Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Animal Cruelty

I'm not sure if I have mentioned this on my blog or not - it's such an ingrained part of my life that it just doesn't occur to me to give it special mention - but I am a vegetarian. I have been for about 12 years. I am not yet vegan, although someday I would like to be. We do consume dairy and eggs, in small quantities, and we choose organic dairy and eggs from free-range farms. One of my future goals is to eliminate ALL animal products. However, for now, this is a good compromise for us. My children are also vegetarian, and my husband is a part-time vegetarian. He eats veg when he's home, and steak when he's out... I try not to give him a hard time about it, because this has been my choice, and he has graciously gone along with it for the most part.

In any case, there are many reasons why I have chosen to be vegetarian. This is sort of an impromptu post, so I don't plan on going into too much depth. However, the 3 main reasons, in no particular order, are:

1). Our health,

2). Animal cruelty, and

3). Our planet.

I stumbled across this post today on VeganBits.com:

http://veganbits.com/vegan-eating-trumps-eating-locally/

I encourage you to read it - it is very insightful.

There has been so much talk lately about the importance of eating locally, and yet eating vegan has a much larger impact on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. However it doesn't seem to be as popular with the media, likely because getting people to eat locally is a whole lot easier than getting them to give up their steak.

I assume that if you are here reading my blog, you are at least attracted to the idea of living with purpose, with intention. Part of this entails opening your eyes and really seeing what is going on around you, and then taking steps toward positive change. This is one issue that nearly all of us choose to ignore - how horrendous the conditions are under which these animals live and die, so that meat may land on our plates. Even if you choose not to give up meat, I implore you to at least research the conditions of factory farming, and make better choices about where your meat comes from, and refuse to accept this type of animal cruelty.

Through the same post, I noticed that they have a petition to Oprah encouraging her to speak out on the inhumane treatment of livestock. I just finished signing it. I hope you will too.

http://veganbits.com/petition-to-oprah-livestock-should-be-treated-humanely/#guestbookform

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Cloth Diapering System

I was asked by one of my readers (wow, that sounds funny!) to post about my cloth diapering system. Please bear in mind that this is just how I do it - there are probably as many ways to cloth diaper as there are parents who cloth diaper their babies! I basically learned by doing lots (and lots and lots) of research, and through plenty of trial and error. It is by no means perfect, but it Works for Me!


We are currently using Fuzzi Bunz. I have 19 of these, which means I can go about 3 days between diaper washings. For the record, I LOVE my Fuzzi Bunz. I started with Happy Heiny's and hated them, and ended up selling them all on eBay. (By the way, used cloth diapers have excellent resale value... you can usually get back about half of what you paid for them!). I forgot to take a picture of my own, so I borrowed this one from the Fuzzi Bunz website.





Had I known then what I know now, I probably would have made my own diapers for next to nothing. But I knew so little about cloth diapering then that I just decided to go ahead and buy them. I think it cost us about $500.00 to buy everything we needed. Yes, that sounds like a lot. But compared to the thousands of dollars we would have otherwise spent on disposables, it was a steal. I probably could have made them all for about $50.00 or less. If you use things you have around the house to make them out of, you could easily spend less than $10.00 on just elastic and velcro.

Anyway, on with the show!

Here is our "diapering station" (AKA change table. :)

You can see I have all the diapers stuffed and ready to go. I stuff them right out of the dryer, and put them away so that it's as easy as possible during diaper change time. Beside the diapers you can see a stack of miscellaneous extra inserts/wash cloths. I use these to double up (or triple up!) at night time to prevent leaks. Next to those is a little container that holds the biodegradable liners. He still is not having formed poops (sorry if this is too much info!), so the liners save my sanity... I'm pretty good at predicting his poop times, so I make sure there's a liner in his diaper, and when he poops it's MUCH easier to just flip the liner right into the toilet, poop and all. If he doesn't poop, the liner just gets washed with the diapers. They will hold up for a couple of washings before falling apart.
















