Work or Stay Home? 10 (Mostly-Unbiased) Things to Consider

WorkOrStayHome
In my nine years of motherhood, I’ve done several things to generate an extra income.
I’ve worked temporary jobs. I’ve filled in for various small business owners around town when they needed a few days off. I’ve had part time jobs, full time jobs, babysitting gigs, and jobs at my husband’s office.

On top of that work experience, I’ve just spent 12 out of the past 14 months as a 100% stay-at-home mom.

Basically, I’ve been through so many different work experiences and situations that I’ve learned the good, the bad, the ugly, and the awesome about each situation.

Whether you’re thinking about finding a job, are considering working more or less hours at your current occupation, or would like to quit your job altogether, there are a few things to consider:

1) Housework:

Being a working mom is busy. Being a stay-at-home mom is busy, too! One thing I really loved when I worked was that if the house was clean when we left in the mornings, it actually stayed clean all day.

When I stay home, messes are made all day long. On the flip-side, I do have more time to clean, fold laundry, cook from scratch, and complete extra projects when I stay home.

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2) Efficiency:

As someone who used to really struggle with time management, working outside the home forced me to become more efficient with my time. Gone were the days of taking all day to clean the house – I had to learn to keep everything “good enough” in a much shorter amount of time. This is a good thing!

As a stay-at-home mom, I can now keep a clean-enough house, write, and spend plenty of time with my children among other things because of the time-management skills I learned while I was working outside the home.

3) Finances:

Yes, working outside the home helps financially. But not always as much as you might think. Without the cost of work lunches, an office wardrobe, childcare, and extra outside help, my family saves a ton by me staying home. Plus, the small income that I generate with my book business doesn’t hurt, either!

4) Vacations and other extras:

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When I worked, we took more trips. Not only did we have a little more leeway in our budget, but we were so much busier in general that we needed to get away to be able to reconnect and relax as a family.

Now that I stay home, we can all relax and enjoy the evening as a family after Nathan gets home from work because I’m able to take care of the basic necessities during the day.

We still enjoy traveling together but it’s much less frequent and much more frugal than before.

5) Time away:

One thing I really liked about working outside the home was grown-up time on the days I didn’t have my kids with me at the office. Lunch breaks weren’t spent cleaning up spills or sticky faces. Computer work wasn’t interrupted every two minutes with a child needing something.

6) Time with my kids:

When I stay home full time, I’m (obviously) with my kids. All. The. Time. This means that sometimes I feel like I’m going to lose my mind, but it also means that I never have to miss out on their lives.

Every scrape, every tear, every sticky face… they’re all wiped clean by me. And every laugh, every toothless grin, every new skill that’s learned… I’m there for those too.

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7) Safety:

As a stay-at-home homeschool mom, I rarely have to worry about bullies, a care-giver not taking proper care of my children, or other negative influences because I get to choose who my children are with. This is huge for me.

8 ) Intentional Parenting:

There are working moms who maximize every minute they have with their kids and they do a great job. Many stay-at-home moms do that as well!

There are also, unfortunately, working moms who spend their evenings and weekends seeking “me time” and stay-at-home moms who waste their days away with Facebook, Pinterest, TV and books.

Don’t be that mom. You’ll have the whole rest of your life to fritter your days away on electronics but your kids will only be young once.

9 ) Attitudes:

My children are both happier and more well-adjusted when I stay home. And while staying home is not a magic attitude cure, the rules and routines are now much more consistent. And it shows. My quiet child is more cheerful and personable. My wild-one is calmer and more reasonable.

The attitude difference in our children is actually the #1 reason that my husband and I decided to make a few financial sacrifices in order for me to be able to stay home full-time with them.

10) Reevaluations:

If you and your family are really happy with your current situation, great!

But if you’ve been reconsidering your financial and job situation, pray over it. Consult your husband. Talk to friends who have been there. Seek input from your children. Make careful, informed decisions but don’t be afraid to make a change.

Your family will benefit greatly from your willingness to follow where God leads.

What about you? What (respectful) pros and cons do you see to staying home or working outside the home?

Money Management Series

Part One: Can You Afford to be a Stay-At-Home Mom?

