Restaurant Resolution

We don’t get to eat out much any more, since we are still working to get out of debt, but when we do, it is such a treat!  I am always tempted to treat myself to a Coke to drink, an appetizer that promises to fill my tummy while I wait for my entree, and, of course, a tantalizing dessert.

But see, the problem with each of those things is the desire behind them.  The Coke – because I “deserve” it.  The appetizer – because it looks good.  The dessert – probably a combination of “it looks good” and “I deserve it.”  None of those reasons include “it’s necessary for my body to function at its best.”

Since fried foods are a thing of the past, as are Cokes, processed foods, frozen dinners, white breads, pastas, red meats, and poultry, I’ve already made some significant changes to my diet.  What’s one more?  My 2014 restaurant resolution: to order water to drink and salad to eat every time I eat out.

This resolution helps to make progress toward two of my goals this year: to be a better manager of my money, and to eat the foods that will make my body function at its best (AKA: eat right!).

So join me!  When you go out to eat, order water to drink (save money) and a big, gorgeous salad to eat (do what’s right for your body!).  Let me know how it goes!  Good luck as you make progress toward your healthy goals today.

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Sick of Rice and Beans

We are approaching the end of year 3 on rice and beans. If you don’t know what this means, it’s part of Dave Ramsey’s debt-free plan. Step 2 in this plan is to pay off all outstanding debts, minus the house, by cutting back on living expenses. One of the biggest areas to reduce spending in is food/groceries. Dave recommends eating “beans and rice, rice and beans” during this phase of your life because those are the two cheapest food items at the grocery store.

So after 3 years, we are SICK of eating cheap food, we are TIRED of not having blow money and entertainment money, and we are SICK AND TIRED of being in debt.  We have had some major bumps along the way, including eliminating one of our two incomes and welcoming our first child into the world.

We are ready to DUMP DEBT!!  One of the things we’re doing to gain more traction is increasing our income.  Guitardude is working 2 jobs to help cash-flow graduate school.  I am maintaining our eBay business (JMS_Music on eBay) from home.

I often get discouraged when we sit down for our budget meetings and lay out the plan for the month.  I see how much more we have to go, and I often want to just give up.  After all this time, it still seems like our goal is sooooo far away.  I’m sure a lot of you in Baby Step 2 have felt this same way.

But one thing that has helped me this week: read Proverbs 6: 1-11 EVERY DAY.  What does it say?  Here it is:

Proverbs 6

New International Version (NIV)

Warnings Against Folly

1 My son, if you have put up security for your neighbor,
if you have shaken hands in pledge for a stranger,
2 you have been trapped by what you said,
ensnared by the words of your mouth.
3 So do this, my son, to free yourself,
since you have fallen into your neighbor’s hands:
Go—to the point of exhaustion—
and give your neighbor no rest!
4 Allow no sleep to your eyes,
no slumber to your eyelids.
5 Free yourself, like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter,
like a bird from the snare of the fowler.

6 Go to the ant, you sluggard;
consider its ways and be wise!
7 It has no commander,
no overseer or ruler,
8 yet it stores its provisions in summer
and gathers its food at harvest.

9 How long will you lie there, you sluggard?
When will you get up from your sleep?
10 A little sleep, a little slumber,
a little folding of the hands to rest—
11 and poverty will come on you like a thief
and scarcity like an armed man.

So I hope this will help you take heart as much as it does me.  You have planned your work; now work your plan.  It’s a slow-cooker, not a microwave.  It’s a marathon, not a sprint.  Just keep doing what you know is right.  I know God is pleased with us handling HIS money correctly and I know He will keep blessing us as we try to become better managers of HIS money.  ~Eph. 3:20-21

Baby Steps

My 9-month-old daughter started walking this week. Eek! I still can’t believe it.

But as I watch her take her first baby steps, I was struck with the following ideas:

1.) Baby steps are not without forethought. She sees something she wants (usually something she’s not supposed to get into!), stands up, and begins putting one foot in front of the other in its direction. You can see the wheels turning, practically!

