The simple and frugal life outlined for the beginner.

The Homemade Housewife: The last book you will ever need on homemaking and frugal living by [Singh, Kate]

I was having a chat with an old friend today.  They make great money and haven’t much to show for it.  They have high rent (who doesn’t nowadays), two car payments, lots of expenses going out each month.  They make double what my family makes a year and still do not own a house or investments.  Both parents work and they struggle.  Does this sound familiar?

The excuse is, “it’s too hard to save money.”  Maybe.  Sometimes it just takes a couple changes to start saving money.  The easiest way to save money is to wait for your tax refund, if you get one, and open a separate saving account and have it deposited into that account each year.  That can be a great way to save a lot of money each year without trying.

If you have some big goals, such as buying a home or starting a business, you may have to get more structured.  Or say you, as a couple or family, want to go down to one income.  Perhaps a spouse wants to go back to school or you just had a baby and mama or papa wants to stay home and be with the wee one instead of returning to the world of quotas and commuting.

What do you do?  There are hundreds of things you can do.  If you are broke now and need help then look through my recent and old post.  I share all kinds of great ideas.  I also have some great books out there for only .99 cents on ebook and a couple paperbacks like the ones I have posted on the top of this blog.

I am a top contestant when it comes to being frugal.  I don’t have a ton of original ideas, however, I have hundreds of ideas that I have gleaned from hundreds of wise homemakers and advice that have been passed down from great grandmothers that have lived through a different time altogether and know how to make a dollar stretch.

When you become a veteran of the frugal life you will find that there isn’t a lot of new ideas out there.  When I first started learning how to be thrifty I devoured every book, article, blog, and YouTube I could find on the subject.  I completely embraced this lifestyle and, although we make more money now, we still live this way.

Why?  Because this is a life of peace, freedom, deep sleeping at night, no stress, and making our dreams come true.  Like buying a house recently.  Which was also a very frugal find.  This is a great life, environmentally sustainable, and focused on family and fun.

I have now filled and packed my books with this info.

Get on amazon and find me:

https://www.amazon.com/Kate-Singh/e/B018FNFDSM/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0

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The Homemade Housewife.

The Homemade Housewife: The last book you will ever need on homemaking and frugal living by [Singh, Kate]

This is my last homemaking book!  I think…

This is a whopper of a book loaded with all the best from all my books.  It’s got the recipes for scratch cooking, household cleaners, even beauty products.  I cover Urban farming, affording organics, going green and creating a sustainable life.  There are ideas for working from home and earning money, getting out of debt easily, and stretching that dollar.  How about traveling, holidays, parties, having house guest?  Covered.  Raising children and pets?  Homeschooling?  Covered!

The ebook will be free for the next few days and after that, it is a tiny .99 cents.  Of course, it must be frugally priced as it is a book on frugal living.  You will definitely want this for your library.

 

 

The 40 days to change complete!

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Yesterday was the final day of my self-created 40 days to change.  It was magnificent because my biggest goal when I started this game was to find a home for my family and yesterday I signed the escrow papers for our new home!  I didn’t even realize this fantastic gift until today when I looked at the calendar and found that, not only am I done with this challenge, I had finished with such a huge goal achieved.

How did this challenge come about?  I had gone to church one Sunday (we are irregular, unfortunately).  Arjan, my eldest, had asked that we go to church.  He said it was time to go back.  Now, he’s 4 years old and when a 4-year-old tells you that it’s time to go to church…I’m thinking, especially now, that it’s God sending a message through a pure little spirit.  I didn’t mess around.  We went to one of the mega churches in Roseville.  I did get a message, two actually, while there that day.  One of them came in the form of a big banner that said “40 Days To Change Challenge!”  I’m sure it was more about the Bible and knowing God, however, I decided to take it and apply it to myself and my home.  I can’t remember the other message but this one pretty much changed my life so we will let the other go.

What inspired this challenge?  I had fallen into a sort of housewife blues.  I was working like crazy on my writing career for over a year and my home and family life was way out of balance.  I had also become depressed with house hunting and not having the funds, losing out on a couple homes, and just feeling hopeless.  My home was a mess, the money was a mess, I was tired all the time, we were eating a lot of frozen foods and drive thru.  My boys were watching way too much TV and I had stopped exercising completely.  I had hit a wall with everything!  I need to be snapped out of it and really motivated and inspired.

 

The house hunting was really getting me down.  We only had $30K in savings and, although it sounds good, it was pocket change when it comes to putting a down on a house these days.  Then I started working with this great lender and she handed me the reality that we only qualified for a $130K loan.  In today’s market where, even in Sacramento (once a very affordable area), homes are now starting at $350K to $500k.  And that is for an average home.  You can see where the depression started growing.  We had worked so hard and went without for so many years preparing for this moment.  The moment came and we were priced out of the market.  I was finding homes alright, but in ghettos, and they were still above our price range.

The Challenge.  I refused to be a victim.  One day I rose off that couch and looked about.  I was truly disgusted.  I began a new and better life right then and there for myself and my whole family right down to the dogs and Maggie, my beloved cat.

