Category: Living Frugally

How We Make Small Spaces Work With Toddlers

img_8335You may remember that our home is currently split into two separate apartments. We currently occupy the first floor and the basement; while someday we hope to make it back into one house and utilize all of the space for our family, for now we make it work and I think we do it fairly well.

It takes creativity to have four people live in approximately 700 sq. ft. (plus the basement), and it takes some time to figure out the best way to arrange things. We’ve been here 2.5 years and I’m still always thinking of new/better furniture arrangements. 🙂 Everything must be multi-functional in order to live comfortably.

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One of the things we (by we, I mean my dad) did to make the living room (which had been split in half with a wall and a door to create a bedroom) more functional was to put in french doors. In the future, it can just be part of the living room/an office and not a bedroom, but it is currently the boys’ bedroom.

Until last weekend, the living room was also their playroom (which is fine, as we do not believe children should be confined to a separate space – this is their home, too, plus, how?).

We wanted to make better use of our available space so we took down the huge crib (where Caleb had been sleeping) and added another Pack-n-Play (with a good mattress, like Isaiah has been using).

This allowed us to move their play area into their room and make it an even better living situation for us all!

We also have a reading station and a music station in the living room, as well as other bigger toys (currently these tunnels) for them to enjoy.

They carry their toys from room to room and it’s never this clean (I quickly tidied up to be able to take a decent picture!), but that’s okay. We wanted them to feel free to have fun and to play wherever they want, safely. Toddler life is not a tidy life, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

While it isn’t always easy to live in a small space, it is possible, and it is worth it. It’s saving us money, helping us become debt-free, and it’s forcing us to be thoughtful about using every inch wisely. And there’s less space to clean 😉

Trends (Others Telling You What to Do)

I have never been a fan of trends. In high school I even stopped wearing orange – which I loved – because it became trendy. I didn’t want to do something just because everyone else was doing it.

Ultimately, I’m a rebel at heart who doesn’t like being told what to do, say, or think. As a “good Christian girl” I never rebelled in the traditional sense, but I’ve found little ways to rebel whenever possible to satisfy that need. 😉

So, when I got this email yesterday I rolled my eyes:

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The haircut trends You NEED to know for summer. Yes, because you NEED to know what celebrities think about hair and what you should do with yours.

Why? Why do so many in our culture let someone else dictate what they should do with their hair? What they should wear? Why do you want to be like everyone else? 

I know this sounds like a rant, but it isn’t. I promise. I’m just thinking out loud and encouraging you to join in to discuss in the comments!

I simply do not understand why people follow trends set by the fashion industry/celebrities/strangers. In reality, you’re allowing someone else to control you, and your wallet. And all for what? To feel good about yourself? To feel like you “fit in” (even though, honestly, people aren’t thinking that much about what you’re wearing)?

You wouldn’t worry so much about what others think of you if you realized how seldom they do.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

By telling you what you “should” be wearing and doing, the fashion industry is encouraging you to constantly give them your money. They make you think that you always need something new because your current wardrobe is outdated, everyone is judging your lack of trendiness, and therefore your perfectly good clothes are not worth wearing. And that’s why they make millions.

I wear clothes that are totally not trendy, but I don’t care. They are comfortable and in good condition. I buy new things occasionally, but I choose to spend our hard-earned money in other ways. Essentially, I refuse to be told what to do and what to buy, especially by people I don’t even know.


Are you a trend-follower? I’d genuinely love to dialogue about this in order to try to understand your perspective! Let’s discuss!

How We Cut Our Cellular Costs in HALF

Like many people, Brennan and I have recently been trying to figure out where we could cut costs in our budget. There weren’t many obvious possibilities, but we saw a commercial that brought us hope.

We have Comcast internet at home, so when we saw a commercial for Xfinity Mobile we were intrigued. It sounded too good to be true, but it has turned out to be everything it promises.

  • You only pay for the data you use – $12 per GB, or unlimited for $45. This gives you complete control over your bill!
  • You can switch back and forth between unlimited and pay by the gig, even mid month! This means you’re always getting the best deal.
  • Xfinity uses Verizon’s network so we have the same cellular coverage that we did with AT&T.
  • You are automatically connected to Xfinity WiFi hotspots whenever they exist, which is frequent! This means you use less data.

Our first bill with Xfinity will be HALF of what we were paying with AT&T. That’s a savings of $100!

The added benefit has been increased quality time: we’ve been trying to not use our phones at all when WiFi doesn’t exist, so we’ve had more quality time together while we’re away from home.

It’s so easy (especially as an introvert) to just pick up your phone and browse the internet instead of engaging with people; but, because we decided that we will try to use as little data as possible each month and made it a game, it’s also increasing our quality time with others.

It was hard to leave AT&T after fifteen years as a satisfied customer, but so far Xfinity is proving to be a much better way to do mobile and it’s saving us a significant amount of money each month.

