Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Local Things to do that are Almost as fun as Travelling

If I could, I'd be travelling every chance I got.  The truth of the matter is, we travel way less then we want to.  Compared to other travel bloggers around the web, we've been nowhere! We haven't even been overseas! We've only been to various parts of Canada and the United States.  Basically, anywhere we can drive.   And I hope to change that, but in the meantime I am exploring areas in my country that I haven't seen any chance I get.  

But what about those times that travelling just isn't in the budget? Or you can't get the time off of work?  Well,if you are like me, you may feel sort of blue if you have to stick TOO close to home.  But there are things you can do to make sure you are having at least CLOSE to as much fun as you would have if you were travelling.

1.  Hit up local festivals.  Especially ones focused on various cultures.  Every Summer there is an ethnic food festival in my area.  I look forward to it all year.  It gives me the chance to taste foods from other countries right in my own hometown!  And of course, it's the one time of year I allow myself to buy a ridiculously expensive freshly squeezed cup of lemonade - by a guy in a giant lemon, no less. :)  

2.  Hit up as many food trucks as you can.  Speaking of food, the food trucks that are available these days are absolutely amazing!  I discovered our area has quite a variety of trucks selling everything from tacos, to perogies, to deep fried pickles.  I definitely plan to sample a few I've never been to this year.  I may like to stuff my face more than the average person though....

3.  Find some local wineries or breweries.  We live in an area that is popular for their wineries.  Although i haven't been on a wine tour due to having small kids with me most of the time, it would be a pretty nice way to spend a day with my husband.

4.  Go camping someplace new.  There are so many provincial parks (or state parks if you are in the US) with unreal beauty and adventure waiting for you.  Go camping at one of the parks you've never been.

5.  Go to all the local Farmers Markets.  I love to walk along all the booths at Farmers Markets with their brightly coloured fruits and vegetables, flowers, and artisan creations. Drive a little farther than your usual market destination and discover a new market you've never been to!

6.  Throw your own party, theme and all.  Invite all your friends over for a BBQ.  Want to feel like you are travelling?  Pick a country for your theme. Have a Luau or a Fiesta or celebrate Chinese New Year.

7.  Make a meal from another country.  I know, there I go talking about food again.  Search on Pinterest for some recipes of some dishes from other countries around the world and try creating it at home.  

8.  Relax in a little coffee shop.  One that you have never been to. Bring a good book, and order one of those lattes that have the pretty foam pictures drawn into them.  And of course, don't forget to take a selfie.  I have no shame in taking selfies. With food.  I will take selfies with food for as long as I walk on this earth.  

If you can't go on a big trip this year, how will you fill the gap?  It's easy for me to feel sad about it when that happens, but instead of wasting my time being sad I would rather fill my time with fun things to do!

Monday, May 9, 2016

5 Ways we are Saving Money to Travel

Travelling, for us, is a priority. But we live on one low income which means we need to be creative in how we make travel happen. In my last post, HERE, I shared that we are going to Colorado this September. Some of our ways to keep travel expenses down will be camping at cheap and free sites, making our own meals, and driving instead of flying there. Regardless of how cheap the trip itself will be if we cut corners, the truth of the matter is that we still need a good chunk of money to travel. 

Here are some ways we are making it work.

 1. We put at LEAST 20 dollars away from every weekly paycheque. 20 dollars doesn't seem like much, but after months of doing that you will easily have a few hundred or more dollars building up. If we have extra money from a paycheque, we put in more than 20, and there has been the odd week we can only put in 10, but SOMETHING alway goes into the fund.

 2.Christmas money. Every year we get some money from relatives for Christmas. Sure, initially we wanted to spend it on things such as clothes or items for our house, but we reminded ourself what we wanted more.

 3. Points Cards. We are big fans of the PC Plus points program. Most people use these points for free groceries, but do you know you can use them to purchase a gift card from No Frills (or Loblaws, or Independent Grocers) such as a prepaid Visa? We save our points, buy a gift card, and use it for gas on our trip.

 4. Surveys. Okay, so this is not my favorite way to earn money, that's for sure. But it's something I can do at home in the middle of homeschooling my kids or tending to the needs of my family. It's not a lot of extra cash, but it's something that will make a difference on our trip.

