I Love Amazon Subscribe and Save

I mentioned that I order a lot of household goods and toiletries from Amazon. I use the subscribe and save feature. Basically, the way it works is you subscribe to have items automatically delivered to you at a discounted rate. It is perfect for things like diapers, wipes, detergent, toothpaste, deodorant, etc. You can set the frequency you would like to have items delivered, and if you need something sooner than your mail out date, you can bump up the order by clicking need more right away feature.

I'm always tweaking my subscribe and save account to suit our needs, adding items and canceling subscriptions. Sometimes Amazon quits offering an item you subscribe to. The system is always a work in progress.

But it sure beats running to the drug store at 9pm for toilet paper. I love the convenience of having diapers sent every month. I don't have to think "oh, we need diapers." I love not thinking.

I'm all about less decision making and fewer errands. It helps me so much to put a few things on autopilot in my life.

Is it cheaper?

Yes, I think it is. Granted, I don't buy everything using the subscribe and save method. Recently, I cancelled toilet paper because Costco has the better deal.

Anyway, hope that answers any questions out there!


How Much Should a Family of 5 Spend on Groceries?

A few of you have asked me via e-mail and in person "how much should a family of 4-5 people spend on groceries?"

Well, it depends. There is not a one-size fits all number. Every family has a different income, different tastes, and different standards of variety, health, and convenience.

That being said, I think between $500-$700 is a good starting point. Some of you may think that's ridiculously high, and some of you may think it's low. I find this amount to be challenging, yet large enough that I'm not stressed. If you are in a season where money is really tight, you can certainly make it (and eat well) on the low end of this range. It may take a little more time and effort, but it may be totally worth it to meet other financial obligations and live within your means.

*About $20 per person per week is the number I consistently read about.

I used to try and get our grocery budget super low and I ended up really stressed. I got to a point where it was not a good use of my time and energy......to shop at 4 different stores, cook everything from scratch, coupon, etc. I came to the realization that I could only go so low. We had to eat.

If you don't know where to begin or how much to budget for groceries, save your receipts for a couple of months and average how much you are spending. Give yourself some wiggle room. Budget a little more than you think you'll need. Over time, you can work on ways to reduce your grocery spending.

I find that summer food cost more than winter food. Fresh produce and grilled meats are costlier than the soups and stews I make in winter. We spend more in months with birthdays, holidays, and other special occasions. There is not a fixed number that applies to every month. Some months, my freezer is packed and other months we run out of all our staples at the same time. Having a mind set that our grocery budget is fluid and ever changing helps me adjusts with the changes that life brings.

Also, I think it's helpful to clearly define what falls under the umbrella of "grocery budget." I like to keep it clean and spend my grocery cash on just food. My grocery budget does not include diapers, toiletries, cleaners, and other household items. I order most of that stuff from Amazon. And if I have to pick up something like a household cleaner at the grocery store, I'm not afraid to run two transactions so I don't dip into my grocery cash. I go back and forth whether on not to include alcohol as a "grocery."

My biggest tip:

Meal plan. Just do it. Don't over analyze. Even a bad plan is better than no plan.

That saves me more money than anything else I do.

By the way, I don't coupon. I just don't.

A couple of good links on the subject.

How Much Should We Spend on Groceries Each Week
Family Finance: How to Save Money on Groceries

This book, Miserly Moms: Living Well on Less in a Tough Economy. I have not read it, but I heard the author interviewed and she had some awesome tips on grocery savings.



Evening Routine

I read a lot of books and blogs about time and home management. They inspire me. One consistency I find in these resources is the importance of having a morning and evening routine.

Some people are naturally routine oriented. I am not. I have to work hard at bringing order into my life.

Also, it's no surprise that life mothering three young children can quickly get out of control. I find that in order to thrive, I have to err on the side of more structure and routine than naturally suits my personality.

