Proverbs 22:7

The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

This is why I'm no longer "normal."

It's been way too long since I've posted a blog. Forgive me. This one will be a long post to make up for it :) August is the month from Hades at work with back to school, and this year I was extra busy because in addition to doing my regular work, I had to prepare everything for turnover to a new employee so I could move into a new position. Maybe I'll do another post about that later.. but for now, I've moved into a new role and I'm SUPER excited about it.

You've all heard me gripe and complain about student loans for 3+ years now. I hate these darn things so much that whenever I have the opportunity to try to persuade someone against taking out student loans, I will. Even if it's on a public message board (I know, I know, bad idea...I just couldn't help myself.)

There was a recent conversation on a message board I frequent that started off talking about Chicago teacher unions strike.... One thing led to another, and one of the offshoots of the conversation became about how hard it is to live on only $X amount of dollars per month. $X being approximately $2500.

Okay, now I know that in some parts of the country, $2500 (take home pay) is not alot of money depending on the cost of living for your area. However, where I live, and with the choices Jonny and I have made, $2500 is completely doable. So I responded to this conversation outlining exactly how and why this was doable with the following:

  • $250 for tithe (we actually tithe on our gross pay, but for simplicity sake and privacy, this calculation will tithe on net)
  • $625 for house/homeowners insurance
  • $400 groceries/lunch/restaurants
  • $125 electricity (average)
  • $17 Garbage pick up
  • $30 Water
  • $62 Cell Phones for 2 people
  • $43 Home Security
  • $48 Internet
  • $8 Netflix
  • $37 Pest Service
  • $320 Gas/Car Maintenance
  • $85 for Car Insurance
  • $400 Blow ($50 per person per week for miscellaneous, household purchases, other unforeseen expenses)

And $50 left over for savings or or whatever else....

Now granted.... this is tight. This does not give any wiggle room for anything else... and this only includes "regular living expenses." but it's pretty much a complete list of everything we expect on a monthly basis. Anything that's not listed, such as doctor visits, etc, can be pulled from savings, or from the blow money each month if necessary. The point I was trying to make is that in my area is is COMPLETELY DOABLE to live on a measly $2500 per month. Before Jonny got his job, I mentioned how stressed I was about being able to continue to make payments toward the student loans. Our regular expenses wasn't the issue. I made the money to cover our regular expenses. I did not, however, make enough money to continue to throw payments at the student loans and I desperately did not want to defer them because I want them PAID OFF AND OUT OF MY LIFE.

Something important to point out about the monthly budget above. You don't see a car payment. You don't see cable. You don't see an expensive cell phone plan. You also don't see credit card debt or student loan debt. In other words - if you make practical and smart choices, it's possible to live on a small budget, and not suffer.

Yes, Jonny and I have student loans to pay. No, it's not included in the budget above. The budget above IS however, our true monthly budget, for the most part, except for our student loan payments and any other out of the ordinary expenses we may run into. If we had not incurred student loan debt, we could live on $2500 a month for our regular expenses and everything else.... everything else, could be used to save, invest, pay down the house, and have a ton of fun in the process. Instead though, right now, that "everything else" is being thrown as fast as I can throw it at those awful student loans.

If you and your family make more than $2500... could you live on a budget like the one above? No, the budget doesn't take families with kids into consideration, so of course you would need to include expenses for your children, such as day care, after school programs, extra money for their expenses, etc. I get it, really, I do. But I'm not there yet. The budget above is for a childless couple. One who has chosen to give up fancy cell phones, cable, and luxurious new cars, in order make it work. One day, we'll probably get cable or a satellite service, but for now, we can't justify the cost, and really don't need it. So back to what I was saying - could you live on $2500 a month? If so.. how much extra would you have left over after these expenses are taken care of? $500? $800? $1500? Maybe more than that? Can you dream about the extra things that you could do with that extra money that you would have if you weren't having to pay it to a car payment, a credit card payment, or student loans? I can... and it makes me sick to my stomach that such a large portion (almost 20%) of our paychecks are going to our student loans. 20% of our take home pay is being ripped out from underneath us before we can even breathe each month because we took on the stupid tax of all these student loans.

*Sigh* I could totally use that money to landscape my yard, upgrade my kitchen cabinets, redo the flooring in my house, travel, save for retirement, remodel, give more to charities, my church, or AXiD, plan a car replacement fund, etc etc. Unfortunately, because I did stupid by taking out student loans, I have an obligation to pay those off first before I have fun with extra money.