I decided to start practicing what I preach.  I write books about being frugal, homemaking, cooking from scratch, staying inspired.  I had gotten off track but no more.  I picked up the vacuum and my budgeting notebook, I turned off that TV and put the boys outside in the sandbox and sunshine, I brewed my coffee, put on my music and started making big plans.

First, to get my house scrubbed and organized again.  To get back to all my home cooking and up the vegetables and produce times three.  To get back to exercising every day for an hour.  To complete some of my unfinished novellas.  To find a house we could afford.  To understand the Bible and God a bit more.  To have way more play and fun.  To have way less TV and more outdoor time.  To have less work and more family and friend time.  To get our budget in order.  To find a balance between work and home.

What happened on the journey.  My list was pretty simple.  I got out the cleaning supplies, the budgeting notebook, the Bible.  I started making schedules and plans, setting goals and cutting cost.  What wound up happening was amazing.  What was accomplished in the end went beyond my goals.

Every day I would do a large and a small task and I would take the boys out to the park, an errand outside the house, or to the library.  We started ordering tons of books from the library again.   I didn’t take the boys out every single day, however, the days we didn’t go somewhere they would play out in our back yard all day.  As long as they get dirty and soak up the sun and air, I’m happy.

TV is minimal now.  The house is filled with good music most of the day.  The boys watch some educational PBS in the morning.  I enjoy Joyce Meyer and Joel Osteen in the mornings with my coffee.  I’ve taken a liking to Creflo Dollar lately also.  As for the evenings, my husband’s diet of 2 hours of news has been reduced to half an hour and then we enjoy some comedy.  We both really enjoy The Big Bang Theory lately.

As for exercise, I got back onto my tread climber and almost daily I read, sweat, and put in an hour.  I don’t work out every single day.  We traveled a bit and I had appointments.  But it was at least 4 to 6 days a week.  I haven’t lost even an ounce but I do feel great.  I feel energetic during the day and deliciously tired at night.  My body feels good and strong and I’m much happier.  Exercise will do that.

Our diet is fabulous again.  I am back to making everything from scratch, we eat tons of produce morning, noon, and night.  We have had some drive thru (Taco Bell of course) and I have done some convenience food.  I love Annie’s mac and cheese, however, we will have organic green beans, salad, and some chicken with that.  We have a salad daily, twice a day at times and we have 1 to 5 vegetables with lunch and dinner.  Breakfast has a lot of fruit.  We snack on avocados, apples, carrots, mangos.  We are down to eating one chicken a week and that is the only meat.  We are maybe 60 percent vegetarian through the week.  I don’t want to be vegetarian completely but I feel better eating a minimal amount.  Our diet is tons of produce, yogurt, chicken, bread, brown rice, beans, eggs, potatoes, and coffee, of course.  Everything listed is homemade.

I find my cooking is getting much better, more flavorful lately.  We are all feeling and looking good.  What a difference healthy and homemade makes.

I sat down and made out a monthly budget.  I found the best way to get finances under control is to stop spending.  I did not get this book but I did read this woman’s blog and I like her ideas.  I was going to buy the book and then decided to save the coinage and start the NO spending.

I usually do get books when I need inspiration but the books have to be through the library.  Or I look up blogs of women that get me motivated.

Anyway, the best way to get your money in order is to stop all spending.  So, I pay the rent, the utilities, some gas and grocery money and that is it.  I got the groceries down to around $400-$600 with all the cooking from scratch and not buying extras.  No junk food, convenience food…nada.

Then the tax refund came and I paid off all the little debts that just happen, the tread climber, my editor, my credit card (it was a secured card but the bank “rewarded” me by turning it into a regular credit card and kept increasing the limit until I called and ask them to stop).  I paid it all off.  Little debts and extra bills can really cause issues.  They start to choke the budget as a little patch of weeds can get out of control in a garden very fast if not pulled and cleaned out.

I then created a household savings account linked to the family checking account and put a $1,000 in that account.  Our big savings in another bank altogether so we can’t touch it.  I filled up Bali’s secured card.  With the remaining money, I stocked up our kitchen pantry and bathroom toiletries cabinet.  I used a small amount to buy gifts for friends and family and for us to have some fun at the thrift store.

All my accounts are full now and we are very comfortable.

Now, the house.  We couldn’t afford a house in our area so I moved South.  The town my husband works in is small, sweet, and affordable.  Still, couldn’t afford it.  Then I started studying foreclosures.  The problem with foreclosures is that there is usually so much damage that it won’t qualify for a conventional or FHA loan.  But HUD houses do!  They are kept up to state standards of good repair and will qualify for all kinds of loans.  I just happened to read about this and then low and behold…I drove past a HUD house for sale in a nice and tidy little neighborhood.  It was $135K.  Bingo.  I put an offer on it and the bidding started.  By midnight no one else had bid and we won.

Long story short, we now own a little 1941 house that needs some work but has good bones.  The closing cost was far lower than predicted and we will have enough to hire the carpenter, plumber, electrician, installation company, and buy all the supplies with money to spare.

