You are currently browsing articles tagged frugality.

Photo by Oskar Henriksson

I’ve been in a mud bath of apathy. It’s not a lack of motivation. I’m motivated to do a lot of things. The problem is, I can’t seem to get going on anything. I have lots of unfinished tasks. To get moving, here are several techniques that I use with varying degrees of success.

Make a List and Work It


When I can’t decide what to work on, I often dump all of my ideas onto a list. Sometimes I prioritize, sometimes I don’t. Writing things on a list makes them demand attention. Plus, you have the added bonus of being able to cross items off when you finish them. That in itself is a reward!

Move Yourself


Sometimes getting moving helps a person to get moving. For instance, before tackling my list, I would like to try to begin pushups training. Hopefully, this will stimulate my body to produce adrenaline, which will help me move forward. At least I’ll be more awake.

Be Accountable


Telling someone else that you are going to complete a project can help. This works better if they ask you about your progress on the project. When they ask, be honest about how things are going on the project. If you hit a stumbling block, say so. Perhaps they can help you over it.

Create Mini Goals


Instead of making it a goal to clean the bathroom, break it up into smaller tasks: clear the counter, clean the mirror, wipe the counter, sweep the floor, swish the toilet and scrub the tub. Give yourself credit for doing any of these steps. The result will please you.

What do you do to get out of the mud? Put on your boots and get moving!

Tags: , , , ,

Photo by Jeramey Jannene

One of the myths that many new homeschooling families fall prey to is that you have to spend money to educate your children. When you are just starting out, I suggest that you hide your credit cards. One wise mom advised new homeschoolers to leave their wallets in the car when visiting curriculum fairs. If a purchase is not worth the trip back out to the car, it is probably unnecessary. For elementary students, there is not much you need beyond a library card, some paper and pencils. If you have a computer and a printer, you have a fully functioning school. Everything else is extra or can be found around the house or cheaply at thrift stores or dollar stores. Let me show you how.

The Library


Guess what? I never taught my children how to read. Instead, we read and read and read. By the time they were five years old, they all instinctively knew how to read, having been read to since birth. Have you considered using real books in your homeschooling? Textbooks are often dry and boring to read. Living books, on the other hand, are full of inspiration and are fascinating to young minds. My kids learned more about frontier life from Laura Ingalls Wilder than from any history text. We read stories, picture books, books about frogs, books on the civil war, biographies, myths – the variety is endless. Our elementary science program has largely consisted of library finds. Books we can’t buy, we check out. This has saved us lots of money and lots of shelf space. When we find a book that we check out again and again, we know that it’s worth spending a bit to own. Then we scour used book dealers before heading to Amazon.

Find out all you can about your local library. Make friends with all of the librarians. Know your checkout limit. We are lucky enough to have a wonderful library system. Our checkout limit (sometimes unknown by the newer librarians) is 999. This is probably unusual, but even if your library limits you to 5 books, you can choose books for 5 subjects. Many libraries now have online renewal capabilities, so fines are more easily avoided. I also suggest that you designate a shelf, box or bag to keep your library materials safe and accounted for.

The Printer is Your Friend


Do yourself a favor and invest in a good printer. This does not mean that you must rush to your local big box store and buy the latest printer with all the bells and whistles. I just bought a lovely Dell laser printer for well under $100. A laser printer is nice because you may be printing a lot. Lasers have the advantage of being faster and the toner lasts longer, too, despite being more expensive. I’ve gone through several printers, mostly used and free, and the laser was the best by far. We get many public books online and print out copies for everyone. You can take them to your local copy store to get it spiral bound, or invest in your own binding machine from the office supply store. I would not be able to homeschool if I had to purchase all my books.

I use my printer in many other ways. I make labels for time lines, print out paper dolls to use for story narrations, create assignment sheets and handwriting paper, and print out maps for the kids to color. The possibilities are endless.

The Computer/Internet


If you have a computer with internet access, the world is literally at your fingertips. There are art museums, music libraries, and readings on every topic imaginable. Some curriculum, such as the Ambleside Online Curriculum, are available for free online. With a computer, you have access to homeschooling tools, such as planners, assignment sheets, maps, and handwriting resources. Even without internet access, you can create presentations, charts, and other materials.

Don’t forget about open source software, such as OpenOffice, which are free to download and use. The full version includes a writing program, a spreadsheet program, presentation software, a drawing program, a database program and formula software. I now use OpenOffice instead of it’s Microsoft counterparts and am a very happy camper.

When it comes time to plan your year, don’t automatically think that you must grab your credit card or checkbook. See if you can find it free first!

Do you have any money-saving ideas for homeschooling ? Let me know in the comments section.

Tags: , , , ,

Photo by Katelyn Thomas

Now that the deer in the headlights sensation has worn off, we are trying to move forward with our lives. Life does not stop when the breadwinner is laid off. There are a million things that we don’t think of that need attention. It’s very overwhelming. In fact, it’s very tempting to just escape and procrastinate. But that does no one any good. In fact, ignoring the situation can MAKE IT WORSE.

The Pit of Despair


When my dear one was laid off, one of the things that I worried about was that one or both of us would sink into a depressive pit from which we could never emerge. To some extent, that did happen. Spouse hid his head in a riveting historical novel (which he had read at least three times before) for two days. He just stayed in bed and read. I, on the other hand, spun around trying to fix things – you know, be proactive. I felt resentful that he was not trying to fix the situation immediately. I really didn’t react with much empathy. Never mind that he was laid off on a Friday and deserved a weekend off. Neither his reaction nor mine helped. Instead, after the flurry of activity, we both got sick for 2 weeks. The kids did not. Finally, I succumbed to a rather deep depression for a few days.