2.) Baby steps falter at first, and sometimes fail. It’s a start-and-stop process. She usually gets one or two steps forward, then loses her balance and falls down. But if it’s something she REALLY wants, she’ll get up and do it over and over again!

3.) Baby steps require utter and total concentration. When she has figured out what she wants and gets her feet underneath her, she usually drops the toy she was holding but always keeps her eyes up and on the desired object.

So, naturally, I compared this to the Baby Steps in our journey to get out of debt through Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University. These baby steps can be applied to your financial life, too.

1.) Baby steps require forethought. What do you wish you could afford? It often sounds like, “When we get out of debt, I want to buy a ____________.” You fill in the blank with what you want. Mine sounds like, “When we get out of debt, I am going to have fresh fruits and vegetables delivered to my front door once a week.” Start dreaming! That’s what will sustain you as you climb your way out of debt.

2.) Baby steps falter at first, and sometimes fail. It’s a start-and-stop process.  When we found out we were expecting, we began saving extra money into a “Baby Fund,” as Dave recommends. When Baby Girl finally arrived and we all came home healthy, we paid off all of our hospital bills, doctor bills, anesthetist bills, lab bills…OR SO WE THOUGHT! 9 months later, we were slammed with an $800 hospital bill and another $100 doctor bill. We were so mad because we used the remainder of our “Baby Fund” to pay down student loans. Just when we thought we were making good progress, these bills came out of the blue and set us back.

3.) Baby steps require utter and total concentration. If I’m not careful, I find myself saying, “Oh, I deserve this ice cream,” or, “We can just move some money around out of the snowball money,” or, “Oooh, extra money at the end of the month?! I can go shopping!” We are totally bombarded with commercials, ads, billboards, and every kind of sensory attraction to make us think we need to purchase things we didn’t know we needed. STAY GAZELLE INTENSE! Keep your eyes on the prize – getting out of debt and being a better steward of the money God gave you to manage.

Good luck on your debt journey. May God bless you more than you could ever ask or imagine. ~Ephesians 3:20-21

Ways to Save, Part I

(For my facebook friends, I wrote a note about this last October.  Most of this information is repeated.)

You all know I LOVE Christmas.  I love the baking, the music, the lights, the festivities, the smells in the air, and the time with family and feeling like nothing matters – it’s Christmas!

But in order to get to this utopian mindset, I’ve discovered I must take care of my finances first.  As Dave Ramsey mentions in his FPU class on budgeting, we women have a gland related to money.  When money is short, or when there are money problems of any kind, the gland starts acting up and makes our faces squish up, making us look like we ate a lemon!  And then, what it does to our rhetoric to our husbands???  Oh wait, I’m not speaking theoretically anymore… :/

So I want to share with you, in a series of several posts, ways we save money to prepare to celebrate this wonderful season (that is less than 4 months away now) with no worries of money issues invading our happiness.

Part I: Around the House

1.) Put your tv/entertainment system and Internet power supplies on power strips.  TURN THEM OFF when not in use (including overnight).  We saw nearly a $50 savings in one month from this alone.

2.) UNPLUG YOUR CELL PHONE/COMPUTER/NOTEBOOK CHARGERS and other device chargers when not charging the device.  They draw power even if nothing is plugged in.

3.) Open the windows as much as possible to save on heating/cooling bills.  Again, we saw huge savings.

4.) If you must use the heater or A/C, use a programmable thermostat, and turn it up/down when there’s no one home.

5.) Instead of reaching for the thermostat, change your clothes or turn on a fan.  In warmer weather, keep the A/C at or above 74*, turn on fans, and keep the kids from running in and out.  In the cooler weather, put on sweats, socks, or even a stocking cap to keep warm and keep the heater down (like 68*).  Plus, you can cuddle under blankets on the couch with your sweetie or a mug of hot chocolate to stay warm!

6.) Unplug fans, Scentsy warmers, and anything else drawing power while not in use.

7.) Drop the expensive Smart Phone plan for your 10-year-old.  Ok, I’m exaggerating, but smart phones are literally causing some families to go hungry because of poor money management.  Read the article here: http://theweek.com/article/index/233979/are-smartphones-wrecking-family-budgets.