Part Two: Work from Home Opportunities, Plus 9 Tips You Must Know.

Part Three: Work or Stay Home? 10 (Mostly-Unbiased) Things to Consider.

Part Four (coming July 28): Question & Answer Session. Submit your financial questions here or ask them in the comments!

{Image courtesy of Sura Nualpradid / FreeDigitalPhotos.net}

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A Note About Friendship and Grace



Have you ever known someone who sees what they want to see instead of noticing what's really there? This thought-provoking article is full of much-needed truths about grace and friendship.

Have you ever noticed that we often see whatever we’re looking for?

The wife who gets annoyed when her husband leaves his things laying around – she sees the 3 items he left out after work but she doesn’t always notice the 7 things he’d put back away.

The child who thinks his parents are too over-protective? He might forget about all the things he is allowed to do. Because sometimes all he wants to think about is the one thing he isn’t allowed.

The mom you think is too permissive? It’s easy to overlook the 20 things she did right today and instead focus on the one time she went too easy on a child who disobeyed.

On the other hand…

When a young woman is dating, she may not notice all of the red flags in a man’s temper because she’s blinded by her infatuation.

Or a mom may ignore the warning signs regarding her child’s sin because she doesn’t want to believe that her child is facing an inward battle.

Without even realizing it, we often see what we want to see, instead of what’s really there.

From now on, let’s choose to see with grace. And with love. But also with reality.

Know that the permissive mom is doing her best. The strict mom is as well. None of us have the perfect balance. We all fall short at times. We all need to receive grace.

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The mom choosing to homeschool? She’s doing the best job she can. The mom who sends her kids to public or private school? She’s doing her best too!

And the mom who chooses to hug her kids and talk lovingly to them when they do wrong – why is that better or worse than the mom who puts a child in time-out? Isn’t it possible that both of those things are good?

Why do different parenting styles have to become a battle? Don’t different children need different things, just as we adults don’t all need the exact same things?

Yes, let’s take the blinders off.

Know that if your friend talks poorly of her other friends to you, then she’s likely talking poorly about you when you’re not there. (If she isn’t yet, then she will when she becomes upset with you.)

But also know that everyone – our friends, our spouses, our children, the stranger at the grocery store – they could all use a little more love and grace.

Let’s love well and extend grace liberally, but also keep sight of reality.

But as you abound in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all diligence, and in your love for us—see that you abound in this grace also.” 2 Corinthians 8:7 (NKJV)

LilyDavonne

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How to Fake a Clean House in Less than 20 Minutes


Need to get a clean house fast? Check out these great tips for making your home ready for company in less than 20 minutes!
Since I regularly write about decluttering, it’s possible that I’m supposed to have all of my alphabetized, color-coded ducks in a perfectly organized row. But the reality is that sometimes (okay, daily) my house gets messy.

And whether someone is stopping by or I just don’t want to stare at a mess, sometimes I want to make my house look really clean, really fast.

I’m guessing that sometimes you need to make your house look clean in a hurry as well, so I’m giving you a few tips on how to speed your way to a clean-looking home!

Here’s how to fake a clean house in less than 20 minutes:

1) Give your kids jobs they like (1 minute)
This is no time to deal with bad attitudes over who has to gather the dirty dishes again. If one kid likes using too many cleaning wipes in the bathroom and the other child enjoys seeing how fast she can vacuum the living room, by all means, let them do those jobs!

Or, if your kids are too young to help, this is a perfect time to turn on a TV show so you can work fast.

2) Focus your time on areas people will see (1 minute)
For example, if your kids’ bedroom will take more than a minute to quickly tidy up, simply close and lock the door! Only spend time focusing on the rooms that will be seen.

Need to fake a clean house in a hurry? Check out these great tips and have a clean-looking home in under 30 minutes!

3) Pile dishes in the sink (3 minutes)
Maybe it’s just me, but I think my kitchen looks a whole lot cleaner when I take two minutes to move dirty dishes from the table and counters to the sink.

This is a great time to quickly gather dishes from other areas of the house and put them in the sink as well. You can even take a few seconds to run a little hot soapy water over the dishes so they can “soak” until you have time to wash them.

