The everyday or almost everyday babblings of a Mama that lives along a Brook

Author Archive

Getting Rooted!!!

Mike and I have recently decided that our family needs to grow strong roots.  It is something we have always felt but never really talked about.  Thankfully Mike and I agree on a lot of the same things regarding this so never talking about wasn’t a big deal.  As part of this, we decided it was time to start a blog that was about being rooted.  You can find this blog here:  http://familyrooted.wordpress.com/

I am hoping to stick with his blog and have you follow us through life and our experienced high and lows of being a rooted family.  Please join me.


Cutting Expenses and not Sacrificing…

We have been trying really hard to cut our expenses around here. But honestly we do not have very many places we can cut. We pay for everything cash, which means no credit cards. We do not have a single car loan and to be honest as long as I can control this, we will never have a car loan again. We do have some debt, but it is limited. We have a line of credit, which is currently closed while we pay it off. We used this when we bought the house to purchase things, car repairs and more.  We do have a SnapOn account, just a bonus of my husband being a mechanic. We have a mortgage and a home equity loan. When we bought the house we had enough for closing but did not have much to put down. So we did what they call an 80/20 split. 80% is the mortgage and 20% is the home equity.

In the last 6 years we have paid off 5 or 6 different credit cards, medical bills and a car loan. During this time we have had many changes in our income levels and most of the time it went down between pay cuts and unemployment. We survived two maternity leaves in a 19 month time frame and I was currently the main bread-winner. Thanks to God we have managed to come through those times of struggle. We are a paycheck to paycheck family and from time to time we still struggle, but those times are fewer and fewer between now. We like to say if families had to go through what we did for the last 6 years and survive on what we have they might be much more thankful for their blessings.  Yet we do know there are families who have harder times than we do.

During all this time while struggling we have decided that credit cards are not for us. We not only paid them off but we closed the accounts. This has completely made us 100% cash living. At times this is extremely hard and difficult. Especially when the car breaks down and the budget for the week has no room to breath. What are you to do? Thankfully my hubby is excellent at repairing our cars and getting good parts cheap, but most of all I thank God for providing us with reliable vehicles. We have also started thinking of ways to save money. Years ago I got rid of DirecTV and went down to the basic cable. This way we still had TV but we saved $50 plus a month. I used to call different insurance companies/agencies every year to make sure our homeowners and car insurance is the best rate without loosing coverage or going with a fly by night company.  We switched our house from Oil heat to Coal heat.  We re-cooped the cost of the coal stove in less than one winter season.  I used to call the credit card companies and ask for better interest rates and most of the time it worked as long as you threatened to close the account. If you left the account open they would lower the rate, for us that was okay since we cut up the cards.

Since those times financially thing have gotten better and we had a little more room to breath. During the better breathing times we allowed ourselves to pay extra on the debt and became less concerned about the saving money in our finances. We went back to DirecTV and so forth. The last couple of months I believe God has instilled a mission on me to cut our expenses again. I spent a lot of time thinking, not praying about how can I do this. All we have are utilities, mortgage, weekly expenses (groceries, daycare, gas, tithe) and minimal debt we are working on paying off. We have nothing we can cut except groceries and any extra spending we have.  After I finally started praying about it I decided to see if there was a way I could cut our utilities any.

First was the cable bill (we got rid of DirecTV and got cable last year to save us $20/month). We did nothing but complain there was nothing on. So I called the cable company and asked about what options they had. We decided to switch from the standard cable ($50/month) to basic cable ($20/month). That was great until again we did nothing but complain and barely watched it. God said why are you paying for tv if all you do is complain and you do not watch it. After conversations with friends we decided to invest into a Blu-ray player ($98), get Netflix ($7.99/month) and cancel cable all together. Well we did it. We are a cable free household and we love it.  We figure it will take us a couple of months to re-coop the cost of the Blu-ray player but we agree it has been worth it.  Average Savings a Month:  $12.00 (once we re-coop the Blu-ray play’s cost)

