Crisis in Iraq. Please pray!

Persecution of Christians & minorities in Mosul

What we can do (according to this article):

- Pray. Fervently. Corporately. Individually. Desperately. Pray.

- Give.

Samaritan’s Purse

Christian Aid

- Write. (The linked article is written in the UK, so those links won’t work for us in the US. Use these to find your representatives and write or call them today.)

- Sign. This one is going to the White House.

- Share. On FB. Twitter. Everywhere you can think of. I don’t care if it’s this article, or the original, or some random article from CNN. Just get the word out!

DIY: Deodorant?

Do It Yourself

We’re trying to save money, currently for school books and supplies. When I go into “frugal mode,” I usually focus on four things:

- Saving Money with Coupons

- Saving Money by DIY

- Saving Money by Not Spending

- Earning more income – quickly!

 

In my search for DIY household items, some things have worked better than others. Liquid laundry detergent, for example, clogged up my  washing machine and didn’t get my clothes clean.  This, though, has been awesome.

So the next thing I’m looking at is DIY deodorant. Not sure if this one will pan out, though…I’ll let you know next week how the experiment goes!

Mo’ Money Monday: Just Say No to Garage Sales

I officially hate garage sales. Maybe it’s my location, or maybe it’s my stuff, but we NEVER do well at those. I can make twice the money just selling stuff on FB to my friends.

So, here’s a couple of tips for those like me who have NO SUCCESS at garage sales:

 

- Pick a better location.

Go in with a friend? Move your stuff to your Mom’s house? Accost someone you don’t know and ask to use their garage for the weekend? (Okay, maybe not that one. But you get the point.)

- Advertise.

Duh. In advance. Everywhere.

- Advertise smartly: Use the cute kids.

We didn’t have many people come this weekend, but several that did come said they did so because they saw the kids putting out signs for their lemonade stand. See what we did there?

- Take pictures.

While everything was out, I priced it all (with large signs) and snapped pictures of it. Those pictures went on FB and on several sales sites I know. It served to advertise for the garage sale, but could also be used to sell the leftover items if they didn’t sell at the garage sale.

 

So, if you’re interested in taking garage sale advice from the worst garage-sale-holder ever, you’ve got it. All I can see is, we got a clean house out of the bargain, and spent some quality family time, so I’m calling it a win!

Some Saturday Fun

Can I get an Amen?

Throwback Thursday: How We’re Managing Schedules for 7 People

I was looking through older post drafts and came across this little gem from 2013:

As I’m sitting at my 5 year-old’s karate class, I’m thinking about all of the events that our family of 7 (with one on the way) are involved in.

Awana (Church Bible club for kids)
Baseball (2 boys)
Ballet
Karate
Children’s Choir at Church
Weekly Sunday School and church services
Monday night Bible study for Mom and Dad

These are most of the weekly, routine activities we have going on in our family. Add monthly prenatal appointments, upcoming dance recital, and end of school activities. In addition to that, we have DAILY normal activities like homework, Bible study and quiet time, chores, and family time.

It’s no wonder we spend too much money eating out (at a fast food restaurant or – worse – at the concession stand at the ballpark), and end up feeling exhausted all the time. It was even worse for me when I was the one managing everyone’s schedule and telling everyone where they should be and when.

On a philosophical level, I supposed we should try to cut down our schedule. We have tried to cut activities, just like we have tried to cut expenses. We have limited each of our kids to one activity outside of school and church, but when there are 4 of them old enough to pick an activity, it adds up really quickly. If they didn’t love it, we sure wouldn’t be doing it.

So we’re trying to do two things: eliminate our guilt of not doing “everything” while we try to streamline our schedule, and put as much of our routine into the hands of our older kids as possible.

This is hilarious because since I wrote this we have:

  • had a baby
  • become the AWANA (Bible club) COMMANDERS
  • added an extra ballet class, and an extra child to dance classes
  • added band for one child, and one more in the fall
  • failed miserably at attending karate
  • decided to go to a blended model of school for my youngest three school-age kiddos, which means homeschooling two days per week
We’ve done a great job of “streamlining,” right? Well, that at least explains my sudden disappearance from the internet in general, and this blog in particular. But as we begin the next step in our educational journey (for which we’re accepting donations, by the way – HA!), I wanted to move back to chronicling our financial situation as we bring up these six crazy Downs Clowns. Hope you’ll follow along on the journey with us!

Read more »

Don’t Blame Apple When You Don’t Know What You’re Doing

This morning I read on TUAW’s website, and I thought I would share our family’s story.

We downloaded a game on our kids’ iPad, and two days later had a $200 bill show up in our checking account. We immediately thought “fraud,” cancelled the number, requested a new card, did all the usual things. Eventually we found out that our 7year-old had “bought” a bunch of things from the app. Like most of the stories, he didn’t know it was “real money.”

We talked to Apple, and they easily and quickly refunded the money. Problem solved. Some parents haven’t been so lucky. Here’s what we learned:

1. If they hadn’t voluntarily refunded the money, we would have had to eat the expense. It wasn’t Apple’s fault.

2. We turned off in-app purchases. Problem solved.

3. We changed our settings to require the App Store to request the password immediately – every time. Default settings don’t require the password again for 15 minutes after you’ve entered it once.