Our morning routine is still a bit sketchy because my children are such early risers. I'm usually in the throws of parenting in the wee hours. (As I type, there is a squirmy George in my lap. It's 6:04 am - and he slept in today!)

My evening routine is much more established. I love it, and since consistently practicing, it is amazing the order and peace it has brought to my days. I especially love my routine by the lights of the Christmas tree!

Evening routine

*wash George's highchair tray - because there is nothing worse that having to do this in the morning.

*prepare the coffee

*load/run dishwasher - I'm down to one load a day since I use paper plates for breakfast and lunch.

*kids to bed- pajamas, brush teeth, books

*15 minute tidy

*relax, get on computer, watch television with husband

*screens off at 9pm - I find that I'm very sensitive to screen time right before bed, and it is so much easier to fall asleep if I cut all screens off 1 hour before I try to fall asleep.

*address bathing needs (Typically, evenings are when I get a shower.)

*make a few notes about the next day, write a to-do list

*get in bed, read

Of course, like all of life, it's not perfect. I don't always follow this routine in the order listed above. But when things get crazy, I come back to this simple orderly way...and all is right with the world.

Do you have a morning and evening routine?


Here are a few of my favorite books about time/life management.....

One Bite at a Time by Tsh Oxenreider

Destination Simple: Rituals and Rhythms to Simply Daily Life by Brooke McAlary

Say Goodbye to Survival Mode by Crystal Paine
*will be released Jan 21, 2014


Easy Bacon Wrapped Chicken

My sister-in-law and I were visiting over Thanksgiving about what we were making for dinner these days. I confess, I'm a little burned out in the dinner department. I love food, but the constant-ness of the thinking/planning/shopping leaves me feeling ....um, tired.

An easy, healthful, go-to meal at our house is like the one pictured below- some sort of protein and roasted vegetables.

 Easy Bacon Wrapped Chicken

3 chicken breast (cut in half)
wrap each piece of chicken in a strip of bacon

bake for 30 minutes on 350-375 degrees

serves 4-6


I'm trying out Plan to Eat, a system where you plug in your recipes, create a menu calendar, and then you do some dragging and clicking, and it makes your grocery lists for you. I did a free trial, and I loved it.

This cookbook, Keepers, caught my eye.

Lately, when meal planning, I give myself a pep talk....

"don't over analyze it"
"it's not rocket science"
"it doesn't have to be perfect"

or "just do it"

Sometimes I'll even jot these words at the top of my menu/grocery list.


Reader Question: Staying Organized with Spending

A reader sent me this question in an e-mail....

My problem is that I get disorganized and that's when I spend.  By nature, I love to organize, but as you well know life with 3 small kids is chaotic and exhausting.  So, tell me your plan.  Do you do the envelopes?  Do you pay cash for gas? Do you order anything online?  Any suggestions would be appreciated :)

First I must confess, I have yet to perfectly execute my budget.... EVER. Things come up. Life is unpredictable and staying perfectly organized is a real challenge.

When it comes to organization and spending, I believe it is important to understand that maintaining your budget is ongoing. You can't set it and forget it. Checking in every couple of days (or everyday) is the only way to know your standing and stay organized. If you are really in a mess, make it your hobby. Work at it like you would a part time job.

I mentioned in a previous post that I only do the envelope system for groceries. I put gas on the debit card. I order tons of stuff online and work work work to keep up with it all by writing it down on a piece of notebook paper. (There are so many wonderful apps out there that track your spending. I just love paper!)

Here are some other tricks I've learned to stay organized with my spending (with three small children). I'm writing to you, but by you I mean ME.

-Stay organized in general.  If I know what I have, then I know what I need to buy or if I have an excess supply. A few years ago I did a complete overhaul of all our belongings. I sorted, organized, threw away, and gave away so much stuff we didn't need, stuff that was weighing me down in our 1950's built home with tiny storage spaces. I try to have a big clean out once a year, usually in January.

-Automatic draft. I put as many bills as I can on automatic draft. This saves me time, postage, and brain power.

