What I Have Learned So Far From 52 Weeks To A Simplified Home

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I am just over 6 weeks into my goal of decluttering one area of my home for every single week of 2015. I am loving all the people who have joined in the challenge with me and are active over in the Snail Pacing Goal Achievers facebook group.

Not all the members of the group are working on decluttering as I made it open to anyone working on a goal in 2015, but most are and the support has been great.

6 things I have learned about decluttering since starting my year long journey to a simplified home

With so much of  the year ahead of me, I am surprised by all the project has taught me already.

6 Things 52 Weeks To A Simplified Home Has Taught Me So Far

1. Rooms seem much larger, brighter and cleaner when you have less stuff.

For about a good week after I finished decluttering the last area of the library, I couldn’t come down the staircase of our home without saying “wow I can’t believe how much bigger this room looks”.

I know it should be a no-brainer less stuff of course equals more space, but for some reason it shocked me just how much more space we would gain.

2. It is quicker to pick up a room when it is clutter free.

Before decluttering the library I use to spend at least 10 minutes a day tidying it up  and then throw my hands up and say “good enough for the friends I keep” and moved on to tidying up another room .  After decluttering  I can clean up the whole room including straightening the shelves of the built in bookcase in 2 to 3 minutes tops.

3. Decluttering doesn’t really take that long.

Before I took the time to break down every inch of our home into 52 different areas, I was overwhelmed by the idea of a full house declutter. I would read books swearing a whole house declutter job could be done in a weekend and feel mentally frozen by that revelation. “Where on earth do I start?”

Having a plan and the knowledge that this week I just have to concentrate on this area, has really help me see that decluttering doesn’t take as long as you might think. All the projects I have done so far have taken me under an hour with some taking less than 30 minutes.

Will I ever take on a full house top to bottom declutter project? Nope, I did it once when we moved from British Columbia to Indiana and although it worked great to get our house sold much faster than expected it is overwhelming and exhausting. I would only recommend it to those wishing to get their homes ready for realtor showings.

6 weeks in and I am thinking, this 52 week to a simplified home project is going to be a year after year goal. I much prefer doing things at a snail pacing rate.

4. A great decluttering session starts with a good decluttering routine

A few weeks in I got a good decluttering routine going. It goes like this

  1. Asses the area and decide the best way to attack it (for example do I empty the area out all at once or one drawer or box at a time)
  2. Grab the recycle bin, a garbage bag, a box for giveaways and a box for things that go else where.
  3. Clear out area (as much as I am doing at one time)
  4. Clean cleared area
  5. Go through stuff, recycling, giving away and placing items in other places box.
  6. Put what is left back in area.
  7. Put recycling and trash away, put things to give away in my husbands truck (more on this in the next point)
  8. Finally take the box of stuff that belongs elsewhere and put the contents away.
  9. Step back and take in the progress I made.

The hardest part is step 8 and 9, by then I just want to admire my decluttered space, but I force myself to deal with the items no longer going in the space first.

5. Get rid of the giveaway box right away.

If you let the giveaway box sit in your home too long, you or the kids, or you hubby will become tempted to take the item out because “surely you could use it some where” or “well my aunt so and so did give it to me” or……….(put in your excuse here).

The longer the box sits there the more excuses that you create to keep it.Since I am the worst one at this in our home, I am trying to be very disciplined about marching the giveaway box right to my husband’s truck the first minute he is home, and having him drop it off so I can’t try and sneak things out of the pile before I place it in the drop off box at the thrift store.

6. Decluttering is contagious.

Since I started this project I am noticing that my cleaning husband who usually just cleans around clutter is actually going through piles and dealing with the items in them. He has taken 2 or 3 boxes worth of stuff to the thrift store that he found while tidying up that he figured we no longer needed. He did ask me to check the boxes to make sure he wasn’t giving away something I wanted to keep, and I can honestly to say, I didn’t keep a thing out of those boxes.

I am loving this as it means less work for me as the year goes on.

If you have been joining along what have you learned so far about decluttering?

52 weeks to a simplified homefree printable plan (small)

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What being debt free looks like for our family

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Over the past 2 weeks I have shared, why I don’t like talking about our debt free journey, as well as a huge mistake we made along the way to being debt free and what we learned from it.

What the debt free life looks like for one family

This week I want to tell you what being debt free, for our family, looks like and feels like.

Before we were debt free, I had this idea in my head of what debt free would look like. I had this dream idea that we wouldn’t have to worry about paying the bills anymore. My husband would work a 40 hour work week and we would have money and time to spare. We would live on a small acreage with farm animals and a huge garden to give us fresh food. I could go on but you get the idea I was thinking of a debt free utopia. Not at all realistic.

