Financial Fast – Week 2 Wrap-Up

Week 2 of the Financial Fast has come to an end. We have hopefully successfully completed the week without blowing any unnecessary funds and saving a few dollars to boot. The husband actually had an entire week off this month without having to work any overtime so we anticipated getting some things done around the house…that did not require us spending any money. I am happy to report we only purchased a $5 pizza on Thursday night because I began to get sick. Let me rewind just a bit, my husband came down with a cold and sinus issues around Tuesday – so we began medicating him. It progressively got worse, but there was no fever involved so no need to see a doctor. I’m a mom – I’m basically a doctor right? We played trial and error with what was in the medicine cabinet until we found the best thing for his symptoms. By Thursday it was time to take our son for his annual doctor’s appointment. We had people working at our home all day cleaning the brick, patio and roof using a solution that included bleach. I felt icky and deemed it as a result of inhaling too much of the bleach solution because I felt like I’d been in a highly chlorinated pool a little too long. An hour in the doctors office around little people and their germs I felt even worse. I imagine whatever my husband had, the bleach solution and the germ infested halls of the pediatricians office had overcome me. No shade to my pediatrician’s office, but regardless of having a well side and a sick side – when you meet in the middle and go into some of the same exam rooms; you are bound to get a germ or two or twenty! Today is Monday and I am just getting my wits about me.

Back to financial matters. The work I mentioned earlier being done at the house had already been previously budgeted and did not come from the currents month budget, we were just finally able to have it done. Trees are beautiful and they are necessary for clean air, but they weep and leave sap and residue on your home when the branches cover. Months ago we had our trees cut back and needed to have our roof and house cleaned…it looks AMAZING! It rained today and reactivated the solution so it started cleaning again. While the financial fast has been kind of hard, it becomes easier as the weeks go by – I know it’s just week 2, but I hope it continues to get easier. I actually went to Starbucks this morning for a coffee…I needed a double shot of espresso, but as luck would have it both espresso machines went down. So, I left without a coffee, not a penny spent and a $5 gift card for my inconvenience. I CALL THAT A WIN! My hope is that if you are following the financial fast you are taking in the money saving tips I provide daily and have considered applying them. For those of you who don’t follow me on Instagram the tips for this week were as follows, starting with day 8:

8. Utilize your library. If you are a big reader like myself, you may find that you spend a lot of money on books. Get a library card if you do not have one and check out books. If you are really trying to streamline you can use their internet services as well.

9. Have a friends night in. Invite friends over instead of going out. Have a theme night – game night – potluck. Pick your theme, break out the games and everyone brings a dish based on the theme or some sort of contribution. You’re saving money, having a good time and more than likely it ends up being a more enjoyable night.

10. DeClutter! Do a deep clean of your home. You’ll find you may have multiple items that are the same. I have done this myself and become so frustrated that I purchased something I already had. Knowing what’s in your home and having an organized system can prevent this and save money. What you find you don’t use or have multiples of, sell it and make back some of your money.

11. DIY. Stop spending money on small jobs you can do yourself. There are several DIY sites and YouTube that can help you do just about anything, believe me – I’ve done it.

12. Buy in Bulk. Buying in bulk when possible and worth it is advised. Things like non-perishables, laundry detergent, toilet paper, paper towels, garbage bags, soap and toothpaste are things you know will be used on a daily basis. Bulk buys of these items is worth it because it removes it from your monthly and sometimes bi-monthly lists.

13. Buy a deep freezer. A deep freezer will allow you to stock on meats and freezable foods. It will also allow you to prepare meals ahead of time, freeze them and take them out to defrost and warm for a quick and delicious meal. Google best easy and delicious freezer meals. This method got me through the first couple of weeks post c-section with my second child.

14. Buy a crockpot! Just about anything can be cooked in a crockpot. There were many days when I worked outside of the home I would put all my ingredients in the crockpot and go to work. We would come home to a fully cooked meal that maybe required vegetables or a salad. Again, Google crockpot meals and thank me later.

All of these tips provided can and will save you money. Some require an initial investment, but if you use the tools correctly your money will be made back in spades. They can eliminate unnecessary spending, eating out frequently and saving on your grocery bill. Here’s to another successful week of smart spending and even smarting saving. My objective is to show my children that there is more to life than spending money, but being a good steward of what you have, spending wisely and leaving a legacy. If you don’t teach them now how to spend money wisely and not fail into debt, how can you trust them with an inheritance?