  5. We don't eat out much. Nor do we go through drive thrus for coffee and donuts very often. Since Christmas our family has gone out to eat once, and my husband and I have gone out to eat a couple of times separately with friends. We even stopped ordering pizza for our family, and instead make our own homemade pizza. We are big foodies and LOVE to eat out, but we know we will love an adventure on the road even more!

 Saving for a trip you really want, especially when living on a lower income will take sacrifice and time. But in the end, if you really want it, you can make it happen! It may take longer than someone with more disposable income, but it's not impossible. After our trip to Colorado, we are saving for a family trip overseas. We are estimating this will take us 5 years to save for. 5 YEARS! For this impatient woman, it's going to be tough, but I want this trip and have decided I will be fighting to make it happen.

 Where would you go on a trip if you had the money? Are you saving to go somewhere?

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Colorado Bound

This coming September we have decided it was time for another big trip.  After doing copious amounts of research, we settled on Colorado.  It has been 4 Summers ago I first saw the mountains, and I really didn't get much time to "play" around them.  I have been desperate to go back.  But this time instead of the Canadian Mountains we are headed to Colorado!

Because we live on a limited income, we will once again be driving.  Our farthest destination in Colorado, Silverton, will take us 30 hours to get there.  But the journey is always half the fun for us.

Starting in Silverton will allow us to trek along the Million Dollar Highway.  One blog I read described it as being a "sneeze away from driving off the edge."  But the views are apparently magnificient, and I am still upset that we never drove along the Icefield Parkway when we drove through Banff, Alberta.  So I refuse to miss this opportunity!

Million Dollar Highway
The drive on the Million Dollar Highway will take us to the Ouray and Ridgeway area, where we hope to take a hike out the the Lower Blue Lake.  However, this hike is 10 km round trip, so I am not sure if  am pushing my luck in thinking my kids will be able to do this.  My two older could do 7 km for sure, but I am wondering if those last 3 kms will be possible.  As for my youngest, who is 4, he hates walking on the best of days.  So all this to say this hike is still up in the air.  But the lower lake is a gorgeous turquoise colour thanks to being fed by glaciers.  So I imagine it really is a sight to be seen.

From there we will drive towards Canon City.  On our way we will stop and camp where we see fit.  There has been a great website, called Free Campsites, that shows many free or super cheap ($12 or less) campsites along the way.  Many of these have no amenities, but many still have outhouses (but don't forget to bring your own toilet paper!).  We are going to attempt to camp at some of these free sites.  We will see how it works out.

Royal Gorge

In Canon City we will be exploring the Royal Gorge.  From there, we will head over to Manitou Springs to see the Manitou Dwellings.
Manitou Dwellings

 And then on to Colorado Springs where we hope to explore many areas, The Garden of the Gods, and Seven Falls.  One of the locations we are excited about as a family is the Family Center at Focus on the Family.  We listen to their radio program and they have an area for kids at their centre that includes Wit's End from Adventures in Odyssey, along with some other fun things.

Seven Falls

As you can see, even though it is months away, we are already excitedly planning away.  Am I missing anything you think we shouldn't miss in Colorado?  Stay tuned to find out how we are saving for our trip, and how we are hoping to cut costs to make a trip like this possible for a one-income family of 5!

Monday, February 29, 2016

When your Child is Sick but no one will Listen....

My third child, the baby of the family, was 8 months old when I started to notice something was wrong.  He was showing signs of wanting to walk, not uncommon for my babies.  The other two started walking at the same time.

But then he didn't start walking.  And stopped trying.

He cried, and held his ears, and needed to be held all the time. When he started to pull himself up to standing position he couldn't stand long.  Thus began countless trips to emerg in the middle of the night.  Through snow storms, good weather, and rain.  I started losing count of how many trips we made.

Each time we went they would diagnose him with an ear infection.  Each time we left with a new prescription.

I also started to lose count of how many prescriptions he had been on in a very short time.

They decided he needed tubes in his ears.  They did the surgery.  He didn't get better.  Actually, he got worse.
My little guy right before he had his ear tubes put in.

I started having doctors and nurses tell me that maybe he was crying because he was teething.  I wanted to fire back at them that I had three children and was NOT an idiot. The doctors kept telling me that some babies didn't walk till as old as 18 months.  At 15 months I tried to explain to them that he was ready to walk months ago - but something had stopped him from being able to.  No one listened to me.

