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 🙂

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 😁

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 🙂

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 🙂

veryinspiringbloggeraward

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 🙂

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 🙂

When Discouragement Rears Its Head

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Source: daveramsey.com

Disclaimer: I’m going to be pretty open with yall today. If you aren’t feeling hearing about Jesus, Dave Ramsey, or about how our we deal with discouragement in our family, then you will probably not want to continue. If you don’t have a problem with any of those, then I strongly encourage you to read.

Just a quick bit of background info.  The debt we are currently paying on consists of my two student loans, a car loan, and our mortgage.  We set a goal recently to pay off one of my student loans (a very ambitious goal) by the end of 2014.  The way we have attempted to accomplish this goal is by paying all our bills and necessities, and then all extra income goes toward the debt.

Next.  I’m going to sound like a complainer for a minute, but bear with me.

It seems that any time we start to make some headway on our debt payment, something happens to throw us off course.  In January, our washing machine died.  Thankfully we were able to purchase a new one and get a great deal!  But then our entire kitchen went out of commission for about a week (no electricity or water… long story).  Then Josh’s car needed a sizable repair.  All within about a two week span.  Thankfully, the Lord provided the means for us to pay for all of these things.  I had just sold off a lot of inventory from a direct sales job I decided to retire from.  The plan was to put that money toward our debt… didn’t happen.  We ended up using that money for the car repair, and then also using a large portion of our emergency fund.

We spent the next two months replenishing our emergency fund.  When we finally did, we had a large chunk of money to put toward my student loan in April (yay!).  Then the next month, we overdrew our account twice.  I can’t even remember what happened… other than life.  It took us the entire month of May to get back on track.  I wasn’t able to pay any money on my loan for that month.  Finally, it seemed like we were back on track for the month of June, and I could pay another large sum on my loan (yay again!) and then we got an estimate to trim our trees…  $4000.  No joke.  Unfortunately, the tree trimming is a safety/insurance issue at this point, so it is absolutely necessary.  The extra income we were going to put toward my loan seemed to once again be allocated for us.

I’m not going to lie.  When things like this happen it is incredibly discouraging.  It is so easy to get mad, spend weeks or months getting frustrated, and just give up.  I have actually wanted to do this multiple times.  And yet, we have continued to make ends meet and slowly but surely pay down our debt.

This is how we have managed to do it.

1.  We pray about it.  When it seems like life is falling apart financially, we talk to the One who holds our future.  God promises to provide for all our needs.  We may not be able to accomplish all of our wants on our own personal timeline, but he is faithful to provide all our needs.  This has obviously included monetary provision, but also it has been a provision of faith for us too.  When we want to give up and stop trusting God, he always seems to speak in such a way that increases our faith.  Most recently when I was praying about our finances (probably a month or more ago), He gave me the word “victory.”  At the time I didn’t know what exactly he was speaking to, but now I know that He was speaking to our life in general.  He has given us victory over our circumstances because we already have victory in Jesus.  The verse that I was given was Psalm 118:14 “The Lord is my strength and my song; he has given me victory.”

2.  We read the Bible.  I believe that the Bible is the word of God and that it is true.  When we face difficulty in life, we spend time (aside from our regular time with Jesus) reading the Bible.  Lots of times, God will highlight a passage that speaks to our situation.  Other times, I go back to the promises that I know he’s already spoken.  This one is always helpful, particularly in times of financial crisis:

Matthew 6:25-34 “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing?  Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are?  Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?  And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow.  They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are.  And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?  So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’  These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs.  Seek the Kingdom of God  above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.  So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”

3. We speak truth over our thoughts.  When things get especially difficult, it is easy to let your mind wander and make things even worse.  An example… “Nothing ever works out for us.”    “This isn’t fair.”  “Everyone else seems to have things work out just right.”  Etc.  When these kinds of things pop into my head, the first thing I do is to speak biblical truth over those kinds of destructive thoughts.  The verse that has helped me through a whole lot of frustrating situations in life is Psalm 126:5-6 “Those who plant in tears will harvest with shouts of joy.  They weep as they go to plant their seed, but they sing as they return with the harvest.”  Sowing is hard, and we are definitely in the sowing season right now.  But when we reap the harvest, it will be glorious!