4) Gather dirty laundry (2 minutes)
If you have dirty laundry on the floor, quickly gather it and put it in one place (preferably next to your washing machine).

5) Throw trash away (2 minutes)
Take a trash-can around the house with you and stuff trash into it as you go.

6) Wipe counters and the toilet (3 minutes)
If you have multiple bathrooms, just focus on the one that’s most likely to be used. Wipe down the sink and toilet, then wipe the kitchen counters if needed. (I keep these these Clorox wipes on hand for when I need to clean fast.)

7) Tidy with the laundry basket “cheat cleaning” method (4 minutes)
I describe more about how to use the laundry basket cheat cleaning method here. Basically, gather stuff from around the rooms you’re tidying, put all of it in a laundry basket, then shove the basket into a closet or bedroom and close the door.

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8 ) Vacuum the living room (2 minutes)
Nothing says “clean” like a few vacuum lines! Don’t even vacuum the whole living room if you don’t have time – just sweep the big stuff off the floor and consider the job done.

9) Spray air freshener or light a candle (1 minute)
Even if your home isn’t completely clean, it can smell clean which helps it to feel clean!

Total time = 19 minutes. Less if you move really, really fast or if you have helpers!

Bonus Tip: Spend a few minutes on yourself if possible (5 minutes to 15 minutes):
Take a fast shower, brush your teeth, and throw on clean clothes. Or change your shirt, brush your hair and teeth, then put on a little make-up. After-all, most people will spend more time looking at you than they will spend looking at your house.

What about you? How do you fake a clean house in a hurry?

You may also like:

Part 16: How to Keep a Clean (Enough) Home When You’re Really Busy

Part 19: How to Play (Almost) All Day and Still Have a Clean House

{Image courtesy of photostock / FreeDigitalPhotos.net}

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Work from Home Opportunities, Plus 9 Tips You Must Know



Work from Home Opportunities, plus 9 fantastic tips you must know if you're thinking about becoming a Work-At-Home-Mom!
I’ve worked outside the home
. I’ve also stayed home with my kids.

Right now I’m working part-time from home and this is currently a great balance for my family. I first started earning a small income from home at the encouragement of a close friend, and now I want to be that friend to you! Because really, who wouldn’t like to have a few extra dollars in their bank account?

If you’re considering working from home, keep the following tips in mind:

1) Avoid businesses that have a start-up cost.

You do not need to spend hundreds of dollars to begin making money from home! Signing up for oDesk or Elance is completely free. Listing things on Etsy or eBay is also free. Cleaning houses? You guessed it – free!

If you dream of one day having your own craft store, start small by making and selling things from your home first, without the overhead cost of rent or employees. You can save up until you have enough money to open a shop someday if you’d like.

2) Don’t fall for scams.

If something sounds too good to be true, it usually is. And nearly every work-from-home business opportunity that has a start-up cost is a scam. Read this article for really helpful tips about finding legitimate work-from-home opportunities.

3) Do something you enjoy.

If you hate sewing, than starting up an Etsy business probably isn’t for you. On the other hand, if you love to decorate cakes than you might want to look into decorating special occasion cakes on the side.

Maybe you’re not sure what you’d enjoy doing. If that’s the case, think back to your childhood – what did you do for fun? Did you love to garden, scrub windows, write, or bake when you were a kid? Those would be great starting places.

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A birthday cake I was happy to pay someone else to bake and decorate for me!

4) Don’t use friendship as leverage to make money.

Not everyone will agree with me about this point, but I personally really dislike being invited to a “party” only to find out later that I’m expected to buy something while I’m a guest.

If you want to have a party, invite your friends over to hang out, but don’t ask them to spend their hard-earned dollars while they’re there!

5) Be realistic about what you can do.

If you have three kids under the age of four or if you homeschool your seven children, then spending a lot of hours working from home may not be very doable.

Instead, consider a temporary job or a minimal hour work-from-home opportunity if your finances really need a boost. Or focus more on frugal living if you haven’t already. That way you can reduce expenses instead of needing to increase your income.

6) Don’t neglect your most important priorities.

