Sanity Saving Family Road Trip Tips

5
Jul
2016

Sanity Saving Family Road Trip Tips

We just returned from an amazing road trip through Yellowstone, the Grand Tetons, and Salt Lake City to the Young Living Convention and we could not have done it without a few goodies that we took along for the ride.

I’ve taken road trips before – but this one was by far one of the better ones, and I attribute it to the supplies which helped keep us sane!

I do have to share this amazing photo in the Grand Tetons. We stopped at Jackson Lake Lodge for lunch and were met with this amazing view!

View at Jackson Lake Lodge

Okay, now for the road trip tips!

Have a Car Bucket

This may seem old hat for some, but we needed a “throw-up bucket” for our trip because my son’s tummy can get a bit queasy. We were thankful we didn’t need it for any of the tummy queasiness, but it worked fabulously for a trash can. We could easily toss things in, empty it out, even rinsing it if things spilled. A true lifesaver!

Activities

Melissa & Doug Activity BookI am still the old fashioned mom who rarely lets her child watch endless movies on the road. Our guy was limited to one movie a day, so that left a lot of time to listen to music, chat, or do activities. Here were a few that kept him busy and happy (which is a big bonus) – Hidden Pictures Discovery Activity ZoneMelissa & Doug Water WOW Coloring Book – Animals, and National Geographic Kids Cool Animals Sticker Book.

Diffuser

I love my essential oils, and diffusing some Stress Away in the car is divine for everyone! I purchased two of these mini diffusers and they worked like a charm and I loved the compact size. They were easy to have out of the way and no spills!

Cooler

Coleman 40 Quart PowerChill(TM) Thermoelectric CoolerWe normally take a portable cooler in the car and have ice in it, but this time we decided to purchase an electric cooler and it was SO MUCH BETTER! We purchased this Coleman 40 Quart PowerChill(TM) Thermoelectric Cooler after my husband did some research and it was one of the best investments. We even were able to use this in our hotel room as well because it has dual adaptors for car outlets and electrical outlets. This saved us money because we were easily able to keep snack items cold and accessible.

Easy Packing

I purchased some new packing accessories before our trip and they were great. I needed a new toiletry bag that kept items upright and also completely closed, but was roomy enough for all my items. I found this Travel Toiletry Organizing Bag met my needs great. I loved that it had wonderful ratings. I used it throughout my trip and am really happy with it. In the months to come we will be doing more traveling and I will need to have a sturdy and durable toiletry bag.

I also purchased some Shacke Pak – 4 Set Packing Cubes on the advice of a friend and these were Shacke Pak - 4 Set Packing Cubes - Travel Organizers with Laundry Bagthe bomb! I loved that I could pack clothes I wouldn’t be needing for the first part of my trip inside the larger cubes and have them set aside in my suitcase. I didn’t have to weed through clothes, it was easy to be organized, and it kept my clothes neat and tidy. I used several smaller cubes for my son’s underwear and socks, which always seem to end up everywhere in his suitcase, so it was a relief when this system worked like magic.

Road trips can often times put FEAR into us moms – but let me just say, these tips were so great! We managed a 10-day road trip and we all still really liked each other at the end of it!

Here we are at Yellowstone, one of my favorite places in the park – the Grand Canyon area.

Us at Yellowstone
Do you have any road trips planned this summer?

5 Ways to Simplify Your Schedule

20
Jun
2016

5 Ways to Simplify Your Schedule

Summer is here and it can seem that we get even busier and feel more pressure to have a great vacation story to share with others. The pressure to perform during the summer months can give moms added stress, more anxiety, and even begin to break the family budget.

I have noticed over the years that summer and the expectation of providing an incredible vacation experience for our kids has become such a burden that we’ve lost the ability to slow down, be real, and recharge. How about we take some steps to provide an atmosphere of connecting, refreshment, and simplifying our schedules?

Here are some tips I am implementing this summer that I hope you will consider.

Cut Back on Scheduled Activities

Don’t get me wrong – I love summer Vacation Bible Camps and other fun summer camp programs for kids, but how about making it a special occurrence rather than booking your child (children) for every single one you can fit in?