Okay, so back to the message board story. I shared this budget on the board, and explained that this was an example of our true budget, less our student loans. I explained that to those who said it could not be done that yes it could, provided you make smart decisions. Smart decisions including not taking out a car loan or lease, or student loans and having to make a monthly payment. Smart decision such as not paying for cable if you can't really justify the cost. Smart decisions such as going without a fancy phone plan (side note, I believe you all know that Jonny and I had blackberries for YEARS with a $145 a month cost. Now we pay $62 a month for a no-contract, pay as you go plan. Yeah, fancy cell phones are a complete rip off. iPhone5? No thank you. Not worth the additional expense for me.) etc etc.

Well, as you can imagine... the Normal People on the message board ripped me apart for even suggesting that it's realistic to live without those things. And shame on me for calling student loans a Stupid Tax. Here are some of the comments I got:

  • I know that some students get student loans when they don't really need to, but not everyone qualifies for federal financial aid, Pell grants, and/or scholarships. And even if they do qualify for one/more of those, that's not always enough to cover the total cost of tuition/books/room/food ... Student loans are, for many students, necessary. I'm not sure I'd call securing money for your education a 'stupid tax'.
  • How is it a tax? It's a voluntarily incurred debt.
    • Oh my goodness. Do you take everything at literal face value? Definition of stupid tax: something I shouldn't have had to pay for if I hadn't done something stupid. The "something stupid" in this case, is taking out stupid loans, rather than working a little more hours, or being a little more responsible with the money I DID have when I was in college. Voluntarily incurred debt - yes. Some people (like many of you, apparently ) think that debt is the only way to get a "good" education. I used to, too. But I was wrong. If I had done things differently, and avoid student loans, I could be living very comfortably right now. But I have the weight of student loans dragging me down, preventing me from doing things I really want to be able to do. So, in that sense, it's motivation to work harder. I'll work harder, rather than gripe and complain about how someone else got a better deal than me.
  • I don't know why you feel the need to respond with such emotion - it's possible to have rational discussions on GC. Well, with some people it is, anyway.

    I disagree with you as well. There are, in fact, some people who "need" loans in order to pay for school. When the average cost for one year at a public institution is around $16K, it's naive to think that everyone can work full time while attending school. It's equally naive to assume that everyone is military or peace corps material. 

    I've agreed that there are opportunities out there that some people fail to investigate, but you don't seem to recognize that all these alternatives you speak so highly of aren't within every student's reach. 

    Some people need student loans.
    • I couldn't even respond to this person. She's making excuses. Everyone has options available to them, they just have to be diligent to investigate them. You DON'T have to go to college immediately following high school. You can work and save money, or go to school part time. You can join the military/peace corps (which I had previously mentioned in another response which is why she disputed that in her comment above). It's apparent that she was too busy making excuses to see the rationale that there are ways to make it work without going in to debt. I really wish I had known all this before it was too late for me. I spent my military money and then some :(
      • Side Note.... $16K? Really? I just checked the current tuition and fees rate at SPSU, and for 12 hours, it's $3350 per semester, or $6700 a year. More than when I was in school obviously, but that's nowhere near $16K. I'm sorry that I didn't feel the need to go to a school with a more popular name and a larger bill.) Now, add in the housing plan and meal fee, and okay, current rates at my school are close to $16K... but there are ways to make that work without taking on that much debt! 
  • But some people in some circumstances may find it is the best option for them. Here's a thought: you decide what's best for you and your family, and give others the same courtesy.
    • Sure. However, I also feel that I have a responsibility to at least plant the seed in a young person's head that they don't have to listen to what's "normal" by taking out student loans just because they are available. Just because it's an option doesn't mean it's the best option. If there are students reading this, they need to know there are ways to avoid debt, and to avoid those chains once they do get a big boy or big girl job.

Student Loans are NOT a necessary evil. Please please, if you're young, and you're reading this, do your research. Find scholarships. Get a job. Have a garage sell. Start your own business. Cut back on un-necessary expenses (Greek life is an investment in your future, don't cut that out! Plus, scholarships are available.)

Meanwhile, Jonny and I are still looking for a way for make an extra $1000-1200 a month to throw at our student loans to pay them off quicker. Hopefully we'll find a solution before too much longer.

