Thursday, March 28, 2013

Hiatus

After much soul-searching, I have decided to take a hiatus from Eschewing Debt.

You may have noticed that my blog posts have become increasingly sparse. For the time being, my heart simply isn't in this blog- and if I wish to have you take the time to read my blog, you deserve only the highest quality content I can produce.

This doesn't mean I won't come back to this blog. Indeed, I hope to come back to the blog once life has calmed down and my cute little munchkins aren't consuming so much of my time. But for now, I want to enjoy them while they are still young and still want me around.

If you have enjoyed my blog thus far, please sign up for the e-mail updates or "LIKE" us on Facebook so you will be notified of when I start up again.

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog- I hope you have enjoyed it, and I hope to come back in the future better than ever!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Power Of YOUR Potential



I just finished reading Smart Women Finish Rich by David Bach. I really enjoyed the read, even though a lot of it was things I already knew. I have found, however, that I can find new and great information from books- even if I think I know everything.

This book was no exception.

He had a great chapter on goals and finding a purpose for our lives. As a stay-at-home-mom, I sometimes find it difficult to remember my purpose. Yes, I know that what I do is the most important thing I can do (I have absolutely no doubt that raising my children in a safe, happy, loving environment where I raise my children and not a nanny is the absolute most important thing I can do)- but that can be forgotten amidst poopy diapers and tantrums.

In this chapter on purpose and goals, David Bach asks 5 questions for us each to find our purpose. I liked these questions and thought I would share. These questions can help you uncover what your talents are, where your passions lie, and where you are most likely to excel. The answers will be different for everyone, and I think they are worth asking. Admittedly, I have yet to answer them. But this weekend I am going to find a quiet moment- or several quiet moments- and sit and think about these questions. I'm excited to find whatever it is that I will discover!

Here's the questions:

1. What is it that I am really good at?
2. What do I enjoy so much that I would do it for free if I had 20 million dollars?
3. What would I stop doing tomorrow if I had 20 million dollars? (this is to get you to reduce useless things from your life- things that take our time and energy, but are not worth our time and energy)
4. What would I do differently with my life if I only had 3 years to live?
5. What do others regularly tell me I am good at?

I think these questions are worth answering. Discovering oneself is often the most important discovery of all!


Wednesday, March 20, 2013

How To Make A Moby Wrap For 6 Bucks- Without A Sewing Machine!

If you happen to be expecting a baby, chances are you have been inundated with talk of all kinds of expensive gadgets that everybody says is a "must have!" baby item. Most likely baby carriers have come up as a topic of conversation, as the convenience and trendiness of baby carriers is a popular topic nowadays.

My three babies each lived in a Moby Wrap the first six months of their lives. Several friends have asked if a Moby Wrap is worth the money.

Well,since I only spent SIX BUCKS on my Moby Wrap (a wrap that can cost anywhere from $47-$200 retail), I tell them the my Moby Wrap was worth every single penny.

Of course, the next question they ask is how I made my Moby Wrap, and I thought I should share.

Nothing in the world is simpler than making a Moby Wrap. Well, maybe breathing. But not much else.

Here is everything you need to make your Moby:

 -5 yards (yes, yards) of 60/40 cotton/polyester fabric (the JoAnn's next to my house only had 50/50 blend and that worked fine. If you have no idea what I am talking about, go to JoAnn's Fabric store and tell them that you need this fabric and they will help you find it).  If you are larger than a size 10 when not pregnant, you should get 5 1/2 yards. Choose whatever color you would like- but know that if you are having a summer baby, a lighter color would be better
-Measuring tape
-Fabric shears
-Fabric marker or chalk (something to make very small markings on the fabric)

That's it! NO sewing machine needed!

Here's what you do:

1. Fold the fabric in half like a hot dog. Your fabric should be roughly 30 inches wide and five yards long.

2. Next, fold it in half like a hamburger, so it is now 30 inches wide by 2 1/2 yards long.

3. Take your measuring tape and measure 20 inches. Make a small mark with your marker or chalk at 20 inches.

4. Move your measuring tape up a foot or two and mark 20 inches again.

Continue doing this all the way up the fabric.
 5. Next, cut the fabric lengthwise the entire 2 1/2 yards using the small markings as a guide to try and get a straight cut. Your line does not need to be perfectly straight- this is not an exact science. There is a lot of room for error.
In the end, you will have 3 Moby Wraps- each of them 20 inches wide and 5 yards long. I suggest using a marker or a patch or something similar to mark the center of the Moby Wrap as this will help you put it on.