Have your child help you pick out one or two special camps they are interested in attending and then decide on time factor as well as budget and whether it can fit in your family schedule. I love the free flow of summer and sometimes just waking up and deciding to head to the beach or a road trip, so leaving space for spontaneity is great for everyone!

Less Stuff = Less Chaos

Struggling each and every day to locate items can waste precious time and also feed anxiety, depression, and make you feel overwhelmed. Why not take some time to reduce what you own to make space for more? We are in the process of selling our large family home and will be downsizing in a big way (I will share more on that journey soon!). I am currently reading Make Room for What You Love by Melissa Michaels and it is helping me find ways to part with things that have been clogging my life for far too long.

Set Aside a Day for Sabbath

A few months back our family began implementing a Sabbath and it has changed our family rhythm in such a positive way. By setting aside one day a week to connect and focus on family time, we’ve managed to reduce stress, find space in our week, and honestly we look forward to this break which forces us to slow down.

Meal Plan Weekly + Repeat

A fun idea for meal planning and to help reduce the cooking time during the summer months is to rotate your schedule every two weeks. Have a two week plan which includes lots of grilled meat and salads where you grill several types of meat at once. Then you can easily make various meals from one set up of the barbecue. I love using grilled chicken for salads, sandwiches, and simple casseroles for summer. Serving lots of fresh fruit and vegetables can curb your time in the kitchen as well. I also love using eMeals for my meal planning, making it easy and a no-brainer!

Delegate Tasks

Look at your schedule and home management tasks and decide what you can hand off to someone else. This has served me well for several years – having my kids and hubby get involved with tasks they are skilled in doing or learning. Helping out serves two purposes: it creates more space in my schedule and also teaches a feeling of community and belonging with our family. When everyone helps out, it dramatically improves life for mom and the entire family – making time for more fun stuff!

Simple Ways to Have Fun with Your Kids

13
Jun
2016

Simple Ways to Have Fun with Your Kids

I admit it. I am not really a fun mom. I can easily get caught up in the tasks of motherhood and forget to enjoy the journey. I will often think having fun and being silly is a big waste of time.

This summer I am trying to let my silly side out a bit more. I want to laugh more, to relax more, and find joy in the simple things. An area I need to be more intentional in is activities with my family, especially my six year old. I do love the activities planned in the Summer Survival Calendar, but some days I just need a bit more fun. Do you agree?

So I sat down and gathered up some ideas of how I can be the FUN mom rather than the boring mom this summer. Maybe something in this list will resonate with you too.

Do a Messy Craft

I actually did this a few weeks back. I found a pottery wheel on our local Buy Nothing group and was given it. I had no idea how messy of a project this would be, however my six year old had a blast with it. He got dirty, molded different figurines, and ended up in the bathtub at the end. We still have those clay figures and it’s a reminder to me to relax and do the messy stuff too!

Look Through Old Photos or Videos

I think everyone enjoys taking time to remember past experiences from our life or even just how we looked. When I grab the iPad and we go “reminiscing” through photos, we all laugh, sometimes we cry, and best of all we get connected together in a new way.  

Washing the Car

This could almost fit into my “messy craft” idea. It’s not a craft, but you can certainly get messy! On a hot summer day, why not let everyone get wet while doing a job that needs to get done? Who cares if there are streaks on the car and it doesn’t get completely clean. It’s all about the experience together.

Choose Different Names

We’ve had fun with this activity several different times, but it’s been awhile. We choose different ethnicities and have our names changed for a day. It is really interesting what everyone picks for their name and then we all have to remember each other’s names. Seems really silly, and it is – but sometimes it can be these little things that break up the boredom and make things fun!

Build a Fort

Simple and imaginative takes first place here! All you need are some blankets or sheets and some chairs or other furniture to hold it all up. Then you can plan to have fun inside – read, eat meals, take a nap, watch a movie. It just makes all those things more fun.