Have a great weekend, y'all :)

Saturday, July 7, 2012

2012 Sorority House Shopping - Part 2

As the Staples commercial says... "That was easy." I'm done, with the exception of the Vanilla spray - the same darn thing I had trouble finding this time last year. This Fall I need to remember to grab an extra bottle to NOT USE at home. Vanilla is NOT a summer scent. Ugh.

I had my 20% off coupon to use at Big Lots, which just made the prices that much better. Helped me keep almost everything under budget this year, even with tax included. Last year I saved big money on some key purchases, but those savings helped cushion the tax and other items that I was unable to bring under budget.

Item Annual Quantity Need Budget (50%) Actual Comments
Toilet Paper 156 Rolls 156 $50.00 $41.99 80 triple rolls = 240 regular rolls. $0.175 per roll. See Below.
Paper Towels 52 Rolls 24 $15.00 $12.84 24 rolls. $0.535 per roll.
Trash Bags - Large/Tall 300 Bags 75 $10.00 $7.96 76 bags. $0.105 per bag.
Dish Soap 12 Lg Bottles 9 $14.00 $10.66 2 gallons = 256 oz = almost 11 regular (24 oz) bottles. $0.046 per oz.
Dishwasher (Liquid) 24 Bottles/330 packs 110 $15.00 $16.03 135 packs. Package size increased from 110 last year.
Bath/kitchen hand soap 24 Bottles 20 $15.00 $12.84 Three 56oz bottles each with a 7.5oz refillable bottle. 190.5oz total = 25 7.5oz bottles = $0.514 per bottle
Napkins 6 Packs 6 $4.50 $4.28 See Below
Kleenex 12 Boxes 10 $8.00 $6.42 1 regular box = 75 tissues. I got 5 family size boxes of 200 which = 13 regular boxes
Windex 2 Lg Bottles 1 $2.00 $1.71 2 regular bottles. They only asked for 1 bottle, but I thought the bottle was kinda small, so I got 2 since it was still under budget.
Bathroom Cleaner 2 Lg Bottles 1 $2.00 $2.40 See below
Kitchen Cleaner 3 Lg Bottles 1 $3.00 $2.40 1 bottle.
Sponges 2 Packs 2 $4.00 $3.42 I got 4 total sponges, but they are a higher quality sponge. I wanted 8… but budget didn’t allow that. These that I bought can be washed and reused.
Duster 1 1 $5.00 $2.66 Microfiber duster with collapsible handle.
Vanilla Scents 2 Sprays (bottle) 1 $2.50 $0.00 Haven't bought it yet. Couldn’t find it. I tried 3 places. Vanilla is a fall/winter scent. I'm still on the hunt for it.
HE Washer Cleaner 1 box? 1 $5.00 $4.26 1 bottle.
Oxyclean 1 bottle 1 $2.00 $0.86 See Below
    TOTAL $157.00 $130.73 $26.27 under budget. Still need $2-$3 for Vanilla Spray once I can find it.

Toilet Paper: Sam's Club had the best deal on TP this year. The 2 big boxes on the bottom of the pile are the TP. I promise, it's soft fluffy TP, and not single ply yucky Scott's brand. The chapter ran out of TP last year and had to buy more during the Spring. So this year, I wanted to be extra cautious about TP claims that their roll equaled however many regular rolls. Last year, Charmin mega rolls claimed to be  the equivalent of 4 rolls each... and even though they were BIG rolls, they still, obviously, weren't enough. So this year I checked multiple brands regular rolls, and determined that a "regular roll" generally has anywhere from 120-170 sheets on it. So I split the difference and determined that a regular roll has 150 sheets, and double roll, therefore, should have at least 300 sheets, and a triple roll should have 450. (I highly doubt those Charmin rolls last year had 600 sheets each on them! Psh! Live and learn, I suppose...) The commercial brand TP that I selected this year had exactly 450 2-ply sheets per roll, and claimed that 40 rolls = 120 regular rolls. Price per box was $20.99 with tax, or 17.5 cents per regular roll - waaaay under the 25 cents per roll maximum that I'll buy TP at. I checked prices at Sam's club, went to Big Lots, looked at their options, and ultimately went back to Sam's club to get the TP because it was the best deal. Better yet, because I am so far under budget, if the powers that be who are reading this think that it would be better to have 1 more box of TP, to be on the safe side and hopefully not run out this year, there's still plenty of room in the budget to do so. Just let me know if I should get one more.