This isn’t a paid endorsement, but I’d encourage you to look into services like this if you’re interested! It’s worth the switch.

Taking Care of Baby for Free

Note: just because we have made these choices doesn’t mean that we are judging those who don’t! All parents have to make the decisions that work best for their family.

The number one thing I have heard about raising kids is how expensive it is. Between diapers, formula, wipes, etc. it can really add up during the first few years of life. On average, parents who choose (or need to use) formula will spend thousands of dollars just to feed their baby. Diapers on average will cost $3,000 per child from birth to potty training. I don’t have links to prove this, but I have heard these stats enough to believe them.

When we found out that we were pregnant, we knew that I would stay at home with the baby (and all future children), which would mean a slight loss of income. So, being the frugal person that I am, I began to research ways that we could save money and still make life great for our children so that our budget would not be greatly impacted.

By cloth diapering, using cloth wipes, and breastfeeding, we spend very little, if any, money on our baby each month.

IMG_3535.JPGIf you had asked me a few years ago if I would ever cloth diaper, I would have said no! It sounded awful and like so much work. However, I have several friends who have cloth diapered and they blogged about their experiences. As I read their blogs, I realized that this was absolutely what we needed – and wanted – to do.

We spent less than $300 up front for our cloth diapers. We have 21 diapers and at least 20 extra liners. Since they need to be washed every 2-3 days anyway, it’s the perfect amount of diapers for one child.

Because Tori is exclusively breastfed (which is also free), washing the diapers is simple: you put them right into the washer. The poop of breastfed babies is water soluble (and doesn’t stink!), so you just do a cold rinse cycle and then add your detergent and wash on hot. So while we have increased our water bill by about $4 per month, we are saving so much more than that!

In addition, Brennan’s step-mom and her daughter-in-law made us cloth wipes for our baby shower. Again, never thought I would use cloth wipes! They are so wonderful and so good for baby’s skin, though! No chemicals, no waste, and you wash them with the diapers. Even our pediatrician said to not use disposable wipes because of the chemicals.

Tori rarely has any diaper rash and she seems to prefer cloth to disposables based upon her demeanor during diaper changes. We do use disposables at times and have them on hand for babysitters who may be uncomfortable with cloth.IMG_3532.JPG

The best part about using cloth is that these will last until she is 35 lbs, and we can use them for all of our children! That means a savings of $11,700 if we have the four kids we would like to have! Granted, if the next baby is born before Tori is potty trained we may need to buy a few more, but we are still saving thousands of dollars.

Kids don’t have to be expensive. It’s all about what your priorities are, I think. You can choose to use disposables, which are easy and convenient, but expensive, or you can choose cloth, which require a little bit more effort and time but save thousands of dollars. We have chosen to save money while also keeping our daughter’s skin away from chemicals, and it is working well for us.

What steps have you taken to save money while raising children?

 

 

Day Twenty-Five: I’m Thankful For…Dave Ramsey.

Preface: Last year I decided to express my thanks during the month of November for something new each day, as so many others have done before me. I never finished this series, so that’s my goal this year. I am re-posting the ones I wrote last year and adding new ones. This one is new. :)

In January 2009, my church offered a class called “Financial Peace University” by Dave Ramsey. I had never heard of Dave, but I was in desperate need of financial peace. I had a lot of debt (both credit cards and student loans), I didn’t budget, and I was always uneasy when it came to money matters.

I can truly say that this class changed my life. 

Throughout the thirteen weeks of this class, we learned about the importance of having an emergency fund of at least $1,000, how to budget, how to prioritize our debts to pay them off in what Dave calls a “Debt Snowball” (smallest to largest debts), what types of insurance we should have, how to save for retirement wisely, and many other practical tips.

We learned that it’s important to “Live like no one else (meaning to make sacrifices now) so that later you can live like no one else (debt free and able to do whatever you want!).” This simple phrase makes it easier to sacrifice things that we may want right now for the long-term goal of being debt-free.

My favorite lesson was the last one, the one that focused on giving. Dave emphasized that the greatest thing about being debt-free is the ability to “give like no one else” because you don’t owe anyone anything. 

Since going through FPU, our financial outlook has changed completely:

  • We LOVE budgeting and the peace that it brings. Seriously. We tell our money where to go – we don’t wonder where it went.
  • We have NO credit card debt (paid off our last one in August 2012) AND no credit cards!
  • We were able to buy a house last year.
  • We are hoping to be completely debt-free in a couple of years (if we sell our house, we can pay off our student loans with the profit).
  • We give so much more than we did before, and it is such a blessing to be able to do so.

If you haven’t taken the opportunity to take one of Dave’s classes or read his books, please do so TODAY. He’s having a huge sale from now until Christmas (I believe) and most of his books are drastically discounted. It will be the best investment in your financial future that you have ever made!