Escape with No Destination

I am excited to try this one during the summer. Just hop in the car and go. Maybe choose a direction to go, but stop when you see an interesting site or place to walk around. Maybe pack a lunch to have on the way and just experience some new sights. This will be totally out of my comfort zone, but I know it will provide some great experiences.

Cook a New Recipe Together

Cooking together builds unity, connection, and creates unique experiences, unlike many other activities. You end up going through instructions (the recipe) and then working together and end with a great outcome – a meal or snack to share. During our summer vacation I plan to do a few more recipes with my six year old to help him gain some cooking skills, but also to enjoy time together in a new way.

What are some ways you enjoy having fun with your kids?

Tried and True Tips for Spending Less

31
May
2016

Tried and True Tips for Spending Less

Last week I shared how you can begin to tackle debt with some simple steps. This week I want to share with you more of the “how to” – what it actually looks like.  

Now, remember that each and every family situation is different, but if you are all in and truly want to experience the freedom that comes when you aren’t carrying debt, it takes precise strategies and intentional decisions – which are not easy.

Over the past month we have hammered our budget down – cutting the fat out (fat being anything that truly is not necessary). You may think of our steps as pretty drastic, but honestly, we’ve lived with many of these strategies for years and I think they have served us well.

Reducing Family Entertainment Expenses 

This is one where we have been incredibly intentional with our spending. To be honest, many of these philosophies really came out of true necessity when I was a single mom. There were no funds for movies with snacks and adventures to theme parks and such.

As a family of six, it is a big treat and something we budget for in order to enjoy a large entertainment expense. We do love baseball, so we may attend one major league baseball game during the summer. That is all. It is a considerable expense and we have chosen to make it a very special occasion rather than a normal activity that tends to not have as much impact for the money spent. We do not attend movies at the theater either. The last one was four years ago.

Taking that “fat” and placing it in other areas of our budget (paying off a car payment or putting toward our mortgage) has a much better return. If we owe money, we really have no business sowing into more waste. On the other hand, you can be creative and find very low cost family entertainment or even FREE activities! We love hiking, day trips, and small group activities with friends.

Dining Out

Here is another area we intentionally restrict. We may eat out once a month as a family – period. It is planned and not done in haste or last minute. I am sure you can relate. We often spend way more on these items when we fail to plan for dinner and then end up over spending and sowing into more waste. Rather than do that, why not truly take the time needed to plan meals so that you can efficiently spend your money and sow into being frugal and wise rather then wasteful?

Dining out is a very special occasion for us, and even when we do, we typically always have a coupon! And it has been budgeted for.

Owing for Vehicles

If you are paying a car payment – stop! This one is a hard one for many because we live in such a “want it now” society, but this is the biggest waste of money ever. For us, we were so close in paying off the second car we had owed on that it was better for us to keep it and attack that debt rather then sell it and buy a car we had the money to afford. However, if you have months and months of payments, I highly suggest you determine if paying out that money is the best thing for you. 

Caring for Yourself

This may be an area you don’t really give much consideration to, however over the past three years I have learned a lot of food choices that can help our bodies stay healthy and choices that will deteriorate our health. We have changed up our food budget in order to accommodate better choices at the grocery store – more fresh vegetables and fruits, locally sourced meat, raw milk, and less and less processed food. Processed food is certainly much cheaper, but it is literally making an investment in poor health.

We’ve also taken greater care with making choices using natural alternatives to support our immune systems as well as our emotions, which results in many great benefits. Less time sitting at a doctor’s office, less money paid to medical facilities, we feel better, miss less school and/or work, and our schedules run smoother. It’s an investment in ourselves which will pay huge dividends in the years to come.

Eating from Your Pantry

This is a huge one. We are a society of choices and excess. I am sure if you looked in your pantry you could find at least a week’s worth of meals to fix without having to go to the grocery store. When I returned from a conference a few months ago, I took the challenge and began using more of the items we had in our pantry instead of just planning all meals with new ingredients. I can tell you we don’t always eat exactly what I might be in the mood for, but it has been a great experience on using what we have and not wasting. I challenge you to do that same. Use that extra money that remains in your food budget at the end of the month to go towards paying off a bill you have!

