I’m back (maybe)

Hi friends.  It’s been a while.

I went back and read my most recent post.  And then remembered why I haven’t been blogging for the past 7 months.  It’s crazy how life events can drain all inspiration from a human.

I’m not sure that I have much to say other than we’re still here.  And I *may* be updating from time to time.  I don’t feel like I can fully commit to saying “I’m back” (thus, the title), but if inspiration strikes I will probably share a few words.

A little update– we are still attempting to live simply and pay down our debt.  Getting closer every month!  We have had to re-vamp our budget multiple times in the last few months, and will get to do it again in the coming months as we prepare for several financial transitions.  But being the crazy budget lady that I am, I don’t mind it at all 🙂

We’ve also gone through another paring down of our belongings as we prepare for another baby boy, due at the very end of July!  I will just say, it’s pretty amazing how many things we owned were “necessities…” until the greater necessity became space.  Then those items were pretty quick to get the ax.

Last thing I will say:  God is still faithful.  We’ve had some ups and downs recently, but despite our circumstances, He is good.  He is faithful, and He is good.

I hope all is well with my friends out there on wordpress.  Hope to catch up soon 🙂

Two months, two years

It’s been almost two months since we lost baby #3.

Since the miscarriage, I’ve known several people who have announced their pregnancies. And I have consciously had to choose to rejoice with them. I am truly happy for them, but I have to remember their joy or timing in sharing their joy has absolutely nothing to do with me or our losses.

Today I received an email from BabyCenter saying “Week 14! Congratulations!” Obviously, BabyCenter was happy that I supposedly made it to the second trimester. I immediately had my husband unsubscribe me from that automated “service.”

Next month will also be the 2 year mark from when we lost baby #1.

So basically today is really just a sucky day.

I am so thankful for our precious son (who is #2 in the lineup of pregnancies) and that he is growing and healthy. Not to mention sweet, smart, handsome, silly, etc, etc,….

I am also so thankful for a husband who supports me in all things, no matter how silly they are. And who lets me grieve, even two months and two years after losing our babies.

And I am mostly so thankful for God and his promises for our family. Days like today are no fun for me or anyone who gets the “joy” of interacting with me. But through it all, God is sovereign. He has already made a way. He loves and cares for us, and for my children (here, in heaven, and still to come). He will not fail.

This is my mantra today. He will not fail.

Work

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This blog serves as digital documentation (for the entire world to read, if they so desire) of our journey toward living a debt-free life. So far, our journey has been incredibly challenging, but completely rewarding.

We started off our journey to financial freedom when my husband and I were both working as teachers, living in a very nice middle class suburban home, with the ability to basically spend our money however we wanted. Over time, we have learned to more fully surrender our lives to Jesus and through that we made a series of pretty radical life-altering decisions.

First, I stopped working. Not necessarily by choice. I had a rough year during my second year of teaching and was unable to find another teaching job due to my performance evaluation. Something I was truly ashamed of a few years ago, but Jesus has brought healing from both that situation and also healing of my perfectionist/performance drive, so now I can share that with you all without feeling like a failure as I once did.

A few months later, the Lord shared that we needed to sell our house and move into Waco proper. We did that and have had some financial relief due to a much lower house payment.

Then, once we moved, Josh started working like crazy. When I say “like crazy” I really mean it. The photo up there talks about a second job. Well, Josh took a second job… And a third…. And a fourth… In addition to the volunteer work he does for the a/v team at church. Not to mention, being an amazing husband and father….

One of those jobs was pretty sporadic, but the other two extra jobs have been weekly gigs. My husband, in his support of me being a stay-at-home-mom, and in support of our desire to become debt-free, basically forfeited all days of rest for weeks and even months at a time. Not because his main job can’t support us. But because he is working hard so that we can live comfortably AND get out of debt more quickly.

I have also been waiting and praying for some way to earn extra money for us to speed along our debt payoff. I originally was hoping to utilize this blog to do so, but discovered that was not the direction I wanted this blog to go.

As I have continued to pray, we have received answers and are excited to have a few new opportunities to keep pressing forward.

Friends, it’s not easy. But it WILL be worth it. We make the sacrifices now so that later, we can live in financial FREEEEEEEDOOOOOOOM!