Hands down, the best book I have read about working from home is  Tricia Goyer’s eBook, “Balanced.” In her book, Tricia quotes Sandy Ralya, author of The Beautiful Wife. She says,

“The Lord will never ask you to sacrifice your priorities (your relationship with Him, your husband, and your children) to follow your passion.” Sandy Ralya

7) Set – and keep – regular work hours.

Find good times to work. For many work-at-home moms, ideal work hours are early mornings before the kids are up, in the afternoons during quiet time, and a few evenings a week after the kids are in bed.

My favorite place to work is on my porch!

My favorite place to work is on my porch!

8 ) Stay legal.

If you work for someone else, make sure to fill out tax forms and check to see that taxes are being withheld.

If you choose to go into business for yourself, set-up a separate bank account for your business income and expenses. Reserve money for tax payments. Consult your accountant to find out if (and how) you need to set up an official business.

Track all income and expenses – the fabric you buy so you can sew a skirt to sell on Etsy is coded differently than the coffee you purchase for a potential client. Your accountant can help you to understand the differences, but in the meantime make sure that you’re tracking every penny you earn and spend through your business.

9) Keep a positive attitude.

In spite of the best planning and preparation, sometimes things will just go awry. The kids will have bad attitudes (sometimes you will too), the house will be a mess, and work deadlines will be looming.

When that happens choose to regroup and complete a home blessing hour if possible, then give the kids a snack and turn on a movie so you can have some time to focus.

Bonus Tips:

Update your resume. It may come in handy when you’re applying for different opportunities!

Always be willing to learn and grow. Listen to advice from others. Whether you’re a writer, chef, seamstress, programmer, or medical transcriptionist, continually work to improve in your field.

Six work-from-Home Job Ideas:

1) Write and publish an eBook.

I wrote about writing and publishing an eBook here and here.

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My 2nd eBook is FREE to subscribers!

2) Become a medical transcriptionist.

Ask friends who work in a doctor’s office or visit doctors offices in your area. Read more about how to get started as a medical transcriptionist here.

3) Be a Book Keeper.

Many offices have a remote employee who does billing and book-keeping. If this is something you’re comfortable doing, ask around.

4) Become a Virtual Assistant.

Amy Lynn Andrews (author of Tell Your Time) has a really helpful post about how to become a virtual assistant.

5) Clean Homes or Offices.

My mom did this for a few years when I was growing up and the income and flexible schedule were a blessing to our family! I helped her on occasion and it was a great learning opportunity for me as well. Details about getting started house cleaning are here.

6) Work on oDesk or Elance.

If you like to write, edit, or design, then signing up for oDesk or Elance may be a great way for you to get started in those fields.

Let’s Close with Advice from the Work-at-Home Experts:

Anita Fowler from Live Like You Are Rich has an amazing series about earning money as a stay-at-home mom. Anita isn’t just giving generic ideas, either – she’s actually interviewing women who are doing those jobs so that she can get the how-to scoop for her readers!

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So far Anita has ten different work-from-home opportunities listed and she’s planning to update her page weekly until she has about 25 different jobs posted. (She even featured ME in two of her articles!) I particularly love the advice Alison Moore Smith gives in Part Two of Anita’s series:

“Find something you genuinely like to do — and perhaps would do just for fun — and find a way to make money at it.” Alison Moore Smith

If you’d like even more income-earning ideas, check out some of the articles from Crystal Paine of Money Saving Mom. She has a plethora of income-earning ideas as well as an entire series on 31 Ways to Earn Extra Cash Before Christmas (which has great ideas and tips for any time of year!).

What tips or ideas do you have about working from home?

Money Management Series

Part One: Can You Afford to be a Stay-At-Home Mom?

Part Two: Work from Home Opportunities, Plus 9 Tips You Must Know.

Part Three (coming July 21): Work or Stay Home? The Pros & Cons of Each.

Part Four (coming July 28): Question & Answer Session. Submit your financial questions here or ask them in the comments!

{Image courtesy of Michael Elliott / FreeDigitalPhotos.net}

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12 Ways to Help Your Daughter Have a Healthy Body-Image



Girls and Body Image: 12 ways to help your daughter develop a healthy body-image. Inspiring MUST READ for every mom of girls! In a culture where the sexualization of women not only abounds, but is also glorified, it can be difficult for girls not to compare themselves to other females. In doing so, many will feel that they just don’t measure up.