Napkins: Ugh… just realized the cashier only rang me up for 2 packs of napkins, instead of the 3 I bought! Well… it should have been 3 packs of 250 count napkins = 750 napkins (only needed 600). I was supposed to be over budget on this but since they only rang up 2 packs instead of 3, I'm under! Comes out to $0.57 per 100, but it really should have been $6.42 or $0.642 per 100. Next time I go back to big lots (which is often) I'll tell them and pay for it at that time.

Bathroom Cleaner: Edit. Scratch that. I was overcharged on the bathroom cleaner. The bathroom cleaner bottle and the kitchen cleaner bottle looked very similar, but they were NOT the same. The bathroom cleaner bottle was $1.95 before my discount was taken and tax added, and I should have paid a total of $1.67 for it. However, she scanned the kitchen cleaner twice, which was $2.80 before discount and tax. I guess she thought they were the same bottle. Boo!

OxyClean: First off, in my previous post, I mentioned something about oxy powder. I failed to realize that the wish list said "bottle" for oxyclean. Not tub or bin (indicating powder), so therefore I concluded that they are actually looking for the liquid kind. SCORE! Well, the problem is, name brand OxyClean in a bottle is $5 a bottle. And even the Clorox Oxy stuff at Big Lots was $2.80. Even after the discount, it was over budget, and I was doing SO GOOD staying under budget for almost every other item, that I just couldn't buy it at that price. So, I bought an empty spray bottle instead, and I fully intend to mix up two mason jars full of homemade Oxyclean for them to refill with. And... well, if they don't like it, I came in far enough under budget that if they want the name brand commercialized stuff that bad they can still afford to purchase it. Won't hurt my feelings none. :)

I'm 17% under budget, which is comparable to last year (18%). I'm blaming the dishwasher packs. The packs of 110 last year were $13.78 after tax, which is $2.25 lower than I paid this year. That $2.25 would have been JUST ENOUGH for me to beat last year. Well, boo!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

2012 Sorority House Shopping - Part 1

Well... it's that time of year again! Last year I documented my journey to buy a years worth of household supplies for Alpha Xi Delta at Southern Poly and I'll be doing the same again this year. The list is shorter this year, as they still had supplies left over from last year. Here's what we're looking to get, the estimated retail cost, the budgeted cost (50% of retail price), and the amount I actually spend on those supplies.

As last year, I'm looking for the absolute best value, while purchasing convenience factor for college women. Those of you who know me, know that I'm currently on a "hippie" journey of going all natural, non-toxic, etc. If I had my way, I'd be COMPLETELY frugal and I would make homemade dish detergent for them, as well as other frugal household cleaners like vinegar and baking soda. But something tells me that college girls may not be as welcoming of frugal non-toxic alternatives to the mainstream cleaning products that everyone is so used to.

Funny thing is, just last weekend, I cleaned my cleaning closet. I had practically full bottles of Windex, kitchen and bathroom cleaners that I dumped down the drain and tossed. I totally should have saved those and donated them to the chapter rather than spending money to buy them new ones :( I just wasn't thinking about the fact that I would probably do the sorority house shopping again this year and when I made the toss. Luckily, I do still have 2 big bottles of dish soap, but since then, I've made my own homemade dish soap, which is in mason jars under my kitchen sink. So, that's 2 less that I have to spend money on out of their budget because I'll just give them to the chapter to help save their money.

Here's this years shopping list:

Item Annual Quantity Own Need Estimated Retail (of Need) Budget (50%) Actual Comments
Toilet Paper 156 Rolls 0 156 $100.00 $50.00 $0.00  
Paper Towels 52 Rolls 28 24 $30.00 $15.00 $0.00  
Trash Bags - Large/Tall 300 Bags 225 75 $20.00 $10.00 $0.00  
Dish Soap 12 Lg Bottles 3 9 $27.00 $14.00 $0.00  
Dishwasher (Liquid) 24 Bottles/330 packs 220 110 $30.00 $15.00 $0.00  
Bath/kitchen hand soap 24 Bottles 4 20 $30.00 $15.00 $0.00  
Napkins 6 Packs 0 6 $9.00 $4.50 $0.00  
Kleenex 12 Boxes 2 10 $15.00 $8.00 $0.00  
Windex 2 Lg Bottles 1 1 $4.00 $2.00 $0.00  
Bathroom Cleaner 2 Lg Bottles 1 1 $4.00 $2.00 $0.00  
Kitchen Cleaner 3 Lg Bottles 2 1 $6.00 $3.00 $0.00  
Sponges 2 Packs 0 2 $8.00 $4.00 $0.00  
Duster 1 0 1 $10.00 $5.00 $0.00  
Vanilla Scents 2 Sprays (bottle) 2 1 $5.00 $2.50 $0.00  
HE Washer Cleaner 1 box? 0 1 $10.00 $5.00 $0.00  
Oxyclean 1 bottle 0 1 $4.00 $2.00 $0.00  
      TOTAL $312.00 $157.00 $0.00  