4. We continue to give.  Even in our need, we give to others.  We may not have much to give, but that is always a non-negotiable in the budget.  And we always give of our first fruits… aka, first thing that comes out of the budget in the month is our tithe.  Our church gives the best, most thorough explanation on why we give.  If you don’t feel like reading all of that, the short of it is this:  “So, the answer to our question, “Why do we give?” appears to be clear. All of it (our stuff) is all His anyways. We are His stewards and managers and even our ability to earn income and build assets is a gift from Him. We are blessed generously to the extent we give generously and He wants the needs of His house to be met.”  Source:  antiochcc.com

5.  We remain diligent.  It is so important that no matter what our circumstances, financial or otherwise, that we stay the course to meet our long-term goals.  Giving up in times of frustration or discouragement will only push us back even further for when we finally get a grip and get back to it.  We make the conscious decision every single day to be diligent and to commit to our goal of financial freedom.  It’s not easy, but it is absolutely necessary.

So that’s what we have done through our times of discouragement.  This is specifically written about our financial woes, but absolutely 100% applies to all areas of life.  I hope if you or your family is struggling that this can be an encouragement to you.

Please know if you ever have questions about any of the information above, please feel free to contact me and I would love to discuss this more in-depth with you.

p.s. we are getting another estimate on the trees 😉

 

 

Stop The Vacation Blues, Save More Green

Originally posted on Three Peas Services:
Thinking about planning a family vacation? Are you already hyperventilating just thinking about the cost? We have compiled some of our best travel and vacation tips. From dining to lodging to entertainment, save big…

Summer Saving: Home Made Lemon Sugar Body Scrub

home made lemon sugar body scrub recipeI’ve had five lemons sitting in my fridge for a while now.  Today I decided to actually put them to use!  You all know me…  I like a quick and easy recipe, and that’s just what this is!!  This took me just a few minutes to make and smells good enough to eat!  Which, technically you can do 😉

ingredients

Items needed:

2 cups white sugar

2-3 lemons

2-3 tbsp. coconut oil

jar

microplane zester

1.  Pour 2 cups sugar into a bowl and stir in the juice of 2 lemons (the third isn’t used until the end).   Mix until lemon juice is evenly distributed.

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2.  Add coconut oil, 1 tablespoon at a time until you get the desired consistency.  I used 3 tablespoons.  You can stop here if you like, but I found the coconut smell was too overpowering and wanted a stronger lemon scent and color.

3.   If you choose to do so, add the zest of 3 lemons.  This will add to the delicious lemon-y scent and will give it a natural lemon color, as seen in the photo below.

That’s pretty much it!!  Told you it would be easy:)

 Enjoy!!

lemon scrub

 

38 Reasons Why HEB is the Best Dang Grocery Store in the World

By now everyone knows of my love for HEB. And it’s clearly not just me. Thanks BuzzFeed for this gem 🙂

http://www.buzzfeed.com/summeranne/h-e-butt?bffb&s=mobile

Summer Saving: Saving on Water

Saving on water.  Let me just start by saying that the biggest way my family has cut our water bill was by selling our house with the big yard and built-in sprinkler system.  During the summer, since we live in Texas, we would spend anywhere between $150-200 PER MONTH on water, and our grass was still brown.  I believe in watering the ground, but not at that cost.  So yea, tip number 1, to save money on water, sell your house and get a smaller yard.

Just kidding.

I mean, I’m not, but that’s a really unreasonable thing for me to suggest.  I have a few other things that we have done to save on the cost of water during these summer months.

1.  Take timed showers.  Decide what a reasonable amount of time for a shower is for you and your family, set a timer, and stick to it!  I would suggest setting it on your phone (if possible) so you can set a 5-minute warning timer first, and then have the second and final one go off at your cut-off time.  Or you can purchase one of those sand timers that stick to your shower wall and have a visual reminder.

2.  Don’t let the water run while washing dishes.  I started doing this a few months ago when I realized I spent about 20 minutes per day washing dishes (I happen to let them pile up frequently), which means 20 minutes of mostly wasted water per day.  I decided I would start filling the sink with warm, soapy water instead and use that water to rinse off dishes before going in the dishwasher.  I don’t do this for hand-washed dishes though because that’s gross.

3.  Collect rain water for plants, gardens.  I wish I could count on this in Waco.  I don’t think we get enough consistent rain here in Central Texas for me to be able to do this all the time, but for those of you in climates that actually get frequent rains, this is a great way to keep your plants going.

4.  Don’t play in sprinklers.  For those of you with kids, see if your city has a splash pad you can take your kids to play.  I know in Waco, we have five different FREE splash pads around the various parks in town.  I guess it’s technically not saving actual water consumption, but it will definitely help you save on your personal water bill.

Just a few thoughts.  I’m sure lots of you have great ideas for saving on your water bill.  Leave more ideas in the comments!!