And while we may not be able to completely prevent every single body-image issue from occurring, there are several things we can do to significantly help our girls to grow up to become confident woman who are comfortable in their own skin.

1) Remember that you are your daughter’s most significant body-image role model.

If you weigh yourself daily, place your worth in what you eat, and compare yourself to other women, then chances are that your daughter will too.

On the other hand, if you model a gentle spirit and a healthy view of body image, as well as carefully guide your daughter to do the same, then she’s much more likely to have a healthy view of herself as well.

“Do not let your adornment be merely outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel— rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.” 1 Peter 3:3-4 (NKJV)

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2) Don’t speak negatively about physical appearance.

If you talk about other people’s looks negatively, then your daughter will probably learn to think of outward appearances, including her own, in a negative manner.

When you hear someone speaking badly about someone else’s looks, don’t join in the bashing. Just say something like, “I think she looks great,” and change the subject. Chances are that your daughter is hearing your response to more of these conversations than you realize.

3) Refrain from “rating” people.

Never tell your daughter something like, “You’re chubbier than most of the girls in your class.” On the flip-side, don’t say things like, “You’re the prettiest girl in the room,” either. Both types of comments will teach her to compare herself to others.

4) Notice differences positively.

I have one daughter who really notices cultural differences in appearance. I never want to ignore her observations or pretend that everyone is the same – instead, I want to teach my children to appreciate everyone’s uniqueness.

So I believe that it’s okay talk about our differences in a positive way. Here are a few examples of my responses to her:

  • “Yes, I do love that girl’s curly black hair! And I love your straight blonde hair, too. God made everyone so beautiful!”
  • “Yes, that little boy’s skin does look different from his parents. They are a really cute family, aren’t they?!”
  • “I’m so glad you like dark skin, because it’s beautiful. But your light skin is really beautiful too, so please don’t use the sharpie to try to match your doll – wear your matching outfits instead!”

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5) Don’t tease about how much she eats.

“Wow, you must be hungry today! Would you like some more vegetables?” is fine. Someone at the table teasingly calling her a piggy is not fine.

6) Keep the TV off and beauty magazines out of the house.

Not only do inappropriate images tempt the males in the house, but those same images are also having a large influence over what our daughters consider beautiful. It’s a lose-lose situation and one that isn’t worth the cost.

7) Remember that actions speak louder than words.

Even if you’re not speaking negatively about yourself, if you spend hours working on your physical appearance every day then you’re showing your daughter that you don’t think your natural beauty is good enough. This will filter down into how she feels about herself.

If you do get carried away about your looks, recognize your mistake and use that as a teaching opportunity (like I did when I got my disastrous spray-tan)! SprayTan

8 ) Model emotionally-healthy behavior.

If you turn to food when you’re stressed, your daughter might too. If you weigh yourself twice daily, your daughter will probably become overly concerned about her own weight.

On the other hand, if you find joy in exercising for 30 minutes a few days a week, drinking plenty of water, and grabbing an apple or banana to munch on when you need a snack, then your daughter will probably want to practice those behaviors as well.

9) Choose to enjoy preparing and eating healthy foods.

Bake some fish or grill a chicken for dinner. Drizzle a little chocolate on sliced fruit for a healthy dessert. Experiment with fruit smoothie recipes. Cook breakfast on occasion. Talk about food choices – not because of a “size” issue but because, “God made our bodies and it feels so good to be healthy.”

And when you do have the occasional dessert together? Enjoy it with zero guilt!

10) Exercise with your daughter.

Get active outside by playing a backyard sport, riding bikes, going for a jog, swimming, or even doing yard work. Complete an exercise video or play a work-out game on the Wii when you can’t go outside.

Don’t talk about how much you’re hoping to lose an extra 20 pounds. Do talk about how great it feels to be able to stay active and healthy, and how blessed you are to have legs that can carry you places. WP_20140613_007

11) Talk to your daughter about growing up.

I know this can be uncomfortable, but do it early and do it often. Use a book for help if you need to. I personally love “The Body Book (The Lily Series)” by Nancy Rue for pre-teens. For a teen, find a purity book about dating and marriage.