Initial Decompression

An acquaintance mentioned that my husband and and I were both probably “shell-shocked” and needed some time to decompress from both the layoff and the toxic work environment that he had endured for 13 years. I relaxed and tried to allow my husband to grieve his job loss and come to grips with our new situation. I immediately sought counseling. I am still on a waiting list, but just the act of calling to make an appointment relieved a great deal of stress. We leaned on family and friends to get through this period of initial shock.

The Plan

What did help was sitting down calmly and attacking the problem systematically.

  1. We agreed to have weekly financial meetings. These meetings would help us to work together and keep me from feeling that I had no control over the situation. He would tell me how his job search was going and I would refrain from repeatedly asking him about it. I would keep him abreast of our income and expenses and provide a weekly financial report.
  2. We brainstormed a list of things we needed to do to keep our family afloat financially, medically, and emotionally. When the list was done, we assigned tasks for each of us to do to run the household. This gave both of us direction and purpose in taking our family to the next stage.
  3. We made it a priority to safeguard our physical health, our mental health, and our emotional health. We committed to eating healthy, taking daily walks, and doing yoga. As I mentioned, I called for counseling. We decided to keep some things, such as weekly skating (only $10 for me and the 2 younger kids), occasional movie rentals (under $3 per movie), and date nights (using coupons and 2 for 1 deals only) in the budget for now.
  4. We re-instituted the weekly family meeting to keep the kids informed. It is important to remember that a lay off affects everyone, down to the cat (though he doesn’t have as much to say).

We haven’t heard back yet about that job. Our future is still uncertain. Our lifestyle will change of necessity. But we will emerge stronger and with more life skills than we had. It will take all of us, working together, to build a new life.

Tags: , , ,

Photo by patita_rds

On Friday, my husband lost his job. As a result, our lives have been turned upside down. This turn of events was not unexpected. The company he worked for has filed for bankruptcy and is in the process of “restructuring”. People have been laid off almost daily for several months now. It was only a matter of time. He has worked to keep and enhance his job for more than 10 years. In today’s economy, this is a big deal. The job that he lost was not the job he signed on for. In many ways, he created his current position.

The Downside

Our lives have been turned upside down. I am scared. We are a family of 5. We have one child in braces and one that will soon need them. I have a child and 2 adults with glasses. My dear husband needs extensive dental work. Finally, we had a big scare last summer when two of my three boys were diagnosed with allergy-induced asthma. On top of that, we have a cat, some consumer debt, and a mortgage. I think the mortgage and the medical and dental care worries me the most.

Periodically, we scan the classifieds for apartments, duplexes and rental houses that would meet our modest needs. Our home is only 1,400 sq ft.  So far, we have not found another housing situation that would provide enough room and cost less than our mortgage. We would end up paying more per month for less space. More per month is something we can not do right now.

As for the medical and dental care, it is my hope that COBRA will help and that I can make arrangements with our doctors and dentists to continue care on a cash basis. I have a long term relationship with the pediatricians and dentists that I don’t want to lose.

The Upside

On the upside, my husband occasionally has some paying music gigs. They don’t pay much, but may help put gas in the tanks. He also does some web design on a freelance basis. Again, not much, but it might help with groceries. Two of my three boys just had their annual checkups, so that is covered. My eldest just got a really good haircut, so I can try to maintain that for a while. The other two have easier hair to maintain. We just got a major house repair done. The garage door now closes securely and opens safely. Finally, both of our cars are paid for. We will put a priority on keeping them in good repair.

Immediate Impact

Ours is not an extravagant lifestyle. We have a flat screen TV, but it is the smallest one available. My dearest got it on Craigslist for $100. We do not have cable, satellite or pay TV of any kind. We just canceled Netflix and are planning to make full use of the videos available from our public library. Our audio receiver is broken, only to be replaced when we see a used one that is serviceable. We bought our bread maker and microwave for pennies on the dollar through Craigslist and at resale shops. We buy our clothes at inexpensive stores and try to avoid the mall. We do venture to Sears and JC Penney for clothing and housewares. Our grocery bill is very low, less than half of the weekly cost of food, compared to the average family. Finally, we do not own iPods, iPhones, Blackberries, or other cell phone plans. My husband did get a fancy phone through work, but that will soon be a thing of the past. We also do not own any video game systems. Our kids use the internet for games and my husband requires an internet connection for his freelance jobs. In short, there is not much fat to trim. For now, all extra spending is stopped. No new books, clothes, or toys. Each and every purchase must be scrutinized.

Our Goals

Our foremost goal is to maintain the status quo in regards to housing, school and medical and dental care. We want to keep our home. We would like to try to home school the two youngest at least until the end of the school year in June. That would put D in 5th grade in August and R in 2nd grade. We would like to make sure we are all healthy and have the care we need to combat orthodontics, high blood pressure, glasses and dental repair. Hopefully, with these goals firmly in our minds, we can thrive despite our immediate hardships.

Steps For Recovery

My husband and I have formed a plan to address these issues. We plan to do each step in its turn and check in with each other once a week. I plan to make sure we all get the exercise and stress relief we need. We will keep taking the kids to roller skating once a week. As time goes on, more may have to be cut. But for now, we will make do. Because that is all we can do. I am mindful of Dale Carnegie’s How to Stop Worrying and Start Living. We can only act on things that we have control over. We can’t control that the job is gone. We can only choose to do the steps that move us forward.

Tags: ,