Based on the budget, and reviewing the prices I spent last year for certain products, the goal unit price I want to spend for each item is as follows. I know that I will not be able to meet the goal price for each of these because a 50% budget of the retail price is difficult for some of these items. So, I'm hoping to come way under budget on the things that I can, so I can be slightly over budget on those harder items, and still be under budget once everything is purchased. The ones with a *** next to them are the ones I think I will, unfortunately, be over budget for, but that doesn't mean I won't try!

  • Toilet Paper - $0.25 per roll
  • Paper Towels - $0.50 per roll ***
  • Trash Bags - Large/Tall - $0.10 per bag
  • Dish Soap - $1.00 per bottle
  • Dishwasher packs - $0.13 per pack
  • Bath/kitchen hand soap - $0.75 per bottle
  • Napkins - $0.75 per 100 napkins ***
  • Kleenex - $0.75 per box ***
  • Windex - $2.00 per bottle
  • Bathroom Cleaner - $2.00 per bottle
  • Kitchen Cleaner - $3.00 per bottle
  • Sponges - $0.50 per sponge ***
  • Duster - $5.00. Funny, last year my budget for a duster was only $1.50. I met that, but I guess it was an "el cheapo" duster that didn't last. Will have to move up in quality this year!
  • Vanilla Scents - $2.50 per spray can
  • HE Washer Cleaner - $5.00 (did not buy last year)
  • Oxyclean - $2.00 (did not buy last year) * Grumble Grumble. Really wish I could convince the gals to use the homemade version of this: Baking Soda and Hydrogen Peroxide... I would totally make several mason jars full for them, if I knew they would use it... but they probably want the powder commercialized version. 
The link I posted for Kitchen Cleaner above will take you to a page with homemade recipes for cleaning products - the first one is super stupid simple: All Purpose Cleaner - Mix 1/2 cup vinegar and 1/4 cup baking soda (or 2 teaspoons borax) into 1/2 gallon (2 liters) water. For the cost of a plastic spray bottle,  I could make this for them! Arg! Oh well, can't convince everyone to be hippie like me, but I can use my blog to educate, if nothing else.

I'll keep you all posted on the prices I'm able to get! Let the shopping begin!

Friday, June 29, 2012

Taxes and the Evil 1%

Disclaimer: If politics hack you off, don't bother reading any further. This is a very political opinion post.

Today, I ran across this gem of an occupy poster. Go ahead. Read it now before you come back. I'll wait.

Personally, I love the concept. It makes sense, and it seems to be working for them. However, as I posted on FB today, we aren't taxed equally. The problem is that Americans don't want to be taxed the way Scandinavians are. You have the the left, who is fighting sooooooo hard to not tax the poor anymore because they "can't afford it" and you've got the right, who doesn't want to play in the game of redistribution of wealth. If we'd go to a Fair Tax system...maybe this would make sense. But as long as we have the current knuckleheads in office, it ain't gonna happen.

Okay, so something totally hit me today about the crazy leftists who have their undies in a bunch at the thought of a fair tax system. Yes I called you crazy, deal with it. One of those crazies snarked back at me with "fair tax punishes the poor. Consumption taxes are unfair to those who spend 90% of their income while the rich (who spend more like 2%) get off Scott free."

Mr. Crazy, you obviously haven't done your research about Fair Tax, because if you had, you would know that everyone would get a prebate equivalent to the taxes that you would pay on the basic necessities for living. Read that again for me. In other words, if those poor people are sooooo poor that they can literally only afford to "survive" they still wouldn't pay a tax at all because the prebate would cover those basic needs. To further clarify, those poor folks would only pay taxes on everything outside of those basic necessities to live: a consumption tax on everything above and beyond.

Sounds like a pretty sweet deal to me. Oooooh, wait. I forgot. Those crazy lefties don't stop looking at it there. They can't just look at how it affects THEM. They have to look at how it affects everyone else, and if someone is getting a "perceived" better deal than them, then they want to fuss and complain about how life's not fair.