Now that we are debt free I know that although certain elements of my debt free dreaming were true most were not.

What being & staying debt free really looks like

1. You still discuss money often

My husband and I still talk frequently about how much money is coming in and setting priorities for where it will go.

We still keep a running list of non-monthly expenses that will be coming up as well as non-monthly wants so that when extra money does come in through over time, bonuses, or blog money we use it wisely and not give it to restaurants and Target.

2. You still keep a budget

Our budget is a simple piece of typed paper broken into monthly recurring payments like property taxes, insurance, utilities, and other set payments as well as a set amount of money for  food, clothing and other more flexible yet still needed expenses. When we get slack on keeping ourselves accountable to our budget we spend way more than we should and end up not reaching the financial goals we desire to reach.

3. You still have to work hard to pay the bills

My husband is an RN. Shortly before we became 100% debt free he was offered a nursing job in another department of the hospital that was a lot less stress than his current position in the ER at the time. In the switch he lost his evening hour pay and his weekend pay. He also couldn’t work his second job around the new position hours.

The pay off was a hubby who enjoys his work days more and is home with his family more hours per week. The cost was that we broke even financially, meaning the cut in pay equaled the payments we no longer pay. Our budget is essentially just as tight without payments as it was when we had payments.

We chose family time over a bigger pay check and to do that means sacrificing the extra money freedom that I thought all debt free families enjoyed.  You know the one you hear all the debt free advisers on the radio talk about “think of all you could do with that money you will no longer be using for payments “. We traded that money for time.

My husband’s basic pay each month pays for our “need budget” basically our food, shelter and transportation bills with little wiggle room for other bills.

Thankfully due to investing some of the inheritances we received into a rental we have that monthly income to pay the kids for chores, give my husband and I some spending money and pay for a few activities for the children each month.

My husband also often receives overtime, and as of late a I receive a  small amount of monthly income from my blogging. These streams of income plus bonuses my husband sometimes receives at work pay for our “unexpected emergency needs” and a few things from our “want it” list. (I plan to write more on how we budget for these in a future post)

We feel pretty blessed to meet and sometimes exceed our bills each month. God is faithful to provide for His people.

4. You might not live in a grand home

I have no idea why but for some reason before we were debt free, I always thought that all  debt free people lived in great neighborhoods in fancy homes, or could afford all the expenses that come with country living. After reading The Millionaire Next Door I know that isn’t true for all those living debt free lives including ourselves.

We live in a very average home that we bought for just under $10,000 dollars, nope I did not forget a zero we bought the home for ten thousand dollars, then spent 2 years and $30,000 remodeling it from top to bottom  by ourselves.

We got a home for under $10,000 because it is in a so so neighborhood. In fact the house next door to us is quite the sight to behold (the picture with this post shows just a bit of what our neighbor’s home looks like, that is the view out my dining room window).

We really don’t mind though as the location is so near to everything it saves us a lot of time commuting giving us more time at home together and we set out on our journey to being debt free to do just that to have more family time.

5. You do worry less but you still worry

Just a few months ago my husband came home and told me his department was being bought out by another company and that he wasn’t sure at that point what was going happen.

Before being debt free with a 3 month emergency fund that type of statement would have sent me into worry mode.

Now with no payments and 3 months worth of income stored away, I just looked at my husband and said “God’s got this, no worries you are a great nurse, we will be okay” and I 100% meant it and slept peacefully that night.

Everything did work out and he is still working.

However, there are still days when I wonder “how are we going to afford the glasses the boys need, or the bill for my daughter’s emergency tooth extraction, or the ingrown toe nail bill”, but God takes care of that too. It never fails that just as the bill comes due, the money becomes available.

6. You can give more (and that is my favorite thing)

My favorite part about being debt free is how much easier it is to give. To help a person out and not wonder “if I give this can I still afford to pay the payment for ……  by the 15th of the month when it is due” is a very freeing feeling.

When you are debt free you have more control over your budget and saying where your money can go, and if you wish to give you can.

Yes I know I said above that our budget it still tight, and that is true, but it seems like whenever we give God takes care of it and we once again pay our bills and have a bit left over for wants. We are blessed.

In fact, I set aside a portion of my inheritance specifically for giving. God allowed my husband and I to help out people in a pretty impactful ways with that money and I pray continually that  He will use our family give in that way again. To me giving is healing.

If you are debt free what does it look like for you?

Please join me next week as I share our families top 10 resources for becoming and staying debt free (it is up now for you to read). Sign up to receive my posts in your email so you don’t miss it.