Youth Suicide – Know the Signs

Youth Suicide Prevention Week September 8-14

The month of September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. Suicide is one of the leading causes of death in the United States, sitting at the #10 spot.  It is the second leading cause of death among individuals between the ages of 15-24. We have all been touched by suicide in some way or another. I personally know people who have attempted suicide and those who have been successful in doing so.  It is absolutely heartbreaking to know that more 15-24 year olds would rather take their own lives than to continue on living. Knowing the signs of an individual in crisis can make all the difference in the world. This week is Youth Suicide Prevention Week – September 8-14; and as a parent of two young children I have to be concerned.  I know that the week has passed, but as the parent of a high school student I wanted to see if her school would acknowledge the past week as being Youth Suicide Prevention Week as it would impact the demographics in their school…radio silence. I received no emails or communications from the school acknowledging that they were even aware of the fact.  My daughter tells me pretty much everything that goes on and she didn’t tell me anything as well. Any parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, friend of the family or loved one must be concerned because the statistics for youth suicide are ALARMING! Youth suicide is when a young person, generally categorized as someone below the age of 21, deliberately ends their own life.  The rate of youth suicide in the United States has risen to a 20 year high and it is the second leading cause of death among youth which I previously mentioned. The approximate number of high school students that report attempting suicide is 1 out of 15…let that sink in. So for every 15 students you ask, at least 1 will say that they have attempted suicide, and that is just based on those that reported.  My daughter attends a small private high school with around 390 students, statistically 26 students have attempted suicide. That may not seem like a lot, but if you’re a human being with feelings and emotions – 1 is a lot. What is happening in our communities, our homes, our schools and in our day to day interactions that is causing such troubling numbers? First of all, children and young adults are experiencing hormonal changes earlier and earlier which affects body image, brain chemistry and their overall way of how they see themselves.  When you add in all the additional stressors such as friendships, problems in school, familial changes like a divorce or a move; the scales can dramatically tip. We also find children and young adults have easier access to guns, prescription medications and other tools that would aid in ending their lives. I stopped watching the news for over a month because I heard a report that an 9 year old committed suicide. A 9 YEAR OLD! What could possibly be going on? She was being relentlessly bullied at school and nothing was being done about it. She felt her only resolve was to take her life!  Someone has to be the voice of these children and advocate for them and it is up to all of us to do our part.

Suicide is something that very rarely happens without warning.  The signs are there, you just have to know what to look for. In today’s reality it is rare that young children and young adults do not have a presence on social media.  When I first allowed my daughter to get a social media account, I had to follow her and I still follow her. I checked her electronics without warning so as to not allow any time for anything to be deleted.  Some may think that there is an “invasion of privacy” or a violation of privacy here; but my child, my house, my rules. If someone is harassing my child on social media I want to know. She knows that she can tell me anything, but even when you know that you can tell your parents anything you don’t always do it.  That is the case with the majority of all children and young adults. They find themselves in situations where they feel or may be told that situation is their fault. This may leave them feeling a myriad of emotions: hopeless, helpless, depressed and desperate. When these feelings arise you will begin to notice a change in a person’s behavior – especially if they are pretty predictable or follow a certain routine.  For instance, if an individual is usually active in social media and all of sudden there is radio silence; this can be a red flag. Yes, people take breaks from social media, but what child, teen or young adult do you know that doesn’t document most of their lives across Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat? My daughter tells me that Facebook is for old people so I guess I won’t include that platform…I don’t even have a Facebook account and I’m almost 40.  Suicide is most often linked to some form of mental illness like depression, but sudden and ongoing traumatic events can also trigger an individuals desire to end their life. It is important that we listen, be present and ask our friends and children how they are doing, let them know we are there for them and we are a listening ear when they need one. If everyone of us said one kind thing to someone everyday it could mean the difference in someone’s life who’s having a tough time and we may not know about it. So I encourage you to sincerely inquire:

  • How was your day?
  • Is there something special going on in your life?
  • Is everything going well at school? At home? At work?
  • Is there something you feel you need to talk about?

It may sound cliche, but there is nothing cliche about a person’s well-being or the possibility they may commit suicide.  My daughter talks about a teacher that asks them what some would call “probing questions.” So I asked her what she meant when she said that her teacher asks them all sorts of questions?  She said that she will ask someone who looks tired – “Is everything ok?” “Are you getting enough rest?” As well as general questions about school and home. Once she told me in depth about the questions the teacher was asking, I explained to her that the teacher is checking on you guys.  It is her job as your teacher, as an educator to make sure her students are well mentally and physically. I told her not to label her as “nosy” but someone who is concerned and wants to make sure that one of your classmates has not intention to harm themselves or others. I wanted to carefully write this piece because it is important and I have a child that falls within these demographics.  She also has a heavy workload at school and responsibilities outside of school and home with extracurricular activities that can cause her to feel overwhelmed. We had a conversation recently where she told me about how one of her senior classmates had a total meltdown because she felt overwhelmed by her course load and the fact that she had to meet deadlines for college applications and even missed some.  This young lady was in tears in class saying how much work she had to do, how much extra stuff outside of school, college entrance exams, and that she was never going to get into a good college and she was going to end up homeless and on the street. I told my daughter that she was exaggerating what her classmate said and she told me that those were her exact words. My advice to her was to talk to her in their next class.  Let her know that everything would be fine and if she needed additional help, the counselors are there for that and to be a listening ear if she needed one. They have a very inclusive school and communication is excellent. They can email and make appointments to see their teachers and their counselors without the need of parents. Their school is teaching them how to be independent and prepping them for what they will face in college.  We are cc’d on most communications as parents, but they work cohesively with the teachers and staff.  