Next to the change table I have my wet wipes, and a dry cloth. (Notice they're sitting on the radiator... a built-in wipe warmer). :) I always make sure I dry him off completely with the dry cloth after using the wet wipes, this keeps his bum nice and dry and keeps diaper rash away. Since I've started doing this, we have had virtually no diaper rash! On that note, I should also mention that you shouldn't use diaper cream while using cloth diapers. Any diaper cream that gets on the diaper will leave a residue that will not wash away, and will cause repelling. If you MUST use diaper cream (although diaper rash in a cloth diapered baby is rare, especially if you dry them off well between changes), make sure there is a liner or a wash cloth in the diaper.















Here's a close-up of the wipes. Just baby wash cloths folded in half, and I just use a regular wipes container from back in my pre-enlightened days. :)















This is how I "create" my wet wipes. When the diapers and wipes are finished in the dryer, I take all the wipes, and fold them in half. I then bring them up to the bathroom, and fill up the wipe container about half way with warm water. I add a couple of drops of apricot oil (which is not necessary, but it makes them smell good, and I find that little bit of oil helps clean off his bum a little better). Then I stick the dry wipes in, let them soak up most of the water, flip the stack over, and squish them down until all the water has been absorbed. That's it! 3 days worth of wipes. I think I have about 3 dozen cloths, which is more than enough. Even if I wasn't cloth diapering, I would DEFINITELY be using cloth wipes. There is just no comparison. Those disposable wipes are so flimsy they're almost useless. The cloth wipes actually CLEAN the baby's bum...they're so much sturdier.















And here is my high-tech diaper disposal system. :) Just a stainless steel kitchen garbage can. It lives in the bathroom. I used to keep it in the baby's room, but I had to go to the bathroom to dump poopy diapers in the toilet anyway, and also to wash my hands. So rather than go to the bathroom, dump the diaper, go back to the bedroom, put the diaper in the pail, and back to the bathroom to wash my hands, it was just easier to move the diaper pail in there. :) There's a removable plastic pail inside the stainless steel part. These diapers are pocket diapers, which means there is an insert inside. I just shake the diaper upside down over the pail until the insert falls out, and then toss the rest of the diaper in. The separate insert makes drying time much quicker, and I also believe it's much more sanitary, as all the components of the diaper get washed thoroughly.















Every 3 days or so (or when he's has about 3 diapers left, or the diaper pail will no longer close, whichever comes first!), I pull out the pail and take it to the washer, and dump it in. I set it to a cold soak cycle, with no detergent. (If you don't have this cycle on your machine, you can just use your regular cycle, and shut the washer off when it fills up. Let the diapers soak for 15 minutes or so, then turn it back on and let it finish the cold cycle). When that finishes, I turn it to hot, and add a couple of squirts of Allen's Naturally laundry detergent. It's really important that you NEVER use fabric softener on cloth diapers - it will cause a residue build-up which will cause them to leak. The same will happen if you use too much detergent. Detergent will build up over time and cause leaking, so every once in awhile I have to "strip" the diapers - basically running a hot wash with no detergent until there is no sign of residue, and then washing them as usual.

As for the pail itself, I rinse it out with some vinegar and water, wipe it down, and put it back in the stainless steel can. That keeps it smelling fresh.

When the wash is done, I throw them in the dryer. Some people hang their diapers to dry. I find it takes too long, and it would mean washing every 2 days instead of every 3 (to allow for drying time). So I prefer to wash every 3, and use the dryer. To each his own. I save the clothesline for clothes. :) I have plenty of those to hang!

Anyway, that's pretty much it! I hope I haven't missed anything. I've been doing it for awhile now, so it seems like second nature to me, I almost forget all of the questions I had when I was first getting started. So if there's something I've missed, feel free to ask away!