I am so looking forward to the day when I get to post on here that we are DEBT FREE!! Keep your eyes peeled, because it may be happening soon 😁

Opening My Door…

Before I begin, I’m not trying to turn this into a super serious blog. I’ve just had a few things on my mind lately, and this happens to be a good outlet for me to express myself.

Confession: I used to be a very judgmental person.

Technically, I still am, but God is redeeming that ugly part of me, so I don’t claim it as my current identity. I also used to be obsessed with perfection, particularly in my own achievements, and am also being healed of that. But I believe my desire for perfection is what drives the judgment. High expectations of self = high (unreasonable) expectations of others.

I guess through this transformation that is taking place in my life, I am now more aware than ever of the judgment that goes on around us all. I have posted about this on my personal Facebook page, read and shared blogs on the subject, and have had countless conversations with various people about it.

The more I think about it, the more I’m realizing how we (or maybe just me) are living in this weird dichotomy of longing for authenticity, but are too ashamed of our imperfections to openly share what is really happening in our lives.

My sister and I have joked that we would post a picture of the current state of our kitchens on Facebook to see people’s reactions.

But here is my question. If I were (or we were) to be completely open and honest in these social media forums where it is so easy to project some fallacious idea of ourselves, what would be the response?

Well, I’m going to find out. This is what my kitchen looks like. right. now.

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Truthfully, the only reason it looks this good is because I spent a large portion of the day cleaning. And even though that broom has been in the corner for a week, I have yet to sweep. The bowl on the sink ledge is full of bacon grease, but we haven’t had bacon in the house in over a week. There is a pile of papers on the bookshelf that I just don’t know what to do with. There’s a lid on the floor next to the pack ‘n’ play that I’ve walked by 1,000 times today and have yet to pick it up.

The reason I share all of this is because I am guilty of both longing for authenticity but also trying to make my life look perfect on these various social media outlets (and in person, for that matter). While sharing my thoughts and opinions with people, I always consider how it will come across to others, but not in the sense that I don’t want to offend. I do it in the sense that I want to make sure I am showing that I have my life together.

These photos are a very shallow depiction of how my life isn’t perfect. From time to time, I get the energy and/or desire to get things in order and make it all pretty and ready for others to view, assuming we have scheduled that viewing with ample time for me to get everything back to a state of perfection.

But this post is me opening my front door in my pjs, no make-up, letting you into my house unannounced, and allowing you to see and think whatever you want. Will you do the same?

I am tired of the façade. Let’s be real with one another. And let’s not judge when someone’s life doesn’t meet the unrealistic expectations that we project onto others–when we probably don’t meet those expectations ourselves.

I hope that this post may help to continue the conversation about authenticity and not judging others for the things that make them human.

Love you all.

Summer Saving: Taking Advantage of SALES!! Part 2

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In my last post, I shared that I bought almost $700 worth of new clothes for just over $220.  And as promised, I will share my secrets to scoring these huge savings!  Get ready.  It’s amazing.  Jk.  but hopefully you will read something worthwhile.

1.   Shop at outlet malls.  There are various articles as to why outlet malls are scams (I’ll let you google those for yourself), but I personally have had great success shopping at outlets.  I love getting really cute, brand name clothes for literally a fraction of what I would pay in store.  The trick is knowing retail prices beforehand, and making sure you are paying less.  Because these stores are some of my favorites to shop at, I know what a pair of jeans, a dress, or knit top run at the retail stores (regardless of what the tag says, as some items are made specifically for the outlet stores).  I made sure that I got a bargain based on what the regular stores would sell the items for.

2.  Vow to never pay retail price.  Regardless of where you shop, make the decision to never pay the full retail price.  In my opinion, the non-sale price is usually wayyy overpriced anyway.  Anytime I walk into a store, I head straight to the clearance section.  I don’t even look at the stuff that’s not on sale, because eventually it will be, and I will get a deal on it then if I still need to buy something.  I literally can’t remember the last time I paid full price for anything.