I continue to be as frugal as my great, great grandmother.  I love having plenty of money in the bank and not sweat the bills.  I have grown fond of this way of living and I now set aside some money monthly to do a little thrift store fun, go to the movies, or out to eat.  I even do these things frugally as in dining at two for one deals or a buffet like the Golden Corral.  Movies are something I brought back to my life after years of not going to a theater.  I can get half off on the ticket and popcorn on Tuesdays with my new Regency card.  I get free Starbucks cards through my bank when I use my credit card.

Then I started working on my self-esteem.  I feel pretty good but I’ve had a lifelong struggle with the weight.  I don’t know if it will be leaving in this lifetime so I decided to look my best as is.  I finally went clothes shopping at one of the best thrift stores where the wealthy dump their clothes.  I created a new wardrobe that I love.  I also purchased all kinds of new makeup (I’ve been wearing only mascara for years), hair dye, and I actually bought myself two new pairs of great Sketcher shoes!  This is all big.  I haven’t had new shoes in 8 years.  I say no to thrift store shoes, I believe they cause body issues, back issues.  Don’t do it.

I also decided that from now on I purchase quality only.  That goes for clothes, shoes, household items.  I started by buying really great, high thread, long lasting sheets at this thrift store.  I found Calvin Klien and Bed and Bath items.  No more shabby things or cheap stuff that falls apart easily.  If you really take the time you can get great pieces of furniture, sheets, and outfits at thrift stores.  I shop in the towns were the wealthy bay area people live.  The rich tire of their goods quickly.

Last of all but the most important and the most unexpected part.  I grew my relationship with God in an incredible way.  It started with an advertisement to The Shack, then I saw a trailer for a movie called The Case for Christ. My interest was peaked.  I ordered the book The Case for Christ and wound up with Lee Strobel’s book The Case for the Real Jesus.  I’m sure now that God decided that I should start with that book.  Why?  Because I didn’t order that book from the library…at least I didn’t mean to.  But that came and it led to me reading The Case for the Creator.  I then took myself to the movies and watched The Shack and cried for two days.  I knew that God was talking to me and it was an incredible feeling when the supernatural comes into your life.

I have purchased The Everyday Life Bible with Joyce Meyers and I read it daily.  I once upon a time looked on the Bible with suspicion and disdain.  I find comfort in it now.  I don’t understand it all and I never will.  I’m ok with that now.  I love connecting with God daily through the written Word.  I am currently reading The Case for Christ and The Case for Faith by Lee Strobel.  I have to say that I came into this riding the fence.  I didn’t like the Bible, I was sure Jesus was just a prophet, and God was just this Universal energy to be bent with positive thoughts and the art of manifesting.

Oh, how different my thinking is now.  I have always had a love of Jesus and felt His presence in my life for the last decade, however, now that my eyes and heart are being opened in all matters and I continue my research and learning, my love and respect grows.  I feel my relationship with God changing profoundly.  I see myself and my life blossoming in all these miraculous ways, I feel so good, I feel protected, provided for, guided, and I feel an unseen presence taking root in my heart and my life.  I laugh deeply and cry heartily almost daily and I love it!  I may seem a bit unbalanced to the outsider’s observance but I feel more sane and happy than ever in my life.  I have an anchor in the storm at last.  I know where I belong.  I have decided to turn my life completely to the Christian life without further question.

And so, I have my mug of coffee in hand and I watch my Joel, Joyce, Creflo…whatever is on at that time.  I read my big, pink bible and I continue on this fantastic journey.

Life has improved vastly in the 40 days.  Finances are good, the house purchased, kids sun-kissed, music replacing media, we are all eating our veggies and getting daily exercise, I love God and have a growing relationship with Christ…

The books and my writing career…almost forgot.  I accomplished a lot in this area as well.  With the books that I’ve already published, I stopped being cheap but remained frugal.  I used to do all my own editing, proofreading and I’d create book covers from Amazons free cover creator.  I have been selling my books on a larger scale now and with that, I’ve also been receiving ratings and reviews.  I’m pleased with all the reviews.  Some are great and ego boosting and some provide much needed criticism which I then use to improve.

One criticism I have been receiving is in regards to my proofreading and typos.  So, I stopped being so very cheap and I hired a friend who does editing to proofread and edit all my books.  I sent every book to her.  Fortunately, she is kind and knows I’m still a struggling artist and is charging me a fraction of what she should be charging.  I also found this great website that offers two for one ebook covers and if I do a coupon for $75 with the combined two for one I can get four book covers!  Yay!  Probably not yay for James, the cover maker, but it’s great for my wallet.

I have put new and store bought covers on ALL my books and had them ALL edited.  My sales have increased.  It gives your books more of a reputable standing when they look polished and as though the author spent some time and money on them.  I have also changed my blog.  I was weary of putting real family photos up but I realized people want to connect to the blogger.  I have changed my format and add a combination of personal photos and free photos off the internet.  My traffic has doubled and my views quadrupled and beyond.  It helps that I’m writing more from the heart than ever.

I have not worked on my fiction books at all.  I have one book half written and two books started.  I cannot even begin to focus on writing at this time.  That will be another challenge.

The novella writing challenge!  Challenges are what keep me motivated.  I hope this blog has inspired and motivated some of you out there.

Downsizing and the joy of a small house and simple living.