In case you can't tell, I really, really love cloth diapering. :) For those of you who have never tried it, that may sound a bit bizarre. Who uses "love" and "diapering" in the same sentence? It truly makes diapering a joy, and I would never go back to disposables. Not in a million years. They may be a little extra work, but in my opinion, it is worth it. It's so nice to pass right by the baby aisle at the grocery store and not give it a second glance! It's so nice not to have to run to the store when we get low on diapers, but rather just head to the washing machine. :)

Friday, May 16, 2008

Envelope Budgeting

I've been wanting to do a post on Envelope Budgeting for some time now. Envelope Budgeting is truly what enables me to stay home to care for my family. Without that second, supplemental income, it is more crucial than ever to budget for every conceivable expense. Otherwise our ship would have sunk a long time ago.

The reason why budgeting fails for most people, is that they only budget for their recurring, monthly expenses. They fail to budget for those things that are bound to occur sooner or later, or occur predictably every year. Like Christmas! Some people act like Christmas sneaks up on them, and they had no idea it was coming. I used to be one of those people!! For the past 32 years of my life, Christmas has fallen on the same day, every single year. :) It's time I started anticipating it and planning for it! Birthdays will, without a doubt, occur from time to time. Clothing gets worn out and outgrown, and will need to be replaced. Appliances will break down eventually. And Murphy's Law states that your car will break down at approximately the same time.

In the past, we would have just pretended that none of those things were really going to happen to us, which, ultimately, is why we have debt. Debt is merely the result of not saving up for things, and thus spending money you don't have when the inevitable occurs.

My first "aha!" moment occured when I began reading about Mary Hunt's "Freedom Accounts". Mary Hunt basically advocates for saving up for large, annual, seasonal, or occasional expenses in a separate bank acccount that she calls a Freedom Account. (Freedom meaning it frees you from debt, and puts you in charge of your own financial destiny). So we started off by doing this for larger expenses, like Christmas, clothing, and car repairs. I still diligently used cash to pay for everything else. When a "Freedom Account" expense would come up, since it was in a savings account, we would use our MasterCard (with air miles!) to pay for the expense, and then transfer the money out of our savings account to pay the MasterCard. This was working so well, that we decided to use the same process for ALL of our expenses. Our money would sit in savings, earning interest for the month, and we would pay for things with our Air Miles MasterCard, earning air miles on things we would buy anyway. I deduct each and every purchase from its appropriate "envelope", and always treat it like cash - to us, our credit card is like a debit card, we deduct the purchase immediately from our available funds. At the end of the month, we just pay the bill with the money sitting in the account. We are saving up our Air Miles until we have enough to take the whole family to Disney World. :)

This hybrid credit card/envelope system works really well for us, because we are disciplined enough NOT to treat it as a credit card - we are fully aware that we are spending REAL money. For anyone who struggles with credit card debt, I would never advocate this approach, I would stick with cash or a debit card. The same principle applies, however.

I began by making a list of every conceivable expense. Our current list of "envelopes" is as follows:

Allowance:Alissa
Allowance:Bruce
Allowance:Norah
(Our allowance we actually do take in cash - each of us gets some of our own spending money that does not have to be accounted for in the budget. This is what keeps us sane, and allows us each a little bit of spending freedom)
Auto:Fuel
Auto:Maintenance
Auto:Other (Parking, etc.)
Auto:Purchase (saving up for our next vehicle - a van!)
Auto:Registration
Bank Fees
Christmas
Clothing
Debt
Education
Food
Fun
Furnace
Gifts & Occasions
Home:Cable/Telephone/Internet
Home:Cellular
Home:Heat
Home:Maintenance
Home:Mortgage
Home:Power
Home:Property Tax
Home:Water
Household
Insurance
Medical
Newspaper
Personal Care (hair cuts, etc.)
Preschool
Student Loans
Travel