Second was the Electric bill.  We have been on a budget plan for years now and that is a huge help.  Also the only thing on our electric bill is electric, no heat or hot water.  We use coal to heat the house and water.  There isn’t much you can do other than makes sure extras are not plugged in when not being used.  My only option here other than going Amish was to shop my electric out.  I am proud to say I did this yesterday.  I used PA Power to Switch to find the best rates.  Our current electric company is charging $0.0927 kwh and the company we switched to is $0.0834, saving us about 10%.    Average Savings a Month:  $15.00

Third was our home phone and internet bill.  We do have a nice bundle package for home phone and internet together to save money.  In the home phone package we have unlimited calling to the 48 states, caller id, call waiting and voice mail.    The negative with the bundles are there will be a contract and an early cancellation fee.  I decided why not call and see what options I have.  I found we are still until contract till June.  I thought no big deal I will call and save us money then.  As I was telling the representative this, she said ‘I can offer you a $10/month credit on your bill for the next 12 months.  Are you interested?’  After considering other options I felt this was a good deal for us.  Everyone we call is long distance and by keeping this phone plan we are able to save on our cell phone bill.  All together we only will be paying $70/month (after taxes and fees) for all internet and home phone (with all the options above).  Average Savings a Month:  $12.00 ($10 plus the taxes and fees)

Fourth was our Cell Phone bill.  We are currently with AT&T Wireless and are very happy with their service.  After examining our monthly usage I found that our plan with 700 shared minutes a month was more minutes then we need.  We where constantly rolling over 200-250 minutes.  I decided to change our plan to the 550 minute plan.  This saved us $10/month just by doing this.  AT&T will allow you to change your rate plan at any time.  So I figure I will ride it out at the 550 minutes for now and when our rollover minutes get to be below 250 I will then up our plan again until we build them up and then drop the plan again.  The $10/month difference is worth it at times since it would cost us over $10 if we have to pay for 30 minutes at a per minute rate.  At least what we don’t use we get to keep.  Average Savings a Month:  $15.00 (after taxes and fees)

As of today I have done my best to save us about $54/month in our utilities.  I personally think awesome since in 12 months we have saved $648 this way.

What is next?  GROCERIES!!!! We currently only spend about $75-100/wk on them now, but I know we can do better than that.  I am planning to complete the 31 Days to a better Grocery Budget from Money Saving Mom.  I hope to post my journey here on my blog.  I hope to take my $75-100/wk bill to $50-75/wk.  Preferable more $50 weeks than $75.00.  I will not be able to complete this plan in 31 days with two kid and working 2 days outside of home.

I also plan to try to sell stuff on Ebay and Etsy to see if I can make enough on average weekly to pay half of our grocery bill.  More information on this to come.


Homeschooling

Our family has officially began homeschooling. Please check out our homeschooling blog:  Education through Faith, Family & Academics


City on Our Knees

I love this song and lyrics!


Crock Pot Chicken Chili Taco

I received this recipe from a Facebook group my friend and I started called The Great Recipe Exchange Between Friends.  Jennifer thank you for the recipe!

Crock Pot Chicken Chili Taco

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 16-oz can black beans
  • 1 16-oz can kidney beans
  • 1 8-oz can tomato sauce
  • 10 oz package frozen corn kernels
  • 2 14.5-oz cans diced tomatoes w/chilies
  • 1 packet taco seasoning
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 24 oz (3-4) boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • chili peppers, chopped (optional)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Combine beans, onion, chili peppers, corn, tomato sauce, cumin, chili powder and taco seasoning in a slow cooker. Place chicken on top and cover. Cook on low for 10 hours or on high for 6 hours. Half hour before serving, remove chicken and shred. Return chicken to slow cooker and stir in. Top with fresh cilantro. Also try it with low fat cheese and sour cream

 

Calories: 203.7 • Fat: 1.4 g • Carb: 33.3 g • Fiber: 10.0 g • Protein:16.9 g Serving size is 1 1/4 cup.

 


MIA?

I have been MIA for a while because life has been very busy.  Both kids have been extremely active and reach new levels of parenting.

