope I did my calculations correctly.

1 pack of Hormel fully cooked, microwavable bacon – $11.98
*Who doesn’t love bacon…. and bacon without the mess is even better!

Total Spent $175.04

Sam’s Club Scan & Go App 
I wanted to share with you about this app in case you haven’t heard about it. It allows you to personally scan your own items when you are in the store and bypass the lines. Yes, it does take away the opportunity to speak to a cashier and have that personal interaction, but I’m an introvert and I like to get going so it’s good for me. I also REALLY love that I can see how much I’m spending before I actually spend it, which allows me to put things back if I’m going over budget. Win win for me!

If you missed any of the earlier posts in this series, you can find them here.
My Meal Planning & Shopping Preparation Process
My Winn Dixie Shopping Trip 8/3/18

Next up, I’ll share my latest shopping trip to CVS.

Whatever you do, Let’s make a Plan to be more Purposeful!

My CVS Shopping Trip 8/3/18

CVS and drugstores everywhere…. the land of FREE!
Before I even looked at the ad and made my list this week, I knew I had $10 in FREE MONEY, aka “Extra Care Bucks” to spend that I earned in a previous week. Even if I didn’t shop the sale ad at all, I could use this like a gift card to buy almost anything in the store (some exclusions apply of course). That’s reason enough to shop and drugstores and “do the drugstore game”.

This post is a part of a series. If you missed any of the earlier posts in this series, you can find them here…
My Meal Planning & Shopping Preparation Process
My Winn Dixie Shopping Trip 8/3/18
My Sam’s Club Shopping Trip 8/3/18

The goal is to only buy sale items and to let these Extra Care Bucks (or ECBs) roll over to use on your next transaction. Sometimes you can make that next transaction the very same day…. like one right after another. I’ve done as many as 4 in a row before, but usually I try to stick to one or two just because it’s much simpler and requires less thought. (Remember, I usually have my littles with me when I shop and thinking clearly isn’t always at an optimum level) I do always try to be courteous of other shoppers when I do this too. The cashiers usually don’t mind because they are used to couponers coming in and taking advantage of their sales and rewards. But If there’s a line of people behind me, I will simply tell the cashier I have more transactions, and let those people go in front of me. It gives me a few extra minutes to gather my thoughts and my coupons for the next transaction as well. You can just imagine how annoying it would be when you’re in a rush and just ran into grab one thing and then you get behind “the couponer” with multiple transactions. Don’t be THAT couponer. Be courteous of others always. But have fun, and get your good deals too. 😉

It take a little more planning to do these consecutive transactions, but when you become a professional couponer (wink wink) , you can do it too. It’s ESPECIALLY fun the week of Thanksgiving! My sister and I have done this together several years when we are together for the holidays, and it’s always fun to see all the deals we get. Lots of our Christmas stocking stuffers have come from these trips.

 

One of the things about drugstore deal shopping, is that it’s less predictable than grocery store sale shopping. This is because of the magical coupon printer that you see usually close to the entrance of the store. You scan your loyalty card when you enter, and it prints coupons for you based on your previous purchases. Sometimes they are really good and high value, which will make you alter your plans a little. Sometimes it’s just a bonus coupon of something you’ve already planned to buy which is also exciting! And the good news is that these are Store Coupons so they can be combined with any Manufacturer Coupons that you brought with you to shop on the very same products for additional savings!

Here’s my CVS list for the week. I add to my list anything that might be of interest to me for that week. I try to go ahead and plan our what I want to buy and in the best order, but sometimes the coupons that print from that magical coupon printer will change those plans. 

I only planned to purchase the three packs of diapers, but I did check out the other deals while I was in store as well. I couldn’t find any of the Honest Baby products, but I did decide to go ahead and purchase the Oral-B toothbrushes. The pack I chose was $4.99 and with getting $4 ECB back, that’s like getting it for $0.99! (We had some sickness in our household this past week so it was time to switch out the toothbrushes anyway to be safe.) I just decided to add this to my diaper deal transaction because I didn’t want to have to find something else to purchase. I’ll just save my ECBs for next week.

