Saturday, February 9, 2013

Stand for Something

I've droned on about the differences in my two girls before, so I won't elaborate too much on it here.  I will just mention that Kamryn is my strong willed, stand up to anyone, you're-not-messing-with-me girl, while Kyndall is my gentle, compassionate, you-can-have-my-cookie, lady.  I don't worry about Kamryn be taken advantage of, I worry about her taking advantage of others.  I don't worry about Kyndall being hateful to others, I worry about Kyndall being run over by stronger willed people.

My last post was all about saving moola, and if you have a chance you should check it out :)  With some of the money available from cut expenses, we signed Miss Kyn up for ballet and tap lessons.  For all who know me, I daughter is a girly girl who adores dance.  It's crazy, but I honestly am loving it.  I did my best to find a studio that was NOT Dance Mom-esque.  Ugh.  I don't want to mess with all that crap drama. We found an adorable studio in Paragould that opened last fall, is taught by a super sweet lady who has a ton of experience in dance, and has a classic atmosphere with mirrors, pink walls, and a ballet bar.  Simple. Classic. Just right.  

We began a month ago, and Kyndall is really getting the hang of it.  I knew from the first lesson we had likely found *her thing*, from the look on her face when the sweet teacher taught the first move.  Are they called moves?  Positions?  Steps?  I honestly would be a terrible Dance Mom.  I'm ignorant about dance.  But Kyndall....goodness. Her entire countenance just lights up at every practice, and with every step she learns.

Look at that form :)
This week in tap, they learned the first few 8-counts of their recital number.  After practicing basics, and before beginning steps in the dance, the teacher announced, "Alright, we are going to listen to the music for your recital piece!  You girls can just listen to the music this first time."

There are four girls in this tap class.  The girl on the right and left of Kyndall immediately sat down, and Kyndall looked at each of them, slowly beginning to squat, when she realized the fourth girl was still standing.  She straightened her knees, gave her mirror image a grin, and stood tall.  About ten seconds later, the other standing deary sat down, too.

I realize I over analyze evvvvverything, but in this moment I thought about how telling her next action would be.  My fears of her being a follower, being scared to stand up for herself, being concerned more about what others think than what she wants to do or knows is right, all began to bubble in my brain.  She wanted to stand up.  I knew that from the look she gave the mirror when she realized all the girls weren't sitting.  But would she continue standing while the other girls were sitting?

My brain was heavy with thoughts, and my heart full of anxiety, over this tiny little matter.

Sit or stand?

She immediately noticed the last girl's decision to sit.  The mirror allowed me to see her wheels turning as she contemplated what to do, until a resolution crossed her face in an all out smile.  She squared her shoulders to the mirror, pulled the corners of her little skirt up in a semi-curtsy, and gleefully smiled, as she continued standing.  Her teacher let out a little laugh saying, "You can sit down to listen to the music...(and Kyndall stood even more confidently)....or stand!  Standing is great, too!"

My stander-upper
I know this doesn't mean that she will always stand for what she wants, needs, or even believes in.  I realize she may have only stood because she loves to look at herself in that little skirt.  Even with that knowledge, I felt such a hope....such a reassurance that maybe there are things I am trying to instill in her that she is taking in.  Maybe a little bit of my will, and Kyle's do-the-right-thing way are getting in there.  Maybe she will be a leader, and a little lady who is confident in herself, and what she knows to be right.

I will keep praying my prayers over her, full of requests for all of these character traits. I will continue to pray for Kamryn to learn self control and when to sit, haha.  I'll just never forget that image of all the other girls comfortably sitting, and Kyndall standing proud, and all alone.

My girlies.....Little sis doing whatever big sis does
I really love mommyhood :)

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Expenses Down, Freedom Up!

I constantly stress I am no expert, and I want to make that abundantly clear with this post!  We have made our share of completely stupid bad decisions in our financial life, but we have been working the last three years to leave all that behind.  With every debt paid, every expense lowered, we breathe a little easier.

We still eat out, we still buy (some) new clothes, I tried extreme couponing for a couple months and realized I'd rather play with my girls than sit at a coupon notebook/computer/stack of sale bills in my free time.  I'm not saying there is anything wrong with doing any of those things, but we just didn't want to cut back in those areas.  Here are a few things [that you probably already know] we did to really cut our expenses back:

1) Apply for income based repayment on student loans - Especially if you have children, you can likely get your loans cut back by hundreds of dollars per month.  Neat fact...if you are granted any reduction due to income based repayment for twenty years, whatever debt remains after the 20th year is forgiven!  FORGIVEN!  

