Falling Prey to Debt

The following is a guest post from Mandy of Pennies and Blessings.

pig-calculator

Falling Prey to Debt

When my soldier husband returned home from Iraq the last time, it was right about the time our economy came to a screeching halt. As is normal for a soldier returning to civilian life after time at war, he received additional pay from the military for a short time while he looked for employment locally. However, the Army paychecks ran out, there was still no job, and my part-time income certainly was not enough to keep us afloat financially.

As a family of five, we had a brand new car and home – with absolutely no significant income, despite our best efforts. Although we knew the financial principles taught by Dave Ramsey and others, at this particular point for us it seemed there was no other option but to rely on credit cards to survive. We used our credit cards to pay the utility bills, to buy our necessities, to keep insurance on our property, vehicles, and even our children. Out of sheer desperation, we eventually turned to food stamps to purchase our groceries each week.

Meant to be a short-term solution, we planned to pay the cards off as soon as Hubby found work again. That’s what we told ourselves at three months… again at six months… and again at a year into these circumstances. When Hubby did find work, the salary, even with unbelievable hours of overtime, would only pay our house payment and van payment each month, which meant we were still using credit cards for our basic expenses.

After being virtually debt-free, we were now swimming, DROWNING, in it! Between the credit cards and personal loans, we were buried in $20,000 of debt – nearly overnight. We were so close to living the life God intended – “owing no man” – and are far from that now.

During that time of unemployment and incredible struggles, I was introduced to the world of blogging, and many money-saving and couponing sites. Quickly I learned how to work the coupon match-ups and store rebates, stockpile for months in advance, and have with very little out-of-pocket cost. This cut our monthly expenses by over 40%.

Freezer cooking has been an amazing discovery as well! Keeping meals stockpiled in our freezer has cut out the temptation to just run out and “grab something quick.” Menu planning now limits my need to run to the store multiple times a week. In fact, I don’t even grocery shop more than 2-3 times a month now, except to buy necessities such as milk, bread, and eggs.

By drastically reducing our expenses this way, it allowed us to focus more of our budget on our debt. Since hubby took an active duty position last September, we have thankfully been able to pay off six credit cards and one personal loan, totaling approximately $10,000. $10,000!! Aside from our house and our cars, we are now at the halfway mark for climbing up out of this pit!

There are others out there just like us. Other families have fallen prey to debt even after the greatest laid plans. As discouraging as it can be, know there are ways out of that pit! Make a new plan. Reach out for help from others who have been there. Work toward new goals. And don’t give up hope!

mandy

Mandy is married to her hero and best friend after a miraculous reconciliation, and is learning to embrace the life of an Army wife and mother of three.  She holds a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Counseling and has worked in a variety of fields – all of which contribute greatly to her writing at Pennies and Blessings and Brokenness into Beauty.

  • Share This:
  • Share on Facebook
  • Email this Post
  • Share on Twitter

Running: Frugal and Effective Exercise for Budget Savvy Moms

The following is a guest post from Molly Ruby of the new (and fabulous) blog Go Running Mom. Molly and I are former colleagues and real life friends.  I asked her to write on the topic of frugal exercise and I am honored to share her voice with you all.

When my kids started their spring activities this year, not only did we shell out the big bucks for team registration and classes, but then came the additional money for equipment: baseball spikes, jerseys, helmets, and dance leotards, tap and ballet shoes. Which of course is typical, but last year, my son grew out of one pair of spikes before the season was even over!

shoes-springThankfully there is an effective, frugal form of exercise that women and moms can enjoy where all the equipment (other than a good pair of shoes) is self-contained and readily available…Running!

I have been a runner for many years now, but I really started running regularly again just this past year. In doing so, I realized that of all the activities a mom can do to get some exercise, running is one of the very best because you simply need to lace up your shoes and head out your front door to enjoy all the physical and mental benefits that running has to offer.