Using a 40% off JoAnn's coupon, I spent $18 on the five yards of fabric. That's $6 each- I used one for all three of my babies, and gave two away as gifts.

Here is a video to  learn how to put on the Moby Wrap:


And there you have it: A way to make your own Moby Wrap simply and super cheap!

A quick couple of notes: I only used this wrap to carry my babies on the front. Friends have told me that this material is too stretchy to carry your baby on your back, so please use common sense- if the baby doesn't feel secure, the baby isn't secure.

Also, always make sure that you have fabric under your baby's bum. A couple of times I almost had my baby fall out of the bottom of the wrap, so make sure the baby is sitting nicely on the fabric and won't fall out.

Good luck!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Cheap Eats: 10 Ways To Cut Your Food Bill

I apologize for the lack of posts the past week. I strive to write three articles a week and to have consistency in my post updates, but this week I had some guests and natural stresses of life that occur when one has three small children, and blogging was simply pushed to the side. Hopefully now I will be back on track!

Lately I have thought a lot about food.

Food is something everybody needs- without it, we would all die. Unless one relies on the government, none of us gets out of spending at least some money on food. And we will spend this money on food until the day we die.

Even if we grow our own food the cost of seeds, water, fertilizer, etc. add up.

Realizing food would forever be a major part of my budget, I have found many ways to cut costs on food. This has helped me keep my grocery budget at $350/month for a family of 5.

I am going to start a new segment on this blog called "Cheap Eats" to share different organization strategies I use, various recipes, how I shop for groceries, etc. Pretty much if I save money on food, I will share HOW under "Cheap Eats."

Today I will share just a few basic strategies I use to shave my food costs:

1. Couponing
2.  I strive to make at least 2 vegetarian meals a week. Meat is expensive- but beans, rice, and the like cost a fraction of the price of meat.
3. I buy some- but not all (or even most) items in bulk. In a later post I will discuss what items I buy in bulk and which I don't
4. I find ways to use leftover ingredients. For example, I happen to LOVE this Zuppa Toscana soup, and I make it often. But I always wind up with extra kale. So I cook and grind up the kale to use for baby food. Or, I cut it up freeze it to save for the next time I make soup. I'll discuss more about this later.
5. We eat very healthy, but I buy fruits and veggies when they are in season.
6. I make almost all of my food- including bread- from scratch. (I will share some of my favorite bread recipes in a future post!).
7. I make baby food from scratch.
8. We drink water- not a lot of expensive, sugary drinks. We also don't drink alcohol- this saves us a lot of money!
9. I go to the grocery store with a LIST- and I do not deviate. I know exactly what foods I need for all the recipes I am making for the week, and that's what I buy (plus whatever is on sale and for a great price via couponing- a list is crucial to save money on your grocery bill!)
10. I avoid expensive foods- prime rib and lobster tails do not get put on our dinner menu. That doesn't mean we don't eat well- it just means we eat less expensive foods.

And that's my teaser for this new segment! I hope it helps you all save money! If you would like to share how you save money on food, please send me an e-mail or leave a comment!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Money and Love Monday: How Many Tax Deductions Should I Take?

I didn't receive a letter from a reader this week for Money and Love Monday (if you have a question regarding money and love, be sure to e-mail me at eschewingdebt@gmail.com), but I did get into a discussion with a friend about how many deductions she and her husband should take on their taxes.

Here's the situation: She and her husband have 4 kids. She purposely takes zero tax deductions so that she and her husband receive a large tax return every year. She wanted to know my opinion on that strategy.

Most financial planners will tell you to NEVER do that because you are giving the government a tax-free loan. Instead of giving them the loan, it would be better to take that money and put it to work FOR you, instead of for the government.