Since my husband is on salary, it is pretty easy to maintain this system. I created an excel spreadsheet and started with my husband's income at the top, and then started plugging in all of the numbers for the various expenses. Your goal is to have a Zero-Based budget. Every single penny should be given a job. All the more reason to make sure you have every possible expense covered, because there's no money floating around without purpose. If it doesn't balance, you are forced to find areas to cut back until it does balance. Once all the numbers balance out (Income-Expenses=0), you can then go ahead and create your envelopes. They can be real envelopes (with cash!), or they can be pretend envelopes, where you leave the money in the bank, but write the amounts on the back of the envelopes. It can be a notebook, where each page represents an "envelope", and you put the starting balance at the top, and then subtract each expense as it occurs. It can be a spreadsheet, with a different column for each envelope. There is some software by Snowmint Creative Solutions called "Budget" that uses the envelope method, with pictures of real envelopes representing each category. Personally, I use Quicken to track our envelopes. I have Pocket Quicken on my Palm Pilot, which goes everywhere I do, and I can quickly see at a glance how much is remaining in each "envelope" before I make a purchase. I can also enter transactions on the go, so my balances are always up to date. There may be thousands of dollars sitting in the bank account (there's not, but it's possible!), but I can tell at a glance that I only have $53.00 left for groceries, and will budget accordingly. Our bank account balance becomes irrelevant, because it's really the "envelope" balances that matter.

What I LOVE about this system is the following:

1). It reduces stress. We never have to panic about how we are going to pay for something. The money is set aside in advance, and when a bill comes, we simply pay it. Even our heating costs are spread out evenly 12 months of the year, so during heating season we aren't worried about an increased expense - it's covered in our monthly budget.

2). It's fun! It makes it so much easier to save up for something if you can see that you are directing it to a certain category. You can create envelopes for special expenses, something fun, and then watch the balance grow as you add to it month after month.

3). It's flexible. With some costs rising, I find it necessary to tweak the amounts going to various categories so that we can pay for other expenses. I've had to increase our grocery budget lately, which meant carefully shaving amounts from various other areas.

4). It's empowering. For those of you who have been following my blog, you know that I am a fan of being proactive, rather than reactive. Envelope budgeting is as proactive as it gets. Setting money aside for future expenses puts you in the drivers seat of your financial destiny. YOU decide where your hard-earned money goes, not the other way around. YOU choose what is important to you and your family, and direct your money accordingly. Even if you can only afford to put $1.00 into a particular category each paycheque, that $1.00 will become $2.00, and then $3.00... whereas 0 multiplied by any number is still 0. If you don't put any money toward things, it will never add up to anything.

5). It provides incentive. It's much more motivating to find ways to reduce your power consumption, if it means YOU get to decide where to re-direct that money you've saved. Maybe it's to an essential category, like food. Maybe it's to a fun category, like Travel. In any case, without envelopes, that "saved" money would just get lost in the shuffle, and you might not see it again. With Envelopes, you get to see exactly where it goes, which provides that sometimes much-needed incentive to cut back in some areas.

6). Balances carry forward from month to month. I particularly love this feature. With traditional style budgeting (where you write everything out on paper and then cross your fingers and hope for the best!), I always wondered what would happen to that clothing money you didn't spend, or the extra money you had left in your grocery budget for being such a good little shopper. This way, the money just floats into the next month, and the month after that - which provides even more incentive to be frugal. You can either sweep extra money into another envelope, or you can allow it to accumulate. For us, because we budget monthly, we have to allow for the months of the year that have 5 weeks in them. This can wreak havoc in categories like food or gas, so I like to leave a little cushion that builds up, which carries us through those longer months.

7). Windfalls can go where you want them to! In addition to your regular source of income (in our case, my husband's salary), there are often extra bits of money that come into our lives. Whether it's an income tax refund, or money from selling things, or some extra income earned on the side, it's fun to decide where to direct that extra money! Sometimes it needs to go to an essential category (maybe there is too much month left at the end of our grocery budget), but sometimes we can put it toward whatever we want. It's fun to add to a particular envelope and watch as you can meet your goals faster than you expected.

In addition to our "Envelopes", we also have a separate account set up for an Emergency Fund. This is the FIRST bill we pay every single month. While we try to plan for every conceivable expense, there is still a chance that something catastrophic could happen that we truly did not forsee. This would also cushion us in the event of a job loss, and provide us with some income until we were able to get back on our feet. This is THE MOST IMPORTANT expense we have, as without a cushion for emergencies, we are truly at the mercy of the universe. If you don't have an emergency fund because you think you can't afford it, ask yourself what you would do in a worst-case scenario event such as a job loss. Even a month without an income would sink most of us. Our goal is to eventually have a minimum of 6 months income sitting in a separate account. We have a long, long ways to go, but at least we are moving in the right direction. Even $5.00 a month would add up over time, and would give you a sense of security and help you sleep at night. As you are able to reduce your other expenses, you can gradually increase the amount you can set aside. Just make it a priority and do it FIRST, before you pay any other bills, or else you will never do it.

