How To “Make Money” While Staying Home

PiggyBank

This isn’t one of those, “15 jobs you can do from home posts.”  I think those are great, I think Etsy is a fantastic way for women to be “momprenuers”, and I am extremely blessed to have a very part time flexible job I can do from the comfort of my family room.  However not everyone has a talent to craft and sell, have access to a part time job, or has the desire to work part time while having a full time mom job.  Instead this is a post about some things you can do to make money by saving money.  I’m sure these are all out there somewhere on the internet, but I thought I’d share some of the ways I have found to stretch the budget.  We subscribe to the old philosophy that “a penny saved is a penny earned.”  So here are some ways you can earn pennies by saving them.

Hang dry all your clothes.  Yes, it will take you an extra 20 minutes or so, but in the long run it will make you money, I promise.  I have hung dry all my girl’s clothes besides pajamas and I have been able to sell a lot of them for good prices because although we wore them quite a bit we never dried them so many look like new.  Also hang all your clothes.  They will last much longer, they fit better, and just look so much nicer.

Sell your clothes regularly.  If you haven’t worn something in a year or two, sell it.  If you don’t plan to have more kids in the near future (2 to 3 years) and you’ve already gotten a couple kid’s use out of items, sell them.  This is a radical piece of advice, I know, but you will get more money for items if they are not out of date.  The way I look at my kids clothes is; if I buy them used in the first place and I consign them after two kids I will basically only have spent a couple dollars on each outfit.  I keep my absolute favorites and I keep pretty much all of my GAP and POLO clothes because they are pretty timeless.  Just this week I listed some of my old dresses, Ellery’s first Easter dress, a necklace, and a couple pairs of jeans on our local Facebook Garage Sale site and just like that I made $100.  Literally $100 in the matter of about 15 hours (an hour of work maybe).  And every one of these items I hadn’t worn ever, or since before Ellery.

Unsubscribe to temptation.  We gave up spending for Lent….you wouldn’t believe how much money we’ve been able to put on our student loans this month.  I didn’t think I spent much money to be honest.  I’m a very frugal person in general, but then I see a cute pair of shoes for Ellery or a sweet outfit for my Vaughn and just like that I’ve spent completely unnecessary money.  I also find that opening e-mail advertisements make me think I NEED this or that and honestly I have everything we need for the next few months (besides a pair of shoes for Ellery in the next size….but she can wait to get those until after Easter).  So I started not opening e-mails from stores that I like and unsubscribed to a lot of them.  I once heard a woman say she was completely satisfied with her stay at home motherhood until she went to the mall, and then she saw everything she had to sacrifice to stay home, she quit going to the mall, problem solved.

Cook Your Meals.  Holy cow, eating out is expensive.  A Jimmy John’s sandwich is between $6 and $10 (doesn’t mean I still don’t get them on occasion).  I can bake homemade bread for a MONTH for the cost of one sub.  I don’t like to cook, but Pinterest has been very helpful, and seeing how much money I can save our family by making our meals is very motivating.  We could EASILY spend $150 a month on eating out and that did not include any dates, so that money just disappeared without any kind of planning.  I think about how much we are willing to spend on food out and how ludicrous that would seem if we saw that price at a grocery store.  Even buying a banana at Starbucks is like a $1.  You can buy a bunch, literally, of bananas for $1.  Another way I cut down on things like spending $1 on a banana is carrying snacks in my bag.  I make poor money choices when I am hungry.  When the girls and I are out running errands instead of driving through some place, I whip out some snacks.  $5 here and there adds up very quickly.

Cloth Diapers.  If you are willing, I would do cloth diapers.  My size small set of cloth diapers is still in REALLY good condition.  Granted you only use that size until they are like 10 weeks old, but still  I could use them on two more kids and they would still be great.  I was able to replace the velcro on my medium gdiapers for free (they give you a set of replacements for free if you request them) and new plastic pants are only $22 for 6 (they last 100 washes each) so if I was REALLY diligent with diapers, which I’m not, at this point into baby #2 I could have only spent about $35 total for the 6 new rubber pants and one bag of diaper detergent.  When babies go through 12 diapers a day at first you could spend that in the first week or two!  Also to extend the life of your diapers you should line dry the outsides.