-Plan ahead (for everything). This has been my mantra lately....plan ahead, be prepared. Plan your meals so you don't run out of food and order out. Plan for birthdays and holidays, so you aren't running around last minute buying gifts. Stay stocked on toilet paper, diapers, wipes, so you aren't forced to make an emergency purchase at the most expensive but convenient store. This has been an area I have learned the hard way after many desperate trips for last minute costly items. I have learned to keep inventory and keep us stocked up on supplies. I love subscribe and save on Amazon.

-Allow for an occasional splurge. Designer jeans, good wine, Aveda shampoo, a meal out. Those are just a few areas I (we) splurge on occasionally. Unless things are super tight, there is room for luxury in your life without being overindulgent. Budgeting is not about depriving yourself, but being about being responsible. There is freedom in the fence. Planned splurges are good because they allow you to have a little fun without blowing your plan and making you feel like you've failed.

-Give yourself a limit. This is obvious, but let's just look at an example. Say you love children's clothes. So do the math and ask yourself how much can you can afford to spend on children's clothing while meeting all other financial goals, priorities, and staying out of debt. You may be able to budget enough money each month to fully fund your children's adorable wardrobes.

On the other hand, maybe that number is not as high as you would like it to be. Maybe this is a source of tension between you and your spouse. Put a number on it and either find freedom in the parameters of you budget or find a way to buy less expensive clothing (consigning, eBay, hand me downs from friends). If you have an area of weakness then this may be an area for splurging or an area where you need more self control or a combination of both. It's tricky. But do the math and spare yourself the guilt that comes with impulse buying.

-Make time. If you feel disorganized financially and don't have time to deal with your budget - if you are struggling to meet your goals - or you're arguing with your spouse, then change something. Take something off your plate and make room in your life to deal with your money on a regular basis. Hold a family budget review meeting every week and serve cake! Make time. Set an alarm to remind yourself. Sip on your favorite drink every afternoon and get out your calculator. Just do it. The goal is peace not drudgery.

-Learn to be content with simple things. Acquire a taste for good books, a cup of tea, a walk on a pretty day, time with good friends. Invest in relationships, not stuff. That's my advice to myself and anybody with young children. Parenting is tough. Let us learn to not fret.

I'm reading an advanced copy of a great book right now, and I came across this quote.....

Wealth consist not in having great possessions but in having few wants.- Epictetus

I wish I would have come up with that....

So how do you stay organized with your spending?


Our Getting Out of Debt Story
Budgeting: The Heart Issues and Whys
Creating Our Budget


Make Life Easier: Use Paper Plates

I started using paper plates for breakfast and lunch. My mom mentioned the idea in passing one day. And boy is it a game changer.

Since having George, my 3rd baby, I have been desperate for anything that will make the housework load lighter. I've been analyzing and trying to come up with short cuts and no fuss ways of dealing with everyday routines.

Paper plates (and bowls) save my sanity. The dishwasher gets run less, and I believe the cost evens out because I'm using less water, energy, and dishwasher detergent. And I'm saving hundreds on prescription meds and therapy.

We eat on real plates for dinner, but for breakfast and lunch you will find me grinning over a paper plate meal.

I know this is not rocket science but it is just one of those little things.

This particular breakfast was inspired by Laura Merrill's sausage and egg scramble. A ham scramble. Yum and yum.

What are your household shortcuts?

What are your favorite breakfasts? 


Last week I shared my towel strategy that saves me a ton of laundry.


My Babies + Some Links

Here are some of the pictures taken by my talented friend. I love how they turned out, and I LOVE my precious babies!

Praise Jesus. My heart hurts over these sweet gifts.


One thing they never tell you about child raising is that for the rest of your life, at the drop of a hat, you are expected to know your child's name and how old he or she is. - Erma Bombeck

Ha ha....that's me. I have no idea what year any of my children were born.