What’s the bottom line? Know your device before you hand it over to your kids. A little bit of research can save you a lot of money.

Earn Points towards New Books

Tyndale Rewards program lets you take surveys, review products, and join focus groups to earn points towards new books.  Give it a shot!

 

http://www.tyndalerewards.com/

 

 

Unplanned Pregnancy – Finances Edition


We had a plan. This is not it. Our “baby” was 2, and we could officially say we were out of the baby phase. We were moving on to middle school, baseball, potty training (for the last time), ballet recitals – we completely changed gears mentally.

So what’s the first thing we did? Purged all our baby stuff, of course. Changing table? We wouldn’t need that anymore. Baby swing? Nope, get rid of it. What about the stroller? Well, once our Little Princess was walking, she refused to sit in the stroller at all, so we got rid of that, too. It felt good to have a lot of extra space, and it was like we were admitting to ourselves, and to the world, that we were done with the baby thing.

I think God likes it when we make plans. He likes to show us that our plans are basically meaningless. Back in late October, we found out we were expecting Baby #6. (We found out this week it’s a baby boy!) That put us into a roller coaster of emotions. Reluctant, stunned, then (slowly) excited – but mostly nervous!

Where is the baby going to sleep?

What car seat will the baby use?

Can we fit 6 kids in our current vehicle?

What about baby clothes?

According to womenshealth.gov, half of pregnancies are unplanned, so we are definitely not alone. While there are obviously many facets of a new baby to explore, the one I’m concerned with here is the financial implications.

Since we’re not new to the baby game, I know there three major categories of “baby spending:”

  • Medical (for mom)

  • Medical (for baby)

  • “Baby needs” (cribs, car seats, etc.)

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to be researching different ways to cut down on these costs, and include things that we’re doing to minimize costs.

Leave your story – or any advice, tips or tricks – in the comments!

Math App Review & Giveaway

My husband’s company has recently developed a math practice app called Math Gnomes that we’ve had a lot of fun with. The kids have each downloaded it to their iPods, and have spent quite a bit of time playing.

My 11 year-old son calls it “addicting,” “always different,” and says it can change from easier to more difficult very quickly.

The app itself with gauge your proficiency in certain areas, and become more and more challenging as you progress. If you need help on subtraction, those are the problems you’re given; multiplication, you get those.

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I have received a promo code for the game, and would like to do a giveaway! Post a comment, and you’ll automatically be entered. I’ll draw a random name on February 28.

See here for contest rules.

Saving Money in the Kitchen – and Bonus Recipe!

Simple Meal Planning - Plan to Eat

One guaranteed way to save money that I’ve found recently: make your kitchen a place to enjoy being.

I’m a lazy person. I’ll admit that straight away. I’ve put off cleaning and organizing the kitchen for a long time. Since it was dirty and cluttered, I didn’t want to be in it. It was hard to move around, hard to find things, and it made cooking a pain. If cooking was hard, do you think I wanted to do it? No way. That means I was putting off dinner til the last minute, and then giving in and ordering a pizza. Or Mexican. Or whatever.

The last two weeks I’ve done three things that have totally turned that around.

1. Plan to Eat*

Plan to Eat is a website that lets you input your week’s recipes and automatically generates your shopping list. The integrated calendar allows you to schedule meals, add notes, and move things around as needed. I’ve tried several different meal planning websites, but this is the most flexible, and best-suited to our current needs.

Through today, you can get a years’ subscription for $19.50 – that’s 50% off!

2. Making the Kitchen Fun*

Ninja

I’m a gadget lover – always have been. This week, with some of my Christmas budget, I bought a new blender/mixer for the kitchen. I’ve needed one for a while, and have been putting it off. After buying this little gadget, I immediately went home and started chopping onions and other vegetables! When I have tools that make my job easier, I enjoy doing it more.

3. Making the Kitchen Easy

After putting it off for years (literally), I buckled down yesterday and reorganized the kitchen. Thinking logically about how things should flow, I put all of the “mixing” (chopping, stirring, blending, etc.) stuff together, all of the pots, pans, and bakeware in one area, and all of the serving dishes in another. This has made moving around the kitchen so much more enjoyable!

These three things combined ended up in a very profitable weekend that saved our family lots of money and time. I cooked and prepped all of our week’s meals, and they are in the freezer ready to go.

Crockpot MealBagged and Ready to go in the Crockpot

This Cheesy Ham & Potatoes Recipe was super easy to put together the night before and put in the crockpot in the morning. Enjoy!

Print Recipe

Cheesy Potatoes and Ham

Course: Main Course

Ingredients

  • 5 lbs russet potatoes sliced thick (apx 1/4 inch)
  • 12 oz ham cubed
  • 1 lb cheddar cheese shredded
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup
  • 12 oz sour cream
  • 1/4 c. onion diced
  • salt pepper & seasoning salt to taste

Directions

  1. Layer in crockpot in this order, 2-3 layers depending on size & shape of crockpot: potatoes, onion, seasonings, ham, cheese, soup & sour cream.
  2. Cover & cook on high for about an hour, then turn to low & cook until potatoes are tender, 5-7 hours

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(Note about freezing the night before: I put the potatoes in a gallon-sized ziploc bag, and added just enough water to cover them so they wouldn’t turn brown in the refrigerator overnight.)

*Affiliate link – see our Technical Stuff for details.

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