Don’t just tell your daughter to let you know if she has questions and then give her a book to read on her own – chances are that she won’t ask. Take the time to actually read a growing-up book out loud together so that you can be there to discuss topics as they arise.

By doing this, you’re showing your daughter that you’re a safe person to talk to about growing-up issues, which will help her to talk openly to you about other things as well.

12) When your daughter does develop a body-image issue, don’t dismiss her concerns.

Listen to her. And gently help. Is she upset because all of her pants have gotten too tight? Let her know that’s a completely normal part of growing up then take her shopping for a new pair of jeans. Is she self-conscious about the zits dotting her face? Tell her she’s beautiful, then look up natural acne remedies online and help her try a few out.

Maybe she’s overweight and is concerned about that, not only because of appearance, but for health reasons as well. Don’t lie to her. Do tell her she’s beautiful and invite her to exercise with you if you haven’t already done so. Buy her a pretty water bottle and experiment with putting slices of different types of citrus fruit in her water. Find joy in trying new healthy recipes together. Show her that being healthy can be fun! Water Bottles

In Conclusion

Show your daughter, through example and by your words, that health and beauty aren’t about shape, size, crash diets, shiny hair, or expensive make-up. Quite the opposite – being healthy is about loving ourselves enough to take care of our bodies, and even more importantly, it’s about learning and growing as a person.

Because true beauty comes from within, and radiates out.

“I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well.” Psalm 139:14 (NKJV)

What about you? What tips do you have for helping our daughters develop healthy body images?

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Can You Afford to be a Stay-at-Home Mom?



5 ways I saved $1,000 per month just by quitting my job and how you can too. No coupon clipping required!

I always wanted to be a 100% stay-at-home mom. But, like many families, money was a little tight so I made the decision to work for a season.

I’m currently back to being a stay-at-home mom again and here’s where my family saves:

1) Food.

When I started staying home full time, I was able to cook more so we spent less money on convenience foods and restaurant meals. Even so, I was still shocked to find that without trying, our grocery & eating-out budget dropped by over $300 per month.

I’m sure that if I clipped coupons or shopped sales, I’d save even more.

2) Gas.

Obviously, if I’m not driving to and from work, a sitter’s, etc. then I’m saving money in gas. Many families are able to get rid of a car when one spouse stays home, thus saving even more.

3) Childcare/other outside help.

I didn’t pay much in childcare because my mother-in-law babysat or I’d take the girls with me to work (a benefit of being married to my boss!). But we did have a mother’s helper come one day a week for two solid years to help with schoolwork and cleaning.

Nathan and I had also discussed hiring out for laundry or yard-work. Staying home negates the need – and expense – for all of those things.

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4) Clothes.

Whether I’m at the office or in my home, I do want to look nice. But when I’m home I can get away with wearing a smaller – and less expensive – variety of clothing than I could otherwise.

5) Things for my children.

It’s not fun to admit, but I often felt guilty about working. And while I didn’t spend a ton on my kids, I would buy them an occasional “treat” to help appease my guilt. Or I’d take them somewhere fun in the evening or on weekends since I wasn’t with them during the day. Now, we find frugal or free things to do and they agree that it’s a worthwhile sacrifice we make in order to be able to stay home together.

The bottom line, financially speaking?

Without even trying, my family trimmed our budget by $1,000 a month just by me no longer working. Once we started trying, we saved even more! And this was without the cost of childcare – that alone could have easily added an extra $1,000 to our monthly expenses.

Do the math.

For a mom who makes $2,000 per month, that’s $461.53 per week or $11.53 per hour for a 40-hour work week. After subtracting 15% (or $69.23 each week) for taxes, that brings the weekly total down to $392.30 which adds up to $1,699.96 per month.

Then take a very low work-related expense estimate of $1,000 from the $1,699.96 earned per month, and that leaves the take-home profit at $699.96 per month or $161.53 per week. For a 40 hour work-week that would bring the $11.53 earned per hour down to a total profit of $4.03 per hour.

If you’d like to stay home but don’t aren’t sure that you can afford it, really look at your budget. How much would you save in food if you weren’t buying restaurant meals or prepackaged food on a regular basis? What about childcare? Gas money? I gave you an example to help you get started, but don’t just leave it at that. Do the math with your own numbers and figure out exactly how much you’re profiting per hour.