8.) Sell old clothes to a consignment store or use an auction site, like eBay.

9.) Have a garage sale (weather-permitting).  Literally pull stuff off the walls and get rid of things you don’t need.  If you haven’t used it in the last year, chances are you don’t need it!

10.) Clean out closets and the attic.  Use whatever you have for gift wrap, foregoing the wasteful, expensive bags and paper that are all going to get thrown away!  We were given some baskets by someone else who was cleaning out closets.  You can bet those will make an appearance at our Christmas gatherings!

Try doing just one of these and see how much money you can find to spend on Christmas.  Remember, no credit cards!  Christmas IS coming, and it’s on the same day as it was last year, so don’t get surprised by it!  Plan your work and work your plan.

More to come.  Until, then, glory to Him who is able to bless you exceedingly abundantly more than you could ever ask or imagine! ~Ephesians 3:20-21

Hungry

I’m writing this on the day before payday, eating a grilled cheese sandwich and celery with peanut butter.  It’s important you know that it’s the day before payday because usually the day before payday is bleak and dreary and void of good food.

That has been the case all week.

Or so I thought at the beginning of the week.

Last Thursday or so, Guitardude and I decided to “gamble” with the last bit of grocery money for the month.  We decided to NOT go get a week’s worth of groceries, but just buy what we needed to get us through and try to save that money.  (As it turns out, we needed it for gas money but that’s not important here.)

Image

So this week has been all about cleaning out the cabinet, fridge, and freezer.  Anything and everything was fair game.  Initially, I was grumpy because there wasn’t anything organized, but as the week went on, I began to enjoy the creativity that was forced upon us to make a meal of whatever we had.  It got me thinking about a book I read recently.

The book was called “The Storyteller,” by Jodi Picoult.  It was a story about a Jewish girl and her journey from freedom to Auschwitz – and beyond.  She survived horrible, terrible, unspeakable tragedies.  One of the scenes sticks in my mind vividly.  She described the march from one concentration camp to another – I forget the names – but on the march, in the cold, snowy winters of Germany, clothed in nothing more than a flour sack, and with nothing more to eat than a bowl of soup made from water and buttons, the soldiers would throw remnants of their own hearty meals into the campfires at night to watch the girls reach into the flames to try to get whatever they threw in there.  This was their entertainment!  She describes how desperate they were to find food, and some girls would get blisters and burns on their hands from the flames for one morsel of a potato…only to get an infection and die from lack of treatment.

As the “campers” were breaking down camp and putting out the fires, this Jewish girl would collect the ashes from the burned food that the soldiers had thrown into the fire.  She figured there was still some nourishment in the ashes, and stuck handfuls in her apron pocket to eat as they marched to their death.

What a terrible story!  As I read that book, I began to see food in a different way.  On a typical week, I “clean out the fridge” of any leftovers or half-used blocks of cream cheese or vegetables that have started to wilt or rot.  I usually do this the day before payday, when I go grocery shopping.  This week, however, I decided there would be no unnecessary waste.  No food would be thrown out simply because we didn’t like it or it went bad while we ate something else.

The result?  God provides exceedingly abundantly for his children.  We still have celery and peanut butter, a chunk of cheddar cheese, a whole head of red cabbage (I don’t know what to do with it, honestly!), and some leftover gumbo.  Oh, and some chicken in the freezer and a package of Ramen noodles.  And somehow, we have a can of sweet peas and a bag of frozen peas…and we both hate peas!  To that poor Jewish girl, this would be a feast!

Do I want to live like this all the time?  No, certainly not.  I need better nutrients than what I get from eating PB&J every day.  But am I hungry?  Not today, not tomorrow, and probably not ever, thanks be to God.  How blessed we are!  What a blessed country we live in, not to have to worry about where our next meal will come from.  How convenient it is to drive to the store – your CHOICE of grocery stores – to buy good looking fruits and vegetables, and meat that you know is safe to eat, and milk that you know is good to drink.