Well that turned out to be a much longer post than I thought it was going to be! As you can see, I really, really like envelope budgeting. :) Even if we were rich, I think I would still do it, because it provides such great clarity about where you are directing your money.

Happy Budgeting!

For more Frugal Friday tips and ideas, visit www.biblicalwomanhoodonline.com/blog.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Daily Schedule

Now that I'm back to blogging :) I thought I'd continue on with my scheduling series, and post about my daily schedule.

This is a schedule that has developed over the past 4 years, has evolved over time, and will continue to evolve as my children grow, and my family's needs change. So consider this a snapshot in our family's current life. This is more of a guideline than a schedule, and the times are only approximate, although I do my best to stick to it, for no other reason than when I stray from it, it leads to more work piled up for later!

So here is a day in the life of us.

6:45 am - get up & nurse the baby
7:00 am - dh & kids go downstairs for breakfast, I jump in the shower & get dressed
7:30 am - tidy upstairs (make beds, gather laundry, open drapes & blinds, etc.)
7:45 am - bring laundry downstairs, start 1 load (dh goes to get ready for work)
8:00 am - start coffee, empty dishwasher, clean up any breakfast dishes, wipe down kitchen (kids will watch a show or just play during this time).
8:30 am - make myself some breakfast, sit down with coffee, check e-mail, etc.
9:00 am - laundry in dryer or on clothes line (yaay for summer!), do weekly cleaning chore, kids "help", or play on their own. Trying to remember to shut the computer down at this time!
10:00 am
- kids morning snack, do any early dinner prep, if necessary
11:00 am - outing with kids - go for a walk, go to the park, etc.
12:00 pm - get lunch ready (dh comes home for lunch)
12:15 pm - eat lunch, clean up kitchen
1:00 pm - nap-time for ds18 mos, "Quiet Time" for dd3 (we have a spare bedroom that is designated as the "Quiet Room", where she spends 2 hours in the afternoon laying down, watching tv, or playing quietly. This is when I regain my sanity to begin "round 2". lol.
During this time, I sit with my coffee or tea, do any paperwork/bill paying, misc. deskwork, make phonecalls, etc. I aim to keep my desk clear at all times, so I try to keep things caught up on a daily basis.
3:00 pm - kids up, afternoon snack, I carry on with supper prep (I prefer to work on supper while I'm in the kitchen with the kids anyway - so snack time is a great time for this). When the kids are done their snacks, I'll usually do a craft with dd3 (I'm in the kitchen working on supper anyway, so it's a good way to keep her at the table, and I can supervise what she's doing).
4:00 pm - I sometimes work on some sewing, or other projects, while dinner is cooking, so I can still be close by the kitchen. dd3 likes to "help" me sew, so this is fun for her! Hopefully as the weather gets nicer we'll be spending this time outside in the back yard instead! Sometimes we also just sit and play during this time. This is also normally when I fold laundry.
5:30 pm - dh arrives home, we eat supper.
6:15 pm - dh takes the kids upstairs to have their fun time (they play music, dance, jump on the bed, and generally burn off energy!) This is when I get the kitchen cleaned up. When the weather gets nicer, and my husband is on "Summer Hours" (finished work at 4:30 pm, yaay!), we eat supper much earlier, and have time to take the kids to the park!
6:45 pm - take laundry upstairs and put away
7:00 pm - kids baths
7:30 pm - both kids in bed
7:30 - 10 pm - 2 nights a week I tutor, otherwise, I sew, knit, crochet, etc.
10:00 pm - bed time!