An update I guess is in order:

Mike and I have been doing out best to minimize our  technology addictions.  One example is we will be eliminating cable with in the next two weeks.  No we are not getting rid of TV all together, but we will no longer have cable.  We have found we barely watch it so why pay for it.  Instead we have investing in a Blu-Ray player and love it.  We have set up our Netflix on-demand account and are just waiting for 2 pcs to arrive in the mail this week to finish our connection of our Blu-ray player to the internet due to our modem being really old.  We will recoup our Blu-ray player cost in under 6 months and after that we have cut out monthly expenses again.  Yes Netflix cost but it is a lot cheaper than cable and I can avoid a good bit of commercial junk that is on TV.  We have also found we could change our cell phone plan to lower minutes and that has saved us more money!  YEAH!  Lately we have been all about saving money on our everyday things.  We have been thriving on it and loving the challenge.

I have started my summer veggie garden.  I decided we spent a lot of money on garden plant and we could easily grow some of them ourselves.  Not only would this be a financial savings but a great education for the kiddos.  We have also been talking about putting in a nice big garden this year with plenty of stuff to can.  I can’t wait, I am super excited about this.  Mike promised he would help me can the food as well, which is totally awesome!  Here are some pictures of our garden’s beginning:

 

 

Mike was awesome and built me some shelves in the basement.  I am super excited to stock them up and have a supply of food on hand.  But after organizing my cabinets and the grocery shopping trip right after the shelves were made I was able to stock them well and we haven’t even began to can!  Looks like we need more shelves.  By the way I did not pay full price for 98% of what is on the shelves.  I would say I didn’t even pay $50 for all the food!

Before organizing and shopping:

After organizing and shopping:

 

We have also been looking around the house to see what projects to tackle this year.  We have found a few and the best part is most of them are going to cost us almost nothing.  It is a lot of labor and minimal supplies.  I know you are asking how is that possible.  Well it is called demolition.  All the wallpaper that was in the play room and living room have no officially been removed.  We scored 5 gallons of paint for $50.  It is all good, but it was made as a mistake at Lowes.  It a shade of white (the paint is in the garage, so I am not easily able to get to find the name of it).  All we will need is paint for the trim.  I am pretty sure it will be a blue or red, just what shade I am not sure.  Between our living room and play room there is an arch.  Though it is beautiful it makes both rooms small and the play room (currently a dinning room) kind of a useless room.  So our goal is to eliminate the arch and make it one big room.  Looks like we will need to put up a small amount of drywall (to patch the wall and ceiling where the arch wall was. and maybe a support beam (this will be determined during demolition). Then it is paint time. I am super excited.  I am ready to have a nice size family/living room.  I have a lot of painting to do this year.  Our kitchen and dinning room (currently an office) has a yellowish/off white flat paint for trim and the doors.  I hope to change it all.  Our trim shows all the dirt.  I am very tired of cleaning up dirt off the bathroom door where little and big hands and paws (and puppy noses) touch it.

Well it is 12 pm and I have mom’s group tomorrow at 9:30, so I guess I should attempt to get some sleep.  Good night.


Creamy Cheesy Veggie Soup

My family loves this soup. We haven’t had it in a while, but typically we have it almost weekly during the cooler months, but it is enjoyable in the warmer months too.

(picture coming soon. something is up with my camera card)

Creamy Cheesy Veggie Soup

2 cups Water
2 cups Potatoes, diced small
.5 cup Carrots, sliced
.5 cup Celery, sliced
.25 cup Onion, chopped
1 tsp Salt
.25 tsp Pepper
.25 cup Butter
.25 cup Flour
2 cups Milk
3 cups Shredded Cheddar Cheese
2 cans (14.75 oz each) Cream of Corn

Add water, potatoes, carrots, celery, onion, salt and pepper in a medium to large pot.
Cook until soft, about 10 minutes. This part is very important.
Do NOT drain.
In another pan melt butter
Add the flour, then milk to the butter, cook until think and smooth
Add cheese, cook cheese until it is melted
Add cream of corn
Add mixture to the vegetables, cook until heated through out.