So the lesson I’ve learned from this week’s edition of “Get Creative In The Kitchen!” is to be thankful for WHATEVER God gives you, even if it is just a loaf of bread and a jar of jelly, and to remember those who are truly hungry.  I’ll leave you with this verse: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear.  Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?  Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not much more valuable than they?” – Matthew 6:25-26 NIV

Ephesians 3:20-21 KJV: 

20 Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us,

21 Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.

OUR STORY: PART II

In Part I, I shared our desire to jump on the Dave Ramsey train and get out of debt.  What we’ve discovered on this ride is HOW MUCH BETTER LIFE IS when you don’t have to worry about money!  So I want to uncover a few of these hidden blessings so you can buy YOUR ticket to financial peace (go to www.daveramsey.com to get started).

In our first year on Dave’s plan, we paid off $27,500 in debt.  Being a TINK couple (Two Incomes, No Kids), it was easy once we got the snowball rolling!  The second year’s success was not measured so much in dollars, but in peace.  Let me explain.

Toward the end of the first year on Dave’s plan, something shifted inside of me.  I found a peace in knowing there was going to be an end to any financial strain we felt previously.  Dave calls it a security gland inside each female partner in a marriage, and when finances are under control, the security gland relaxes.  When my security gland relaxed, I finally realized that we could afford to have a baby.  I didn’t want to bring a child into the world without being adequately (read: financially) prepared, so it had never been an option before we got on Dave’s plan.  With our finances under control, I wasn’t afraid any more (yes, just like Kevin on Home Alone!).

As we fought off the cheetah, our gazelle-like intensity grew.  Guitardude and I were talking about living on one paycheck.  As a matter of fact, at the start of the second year on Dave’s plan, we began living on one paycheck and throwing the other paycheck (remember, we were TINK still) at our debts.  It felt so good to know that if one of us lost our job or chose to quit, we could survive!  I started talking about the possibility of quitting my job and staying home if we were to have a baby (which was a lifelong desire of mine!).  God was opening doors for us one at a time, preparing us for parenthood.

And then the miracle of life found us.  God had tapped us on the shoulders and asked us to be parents.  As Dave recommends, we pressed “pause” on the snowball, only paying minimums, while we created a pile of money designated specifically to pay off hospital bills and doctor bills once baby arrives and both mom and baby come home healthy.  We called it the Baby Fund.

Because we knew it was possible to live on one income, and we felt strongly about me being home with P&J (Pride & Joy), I got to quit my job!  It was the day I had long been waiting for – I was so nervous telling my principal that I wasn’t coming back the next year.  I got to watch from a unique perspective during the transition period of finding a replacement for Guitardude since he would be taking over my job.

Once we made it official that I was staying home next year, our gazelle-intensity increased!  Guitardude’s job was to go to work and bring home a paycheck; my job as Homemaker/Chief Operations Officer/Head Chef/Mom-to-Be was to figure out how to live on as little as possible while we waited for P&J to arrive.  We started making our own detergents and lotions.  We got going on the eMeals program, saving us literally HUNDREDS of dollars at the grocery store each month.  We called an ELP (Endorsed Local Provider – see Dave’s website) and changed our health and home/auto insurance plans to get lower premiums.  We called another ELP and refinanced our house to get a lower mortgage payment.  We denied ourselves the things we wanted to buy so that we could build a bigger stack of cash in the Baby Fund.

Let me share this awesome story:

When the receptionist walked us through the bill at my OB’s office, she tentatively mentioned the option of a payment plan since the cost was several hundred dollars.  After one look at each other, we pulled out the checkbook and just wrote a check using the money from the Baby Fund!  Same story when we pre-paid the hospital for baby girl’s arrival.  That’s right – she is technically PAID FOR!  And she’s not even here yet!!

Could it really be this easy, you ask?  The simple answer is YES.  God WANTS you to have good things.  All you have to do is ask!  He has given us the wisdom to navigate this financial course, which has provided us with so many unspeakable joys that we thought we could never have as our own.  We can face the future (More children?  Another degree?  Move to a bigger house?) with certainty because our finances don’t hold us back.

I pray that He will bless you exceedingly abundantly more than you could have ever imagined as you begin or continue your path to (financial) peace.