3.  Know your personal price point.  I already mentioned to know what retail stores charge for apparel.  But it’s also important to know exactly how much you personally are willing to pay for an item.  For me, I will never pay more than $30 for a pair of jeans.  I determined this price based on what I have been able to find in stores, accounting for the fact that I have to purchase petites, and those are harder to find, especially on sale.  If I can find a pair of jeans at $30 or less, you can guarantee I will buy them!  *The ones pictured above were $25 each.

4.  When you find a good deal, stock up!  If you look at the picture above, you will notice I bought multiple colors/patterns of the same items.  For example, the two dresses (identical style, different pattern) retail for $50.  They were on sale for $24, plus an additional 50% off, so I paid $12 each.  I’m pretty sure I can’t get a dress at WALMART for $12, so I bought one in each pattern available.  Same goes for the jeans, cardigans, tshirts, and sweaters–soooo… everything I bought.  I literally got one of everything in the colors that I liked that were still available in my size.

5.  Buy neutral, casual clothes that you can spruce up.  Ok, I don’t have any scientific data to back me up here.  But in my experience, neutral, casual items tend to be less expensive than the super slinky, ruffly, fancy-designs clothes.  I always buy clothes with a simple pattern and usually in a tshirt material.  They are easy to make look fancier by adding the right accessories or dress slacks/skirts, but can also be worn for day-to-day activities.  An added bonus:  since the items are neutral, they can be worn lots of different ways, so your wardrobe options grow a lot!

Bonus!!  Don’t buy at the first store you walk into.  This was a great tip from my husband!  While shopping, compare prices at similar stores, and then go back to make a purchase, after you feel confident you are getting the best deal. When we were shopping, we walked into Ann Taylor first.  I knew going in that Ann Taylor was a little on the pricey side, but I do love their clothes, so we decided to go anyway.  I found 3 shirts there for a total of $40 on sale.  That was slightly more than I care to pay in general for knit tops ($13 including tax), but I thought they were really nice and bought them.  The very next store we walked into (New York & Co.) had similar clothes that were equally beautiful for about $7 apiece.   Had I waited to check out the comparable items at other stores, I probably wouldn’t have bought the Ann Taylor shirts.  I even asked my husband if I could go return the shirts from Ann Taylor, but he said I should keep them anyway, so I did 🙂

So using all of these tips (except for the bonus one that we learned afterward), I was able to find my new wardrobe for less than 1/3 of the retail price.  Hopefully if you need to shop soon, this list will help you do the same!

What are some of your tips to save money while shopping for clothes?  Comment below 🙂

Summer Saving: Taking Advantage of SALES!! Part 1 (My STEALS)

Well, due to life circumstances, my “Summer Saving” series has been less than stellar.  But I thought I would end it here with what I believe is the best post of my life.  Well, that may be an exaggeration, but I am so excited about this that I don’t even care.

Let me preface by saying first that I really really do NOT like spending money on myself.  I always find myself justifying how every extra penny can and should go toward our debt payment.  And usually that’s what happens.

Now.

I’m about to be very humble right now by sharing the following information:

I’m still wearing maternity pants.

Yea.

My baby is 10 months old.  I’m still nursing him.  And I’m really not too far off from my pre-pregnancy weight.  (things I tell myself).  But I’m really not a fan of tight clothes or muffin tops, and when you have both of those things, it’s just not pretty.  So, my husband, being the awesome guy that he is, forced me to spend money on myself to get brand new clothes that make me look and feel good.  Thus, my desperately needed postpartum wardrobe.

Here’s a look at the items I got today.

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Cardigans

Patterned:  LOFT $7.79 (reg. $49.99)

Solid:  NY&C $14.99 each (reg. $39.95)

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More cardigans and light sweaters

Yellow:  NY&C $7.99 (reg. $26.95)

Green Stripes:  NY&C  $9.99 (reg. $39.95)

Blue Stripes:  NY&C $7.99 (reg. $32.95)

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Shirts

Blue Floral:  Ann Taylor $9.99 (reg. $29.99)

Grey:  Ann Taylor $12.49 (reg. $34.99)

Pink Floral:  Ann Taylor $14.99 (reg. $44.99)

Dark Beige:  LOFT $9.88 (reg. $29.99)

Sparkly Beige:  LOFT $3.59 (reg. $29.99)

Tank Top:  LOFT $14.99 (reg. $34.99)

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Dresses and pants

Dresses:  LOFT $11.99 each (reg. $49.99)

Jeans:  NY&C $24.97 each (reg. $49.95)

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My new wardrobe 🙂

Had I paid full price for everything, I would have spent $686.91 including tax.  However, I am a bargain shopper (we know this, right?) and I paid $220.39.  For those familiar with math (I don’t include myself in this category), that is LESS THAN 1/3 THE RETAIL PRICE.