This is our adorable little cottage in the city of Sacramento.  It is 860 square feet with a nice little back yard that I have converted to a playground for the kids, space for the dogs, and a small garden space for me.

Bali had a cashier job making $10 an hour and working 60 hours a week.  We originally lived in Walnut Grove on the river 30 minutes or more from the city in a large ranch style house that was 1600 plus square feet with 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, 2 living rooms, a huge back yard, front yard, and a screened in back porch and a built on shed on the side.  Yes, it was luxurious and the rent wasn’t too bad.  However, it was an old house without insulation and poor heating vents.  We had to buy a lot of propane and wood.  The cost to heat and keep it warm was something crazy like $600 a month after all the propane and wood cost.  The upkeep on the outside lawns and yards took my husband all day once a week and he only had that one day off.  Cleaning the house and keeping it up was a constant and daily process.  Then there was the issue of getting to town.  We had to plan trips as the nearest town was 30 minutes away.  There was nowhere to walk around as it was all agriculture and river.  We also lived right on the edge with money being that a whole paycheck would go to just rent alone.

When you are bringing home $2,800 a month and rent is $1350, utilities are up to $600 in the cold season, there is not much for savings.  So, too much money and work and not enough saving and fun time.

We had a great time out there though and I made good use of the time with learning to be frugal, bake from scratch, read a lot…that is where I started really learning about frugal living and then downsizing.  I also learned to be content just being at home.  I learned that a day reading out in the yard with Arjan and Sammy playing was pretty pleasant.  I would go out there early in the morning with my coffee just to hear the birds sing and chat.

However, I finally had it with the isolation of country living and we moved into town.  We rented a much smaller and cheaper home, downsized all our belongings, and now save over $600 to $800 a month in rent and utilities.  Bali’s commute is 30 minutes shorter and the boys and I can walk everywhere in town.

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We go to the library and we can walk to at least 5 different parks, the grocery store, and our chiropractor.

We still live very frugally and simply.  We could live without the two cars if we needed to.  We hardly drive the one.  Mostly, we walk places and we play and work at home a lot!  The boys spend hours outside in a huge sandbox we built them and I spend my days writing or reading. Now that we aren’t doing yard work and house cleaning all day, I have time to write books and blogs.

To save more money we drink water, cook from scratch, we don’t go out.  I have been to the movies recently twice and that was in 4 or 5 years.  I had to put my foot down as far as getting out a bit.  I have no help with the boys and no time off.  I have finally made it the law that I go to the movies by myself once in awhile.  This is thrilling to me!  It outdoes getting your hair or nails done or date night with the spouse.  I am a movie lover and the theater makes my heart pound…or maybe it’s all the milk duds and soda.

Our coffee, work lunches, and meals are all made at home.  I give in to the frozen Stouffer’s lasagna now and then when I’m just tired of cooking or really into a book I’m writing and the focus is on the laptop and not so much in the kitchen.  It happens.

I do big steps in being frugal and I do tiny things also.  It all adds up.  My dish detergent has lasted for goodness knows how long because I keep watering it down.  I use the same coffee filter for a couple days.  I just add grounds.  It truly adds up, I swear.  Our finances are great right now.

When the tax refund came this year I used it to pay off our tread climber and fill the secured credit cards (mine is not so secured anymore) and savings accounts.  I also used the remainder to stock up on toiletries and stockpile my pantry.  I was able to use some money on gifting others and some thrift store fun.  That is how it goes when you don’t have debt, car payments, or credit cards.  When you get extra money you can divide it between filling up the savings more, stocking up, and fun.

Lately, I don’t even drive much.  I do my grocery shopping once a week or every 10 days.  It’s the fresh produce we run out of fast.

With the groceries, we have been living off a lot of whole chickens, homemade bread, homemade yogurt, potatoes, rice and beans, and fruits and veggies in season.  I can make a chicken last 3 days or more.

We have no vices. Bali drinks on rare occasion.  We don’t have drug, smoking, or gambling habits and that saves a ton of money.

Actually, we do have some vices; ketchup, ranch dressing, and flavored creamer for coffee.  I have taken to making my own ranch dressing, homemade is so much better.  I love my Heinz ketchup and I love my Lucerne sugar free creamer so that will remain.

When you live a frugal lifestyle and you must be careful with your money because you are a one income household or on a fixed income or military income, you learn to really, really enjoy being at home and doing free activities.

Some of my favorite home-bound activities are rearranging my house.  It’s sort of ridiculous how often I do it.  I love brewing coffee, putting on Pandora music on my computer, and starting a project.  I love reading fiction and researching all sorts of things online.  Looking at other blogs by women keeping homes and raising families is fun.  I get all sorts of ideas.  Watching a movie with the kids.  Taking walks, going to the park and chatting with other parents.  TV is enjoyable in increments.  I actually do love cleaning and thinking, I love cooking big batches of food for the week with my Cuban-Afro music in the background.  I truly enjoy all that is domestic.

My days have a rhythm and routine.  We enjoy being home so much that I have to remind us to go out and about.  Just recently we stayed in Marin with the boy’s Godparents and spent all day playing at this huge and fantastic park in the trees.