Here are all of the coupons that printed for me from the magical coupon printer at the entrance!

And here’s the one that I knew I could use today… score!

So here’s the breakdown of this shopping trip! It’s a pretty simple one with only one transaction. 

I Started with $10 ECB to spend

I Purchased…

3 packs of Pampers diaper jumbo packs $9.99 each
(Deal: Spend $30 in participating products, get back $10 ECB.)

1 – 2pk. Oral-B toothbrushes – $4.99
(Deal: Buy any Oral-B 2 or 4 pack, get back $4 ECB.)

Total: $37.20
Coupons: $3.00 ($3/15 diaper coupon) Usually, I would have additional manufacturer coupons for diapers and additional savings, but I didn’t this week.
ECB used: $10
New Total: $24.20
Saved Today: $21.40 (49%) *Based on retail prices of items without the deals and sales*
Earned Today: $10 ECB + $4 ECB + another coupon for 25% off a single item
(Some couponers like to think of it this way… It’s like getting it all for $10.20 if you subtract my earned savings!)

There ya go! This week at CVS was pretty simple and easy. Maybe next week will be a little more eventful to share with you. 😉

If you’ve missed any of the posts in this series, you can find them here.
My Meal Planning and Grocery Sale Shopping Preparation Process
My Winn Dixie Shopping Trip 8/3/18
My Sam’s Club Shopping Trip 8/3/18

Whatever you do, Let’s Make a Plan to be more Purposeful! 

How I Organize our Budget

We are in a series where I’m sharing my favorite tips and strategies with you that help me to be more purposeful in my life, with my family, and in our household. Purposeful Planning is less about planners and planning systems and more about finding intentional, practical ways to help you do what you do better. It comes from all of the hats we wear as moms, wives, and Christian women. I’ve realized that I do actually have a lot of systems and routines that have come to work really well for me, and I thought maybe it would be helpful to share those things with you – because who knows? They might work really well for you too! So here we are with My Purposeful Planning Tips & Strategies!

This tip would be in the Financial Category… After struggling with another budgeting system and it not working for me the way I wanted to, I decided to just create my own. I’m so glad that I did.

I’ve found a Budgeting System that is working great for us, so I thought I might share it with you in case it might be helpful to you too!

First, I created a “Bill Pay Checklist”, and I use one of these sheets per pay period.
1. List all of your bills that are due each month, along with their average amounts and due dates. (You’ll need to update this as soon as you find out the exact amount each month.)
2. Divide up this list based on when your bills and payments are due each month.
3. Make up a “Pay Period Budget” for each paycheck your family receives. Decide where the money from each check will go before you even spend it.
4. It may be smart to call companies and ask about changing due dates for your bills to make them work better for you.


Currently, we get paid twice per month so I use two of these each month.

The second page of this system is “The Expense Tracker”. What I love about this page is that it also allows me to note the amount of money left in each budget category – kind of like you would do for cash envelopes, although we don’t personally use cash for our spending at this time. This page will show you –not where your money is supposed to go– but where it actually went. It would even be helpful to highlight the various categories to see how much you are spending in each. I’ve done this from time to time because it really helps us to see any problem areas or where we might need to tighten up a little bit.

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Budget Organization Printables! 

This download includes my Bill Pay Checklist and Expense Tracker. You can use these monthly or for each individual pay check to create a simple budget and keep track of where your money is going and how much you have left in each category as you go!  

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    My Purposeful Planning Tips & Strategies

    The more I think and pray about my Purposeful Planning, the more I am convinced that it’s less about planners and planning systems and more about just being more and more intentional and purposeful and having that growth mindset no matter what it is that you are working on. I’ll always love the planner part of it though, because it gives me a place to keep everything organized, but truthfully –  it’s not always pretty, and it’s full of personal information, so I can’t always share it with the world.