Finally, I asked for blood tests to be done.  Something was wrong, but I didn't know what.  I just knew it was more than ears and teeth and normal baby stuff.  They didn't want to do the tests on such a small child.  I pushed anyways.

It took three people to hold my precious baby down to draw blood.  I had to leave my husband in charge of it as I left the room and went down the hall and prayed and cried while I heard him scream.  It took them about 20 minutes to get it done.  

That same night the doctor called me at home.  His B12 levels were dangerously low.  B12 deficiencies can cause permanent damage. Many vegetarians are b12 deficient because plants do not contain B12 but we ate meat so that wasn't the problem.  For some reason his little body wasn't absorbing it.

We put him on a supplement.  One week later he started walking. He never went on a prescription for an ear infection again since then.  

Why am I telling you this story?  Because, moms (and Dads), you know your child.  Doctors and nurses and experts are wise, but sometimes they miss things.  Sometimes they brush you off.  Sometimes they think you are overreacting.  But as parents we have to push for our children.  Trust your gut.  And if in the end you were wrong? well, so what.  Better to be wrong about a situation than to be right and not push for the help you and your child needed.

My little boy? He is now an active, healthy almost 4 year old.  He takes a supplement every day to help maintain his B12 levels.  I hate to think of what would have happened if I listened when they told me that doing blood work on a 1 year old was a bad idea.  

What about you? Have you ever been in a situation where you had to really advocate for your child to get the help they needed?

Peace & Love. ;)

Saturday, February 27, 2016

You Know You're a Mom When....

Remember life before kids?  Yeah, neither do I.

Although, I do have this sneaky suspicion that I didn't say so many weird things, or witness so many weird events as I do now.

You know you're a Mom when.....

1.  You yell things like "stop sitting on your brother's head!" or "Do not lick the window!"

2. You spend 20 minutes googling the proper names of all the minions to end a sibling argument on whether Bob is the minion with one eye or two.

3. You spend 30 minutes searching for a favorite stuffie that your three year old needs to sleep with, even though he didn't need that one yesterday.

4.  You push your 1 1/2 year old's hand away just in time from pulling up your shirt while standing in the grocery line because she decides she HAS to nurse right this moment.  It doesn't matter that you have $150 dollars of groceries you need to put on the conveyor belt and bag.  She wants to eat NOW.

5.  You stand in the middle of the store while your child is having a full out tantrum on the floor deciding the best next move only to look around and see half the store giving you the look.  You know the one I'm talking about.

6.  You get in your minivan and start singing along to the "The Wheels on the Bus".  Three more children songs play on the CD until you remember you are actually in the van alone (rare, I know) and you can listen to your own music.

7.  You catch yourself saying things your mother said to you that you swore you would never say.  Things like, "Because I said so, " or  "if your friends jumped off a bridge, would you?"

8.  You know all the words to all the songs that play on the Fisher Price toys.

9.  You know every name of every character in Paw Patrol.  You even have a favorite.

10.  You hear a child sniffle or murmur at 2;00 a.m. and you jump out of bed, out of a deep sleep in .2 seconds to make sure everyone is okay.

11.  Bodily fluids barely gross you out anymore.  You've analyzed them, cleaned them up, worn them. You are a pro on how to handle whatever comes out of the body now!

12.  You forget that not everyone feels the same way - especially the couple who is over for dinner and yet to have kids.  The look on their face reminds you that talking about bodily fluids at the dinner table should be avoided when guests are over.

13.  When you take a shower you are constantly listening to make sure the house isn't being destroyed.  Every 2.5 minutes you yell out to make sure everyone is okay.

14.  You choose which purse to buy on how much of the kids stuff it will hold.  It needs to be big enough for snacks, water bottles, a toy or two, and hand wipes.  

15.  You quietly try to open a chocolate bar in a corner of the room so no one will hear so you can have it all for yourself.   The kids always hear though, no matter how far away they are.

What about you?  Have anything to add to this list?