Ways to Save $ for Christmas

As we start seeing Christmas advertisements and more credit card offers in preparation for the holiday season, I feel compelled to share some of the tips and tricks we are using this year to make the most of our gift-giving season while feeling fulfilled.

Ways to Save Money:

Around the House

1.) Put your tv/entertainment system and Internet power supplies on power strips.  TURN THEM OFF when not in use (including overnight).  We saw nearly a $50 savings in one month from this alone.

2.) UNPLUG YOUR CELL PHONE CHARGERS and other device chargers when not charging the device.  They draw power even if nothing is plugged in.

3.) Open the windows as much as possible to save on heating/cooling bills.  Again, huge savings.

4.) If you must use the heater or A/C, use a programmable thermostat, and turn it up/down when there’s no one home.

5.) Instead of reaching for the thermostat, change your clothes or turn on a fan.  In the cooler weather, put on sweats, socks, or even a stocking cap to keep warm and keep the heater down (like 68*).  Plus, you can cuddle under blankets on the couch with your sweetie to stay warm!

6.) Unplug fans, lamps, Scentsy warmers, and anything else drawing power while not in use.

7.) Drop the expensive Smart Phone plan for your 10-year-old.  Ok, I’m exaggerating, but smart phones are literally causing some families to go hungry.  Read the article here: http://theweek.com/article/index/233979/are-smartphones-wrecking-family-budgets.  Guitardude and I dropped texting from our cell phone provider and are saving $30 per month.  We use Google Voice, a free download (www.google.com/voice.).  It allows you to text and call for no charge.

8.) Sell old clothes to a consignment store or use an auction site, like eBay.

9.) Have a garage sale (weather-permitting).  Literally pull stuff off the walls and get rid of things you don’t need.  If you haven’t used it in the last year, chances are you don’t need it!

In the Laundry Room

10.) Combine loads of laundry in the dryer.  You may have to wash darks and lights separately, but if the loads are small enough to fit in the dryer together, dry them at the same time.  1 dryer cycle vs. 2 = 40 mins of electricity pull vs. 80 mins. = SAVINGS!

11.) If you use dryer sheets, cut them in half or reuse them 2 or 3 times before throwing them out.  Don’t use them on towels, btw – they coat the towels with stuff that prevents them from absorbing as much water as possible.

12.) Stop buying dryer sheets and commercial detergent.  Guitardude and I have started making our own detergent – recipe here: http://www.diynatural.com/homemade-laundry-detergent-soap/ – and will make the fabric softener recipe as soon as we run out of the dryer sheets we have – recipe here: http://www.diynatural.com/homemade-fabric-softener-dryer-sheets/.

13.) Use the clothesline (or drying rack) whenever possible.  The point is to keep the dryer from running as often.

14.) Do only full loads of laundry.  Be smart about your clothes – wear pants a couple of times before throwing them in the hamper.

In the Kitchen

15.)  Get started on eMeals right away!  Emeals is a program Dave Ramsey endorses that sends you a weekly shopping list and menu based on what’s on sale at the grocery stores this week.  You can choose where you shop – Wal-Mart or Kroger, for instance – and other options, like Clean Eating or Low-Carb, etc.  It tries to get your grocery budget (for 7 dinner-type meals) for that week at or around $60.  Just two of us can stretch one week’s worth into two weeks and use the leftovers as lunches.  So we are spending roughly $180 per month on groceries.  I know – it’s crazy!  Go to www.emeals.com to sign up now!

16.)  Make as much as you can on your own.  STOP EATING OUT SO OFTEN.  I have the time (what a valuable resource, I’m discovering!) to make things like breads and home-cooked meals, so that is one way I can decrease our living expenses.  Stay away from pre-packaged foods, which are often full of sodium and saturated fats.

17.) Buy in bulk as you can.  I bought a box of 5 dozen eggs at the beginning of this month, which was like paying under $1.00 per dozen.  If you buy each dozen separately, you spend as much as $3 per carton!

18.) Use your freezer.  Instead of throwing away leftovers, freeze what is freezable for later in the month.  Here’s a list of freezable foods: http://www.simpleorganizedliving.com/2011/02/10/freezable-foods/.