What are some of the possible warning signs that a teen may be contemplating suicide?  Some you may notice and some you may not because you will not be around 24 hours a day.  However, if you notice some of the following behaviors; step in and try to help.

  • Changes in sleeping and eating habits.
  • Loss of interest in normal activities (going out with friends, abandoning social media, any normal daily activities.
  • Withdrawal from friends and family.
  • Acting out and running away.
  • Alcohol and drug use.
  • Neglecting their appearance.
  • Unnecessary risk taking.
  • Unhealthy obsession with death or dying.
  • Physical complaints such as headaches, stomachaches and extreme fatigue.
  • Loss of interest in school and work.
  • Feeling bored.
  • Hard time focusing.
  • Feeling like they want to die.

Now one of these behaviors by themselves may not necessarily mean that a person is suicidal, but a combination of many will definitely throw up red flags.  As a parent, it is important to pay attention to your children, their behaviors and how their moods swing. Of course a teen will have your normal mood swings, but anything extreme should be looked at thoroughly.  Knowing the warning signs, openly communicating with your teen and their friends gives you the chance to help before things become a life or death situation. How can I prevent my teen from attempting suicide?

  • Keep medicines and guns away from children and teens.
  • Get them help for mental and substance abuse problems. There is no harm in helping your child.  Some parents are afraid of the stigma that follows inpatient and outpatient care for mental and substance abuse.  My advice to you is, get over it. It’s not about you but about your child!
  • Be a supportive parent.  Listen and try not to be judgemental and critical…stay connected.
  • Do your homework and get informed about teen suicide.  There are mental health facilities in just about every city nationwide that have support groups.  If not, browse the internet and even visit your local library for literature.
  • Know the signs of depression: sadness, loneliness, declining school performance, changes in sleep pattern, weight and appetite  changes, nervousness, agitation or being grouchy.

If you notice a change in your child’s behavior, do not wait to see if things will improve because things can change in an instant. A parent is the most important person in their child’s life and should be constant as well. Your presence may make the difference in whether they get help for whatever issues they may be experiencing. If your child expresses their desire to end their lives, take it seriously and get them help.

If you are someone you know is suicidal, call 911 if there is an immediate threat, The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK or the CrisisText Line (text. “HOME” to 741741).

Financial Fast Week 1

Week 1 of the financial fast is officially in the books. Total transparency you guys – I spent $100 I had no intention of spending; 1-because I was sick and 2-because I don’t always tell my children no. This past week I went into allergy-sinus hell! Monday and Tuesday, I could barely see, the pressure in my head was severe and my head hurt beyond the pain and back again. To top things off, my husband was working days and my son was beginning his first day of kindergarten. By Tuesday night I had to make the decision – feed a man who worked 12 hours in and out of the Texas heat a sandwich for supper or order in because I couldn’t stand for more than 5 minutes? I ordered dinner which totaled $30. I actually felt really bad about spending that money on “fast food” because there was food in the house, I just couldn’t stand up to cook it. We did go to the grocery store on Sunday the 1st and purchased two weeks worth of groceries. That two weeks worth of groceries came out to $330. Which is in line with the average or below average for a family of 4 and I normally cook every night or at least every other night; depending on what I cook. The USDA estimated in 2012 that for a family of 4 to eat at home on a daily basis every month their grocery bill would be anywhere between $550 – $1250 a month. That was in 2012. The costs of living has grown exponentially, the price of meat and vegetables has increased and it costs more to grow and sustain food so those costs trickle down to consumers. I would say our $330 spent in the store was about on target. My second non-essential spend of the week was last night for a party. My daughter’s friend had a birthday party at a restaurant and although it was a group of 16 and 17 year olds, the parents got together as well. We’ve been doing that from time to time lately because the kids are all close and we like to sit around and keep up with what is going on. Although my husband and myself are the youngest of the group, we are all kind of “old-school” and we try our best to be aware of what is going on with our kids and who they are hanging out with. We met some new people and had excellent conversations; although we spent another $70 eating out, we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. Plus, we were supposed to go meet family afterwards and it made no sense to drive 25 miles out of the city, drive back home, drive back 25 miles…75 miles so far and drive another 50 miles to go meet family.

