Grace in the chaos

The past few months have been quite difficult for me and for my family and I’ve tried very hard not to talk about it. I try very hard not to whine on facebook or even address it most of the time, and that in itself is quite difficult. I don’t feel that whining, airing frustrations, or focusing on them are good things to do and they don’t produce good fruit, so, outside of the occasional pity party, I’ve tried very hard to avoid it until now.

We started on a venture about six months ago now, one that was very scary, but we were very sure that it was God’s plan and we were very excited to begin it! We made plans to leave our house, with no buyer and no renter, to buy a duplex in an area of the community that we’d been longing to live for all the fruit that life there can bring. We had no extra income, very little savings (emphasis on the word VERY), and a very fuzzy plan, but we were certain that this is what God wanted and that now is when he wanted it. He showed us a door a long time ago, and he started to open it. We stepped out in faith.

He gave us renters for our house (thank you Jesus!), but just enough to cover the mortgage. We started plans with a bank to buy the duplex and everything looked good! Through the generosity of a wonderful couple, we made plans to stay with them while we started work on the duplex to convert it into a home that would work for us. The house needed more work than thought, and it was going to cost more than we thought (little hurdles), but we tried to focus on the plan and allow God to provide. We were only able to work on half of the house at a time, so we adjusted our plans, extended our timeline (more little hurdles), and started working on the first side! The kids played in their new gigantic, shared yard with their new friends while many of our friends helped us start doing the demo work! It was a wonderful night!  

We began to move out of our old house in the meantime, making plans to store the bulk of our belongings in a friend’s moving truck (again, thank you Jesus!). The night we made the final push to move out of our old house, after we finished moving the last box, cleaning the last floor, and unloading the last of our luggage into our friends’ house, we got a phone call. Through no fault of their own, the plan had fallen through, and we had no place to live because we’d completely torn up the half of the duplex we had to do the work we needed to do. Big hurdle. It was 11:00 at night after one of the longest days of our life, and we were devastated and homeless.

My in-laws, being the extremely generous and gracious people they are, took only that first night to decide that we could live with them and not on the street. It’s a good thing my children are so cute! Still, it wasn’t a big enough house for two families and seven people. We also didn’t have nearly the room that we had planned on, so storage was a problem, but they were wonderful about it, and we stayed long enough to push through work on the one side and make it able to be lived in. It took two months and we would have to make do without a stove, a dining room, or much of a kitchen at all (small hurdles), but we could move in and wait for the other side to free up. We did.

Meanwhile, we got most of the way through the mortgage process, and everything seemed on course, until it wasn’t. The person handling our loan casually mentioned that there were some new federal regulations put into place regarding the purchase of duplexes (big hurdles): we would have to put 25% down, the interest rate would be considerably higher, the loan couldn’t be federally backed for the bank’s protection, and we couldn’t get a construction loan. It didn’t matter that it wasn’t going to be an investment property, these new regulations were put into place to protect us from big investors, and we had to follow them too. Well, the interest rate being higher was unfortunate but not impossible, but we didn’t have 25% to put down, and we were counting on at least a small construction loan to do some of the repairs and work that needed to be done to turn it into descent working house for one family. Also, because it couldn’t be federally backed, the bank wouldn’t take on the loan, not in this economy.

We found a credit union, who had a friend on its board, that seemed to be willing to take the loan in-house. We couldn’t borrow more than 80% of the appraised value but we just had an appraisal done and the figure should work out for the sale price with minimal out of pocket to us. The other details were not a good as we were hoping for (still a higher interest rate, a shorter loan term, and still no construction loan), but we adjusted our hopes and moved forward.

Meanwhile, living in a very small space, and working around the difficulties of no kitchen, we continued to do what we could on the house from our regular monthly income, little by little. It was very slow (even longer timeline) and frustrating, especially with little money and time to work on it, but we waited. Finally moving day came for the tenants on the other side, and we started to break through to begin the real work. Hope always comes with demo work!

The termite letter went through well, the loan was approved and we were very close to closing when we got the appraisal back, the second one in two months, and it came back far too short. The loan was off the table. I can’t begin to tell you how horribly depressing the days after that were for us.

