Trying to grow a mustache

I am an obsessive new fan of the mustache.  I read blogs every day, just a few to limit my computer time to 1 hour per day.  I just found and I love it so far.   We are trying to spend less and pay down our debt and we’re doing a pretty good job.

We own a 1997 Toyota Camry and a 2007 Toyota Sienna outright, both gifts from our parents.  I inherited $13000 in stocks? bonds?  from my grandfather this past May. I get a statement every few weeks from a brokerage firm but I know nothing about it.

My husband has a retirement account at his old job he has yet to roll over.  He worked there 8 years.  His new job he also has a retirement account but he has no idea what is in it, but he maxes it out. He’s been there 10 months so it’s still a small amount.

I went through our bank statement and tracked our spending last month as:

Groceries $996.45

Gas $613.79

Out to eat $209.42 (including paying $100 to  school lunches account at $2.35 per meal per child)

Entertainment $214.90 (Netflix, HuluPlus, WOW accounts, a book subscription, no cable)

Utilities $464.30

Mortgage $1700

Insurance was due $450.00

Medical $1185.12

Clothes $466.55 (winter coats for kids)

Pet food $60

Car Maintenance $35.51

Home repairs $65.92

Misc $494.94 (target trips,, school pictures)

Total: $6956.89   HOLY WHOA!!!!


Travis take home:  $4900 per month ($66500 per year)

Me: varies due to my work being a tip job but approximately $1400 per month for 2 5 hour shifts per week

This month we cleaned out a saving account we had at a previous employer and put that in checking:  $1650. Otherwise we would have been upside down.  Obviously that can’t happen every month and we have to make some serious changes if we want to be debt free and comfortably retired in 15 years.

We have a cushion in savings of $1500 in an ING savings account for emergencies

Our debt is as follows:

Furniture loan, interest free $3400

Student loan 3.2% interest rate:  $24000

Mortgage: 4% interest rate $266000 remaining

I hope to have this all paid off in under 10 years.  We do have 4 children and a large 3096 square foot home.  We live on 20 acres 23 miles from town.  There is no option of moving closer to town as we live in the Western North Dakota oil boom where a 1 bedroom apartment rents for $3000 a month if you can even find one.  We may sell some land to pay off the student loan but that wouldn’t be for another year.  I know our big house is an expense but it’s worth it to me.  That’s what we all need to find out for ourselves.  What expenses are worth it and what can we trim?  We lived in a 1500 square foot 3 bedroom 1 bathroom house for 8 years and I know I don’t want to go back.  I love our house.  I love finding ways to save money and pay down our debt.

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Is there ever enough money?

We bought this house in May of this year.  In July of this year we had a windstorm rip across the prairie at 100+ mph.  Our neighbor’s brand new 5th wheel camper blew over and was a total loss.  Another nearby farm lost their barn to trees.  We lost some shingles and the ridge cap on the end of our roof.  Insurance will cover the roof, but only the damaged half.  To get the entire roof covered in metal, which is our plan, we need to come up with $5000 out of pocket.  Our oldest daughter just got braces and we needed a $1000 downpayment.  Car insurance is due.  To put it bluntly, we are bleeding money these days.  I haven’t had a decent tip night at work all month.  So, in true frugal fashion, it’s time to put the brakes on our spending. Thankfully, we keep a well stocked pantry.  My parents butchered 50 chickens this summer so we have a freezer full of big, organic chicken.  I can get 3 meals out of one of those bad boys.  We have plenty of eggs.  The big expense will be milk.  We only buy organic milk, for the health of it and also the taste is just better.  My kids and I can go through a half gallon per day.  In this oil boom state I live in organic milk is running $5 a half gallon.  I am going to have to settle for regular old Wal-Mart milk for the month.  My goal for this month is to spend $500 on household goods and groceries.  I will leave a budget of $380 for gas.  Next week I am planning on using items for meals I already have in the fridge/freezer or pantry.  My plan is this for next week:


Breakfast-pancakes, oatmeal, eggs and bacon, cereal

Lunch-pancakes, eggs, grilled cheese, pasta or leftovers

Supper-crock pot lasagna with salad, crock pot chicken and dumplings and roasted carrots and potatoes (both for the nights I work),  jambalaya and salad, homemade pizza with fruit salad, roasted chicken and mashed potatoes and gravy, chicken yakisoba ( with roasted broccoli, chicken enchiladas with spanish rice and salad

Snacks-blueberry muffins, yogurt, granola, cookies (all homemade)

I have plenty of potatoes, carrots, squash, and onions in storage from our garden this year.  I have canned tomato sauce, peaches, dilly beans, jellies and jams, and chokecherry and blackberry syrup for pancakes.