Recently we cancelled our subscription to Netflix and started using Amazon Prime to stream everything we watch. Amazon Prime has re-runs of Mr. Rodgers (which is one of the main reasons we switched). My children love it, and I do too. It's the only kid show I truly enjoy watching with them.


A friend texted me this morning and asked what kinds of table foods George is eating these days since we have children the same age. He is almost one. I responded....

"Rotisserie chicken, peas, potatoes, chili, bits of cheese, turkey sandwich cut up, peanut butter sandwich, grits, eggs, pasta, green beans, cooked carrots...and one time he had salmon with pesto and and green beans and loved it. My other two never ate such a varied diet, but ain't nobody got time to cook for just George. He basically eats what we eat cup up into little bites."

I can also add....enchilada, broccoli, chicken salad, pork chop, and blueberry pancakes.

I highly recommend the book French Kids Eat Everything. It was a real game changer for me in the kid feeding department.


Some good blog reads....

Why Georgia Luisa almost didn't happen
What to Do When You Can't Get Anything Done


I've decided that Petit Ami is my favorite brand of children's clothing. Classic. I've had great luck finding some deals on eBay lately.


Enjoy your Tuesday, friends.

One thing they never tell you about child raising is that for the rest of your life, at the drop of a hat, you are expected to know your child’s name and how old he or she is.
Read more at http://domesticexecutiveonline.com/2012/05/motherhood-as-defined-by-erma-bombeck-quotes/#rmHqO8bV4mhiClRQ.99


Creating Our Budget

Because some of you asked, today I'm sharing how I create our budget! I love your questions. Thank you.

Every month I take a sheet of notebook paper and a pencil, and I write down all our expenses. I make it as detailed as possible and take into account all the variances that happen month to month.

house payment
household items/toiletries 
health insurance
doctor visit co-pay
Laurie's asthma meds
Pilates Anytime subscription
preschool tuition
school pictures

 I always it run it by Stephen and he "signs off" on it.

Once I've listed each category, I write the amount of money I estimate we will spend for that category. For example, school pictures were in October, so I created a school picture category and estimated that they would cost $30. Once I actually spend the money, pay the bill, etc. I write the actual cost down and then I highlight it when it clears the bank.

I always make a category for unspent money, also known as blow money. This is my buffer category. It covers things like baby gifts, fair tickets, babysitting, spontaneous dinners out, unexpected doctor visit. This category allows for a little spontaneity because life is unpredictable. It is my budgeted margin. There have been seasons when this category has been non existent, small as $30, and other times when we have been able to bump it up to a few hundred.

I use the cash envelope system only for groceries, and I operate on a monthly basis. I take out all the cash I need for groceries for the entire month. So that I'm not carrying around so much cash, I only take the amount I need for that individual shopping trip. This cash is only for food items. Often I run two transactions if I'm picking up something extra like dishwasher detergent or school supplies.

Because I have 3 small children, I don't go to  clothing or general stores very often, and I do most of my shopping online. To keep up with all my purchases, I save my e-mailed receipts and simply keep a record of what I spend. In pencil, on paper. Say I spend $20 at Gap, then I write (Gap $20) next to the clothes category.

When I have spent all the allotted money for a certain category, that's it.

Every couple of days I have a "budget review." I sit down with my written budget and get online to look at my bank account and I update/make changes/review the budget. If I need to get Stephen involved then I do, but usually there are only small scale changes that he trusts me to handle. It really only takes a few minutes every couple of days.

This is what works for me, but there are so many ways to keep up with your expenses. I'm sure there are hundreds of apps and computer programs out there. I just happen to prefer paper, and it's the way I've always done it.

It's not so much how you do it but that you do it.

One tip for practicing self control is don't keep extra money in your checking account. For example, say $1000 covers all your monthly expenses, including your blow money/buffer category. Only put that amount in your checking account. You are less likely to impulse buy if you literally don't have the money available in your checking account.

