Friday, September 26, 2014

Our Family Chunk Clock

I listened to a wonderful seminar from The Homeschool Coach, Mary Ann Johnson, on Hecoa's free Not-Back-to-School Summit about the family chunk clock.  It was so amazing, I watched it again and took a LOT of notes and then also listened to the audio and printed out the handouts to make ours.  My daughter Katie has voiced to me before that she feels like she doesn't know what is next each day.  I knew that this would not only benefit me, but especially her!

How it works is, you divide your day up into chunks of things you do.  If there are days where things come up, someone gets sick, etc. (and they will!) this chunk clock helps you see a visual of what is important to finish that day, what you can skip and to help you refocus when you get off track.  You can listen to the audio on her website, just google the homeschool coach and family chunk clock.

We wanted a catchy funny name for our clock instead of the generic -- Family Chunk Clock, so we came up with "Got Chunks?" LOL!




You may be wondering what is up with the weird names on each chunk.  Well, my daughter created each of those names to add some FUN to our chunk clock!  Here are the why's of each chunk:

  • Snore No More - because we are not morning people and we must stop snoozing
  • Moddy Time - She took Mo from Mom and ddy from Buddy (my son’s nickname) to show it was for me and Buddy (Zach) to have time together.
  • Hope Lu - She took Ho from homeschool, pe from P.E. and Lu from lunch!
  • Kazm Time - Ka from Katie, Z from Zach and M from Mom - since this is our time to do individualized things
  • Chep Hour - usually 5-6pm, so an hour and she got Ch from chores and ep from prep (dinner).
  • Foing Up - Fo from food (dinner) and ing from Washing (dishes)
  • Chee - Ch from church and ee from Free(time)
  • Spied - Spi from spiritual and ed from bed

I didn't put every detail in our clock (showers, time with husband, etc.) because I wanted to keep it simple and this is our guide to show us our natural flow and/or routine.

This has already helped Katie KNOW what is next and have a visual of how our day will go.  This also is helping me in the same regards and also to have my priorities highlighted, so I don't lose sight of what is important - God, School and Family!  It will also make a great conversation piece when friends visit!

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Thursday, September 25, 2014

Making Freezer Pizza & Spaghetti Sauce in Bulk

I'm back to doing a lot of freezer cooking, though not as I did before my son was born when I made 3 months worth of meals but I'm getting there.  One thing I do like to make in bulk is our pizza and spaghetti sauces.

I make enough pizza sauce to last us for two months.  I divide it so that we have enough for 2 pizzas on Friday, using the leftovers on Saturday for lunch.  We used to only make one pizza and this sauce would have lasted us 4 months but now we are utilizing the extra pizza for leftovers.  On Friday morning, I sit one of these on the counter from the freezer and by the time I make the pizzas it is thawed completely.  I also normally do these in Ziploc bags but when I went to get them, I was out, so I had to use the containers we normally use for spaghetti and jam.



I couldn't find the recipe for the pizza sauce I use on Crystal's website (The Family Homestead), so I'm posting it here.  The one she has up now does not include the soy sauce.  I'm pretty sure this pizza sauce recipe came from her though, I've been using it for 8 years or so now!

Adapted from Crystal's recipe at The Family Homestead

Bulk Pizza Sauce
makes about 14 cups (enough for 14 X-large pizzas)

106 oz. Tomato Sauce
24 oz. Tomato Paste
1/2 cup Italian Seasonings
2 tsp. crushed garlic
4 tsp. soy sauce
4 tsp. salt

Mix together with a whisk and divide into freezer bags or containers.


We used to have spaghetti every Tuesday but now we just have it twice a month but I still need spaghetti sauce for my lasagna casseroles, which take 4 cups of sauce per casserole.  I left 4 cups of sauce in my measuring cup because I'm making my 2 lasagna casseroles today.  Here is the batch I make with a large 106 oz. tomato sauce can:




This recipe makes 16 cups of sauce for 4 lasagna casseroles with enough leftover for 2 spaghetti meals.

Adapted from Crystal's recipe at The Family Homestead

Bulk Spaghetti Sauce
makes about 19 cups

106 oz. Tomato Sauce
24 oz. Tomato Paste
60 oz. Diced Tomatoes
4 tsp. Salt
1/2 cup Italian Seasonings

Mix together with a whisk and divide into freezer bags or containers.