I wish I could tell you that it’s all turned around and we have had a miraculous intervention, but we haven’t. We still don’t have any answers, just an unfinished house that we can’t buy, that’s costing far too much money to put together, new repairs that surface weekly, no time to do it, no money to pay for it, a timeline that is currently stretching into the fall and possibly further and no answers. To add to it, I have been crippled with raging morning sickness and unable to clean the rubble that is our home or find much peace in it. It’s been a very difficult six months for us.

Probably by now if you have continued reading, you’ve realized how very much I have stepped away from my earlier decision to not whine and complain, but I do have a purpose in it. I realized that some of the most encouraging things I’ve ever heard or read have been when people share their personal struggles. Noone’s exempt from struggles, even those that appear to have perfect lives because we all live on earth, where life is very hard indeed. Not to sound all gloomy and doomy, but it is very hard, and doesn’t stop being hard. You never ‘make it’ to where life is easy, because that’s life. If it was perfect, we’d be much more reluctant to desire heaven so fervently!

I have two main points I want focus on: There’s always hope and there’s always grace. It may not be enough to jump up and down for joy every day, but He promised there’d always be sufficient grace, not abundant happiness or ease of living. Early on the Lord gave me the image of the apostle walking out on the water towards Him. It was when he looked down that he became scared and wasn’t able to do it, but when he kept his eyes focused on Jesus, he could walk out across that water. I am that apostle and I’m trying very hard not to look down. Sometimes I do. Sometimes I look down and get scared and frustrated and shake my fists at heaven and ask where God is in this; when I’m trying desperately to do His will, why isn’t it easier?! Isn’t it supposed to be easier when I’m trying to do His will?!?!?!?! But there is enough grace to make it through the day, even in the midst of drywall dust, nails sticking up on the floor, debilitating stomach sickness, and total chaos. There’s grace even in the chaos.

All you need is… love?

All you need is… love?

I love music and I want to instill a similar love in my children, but I learned early on that many children’s music cds are either horrible to listen to, or… horrible to listen to!! I have found a few that I can stand to listen to upwards of 100 times, and they’re keepers! I added a new one recently of Beatles songs, completely sung by children. For some reason, children love to hear other children sing, and I enjoy the Beatles, so it’s a win-win!

A couple of weeks ago, I had my Kids Beatles cd in while we were driving, and I was bopping my head to ‘All You Need is Love’, having a nice little afternoon drive! My oldest child, who I had no idea was even listening to the music, finally said, “Mama! Why are they saying all you need is love?! You need more than love! You need HOPE and FAITH and JESUS!! You need a lot more than love!!”

Wow! I do not know how he came to be my child, but I am amazed by the depth of his thinking!

Now that I think of it, I remember sitting at my window-seat as a young teenager, and pondering the idea of love. I remember thinking that if I could just find that one person to love me, and be with me forever, I’d finally (!!!) be happy. That was all I needed. Life would never be hard again. All you need is love… a few decades after the Beatles’ reign, but that was pretty much my mantra. It was what I told myself over and over (and over) again just to make it through the day-t0-day teenage heartache drama.

So my 5 year-old knows more about life than I did at 14, and I am so, SO grateful!

I WANT MORE!!!

Ok, I bet none of you thought you’d EVER hear from me again after my complete and total drop from the edge of the earth, but here I am!!!

I have some news though… the blog is changing!

1) There will be less posts! One of the reasons that I had such trouble keeping up, and therefore suffering complete and total burnout, was that I was trying to be like one of the big couponing blogs. But I’m not!!! I don’t have an assistant, a staff, and guest writers! And I don’t have time to do the work of multiple people! I realize this now, and I’m not going to try. I will probably be able to write a few times a week, but not much more than that!

2) It will be different. I will be writing about my family and my faith much more and about couponing much less. I will still write about trying to live frugally, especially some personal challenges, because it’s something that I love doing! Writing about it motivates me to stretch in that way, but I also feel a need to write about what inspires me, and that’s my God and my family! I hope it will inspire you as well!

This will be a blog with substance, not fluff. If you want to laugh a lot, cry sometimes, and be inspired, please keep visiting! I promise, there’ll be plenty of time to share weekly savings, swap recipes for homemade soap, and try to learn to live on less, but I want this blog to be so much more than just coupons!

I have a vision for this blog! I invite you to join me. I also invite you to PLEASE comment and participate! If you don’t know how to comment, call me! If you don’t have my number, email me! If you don’t have that either, find me on Facebook, but I want to hear from you! I love some of the connections this blog has given me, and I want more!