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Vacations are visiting friends that are one hour to three hours away.  We pack food and groceries to eat on the trip and share with our friends and just hang out.  We cook and clean and play with our friends and take walks, play at the local playgrounds and beaches or whatever natural resources are offered.  Our vacations cost around $100 and that includes gas.

When we are at home the boys play, play, and play inside the house and outside in the yard.  They have a lot of toys, the kind that you can really play with such as dump trucks in the sandbox, blocks and dinosaurs and puzzles in the house, train tracks and even a doll house and dolls.  We love, love toys and most of them are from the thrift store.

And this all may seem so boring but to me, it is the best my life has ever been.  It is simple and secure.  Everything in our life and home has its time and place and there is something so comforting about that.  We have our chores, our meal times, bath times, even certain shows and sitcoms we look forward to.

I don’t go out on the weekends, a Monday and a Friday night are the same thing.  We don’t go out to dine.  Are you kidding? With children, it’s a race to gulp down food and get out before you get 86’d.  I don’t buy lattes at Starbucks every day.  My husband and I don’t drink and party anymore.

Now I have a small home filled with dogs, cat, children, a husband, and my phone rings with family and friends.  Friends and family are what makes our life feel rich and full.  A day with my family, feeding them, loving them…that is true wealth.

I write my homemaking books and my fiction under a pen name and I think about what I really want from it all.  Do I want wealth, success, fame?  I don’t think I really care.  I would like to grocery shop and not care what the prices are…but sometimes I do that any way to splurge so I won’t go nuts.  I’d love to get involved with movies in some way.  I love movies.

Do I mind all of us squeezed into a tiny house?  No, I would like an extra bathroom at times….

We are in the process of buying our first home.  It is only 160 square feet more than this house and decades older.  It will need a lot of work and love.  I’m thrilled.  It’s been years of living way under out means, buying only sale items, and buying furniture and clothes from the thrift store.  Even this house was a thrift find.  By the time we were ready to buy a home, we were priced out of the market.  It looked hopeless and then I found a HUD home up for bid.  I bid on it and no one else did that night so I won the bid at midnight!

We will have to repaint, redo plumbing, fences, insulation, and other work but we have just enough left over in our savings to do it all.

There is something so satisfying about living this way, building and creating a life with hard work and being smart with the money.  I would never have it any other way.

 

 

The Funky Housewife.

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I LOVE, LOVE being a homemaker!  With that said, I’ll admit that I haven’t been the best of one lately…because, I LOVE, LOVE writing!  I write my books, I write my blogs, I read about writing and write about writing and dream about writing and wake up at 2:30 in the morning to write down thoughts, I scribble ideas on napkins in the truck and think about my next blog while folding laundry.

I don’t expect much from blogging.  I am not as crisp and sparkly, professional or quick witted as most out there and it took me 4 months to figure out how to categorize my blogs.  I try getting ideas off other blogs, but it’s really intimidating.  Some of these stay at home mothers are intense.  They make fancy things with string and foam and decorate their cookies with flower petals from their big gardens and take professional photos of step by step procedures on making organic play dough.  They have a whole weeks worth of blogs on how to fold fitted sheets and alphabetize your pantry.  Holly shit! These ladies are talented and cracked out on some kind of coffee I need in my life!

So I thought to myself, “I can do that!”  I made a homemade pizza and took pictures…with my cell phone.  I forgot to take the first three steps and one of the middle steps, but you get the idea (I’ll put it up here as soon as I figure out how to download it to my laptop).  One of my hinges broke off my linen cupboard because I’ve taken to just wading up my fitted sheets and shoving them in there and forcing the cupboard closed.  I wrote a book Queen of Penny Pinching and then proceeded to fall off the frugal wagon and had to turn the finances over to my husband because I can’t trust myself right now.  I’m really f–king sick of pinching pennies.  I want all that abundance that we talk about in metaphysics.

I used to be a pretty good housewife.  Baking and cleaning 24/7.  Then I discovered two things far more important.  First, that my beautiful babies were growing really, really fast and I needed to stop and stare at them for the next 15 years (or until they hit pubescence and yell, “stop staring at me mom, GOD, how weird!”).  Second, that I love to write and think…and talk, share my thoughts and ideas, help others live better, make people laugh at how ridiculous it ALL is, and expand my world through blogging.  My homemaking was declining.  Then I learned how to do it faster, easier…really streamline this job.  Everything from cleaning, tidying, cooking, and shopping is done more efficiently than ever.  That is the kind of homemaker I am!

I love a clean house and I love tidy.  I actually can’t think when there is a mess, but my idea of tidy lately is seeing how much crap I can stuff in drawers and the closet in the hallway.   I purposely downsized us to a tiny cottage in town from a huge house in the country so I could cut my cleaning in half or less (and cut cost so I’d have more money to spend).  I am constantly putting items on the curb with a free sign.  I call it de-cluttering and write about this in my books, but honestly, I get rid of stuff because I want to make cleaning my house easier and more efficient…so I can get back to writing.  I don’t have time to dust nick knacks or move around 20 pieces of furniture to mop for Christ sake!  There’s writing to be done!  There are sandcastles to be made!