So that's pretty much it! Obviously it doesn't include things like diaper changes, potty time, picking up toys, etc. - those are just ongoing throughout the day. I'm trying to get into the habit of always putting things back where they belong as soon as we're done with them, so that we never have any major clean-up to do. I also take lots of little breaks throughout the day to sit and play with the kids, or at least see what they're doing - these aren't scheduled, but I do try to work them in!

We even roughly follow this schedule on week-ends, with the exception of the weekly cleaning chore - in place of that would be working on projects around the house, or yard work, and I also run errands and get groceries on Saturday mornings.

Everyone's schedule will look different, based on your own family's needs, of course. But sometimes it's helpful to get a glimpse of someone else's, sometimes it provides us with some much-needed inspiration! So I hope this helps!

For more great "Works-for-Me" tips, visit Rocks in my Dryer!

Monday, May 12, 2008

An update

I posted a couple of weeks ago about cutting back on my blogging time, as I have a course I'm trying to finish before May 31st. Well, I'm having a really, really hard time getting through it. The amount of work that has to be done between now and then is almost impossible - but I promised myself I would push through and get it done. However, I'm really struggling with the motivation factor. Since I no longer plan on doing my Masters (at least not any time soon), my motivation to get this course done is almost non-existant. To add to the lack of motivation, I re-read the university's policy on course-retakes, and discovered that I can, in fact, withdrawl at this point and simply re-register if and when I decide to pursue my Masters. The trouble is, this is my 2nd time registering for the course (the first time I foolishly thought that 4 weeks after having a baby, while also having a 2-year-old, and being in the midst of renovating our home was a really, really good time register for a course). So I have now paid for the course TWICE (at over $600.00 each time). I know it's a huge waste of money and time to not finish. But at the same time, all I want to do is sew and knit and bake and play with my kids - all the stuff that gives me the warm and fuzzies.

I need some advice! What would you do if you were in my shoes? Would you put all of your non-necessary homemaking activities on hold and spend every available minute getting this done? It would only be a 3-week sacrifice, of getting up early every morning, and spending every naptime and every evening working on it. I know I can do just about anything for 3 weeks! Or would you say forget it, and let it go? I must say, that's the most appealing option to me right now. Although it would feel really, really good to get it done.

Help!! :)

Menu-Plan Monday

Hi everyone,
Thought I'd do a quick Menu-Plan Monday post!
Here are our meals for the week:



Saturday - Veggie Chick 'n Burgers & homemade french fries
Sunday - Eating out (Mother's Day!)
Monday - Veggie stir-fry on basmati rice
Tuesday - Chick pea curry on brown rice
Wednesday - Potato soup and biscuits
Thursday - Shells stuffed with broccoli and cheese on rice (wow, I guess we eat a lot of rice!)
Friday - Homemade pizza

For more great meal ideas, check out http://orgjunkie.com/!

Monday, May 5, 2008

Choose

My sister forwarded this e-mail to me today, and I found it quite inspiring... I thought I'd post it for you all to enjoy.



John is the kind of guy you love to hate. He is always in a good mood and always has something positive to say. When someone would ask him how he was doing, he would reply, 'If I were any better, I would be twins!'

He was a natural motivator.

If an employee was having a bad day, John was there tell ing the employee how to look on the positive side of the situation.

Seeing this style really made me curious, so one day I went up and asked him, 'I don't get it!

You can't be a positive person all of the time.
How do you do it?'

He replied, 'Each morning I wake up and say to myself, you have two choices today. You can choose to be in a good mood or ... you can choose to be in a bad mood

I choose to be in a good mood.'

Each time something bad happens, I can choose to be a victim or...I can choose to learn from it. I choose to learn from it.

Every time someone comes to me complaining, I can choose to accept their complaining or... I can point out the positive side of life. I choose the positive side of life.

'Yeah, right, it's not that easy', I protested.

'Yes, it is', he said. 'Life is all about choices. When you cut away all the junk, every situation is a choice. You choose how you react to situations. You choose how people affect your mood.

You choose to be in a good mood or bad mood. The bottom line: It's your choice how you live your life.'