Peace & Love. :)

Friday, February 26, 2016

27 Ways I Save Money

There are so many little (and big) ways you can save money.  And more money in your pocket means more money for the things you love!  Whether it be travel, or that new couch set, being able to put aside some money is always a bonus.  Here are some ways I save money:

1.  Bake lunchbox snacks instead of buying prepackaged.

2.  Hang laundry in the warmer months.

3.  Do laundry on off-peak hydro times.

4.  Make my own bread and tortillas.

5.  Make my own shampoo and soap.

6.  Drink water instead of juice.

7.  Close the bedroom doors without a heating vent in them during the day while the kids are at school.

8.  Meal plan.

9.  Shop the sales for groceries.

10. Use coupons.

11.  Earn and save PC points.

12.  Make homemade gifts for celebrations.

13.  Cut back on eating out.

14.  Buy clothes, furniture, and anything else I can get secondhand.

15.  Use baking soda and vinegar to clean my home.

16.  Use a programmable thermostat.

17. Use Checkout51 for cash rebates on groceries.

18.  Use a Divacup instead of pads or tampons.

19.  when booking a hotel, use budget sites like Priceline or Hotwire.

20. Camp instead of sleeping in a hotel.

21.  Use PC Financial for your banking -it's FREE!!

22.  Avoid ATM fees - use my bank's machine.

23.  Use Netflix instead of cable.

24.  Have a "no-spend" month.

25.  Make my own yogurt.

26.  Wear hand-me-downs.

27.  Plan to run my errands all together to avoid extra trips out

Although I am not doing every single one of these options to save money at the same time, I have used all of these ideas at one time or another, and most of them I do on a regular basis.  If you incorporate some of these ideas into your life you may notice a difference in your pocket book.

Did I miss any really great money-saving ideas?

Peace & Love. ;)

Thursday, February 25, 2016

The Beauty of Winter

I am not a huge fan of Winter.  Just saying that feels so "un-Canadian" of me.  But it's true.

Oh sure, I love the beginning of Winter.  That is when all the excitement of Christmas has me enjoying, and even yearning for the snow.  Anytime I see those flakes fall in December I am quick to put on my Christmas music, and dance around my house feeling as if I am in a magical moment.

And then those snowflakes fall in January.  And I just turn my back on Winter.  That snow must be really confused...I mean, I was in love with it a month ago, and now I stare at the same white, fluffy stuff with disdain.

Poor snow.

However, there is one type of snowfall that still steals my heart.  It's that big, white, fluffy snow.  The flakes that fall so quietly and softly, and pile up on the limbs of trees.

This type of snow can fall in April, and it will still have me staring at it's beauty in awe.

Somehow, when I get to experience this type of snow, it feels as if all is right with the world.  It is quiet and peaceful.  

Of course, the next day it doesn't look like this, and I am back to my disdain for Winter.  I think I may need an attitude check! Or Spring.  I'll take Spring instead. ;)

What about you? Do you have a favorite type of Winter day?

Peace & Love. ;)

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Why I took my son out of School to Homeschool Again (And why I support BOTH homeschooling AND Public School)

Even before my son was born, I knew I was in for an experience.  He would kick all day and night, and while I was pregnant with him I wasn't sure he ever slept.  And sure enough, his birth confirmed our suspicions.  He inhaled some meconium, turned blue twice, and wouldn't cry.  When they finally got him to cry about 6 hours later, he didn't stop for a good six months.

No, seriously.  Anytime he was awake he was crying.

When that ended, he was often upset.  Loud noises upset him.  Strange people upset him. Crowded places upset him.

You know how they tell you to vacuum all the time around the baby so they get used to it?  Not my son.  No joke, I used my noisy blender EVERY DAY with him in my arms, and for two years he cried every time.  

Public washrooms? The noises were terrifying for him.  And when he finally got past the stage where he wouldn't cry anymore, he would cover his ears the minute we walked in one, anticipating the flush of a toilet or the noise from the hand dryers.

Around the age of two was the year we carried him kicking and screaming EVERY Sunday after church.  I'm not even sure why.  Too many people?  Too close to nap time?  

And over the years we've had people say things.  I was told he had a rebellious spirit at the age of one because he touched everything.  I had people look at his tantrums and point out to me that he cried over everything.  I've had people laugh when he would cry as they talked to him.  I've been told he was "playing me" as a screaming three month old.

I knew he was struggling.  For many years I didn't have a name for it, but I knew it went beyond the typical normal tantrums.  We had taken him to occupational therapy and to a pediatrician for help. They labeled him ADHD.  I didn't feel like that was an accurate diagnosis for him. At his age we all agreed no medication was the right choice.  But I still felt we were missing something.