If you do not follow my IG page @wife_woman_mother_ you missed the first week of money saving tips to help you along your journey to be debt free.  Below are days 1-7:

  1. Changing your HVAC filter regularly. People do not realize the importance of doing this and oftentimes forget about it. A dirty filter makes your unit work harder and longer than it needs to which equates to more money you’re spending on your energy bill.
  2. Proper Car Maintenance. Making sure your oil is changed when necessary and at the recommended times as well as changing other fluids and filters will increase the life of your vehicle as well as decrease the chance that something catastrophic will occur. Regular maintenance means you are having systems checked to ensure things are working properly across the board. Keeping tire pressure leveled along with these other maintenance requirements will maximize your gas mileage as well.
  3. Check home insulation and seals. Properly insulated and sealed homes remain cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter decreasing your energy costs. Check to see if there is enough insulation in the home and that you do not have air leaks around your doors and windows.
  4. Shop around for insurance. Competitively priced insurance is out there for both home and auto. Just because an insurance company doesn’t carry a big well-known name does not mean it isn’t worth your time or money. Check the reviews, do your homework and if you’re paying full coverage for an older model vehicle that doesn’t have a great resale value…drop it down now!
  5. Stop impulse spending. Impulse spending is something we all do or have done. To prevent this from happening, I suggest you remove all credit cards that are saved to your regular purchasing places – like Amazon…my go to place to shop. If your credit card isn’t on file and it’s not handy, you probably will not want to get up and get it. SAVE YOURSELF AND YOUR MONEY!
  6. Unsubscribe. Unsubscribe from all of those stores that send emails to remind you about the one day sale, semi-annual sale, Labor Day, President’s Day and just today sales. If you don’t have the will power to ignore them, remove the temptation. Especially the ones that send you multiple emails about the same sale in one day.
  7. Stick to your list. When you make a grocery list, stick to it. Once you plan your meals and you know what you need; make your list. Once you are in the store, do not deviate from that list. Shop alone if possible. Usually when you have your children with you and even your spouse you end up with extra things in the basket at checkout wondering where that came from?!

Week 1 did not go as well as I hoped for, but it could have been worse. I had Super Cash to spend, Place Cash to spend, Bath and Body Works had sales on candles and I received emails galore about this sale and that sale but I did not succumb to the temptation. I prayed and reassured myself that I am to be a good steward of my money and not spend it frivolously or just because there is a sale going on. I hope you all are saving and fasting financially and going for at least putting away $1/day. Good luck this week, happy saving and here’s to becoming debt-free!

Back to School and How to Keep Your Child Safe

Here we are again, it’s that time of year – back to school. The time of year when you are dreading car lines, back to those extra early morning wake up calls, threatening your teens if you call their name one more time that there will be consequences. If you haven’t gotten back into the swing of things, you will shortly. My oldest has already gone back to school, but the youngest has one more week of freedom…so to speak. We take him to meet the teacher this week, which dad and I have already done at the parents’ meeting. This year was to be his first year of kindergarten, but we opted to do what is called bridge-k. It’s all that kindergarten entails without as much math. So, we will do a lot of work at home. I didn’t feel he was ready for kindergarten socially so I made the decision to do bridge-k because he is a younger 5 year old, and why should you push a child when you can obviously see that they are not ready? I think that is part of the problem with a lot of these children or young adults who you see acting out and taking part in these school shootings and making threats against other students and institutions. We push them ahead before they are ready, we do not integrate them socially, we do not encourage social relationships enough and they end up alone and vulnerable to someone bending their minds. It is my belief that is part of the reason we see so many school shootings and individuals vulnerable to persuasion.

My daughter has barely been in school a month and there has already been a threat at her school that they believed was credible enough to employ a police officer at the school. This is the third year she has gone to this high school and she has been in private school her entire academic career and never had to walk the halls with a police officer looking over her shoulder. They took away their cell phone privileges this year; where as before they could use their phones before school, during break, at lunch, in certain classes once their work was complete the teacher would allow them to use them to listen to music, etc. Now, once they walk onto campus they must put their phones away until they are leaving for the day or face getting their phones confiscated and having to pay a fine. We were told that this was to encourage more social interaction between the children, cut back on cyber-bullying and to prevent inappropriate pictures from going around – a problem we encountered at the school last year. In your opinion, do you think that this will stop any of this from happening? Maybe between the hours of 8:15 – 3:25, but after that; it’s open season wouldn’t you say? I’d say that the only thing they are preventing is potential cheating. We cannot stop what happens all the time and if they want to do it, they will. It is up to us as parents to constantly be present in our children’s lives, talking to them, explaining consequences, teaching them right from wrong to keep them from doing the wrong thing.