God bless you!

Backsliding…

Backsliding…

 

I’m ashamed to admit that I haven’t been blogging much lately, in part because of how we’ve been blowing through money. And the reason I’m blowing through money: I’m tired! I’ve gotten much less disciplined in general as well as MUCH busier, and, when the end of the day comes and I don’t want to cook dinner because I’m so tired… I don’t! I’ll get a pizza or pick up some fast food. It’s easy, more peaceful, much faster, and everyone’s happy with dinner, but it’s also much more expensive! It’s also a lot easier to run the kids through McDonald’s after exhausting grocery store trips. In fact, letting someone else cook for us is ALWAYS much easier! I’ve fallen into the eating out trap!

I am nothing if not honest (just ask my husband!) and writing a post on this blog, one where I use any kind of personal voice at all, would mean admitting how horribly I’ve allowed our money to be spent. The same lack of discipline has carried over to most of the areas of my life, which is also shameful. I’ve allowed the business of my life to become an excuse for my backsliding, but it’s not a good excuse. It’s lazy!

So, it’s not January 1st, but who says fresh starts have to be on a certain day of the calendar year? It’s time for my October 6th resolutions! I will most assuredly be sliding back again, and, after a while I’ll renew my resolutions with high hopes, only to backslide again. We all do it and we always will! It’s that darn flesh… But I will keep brushing off the complacency and begin anew, in January, October, or whenever it may happen.

I will be spending some time tonight setting very specific goals, and I may or may not share them on here. ;) BUT I will, yet again, begin this blog anew and begin posting about my journey to save money and become a true provident and resourceful woman of God! I hope to encourage others in their journey as well!

Sarah

Lands End, Coldwater Creek and Ann Taylor, OH MY!

Lands End, Coldwater Creek and Ann Taylor, OH MY!

 

Now is the time for clearance sales!!!!

Since my birthday was last week, I did get a few items at Coldwater Creek ($6 shirts and a $13 cardigan)! I also got a new pair of shoes for me, one of the best school backpacks at 70% savings (about $12) for next year and some seriously cheap swim shirts for my oldest son all at Lands End. This is quality stuff and now’s the time to get it!

Lands End 25% off of everything (clearance included) and free shipping, PLUS 6% cashback from EBATES! Click on the Ebates link and either sign in or sign up ($5 bonus for signing up) and search for Lands End, then use the code SAVE25 and the pin 1231 at checkout to get all of the above!)

Coldwater Creek 40% off of everything and free shipping, plus 2% cashback from SHOPATHOME! Click on the Shop at home link and sign in or sign up to get the 2% back, the 40% off and free shipping don’t need codes!

Ann Taylor 40% off of everything already marked down and free shipping plus 2.5% cashback from EBATES! Click on the Ebates link for the cashback. The 40% off and free shipping are automatic!

 

Booking it! – September

Booking it! – September

 

 

I have recently (thankfully) been able to get back into reading, which is my first love! I was the child who snuck flashlights under her pillow so she could sneak in a couple of extra hours of reading after bedtime! A little sad, I know, but there’s just something about books!

If ever I have a problem, an issue, or just something that I can’t seem to conquer, I run to a bookstore (or Amazon, as my children more easily permit me). I feel better just knowing that I have a book in my hand, ready to pass on the knowledge I’m seeking! I pine for old favorites like old friends that I haven’t seen in years, because books don’t change no matter how long it’s been! I’m never disappointed, no matter what I’m seeking!

So, this month, I’ve been reading a few wonderful books!

First, Love and Respect by Dr Emmerson Eggerichs.

I cannot tell you enough how much I DID NOT want to open this book. I’m not even entirely sure why, but I tried a few times, I’ve even had the darn thing for about 8 months now, and I just did not want to open it! You’d think the book weighed hundreds of pounds as hard as it was for me to finally force myself to open the cover, but open it I did. I’m not done with it yet, but I have to say that, as hard as it is for me to read sometimes, this book has some serious wisdom. It’s worth prying that cover open and taking a look!

I’m also reading this awesome book called ‘A Mother’s Rule of Life: How to Bring Order to Your Home and Peace to Your Soul’ by Holly Pierlot.