Didn't your Mama ever tell you that life's not fair?

Why can't the lefties and these poor folks look at what a GOOD DEAL this is for them? Because it's not fair. It's not fair that those evil rich folks would ALSO get a prebate (equal, fair, standard across the board) because they make more money! They can "afford" it. They don't need the prebate. So it's not fair that they also get it.

Why is it not fair? You get a prebate. They get a prebate. Equal opportunity. Equal treatment. HOW IS THAT NOT FAIR?

You know, if you would worry more about yourself than worrying about what other people are doing, life would be so much easier for you.

Dumb guy that I quoted above said "Consumption taxes are unfair to those who spend 90% of their income while the rich [spend more like 2%].

Yes, it's basic math that if you only make 20K per year, the percentage of the money you spend just for basic living needs is a higher percentage than those tho make say, a few hundred grand a year. I mean, using that 90% thing as an example... 90% of 20K is 18K.  A poor person could buy 18K worth of basic living, and that would be 90% of his/her income. A rich person, could go out with the identical exact same shopping list of products, and also purchase 18K worth of basic living needs. If that rich person made $900,000 (not even a million) that would be the appropriate math to show that person only spending 2% of his/her income.

Let's be honest. Someone who makes $900K is not going to only spend $18K.  They are going to spend much more than that. Even if they invest a whole bunch, they are going live off more than 18K. If we're talking about a rich person who makes say half of that - 450K, that's 4%. Even someone who makes nearly half a million dollars is not going to only spend 18K. But even if they did.... why does that matter to you? Really? Why does it matter how a rich person spends his money? Quit whining. You're being selfish, moping and complaining about how that person spends his money. If you would do better for yourself, you could spend money the way he does too. If you want to be a rich person, make rich people decisions. That means lay off the cigarettes and lotto tickets.

The number of millionaires and billionaires is a relatively small number of the total U.S. population. A quick google search tells me that the population of the US in 2011 was 311,591,917. In 2010, there were 3.1 million millionaires, and 403 billionaires.. What a coincidence, that's where the term "the 1%" came from. 1 percent of the US are "rich" and you people are having a conniption over how they spend their money. Why do you care? If everyone.... the other 99% (which I'm a part of, thank you) would just worry about themselves instead of pointing fingers at the evil rich people, this debt crisis would correct itself.

FAIR TAX... consumption tax is the way to go. EVERYONE pays. If you're a legal citizen, you get a prebate. If you're a sorry-butt-illegal-moocher, YOU DON'T get a prebate because you aren't entitled to one, but your sure as heck would be paying a consumption tax for mooching off us. Thank you!

This is such a no-brainer. I cannot understand why so many people don't get it. Quit whining about what other people are doing and worry about yourself. You know, if you would do that, you might climb your way up to be one of those evil 1% folks. But I guess it's easier to sit at the bottom and wait for a handout. That's just pathetic.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

When one door closes, another one opens...

The last 3 1/2 years of my life has been a complete whirlwind. Fabulous, Not-so-fabulous, and anywhere in between. I feel so blessed for the tough times because they have made me stronger.

Last Fall, after trying unsuccessfully for 6 months to get pregnant, I was diagnosed with PCOS and insulin resistant. That was the swift kick in the tush that I needed to get serious about getting my health in order. While I wouldn't consider myself as intense as some health gurus out there, I have make some pretty drastic changes to my eating habits. I'm nowhere near where I want to be, because I'm still working on it. However, my choices are getting better, and my health is improving. Sure, starting a family is a motivating factor, but I also know that it will happen when it's meant to happen. God has a plan for us.

I feel like part of that plan is this journey He has put me on in order to get my health where it needs to be. Clean Eating is a no brainer. Lean meats, 5-6 small meals a day of a complex carb and a lean protein, whole grains, throw in some healthy fats, drink lots of water, stay away from sugar, and if you're going to use salt, use sea salt instead, and in moderation. There ya go, that's the cliff's notes version of eating clean.

During this process, I have found that I can't seem to learn enough about organic foods, supporting local farmers, ethical treatment of animals for the meat we eat, etc. I've watched documentaries, I've researched articles, I've signed petitions, etc etc. I'm really trying to become a vegetarian, but... it's pretty difficult. I've significantly cut back on red meat, but chicken and shrimp are REALLY hard to give up...Even after watching Food Inc.