    For me, Purposeful Planning comes in the form of being a wife, mothering, homeschooling, church leadership, helping to run a CrossFit gym, and any other hats that I tend to put on either seasonally or just in life in general. I’ve realized that I actually do have a lot of systems and routines that have come to work really well for me, and usually I realize this most when something occurs and those systems aren’t able to be carried out as effectively as they once were (I’m lookin’ at you, first trimester!).

    But I thought maybe it would be helpful to share those things with you – the things I do that work really well for me – because who knows? They might work really well for you too!

    So here are the types of things you’ll be seeing from me…

    • Mom Tips
    • Homeschooling Helps
    • Spiritual Disciplines
    • Household Management Strategies
    • Health & Fitness Ideas
    • And whatever else comes to mind that I think might be beneficial to you!

      These may not be real lengthy posts, as I’m just going to share one tip or thing at a time, and I’ll just post them as often as I can. They may be somewhat random, but I’ll try to tag and categorize them appropriately so that you’ll be able to find them easily in my archives. I might do a big recap post at the end of this series to compile them all together somehow. We’ll see!

      And I would absolutely LOVE to hear from you! What do you want to know? Is there anything that interests you or an area where you’re struggling? Maybe I can help you find that solution you’re looking for! That would be such a joy and an honor for me! Let me know!

      And whatever you do – let’s make a plan to be more purposeful! 

    Patience, Please

    “When our eyes are open to detect God’s fingerprints of providence, when our hearts are reminded of His never-ending care for us, our internal posture becomes reframed and our conversations with Him are transformed. Instead of offering a string of requests born out of disappointments and frustrations, we pause in His presence and – we see Him. Prayer becomes less about what we want and more about who He is.” (Priscilla Shirer in Discerning the Voice of God study)

    I can see God’s fingerprints in our current situation… I’m actively looking for them, and I’ve already seen a few…
    -Cabinets given
    -Oven and Stove given
    -Microwave given
    -The opportunity for me to design, organize, and decorate this home we will be moving into. Those are some of my favorite things, things I’ve never really had the opportunity to do to the full extent because of lack of those budget categories each month. Now, I get to do them! This weekend, we even went to pick out some things. I got to pick out some base cabinets and pantry cabinets. We looked at storage and accessories, kitchen islands, furniture… We even looked at things like barn doors to eventually close off the bedroom area under the kids’ loft. It was so much fun, and we went ahead and purchased two of the cabinets to install. We’re doing a little at a time, and it’s exciting! I’m seeing my design and vision for this place come together!

    John Powell writes, “The Lord widens my vision, helps me see what is really important in life, and to distinguish the really important from the unimportant… He comes to me, in the listening, receptive moments of prayer, and He transfuses power into me.”

    I’m widening my vision to see where God is already working. I’m actively looking for his hand at work and seeing all those fingerprints He’s leaving. And because of that, my whole posture in prayer has changed.

    Habakkuk writes in chapter 2:1, “I will stand at my watchpost and station myself on the tower, and look to see what He will say to me, and I will answer concerning my complaint.” He wrote of a military watchman who would elevate himself on a tower placed strategically and intentionally so that his eyes could be peeled on the horizon without his attention being diverted to any movements on the ground, which could easily cause anxiety. His vantage point was broad, his perspective unique. (From Priscilla Shirer’s Discerning the Voice of God Study)

    I love this illustration. When we elevate ourselves to be able to see where God is at work, it is so much easier to trust Him. We have the patience we need to stand and press on. We know that God’s timing is everything, and His word is worth waiting for. I’m one of those who once a decision is made, I want to go ahead and act. Get the plans made, and start checking boxes off the list! Planner girl here 😉 But sometimes my plans are not God’s own. Sometimes things may seem like they aren’t working out or are taking longer than I expected, but I’m learning to see that His timing is much better.