How can we keep our children safe in today’s volatile environment? First and foremost I would say is to be present. Be there for your child and know their friends. You can’t just allow your child to be friends with everyone. Meet the children, meet their parents, are their values similar to yours and do they believe that just because they are teenagers doesn’t give them “carte blanche” to run around doing what they want. We raised ours to say yes ma’am, no sir, please and thank you – you give respect to your elders…that means teachers, adults and anyone in authority. I’ve met so many rude children that go to school with my child, none of whom she’s friends with – or that come to my house. I always get respect from her friends. I digress because that is how I was raised – with respect and to respect. So back to how do we keep our children safe in times of bulletproof backpacks?

  1. Talk to your child about the possibility of something happening at school.  Do not instill fear in your child, but if they are my child’s age and even younger they understand the risk of an active shooter.  It’s not just teenagers that are bringing guns to school anymore. I told my daughter, I’ve been out of school for almost 20 years and during the time I was in school the only thing I can remember happening was the shooting at Columbine.
  2. Make sure that your child knows a safe place to hide.  Most schools have active shooter protocols in place, which usually include getting to a classroom and placing a special barrier behind the door to prevent the shooter from entering.  This will not stop a bullet from coming through a wall, but getting behind a locked door and placing a protective barrier between you and the shooter would be the next best thing. However, if they can exit the building safely and undetected – I would advise they do so. Drop everything and run to the nearest business or safe enough distance to call for help.
  3. Be an involved parent.  Don’t get involved when things go wrong, but be there when decisions are being made.  Make your voice heard because you may have input that someone hasn’t thought of yet.
  4. Voice your concerns.  If you see something, say something.  So often people think, “that doesn’t concern me,” and the very thing you could have spoken up about may have ended up concerning everyone.  
  5. Make sure you and your child know what the schools emergency procedures are.  You know that every year your child gets a handbook. If you read the handbook I want you to comment after reading this, if you just sign the paper stating I have read the student handbook for the 20xx-20xx school year and agree to the terms therein, I want you to comment and say, I just signed it.  I’ve done both! I mean, how much has changed right? Do you watch the news? How much has changed, yet is still the same? Although it’s the same, protocols have to change to adjust to how we handle things because it is obvious how we handle situations is not working because the same things continue to happen.

While you have done your job as a parent, teachers and administrators have to do their jobs as well. They are an extension of us as parents once we send our children off to them to learn. We have a certain expectation that they will do their very best to keep our children safe. They now have to seek the proper training in protecting our children from potential dangers. I know that isn’t why they became teachers, but that has become the reality of the job. Just like Wal-Mart cashiers didn’t expect to have to fight for their lives while doing their jobs, that has become the world we live in and it is such a sad thing to say. Teachers and administrators see our children sometimes more than their own parents do, so they may notice changes in behavior and recognize potential signs of trouble. Noticing the signs and knowing how to intervene appropriately and timely can be the difference between helping a child or experiencing a great tragedy. Teachers have days where they are scheduled for in-service or work days. I believe some of those days should be used to learn to identify behaviors of troubled children and teens, how to approach them, and if you are incapable of approaching them; notifying the proper person to help that child before the situation gets out of hand.

We are so focused on the education of the child, which we should be; but I think we should incorporate mental health days. These days should be filled with meditation, exercise, group counseling sessions, individual session – if needed because these children experience pressures of adults sometimes. I’ve seen my daughter’s course load and it is massive. The pressure of the workload, making and maintaining friendships, hormonal changes that they go through at these ages, bullying, peer pressure and feeling the need to fit in is the reality of getting back to school. When our children go back to school, so do we. We are there to help with homework, friendships, makeups, breakups, the potential hazards that come with going to school in the 21st century and being a “generation Z-er.”

Why Saving Is Important!