Because of this, it came naturally that we would homeschool him.  And we did for two years (and his sister for four.) But my health was struggling, so I decided this year I would put him in school.  

But in the end, that just made things worse.  For most of the 6 months he was in school he would cry as I dropped him off.  He had the sweetest teacher, and excelled at work, but his anxiety was at an all time high.

And there it was.  I finally realized exactly what he struggled with.  

Anxiety and hypersensitivity.

And then I realized that I struggled with that too.  And not just as an adult, but my whole life.  I started to look back on my childhood and understand different things that occurred, different things I felt, and why I spent much of my life with stomachaches and headaches.

Even knowing this, I tried to push through with school for my son. I didn't want him to let the anxiety win. But after six months it was apparent that it was getting worse.  As he struggled, I watched my daughter thrive in school.  Their experiences were so different!

The truth about anxiety? It doesn't just "go away".  You can't just do the same thing over and over and expect that one day you won't feel anxious.  Anxiety sufferers need to learn coping mechanisms, and way to manage their anxiety in those situations.  I believe that comes with feeling secure, with age, and with experience.  

I started to pinpoint some of the reasons he was anxious.  I discovered the noise level at school, being surrounded by a LOT of other kids, and being away from family were all factors.  While these situations are not entirely avoidable in life, I felt that my son needed smaller, baby steps into conquering his anxieties and learning to cope.  After all, he was just a six year old little boy. 
Me with the boy.  No anxiety when he is out in nature!

While I know there are many who will disagree with me, I felt that I was trying to "teach him to swim by throwing him into the deep end."  It just wasn't sitting well with me.  After awhile he wasn't the only one with anxiety.  I had anxiety too at how he would react when I dropped him off and walked away from him while he cried.  It never got easier, if anything, it got harder for both of us.

What I discovered is that you can send your child to one of the best schools in the area, he can have what you believe is the best teacher in the school, along with some of the best families you know, but it doesn't mean he will thrive.  I know this because my son had an amazing teacher, a great school, and wonderful classmates.  But he still struggled.  Why?  Because each child is unique and different.  The "one size fits all" education doesn't necessarily work for everyone.  And it doesn't mean that there is something wrong with my child.  Or yours.  It means that a different approach may work better for him.

I am excited to watch my son feel more at ease soon.  And as I teach him at home, my daughter who is thriving at school will continue to go.  My choice is the right choice for my family.  Every family has to decide what is best for them and their children.  I am for homeschooling.  I am for public school. I am for private school and Catholic school and Christian school. I see benefits to all.   But more importantly, what I see in most  cases is parents and teachers who have huge hearts for the children they teach, whether it be at home or school.  We are all aiming for the same thing - to raise well-rounded, happy, and educated children, so instead of declaring one is better than the other, can't we just decide we are all aiming for the same outcome?  It's time to support and encourage one another in our decisions to educate and raise our children, and not try and prove that one way is better for everyone.  It's time to walk alongside our friends and loved ones and raise each other up as we work hard to make the best choices for our little ones.  

Peace & Love. ;)

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

10 Reasons I'm Totally Excited to Watch Fuller House

Unless you live under a rock you have probably heard that Fuller House is coming to Netflix.  Call me nerdy, but I am counting down the days until I can watch it.  Here's 10 reasons why:

1. I don't care how cheesy it is, Danny, Uncle Joey, and Uncle Jesse singing together makes me smile every time.

2.  I want to hear all the catch phrases of my youth - Cut it out, how rude, You got it, dude, and Hello Tannerinos.

3.  Candace Cameron Bure is one of my favorite celebrities!!!!

4.  I really want to see what Aunt Becky and Uncle Jesse's twins are like.

5.  I need to know, is DJ and Steve finally going to get together forever?

6.  Kimmy Gibbler.  Enough said.

7.  Will they have laugh tracks?  If they have laugh tracks I will be in love.

8.  I can watch this show while my kids are still in the room.

9.  Um, can anyone say theme song?  Catchiest song ever.

10.  Corny as they may be, those heart-to-hearts they have give me warm fuzzies.

How about you? Do you plan to watch Fuller House? Or are you one of the ones making fun of us who are so excited to watch it??