Let’s discuss those benefits…

Physical benefits: Sustained cardiovascular activity which is good for your heart, lungs, muscles, digestive system, and extremely effective for burning calories!

Mental benefits: Adrenaline and endorphins are exerted and produced when you run, helping you to feel a rush of energy followed by a calm, relaxed state. That release of adrenaline and production of endorphins is why when you talk to a runner, they will tell you that running just makes them feel happy. Personally it also helps me to be more calm and patient with my family throughout the day.

Those are merely just a few of the benefits that running has to offer, but what will it cost you? The fact that you can run almost anywhere keeps the cost down so low that if you already own a pair of comfortable, supportive shoes, your only initial investment is your time.

If you simply invest 30-45 minutes, you should be able to run 3-4 miles AND reap all of the benefits above. Even if you start out walking, you will soon notice an increase in your endurance and can then add a few minutes of running. Moms can even invest this time wisely by pushing your little one in a jogging stroller – you can burn up to 10% more calories, soak up the sunshine and Vitamin D for you and your child!

running-shoes

If you are new to running, there are numerous resources available to help you get started and to educate and train you along the way. Here are a few of my favorite FREE running resources:

::Runner’s World Magazine – When I first started running I checked out back issues at my local library. Runner’s World online offers a wide array of resources from Nutrition: Meal Plans, Recipes, Calorie Counter to a Shoe Finder and Training Logs.

::Run Injury Free with Jeff Galloway – Jeff Galloway is a former US Olympian, founder of the Galloway Marathon Training Program, Coach and Author – Jeff’s site is filled with valuable information on how to Run Injury Free until you are 100!

::Famous Footwear – okay, so the shoes are not free, and YES, they bear the budget-breaking price of $100 or more in specialty running stores, BUT here is my frugal shoe shopping tool: Famous Footwear Gold Rewards – the rewards club is free to sign up for and there are several top brands and styles of running shoes to choose from.

The best part is that Famous Footwear often runs a Buy 1 Get 1 Half off sale and you can use Gold Member reward certificates ($5 or $10 off) in addition to store issued $ or % off coupons. If you cannot find your size in the store, they will even ship it to your home for FREE!

Hopefully these resources as well as the physical and mental health benefits I have shared will encourage you to take your first steps as a frugal and FIT mom and will motivate you to Go Running Mom!

Molly Ruby is a running mom of three and wife to an incredible husband who encourages her to go the extra mile in life! Go Running Mom is a forum to share her passion for running with moms and women who want to take charge of their own health and their family’s fitness. She hopes to inspire, motivate and challenge moms to Get Up, Get Moving, and Go Running! Be sure to “like” Go Running Mom on Facebook if you enjoyed this post.

For more frugal ways, visit Life As Mom. Running is definitely a Finer Thing!

  • Share This:
  • Share on Facebook
  • Email this Post
  • Share on Twitter

Tips for Container Gardening

The following is the fourth in a series of guest posts about gardening from Rene at Budget Saving Mom.

Gardening has always been important to our family. However, at one point, we had little to no land and our only option for gardening was container gardening. During this time, I was able to be very creative and figure out how to grow our garden indoors and on the back porch.

Container gardening is a great way to garden for those of you that don’t have room for any other type of garden.

310(2)Container gardening is exactly what it sounds like, you garden in containers.

I have usually been able to get free containers from neighbors and family who had bought plants, and were going to throw their containers away.

For larger plants, such as tomatoes, you will want a bigger container, such as a tree container. Your larger containers will need to be at least 12 inches deep.