If you are looking into whether or not you can afford to be a stay at home mom I encourage you to really consider it.  I know not everyone wants to stay home, but if that is your heart’s desire, I seriously recommend not letting the money aspect stop you.  You will have to make sacrifices, but for us it’s been worth it.

A License to Spend

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For the first 5 years of our marriage I was basically opposed to being on a budget.  We tried the budget thing during the first year and I completely freaked out.  As in like downward spiral, ticket on the crazy train kind of freak out.  It was like if I went one dollar over in a category I felt like a complete failure.  We tried the cash system for awhile, we attempted to use quicken, and then we used excel for the longest time, but didn’t really use it very well.  Everything we tried was way too cumbersome for us to keep up with and I didn’t exactly like carrying that kind of cash around with me everywhere.  Then we found You Need a Budget.  Some of our friends recommended it, Andrew checked it out, and then we decided together that it seemed like it could actually work.

We are 8 or 9 months into it and it is working great for us and it’s been extremely freeing.  Instead of feeling like we are trapped in the parameters of a budget it feels much more like a license to spend.  It has also been pretty awesome for student loan repayment also.  For the first time in our marriage I actually know what loans we have, how much they are each month, and before we have this sweet little baby in October we are paying off the largest monthly payment loan so that while I’m not working for a couple months we aren’t feeling as stretched.

The greatest thing that has happened is Andrew and I don’t fight about money anymore.  When we used to sit down and try to talk about money it was always a couple hour discussion, would always get ugly, and then one or both of us would feel frustrated the rest of the night.  We DREADED these talks and scheduling them was nearly impossible because we both hated them.  When we first started using YNAB we would both sit down at the end of the month, input our income from the previous month, and then fund each of our categories together.  Now we are at the point where Andrew does all of this and then just has me look it over and give the OK.

I will warn you it’s a LITTLE pricey.  It’s $60, but it’s a one time payment.  They have a free 34 day trial, but I don’t know if that would give you a fantastic feel, it took us about 3 months to really get in the groove of things.  We actually procrastinated and didn’t buy it until Black Friday or Cyber Monday and it was 50% off.  The best thing about this is that it has an iphone app so as soon as I buy something I enter it when I get in the car, it’s also nice because when I’m at a store and I really want to buy something I first look up if I have enough money left in my spending budget.

People say money is one of the top things married couples fight about, for us that was definitely true.  Now to just tackle the other 9 things we fight about regularly….just kidding, kind of.

Budgeting

So when I started working we decided it was time to budget. I realize this is a really odd time to start budgeting, but prior to this our goal each month was to spend as little as possible. Now that I’m working we have a little wiggle room. I now have a small budget for me and Ellery which is nice considering we are nearly out of hand me down clothes and I absolutely must have warm things for her to wear this winter. In this area it’s been nice. I’ve been buying myself a few new things to wear and I feel the freedom to buy a few things for Elle when I see them on sale. It has, however, started really stressing me out in areas that are not expendable. Groceries….oh my word…we went $251 OVER last month which was our first month on the budget. I was starting to panic a smidge, ok maybe slightly more than a smidge. Then I tried Aldi and our budget is saved!! I can’t say enough good things about Aldi. We have a nice new one by us. It’s clean, small, few choices, I can do my whole shopping trip in less than 30 minutes and today I discovered that it has my favorite humus that I thought only existed in Texas. I also appreciate the eating out budget, it causes me to really think about if I need that sandwich or ice cream cone. Maybe it’ll help us lose weight even! Everyone has always told us that budgets create freedom, I am finally starting to see how this MIGHT be true for us.