It's a process and often it takes several months to get the hang of it. (It's taken me years!) But don't give up. Each month, little by little adjust, tweak, and experiment until it works for you. Your budget is a tool to help you and to liberate you. It's not about depriving yourself but about being responsible.

In my next personal finance post, I will share a reader question and some tips for staying organized with spending amidst the chaos of having young children. Keep your questions coming!

Our Getting Out of Debt Story
Budgeting: Heart Issues and Whys


Perfect Pumpkin Bread

1 cup vegetable oil
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
3 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup water
14-16 oz can of pumpkin

Mix oil, sugar, and eggs together, then flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and baking soda. Next pour in water. And last but not least pumpkin!

It makes 2 loaves.

Pour into 2 greased loaf pans and bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour and 10 minutes....until you can stick a knife in it and have it come out clean.

Have a wonderful weekend!


Little Ways to Save Money (and Time): Kids Lunches

One of the little ways I save money on my kids school lunches is I send them water to drink instead of Capri Suns or juice boxes. I bought these water bottles in the dollar bin at Target a few years ago.

I calculated that I pack 100 plus lunches a year X 2 kids. That's approximately 200 lunches.

Hypothetically, say I buy 7 packs of juice boxes or Capri suns with 32 per package.

7 packs X 32 = 224 drinks

Let's say I pay a minimum $10 (average guess) per package. That's $70/year (7 packs X $10)  on juice! And in reality it would probably be more because once these juices are in the house, it's hard to have self control and not drink them at home. 

Of course my children prefer juice to water. But about a year and a half ago I made it my life's mission to get my kids off of juice. It took about three days of hard core training, but it worked and now they will drink water.

If I start to feel like I'm depriving them, I remind myself what a luxury it is to have clean, running water. And if my kids complain (which they never have), I will be happy to remind them as well.


Another thing I just started doing with lunches to save time is I make several days worth of sandwiches at once.

For example, on Sunday evening when I'm preparing for the week, I go ahead and make 11 sandwiches (5 for my husband, and 3 a piece for my kids). The sandwiches keep well in the refrigerator for several days.

It's so nice to avoid the cumbersome process of getting out all the sandwich stuff 3-5 times a week.
got to love a photo bomber 

I love it when I can figure out a way to be more efficient!

Now as for creativity and lunches, I've got nothing for you. Sandwich, pretzels, fruit, and water is what you get at my house. Occasionally, if you're lucky, I will throw in a sweet treat. But it's rare.


Save Time: Assigned Towels

I noticed I was washing way too many towels. The issue: disorganization.

Even though I tried to reuse the children's bath towels, I lost track of whose towel was whose. Inevitably a child would drag one out in the yard or I would end up using one to clean up spilled milk (or worse).

Towels towels everywhere.

Until one day, by Divine inspiration, I had the idea to have assigned bath towels. (Really, I just read it on a blog somewhere, but I have no idea where the original source is.) Typically, you would assign everyone a color but since my sister gave us monogrammed towels for Christmas last year, I thought these would be the perfect ones for our assigned towels. Hello.

For the past two weeks we have been reusing our assigned towels, and it saves me so much laundry, at least 3 loads a week! We reuse the towels about 5 times before I feel the need to wash them.

Truly, this system is the best thing since sliced bread.

I'd also like to mention ...less laundry = less laundry detergent = less water and power = saves money.


Budgeting: The Heart Issues and Whys

There are people far more qualified than I am to write about this topic, but as the saying goes "we teach best what we most need to learn."
Our culture is overwhelmingly materialistic. Relative to the rest of the world and history, most of us are wealthy and most of us live like kings. Often it is hard to see past this and gain perspective about our material possessions and how we spend our money. If you are not convinced, take a moment to ponder the fact that it's estimated in 2013 that Americans spent $330 million on pet Halloween costumes and $2 billion on candy

I think this is a good starting point when creating a budget - to realize just how much we have and to have an understanding of what we are up against. We are up against a culture that is always trying to sell us something and convince us the we need to upgrade. And bigger than that, we are up against ourselves. The real issue lies in our ability to have self control when it comes to spending. The issue lies in discerning our wants and needs.