And then decide: Is your time worth more than that to you?

For my family, the small profit I made simply wasn’t worth the strain it put on all of us.

So we decided to cut back. We currently don’t take expensive vacations, we rarely eat in restaurants, we definitely don’t drive fancy cars (our newest vehicle is 13 years old!), and we only go to the movie theater about twice a year. Yes, staying home can be hard. Yes, I regularly need an hour-long break. And yes, sometimes I think it’d be nice to have more money in the bank.

But we have enough. And we’re together. That’s well-worth any financial sacrifice we need to make.

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Money Management Series

Part One: Can You Afford to be a Stay-At-Home Mom?

Part Two: Work from Home Opportunities, Plus 9 Tips You Must Know

Part Three (coming July 21): Work or Stay Home… The Pros & Cons of Each.

Part Four (coming July 28): Question & Answer Session. E-mail your money-management questions here or ask them in the comments!

CanYouAffordToStayHome{Image courtesy of lkunl / FreeDigitalPhotos.net}

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A Dozen Frugal and Easy 4th of July Ideas (Guest Post)

Celebrate4th

I’m thrilled to have a 4th of July article on my friend Misty’s blog today! If you’re a super crafty, Pinterest-making kind of person, this guest post may not be for you. But if you’re looking for a few ridiculously easy Independence Day ideas, then you’ve come to the right place! Here’s a peek:

2)      Food: Main dish

Grill (or bake) some chicken. It’s white. Plus you won’t have to deal with buns or condiments.
Bonus if you slap some barbeque sauce on the chicken for an even more festive look!

10)  Find Independence Day information online.

If you don’t have any 4th of July books, don’t stress. There’s so much information online that you can just print out a fact sheet to read with your kids. Like this article for younger kids or this article for upper-elementary children.

Go here to read my other 10 simple and frugal Independence Day ideas!

A bonus idea is to listen to Patriotic music! Check out this free 4th of July Station on Pandora or this free Patriotic downloadable CD on Amazon. Several of your local radio stations will probably also play patriotic music on the 4th.

I want to offer a special thank-you to our service men and women who sacrifice so we can maintain some freedoms.

Happy Independence Day!

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6 Things I Learned from a Disastrous Spray Tan

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I love the look of a sun-kissed glow but I don’t want to damage my skin.
So even though I haven’t been to a tanning bed in several years,  this spring I decided to go in for a spray tan. I told the girl who was helping me that I wanted a light, very natural looking tan. I came out looking like this:

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I drove home and sneaked into my basement
so Lily and Grace wouldn’t see me. Then I texted a photo of my “new look” to my mom and told her I was supposed to wait 8 hours before rinsing off. She replied, “Go take a shower. NOW.”

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In spite of washing the tan down the drain less than an hour after my appointment, I was still very dark and my daughters definitely noticed. I recognized that I had a great opportunity to teach my children from my experience.

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Here are the things we discussed:

1) All skin colors are beautiful, like a rainbow.
If everyone with dark skin tried to took lighter and if everyone with light skin tried to look darker, we’d all look the same and that would be boring!

2) Vanity takes way too much time.
I’d spent the previous evening away from my family just so I could get a spray-tan. Nathan and the girls had a great time together but those moments that I missed out on are ones I can’t get back.

3) Looking similar to family members is fun.
Lily, Grace and I have blonde hair. Both girls have the same eye color as Nathan. In other words, the four of us look like a family. Of course, if we had adopted children who look different than us, we’d find the fun in that. But since our children are biological, we can enjoy looking similar!

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4) Not liking how we look is basically saying that God didn’t do a good enough job when He created us.
God, the giver of life, the creator of beauty… He chose our looks. And when we try to change our outward appearance, we’re basically saying that He didn’t do a good enough job so we’re taking matters into our own hands.

“For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well.” Psalm 139:13-14

5) There’s a balance to spending time on outward beauty.
We don’t want to look frumpy in junky clothes and un-brushed hair. And there’s nothing wrong with wearing a little make-up or painting nails a fun color. Staying active and eating healthy foods are definitely good things to do as well.