    I have a speculation right now that our house will not sell super quickly, and I am okay with that. Even though that means that our financial freedom may be a little farther off, we are making it now, and God always provides. I think I can see His purpose in this (to allow time for us to finish the place we are moving into – the kitchen, and build the loft for the kids). I could be wrong, but that’s what I “think” He is up to. We’ll watch and see. I’m just trying to be patient as I watch and see what He’s doing – where He’s working, and see if those little glimpses are accurate or if He’s got something else up His sleeve. I think His plan is much bigger than mine. He is a God of detail. Just look at the specifications He gave for building Noah’s ark or the Tabernacle. He has a specific plan and process in place. I love that He made me in his image, and I love to design and create with Him. I like to think that as I’m drawing out sketches, we are working together. He’s already got the big vision, and He gives me the little details to sketch. And then sometimes I see that measurements won’t work out, so I have to erase and redraw something. It’s such a fun process for me, and I like to think that He is right in the middle of it, giving me these ideas!

    The value we place on an object or person dictates the amount of time and the vigilant posture we’re willing to take when waiting on them. If we value God’s voice as Habakkuk did, we should be willing to wait for it – patiently – trusting in His sovereign timing, standing firm until we’ve received it. God gave Habakkuk  a stern lesson, encouraging him to relax in God’s sovereignty. 
    1. The time was appointed.
    2. Wait for it.
    3. It will certainly come.
    4. It will not delay. 
    We can claim these truths God gave to Habakkuk for ourselves. Rest and trust. Cease striving and know that He is God. (Psalm 46:10). Be free from the burden of trying to make things happen, and trust that your God loves you and will fulfill His word for your life.

    Abide, not Strive.
    He loves us; We can trust Him.

    Are You Financially Frustrated?

    Financial frustration could be defined as low income, lack of savings, or debt. It could be student loans and credit card debt, or maybe you’ve had hardships in other parts of life and your spending is out of control. I feel that more and more Americans are financially frustrated… more than would ever admit to it. We’re all striving for the American Dream, right? 😉  It could be from falling on difficult times, from choices made, or a combination of the two. Being financially frustrated is emotionally draining. It could even start as simple as having low income and you end up spending out of control because you don’t know WHAT to do or HOW to fix the situation. We’ve definitely been guilty of that one from time to time.

    We are financially frustrated, although I don’t like admitting it either. Multiple items in that first paragraph affect us. In Erin Odom’s book, More Than Just Making It, which is the inspiration for this blog series, she writes, “Sharing our financial details started us on a journey of financial freedom.”

    If you are financially frustrated… how long can you handle the emotional stress of living this way? For us… We’re at the end. We’re emotionally tired, and we are ready to make changes – despite how uncool or radical they may be. We are ready to go from financial stress to financial success.

    “Regardless of your financial situation, there IS hope.” Join us on our journey to financial freedom… where we are learning how to be More than Just Making It.

    What We are Personally Doing Now to Gain Financial Freedom:

    • We are reigning in our spending. Our budget is set. It is strict, and we are holding each other accountable in our spending as we stick to it each month.
    • We are selling our house. We have family that is generously giving us a place to live when our house sells so that we can save money.
    • While we would love to follow the rule of “live off of only one income”, we only have one income so the next step would be to live off of half of that income. Can we do it?! We’re going to try! When our house sells, this will eliminate our mortgage and the cost of utilities – which most likely makes up about half of our income.
    • Pay off our student loans. Between the two of us, we have about $28,000 in Student Loan Debt. That number makes me cringe, but when our house sells, it will be our only debt. We plan to chip away at it month after month until it’s gone.
    • Our intentions are to live off of half our income, put a quarter of it towards student loans, and a quarter of it towards savings for a future down payment.
    • We actually have an even bigger goal to pay cash for our next house… whether that means building one and doing it a little at a time or a tiny house, or just whatever we can do. I don’t know if this will be possible, but it sure would be nice!

      From Financial Frustration to Financial Freedom
      More Than Just Making It