I have to stick to frugal living blogs and debt free living blogs.  It makes things so much easier if you avoid the temptation of fashion or home decorating blogs.  In the immortal words of Tom Hanks in You’ve Got Mail, “You are what you read.”

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Online shopping and my debt reduction plan

Today is my mom’s 64th birthday.  As financial role models go, it doesn’t get much better than my parents.  They are both newly retired and have been debt free for years.  They have a substantial savings, money in stocks, bonds and retirement accounts.  They are smart with their money.  They also buy the things they want.  Fortunately they don’t want much.  They RV travel and that is their major expense.  They eat at home (or in the RV)  don’t shop for extras and wear out their items.

They take care of their things.

For me that has made all the difference in my view of money and the world.  I don’t and have never had the keep up with the Jones’s mentality.  I don’t buy the most expensive items, but I buy well-made items.  I buy quality clothing for my girls so it holds up through 4 of them.  I have found Gymboree to be the best kids clothing out there.  Gap and Lands’ End had quality materials in the early 2000’s, but within the past 4 years the quality has tanked.  T-shirts are paper thin and jeans wear out.  Lands’ End still has the best kids swimwear, and I got a swimsuit there 5 years ago for myself and it looks brand new today. It was expensive, but I waited for the end of summer sale and got it for 30% off.  Totally worth the price.

My house is furnished with furniture from relatives or the thrift store.  I scour pinterest and decorating blogs for ideas.  I paint, sand, stain and my furniture looks great.  I am currently working on a dresser and will post pics this weekend, I hope 🙂

We do have some debt.  We owe $26000 in student loans.  We owe $266000 on our mortgage.  I pay significantly more than the minimum payment due each month.  I also have a system that works for me.  I’ve never seen it on any blog or read it anywhere, but that doesn’t mean I invented it.  Here’s what I do……

We had 2 wedding to go to this month.  I had nothing to wear.  I had money for a dress and wanted something cute and practical.  I shopped around and found this:

 Dress is  $158.00 from Anthropologie

So cute right??!!  I almost bought it several times.  It’s still in my cart on their website.  I love it!!  Instead of buying the dress, I called my BFF (who is my same dress size and would be same everything size if I wasn’t an amazon, seriously)  she brought 5 dresses over for me to try.  I wore a grey and yellow striped strapless dress, with bright green peeking out from under the full skirt.  ADORBS!!  AND free.  So I took the $160 I almost spent and put it on the student loan.

Another example.  I wanted this pair of shoes soooooo bad!

 Around $100 at

They are so cute and comfy looking!!  I looked in my closet and realized I have 3 pairs of flip flops, a pair of ballet flats, and a super comfy pair of moccasins, no dressy sandals.  So I went to target and bought these instead.

I have had a great experience with the quality of target shoes.  I have had one pair 5 years and they are holding up great.  They were $24.99 but I got a target gift card for my birthday and used that.

So I put another $100 towards the student loan.  Both those payments are on top of the payment I normally make.  We got an overage check from our escrow account this year.  That went to student loans.  We overpaid the hospital and got a refund check, that went to the student loans.  So far this year we have paid off my $13200 loan completely and one of Trav’s (the hubs) loans for $24000. That does include getting a huge chunk of change when we sold our old house.

I think you get the picture.  Any extra money towards debt.  I curb my impulses long enough to find another way to get what I think I need and put the money towards debt.  Every time I go to the store with coupons, I put the money I saved towards debt.  Dollar by dollar we are paying it down…  Slow and steady wins the race!

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Family life

All I’ve ever wanted to be is a mom.  As a kid I didn’t really know what I wanted to be when I grew up.  I would usually say a teacher if asked.  Mostly because my mom was a teacher.  My aunt was a teacher.  My grandma was a teacher.  After graduating high school I started buying baby clothes and keeping them in my closet.  I bought a diaper bag and onesies.  Pacifiers and bottles,  AND I would show them to people!!  Hindsight being 20/20 and all I realize I looked like a crazy person.  If one of my girls is 18 and showing people her baby stuff, well, I might have a thing or two to say about that!!  The whole point of revealing this little detail of my life is to illustrate that I’ve always wanted kids.  I want a boatload of ‘em!  I’ll have to settle for 4 because that’s where we are and where we’ll stay.  My uterus is crying for a baby but unfortunately my husband’s (ahem)  is not.  If left up to me we would be the Duggars.

I mean really, who wouldn’t want a million of these???