This one, God dropped into my lap, literally! Some of my friends had just started a study of this book (which I’d never heard of), and I said I couldn’t go because I didn’t have anyone to watch my kids and a book study is NOT something you can do with small children! Well, that was on Friday, and on Sunday, I opened one of my birthday presents and there was the book! I hadn’t mentioned anything about the book or about the study to anyone, but there it was, right there in my lap, dropped by God Himself and lovingly wrapped by my mother-in-law!

This book is a gem! I don’t know how well I will be able to implement all of the things that she talks about, but I am beginning to see that my priorities weren’t in line with the ones that my vocation requires. I love this book!

Anyway, that’s what I’m reading this month!

I am THAT woman

I am THAT woman

Last night, I was THAT woman. I was that crazy couponer! Now, not all the things that I got had coupons, but I did get some good deals and I did get a lot of them. Try not to judge me, but I got… 12 packages of cheese, 14 boxes of granola bars, and an assortment of other needed/sale items. Obviously the crazy portion of my shopping includes the cheese and granola bars! I always feel the need to explain/justify my purchases when their quantity goes above four due to some of the previous comments I’ve had, so, allow me to explain!

First, in general, I’ve realized that the best and most sanity-producing way to save money is truly stocking up. I know what stocking up means for my family, and, yes, some of the items I stock up on will go on sale again in a couple of months, but sometimes the sale isn’t as good, the coupons are expired, or it falls during a week where I just can’t manage to get to the store! I don’t want to worry about running to the store when it’s unpeaceful to do so, just because I know that I’m about to run out of something and another sale won’t come for the next couple of months! I want to have the freedom to skip shopping altogether some weeks without feeling like I’m going to have to pay full-price for coffee for three months because of it! Stocking up gives me the freedom to do that, and the sanity that comes with taking a break!

I can’t tell you the number of drugstore deals I’ve skipped in the past couple of months, free things too, not just so-so deals! But I don’t NEED any of it, and sleeping an extra couple of hours on Sunday morning when I’ve been SO TIRED lately is totally worth skipping some free shampoo because we don’t NEED shampoo! I have enough to last us quite a while, so I don’t need to run out at dawn on Sunday morning to make sure I can get some! I can do that because I stock up!

Now, I want to be clear about something. I don’t clear shelves, I’m not out to get all I can get, I’m not greedy about it, and if I want more than 6 of something, I either make a special order, go to more than one store, or make sure that I go at the end of the day on the last day of the sale so that I don’t stop someone else from taking advantage of the sale as well. On a practical note, I also pay very close attention to expiration dates, and don’t get more than we can consume before that date! It’s not a good deal if you have to throw it out!

In this example, I bought 12 packages of sliced cheese. Is that a lot, YES! A few years ago I would have… I don’t know what I would have done, but I would have thought I was crazy! But, we love grilled cheese for weekend lunches and sick-mommy days (it’s the one thing that my husband considers his specialty and is willing to make instead of me!). We also eat a lot of regular sandwiches for every-day lunches and cheese frequents those as well. Those packages of cheese don’t expire for one year and there’s no chance that we’ll have to throw any of those 12 away with that time frame! I also bought 14 boxes of granola bars, which, with this new early morning school schedule and the packing of school lunches, we’ve been eating an insane amount of! With both of these, I followed my ‘rules’, and honestly the deals weren’t pennies on the dollar, knock your socks off kind of deals, but they were great prices for things that we need, so I stocked up!

So, last night at least, I was THAT woman; THAT woman with more pounds of cheese than members of her family, THAT woman with enough snacks to feed an entire daycare, but I’m ok with that! I followed my rules so that I didn’t bother, inconvenience or hurt anyone else, and I got some good deals! When I got home and thought about setting up a picture with my food, I realized that I was a little scared of what people would say! I decided that I’d be completely upfront and honest and put it all out there!

I AM THAT WOMAN AND I DON’T THINK THERE’S ANYTHING WRONG WITH IT!!! I’m taking care of my family’s needs/wants and saving money and that doesn’t make me crazy!

 

DIY week!

DIY week!

Crazy-busy, that’s the only word (although a made-up word) that I can find to accurately describe this week, BUT I am happy to say that I found time to do a couple of DIY things that needed to be done and that are hugely helpful in saving money! I’ve posted about some of them before, but it’s always nice to have a refresher!