I do have an opinion about home cooking.  I take pride in my cook from scratch methods.  I feel that a house really becomes a home when there is a lot of cooking and baking going on in that kitchen.  The aromas of stewing and simmering, the clinking, and clanking of pots and the busyness of putting together a meal brings a home to life.  It feels like your heart is in your home! When you spend the day rolling out the dough and simmering tomatoes for a sauce, that feels like you adore being at home and you have the love of your family in your heart.  But it doesn’t have to be complicated or fancy.  There is no lamb roast with mint jelly going on here.  No dishes worth photographing.  Tonight I made homemade fries and cheese, rice and bean burritos.  An odd combo and loaded with carbs, but it’s my penny-pinching ways right now, I’m working with what I have.  And there are times I’m sick and tired of cooking and I get pre-made stuff at Trader Joe,s.  I call their food toy food, because of all the fun packages and play food like resemblance.

Everything I’ve written about in my books, I have fully experienced, researched, and tried out.  I have read huge stacks of books, read hundreds of blogs and articles, and watched endless YouTube videos or documentaries on every subject I write about.  I love talking about being thrifty, helping others get out of debt, showing mothers and fathers how to live off one income (no matter how tiny) so they can stay home with their babies.  I love nesting and cooking and even cleaning even if I don’t do great at it right now.

However, I am not one of those amazing homemakers that have a sparkly house like that lady, http://www.flylady.net/.  Now, that woman has it going on in the clean department, check out her site.  Then there is another lady I found the other day, http://www.livingwellspendingless.com/.  Holly shamolly!  She’s got everything you can dream of.  Now, these ladies are professionals.

I am a funky housewife.  I ask my husband if I should start a site called funkyhousewife.com just for my homemaking advice.  Too much work.  It’s all here or in my books.  I have tons of great and fun advice for those of you who love your home and home life but aren’t trying to win an award, who don’t care if the bottom sheet matches the top, and sometimes your home cooking catches fire.  I’m that advice Queen for the ladies who can decorate a whole house from the garage sales or who could give a toot about those coupons but can still cut the grocery bill in a big way.  I’m for the housewives who bring their own bags to the grocery store, can find organics at Winco, and drag their kids to the park in a wagon rather than drive the 2 blocks because she’s being green.

I’m also perfect for the stay at home dads or anyone just starting out and just wants to survive the week without losing a child at the store or having the other working spouse “relieve” them of their duties for reasons of incompetence.  For the more advanced of you ladies and gents, or those of you wanting to win an award…see the websites  Flylady.net and livingwellspendingless.com and they will lead you through fantastic cleanliness and organization.  Come to me when you want to get the job done quickly and get back to rolling around on the grass with the kids and whatever hobby you are currently invested in.

I’ll be waiting with my coffee!

 

How a family of four lives well on one income.

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When I found out I was pregnant with my first son I was thrilled and older than most new mothers.  I was 41 years old and had been working very hard since I could remember.  My husband and I knew that I would quit work and become a housewife when the baby came.  I didn’t want anyone raising my baby or enjoying all the firsts; first word, first steps, the first time he babbled incoherently or held his spoon.  I wanted to enjoy every little, chubby, yummy, gooey, babbly moment.  I had worked harder than a horse all my life and was ready to retire to the home and hearth with tots in tow.

Now, we were prepared for this moment in a few crucial ways.  We had no debt, no credit cards, and only one car that was paid for.  I had paid off a ton of debt over the years by living on a shoestring budget and working 2 and 3 jobs.  It was worth it in the end.

Without the stress and added burden of debt and car payments, dropping that second income didn’t hurt at all.  The other step we took to prepare for this lifestyle change was to save all my paychecks for the 8 months I was still working.  We built up a big savings fund quickly.

I then quit the job and began my life as homemaker and mother.  My husband had a good job at that time and we had a roommate who paid a nice chunk of the rent.  We were living very well.  But life comes in cycles and there is always a time to harvest or to sow….or become unemployed.  For many soap opera story reasons, the station wound up in the wrong hands and had to be closed.  We lived in a tiny coastal town with very little employment and my poor husband was without a job and a new wife and new baby to look after.

I built a little daycare and wound up with a family of 4 children.  It was enough to pay the rent and bills and food.  The daycare was a great way of having my own business, being with my son, and paying bills.  They even had food programs to reimburse you for the meals for the children.  This got us by for some time.  Then my husband was contacted by an old village friend (he’s Indian) and ask to come manage his business.

Off we moved to the tiny town of Walnut Grove and into a ranch house on the Delta river.  The job turned out to be more of a cashier job with Bali making a bit more than minimum wage and working long hours.  I became pregnant with our second and last son.  I was prepared to do another daycare but instead, I found a book called The Complete TightWad Gazette by Amy Dacyczyn.  What a life changer!  Everyone who reads it says the same thing.  This book is loaded with advice from woman all over the US and advice that has been passed down from grandmothers and great-grandmothers that lived through real depressions before there was such a thing as government assistance.