2) Crunch the numbers on your health insurance plan - My hubbs is a teacher in Arkansas, so our insurance is TERRIBLE.  However, we were able to cut nearly $600/month by going with the high deductible plan and a Health Savings Account.  The zero deductible plan was $1000/month for a family, and the $3000 max deductible plan is $230.  We put $200 back each month into a tax free Health Savings Account (HSA), bringing our total to $430/month.  Don't let the giant deductibles scare you, plan for them.  The plans offered to you may not work out this way, but make sure you add it up before you commit for another year.

3)  Cut cable -  60-ish channels in our area run about $55/month after tax.  No extras, no DVR, just extended basic.  We stream Netflix and Hulu through the PS3 for $15/month total.  No commercials on Netflix, and limited on Hulu, no storage limits, plus the ability to pause each movie or series and go back and forth between everything, makes it better than DVR.  Since most DVR services and equipment rentals run $10-$15/month, I feel it's a good trade.  We've added Amazon Prime as well ($6.25/month), but not just for the shows and movies.  More on that in a bit. I know....husbands need their ESPN.  It was a hard sell at our house in the beginning, but with smart phones, and super fast internet, my hubby was able to adjust.  Now with each professional sports offering it's own supply of internet streaming games, you can pick and choose what you want and still save quite a bit of money.  I've also found that when the big games roll around, friends with cable are more than happy to have company for the games...especially if you offer to bring treats :)

4) USE AMAZON SUBSCRIBE & SAVE!! -  All of our diapers and wipes come straight to our door, every month, free shipping, with 5-15% off the bulk prices (I'm honestly unsure how they decide what discount you get.  I got 15% before we had Prime, but when I looked it up, it said save 5%).  No more running out of diapers.  No more lugging giant boxes from the shelf to your overflowing cart, to your too full car, and into your house along with the kids and groceries.  They just show up at your door.  You can change your delivery date, or skip deliveries any time you want from your amazon account.  Here's another place where Amazon Prime is great.  If you sign up for the free Amazon Mom program, have Amazon Prime, AND Subscribe & Save on diapers and wipes, you save 20% on all diapers AND get free shipping!  The Math on size 4 diapers:
Scenario                                               Price per diaper  #of Diapers in Pack    Price per Package
Diapers at Dollar stores                            $0.37                      27                             $10
Buy in bulk while grocery shopping           $0.28                     190                            $53
Subscribe & Save saving 10%                      $0.22                     190                         $42.47*
Amazon Prime+Mom+Subscribe &
     Save saving 20%                                        $0.19                     190                         $36.76*
*Amazon orignal price of 190 count is $47.19

Soooo, both my girls seemed to go through diapers like crazy.  We did the buy at the grocery store method with Kyndall, and seemed to always be grabbing $10 packs from the dollar store when we did not plan well.  Saving nearly 50% per diaper, AND having them dropped at my doorstep has been FANTASTIC this time around.  Highly recommend this money, time and sanity saver!

5) Tithe - Save money by spending it?  Whaaa? It's a God thing, plain and simple.  Malachi 3:10 spells it out "Bring the whole titheg into the storehouse,h that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgatesiof heaven and pour outj so much blessingk that there will not be room enough to store it."  I can't explain it, but I know from our personal experience and the experiences of close friends, when we give God what He's asked us to, He takes care of us. When we disobey, times are tight.  It is what it is :P

6) Pay off your car ASAP - I know good old Dave wouldn't agree here, but I'm a little middle of the road with Dave Ramsey.  I think it's great to encourage our charge-it generation to get out of debt, but when his video has him on stage, seemingly filled with the Holy Ghost over having six million dollars waiting in retirement, I feel like that's loving money too much.  I won't get any further into my Ramsey rant...not tonight.  He's helped thousands of people straighten their finances, and that really is wonderful.  ....anyway.  We decided to focus on paying off our cars before other debt because of the ratio of what we owed compared to what we paid per month.  Please note we buy used, non-loaded vehicles and have never spent over $10000 on a car (which unfortunately won't be the case after our next purchase of a 7-seater :P).  The payment on our Envoy was $300 + $160 in full coverage insurance.  After making 2 years of payments we owed about $6,000, which was close to what we got back on taxes the last year before I was self-employed (Ugh.  Hate tax time now :P).  We put our savings and tax return to the vehicle, cut down to liability ($40/month), and instantly had an extra $420 to put toward debt and savings.  
Of course, liability isn't for everyone.  I will be on high doses of blood thinner the rest of my life, so I am an extremely cautious driver.  Liability has worked for us, and saved a ton of money.  However, if we had maxed out our credit line and purchased the $35,000+ vehicle, the situation would be completely different.  Ramsey is right on target when he says to buy used and avoid "buying a vehicle you don't need to impress people you don't know."