19.) Do the couponing thing, if that’s what you love to do.  I don’t love the goose-chase of it all, and plus, I don’t buy a lot of brand name stuff because the store brand is often cheaper, so I don’t do a whole lot, but after watching Extreme Couponing, I am determined to save a few $$ here and there on things I’m already getting.

20.)  Make your own dishwasher detergent.  Yep – it’s super easy and only uses 4 ingredients.  Recipe here: http://www.diynatural.com/homemade-dishwasher-detergent-soap/.

21.) Stop buying cokes, candy, ice cream, and other things that aren’t good for you anyway.  Just because Dr. Pepper is 3 for $10 at Albertsons doesn’t mean it’s any better for your body.  Water is free!

22.) Do your oven cooking in the coolest parts of the day so your A/C doesn’t have to work as hard to keep your house cool.

Cleaning

23.) Stop buying commercial cleaners.  Vinegar, baking soda, and borax – these are pretty much all the things you need.  Here’s a list of things you can clean with vinegar: http://www.diynatural.com/white-vinegar-cleaning-laundry-more/.  It’s also healthier for you – no toxic fumes or worries about mixing harmful ingredients!

24.) Make your own wipes.  We plan to do this in December, when P&J arrives!  You can switch out the baby shampoo with a mix of vinegar water to make cleaning wipes for countertops, etc.  Here’s the recipe: http://www.homemademamas.net/2010/07/homemade-baby-wipes.html.

25.) Try cloth diapers.  Again, we plan on doing this when baby arrives.  This might work best for SAHM moms like me, who are home to wash the dirty ones more often than someone who is working all day!

26.) Stop buying disposable Swiffer-type pads.  You’re just filling up landfills with more trash!  Just use a damp rag (or I’ve even seen a burp rag or receiving blanket you don’t use anymore cut to fit).  You may even look into buying a robot vacuum to keep things clean when you don’t have time.

The biggest thing you can do to save money for Christmas is to get on Dave Ramsey‘s plan. He teaches you how to do a budget, which forces you to look at what you’re spending each month.  As someone told me this weekend: the more you look at your finances, the scarier it gets!  So don’t fall into the temptation of getting a credit card to pay for Christmas!   You just have to be smart about how you use your money.  You don’t want to be paying for those Christmas gifts in April!  Go to www.daveramsey.com and check out everything he offers.  See if you can find an FPU class in your neighborhood (ask someone in a leadership position at your church to look into offering a class) or buy the home kit and do it on your own.

Another note about Christmas: you don’t have to buy a whole bunch of plastic, commercial stuff for your loved ones.  They would much rather have something handmade or semi-handmade that YOU spent time on.  It’s not about how much money you spend.  It’s not even about the gift itself – it’s about spending time together and appreciating each other!  Guitardude and I have put back money each month for Christmas gifts this year, and we plan on making everything.  Our theme this year is “Handmade and Resuable.”  That’s right – I’m giving my friends and family some of these homemade recipes that work for us.  That way, they save money, and they also learn how to do it themselves.  As the old saying goes, “Give a man a fish, he eats for a day.  TEACH a man to fish, he eats for a lifetime.”

Here’s some links to sites I’m using for wrapping Christmas presents in a better way than that cheap wrapping paper that ends up in the landfills!

Mason Jars – http://www.diynatural.com/rediscover-the-glass-mason-jar/

Baskets – http://www.diynatural.com/homemade-holiday-gift-baskets/

Gift Box – http://craftyjournal.com/gift-box-packaging/

Creative/Green ways to Wrap – http://thehappyhousewife.com/frugal-living/frugal-gift-wrapping-ideas/

Homemade Liquid Handsoap

We use a separately designated soap grater, not to be confused with our cheese grater. I highly recommend keeping it in a separate location, as well.