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Snapshot Thursday: The Humbled Life

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Snapshot Thursdays 3 pictures from my week to give you a peek into my daily lifeWelcome to Snapshot Thursdays. Please join me on  Instagram  to see more pictures I share all week long.

me and my hatSee that hat on my head? Well I wore it during an entire walking workout on the treadmill at the Y last week. There I was in a tank top and capris, walking at a good pace on the treadmill my kindle paperwhite in hand reading $10 Great Dates all the while unknowingly sporting my black fleece hat. I didn’t find out until I saw it in the mirror as I was getting bundled up to go outside again. Needless to say I ended up leaving the gym red faced not from my workout but from embarrassment.

(oh and $10 Great Dates is such a great book. I gleaned so many great tips for new frugal date ideas from it)

christmas stuff still outHere it is mid February and I still have a piece of our Christmas decorations out. I have passed this Christmas colored vase filled with Christmas glass decorations for weeks now and still have not gotten around to putting it away. Good thing is I am working on decluttering this room during this month’s 52 Weeks To A Simplified Home so surly in a week or two this will finally be put away.

my plantsThis is an embarrassing trait of mine, that right now has an ending I am pretty proud of (but that could change). I am a well known plant killer among my group of friends. Seriously stories of my brown thumb circulate around parties. However, this picture is proof that I can keep plants alive (well at least so far I have). These plants are now several years old and still thriving. Sometimes the ivy type one looks like it is about to die but then I just water it well and it pops right back up. I got these plants at Aldi of all places.

Deals So Good I had To Share

Craftsy

Craftsy is having a big Valentine’s Day sell offering All their online classes for 50% off. What skill have you been wanting to learn? Photography? Knitting? Sewing? Cake Decorating? learn in from Craftsy high quality video instruction. The 50% off sale ends Monday February 16th.

I Heart Macy's giveaway

You could win one of 20 $50 gift cards to macys. Just hop on over and enter.

If you have never used YORK photo before you can get 60 free prints for just the cost of shipping (shipping starts at $3.75) when you enter the code YOURSIXTY . I used YORK photo a few months ago for the first time and was very impressed with how easy it was to get around their site and how quick their service was. I got the poster I made in just a few days.  Click here ( or any words in blue) to go to YORK photo to claim you deal.

Some other great deals YORK photo has available currently for new customers are

8X8 Custom Softcover Photo Book  for only $1.99 using promo code YOURBOOK (shipping starts at $2.99)

Custom Fleece Blanket for $20 using promo code BLANKET (shipping $6.99 on first blanket $1.99 on additional blankets)

Custom $1 11×14 Designer Poster using promo code POSTER (shipping starts at $2.99) I made one of these up using this deal and really like it.

Receive 40 Prints FREE plus pay 4¢ for 4×6 Prints using promo code FOURPRINT (shipping 1 to 5 prints .99 cents)

Receive FREE Shipping on Orders of $20 or More  using promo code FREE

You can only use one code on your first order at YORK photo, but there certainly are a lot of great ones to choose from.  A lot of the different options would make great gifts, and you could send a a screen picture of your creation to your loved one and on Valentine’s day telling them it is in the mail and made with love for them.

Where To Find Time To Express Your Creativity

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I love expressing my creativity through knitting, sewing and more . I also love expressing my creativity through making handmade gifts for others. There is just something about making a gift for someone that makes me feel closer to them.

Honestly though I rarely sit for hours and just work on a craft. In fact that type of crafting session for me only happens perhaps 3 or 4 times a year. Yet, last Christmas alone I gave away 2 hand knitted scarves, 3 pairs of fingerless gloves, a baby blanket and roughly 200 hand knitted dishcloths.

How on earth did I find the time to knit 200 dishcloths, well actually finding that many people to give them away too was harder than finding the time to knit them.

10 Ways To Find To Express Your Creativity It begins with thinking outside the box to fill in times you might not think about crafting in.

10 Ways To Find Time To Express Your Creativity

1. Keep the projects simple

This is my number one tip for those wanting to express their creativity through crafts. Stay away from complicated cable knit adult sized sweaters and instead knit a cable knit dishcloth . Stay away from complicated king size quilt patterns and make a dolly blanket, or a baby blanket. Stay away from writing a novel and instead write a short story (or at least concentrate on a chapter at a time, instead of thinking about how vast a goal a novel is).  Keep to simple projects that are portable and can easily be completed here and there in a short amount of time. It is just so much more rewarding.

2. Carry a project with you everywhere

I have what I like to call craft to go bags. I have several, one for knitting dishcloths, one for locker hooking, and another one for fingerless gloves, or a scarf or whatever I crafting project I  have on the go. You never know when there might be a window of  time  in your day to get a few rows done, or a few stitches added.