While I continue to work on Part 2 of the Financial Fast, I thought I add a little side note and some additional tidbits of information. There is so much pertinent information out there that I want you guys to be as equipped as possible not only for a “financial fast,” but for the unexpectedness of life that can burden you financially. I am here to provide you with the tools, it is up to you to use those tools to be successful. So before I give you Part 2, let’s detour just a minute. There is going to be a lot of redundancy throughout this series because you’ve got to get it, you’ve got to get it, you’ve got to get it! You have to know what is out there to make your fast successful. Information is key in all that you do, Winston Churchill once said, “Information rules the world.” As I said before, what you do with the information is up to you. If you’re like me, you investigate, you do your homework, you learn; even if it means teaching yourself. For instance, I watch the markets. I am not a big investor and most of what I know I learned on my own or from my father in law – who could probably teach a stock market class. He is not a big talker, but you want him to get down in a conversation; talk about racing, football, and the stock market. Most adults and even any teenager that has taken an Economics class knows that the market fluctuates daily and those fluctuations affect our economy. Too big of a dive for too long can lead to recession. We currently have Economists warning of an impending recession. Why should you worry about that you may ask? Well a recession is a period when there is a temporary economic decline during which trade and industrial activity is reduced. That means we are not building and shipping from our country and goods and services are reduced from other countries we normally do business with. If it goes on for too long, we see loss of jobs, increases in the prices of goods and services domestically and globally which is passed to consumers; US! That is why it is important to be prepared financially for anything – even economic instability. Why is saving so important? The risk of a recession is just one of the reasons. However, before you can achieve any of your financial goals you must learn to save effectively. What is effective saving? It means learning to differentiate your needs from your wants and putting what is important first. How you spend your money and what you spend your money on matters. Budgeting your finances now become an important factor in your effective saving process. We are budgeting now and it has opened our eyes and made us realize that there are things we spend money on that are unnecessary. We went through several apps before we found the one that has worked the best for our needs. I am not pushing this particular app, but “EveryDollar” has helped us best budget and monitor our spending. We input our total monthly income and account for every dollar that goes out, from bills, groceries and even and quick trip to the corner store. It is a simple app to use because there are general categories and you can add categories to it that may not be on there. I can add to it as well as my husband and it syncs so that we both can see any changes made.

I would also encourage you to find way to save money throughout the month to be able to add additional cash to your savings and emergency funds. Here are some of the things to consider and measures we’ve taken to help save a little money here and there.

1. Cancel subscriptions and memberships.

Get rid of any thing you do not use on a regular basis and go for the less expensive or free option! For example, we hardly watch our satellite tv which equates to $126/month and $1512/year. It’s time to let go because that money can go to our savings or emergency fund. If you maintain a gym membership and only go once a month…give it up. There are free options for working out that can help you achieve the same goals, some without even leaving home. YouTube has workout videos and some of the streaming services have free workout videos that include cardio, weights, yoga, Pilates and host of other training options.

2. Set your bank account to send money to your savings.

You may want to start with 5% of your direct deposit and work your way up to 10%. Growing your savings is a goal, so seriously think about this. If 5% is too much to start, begin at 3%.

3. If you are lucky enough to receive a tax refund, I would suggest you take that money and save it or spend it wisely. People have asked us over the years why do you send your child to private school? We believe she has received a better education. How can you afford it, especially now being a one income household? We have never been the type of couple to just “blow money” and we always take our refund, place it in a special account and it goes for tuition. Not that it is anyone’s business, but that has been our sacrifice. We take that money every year and use it wisely. Some of you may also get a bonus check or an incentive check from your job quarterly or yearly depending on where you work. Consider skipping that extra vacation and saving that money or making a sound investment; something that will appreciate. There is always your savings account and emergency funds.

4. Bring your lunch to work and skip eating out.

If you’ve already read Part 1 of Financial Fast, I broke down the average cost of eating out on 5-6 day work week for the entire month. Bringing your lunch is not only a cheaper option, it can also be a healthier option as well.

5. Grocery shop alone!

Make a list and stick to that list! If your family is like mine, they like to throw things in the basket when my back is turned on when I send them to go and get an item. My kids are notorious for this. My husband has a tendency to do so as well, so when they are with me I’m constantly on guard. As I said, just go by yourself.

Saving, budgeting and following a few tips for saving money can add some coins to your account; maybe even a significant amount. Evaluate where your money is going and see if you are wasting money, if there are areas of saving and if you are willing to try some of the tips I gave you. I really hope you do because we all deserve financial freedom and to not have to worry about finances. Parts 2 & 3 coming soon and the financial fast officially begins September 1 – will you be joining?

60 Day Financial Fast Pt. 1

The purpose of a financial fast is to not spend any unnecessary money – PERIOD! We all need to develop financial habits that matter and that will benefit us for the present and the future. So, during a fast; the only money you should spend is on food, housing, and anything essential to your survival. The goal is to make make do with the essentials to show yourself that you may possibly be living above and beyond your means.

We all have a goal to save money, right? I mean our goal is to not live like we’re rich and we are actually broke. Well, maybe not broke, but not as stable as we should or could be. Some of us may be living Friday to Friday and waiting for that next direct deposit to hit the bank. I’m no financial guru – by any means so you don’t have to listen to a word I say, but believe me when I tell you that the information I provide you with over the course of this series will open your eyes as it has for my husband and myself. It started with my husband. He started to watch Dave Ramsey on YouTube and he started sending me links for me to watch as well. Dave is straight, no chaser…he doesn’t sugarcoat and baby you about your spending habits because he’s been broke before. As I listened to his Podcasts and watched his videos I became wiser about my spending habits and thought, “this guy has a great financial mind.” I’ve been invited on two very exciting trips over the next 14 months and instead of me saying, “Charge It,” I realized that I have other financial obligations that exceed a good time on an exotic island that is on my bucket list!