I began reading everything I could find on being frugal and thrifty living.  I began hanging my clothes on the line outside that had probably been there for 50 years.  I picked the fruit that was growing on the farm (we lived on a pear and cherry orchard with all sorts of other fruit that the past families had planted in the yards).  I started cooking everything from scratch and baking my own bread.  I started envelopes for our monthly grocery budget and other bills.  All the toys and clothes, pretty much anything we needed I would get at the GoodWill or other thrift stores in the big towns 30 miles away.  I began cutting my son’s hair and my own.  I reused and recycled everything and used what I had.  I began making my own laundry detergent and even purchased a sewing machine (I have yet to master).  I canceled cable and we used an antenna.  Out on the Delta, you get great reception.

The next step we took was to downsize further.  We found a small house in the city and cut our cost $600 or more a month.  I was able to walk with the boys to parks, libraries, and stores.  We have had a lot of fun living in a small part of the city and we have more money to be flexible with.  I even planted a strawberry patch when I saw the strawberries were $11 a pack offseason for organic.

We lived well and I never had to open another daycare.  Thank goodness because two little boys require a lot of focus.  We had some more employment shifts before we got to a great place.  Bali is now reunited with a boss that he really loved working for and is managing his own little and charming gas station.  Yes, gas stations can be charming if you have a wife help you decorate and gussy it up with flowers and a woman’s touch.

We are doing well now.  Well, we make 44,000 a year and I realize that this would have been a decent living in the 80’s.  I really feel that what is making it so hard for people to make it these days are the horrific rents and housing prices.  It is all about greed and money.  We have a decent rent now but I have seen the rents go up $200 to $500 in the last year.  It’s criminal really.  I don’t have many suggestions for this except to look at downsizing the house or apartment to what you really need.  Get a roommate or convert the garage to an apartment to bring in extra money.

Don’t overlook those working class neighborhoods.  We live in an area that is supposed to be “rough” and I love it here.  Yes, we have graffiti now and then.  But we have great parks and a beautiful library.  The people around us are kind and friendly.  Try moving to another town or out of town.

Right now we are facing the challenge of buying our own home in this market.  We have very little to work with.  I have decided to move to a smaller town out some.  This town is not close to the bay area so the commuters haven’t invaded it yet and pushed prices up.  It is a little rusty and dusty but what we can afford and we just may love it there.

Until then, we just keep finding ways to save money and enjoy life simply.

 

 

 

 

7 Days into the 40 days to change.

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My household is 7 days into our own self-made 40 days to change experience.  We are not doing anything extreme, such as cutting out a thing or making a big lifestyle change.  We are not going on diets or selling all our belongings to backpack through the wilderness.  We aren’t even practicing zero spending.

As a homemaker I’ve kept a nice home, cook healthy food from scratch, I’ve been fairly frugal, and we are active.  But, and this is a nice sized but, I have slacked in the last year and a half.  I have been so into my writing of books and posting of blogs, doing all my own editing (not recommended) and publishing, marketing, and promoting…well, my home and family need some sprucing up.  So do I.

I have been feeling tired and irritable lately.  My home looks dusty and messy more often than I like, my spiritual practice is inconsistent, I have no schedule as of lately, I’m gaining weight and haven’t been aboard my Tread Climber in weeks, my kids are getting too much media, and I have succumbed to convenience foods more often than I will admit publicly.  My home and family life is out of balance with the writing life.  Also, my writing needed to be really worked and polished.

So, I’ve written a blog a few days ago outlining my desires.  I’m not stopping or starting anything per se, I’m working with what we have and improving it vastly.  I’m giving myself 40 days to explore new ideas and ways of doing things for our home and health and implementing what will work long term.  Each day I chunk out a bit of work to improve all the areas I’ve listed.

Thus far I have scrubbed and organized the kitchen and created a new menu and way of cooking for my family that is extremely healthy and gives me more time for play and work.  I did not choose one diet.  We have gone wacko in trying to be completely vegetarian, vegan, and then to the opposite end with paleo.  We failed after 3 weeks.  We enjoyed each diet and the benefits but, after trying again and again for 5 years, it’s obvious not one will stick.  I decided to combine the best of all three!  I have created a diet that is half vegetarian, with some vegan substitutes, and many of the paleo ideas…organic, nonGMO, free range, grass fed…

This may sound crazy but we have the best diet now.  I did not get rid of our junky food, I just created a cupboard shelf up high where I keep it all.  We love our junky food once in awhile and with it around it’s less of a constant thought and obsession, if I really want mac and cheese or to bake a cake I can.  I have also taken to doing, what I call, mass cooking every few days.  I will start the week off baking a big chicken, simmering a big pot of black or pinto beans, baking two loaves of whole week bread, steaming a big cooker of brown rice, and making a huge container of fresh, organic salad.  Oh, and a pot of homemade yogurt that lasts a whole week.  We then eat off all that good stuff for a few days or more.  You can make burritos, salads, or just have the rice and beans.  The chicken can last days by taking some to make burritos one night and a quarter of it for pasta another night, chicken salad the following night.  The bread is toast in the mornings and yogurt at lunch with apples and nuts and honey.

I find I have all sorts of time.  My mass cooking day really only takes a morning.  I have my coffee and turn on my Cuban music on Pandora and cook for a few hours and voila!  I have three days of cooking done.