3. Use travel time

I can knit dishcloths in my sleep. My hands just seem to know what they are doing so I don’t even have to look at my needles. This makes dishcloth creation a perfect car time activity. My husband drives and I knit dishcloths. At the rate of one dish cloth an hour, I get a lot of knitting done this way.

4. Use waiting time

My daughter takes gymnastics for an hour every week. I sit in the bleachers and knit. Since I don’t have to look up all the time I can bring a more complicated project like fingerless gloves or a scarf for these times. For writing, I have a simple note pad app on my phone that I use to jot down ideas as they come to me during small waiting times that happen through the day, like those few moments waiting on my son to get out of his twice a week class.

5. Use visiting time

When my friends and I get together whether it is a meal or coffee they know I am going to come with my knitting bag in hand.  If I am going to be at there home for the afternoon while kids play, then I might bring my locker hooking which requires a bit more concentration but I can still have a conversation with people while I do it.

6. Use TV time

I can knit and watch TV or a movie at the same time. I usually stick to my no brainer dishcloths so I don’t miss the action.

7.  Use it as an excuse for a girls night

I haven’t done this with my group of friends in ages, but back when our children were smaller and didn’t have a million evening events that we had to drive them to and from,  I would invite friends to my home once a month for a craft night. People brought a snack and whatever they were working on and just sat crafted, ate and chatted.

8. Use vacation time

Vacation time generally has more down hours than day to day life. I like to fill those with a bit of Cable TV watching and knitting, or perhaps sitting on the deck of our hotel room enjoying the view and doing a bit of writing.

9. Use it as a reward

If I am totally dreading doing a chore or task, I will tell myself “get …….done and then you can spend all Sunday afternoon crafting”. It usually works well.

10. Make it a priority

If expressing your creativity is vital to your mental well being like it is mine, you need to make sure that you do all that you can to make it a priority no matter what stage of life you are in.

For me right now with children at home, and all that comes with a family and an at home business that means I need to keep my projects small and portable so I can redeem those otherwise wasted minutes with a bit of crafting. For you that might mean something different.

If find time to express your creative in a way I didn’t mention I would love to hear about it in the comments.

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52 Weeks To A Simplified Home: Project 6

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Six weeks into this project already. I have to admit some weeks I don’t mind posting photos of my mess at all since it seems pretty normal. But then there are weeks like today, where I feel slightly embarrassed by my mess. However perhaps embarrassment is needed if I am ever to cure myself of my piling habits.

my sports gear messThis is the dresser where I store all my workout clothes, and my workout gear. It is in my dining room of all places. Why? Because I use to workout early and my husband use to worked late, so to avoid waking him up we both agreed to moving my workout stuff to the dining room and that is where it has stayed for years and years.

Why a dresser full of workout gear. Well I do live in Indiana where it has been said that you can start your day in a winter parka and end it in a tank top and shorts. Because of the moody weather, I have workout clothes for rainy days, snowy days, cold days and hot days. I also have workout gear for running, biking and swimming.

Why all the mess of papers on top of the dresser? We don’t have an office in our home, so the top of the dresser is my filling cabinet. This is one thing I plan to change by the end of this 52 week challenge. I am hoping by tossing out the unnecessary I can make room for an office space somewhere that is big enough to hold all our papers and office supplies.

The junk beside the dresser. More office supplies, and more workout gear and …….a lot of other stuff that shouldn’t be there.

dresser drawers.I started the declutter process by putting the drawers on the living room floor. I then emptied out the drawers one at a time. I vacuumed dust out of each one and placed only the items I really use back in the drawers and discarded the other items.

dresser drawers all cleanFrom exploding to lots of room. That looks so much better doesn’t it.

recycling and giveawayBy the time I was done I had half a ThredUp box full of recycling and half a Zulily box full of things to go to the thrift store. Online cloth shopping has more perks than great deals it also gives you free decluttering materials :).

trash from dresserI also filled up half a kitchen trash bag with trash. YIKES!

I forgot to take a picture of me decluttering the top of the dresser, but I did pretty much the same thing. I cleared it all off and emptied the containers one by one.

dresser all doneIn the end the area still looks somewhat cluttered but it is the best I can do until I move on to other areas of the home and find better spots for some of the things that are here. Which is another lesson I am learning in this challenge;to make the best use of the space we have. We have only one closet on the main floor of the home and when I get to it I hope to put it to better use to store things that we don’t need others looking at while having dinner at our home, such as sports gear.