In my next installment, I will share how I scored these deals (no, it didn’t include opening up credit cards to get a larger discount.  Although they definitely tried to tempt me), and what to look for when shopping for a new wardrobe so you can get awesome deals like this too 🙂

Very Inspiring Blogger Award

I am honored that my friend Heather at Simply Save would nominate me for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award.  If you are looking for another great money-saving blog, this gal is the real deal.  Her concept is “living the good life at a cheaper price,” which I love.  I only know her through the blogging world, but I’m pretty sure if I knew her outside of wordpress, we’d be friends.  Also, I strongly support her use of the Oxford comma 🙂

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Here are the rules of the award:

  1. Thank and link to the amazing person who nominated you.
  2. List the rules and display the award.
  3. Share seven facts about yourself.
  4. Nominate 15 other blogs and comment on their posts to let them know they have been nominated.
  5. Proudly display the logo on your blog and follow the bloggers who nominated you.

Here are seven facts about myself…

  1. My full name is Mariam, but I have gone by Mary my entire life.
  2. I am married to… literally… the hottest guy on the face of the earth.  I would share a photo, but I can’t for fear that all women would envy me 😉
  3. I have one son here with me and two babies in heaven.
  4. I accepted Jesus and was baptized on April 18, 2004.  It has been just over 10 years since I made this decision, and since then my life has been absolutely transformed.  If you ever want to know what I mean by that, don’t hesitate to ask!
  5. I started this blog because I wanted to share with others how we are paying down our (read: my) student debt by making radical lifestyle choices.  I know it’s not for everyone, but my hope is for someone to find a few things that will encourage them along their journey as well.
  6. I have a photographic memory.  Growing up and in college I never studied for tests.  I just memorized what my notes looked like.  Don’t tell my profs.  I don’t want them to revoke my diplomas.
  7. Speaking of which, I have 2 degrees in music (a Bachelors in Church Music and a Masters in Vocal Performance).  I always thought my life after my schooling would heavily involve music, but it turned out God had other plans for me.  I am very thankful to get to stay home with our son, and even though I honestly never thought I would be a stay at home mom, it is clearly where I need to be right now.

Now for the fun part… My nominations (in alphabetical order):

Amber Under Construction is awesome.  Her tagline is “More like Him and less like Me.”  She shares her journey through this life with such authenticity and is definitely one inspiring lady.

Indebted Mom has a fantastic blog with a unique perspective on debt.  We have very similar stories, which I think is cool.  She has also been a great encouragement as I’ve continued my blogging journey, and you need to check her out.

The World of J Patrick Avery is my brother who is a fantastic writer.  He shares excerpts from the novel he is currently writing, flash fiction, streams of consciousness, etc., as well as tons of information about writing and grammar.

The Zero Waste Chef  is super cool.  She strives to live a lifestyle of zero waste (thus, the title, I’m assuming), and has great ideas for utilizing every aspect of food, making things from scratch, and eliminating waste.

Well, that’s not 15 people, but I firmly stand behind these blogs and the causes and concepts they support.  I hope you will check them out and enjoy them as much as I have 🙂

Another Update and a List of What Not to Do.

I’ve mentioned that it’s been a challenging few weeks around the Moore house.  I didn’t imagine I would share this so soon, but I just feel like maybe it would be helpful to someone else.  Or therapeutic for me.  Or something….