I can write out a budget, but sticking to it is a whole other beast. It is hard to have self control. Buying things is fun and temporarily it feels good. I believe that knowing this is half the battle.

So when you write out a budget, pray for self control to execute it. Pray for guidance and wisdom. Pray that God would help you manage the good gifts that HE has so graciously given you. Pray that you will learn to discern your wants and needs. 

Having acknowledged the external an internal challenges we face in creating a budget and sticking to it, let's talk about the why?

Why budget? Why be frugal? Why save?

Define your why. If you don't have a reason to be frugal, then you will fail. My whys are are:

1. To live below our means so we can afford for me to stay home with the children and manage our home.
2. To build up an emergency fund of 6 months.
3. To prepare for the future (private school, college, retirement).
4. To teach our children to be wise with the material gifts God has given us.
5. To increase our giving to our church, missionaries, friends, and community.

What are your whys? What are your goals? To pay off your student loans, to save for a car, to buy a house, start a business, quit your job, give more to your favorite charity?

Some of your goals may be specific (#1,2) and some more big picture (#3,4,5).

The why is our motivator. If we don't have a why then it is that much harder to have self control when sifting through the myriad of spending decisions we make on a daily/weekly/monthly/yearly basis.

Write down your whys on paper.

Another thing to keep in mind is that having true financial freedom and peace does not mean you don't ever buy things you want or enjoy any luxuries. Often those things are right and good and blessings to others.

The goal is peace and freedom from our own greed and mismanagement. The goal is to use wisely what the Lord gives us and to enjoy the fruits of our labor for His glory and intended purposes.


My next finance post I plan to share some technical budgeting tips and ways I stay organized with money and 3 kiddos! Nothing fancy, just one woman's way of doing things. Stay tuned.....


How to Make a Cool Blog Header

A reader (hi LM!) asked if I would share how I created my header.

Of course!

I made it using PicMonkey with the help of this tutorial on the blog guide book.

To make my collage I used the 'Facebook cover photo' collage. Then I slapped a banner over it - and title- and then I re-sized it to fit my blog width. All done in PicMonkey.

*The biggest mistake I see bloggers making with their header is not properly resizing it to fit their blog width.

Here are a couple of experimental ones I made before I officially titled the blog Somehow We Manage.

Hope this helps.


Thoughts on Toys and Preparing for Christmas

November is the perfect time to clean up, clean out, and organize toys before Christmas. In my short time as a mother I have come to the conclusion that kids don't need a lot of toys, but a chosen, well loved few.

Last year, because I had a baby 4 days before Christmas I thought it was a genius idea to get a lot of new stuff for the kids to play with. I thought it would help me.

It turned out to be a total mess. The stuff we bought was not well made, it got left in the yard, or broken. The kids had no respect.

I will never buy a bunch of cheap crap like I did last year. Lesson learned.


The other day (in preparation for Christmas and because it just needed to be done) I took all the toys out of my kids' rooms and sorted, organized, and threw away the toys that have seen better days. I did this while they were at preschool.

They seem to play better when their toys are few and neat.

My Christmas plan this year is to follow the 4 gift rule I discovered on Pinterest the other day.

1 thing they want
1 thing they need
1 thing they wear
1 thing they read

Here's some more inspiration about having fewer toys.

 Why I took my kids' toys away {& why they won't get them back}

Dealing with toy Overload Part I
Dealing with toy Overload Part II

Children Don't Need Toys

For the past two days, my children have barely touched their toys but have enjoyed playing with homemade play dough. Recipe here.

Recently I switched out toy kitchens. Sold this one, bought this one. That's a post for another day.

I love these two quotes.....