Join the 52 Weeks To A Simplified Home challenge and then join the Snail Pacing Goal Achievers Facebook group where share your progress and get encouragement.

52 weeks to a simplified homefree printable plan (small)

Coupons To Help You Declutter & Clean Your Home


$1.00 off ONE Tide Detergent 40oz or larger

$0.25 off ONE Dawn product

$1.00 off any two Ziploc brand bags

How To Get Out Of A Date Night Rut Without Blowing The Budget

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If you have been reading here for any length of time you know that I believe in the importance of regularly dating your spouse.

How to get out of a date night rut without breaking the bank

I also believe that dating can fit in any budget no matter how tight. In fact I have written numerous articles full of ideas of how to date for less.

Lately though I have been feeling like my hubby and I are in a thrifty date night rut. Short dates have become a trip to the hardware store for supplies, and longer dates always seem to end with grocery shopping.

Which made me pick up and read a copy of  $10 Great Dates: Connecting Love, Marriage, and Fun On A Budget last week. I was hoping to find a few inexpensive ideas to blast us out of our same thrifty date over and over rut.

I honestly opened it up with low expectations think surly I would just find the same things you find in free blog posts about thrifty dating. However, I ended up highlighting several areas of the book and came away with at least half a dozen new thrifty date ideas for my husband and I to try.

Another thing I really loved about $10 Great Dates were the insightful advice from the authors on what it takes to build a good marriage.

Advice on why couples should intentionally stay out of date ruts

Advice on how to date from $10 great dates“..predictable dinner-and-a-movie dates have less impact than dates that stretch you and take you out of your normal routine. New experiences help bond together and often result in a big payoff for your marriage”.

Advice on why to intentionally set time aside for dating

why dating in marriage must be a priority from $10 great dates“With so many things competing for our time, dates rarely just happen naturally. A date communicates, “I choose you as a priority, and I want to be intentional about nurturing our relationship”

Advice on the elements for a great date

definition of a date by $10 great dates

“quality time together, giving each of you a break from your normal routine, a shared activity and conversation”

 A Few More Reasons I loved $10 Great Dates

Each and every date in $10 Great Dates can be taken for $10 or less. The book has ideas for all seasons. The authors lay out what to do to prepare for the date, what to do during the date, and gives insightful take-a-ways that will build your marriage.

If you and your hubby are in a date rut, or you are struggling for ideas of how to date on a tight budget.  I suggest reading $10 Great Dates.

(psst… read my post on Thrifty Bookworms to figure out how to fit book purchases into your budget, my top 2 favorite ways currently are Amazon gift cards from Swagbucks & InstaGC)

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Our Debt Free Journey Part 2: How We Ended Up Back In Debt

Last week I told you how we got out of debt and why I don’t share our debt free journey often. I ended by telling you we ended up more than just out of debt we were 100% out of debt plus the mortgage and owned two rental homes as well.

I then ended my story with a cliff hanger (don’t you hate those! I do too but the whole story from start to finish was over 3000 words long, so I thought it merciful to split it up). I ended by telling you we ended up back into debt by paying stupid tax to the tune of 40,000+ dollars of new debt.

How one family went from debt free to in debt to debt free again and the lessons they learned from it.

Our huge mistake: How we made it worse, & how we became debt free again

The story of our huge mistake, starts at the beginning when we paid off debts and bought our $9000 home and set out to renovate it.

We thought we were being wise paying off debts and figuring out how to pay off the mortgage too with two inheritances that in most parts of the country wouldn’t cover the cost of one home, let alone pay for three homes in full and pay off an additional $15,000 or so in debts too.

However, we neglected two well known steps of getting and staying debt free.

  1. Never stopping your car payment but instead paying it to yourself for vehicle replacement purposes
  2. Have a fully funded emergency fund of 3 to 6 months.

We were not woken up from the error of our ways until we were moved into our $9000 home, and were waist high in renovating our $15,000 rental and had a budget set and money put aside for renovating our original home for rental purposes.

How we ended up with a third home before our original home was finished

Yes you read that right our original home was renovated after the $15,000 rental. A co-worker of my husband’s needed an inexpensive place to crash for a few months shortly after we had moved to our full renovated $9000 home. He knew the poor condition of the home but was willing to pay for all holding costs and utilities anyways as that was cheaper than rent elsewhere. At the time he moved in we were waiting on my grandmother’s inheritance to arrive so we could have the money to renovate, so having him pay the holding costs in the mean time was a relief to us.

He was still renting the place when my inheritance from my grandmother came and so we set aside a realistic amount of money to make the house livable again, and realized we would have money leftover.