Monday, February 22, 2016

6 Ways to Cure Wanderlust when you Can't Travel

I struggle with wanderlust.

Most days I dream of longterm travel with my family.  I want to join the thousands of other families who have made it a reality for themselves. They come in all different forms, from families with one child to twelve, single parents, people who work from their computers and those that work on the road finding odd jobs.  It's truly amazing the opportunities out there.

But what if it just isn't the time for your family?  One of the common themes I read online is that if you want it, you can make it happen.  But sometimes, I think it just isn't the right fit no matter how bad you want it. For us, it just isn't a possibility for us for a few reasons.  One of the biggest reasons is that my husband is currently in the process of getting certified as a carpenter apprentice.  This takes about 4 years, so until that is complete, there isn't even room for discussion of longterm travel.

And after that? I don't know.  I know that a lot can happen in 4 years so I don't even pretend to know what will be possible and what won't in 4 years.

So what does one do when they are most at home when NOT at home?  How do I ease the pain in my gypsy heart?

Let's just be downright honest - sometimes I selfishly sulk.  I dream of roaming cobblestone streets in Europe, eating exotic food in Asia, and walking among the palm trees in California.  

But when I am not sulking, I've come up with some other things to help the wanderlust in my soul.

1.  Go on weekend trips - Anytime there's a long weekend or extended time off of work for my husband, I am looking for places to go.  It can't be as far since we don't have as much time, but exploring a new area can be a lot of fun if you've never been there.

2.  Go on day trips -I love to explore little towns full of charm.  We have Prince Edward County just an hour from us, so we are always up for a day trip there.  Sometimes we like to go to Toronto or Ottawa for some city excitement.  

3.  Manage your money - One day you will have more time to take a trip farther away, whether it just be a two week vacation or something more.  Manage your finances so that when that time comes, money is not holding you back from being able to explore other areas.  Have a travel fund that you regularly contribute to.

4. Dream of the "BIG" trip -  Goals are good to have.  Like I said earlier, I don't know if longterm travel will ever be a part of our life, but one of my dreams is to take my family on a 6 week Europe adventure.  Even though the possibility may feel years and years away, it's time to start planning!  Even if your goal is not for 10 years down the road, there are little things you can be doing now to make it a reality.  Ask me in 7 or so years if this helped us reach our dream. ;)

5. Enjoy your area -  Sure, exploring another country is amazing (at least I think so, I've never been out of Canada and the US) while you are waiting for that opportunity, explore your own town or city.  We love the outdoors, and in the warmer months we are often out exploring local trails, rapids, and parks.  It sure beats sitting at home!

6.  Go camping -  Camping, no matter how close or far from your home, always helps my wanderlust.  And for my three small kids it is a favorite vacation choice!  

You may not be able to afford that trip across the world right now, but in the meantime you can feed the wanderlust with some of these tips.

What about you? Do you struggle with wanderlust?

Thursday, February 4, 2016

How to Save Money in February

Okay, so the title of this post is a little misleading.  What I am going to share with you today is a way you can save money any time of the year.  However, for me, I have applied this practice to this month-February.

Last week you might remember that I posted about how we were doing a spending freeze.  You can read more about that HERE.

Our spending freeze has been uber successful, so now that I've built momentum, I am not ready to stop.  Not only am I not ready to stop, but I wanted to take it one step further.  How could I save more on top of freezing our spending?

I decided the best way was to cut our grocery bill.  And aside from not eating, which is not optional for anyone in this household (seriously, anyone of us misses a snacktime and we get HANGRY) it seemed to me the way to decrease our grocery bill was to make some convenience food items myself instead of buying them.  I knew that by purchasing less pre-made food it would lower our expenses.

Homemade bread and almond milk

So what have I made so far?  I did start this at the end of January to prepare for the first week of February.

I've made my own:

Granola (can you say goodbye $4 boxes of cereal that lasts two days in this house?)
Greek yogurt
Tortillas (This was WAY easier than I thought it would be!)
Granola bars
Almond milk
Taco night with homemade wraps and greek yogurt, along with a cucumber-mango salsa recipe you can find at Imperfect Homemaking.

On top of repeating the above list throughout the month, I am wanting to make my own chicken broth and I also have some whey from the yogurt I made so I am hoping to ferment some kind of food!  Fermented foods are great for your digestive system.