What Would You Choose

My brother asked me hypothetically the other day if I had money to give away to one organization which would I choose.  You would think I would have had an answer right away, but I’m still stumped.  At first I thought about Autism Speaks because it affects so many people these days and I think awareness goes a long way with this disorder.  Then I thought about Make a Wish Foundation.  I think it is really cool that they grant people their last wish and give families a joyful memory at the end of a loved one’s life.  Yesterday I started thinking about how much of a difference a large sum of money could make for Compassion International and aid in all the work they are doing for so many children across the world.  I was recently watching the today show and there was a story on there about a family who was fulfilling their son’s dying wish to go to cheap restaurants and leave $500 tips.  Luckily they videotaped it and it is so fun to watch the reaction of people getting a huge tip and how many of them really needed the money.  So this is completely hypothetical, but what would you do with let’s say $10,000?  I’m just curious, no we didn’t just win the lottery or anything!

Measuring Financial Success

When I was in high school I used to think that I was financially successful if I was able to pay my very few bills (gas and car insurance) and then have money left over to shop.  The percentage of expendable income I had in high school was insanely high.  I wish I had the calculation, but I worked sometimes 5 nights a week and only maybe $75 a month was spoken for.  I went shopping rather frequently and enjoyed buying whatever I wanted.  Fast forward to 5 or 6 years later.  Marriage…it’s not super cheap.  You suddenly have to pay for your living expenses as one family unit.  No more $200-$400 a month rent because you are splitting your payments between 2 to 12 people ( yes I lived with 12 people).  Then you buy a house, oh boy, if there is one thing that sucks your money (besides children) it’s home ownership.  I am SO thankful for our house and I know it’s a wise investment, but my word those things are expensive!  I’ve realized my financial success measuring stick has changed considerably in the last few years.  Now I measure success as living below your means and being able to pay your bills and sticking to a budget.  I would MUCH rather have no debt than stuff!  I understand some debt isn’t avoidable and I’d be lying if I said we didn’t have debt.  However, we are on a rather fast track to paying it off in the next couple years and that feels so good.  Maybe someday we’ll have the vacation house, boat, nice cars, etc., etc., but for now I’m just happy when there is money in the bank when the month is over!  That’s financial success at this stage in our life!  How about you, what does your measuring stick look like?

Big Lots

So as gas prices climb I’ve been looking for REALLY easy ways to save some money.  I don’t understand couponing.  I mean I can take coupons that I find to the store and save some money,however, I cannot understand how to get free things or get paid to buy things, etc.  I am impressed with people who can do this, but I’m not there yet.  I do love Big Lots though.  Yesterday I had to go to the tax office which happens to be next to Big Lots so I went in with my grocery list and picked up some things.  I can’t believe how inexpensive my shopping trip was.  Now I will say I got my Cheez-Its for free because he thought he wrung them up, but when I got home I checked and he didn’t.  Not my fault and not going back to pay for them considering I’m trying to save on gas!!  All in all my total was $11.90 and I got everything pictured below.  Yes I know the food I got is not super healthy, but this is pretty much the only bad stuff I buy and then at the grocery store I buy all my produce, meat and dairy…don’t judge!

FYI the generic fruity pebbles are SO MUCH better than the real ones. They have a new Gluten Free formula and it's not very tasty.

Getting Paid to Spend Money

Dave Ramsey would totally disapprove of the way we work our finances.  We use our capital one credit card for almost every single purchase we make.  We’ve always paid it off when it’s due so we’ve never paid interest.  Today we cashed in the points we have been saving for the last year and got a lot of great gift cards.  Last time I cashed in our points I just had it apply the rewards to our charges, but when I looked into gift cards I found we could get an extra $125 worth of stuff if we got the gift cards.  So Andrew got 10,000 points, I got 10,000 and then we split the rest on date night giftcards.  So here is what we got.

Andrew spent all his points in one place and got an Amazon giftcard

I of course had to spread mine out so I got Amazon, Target, Container Store and Banana Republic/Gap/Old Navy

Together we chose Chili’s, TGIFridays, Panera and with our extra 1000 points left we got a small Amazon card to go towards our purchase of Quicken that we will be ordering soon to put us on a budget for the fall.