To get really healthy I have decided that there are two great changes to our families diet that we can live with.  I have cut the sugar out completely for myself and the boys and husband never had that much to begin with.  I was the one hiding chocolate in the cupboards.  I have also upped our vegetables times 10.  I do green juices almost every morning and most days I add green smoothies.  We have salads every night along with up to 3 to 5 vegetables at every meal.  My kids were getting too into snacks and starting to snub the vegetable and that is why I have gone hardcore.  I also want to loose weight.  I’ve been watching sugar documentaries and I don’t want any of us to have adult diabetes or be obese thank you.  My kids are so incredibly healthy already.  This was the longest, coldest and wettest winter and they suffered a few days of a cold.

The other changes I started after getting the kitchen and cooking schedule in order was my exercise and spiritual works.  I had not been able to sleep the other night and caught Joyce Myers on TV.  Her sermon was perfect for me and so I pulled out her books that I had stocked up on months ago.  I also dusted off the tread climber.  I now read and work out an hour every day, combining my spiritual readings with my fitness.  I ordered The Case for Christ at the library and I’m off to see The Shack.  I love the Christian lifestyle, however, I’ll admit that I still have a lot of questions about the Bible and how to really connect to God.  I am open minded and love the metaphysical and I often wonder if the Bible isn’t filled with some parables to teach us through stories.  I just keep reading and researching until one day I find what feels true.  I know that faith feels good and a wholesome life is a good life.  I also know that you have to keep filling up on the good and spiritual works and continue to work on righting the mind.

As for the house, I rearranged the living room and stored some items in the garage.  I love uncluttering but found that I got too extreme with that also and now I miss some of my stuff (like the coffee grinder).  I now pack it up and store it if I may want or need it later.  I cleaned the house from top to bottom and created a daily cleaning schedule to keep my home tidy and kept up.  I do extra chores daily such as wash dirty walls or get the mold out of the tub.  I did have to go to a chemical bathroom cleaner for the tub.  It was so moldy and we have no window in there.  I tried a natural way and sometimes that doesn’t cut it.  I found a great cleaner that makes my shower/tub sparkle.  I took down some of my paintings because my walls looked cluttered and silly.  I run the vacuum throughout the house daily.  I have to, I have children and two dogs and long haired cat.   I either do a quick morning cleaning or have some tea and do an afternoon sprint of cleaning and tidying.

Now for the writing.  I have sent every one of my books off to be properly edited.  I thought I’d done a great job but have received criticism for my typos in reviews.  I want my books to be nice and neat.  I have also bought covers for the last remaining books.  People are more likely to buy books that have covers that don’t look free.  People respect a writer that doesn’t have grammatical errors in her books even if they are only .99 cents.

I also have fiction under a pen name and I have one book I’m working on and 3 on a back shelf that I had started and dropped for one reason or another.  I would like to work on getting these done and build my fiction library.

The last item for this week was house hunting.  I have been having some frustration and blues around what we can afford and what the market offers.  Right now we can get a loan for 130K and we have 30K saved to work with.  We are in California.  Yes, you see my problem.  There is hope believe it or not!  We live in Sacramento and that is now too expensive with the city folk coming on down.  I have found that we can still buy a house in Yuba City that is decent and in a decent neighborhood.  But we must be very clever.  I found a fixer-upper in a nice neighborhood yesterday and put an offer on it this morning.  It is a great old house in a charming neighborhood.  The catch is that it is trashed and filthy beyond imaginings.  The yard has cars and furniture and probably 3 years of dog poop.  We were asked not to go out in the yard.  We would probably need hazmat suits for that.  But hey, this is a chance.  I offered very low with the offer of buying As Is.  We would do all the cleanup.  Other potential buyers may give them their price but will want them to clean and repair all sorts of stuff and they don’t seem to be the “clean and repair” sort of people.   We will see.  They may tell me to go stick it or they may pack their overnight bags and be on their way to a trailer park nearby.  I’m working on my judgment too, did I mention that?

What else, what else…tried to give up coffee.  Not that I have an issue with coffee.  I love coffee and everything that is coffee and it’s cousin.  I turned to tea because I can’t seem to have my coffee without sugar or honey and heavy creamer.  I tried to do Stevia and milk to take it down a notch but detested it.  I also found I was feeling aggressive and not sleeping at night much.  Well, I did tea for 4 days and found I could barely stay on my perch alert during the day and still didn’t sleep great at night.  I was not happy without it and so I have gone back and now I find I don’t mind milk and Stevia now that I have been separated for some time.  I will never part with you, my dear coffee.  I now have my spunk back and my chores are done swiftly with a cup and a song.

Media and my boys.  They are now only getting an hour of PBS in the morning or an hour of Netflix in the late evening.  The weather is warm and sunny and they play outside all day soaking up the vitamin D and running, climbing, digging.  We play good music most of the day in the house and play or read.  Not to say that I don’t resort to Netflix more often at times when I need to conduct business and I can’t throw them outside.  There will be days where I will use it as a tool to get some work or peace accomplished.  I’d like to start turning the focus to ABCMouse daily for at least a half hour for the oldest to prepare him for his homeschooling that will begin at the end of summer.

So, there is my first week.  I’m feeling good.