Another aspect of this health journey that was recently introduced to me is the safety of products we use in our everyday lives. Cosmetics, personal care, household cleaners, etc. It goes hand in hand with healthy eating - what you put ON your body (makeup, lotion, soap, etc) is just as important as what you put IN your body.

Through my research, I learned of the cosmetic database. The cosmetic industry loaded with toxic chemicals. Sunscreen is a necessary evil, right? Did you ever wonder why the warning labels mention that it's flammable? Really, isn't it common sense that if something is flammable, it's probably not safe to put on your body? Your skin is an organ, and the products you put on it soak into your blood stream, and can make you sick. This is a reason why so many women struggle with infertility... so when I heard that, it really got my attention.

I dare you.... I dare you to go to the website and check out the toxicity/safety levels of your favorite products. YES, even the ones who market themselves as natural and organic.

As you all know, last summer, I became a consultant for a large direct sales company. When I became a consultant, I never had the intention of being a superstar. Direct Sales people scare me. It's like, when you see them coming, you want to run the other way because you think they are going to ask you to buy something or ask you to host a party when you really just don't want matter how much "fun" they try to spin it as. That wasn't me. That wasn't what I wanted. I LOVED the products. I had been a regular customer for years and years, and finally thought, "Why not, it's something to do, and hey, I'm on a journey to get out of debt, so I can get my products at half price and will save some money! YEAH!"

It is a good company. It works for some people, but it did not work for me. The hoops you have to jump through in order to get the discount, hidden costs (shipping, prepurchasing an inventory, etc) that I wasn't prepared for, just really turned me off. I wasn't holding parties. I wasn't really trying to hold parties, I was happy with my handful of regular customers and I was happy to help them. But really, rather than saving money, it was costing me money to keep the business going. I was trying to tough it out for a full year before throwing in the towel... but then I found the cosmetic database I mentioned above, and when I researched my longtime favorite products of this company, it was then that I knew that my part in the business was officially over.

I heard about the cosmetic database by going to one of those at home parties for another company, Ava Anderson Non-Toxic. It's a young company, it's only been around for 2 1/2 years, so that may be why you've never hard of it. I won't bore you with too many details right now, but this is where I learned about the cosmetic database, and the dangers of the everyday products that we are accustomed to. It's just like processed food. Processed food is marketed to be quick, cheap, and convenient, and these personal products are marketed very similarly. It's all about how can you be convinced to buy the product - the packaging, the claims of being healthy and organic (or cheap, if that's your concern), all the while having ingredients that are used in items that you wouldn't dream of being a kissing cousin to the product you put on your body.

I had SO MUCH FUN at that party. I went, thinking I may buy a lip balm, or something like that, and while I was there, it dawned on me that this was the next dimension to my quest for my health and safety of my body, and my family. So much in fact that I knew I was going to become a regular customer of these products. Roll your eyes, or sigh in frustration if you must, but as I am STILL on a quest to get out of debt, I had to think big picture. I realized that I was going to be buying these products, specifically the skin care, makeup, and sunscreen on a regular basis. As with most at home parties, you are given a glimpse into the business opportunity. At first I said "No thank you" because I was already burned once in direct sales and wasn't interested.

As I thought about it some more, I decided that I wanted to know more about HOW the business opportunity worked. What was the catch? How did the discount work, was I required to prepurchase inventory, was I required to pay shipping for my customers items, or did THEY pay for shipping, etc etc. After asking the right questions, I found that everything that had been a concern of mine with the previous company was a non-issue with Ava. I learned that by being a regular customer and purchasing my own products, I will meet the minimum requirements to get the discount, and so therefore, it only made sense for me to sign up.

I didn't sign up specifically for the business opportunity - that was not my motivation for doing it. I signed up because I already like the products. I REALLY like what the company stands for, and I wanted to save money on the products I know I will be buying. Funny thing is, Ava started the company not necessarily to make money, but because she was upset with the fact that most cosmetics are not safe. She's lobbying in Washington to get the cosmetic industry regulated so it will HAVE to be safe. If/when she's successful, other companies will be forced to offer safer products, which may result in a drop in sales of her products. From what I've been told, that's not a concern... she just wants there to be an availability of products that are truly safe. This is one reason why I'm so impressed with this company - they aren't concerned about their bottom line profit - they are more concerned about educating the public on the serious hazards of our everyday products.