We found out that we lost our third baby.  This is our second pregnancy loss, but our third pregnancy.  After our first miscarriage, I didn’t tell anyone for a looooong time (other than the people who knew we were pregnant in the first place).  But I’m learning that in life that it’s okay to share our hurts as well as our joys.  It’s what makes us human.  Things aren’t always sunshine and rainbows, and to pretend that they are is just inauthentic.  And that’s the last thing I want to be.  My life is awesome sometimes and kinda sucks other times, but I live in a place of grace.  I am not afraid to share our stories of loss or hurt or imperfection because there is grace for all those things.  I am secure enough in my relationship with Jesus to be able to express myself and hopefully use a terrible situation to His glory.

That being said, here’s a few things that I feel like are important for people to know.  This may or may not apply to all women in the same situation, but these are things I’m learning as we go through this for the second time.  Also, this may be a bit cynical, so I hope you will forgive me for that.  I’m not trying to be particularly sage or encouraging.  I’m just trying to be real.

1.  Don’t try to make me feel better.  While words of encouragement are greatly appreciated, there is really nothing that can be said that will make it any less painful.  A woman needs to be allowed to grieve the loss of her baby without people immediately trying to help her get over it.  It’s okay to still be sad about it a year, two years, 10, 15, 20 years (etc.) later.  That’s your baby and the sting of losing a baby will never really go away.

2.  The stats really don’t help.  Yes, 15-20% of known pregnancies end in miscarriage.  Maybe 40% of all pregnancies (known and unknown) end in miscarriage.  But really, nothing positive is accomplished by stating this.  End of story.

3.  Having another healthy baby doesn’ t make it any easier.  I am so very, very thankful for our sweet Josiah.  He is precious and perfect and the best thing to happen to us since we got married 5 years ago.  But as I just stated, that doesn’t make it any easier.

4.  “It just wasn’t meant to be.”  Ummmm, just don’t say that please.  Thanks.

5.  “Some people have it much worse.”  Yep.  That’s true.  But am I really supposed to be comforted by someone else’s pain?  That’s just silly.

I could probably come up with a few more, but I think what I’m really getting at here is that losing a baby is terrible no matter what.  It hurts no matter what.  Of course people want to help, and that is amazing.  Don’t think your offers to help are unappreciated.

But I think the most helpful thing that can be said is, “I’m praying for you.  Let me know how I can help.”  That’s really all that needs to be said.  Anything more and you’re likely to dig yourself one of the previously mentioned proverbial holes.  Or if you’re a really good friend, you can offer to be my bartender 😉  (shout out to my buddy).

Please know that in spite of all that has happened this last week, we are doing okay.  Yes, we are hurting.  But we also know that God is still in control and is taking care of our family.

Also, if you are dealing with or have dealt with pregnancy loss and would like to talk to someone, please, please get in touch with me.  I don’t have all the answers, obviously (or any, for that matter), but I do know that sharing with (or crying with) women who have been in your same situation is sometimes necessary.

I hope you all will have a good week, and I’ll try to get back on the bandwagon of accomplishing something related to saving money on here soon.  Love you all.

It’s been a while….

Well, I took an accidental two-week break. The last two weeks have been a bit of a whirlwind at the Moore house. We went on a quick trip back to my hometown for 4th of July, and had a great time seeing family & celebrating the 4th.

For our trip, we budgeted $400. This was to include gas for the drive there and back, meals on the road, and a date night while we were there. We actually went $135 over budget, but for the first time in life, I wasn’t stressed about it at all!

There were two things that caused us to go over budget.

First, we paid for a dog-sitter. We usually have friends or family take care of our pups, but ended up finding a college student who was very sweet with our dogs who was able to come to the house a couple times a day to let the dogs out, play with them, and feed them. That was $50 well spent–the dogs didn’t have to be stressed about not being home for four days!

The other $85 was spent on a giving opportunity while we were there. Without going into too much detail, it was an opportunity to bless family and we felt led to do so.

Even though Dave Ramsey would probably be mad at us for going over budget, we feel like we did what was necessary and are content with our decision to do so. Big moment in the life of this crazy budget lady.

Hope you all had a great holiday! See you back here soon 🙂

Ergo Baby Carrier for $67 shipped!

Great deal on an Ergo Baby carrier! $67 shipped!

This carrier is amazing & I wouldn’t survive going anywhere without it for my son! If you’re in the market, or know someone who is, refer them here!!

From Money Saving Mom.