These days I am mostly a stay-at-home mom.  I waitress 2 nights a week at a great place with great people.  Fun, good money, great food, and adult interaction.  All good things, but I’m really made to be a mom.  We have fun, my girls and I.  We laugh a lot.  We cook, we garden, we walk, we create.  It’s what I was made to do and I love it.



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 Back of house on left and front of house on right.

We recently moved from a tiny house in the middle of town to a big house on 15 acres.  The closest town is considerably smaller than anywhere we have ever lived.  I mean small.  Tiny.  One gas station with one pump.  Zero grocery stores.  Two bars.  Four churches.  Post office.

The house came with a chicken coop and 21 chickens.  20 laying hens and a rooster.  For my birthday my parents gave me 5 bantam chickens.  One of them is a rooster named Woody.

He makes my heart melt!!  His cock-a-doodle-doo sounds like a squeaky dog toy.  His wings hang down a bit so they look too big for his body. My husband may wake up one morning to find Woody in bed with us, that’s how much I love him.

The pasture is in CRP right now.  That means that until September 2013 we can’t do anything with it.  When the CRP contract is up I am planning to fence it in and get a pig or two, a calf each spring and 3 nigerian dwarf goats.

The one and only downside to this place so far is the garden.  The soil is clay.  I have dug and tilled and worked compost into the soil and so far I have come across zero earthworms.  It packs down to cement in just a few days after tilling, especially if it gets wet.

I planted 26 tomato plants and 6 have survived.     The peas, onions, potatoes, peppers and zucchini seem to be doing well.  All 6 squash plants died, the corn was eaten by the chickens, and most of the herbs just never came up.    I have major plans for raised beds next year!!  I will keep working organic matter into the clay, chicken bedding, grass clippings, compost.  We are working on a fence around it and next spring I may get 2 pigs and let them root the garden area for the summer.  Any ideas on what to do to amend the clay soil?

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Simple living

I read a lot of simple living blogs.  I read a lot of minimalist blogs.  Most offer nothing new.  I have read countless blog posts on ways to save money that all say the same thing:

Shop in the thrift store

Get rid of cable

Get rid of landline

Use the library instead of buying books

Eat out less,    etc.  etc.  etc.

None of these ideas I needed to read to figure out.  It’s western medicine;  treating the symptoms.  To really simplify your life you don’t need a list of things you can do to save money.  What you need to change is the mind, cut to the root of the problem and stop treating the symptoms.

I decided 5 years ago I wanted to leave my teaching job and raise my kids full-time.  I left my mediocre paying job and we lived on my husbands mediocre $35,000 a year salary.  Living a simple, frugal life wasn’t a choice for us.  We didn’t decide to downsize our life to get in touch with what really matters, as I’ve read in many blogs.  We had to because we were poor.  I had to plan the grocery list or I would clean out the checking account.  I had to walk places because we had no money for gas.  It sucked.  I wanted to be able to buy things I needed when I needed them.  Simple living blogs and frugal blogs have an air about them that makes the reader feel it is a romantic lifestyle and the key to true happiness.  From my persepective, being able to buy milk for my kids cereal was true happiness.  Fast forward to 2012.  We are in a much better financial situation thanks to hard work and dedication.  My husband finished his degree, working until 10 pm and then doing his homework.  It almost drove him crazy, he was pale and sick looking from the lack of sleep, but he finished and graduated magna cum laude.  He is now an engineer and we are living a great life.  We have money to pay the bills and I can buy milk for cereal whenever we need it.

Extra money hasn’t brought us any debt or any major lifestyle change.  I still buy used clothing and go to the library.  My thinking remains the same as it has been, my mindset didn’t change.  I don’t buy things just to buy them.  I buy things I need.  I think about my purchases.

I avoid temptation by the company I keep.  My friends don’t care for an extravagant lifestyle.  I read material that supports my beliefs.  I avoid advertising whenever possible.

Any time I make a purchase, and I mean any time: gum, shoes, toothbrushes, I always pause and ask myself, “Do I really need this?”  If I do, I buy it and forget about it, if I hesitate, I put it back on the shelf.  I am constantly trying to decipher between needs and wants.

In order to live a truly simple frugal life you need to change the way you think about purchases.  The way you think about necessities and to cement your opinion of yourself.  I know I can wear thrift store clothing and have as much value as a person as a woman in a Chanel suit.  I know that deep down in my core, so my mind is right for the frugal life.  I know that if I spend all day on Pinterest looking at outfits I will want to buy new clothes. So I don’t do it.  I read, I write, I play piano.  I play with my children and feed my chickens.  I tend my garden and I bake bread.  I keep busy.  I do things instead of sitting and letting myself be entertained by the TV or internet.

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