While I didn't sign up necessarily to make a big business out of this, I DO want the opportunity to share what I've learned with my family and friends. I know that not everyone is as gung-ho about the safety of their products, and some of you reading this may think I'm a crazy for taking it so seriously. Hopefully there are others of you who may one day give me the chance to share with you what I've learned. This is one of those situations that once you learn about something, you want to share it with the whole world. Many of you reading this have small kids. Aren't you the least bit curious to know what the lasting effects of the ingredients in the products you use on them may have?

Anyway... yes, I'm technically a new consultant for Ava Anderson Non-Toxic. I would love the opportunity to tell you Ava's story (she started the company when she was 16 - yes, that means she's only 18 now). I'm going to be hosting a launch party soon (TBA), and I would absolutely love it if you could come support me. Let me share the story of how and why Ava started the company, and why the products you put on your body are so important to your health, so you can see why I am so excited about this.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Renewing Our Commitment to Use Envelopes

Last weekend, I stumbled across this template for making envelopes. They were also available to purchase on Etsy, but.... I was trying to save money (obviously). So I used the template, and some card stock I already had at home, bought a roll of contact paper for $5 to laminate and reinforce the envelopes so they wouldn't fall apart so easily, and made my own.

With Jonny's new job, our finances feel so much more under control now. As I posted last week, we started using YNAB to put together our budget, and it's making a HUGE difference in holding me accountable for where money is coming in and going out. As a result, I am trying desperately to recommit to using envelopes for "everyday spending." No more debit card purchases because I was too lazy to go to the ATM or withdraw cash at the bank.

Last night was a true testimony for me on how you spend less cash because cash "hurts" to spend more than swiping a plastic card does. Even if it's a debit card, the emotional triggers in your brain don't hurt as bad as when you spend cash. We went out to dinner and bowling with some friends. Afterwards, we discussed going to get coffee, but as I looked at our Entertainment envelope, I realized I didn't want to spend so much more of our entertainment money on one night. We had already spent $28.00 for dinner and a tip. We probably could have done without the appetizer and our meal would have been less expensive, but MAN those corn nuggets sure were good. Then we went to the bowling alley. We had coupons for 1 free game of bowling, so we paid for our shoes,which was just under $10 for both of us. Good grief when did bowling shoe rental get so expensive? I don't bowl regularly, but at that rate, it may be worth buying my own bowling shoes one of these days! So anyway, we bowled our first free game, and then decided to do another game, which was $11 and some change for the 2 of us. So $28 + $10 + $11 = $49. Yowza! So after doing all that math and seeing the dwindling dollar bills in my entertainment envelope, we decided that we didn't want to go spend another $10 on some fru-fru coffee, because we wanted to save the money for something else later on this month.

If we had been using the debit card, I don't think I would have given it a second thought. I would have swipe swipe swiped until I got home and then added up the receipts, and THEN I would have cringed at the total spent.

So yeah, I'm really looking forward to "sticking to my budget" by using cash. Once it's gone, it's gone. No more.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

You Need A Budget

YNAB. Pretty amazing stuff. If you have read my Month Ahead post, you already know that we save up the income from one month to pay the entire bills for the next month - IE, all the paychecks we receive in May go for our bills and spending during the month of June.

I've heard about YNAB on the TMMO boards for quite some time, but I thought I was doing everything just fine myself. Well, after reading about it, yet again, on the TMMO board, I decided to see what all the fuss was about. They have a 30 day free trial that you can sign up for. After that if you choose to purchase the software, it's $60. I've only had it 3 days and I'm already planning to budget that $60 to pay for it, because it's pretty fabulous.

What I like: you can download you bank transactions from your bank website and upload into YNAB. You can edit or delete transactions as necessary, and categorize those transactions so that you have a crystal clear picture of where your money is going each month. When you receive a deposit, paycheck, or whatever, you can indicate that it is money available to use this month, or next month. If you indicate next month, then that money is not calculated into your this month's budget - it's "babysat" to be used next month. Any money from your budget that you don't use this month will roll over to be available for the next month.

They also offer online teaching webinars that you can sign up for to learn more about how their service works. It's pretty fabulous. I cannot say enough good things about this - and I'm only 3 days in.

Please check it out. 30 day free trial. You do NOT have to enter payment info in to try it - you simply download and start using. At the end of your trial, your software quits working unless you finally pay for it. So you run no risk of them automatically taking your money if you forget to cancel at the end of your trial. If you're like me though, you won't want to cancel.