Saturday, September 3, 2011

The Good Life

When I had first discussed with people the idea of being a stay at home mom I received mixed reactions.  Some were shocked, “Why would you want to do that? I could never be a stay at home mom-I’d go crazy!” Some were indignant, “ I've always wanted to do that, how on earth can YOU afford to do it on a teacher’s salary!” Some were supportive, “Good for you girl-you go ahead and give it a whirl.” But most people were skeptical, “Honey, there is just no way you’re going to survive financially without working full time!” Since my family and I have taken the plunge I’m finding that the doubtful are coming around to being pleasantly surprised and even hopeful.  “You’re really doing it, aren't you?” “A stay at home mom, wow, I’m Jealous!” But the biggest question that never seems to go away is, “How are you able to do that?”

To this I respond in the same way: Almost anyone can do it, you just have to agree to never go anywhere, do anything (that costs money & isn’t essential for staying alive), and be late on just about every bill.  HA! LOL! Of course, I am joking! Right?….Almost… J
 If you are married to someone who has a full time-consistent paying job (at least double minimum wage) and a combined debt to income ratio that’s manageable, you can probably swing living on a single full time+ income too.  But there are some things that need to be done differently.  The following practices make it possible for me to be a stay at home mom:

1)      Pray Often.  Don’t laugh, I’m totally serious! If it wasn’t for two years of prayer in preparation for this year and for grace, and patience, and provision, I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing.  God has been really amazing through this whole process.  A lady told me the other day, “The Universe seems to be in line with what you are doing and supports you in your decision.” I like to delete Universe and insert God and then that sentence rings true in my heart too.

2)      Buy on Sale, Buy in Bulk, and Use it All. We are so blessed to live near a fantastic vegetable stand with some amazing people running it.  They have great prices and discounts.  I buy everything I can when they have quickly ripening or blemished items for clearance. Corn on the cob, tomatoes, melons, onions, potatoes-my family and I live off those $1 bags and what we don’t eat right away gets diced and frozen or sliced and dehydrated to store for later. There is no waste so we can limit our want.  Sam’s club also has some great necessities that my family stocks up on for great bulk prices about once a month.

Mike used to make fun of me for my strict price limit setting while Ebay-ing.  Currently, I am in the market for a juicer to make our own vegetable juice because the stuff in the store is just too costly.  I vow not to pay a cent over $20. Mike says it can’t be done unless the machine is busted.  I plan to prove him wrong and until then the thrill of the hunt is so very exciting.  I also use eBay to purchase coupons for items that I buy frequently like my So Delicious Coconut Milk Yogurt (one of the rare things I can eat on Naomi’s MSPI/Gluten Free diet).  You get 10 $1 off coupons for $1.25 and they don’t expire until 2013 so you can really save a lot! Our family grocery store is Publix, which is an awesome store but can be a touch pricier than other grocers. So I only buy when items are on sale and stock my freezer with my awesome savings.

3)      Make it Yourself.  Our Naomi diet has forced me to make all our baked goods from scratch. Gluten, soy, and dairy free products are too rare or too expensive in our area.  When I found the distributor Navan Foods online and started making all our muffins, cakes, cookies, waffles, pancakes, and breakfast bread from the Superfine Rice Flour sack, I was surprised at how much I used to spend on food convenience.  Having something instantly costs a lot and often is not as healthy.

Frozen waffles cost double and sometimes triple (if they are allergen free) of what it costs to make your own and they taste so much better fresh anyway.  Homemade saves us about $20-$30 a week, which over time, adds up to quite a sum. I also started making Jenna’s fruit snacks and treats myself.  Since I’ve been home I have emptied the glassware out of my kitchen hutch and filled it with jars of banana and apple chips, dried cantaloupe & pineapple, and my own tropical fruit and apple fruit roll-ups.  Again, all at a fraction of the cost in stores and super healthy and preservative/color free.

4)      Find Free Stuff.  Our family frequents the library for free books, CDs, and movie rentals and Jenna attends the wonderful story times offered for some fun and socialization. We also happen to live in a town with many parks.  Jenna loves the playgrounds, splash pad water park by the river, and visiting the “big water” aka ocean, just 15 minutes from our house.  We bike ride and go for walks. We don’t have cable (which shocks everyone who knows it) and just use the TV for DVDs and Videos.  Any shows we want to watch we see online for free and save ourselves about $40 a month.

5)      Reduce.  Mike is fortunate to work only 15 minutes away from work, 30 by bike, so we are in the process of selling our Camry and making due with only our van.  This will help to lower our car insurance payments and will allow us to pay off the remainder on our van loan. We also set up an account with this great children’s consignment shop in town.  Things that the girls outgrow or don’t play with are gathered and sold there for a 40/60 split.  This not only gets rid of excess in the closest and toy boxes but also provides our family with $30-$60 a month in extra cash. Consignment and thrift shops are also a great inexpensive way to update wardrobes with name brand items for a fraction of the cost.

6)      Live greenly.  Going back to the practices of our ancestors is a huge money saver.  Aside from preparing nearly everything we eat from scratch (I still buy meat, sunflower butter, rice bread & rice milk regularly) we also try to grow/raise our own food.  No, we don’t live on a farm but we do have a vegetable garden which we are replanting now and we raise ducks.  Our local ordinances only permit us to have two, but Fluffy and Baron have done a great job at providing us with 6-7 organic eggs a week. Considering free range organic chicken eggs cost around $4 a dozen, that’s a nice chunk of change not leaving your pocket.  

Our neighbors have fruit trees (oranges, tangerines, grapefruit, and loquats) with excess so we get to have our fill during the season. Mike volunteers during harvests at a church friend’s Bee hives and a feeding the hungry farm ministry.  These giving back to the community opportunities not only provide him with man fellowship but supply our family with free honey and veggies too.

Diapering two children (one is 90% potty-trained) is the largest monthly expense.  So aside from long trips and nighttime, we are using cloth exclusively.  Cloth diapers are a lot more user-friendly than they used to be so this isn’t as gross as it sounds.  (I’ll explain further another time).  We also invested in two $10 clothes racks that I use to hang up wet laundry to save on drying costs.  They are in our garage/laundry room and in our Florida heat; they dry much faster than those that get caught in frequent summer showers outside.

7)      Refocus Your Priorities & Be Prepared for the Consequence. If you are worried about keeping up with what the media and Hollywood says is the Good Life you are going to be sadly disappointed with your decision to stay home. After the monthly bills are paid there isn’t much left for the things that American Consumers usually purchase. Buying WANTS get shelved and buying NEEDS takes over.  There is a huge amount of making due and waiting another year. But the consequence of this is truly amazing!

I get to wake up every morning to my smiling girls and know we have the entire day to make memories together. I won’t have to worry about Naomi calling someone else mama when she speaks her first words or miss her first steps because I will be right there. I get to watch Jenna dance to her princess piano music each day as she jumps, bends, and twirls, laughing hysterically when I help Naomi to applaud after each of her performances.

I’m there to teach them right and wrong.  I’m here to read stories and sing songs. I’m there to kiss the booboos and make it all better. I get to shower them with hugs and love.  What does our financial sacrifice get us? I get the gift of raising my daughters and they get the gift of their mommy every day.  No substitutions.  The truth of the matter is that my husband and I are closer, the house is cleaner, and our family has never been stronger.  We may not have much money but we are definitely living the good life.  

1 comment:

  1. Add these to your list, they came in my "stumble upon" Friday night activity.