As I said, Dave doesn’t sugarcoat and his steps may seem drastic at first; but beneficial to anyone willing to take those baby steps. This fast I would love for you to take part in may help you get a little closer to financial freedom and also help you start with Dave Ramsey’s “7 Baby Steps to Take Control of Your Money.” I’m going to ease you into the baby steps and not overwhelm you all at once. So we’ll start with the first step.

1. Save $1,000 for an emergency fund. This is a step you want to do as quickly as possible. Emergencies come up – unexpectedly, having a fund such as this will keep you from stressing about how am I going to pay for this or that. During the 60 days in which we plan to fast financially I want you to imagine all of the money you spend on eating out, going out, or shopping when you get the “itch.” For example, let’s say that the average working person eats out three meals a day on average 6 days a week with the average meal costing $10. 3×6=18×10=$180 x 4 weeks in a month = $720. This is just me averaging about what it would cost to eat out for ONE PERSON! Now, add in a family of 3 or 4, the number would be staggering. Saving on eating out would have your emergency fund saved and then some within the 60 days…is your mind blown yet? I challenge you to cook, bring your lunch to work, check out Pinterest for meal ideas to save on what you spend on meals. Now what I want you to do is take that money and stick it in an envelope, put it in a safe place and leave it alone. If you think you’ll be tempted, place it in your safe or your savings account – if you don’t touch it. Stop digging a financial grave. The deeper in that hole you go, the harder it will be to get out of it.

2. Pay off ALL Debt (Except Mortgage) Using the Debt Snowball. Here you are going to make a list of your creditors: credit cards, cars, student loans; any outstanding debt with the exception of your mortgage, if you have one. Once you have your list, you start with the smallest amount on the list and work your way up to the biggest amount – paying them off one at a time. This may take some time depending on the amount of debt you have, but you have to start. You can have a plan all day long, but if you fail to work the plan…you fail.

I know you are thinking – WOW, that is only 2 of 7 and I’m reconsidering this whole thing. I know everyone cannot do it, but for those who can; it’s a wake up call. For those who think they can’t; start smaller because every little bit helps. We are working the baby steps and we are mid-way through step 2. The burden that I no longer have to pay x, y, z is AWESOME. The thing that will help most is a budget. Find an app or a create a spreadsheet; there are several sample ones online you can use. This will help you know what comes in, goes out, where it’s going, and what’s left at the end of the month. If you consistently see a deficit in your budget, it’s time to reevaluate your spending and financial well-being. If you are looking to improve your spending habits and live a life debt-free, independent of a wallet full of credit cards, or worried that you need to fix your car and don’t know where the money is going to come from, or concerned about how you’ll pay for an entire new set of tires…STAY TUNED.

I Like To Move It, Move It!

Today was the day I felt it. That desire, the need, the absolute want to workout. Once I started I didn’t realize that I had missed it so much. I’ve been having these cluster migraines and a very painful leg from a previous break, so my activity level went from about 100 percent down to 50. I realized that not only is working out healthy for me but it is good for my mental health as well. This is the time that I get to be alone in the garage – music blaring or watching a show on the iPad as I walk on the treadmill. I can listen to an audiobook or be alone with my thoughts without interruption…most of the time. It is summer and the kids are home from school so I do experience a few more interruptions than normal. I just realized today that although I was in some discomfort, my body still craved to move, my heart needed to pump harder and faster, and I needed a good cleansing sweat to detoxify my body of impurities. I am normally the person who likes to workout early in the morning while everyone is either asleep or away, but there were other things that needed my attention. Plus my garage gets the evening sun and with those doors closed or cracked in the summer time and a fan going it still gets pretty intense heat. Even still, I braved the blazing heat and humidity of a Southeast Texas summer garage and I completed a mile and a half and decided that was enough. I should not push myself too hard on the first day back, especially with the intentions on doing a 20 minute HITT workout too. I took a seat to cool off and finish off an episode of Deadwood – I’m re-watching because they made a movie and well it’s been a while since the show ended and I MUST see the movie. If you don’t like Timothy Olyphant I’m not sure if we can be friends. I mean, Justified, Hitman, Scream 2, Live Free or Die Hard just to name some of his work. After the cool down and the end of the episode I felt as though I had another mile in me, so I got back on the horse/treadmill. I walked out another mile on the treadmill just as smallpox was rearing its nasty little puss filled head in the town of Deadwood and completed my HITT workout. I felt like I was in training getting back in the groove today and I really needed that. I felt mentally clearer, physically stronger and like I could have gone a bit further, but I didn’t want to push things. I want to be able to get back on the horse again tomorrow and not have to limp to make it there. I also realized my unwavering desire to stay in the groove could be attributed to the copious amounts of caffeine I had consumed throughout the day, as I said; things were rather busy. Today went something like this: water, coffee, water, coffee, water, Bang, water, water, water! When I wasn’t busy or working out I was in the bathroom. I say all this to say, take time for yourself, you need it and you deserve it. Whether it’s an hour in a hot garage sweating it out or if it’s a time out on the patio reading a good book – do whatever makes you happy and keeps your sanity in check. I say this to everyone, but especially to the wives, women and mothers because we give and give until we are oftentimes completely empty. I’m not sure who said it first, but you cannot pour from an empty cup.