I prayed about what to do and really felt like a rental would be a good investment.  We had just $15,000 to spend and the foreclosure I wanted was close to $30,000 but the bank took our cash offer and we set out to fix the home.

Just a few months into those renovations, we discovered our HUGE MISTAKE .

Our awakening began one afternoon when my very old car died in a parking lot with 3 children in tow 45 minutes away from home.

The car would start, but it wouldn’t move out of park. I called a trusted mechanic and he said the fix was expensive and cost more than the value of my old car. I left the car abandoned in the parking lot over night and had a friend drive me home.

Now my first thought was, we will just survive with one vehicle until both remaining homes were renovated and rented. Then we will use the rent and save for a clunker.

My hubby was quick to remind me why I didn’t drive the van anymore. You see it had started stalling and requiring a strange jump start that required a glove and knowing just when to jump back. It had also had an episode where I was driving down the highway and its doors had started opening and closing by themselves while the alarm and horn started honking also unaided. It was not a family friendly vehicle anymore.

The van, like my car, had been given a “sorry folks it isn’t worth fixing” death sentence from our mechanic. Our plan had been to have my hubby drive it and hope it lasted until renovations were over and we were collecting rent money that we could save for a better clunker.

With a car that couldn’t stay stuck in a parking lot forever and another vehicle close to death my husband and I decided we would search Craigslist for a clunker that was safer than our family van . We were thinking we would get an idea of what a clunker would cost and then see if we could trim the renovation budget enough to pay cash for it.

But, thanks to the governments “cash for clunkers” program that year, the low priced clunkers were no where to be found, people were taking advantage of the program instead of privately selling them. We quickly discovered that there was no way we could trim enough out of the renovation budget to pay cash for a vehicle.

Our frustration over the whole situation led to a step that was insane but in the end it was a huge turning point for us that taught us a lesson about debt we will never forget.

We went to a dealership and drove 2 vehicles each 3 years old with low mileage off the lot, and let them go lift my car out of the parking lot, and take our surviving by a thread van. We did get very good deals on the vehicles we bought, this thrifty gal does know how to negotiate with a car dealer and we walked away paying less than Kelly Blue Book value on both vehicles,  but both of those vehicles came with a hefty monthly payment.

My husband and I had a plan, that was risky, stressful, and didn’t work. Take it from me, any plan made on no sleep is not a good plan.

We thought since we had no other debts, and we now had rental homes, we could use the money from the rental homes to pay off the vehicles faster and the money from the second job my husband had yet to quit to make the payments in the mean time.

Sure it meant he would be working a second job for a few years more but at least we would have decent vehicles that we could hold onto for years to come, since we tend to prefer to hold onto a vehicle until no one else wants it but the auto wrecker.

Once the vehicles were paid off we would set up a “vehicle replacement fund” like we should have done before and we would not have to have a car payment again.

The plan backfired.

We did manage to finish and rent both homes but one set of renters never paid on time if at all. Then my husband saw his chance to switch departments at the hospital to an area he had been wanting to try for a while. The switch  thankfully reduced his stress level, but it also reduced our pay as he wasn’t able to work his current second job around his new hours in his new department.

With 1/2 the rent we planned to receive and less monthly income keeping the vehicles was too costly for our family. Every month we were juggling the budget to make the payments.

We fought over the solution, my husband figured new renters, and a second job that worked around his new job were all we needed to get back on track with our plan.

I however felt like our original home just wasn’t a good fit for renters. It was just too expensive to heat and cool for most of the families who rent in our area to afford on top of rent (if you haven’t guessed by the low housing prices yet we live in a somewhat low income town). I felt like we should sell it and use the money to pay off the vehicles and set up an emergency fun.

My husband felt like we shouldn’t use inheritance money to pay for vehicles that don’t  hold their value. I argued with him that the sale of the home would allow us to set ourselves up financially to be debt free for good and that had a value beyond money. It would give us more family time, and the ability to make financial decisions instead of having them made for us because of a payment owed.

Finally he agreed and we placed our now empty original home on the market. It took 9 months to sell, and in those 9 months God ingrained it on my husband’s and my own brain how painful it is to scrape money together to make payments on something you purchased when you were in a different income bracket.

You are never guaranteed to earn tomorrow what you do today, always leave plenty of wiggle room in your budget and savings for a negative change in income.

The day the check from the house sale cleared was the same day I paid both vehicles  in full. It was also the same day I drove down to the bank and set up an automatic withdrawal into a savings account each month that is labeled “future vehicles” for about 1/2 of what our monthly payments were, but still enough to get us nice enough vehicles when our current ones have to be driven, or towed to the wreckers.