First, I refilled my foaming soap container with a homemade solution. I LOVE foaming soap. It’s one of my favorite discoveries in the past few years! However, I do not love paying $4 for a bottle of hand soap! So, I found a bottle of Softsoap foaming soap on clearance a few months ago (for $1.39), and when it’s empty, add 1 tablespoon of liquid hand soap and fill the rest with warm water. Shake it up to dissolve and you’re done! Foaming hand soap that cost nothing because the hand soap was free when I bought it! It works great and I love it!

I have a Swiffer wet jet and I love it! I love the convenience of grabbing it for a quick clean. I know that it’s better to actually get on my hands and knees and mop by hand, but I’m just not going to do that every day! I’m a big fan of making things easier, because, if they’re easier to do, I’ll do them much more often! The cleaner refills are upwards of $4 each, and that’s not including the pads! BUT you can make it yourself! I tried this for the first time a couple of months ago, and it worked great, but it was time to do it again! Basically the hard part is getting the lid off of the refill bottle, but some boiling water loosens it enough to accomplish that much! After that, it’s a matter of adding your own cleaner or a solution of dilutable cleaner and water. I figure that the cost, even if you buy a dilutable cleaner (on sale with a coupon of course!), is pennies for the refill! Go HERE for detailed instructions!

Finally, this is a DIY that I didn’t do personally, but a DIY nonetheless! I have been sparingly using mop refill pads that I had gotten on clearance for my Swiffer, and I’m almost out. I can’t bring myself to spend money on more (again, $4+ for a small refill), but I have yet to figure out how to thread my lovely sewing machine to make my own pads. Enter my mother! Thankfully she is an amazing seamstress and she enjoys (or pretends to) satisfying my sewing whims. She has agreed to make me some of these refills, which I think will work for my Shark as well! The cost of velcro won’t be much, and you can use old towels or buy a couple of cheap ones for a few dollars, and these can be used over and over again! I won’t have to worry about buying pads ever again! Thanks Mom!

 

Anyway, those are my current DIY projects! Doing something yourself is a great way to save money without clipping a coupon, but clipping coupons is awfully fun too!

 

First day of school: a milestone!

First day of school: a milestone!

 

Tomorrow morning, for the first time in my life, I will have a child in school, and I am full of emotions! I’m so excited for him (he’s bouncing up and down with his own excitement), a little scared, intensely proud of my boy, and, most of all, sad to see this season end. I love being home with my babies and for the past three and a half years (since I quit working), it’s been just me and my boys all day long! It’s all I ever wanted and it’s all I thought it would be! Now, I’ll still be home and most of them will still be with me all day, but this feels like the beginning of a long season of slow goodbyes. Goodbye to my babies being babies as they take each step towards independence. Little by little, they’re growing up and I can’t slow it down and I can’t stop it!

I knew this would come and I love each time I see a concept click. When I’m lucky enough to witness the massive glow on their faces with each accomplishment, I am full to bursting with joy! I adore having conversations with my children, knowing that they understand what I’m saying and I revel (at times) in their questions as they make the concepts their own. I love watching them walk down the road to becoming Godly men, but the tears do trickle down my beaming face.

*Sniff**Sniff* So to my beautiful baby boy, my first-born, my lovey-dovey, the child I waited 22 years to have, I pray you have a wonderful first day and that it is only the beginning of a wonderful new season in our lives! I love you so much and I am so proud of you!

Friday Finals

Friday Finals

Once again, I went to Publix, and I also went to Kroger early in the week to stock up on some P&G deals, especially some of my husband’s favorite deodorant! I totally stocked up on that!

Here’s what I got:

Kroger:

Water bottle x2 (summer clearance)

Sippie cups x3 (summer clearance)

Dawn 24 ounce x 4

Old Spice deodorant x 8

Febreze spray x 4

Apples x 3.5 lbs

Carrots x 8 lbs

Milk x1

Total before coupons/sales : $75.42

TOTAL AFTER = $29.14 or 61% savings (the apples were $1.99/lb, which totally threw my savings off, but we love them!

Publix

Betty Crocker potatoes x 4

Pears x 3 lbs

Birds eye veggies x12

Chex mix x 6

Bugles x 6

Hamburger helper x 6

V8 Splash x8

bananas x 3 lbs

pickles x1

Jolly Time popcorn x6

Cheerios x2

Degree deodorant x3

Bic lighter x1

Granola bars x1

Total before coupons/savings = $158.30

TOTAL AFTER = $39.52 or 75% savings!