I reflected on what he said. Soon hereafter, I left the Tower Industry to start my own business. We lost touch, but I often thought about him when I made a choice about life instead of reacting to it.

Several years later, I heard that he was involved in a serious accident, falling some 60 feet from a communications tower.

After 18 hours of surgery and weeks of intensive care, he was released from the hospital with rods placed in his back.

I saw him about six months after the accident.

When I asked him how he was, he replied, 'If I were any better, I'd be twin s..Wanna see my scars?'

I declined to see his wounds, but I did ask him what had gone through his mind as the accident took place.

'The first thing that went through my mind was the well-being of my soon-to-be born daughter,' he replied. 'Then, as I lay on the ground, I remembered that I had two choices: I could choose to live or...I could choose to die. I chose to live.'

'Weren't you scared? Did you lose consciousness?' I asked

He continued, '..the paramedics were great.

They kept telling me I was going to be fine. But when they wheeled me into the ER and I saw the expressions on the faces of the doctors and nurses, I got really scared. In their eyes, I read 'he's a dead man'. I knew I needed to take action.'

'What did you do?' I asked.

'Well, there was a big burly nurse shouting questions at me,' said John. 'She asked if I was allergic to anything 'Yes , I replied.' The doctors and nurses stopped working as they waited for my reply. I took a deep breath and yelled, 'Gravity''

Over their laughter, I told them, 'I am choosing to live. Operate on me as if I am alive, not dead.'

He lived, thanks to the skill of his doctors, but also because of his amazing attitude... I learned from him that every day we have the choice to live fully.

Attitude, after all, is everything.

Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.' Matthew 6:34.

After all today is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Why creating a new habit is like giving birth

In case you haven't noticed already, I tend to be a bit analytical. :) Almost to the point of obsession, in fact! Today I was thinking about how new habits are developed - and why some of us tend to give up on things as soon as we experience some level of failure. I've also noticed that, in my own experience, when we push through those failures, we will ultimately succeed.

For those of you who have given birth, you know that when you're having a baby, each time you push, the baby comes down a little, and then slides back up a little. But thanks to the wonderful nurses and doctor instructing us to "push!", each push moves the baby that much further down the birth canal, and ultimately out into the world. Imagine what would happen if, after the first push, you threw your arms up and said "well, I guess this baby is never coming out then!", and gave up! How ridiculous would that be?

I like to think of new habits developing in much the same way. You can't expect a new habit to be successful the very first time you try it. You will invariably "slide back" a little each time. But if you can be your own coach, and tell yourself to "push!", the next time you will succeed a little more, and a little more, until ultimately you have accomplished your goal.

So the next time you are trying to create change in your life, and have a setback, think of this analogy. :) Hopefully it will encourage you to try, try again! :)

Friday, May 2, 2008

Saving Money vs. Earning Money

Okay, I know I said I wasn't going to be posting much - but I hate to miss out on Frugal Friday. :)

When I first became a stay-at-home mom (or homemaker, as I later started to refer to myself), I felt this intense need to find ways to make money from home. As though it somehow validated my decision to be at home with my kids - because we all know that earning a paycheque is the only TRUE value we have, right? :) (I hope you picked up on the sarcasm there!!!)

Well after trying just about everything - various home party plan-type companies, babysitting, sewing, teaching bagpipes (yes, you read that right!), and doing some freelance work for the university (I've done transcription for various studies, research work, and I am currently tutoring students through the disability centre), I decided to turn my focus from earning money to saving money. I realized that my income was almost completely negated by the tax disadvantage of having both spouses working anyway. Also, any time I was spending earning money, I wasn't spending saving money. For instance, I'd be frazzled and tired, and end up ordering in pizza. Or things would get disorganized around my home, which ultimately costs money. So I decided that until I had plugged all of our financial leaks, attempting to make money was really a waste of my time, since it was going out almost as quickly as it was coming in. Also, I consider my time to be very valuable - and if I only had a couple of hours a day to focus on earning money, I wanted to make sure it was worth my while!