Our lesson was learned. We were done with debt for good.

And so we began our journey of being debt free for good. It has been almost 2 years now since I paid off those vehicles and I feel blessed. My heart still hurts over the loss of my loved ones, but I think my relatives would be happy with what we have done with the financial legacy they left.

However being debt free doesn’t look or feel like I think a lot of people think it does.

Come back next week (sign up for emails of my posts as I share what being debt free looks and feels like for us and how it isn’t what I thought it would be nor how I think a lot of people think debt free living looks like. (update: you can now read about our debt free life here)

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Snapshot Thursday: My dog, Car Schooling, & A Book Series

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Snapshot Thursdays 3 pictures from my week to give you a peek into my daily lifeWelcome to Snapshot Thursdays. Please join me on  Instagram  to see more pictures I share all week long.

dog on couchOur family dog spends half her day here on the back of our family room couch waiting for the mail man to come (our mailbox sits right beside that window). She then barks her head off, until the postman leaves our front porch and then she gets off of this spot and sleeps curled up in an old Big Joe chair of the kids, that they no longer use. Now that is the life.

jawbone wireless speaker

I love listening to podcasts on blogging whenever I can. I call it my school time. One place I love listening to them is in the car when I am by myself. Problem was once the weather got colder, due to my hearing loss I couldn’t hear the podcasts with the heater on. I finally decided to see if I could find a wireless speaker that could fit in one of my cup holders. Sure enough I found one on Amazon made by Jambox.  It works great and fits in my cup holder perfectly (don’t worry I have other cup holders for drinks).

(psst…I paid for my speaker with Amazon gift cards earned from Swagbucks and InstaGC)

deep haven seriesI finished reading book 4 of Susan May Warren’s Deep Haven series last weekend. Which means I have now read 5 of the 6 books ( I accidentally read 4 and 5 out of order). I am so glad I found Susan May Warren through Tyndale rewards, I am so into her stories about the town of Deep Haven that I find myself wanting to visit it with my family, but I don’t think it even exists and I know for sure the characters don’t, yet I have cheered for them, cried for them and now I miss them.

I am hoping to snag a copy of book six through paperbackswap  really soon so I can spend time with them again.

3 Deals So Good I Had To Share

SoundsOfSony giveaway

Win a Sony Portable Party System: Valued at $299. Giveaway ends Saturday February 7th 2015 at 11:59 PM ET.  Three winners will be chosen. Enter To Win Here.

mrs and mrs collection

Use the code  MRANDMRS and get 30% off until the end of today on the Mr. and Mrs. collection at DaySpring.com. I think these would make darling wedding presents.

$1.00 off TWO bags of M&M's Chocolate Candies
Holiday themed M&M’s are one of my favorite ways of turning any recipe into a holiday recipe. I love throwing valentine colored M&M’s on top of wacky cake or mix them in caramel crunch popcorn to give a festive feel to our favorite recipes. Simple and fun. Here is a coupon for $1 off two bags so you can do the same.

Changes To Swagbucks That Just Made Earning $25 A Month EASIER

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Swagbucks recently announced that starting March 2nd it will take less points to earn your first $25 gift card of the month.

earning a $25 gift card from swagbucks just got easier

The Scoop From Swagbucks

Starting March 2nd, you will be able to redeem 2,200 Swag Bucks for one $25 Gift Card OF YOUR CHOICE once a month. This gift card discount only excludes PayPal and Gas Cards.

- We are introducing a new $3 Amazon Gift Card which is only 300 SB.

- To accommodate these benefits, we will no longer offer $5 Amazon Gift Cards for 450 SB. They are not going away though, as they will be priced the same as our other $5 Gift Cards at 500 SB. Currently, you are only able to redeem five $5 Amazon gift cards a month. By making these changes we can now remove this limit.

Some additional benefits include:

1. Greater Savings – If you previously redeemed five $5 Amazon Gift Cards, you were spending 2250 SB. Now you can get the same $25 worth of Amazon Gift Cards for 2200 SB, a 20% higher discount!

2. More Choices – Right now, the only gift card we currently discount is Amazon. This introduction offers you a discount on over 100 gift card choices of your favorite brands, stores, retailers, and restaurants – brands like CVS, Walmart, Visa, Target, Starbucks, Ebay, Best Buy and more!

3. Faster Redemptions – The $3 Amazon Gift Card allows you to get an Amazon Gift Card 33% faster than is currently possible. To expand the options for speedier gift card redemptions, we also plan on offering more low denomination Gift Cards of other brands in the coming months.