Tips for effectively growing container plants:

  • One important aspect of container gardening is having light-colored containers.
    You might want to consider painting your containers, or wrapping them in paper that is a lighter color.
    You do not want your soil and plants getting too hot, as many containers are dark and will absorb heat.
  • When you are planting in containers, you will need to ensure that your plants have enough water.
    Watering each morning allows the water to evaporate during the day, and the plant’s roots to absorb the water. You want the soil to feel moist when you stick your finger into the soil in the afternoon.
  • You have to use fertilizer in container gardens. Container gardens must be watered frequently, and as they are watered, the nutrients are washed out of the soil. I typically will add a small amount of fertilizer every 7th time that I water to ensure that my plants have the nutrients they need to thrive.
  • Your container plant needs plenty of sunlight. You can place containers on a sunny deck, outside of a window or anywhere in your yard that gets sunlight.
    If you are unable to have plants outdoors, you can place your plants inside in front of a sunny window.

For a couple of years, this was really the only area that I had for a garden. My mother-in-law bought me a metal rack with four shelves that was covered in plastic.

I grew all of our herbs and salad fixings on those racks in our kitchen nook, except tomatoes, which I grew outside.

I just alternated the plants each day so that they all had a chance to be on the top rack. I also kept a thermometer on the shelves. In the afternoons if it got too hot, I would unzip the plastic.

It was actually a lot of fun to watch my plants grow indoors, and definitely convenient when I was cooking! I didn’t even have to step outside to get our food for supper.

How would you begin to implement container gardening?

This post is linked to: WFMW

  • Share This:
  • Share on Facebook
  • Email this Post
  • Share on Twitter

Starting a Raised-Bed Garden

The following is the third in a series of guest posts about gardening from Rene at Budget Saving Mom.

Gardening is such a great way to save money AND still feed your family healthy, organic fresh fruits and vegetables.

Of the four main types of gardening, my favorite is the raised bed gardening. This is how I began gardening.

Although we live on a couple of acres, it is all wooded other than a small area.

Raised bed gardening allows me to grow much more produce per square foot than I could in a traditional tilled garden. You are able to plant in a grid which increases the number of plants per square foot.
119Raised bed gardens are a great way for new gardeners to begin gardening. You can bring in your own soil to begin your garden. This allows you to skip years of building up your soil.

People till traditional gardens to loosen the soil. But in a raised bed, you add the soil, so your soil is already loose and full of air.

One of the main reasons that people give me for not having a garden is lack of time. Raised bed gardening is also a huge time saver. Since these beds are raised above the ground, there are few to no weeds in most gardens.

Basically, you are able to plant your seeds, water for a few minutes on days that you don’t get rain, and enjoy the produce that your garden produces.

When I worked full time, this was the only type of garden that I had. I was able to spend about 5 minutes a day on my garden, and still have enough fruits and vegetables for my family to eat at least two meals a day centered around the fresh, organic produce.
kathy's garden boxesAnother question I have been asked is, “So how can you build raised beds, and still save money? Aren’t they really expensive?

When I first began raised bed gardening, I was skeptical about how well it would work.

My first raised beds were actually made from reused, old furniture that was falling apart. I made a bed from my husband’s used college bookshelf. The back had fallen off, so I just added nails to the shelf to make it more secure, knocked out the shelves, and had a raised bed.

I also made a bed from a thirty-year-old bed-and-trundle, by knocking out the bottom of the trundle and using the wooden bed frame to make a raised bed.

We recently had our old retaining wall collapse, and there were lots of good railroad ties that I plan to use to make additional raised beds next year.

I also have built raised beds. These are actually my favorite raised beds because they are the perfect size. I can reach all areas of the garden easily, since they are 4×4.

These are really simple to build, and do not cost very much. I was even able to build a couple of these when I was pregnant!

When building raised beds, make sure that the wood that you use is not treated wood. You do not want those chemicals leaking into your food! I have had my most recent raised beds made of untreated wood for years, so do not worry about them lasting.

If you are interested in building your own raised beds, you can check out these videos where I show you step by step how to build raised bed gardens.

Have you considered raised-bed gardening?

This post is linked to: WFMW

  • Share This:
  • Share on Facebook
  • Email this Post
  • Share on Twitter