Please, please know that I realize these strategies won't work for everyone.  The important thing is to decide where you want to splurge (for me it's clothes for my girls), and where you want to save.  Live within your means, whatever they are.  

So.  Here's the breakdown of how much we've cut out in the last three years:
                       Item                                         Original Amount                     Current Amount
Income based repayment on student loans               $400                                      $70
Changing Health Insurance Plans                               $1000                               $430 w/ HSA
Cutting cable and DVR                                                  $70                                       $15
Discount diapers to my door                          around $70+gas and time                   $38 
Paying off both cars                                     $800 (2 cars, 2 FC insurances)            $100 Liability
                                  TOTAL                                  $2340                                     $653

                                             $1687/month reduction

Friday, February 1, 2013

Just Do It Already

Fall 2012 was rough for me.

Hormone induced depression, selling-moving-building-moving, $1500 health insurance deductible met for Kamryn in 45 days, extremely tragic family situations, curled up in bed crying at least twice a week, ROUGH.  Digress with me...

I've decided this will be our last baby. Not because of the two shots a day during pregnancy, or the fact another would make four (I'd love to adopt later, if the hubbs would ever allow it), and not even because we don't have the funds for a fourth child at this point.  I am going to put the skids to child bearing because of what the first trimester does to me.  I'm moody, I'm dark, I'm (even more) cynical, I have trouble getting any work or business, and I'm just not a fun person to be around.

Kids need a fun mom to be around.  Hubbs needs a fun wife to come home to.

They all need clean clothes in their closets, and home cooked meals (at least for the most part).

Of course my girls and man had clean clothes and food, but our life was so chaotic, and I simply could not cope with the stresses of sell/move/build/move on top of the family heartaches.  Couldn't do it.  I had to drop something, or it was all going to crush me.

So I dropped the business for one month.

I didn't post to the Facebook business page for over four weeks.  I didn't market a single promotion.  I got all my deliveries done in time for Christmas, and I turned all my focus to healing and family.

We moved in the newly built house the second week in December.  I was so anxious to get our tree up since this is the first Christmas Kamryn really participates in, and I couldn't wait to see everything up in our Home. Next, I organized the kitchen.  I LOVE cooking in this kitchen.  I designed the layout myself, and everything is just a couple steps away, there is plenty of counter space, my range is a beast, and it's entirely open to the kitchen/dining area, so I can keep an eye on Kamryn Faith (Kyndall is usually helping me).

I spent 3 straight weeks cooking, cleaning, and crying.  God began speaking to me in every little thing, and through every person I came in contact with.  I built some serious walls a couple years ago that I have been only slightly peeking over ever since.  God was sick of it.  Honestly, my soul was, too, but my hard heart was putting up support posts.

I'm sure I'll get into details about this trying season slowly.  It's too much for one post, and it's too hard to get out all at once.  I'm a pretty private person with issues of my life, and relay them to maybe 5 or 6 people at most.  That trait is a large reason why I haven't written on my blog in so long.  I am afraid of sounding whiny, or braggy, or mean, or fake, so I don't say anything.  But through my last life season, God has blown open so many truths, and my walls are down, and I'm me again.

Just me.

Broken, bossy, impatient, impulsive, constantly creative, manic, me.  Sometimes I may come across as whiny, and readers who are going through a more difficult life period will be annoyed.  Sometimes my ideas, or projects may seem like I'm super mom. Believe me, I'm not.  Sometimes people may think I sound rude, callus, or judgmental.  Sometimes that may be true, but I'm praying my words on this blog are guided by what God is doing in my life and my heart.

I'm simply going to do this thing.  This big, exciting, documentation of my home, life, family, and career is going to happen.  I'm looking into a clean, simple blog redesign to reflect my inner redesign and clean heart.  I want to be as genuine as I can be, and I want my little ladies (and upcoming little man) to have something to look back on, and know how much I love them and our lives together.  I want to be a great wife and partner to my husband.  I'm sure he wants me to write more, so that I'll quit gabbing his ear off....constantly...without end.  {Why couldn't the verse read "Talk to your husband without ceasing"?  I am much better at talking to him, than praying.  Another trait that needs adjustment!}

So, that's that.  Here we go :)