How to Earn Your 2200 points for  whatever $25 gift card you want month after month

With this announcement it is now easier than ever to earn at least $25 a month with Swagbucks. In our household $25 just about pays for date night at a restaurant (tip extra).  $25 is a few items of clothing bought on clearance. $25 is……(you fill in the blank)

And it doesn’t take many activities to earn $25 with Swagbucks, even less now that you only need 2200 points.

1. Complete the NOSO daily

  • Swag Bucks per day =60 a month (takes around a minute to complete each day)

2. Watch the Swagbuck TV App Daily.

  • Swagbuck TV App 36 daily Swag Bucks =1080

3. Watch 2 other Apps Daily

  • EntertainNow App 18 daily Swag Bucks =540
  • Sportly.TV App 18 daily Swagbucks =540
  • Lifestylz App 18 daily Swagbucks= 540

You pick which 2 of these 3 apps to watch and you will have 1080 points

Add these 3 activities together and you get 2220 points which is enough for the 2200 point $25 gift card of your choice each and every month.

Of course this is only one way to earn 2200 points. One thing I love about Swagbucks is all the different ways to earn.

Here are 2 other articles on way to earn Swagbucks you might want to look at to help you figure out which earning activities you want to do

Remember these changes don’t start until March 2nd 2015, until then you can still cash out on the $5 Amazon cards for 450 points each.

Swagbucks 2200 $25 gift card

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52 Weeks To A Simplified Home: Project 5

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This weeks project was so small and quick compared to last weeks. Strange too, since I have been dreading decluttering this area for a while.

folding tableI know the top of the folding table doesn’t look that bad, but it is those baskets underneath that had me afraid. Would they hold as much junk as last weeks drawers?

purse collectionPurses! That was all that was inside. Yes that is a lot of Vera Bradley. In my defense I live 30 minutes from the Vera Bradley factory and 45 minutes from where they hold their annual sale. So these purses cost me a fraction of retail.

Of course I don’t need this many so really there is money wasted in these baskets. After all we only carry one purse at a time.

When the kids were younger I switched purses often. I had one I liked for all day outings. One I liked when it was date night and I didn’t need all my mom stuff. One I liked for church. And on and on….

Now that the kids are older, I pretty much have 2 purses in fall colors, one large, one small and 2  purses in summer colors one small and one big. I also have a special evening bag for special events. That is 5 purses, and there were way more than that in these two baskets.

empty basketsTo decide which ones to keep and which ones to add to the box on the way to the thrift store, I emptied both baskets out entirely. I then went through all the purses, as well as vacuumed out the baskets to get rid of dust.

purses to keepIn the end I got the purses down to just one basket and this basket also contains the backpack I use on long bike rides and the carry-on bag and huge purse I like to use when I travel by plane (which hasn’t happened in a while but  I also use them for weekend getaways) .

books in basketIn the bottom basket I put all my husband’s DIY home renovation books that were on the big built-in bookshelf. As I declutter this year one of my goals is also to rethink where things are stored so that things we use daily are in reach and things we use only now and again are stored in what I like to call “non-prime real estate”. In other words places not as simple to get to.

folding table all doneIt didn’t take long to go through the papers on the top of the table. What you see left is a folder for collecting tax papers as they arrive. I like it out in the open to remind myself to gather things before the appointment with our account later this month. I am a very visual person, so visual reminders are key for me getting things done.

What did you declutter this week?

Need some encouragement in your own decluttering journey, or in other goals you are working on. ? Join the Snail Pacing Goal Achievers Facebook Group .

52 weeks to a simplified homefree printable plan (small)Print out a plan and join along and declutter your home one inch at a time.

Decluttering Deals This Week

If you too have some purses you no longer use they just might be more valuable than you think. You can check out both Twice and ThredUp to see if they take your brand and style of purses (got to the sell tab on both sites for details) . If they do you can order a free bag that allows you to send in your purses free of charge and receive cash for your purses. If you are willing to accept store credit, right now Twice is offering a $10 store credit bonus for accepted purses until February 28th.  Plus Twice offers new members a $10 store credit for the first time they sell.

Save 20% on any single purchase of loose Apples at participating retailers. See offer info for complete details. Check back every Tuesday for a new Healthy Offer..Expires 2/9/2015.Save 20%.Okay so I can’t really say this coupon has anything to do with decluttering but apples are big in my house so a coupon for 20% off I couldn’t help but share. This is for loose apples so you will have to compare to bagged apples to see if it is a better deal or not. Check out other printable coupon offers through my coupon resource page .
Save 30% on any one Martha Stewart Home Office with Avery® product at StaplesIf you have some paper organizing to do here is a coupon for 30% off One Martha Stewart Home Office product at Staples.