Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Blessing of Hand-Me-Downs

I love it when someone calls me and says, "Hey, I was wondering. I'm cleaning out the closets and we've outgrown a bunch of clothes. What size is your child?" I have been the recipient of some pretty great stuff! One of my children has very narrow heels. Finding shoes that fit is an all day search. We go from store to store and often go home empty handed. A few years ago we got connected with a family that has a child about a year older with the same challenge. Voila! Prayers answered! We still shop for shoes but quite often after all we can do we'll get that magic phone call that some shoes have been outgrown. What has been soooooo surprising to me is that quite often the shoes still have tags on them! The family that passes the shoes on has some doting grandparents and this particular child is in no short supply. So much so that some things never even get worn before they are passed on.

I have never felt that clothing my children had to cost a lot of money. Each of my children gets a few brand new things each year. Mostly from grandparents. But I have never felt that my children were not well dressed when they are wearing the, "pass-a-longs". When we receive something it is usually in really good shape. I have gotten in to the habit of going over each item carefully. I'm pretty picky. There are a few guidelines that have helped keep the standard of quality high. The first thing I ask when I look at something is, "How is the color? Does it look tired?" The second thing I ask is, "Are there obvious stains?" Then follow the questions about buttons and zippers and holes. By following these guidelines my children are clean, neat, and relatively in style.

When it's time to pass things on to someone else I look over each item and ask the same questions. I want to be sure I am giving someone a quality item. If I wouldn't want to see my child dressed in it then I don't pass it on. Over the last few days I have been purging out the too small clothing. And I was truly amazed at something. My child was passed a cute little coat that has worn so well that now we're passing it along again. It was made by London Fog and the person who originally purchased the coat paid a pretty penny for it. It has gone through 2 kids that I know of and I'm sure at least 1 that I don't know (the original wearer). The color is still bright. The trim is in good shape. The fabric shows almost no sign of wear. I didn't know a child that needed that particular size so I passed it on to our local thrift store. I'm sure that little coat will be a great find for a cash strapped parent. And maybe they will feel a bit of encouragement that they were able to find a good quality item for a fabulous frugal price.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Pantry Challenge

For a good part of January I have been following The Pantry Challenge over at the site. She's been doing a cross site challenge with Crystal over at The challenge had some pretty broad guidelines and allowed you to tailor it to your family. I had a great time coming up with some great pantry meals. My grocery bill was cut drastically. I was able to rotate some things that needed to be eaten and my family was pretty much none the wiser;-)!

Next month they are doing a Freezer Meals Challenge and I'm excited to start putting some pre-made things away for the busy days that are my life. I'm going to be posting a few of my tried and true freezer recipes. I have a wonderful recipe for biscuits from my Amish cookbook. I love having these ready in the freezer because they're way better than Pillsbury and have no preservatives. They cook from pre-cut and frozen to perfect and delicious in just 15 minutes. I also have a fabulous recipe for Red Enchilada Sauce that is simply wonderful.

If there is one thing I love to's COOK!

Hurray for February!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Debt Busting

Over the years we have accumulated some debt. I think most people fall in to the debt trap with out even realizing it. It's taken some time to start seeing this clearly and I am now turning the page.

I see it and now I am taking the necessary steps to eliminate it. Our income fluctuates and is now evening out a little. I just recently finished reading Dave Ramsey's book, "The Total Money Makeover". I thumbed through it a few years back but didn't get serious with it. Why? Because our income was not predictable. I figured that in order to make it work we would need a regular income. If I had examined it more closely I would have learned that he had a proven way to deal with our situation of unpredictability. Oh well. Live and learn.

Over the last few years I have learned some great ways to be frugal and happy. Now I'm going to apply those things while doing a Total Money Makeover. This is exciting! The thought of (as Dave says) "living like nobody else so that later you can live like nobody else" is encouraging to me. We don't have credit card debt but we have some lingering medical bills that need attention. Before thoroughly reading Dave's book I felt that these debts would have to wait. Now I see that I can really work on them right now. Well, after Baby Step #1 is completed. Right now I am looking for ways to build an emergency fund. I see the wisdom in it. Many people live with a steady salaried type paycheck and it's a different thing altogether to deal in the realm that we do.

I was reminded of Dave Ramsey's book over at the moneysavingmom site. She told the story of how they have saved 100% down for a house. I was really inspired by what she said. She talked about how she had been taught when she was young to work carefully with money. At the beginning of 2009 they had 33% of their goal. At the end of 2009 they had reached their goal of 100%! I was blown away to say the least! Hurray for them!

So, as I embark on this Total Money Makeover journey I will post about my progress.

The thought of being debt free seems far away but after reading Dave's book and seeing that other real people have gotten rid of their debt it gives me courage that I can do this.

I paid off a small debt a few days ago and it felt great!

Onward and upward!

Cultivating the permanent ability of being useful and generous

Several years ago I came across a wonderful quote and for a long time it was posted on my fridge. It talked about how when an individual practices frugality and self restraint,they make themselves permanently able to be useful and generous. It was by Mrs. Child. When I find it I will post the exact quote.

I was moved on a deep level by this quote. It started working within me. It came to me at time when we had very little income. I began thinking how I could improve my family's well being by putting this idea in to action. I started thinking about how I could help those around me. I used to pay attention to the price of things but this quote changed my perspective on the amount of money I had available. I was struggling with what I call "poverty thinking". I was spending a little too much time around people who were very focused on what they didn't have. I began spending time around people who had a better focus. Then I started actively searching for ways to reduce the amount of money I spent but increase the amount that I brought home. And the next step was to then build up a storage of things my family needed but for less. After that came the opportunity to help a family I knew. It was a very private transaction. They needed help and I could help. Not with money but with food. I still didn't have money but I had food. It was a wonderful experience to help a friend in that way. And since that time I have been able "to be useful and generous" more than a few times.

The choice to be frugal can be viewed in two ways. Some people think that being frugal is a drudgery that must simply be endured because income is low. They believe that it must be acknowledged in every conversation lest the person they are talking to might forget that they are lacking in money. I choose to believe that being frugal is a great way for me to exercise creativity in the running of my home. My husband is a very creative individual. His creative abilities provide the income for our home. He's paid the price to get to where he is today. He's honed the talent God gave him. He has worked for many years to be at the level he is today.

Frugality can be honed in the same way. With each passing day I am honing my abilities to use well the income that my husband provides. And I've learned something along the way. THIS IS FUN!!! AND I'M GETTING GOOD AT IT!

I hope those who read my blog will find encouragement in their frugal journey. I HOPE YOU WILL FIND THE FUN!!!