I share a lot of my saving secrets in my Become a Frugalista eBook too. If you need some steps and some encouragement, go over and grab it now!  

So, what area is your first to attack? I would love to hear your strategies and goals.

Shifting to a Frugal Mindset: Paying Off Debt NOW!

24
May
2016

Shifting to a Frugal Mindset: Paying Off Debt NOW!

Debt robs us of freedom. It robs us of possibilities. It robs us of joy.

I have had many years of my life where I overspent and did not mange money well. In fact, it sadly managed me – my moods, my choices, my future. I had to use a debt consolidation company to help me escape patterns of bad choices and bad habits.

When I re-married I was so blessed to have a husband who was very frugally minded – and we started our marriage off having a budget. This was a FIRST for me, and to be honest, we followed it loosely until we began to wonder, where was our money really going?

We couldn’t really say.

About five years ago we got down to the nitty gritty and set up a budget using Mint.com – which we found to be simple as well as a completely secure way to help us track our spending. We had not done any financial training, but with age and past mistakes, we knew we needed to be focused on knowing exactly where we spent our money.

It was during that transition I wrote down a lot of my frugally minded ideas in my book, Becoming a Frugalista – Money Saving Secrets for the Family Manager. It was fabulous to place them all in one spot to share with my readers, and I still use many of those tips today.

Fast-forward a few years and my husband and I are tackling our debt even further. We are determined to be free from debt that ultimately makes us feel trapped. Our situation is a bit different. We have worked hard to not carry debt, however we have a car payment that will be paid off in just a few months and then our mortgage.  

The thought of our mortgage being our only debt is exhilarating. I am thankful for my work at home businesses, both my blog and my Young Living sharing bringing in additional income, which is a bonus in helping with our family budget and paying down debt – plus blessing many organizations we would not otherwise have had the opportunity to give to.

Do you wonder what it would be like to have no debt? 

Are you finding your debt suffocating and stealing your joy?  

Today, I will share some ways to shift your thinking, which will hopefully begin to change your perspective on how you are spending your money. Next week I will cover exact examples on how you can find FAT in your budget and put that towards your bills. I recently watched, War on Debt by Dani Johnson. It hit me between the eyes. So much of what I do in my home shows a spirit of indulging and excessive behavior. OUCH! There is a better way. Let’s start changing our thinking.

Asking, “Do I Really Need That?”

You’ve heard this one before I am sure. We often get into habits of just buying because we can. Because we have the money (or at least we think we have the money) to buy more of something, when in reality we may not even truly need it. It is a habit. It’s time to ask that before you purchase everything – from the grocery store, to Amazon, to Old Navy. Do I really need that? If you can truly answer YES to that question, then go ahead – as long as you have funds in your budget. Otherwise, don’t do it.

But, We Think Differently

Do you and your husband think about money in the same way? For many in marriage, the answer is no. Is there a way you can meet in the middle and be somewhere near the same page with spending? This can be a common issue, however even if you can’t agree, I don’t think you should use it as an excuse. Be responsible for the choices you are making on spending money. You cannot control anyone else, but you can make better choices yourself. I can tell you what you do matters and it will be seen, even when you don’t think it is.

Monthly Check-Ins

Schedule, on your calendar – yes, just like any other appointment – to have a family business meeting. You can spend time going through your bills, what was spent, areas you maybe overspent, and where you underspent. This gives both people a chance to see exactly where money is being spent. There is no, “Oh, I didn’t know” phrases that can say ignorance. Be smart, empowered, and have no excuses.

Look to Trim Your Fat

I’ll share more on this next week, but finding ways to trim excessive spending is what you can be looking at now. Do you eat out often? Do you go to the coffee drive thru on a regular basis? Do you find yourself charging basic necessities? When you owe money to others, you need to truly be evaluating where you are spending your money and determine if you are sowing into your finances in order to reap benefits or if you are spending carelessly and reaping what you are sowing.

Do not throw your money away, allow it to work for you. You work hard to get it, right?

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