I didn't really equate "saving money" with "earning money" until I took a good hard look at our budget, and realized all the areas we were wasting money. A little drib here, a little drab there, and we were leaking money like a seive. I realized there were SO many opportunities to save money while being at home, that it actually left very little time for earning money!

Some of our financial leaks included:

  • buying disposables
  • wasting food
  • wasting energy (both heat and electricity)
  • bank fees
  • lack of organization (it still amazes me how much money we waste when we're disorganized!)
  • clothing - most of which can be repaired or altered, or sewn, rather than buying
  • not checking receipts while still at the store - more often than not, there are errors on my recipts
  • buying pre-packaged food
I could go on all day, but I'm sure you get the idea! Maybe I'll come back sometime and do a more detailed post on this.

I generally evaluate our budget on a weekly basis (sometimes more frequently!), and try to cut back wherever we can. It's not so that we can completely deprive ourselves - it's so that we can direct our money to the areas of our lives that are important to us. For instance, having a sense of security is very important to us - more important than say, entertainment, or eating out. So I'd rather direct money to our emergency fund than waste it on those things. I also like to travel home to visit my family once a year, so the more money we can free up from our various other categories, the more we can direct to the "travel" fund.

One of the biggest financial leaks we had was interest payments! Between our mortgage and our other debts, we were spending several hundred dollars a month on interest payments alone. So paying down our debt is a huge priority for us. One thing I've done to save money in this area is to apply for various low-intorductory rate credit card offers. Each time one expires, I move the debt to another one, so that we are not throwing our money down the toilet when we make those debt payments - we are actually paying down the principal! We currently have a card that is 0% interest for one year, with no fees. So just by transferring some debt to the 0% card (which took all of about 20 minutes), we saved about $100.00 per month in interest. My 20 minutes of time translated to earning $300.00 per hour! There's no way I could have brought in that much money by going out and trying to earn it.

I am not totally opposed to earning money from home - and once I get my coursework finished up, I will once again be on the lookout for some opportunities to bring in income - so that we can knock out some more of that debt! My point, though, is that it's even MORE valuable to plug your financial leaks FIRST (okay, I'm shouting again), and that way when you DO bring money in, it is that much more valuable, and goes much, much further.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

A few less posts...

Hi everyone,

Just wanted to let you know that I won't be posting very much over the next month. I have a course that I'm working on, and it has to be completed by the end of May. I registered for the course when I was planning on doing my Masters degree, as it was a prerequisite I was missing. I've since decided not to pursue my Masters (even though I got accepted into both programs I applied for - *sniff sniff*), and almost decided not to bother finishing this course. But I don't like to burn bridges, and I generally try to finish what I start - so I've decided to buckle down and get it done. I now have less than a month to do 6 months worth of course work. :)

This has actually been weighing on my mind pretty heavily the past few months - whether to pursue graduate studies and a subsequent career (once the kids are in school), or to focus on the home front, where I feel I am most needed. I had to really think about why I wanted to pursue graduate studies, and whether getting an advanced degree would really be the best use of my time and energy. My husband is perfectly capable of supporting us on his salary alone (with some sacrifice, of course), so I was purely seeking some sort of personal fulfillment. I guess there was a part of me that thought I would be completely wasting my first degree (which is in Psychology, and almost completely useless on its own), if I didn't follow up with a graduate degree (which was going to be in Counselling Psychology). But I have since come to realize that education is never a waste. I have no regrets about doing an undergraduate degree even though I am now "just" a homemaker. And having a thorough understanding of reinforcement schedules sure comes in handy for potty training. lol. Actually, in a sense, it makes me feel better about choosing to stay home, because I know that I have options. I could have a career if I wanted one, but I choose to stay home instead.

Sorry for all the italics, it's the only way I can figure out to emphasize words while blogging. :) And it's less shouty-like than caps. Boy, with words like "shouty-like" in my vocabulary I bet you're shocked that I actually got accepted anywhere. :)

Anyway, I just wanted to give you a heads up that I might not be around as much, but I'll still post occasionally if I have something on my mind.

Now... anyone want to volunteer to be my victim... I mean... participant in my practice counselling skills sessions? :)