But when we spend hours each day working on our physical appearance, we’re focusing too much on what the outside looks like and too little on cultivating our unique inner beauty.

“Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing, But a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.” Proverbs 31:30 (NKJV)

6) Who gets to define beauty, anyways?
Who gets to decide that pale skin isn’t beautiful? Or that gray hair isn’t lovely? Who decided what hair color is “in-style” or what body shape is the best? Why can’t all of that be beautiful?

The older women in my church who are aging gracefully and letting their wrinkles and gray hair show are beautiful! My grandmother, full of love and laughter and apple pie, was beautiful!

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And you? You’re God’s incredible handiwork. Treasure the uniqueness of how you look, but don’t focus too much on your outward appearance – choose instead to cultivate your inward beauty. At the end of the day, that’s what will shine through.

“Do not let your adornment be merely outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel— rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.” 1 Peter 3:3-4

{Image courtesy of Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net}

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Top Ten Fun and Frugal Summer Learning Activities (Guest Post)

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Have you had a chance to check out The Homeschool Post yet? Even if you don’t homeschool, there are a ton of great ideas about activities and summer learning fun! Like my recent guest post. (Have I mentioned that I am SO excited to be guest-posting on other blogs?!)

Here’s a snippet:

One thing I love about summer is how much time my kids have to learn without their textbooks. I recently wrote an article that includes tips for planning a fabulous summer and today I want to share some of our favorite summer learning activities:

Go to the library.
Many libraries have a plethora of activities and opportunities all year, but especially during the summer. Take advantage of this if you can!

Use the memberships you have.
Did you buy a zoo or museum membership that you haven’t gotten much use out of? Visit the location this summer!

Volunteer at local farms.
I recently posted a comment on a local homeschool Facebook page offering to volunteer at farms in the area and I had a few great responses.

Since then, we’ve cleaned out chicken coops and gathered eggs, mucked horse stalls, visited with dozens of animals, bottle-fed baby goats, and learned about farm life in general…

Fun & Frugal Summer Learning at the Farm @hsbapost

Click here to read my other seven fun and frugal summer learning ideas!

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Five games to play with a water hose

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My kids and I were in our backyard earlier
this week and it was hot. I had planned to work on my laptop while the girls played, but I couldn’t take the heat (and I love hot weather!). So I quickly finished a project, sent it off, set my computer inside, and turned on the hose!

We needed to do something to cool off and none of us wanted to spend time or energy putting activities together. So, with just the help of a water hose, here’s what we came up with:

1) Tag, you’re it (or as Grace likes to say, “Tag, carrot”)

This is similar to regular tag, but the person who’s “it” has to spray someone else with the hose. Whoever gets sprayed becomes the new “it” person. In slightly cooler weather the game may be a bit more challenging, but we were all running through the hose spray on purpose just to cool down!

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2) Limbo

This is my favorite water-hose game! One person holds the hose, and the spray becomes the limbo bar. The first one to get water in their face loses and becomes the hose-holder. The youngest family members usually have a great advantage over older siblings in this game!

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3) “Sand” castles

We have a large dirt spot in the corner of our yard because Grace loves to dig there – and we don’t mind letting her! She used the hose to moisten her dirt spot so her and Lily could make dirt castles with their hands! No biggie – by the time we went inside, they were really well rinsed from the other hose games :)

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4) Sprinkler

This game was born out of sheer laziness on my part. I didn’t want to hook up the sprinkler. So I just held my thumb over the nozzle of the hose to make it spray like a sprinkler and the girls ran through.

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5) Cold water contest

One person sprays water over someone’s back until that person jumps away. I’m a wimp at getting sprayed with cold water so the girls were thrilled when I lost, shrieking and jumping out of the spray, in about half a second!

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Bonus Idea: Give your kids a bucket of soapy water and some sponges along with their hose, then let them clean whatever they want! Cars, bikes, the house, their outdoor toys… once I even let one daughter shower in the hose in her bathing suit. Summer bliss!

Special Note: After writing these ideas, Monica’s new post directed me towards an article that really captured my heart in why I’ve committed to slowing down and enjoying simplicity and nature with my children.

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How does your family stay cool in the summer-time?

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