If you want your children to turn out well spend twice as much time and half as much money. - Abigail Van Buren 

I love it when I step on a toy and it breaks and I can throw it away. - random person who commented on my friend's facebook wall.


Thank you all for your overwhelmingly positive response about Somehow We Manage. I love your comments, questions, and e-mails. Next week I hope to share some of my thoughts on budgeting, materialism, and managing our finances. 


Saying No to Good Things

There are a thousand different things going on, one hundred invitations and activities and good opportunities. But that does not mean we need to do them all!

Often we have to say no, even to good things. For us, in this season that means no to Wednesday night church, no to sports, no to more involvement in a ministry at church, no to spending a lot of time decorating my house, no to sewing.

Protect little schedules, I tell myself. They need time to play in the back yard and days when we stay in our pajamas until 4pm. The need a break from finding their shoes and loading up in the car.

We need margin in our schedule so we can make play dough, read books, and wrestle with our brother!

Easier said than done.

Don't feel guilty for not being busy.

One of the best things you'll ever learn in life is to say no. - my dad


Our Getting Out of Debt Story

When we were first married we had approximately $30,000 in debt. I was 23, Stephen was 25.

Too much truck and an unsuccessful business venture are what put us upside down. From day one, we decided that we would pay our debts off as fast as we could. We both had jobs, two incomes and no kids, and we were only responsible for ourselves.

 wedding weekend May 2006

But six months in we were going nowhere, only having paid off a couple hundred dollars here and there. Our debt remained, we had only reduced our balance by less than 10% .

And then one day Stephen recommended that I start listening to the Dave Ramsey show. I immediately got  hooked to his common sense approach to finances. Plus, I think he's so funny and entertaining.

Every afternoon when I wasn't working, I listened to the show. Almost overnight we started adopting and implementing Dave's advice. We started the baby steps.

Insanely inspired, we wrote out a budget and lit our plan on fire. Instead of paying minimum payments every month, we paid thousands - as much as we could afford.
One evening Stephen brought home a plain, black ledger because I liked to do my accounting the old fashion way. Daily I would punch the numbers and watch our progress.

We literally cut up our credit cards. We stopped going out to eat. I learned how to grocery shop with a plan and not blow money at the store. I stopped buying clothes. We canceled our cable. We did nothing but work and make dinner at home.


In eight months we were completely DEBT FREE - and we have been ever since, everything but the house. That's three (new to us) vehicles, a new air conditioning unit, three babies, and two major reconstructive hand surgeries that we have cash flowed thanks to the lessons we learned that first year of marriage.

Looking back, in many ways those were the best of times. We were living in Warner Robbins, Georgia, and we only had one friend (eventually we made others). We were newly married, and we loved being together after years of long distance dating. We loved our little apartment.

The lessons we learned about money that year were totally worth the 30k in stupid tax. We learned what it meant to be content, to be wise about the future, to stay out of debt, and to be intentional with our money! That year gave me a real love of frugality. It made me realize that financial peace is so much better than the stuff I think I want. I learned to appreciate simple things and small, affordable luxuries. I learned to make do.

The biggest lesson I took away from the experience was to 'have a plan' and write it down. You will never get anywhere without a plan. We piddled our time away for the first 6 months and were only able to get some momentum going once had some real goals and guidelines laid out.

Also, we learned that we could live on one income in a two income world. This later proved to be a great test for when babies came and I wanted to quit my job and stay home.

I share this story in hopes to encourage anyone who needs encouragement. Don't worry about the Jonses (they are probably in debt up to their eyeballs). Be a steward of what God has given YOU.

Live like no one else, so later you can live like no one else. - Dave Ramsey

Take care of your financial affairs and you will have peace.