Post workout, post shower, headed to my little office in the playroom to work. You see I even share my workspace.💋

Mommin’ Ain’t Easy or For the Weak

Picture this, a mom – dressed in her finest, all her children are well-behaved and listening to her every command, leaving the house on time, and everyone is still clean.   Now, wake up because you are obviously DREAMING!  This has certainly been my dream for the past week, but all I have encountered is vomit, fever, endless germs, a sick and cranky toddler, a cranky teenager complaining about all the homework she has, and no one asking mom, are you ok?  I have slept an average of 3 hours a night this week, I may have combed my hair maybe 3 times this week, but I have brushed my teeth and showered daily.  This week has been one for the books – literally.  My next chapter may have already written itself.  For those of you who may not know, I am a SAHM with a 15-year-old and a 4-year-old.  They are both Geminis and if you hang around them long enough you would be able to guess their astrological sign because they are definitely SPLIT. 

Let’s back up maybe a week.  I am married 13 years in April to the love of my life.  We have been together since I was 17, so I have been with him for half of my life plus at this point.  He is a shift worker at an oil refinery and their union contract with the company was coming up.  This is always a stressful time for our family because it is a time of uncertainty.  We never know if the company is going to play hard ball or if they are going to agree to the wishes of the union and its members, etc.  I have been going through this with him the entire time he has had this job…every 3 years and he is in his 16th year on the job.  Well, it came down to the last second almost literally before an agreement was reached and that crisis was averted.  No cessation in a paycheck, insurance will continue to be active, and bills will continue to be paid without mom having to go back to work and leave her kids wondering how they will get back and forth to school and home.  That is why we choose for me to stay at home.  My husband works a crazy up and down schedule and beside him and myself, there is no one that we can actively depend on to make sure our children are cared for in our absence except for my mom, but she doesn’t drive.

Time jump back to last Saturday, February 2.  My son had a cough all week long, but I thought none too much of it.  They were playing outside everyday at school and I just felt he was running, playing, and taking in cool winter air that caused a little cough.  He has a habit when his dad works nights, he comes to sleep with me…like I need the company or something.  We slept real peacefully until the coughing began around 4am right before dad came home.  The coughing didn’t stop and then he began gagging. I knew what was next, I just took both of my hands and cupped them under his mouth.  Around that time my husband was walking into the bedroom and all I could say was get me a towel.  From that point on it was chaos on a full-scale emergency level. That was the point of his sickness beginning and not ending until around Thursday…when the caretaker(me) got the nastiness. 

Have you ever seen a child that doesn’t like taking medication? Well take that, and multiply by 100 and that would be my child.  When it takes 3 adults to hold down a 4-year-old to get medicine in him and you still only get maybe half of the dosage in…that is a serious problem.  I’m the mom that is totally freaking out at this point because I have a child that doesn’t want to take the medicine, he has another ear infection, he’s running fever, he’s vomiting, he doesn’t want to eat, he doesn’t drink juice because it tastes like medicine – his words, not mine. I’m pumping him with water, but that isn’t helping with the electrolytes he’s losing. Gatorade and Pedialyte or out of the question because again, it tastes like medicine.  By the grace of God and a praying mom, we made it through a very stressful week. Now, I am on day 3 of my illness with fever, chills, body aches, nausea…the whole kit and caboodle as they say.  Is it the flu? I’m not sure, but even though I feel like crap I am functional because I must be.  I have a home, children, and a husband to care for.  There is laundry to be done, food to be cooked, and a house to be cleaned.  While I may not be doing all these things effectively at the moment.  No one has died, everyone is fed (fish and dog) included, house is somewhat clean, there are enough clean clothes for everyone in the home, and everything else can wait.  In the meantime, I’m going to sit here and convalesce, drink plenty of fluids, stay warm and read and write.  One more thing, I said no one died, but while cleaning the fish tank last week it was damaged, and we had to put both the betas together temporarily. Well, temporarily was a little too long because Angel ate Killer.  This post is dedicated to memory of Killer.  Our rescue Beta from 18 months ago post Hurricane Harvey, it was left in our rental property and we took care of it until its dying day.  My daughter said it was Karma because when we rescued Killer it was in the same tank with another Beta that had one fin and we affectionately called it Nemo.  Killer killed Nemo – cue “Circle of Life.”