Doing this long-term would definitely help our budget, but I don't want to set myself up for failure. Life is busy, and it can be hard to find the time to make a lot of stuff at home.  So right now my goal is to do this for February.  I am hoping at the end of the month I will have gained momentum in this area too and commit doing this on a regular basis.

What about you? What do you make at home to save some money?

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Take the Spending Freeze Challenge

It seems like every December, after Christmas I declare that January is a "no-spend" month.  Christmas, no matter how much we try to cut back, always adds extra expenses.  But no one generally jumps up and down in excitement when they decide they need to do a spending freeze.

Why would anyone want to challenge themselves to do a spending freeze?  Well, it not only can help you save money, it can help you track and get a handle of where your money is going, how much you are spending on "extras", and also it can help you work towards your financial goals, whether it be to pay down some debt, save for a trip, or make an emergency fund.  

We started our freeze after the first week of January, and already I have found 200 extra dollars to pay towards some debt, and some extra money for a much needed oil change for one of our vehicles.  On top of that, this month I have not stressed about not having enough money, and that is WITH us down one pay cheque in the first week of January due to my husband's work holidays, but had not accrued enough holiday pay as he just started at his place of work last Summer.

And just so we can make sure you have the facts here, so that you see that a spending freeze can help ANYONE, let's just be clear - we don't make a ton of money.  My hard working husband is a first year carpenter apprentice.  The early stages of a new career.  Yet, somehow, we still have managed to find extra money by just NOT SPENDING.

Here's how you can make a spending freeze more tolerable.  Heck, you may even have some moments you actually full out enjoy. ;)

1.  Pick the right time for a spending freeze.  My family likes to spend warmer days out and about, doing things that make it easier to spend a little here and there.  If we were doing a spending freeze in the Summer it would be very difficult.  January, February, and March are really good times for us because not only has Christmas depleted us financially, but emotionally as well.  We are more than happy to stay inside in the coldest months of the year. 

2.  Stay out of the stores, stay off the shopping sites.  Seriously.  Don't just go in to "browse".  You don't need that kind of temptation in your life.  The less you are in the stores, the better.  For me, right now my stores I visit are pretty much narrowed down to grocery stores.  

3. Say no to situations where you know you might spend money.  All those invites to those home sale parties?  Just say no for now.  The girls want to go out to eat?  Just say no, and then cry a little.  I know, it doesn't seem fair, and you are itching for a night away, but it's temporary.  Next month (or whenever you decide to end the spending freeze) you can go out with the girls again.   

4. Find ways to socialize that don't involve spending money.  Invite your friends over to your house for some coffee, tea, and baked goods.  Or if you are like me right now, you are so thankful to one of your friends who planned a girls night at her house that only involves the cost of bringing your own wine which is optional - and yes, ladies, as hard as it is for me to say this, wine IS optional.  I will not be bringing it to this girls night.  Water it is for me.  

5. Think of intentional activities at home.  I have three young kids who can get cabin fever pretty quickly.  and that gives ME cabin fever.  But I find if I plan fun things to do at home, like play board games, have a movie night, cuddle up and read Narnia, or teach them how to cook or crochet, we all end up enjoying our time together, and don't have to spend a dime!  Not even gas money!!!  During the week I have made mental lists of things to do with the kids on the weekend.

Hot Chocolate at home with my boy instead of going out for treats allows some one on one time that fits right into a spending freeze!

6.  Decide what IS and ISN'T a necessity.  A spending freeze still allows you to spend money on the basics because, well, you gotta live!  So decide what is and isn't a necessity.  No, those cans of paint on sale at Home Depot are NOT a necessity - your dining room can wait one more month before it gets a fresh coat of paint. ;) (okay, so I may be saying this to myself....)

A spending freeze can be tough, especially when there are so many beautiful things to buy, delicious restaurants to try, and interesting places to go.  But I promise you, it will be worth it.  Remind yourself daily of your goals in doing this, and remember that it is only temporary.  Yes,most want to spend less in the future as a whole but you won't always have to say no to that Starbucks latte - you will just discover how to enjoy it as a treat, and not a daily event!

So how about it?  Will you commit to doing a spending freeze challenge?

Peace & Love. ;)


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