For us it’s a great deal because we purchase the things we need with our card and get rewards in the things we want.  Very Fun!  I can’t wait to get my cards in the mail and have myself a mini shopping spree!

FYI:  I know “someone” is paying for the gift cards, I.E. the places we swipe our cards, so anytime I shop local small business I do my very best to pay in cash.  So really the big corporations are the ones paying for my gift cards and I honestly don’t feel super bad about that!

All done!

Today, we wrote a check for the final payment on Andrew’s car! In a couple weeks we will have the title, and will own both our cars 100%!! It will be a good chance to start fresh. Since getting married and discussing finances, we agree that we’d like to get into minimal debt, and pay as much as possible with cash. Hopefully we can set aside enough money each month that by the time we need to replace one car, we’ll have the money for one. We have also learned that it makes a lot more sense financially to buy a lightly-used car. Andrew’s car was purchased new, and while it has been a good car and has plenty more miles to go, we could save a big chunk of money on the same car a couple years later, or buy a much nicer 2-year old car for the same amount. At least we haven’t made any major mistakes in our learning process!

Make your money work for you!

Laura and I are in an interesting, pre-“real world” state for the next year. Being in grad school has been equated to making an investment in education which is expected to return big dividends in the future (according to one website, a Ph.D. earns $2.2 million more over a lifetime than one with a high school diploma, and $1.3 million more than one with a bachelor’s degree). One attitude that we’re practicing right now is to be comfortable living below our means. That’s incredibly difficult when your income barely covers rent, insurance, and food; is it too much to ask for a night out to dinner here or there? But, we’re taking this as a good experience for when we have a larger income (hopefully a year from now!); we’d love to use the extra income for things like charity, traveling to see family more, and investing…

That said, I have a group of friends that are really into investment strategy. None of us are really practicing these principles outright, but as we’re all fairly poor, we’re using this time as an education for the “near” future. Last night, we sat down for a rip-roaring game of CASHFLOW!cashflow

Haven’t heard of Cashflow? Probably because it retails for $195 (my friend got a deal on ebay). It was created by the guy who wrote the book “Rich Dad Poor Dad.” Despite my skepticism, it was actually a fun and non-cheesy  (pun not intended) game. It reminds one of Monopoly, with the exception that you start out the game with a randomly-assigned life. I was a truck driver, and the others were a lawyer, a doctor, and a teacher. Although I had the lowest salary, the teacher actually had a lower take-home income thanks to higher expenses. To put it into perspective, my salary was $2500, and the doctor was $13000. But the game is designed (correctly, I’m sure) so that a truck driver has a cheaper house, cheaper car, and less general expenses than a doctor. As the game progresses, you earn your income after expenses from a “pay day” roll, but you can also land on either “opportunity” cards or other spots dictating expensive life situations like having a baby or getting a divorce. The goal is to acquire enough assets (real estate, businesses, etc.) using bank loans or your own savings to get out of the “rat race,” which they define as having a passive income (that income not including your salary, say dividends or rental income) greater than your expenses. I guess I picked up the concept quickly, because I was the first (and only) one out of the rat race.

The point that the author (Robert T. Kiyosaki) is making is that everyone should increase their financial knowledge. If people understand that acquiring assets is the path to financial independence (and that assets are not your own home or your car and boat, but income-producing property), they would allow their money to work for them. Another point is that it doesn’t matter which “card” you’re dealt (i.e. truck driver achieves independence leaving doctors and lawyers in the dust).  Granted, in life, like the game, you need to forego “doodads” (new car, boat, luxury vacations) in lieu of acquiring assets. Once your assets provide you enough income to cover your expenses, do whatever you want with the surplus!

There are all kinds of reasons not to follow this advice. “How can I go without buying a new car?” “I want to secure a great lifestyle with a beautiful home and nice cars since I work so hard, not risk my money on investments.” I don’t know what our strategy is going to be, or how we will balance investing with our own needs and wants, but I think it is a conversation everyone should have with themselves or their spouse if they truly want to have financial independence.