Making your own handsoap SAVES YOU MONEY.  It’s EASY and doesn’t take a whole lot of time or ingredients.  Here’s what I’m working on today:

http://frugalliving.about.com/od/homemadebathroomcleaners/ht/Liquid_Hand_Soap_Recipe.htm

*Guitargal’s note: I used one bar of gold Dial soap.  After the overnight cooling, I reheated and added about 1/2 cup more water for a smoother consistency.  I did not use essential oil or coloring.

Savings calculator: One 3.2 oz bar of soap + 4 1/2 cups of water yielded enough soap for at least 4 existing hand soap containers, about 30 oz total.  Considering I got the two bars for .88 cents, one bar = .44 cents.  .44 cents for 30 oz!  I don’t think you can get even ONE bottle of handsoap for less than a dollar!  My local Kroger has a 7.5 oz bottle on sale for $1.00 each.  I plan to buy soap bars in bulk to save even further!

Here’s How:

  1. Grate or finely chop a bar of soap (about four ounces of soap).
  2. Bring four cups of water to a boil.
  3. Turn off the heat, and add the soap. Stir to melt the soap. Continue stirring until the mixture is fully combined. At this point the mixture will be very liquidy.
  4. Allow the mixture to cool for at least 15 minutes. Then, stir again. At this point, the soap should be slightly thicker.
  5. Allow to cool for another several hours or overnight.
  6. Stir to check the consistency. If it seems too liquidy, reheat and add more soap. If it seems too thick; reheat and add more water.
  7. Once you’re satisfied with your soap, add a few drops of essential oil and coloring, if desired.
  8. Then, pour your soap into dispensers, and enjoy.

Tips:

  1. Want to make a bigger or smaller batch? Just use one cup of water for every ounce of soap.
  2. This recipe stores well. Make up a big batch, a few times a year.
  3. Results will vary depending on the type of soap used. Tweak the recipe until it meets your needs.
  4. For a super-smooth consistency, run the finished soap through a blender before pouring into dispensers.

What You Need

  • A bar of soap
  • A knife or grater
  • Water
  • A sauce pan or pot
  • Essential oil (optional)
  • Soap coloring (optional)
  • Empty soap dispensers

See how easy it is?!  Now go do it!

Our Story: Part I

Let me preface by saying that God works everything out for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28).  This was evident when he put the works of Michael Hyatt and Dave Ramsey in our path just as we approached a crossroads.

When Guitardude and I had been married almost 5 years, we took stock of our life.  Where had we been?  What kinds of major accomplishments were we working toward?  What kind of legacy would we leave if we were to leave this Earth?

The answers to those questions were unsatisfying, at best.

So we decided to start doing something about our legacy, and we began with our money.  At that time, Guitardude and I both worked as band directors at the same school (there may be a post on husbands and wives working together later!).   Two salaries, two people and no kids should have meant that we had money coming out our ears, right?!  Wrong.

We felt like we could never take trips or do anything “extracurricular.”  We felt like there was never any money left at the end of the month.  After we paid all of our bills, there just wasn’t enough to “live life to the fullest.”

So over that Christmas Break, we started the Dave Ramsey Financial Peace University home edition.  We watched the DVDs and went through the workbook, and started doing a monthly budget.  The first one we did was MIND-BOGGLING!  We couldn’t believe how much $ we had wasted at the dollar stores and eating out.  The first month we were on Dave’s plan, we felt like we got a raise!

At that time, we had *gulp!* 3 or 4 credit cards and 2 car payments.  This seems like a normal, average, American family situation.  But remember, we were broke all the time!  When we figured out how much excess we really had (by doing our monthly budget), we almost immediately paid off one credit card.  Shortly after that, we got the next one knocked out.  Gradually, the “snowball” got rolling and we were hooked!  We even had a HUGE garage sale and sold $1000 worth of stuff – I couldn’t even tell you what the stuff was, that’s how much we DIDN’T need it!

Since we worked at the same school, we didn’t need two vehicles, so we sold the truck, saving on car payments, fuel, and insurance.

In summary (for now), we paid off $27,500 in debt our first year on the Dave Ramsey program!  All credit cards were DESTROYED, the debt gone, and the car was PAID OFF!  Did we celebrate?  You bet (on a budget, of course)!

Stay tuned for Part II.