Deliver yourself like a gazelle from the hunter's hand
And like a bird from the hand of the fowler. Pvbs 6:5

I hope to write about personal finance on a regular basis here at Somehow We Manage. It is truly one of my favorite topics and an area where there is always room for improvement. Please feel free to e-mail questions (sbspooner@gmail.com) or leave them in the comments if you feel led. I don't have all the answers, but maybe we can figure it out together! I love finding new, realistic way to save money and be smart.


Crock Pot Shredded Chicken

I recently learned this great tip for shredding chicken in the crock pot. No more boiled chicken!

You take frozen chicken breasts and literally throw them in the crock pot. (Ha! Who else thinks crock pots are hilarious and redneck but loves them anyway?) Set temp on low or high, depending on how fast you need your chicken, and move on with your day. Take kids to school, work out, put your feet up. Do what you need to do.

Four to six hours later. Ta dah.... Tender juicy chicken. Take a fork and shred it in the pot. Use it for chicken salad, chicken pot pie, soup....whatever.

Mine was for chicken and black bean enchiladas.


While we are on the subject of chicken, this is a helpful post about the price of bone in chicken vs. boneless. I always think I'm getting a better deal with bone in, but I've never accounted for the bone. What about you?


Little Ways to Save: What We Have is Enough

This morning my good photographer friend took some family photos of us.

As our set date approached suddenly everything my family had to wear was not good enough. I had to fight the urge to run out and impulse buy new outfits for the whole family.

I talked myself down:

You are so blessed to have a sweet family that you want to photograph. You are fortunate enough to have clothes. This does not have to be perfect. This is for you. There is no one to impress.

Thursday afternoon, I laid out our clothes on my bed and took pictures to see how the clothes would photograph. I reached a place of peace. I decided that what we have is enough. More than enough. 


There are countless times I have wasted money out of a place of discontentment, thinking I need to buy something new. How easily we convince ourselves that we need an upgrade. More times that not, what we have is enough.

I have learned that contentment will save me money like nothing else.


While we're on the topic of what to wear for family photos, here is a great post that my other photography friend, Emily, wrote about What to Wear: Fall Edition.

Her advice was extremely helpful. I loved how she encouraged colorful prints. Otherwise, I would have never picked out that print dress that Laurie wore. It looked great in the photos.


I'm attempting to start a little series of ways I have learned to save money. I hope you can relate and I hope you find these posts helpful. I'm deeply passionate about personal finance and I would love to share some of the things I have learned over the years. So stay tuned....


Somehow We Manage

Why start a new blog after 4 years of blogging?

Well, first off, I have never been completely at peace with my title Spoonful, and I have always!!! wanted a title more representative of what the blog is about. When I thought of the title, Somehow We Manage, it clicked immediately for me. My inspiration comes from one of my favorite TV characters, Michael Scott of The Office. For those of you unfamiliar with the show, Michael is the goofy boss/manager of a paper company, and he claims to be writing a book, Somehow I Manage. Hilarious. Well, at least it is to me.

So birth to a my new blog.......

Somehow We Manage...the home, having three kids, to get dinner on the table, the finances, everyday life.

I like it.

Another reason for starting fresh is I want to take blogging less seriously and more seriously at the same time.

As my readership grew with Spoonful, I became overwhelmed with the amount of time blogging took - the correspondence, the self imposed pressure to write well, and the constant struggle of how much is too much to share. Starting over and defining what kind of content I want to write and honing in on what I want blogging to be for me is just the liberation I need to enjoy this hobby again.

I want to be transparent, but just because I have a bad day or if I happen to be in a hard season of life, I don't want to feel I have to process it through blogging. In starting Somehow We Manage I'm giving myself permission to indulge in blogging fun without letting it all hang out.

What I mean by taking blogging more seriously is giving it the credit it deserves and acknowledging that blogging is something I love to do, it's worthy of my time, and it's okay for me to make room in my life for it as long as my ducks are in a row elsewhere.

So welcome!

Here you will find pretty pictures, a little humor, a lot of my thoughts on running a home and raising my children, recipes and food ideas, some talk of personal finance....and more.
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