I agree completely with that logic. If you do not yet invest money into some kind of retirement plan and a college savings plan (if you have kids), then putting that money to work for you is a MUCH better idea than letting the government get it all interest free. If you are looking for money to invest, taking more deductions is a wise way to get extra money every paycheck to start investing (provided, of course, you typically get a nice tax return every year. Don't take more deductions if you usually OWE the government come tax time!).

If, however, you are merely wanting more money to spend on consumer goods, then I think having a "forced savings" in the form of taxes- which you will get back at the beginning of the year- isn't such a bad idea. Perhaps you really want to go on a trip, but once you see money in your checking account you can't help but spend it, then taking fewer deductions so that you will get a big, fat check in April which will fund your trip might be a smart route to take.

I know many of you disagree with that statement.

Many financial experts disagree with that statement.

What I am basically saying is that the answer to this question depends on YOU.

Are you disciplined enough to put that extra money into savings? Or will you merely spend it on junk?

If you will merely spend it on junk, will you be more disciplined with a large amount of money at once? Yes, it will not be earning interest while the government has it. But if you would merely spend it on junk then it wouldn't be earning interest for you anyway- it would be spent on CDs, video games, or the like- and you wouldn't have the money for your dream vacation, either.

I asked my friend why she liked having the large lump sum. She said she liked it because then she could pay off her credit cards.

Hmm.....

This scenario seems rediculous. Not only is she NOT earning interest, but she is PAYING interest on credit cards because she spends more than she earns.

The best solution for her would be to take deductions, receive a little more in her paycheck each month, and PAY OFF HER CREDIT CARD EVERY MONTH.

(ok, let's be honest- the best solution would be to take more deductions, put the extra money into a college fund for her four kids, set up a budget, and CUT UP HER CREDIT CARDS AND BUY EVERYTHING WITH CASH!)

Mr. Eschewing Debt and I take a lot of deductions, but we still seem to always end up with a large tax return. This year the child tax credits really helped us out- and that was an unexpected bonus that we weren't counting on. We enjoy a large tax return, but we did once again up our deductions so that we will have a smaller return next year.

What will we do with that extra money?

Open up a college savings account for our youngest kiddo.

Do you take lots of deductions, or do you like getting a large tax return every year? What's your tax strategy?

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

How Inflation Kills the Middle Class



An interesting article popped up the other day on CNNMONEY: Why America's Middle Class Is Losing Ground.

Normally, I laugh at these articles because I believe we have the power to make individual choices to determine whether we will get into debt to buy useless crap, or live a simple life free from financial worry. I have talked at length on this blog about living simply, avoiding debt, and not wasting money on silly stuff.

But for the first time in 10 years, Mr. Eschewing Debt's annual pay raise does not cover our higher cost of living.

I'm not talking about dance classes and pre-school costs going up. I am talking about essentials that we have to buy: food and health care. (Yes, I know we can argue for hours about whether or not we HAVE to have health care, but with three young kids it is an essential expense in our family and too great a risk not to have).

I mentioned earlier that I had to up my food budget because of higher food costs. Much of the higher costs are due to droughts and other severe weather, and some of the higher costs are a result of inflation. Health care costs can also be attributed to inflation (you can't completely blame Obamacare for that one, because health care costs were skyrocketing before Obamacare anyway).

Right now, the Fed it printing BILLIONS of dollars. In fact, they print about a billion dollars EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.

Monday, March 4, 2013

The Case For Women To Be Financially Independent

Awhile back I discussed the catch-22 of being a stay-at-home mom.

I happen to LOVE staying home with my kids. I have a husband who values and respects my role and treats me as an equal in every way. I have never felt unappreciated or less important than my husband, even though he earns the money in our relationship. In fact, I run the finances in our household and have control of our money.

The older I get, however, the more I realize the importance of women earning their own income.

I don't mean going back to work necessarily, and I certainly don't mean giving up on staying home and raising your children. I certainly have no intention of joining the workforce ever again.

So what do I mean?

I mean women should have some control over the money that comes IN to the household, not just in what goes OUT. Whether you help your husband with his business, open an Etsy shop, do direct sales, baby-sit a couple hours a week, or invest in a rental property, I think all women should have money that they personally earned.

In the past several months I have had many conversations which led me to this conclusion.