As you can see the only difference between pizza and spaghetti sauce is the diced tomatoes, soy sauce and garlic.  You can use garlic in your spaghetti sauce too though, but the soy sauce is normally just used in the pizza sauce.  You use diced tomatoes in spaghetti sauce to make it more liquid but you leave it out in the pizza sauce so it is thicker.  These are easy to make in bulk when you purchase those 106 oz. huge cans of tomato sauce, which is what I do!  Two of those cans lasts us 2 months of lasagna, spaghetti and pizzas.  We only need 12 of those a year and we buy them in bulk for just $56 a year for the organic sauce.

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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Natural Remedies for Colds and Coughs

We have added more to our alternative medicine cabinet recently, mostly a lot of herbs, and I have been busy finding good recipes for natural remedies.  Since colds have made their appearance in our house this week, I was able to try several new things and am finding they are working!

Here are the recipes I used for each:
Elderberry Syrup
Thyme Cough Syrup
Garlic Syrup
Sage Gargle Rinse



The elderberry syrup recipe called for cloves but I didn't have any so I left that out.  All of us have been taking it a few times a day, even my toddler but I've had to give it to him in a syringe in order for him to swallow it.  It is very sweet!  My husband is taking it in hopes of not catching our sickness and so far, so good.  Elderberries have more vitamin c than oranges and are ant-inflammatory and contain an antioxidant and antiviral properties.

The thyme cough syrup was from Dr. Low Dog, who is an expert on herbal medicine.  It can be used for everyone of all ages.  My daughter used it for her dry cough tickle and it worked and stopped her cough!!  It only lasts a week in the fridge, so it is something I will only make when someone needs it.

I'm the only one brave enough to do the garlic syrup, it is 4 big garlic cloves blended with raw honey.  I normally just swallow crushed garlic cloves with water but this helps get it down easier.  Garlic has so many healing properties, it is the one thing you should always take when sick and even when well for prevention!  It is great when you have an infection and don't want to use antibiotics as it is antibacterial.  I use children's garlic oil in my son's ears now because he always get an ear infection with his colds but this time hopefully I caught it in time as I'm putting them in his ears every morning.  Before, I would always forget and then when he would get the ear infection it was hard to treat - so it is something I try and remember now whenever he gets a cold.

We also have found that sage gargle rinses also work wonders for sore throats!  It is another recipe from Dr. Low Dog.  My daughter's cold started with a very bad sore throat and she did the sage gargle rinse and found immediate relief.  I used it today for my sore throat and also got immediate relief!  Sage kills bacteria in the throat and can reduce inflammation, that along with the salt, soothes a sore throat.  It is pretty nasty though, so good thing we don't have to drink it!

We still use our old faithfuls for colds - echinacea, hot lemon/honey water, vitamin c and eucalyptus and steam.  I'm the only one the family that will use the Neti-pot when I get nasal congestion but my daughter is almost willing to try it next time she gets nasal congestion and my husband does only if I make him LOL!

Related: Cold/Sinus Infection Remedies and Bronchitis Remedies

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Thursday, September 18, 2014

Family of 4 $200 a Month Grocery Budget - How We Do It


We have always been pretty frugal before my son was born spending anywhere from $120 - $150 a month for food, but since he came along with his and my health issues and I haven't been doing freezer cooking, our costs have gone up dramatically.  Now that I'm doing better, we are getting back to a lower food budget as I'm able to make more homemade foods.

This month we are going to see if we keep our food budget at $200 for our 4-week period that starts today.  It is possible but takes planning and a stocked pantry, which we do bi-yearly.  If you spend $500 a year on stocking your pantry, that only equals to about $42 a month and it saves you a LOT of money by buying in bulk!  There were a few stockpile items I had to buy this month and I don't count those towards my $200 monthly budget as they are part of our yearly $500 stock-up fund.

*My son is only 22 months old but he eats the same serving size as my 10-year old daughter at dinner!  He also eats a good amount during the day but we are still able to feed all 4 of us on $200.

Here are our meals for the next 4 weeks:

4 weekends = 4 casseroles: 2 Lasagnas and 2 Chicken Divans
4 Fridays = Homemade Pizza
4 x Pancakes with organic pure maple syrup
2 x Hamburgers with Fries
2 x Red Bean Sausage & Rice
3 x Beans & Rice
2 x Mac n' Cheese with Tuna and peas
2 x Spaghetti with Cheese Bread

You can see that the weekends are easily taken care of with 1 casserole per weekend.  I make the 4 casseroles and then freeze them and then put one in the oven on Saturday and that day's dinner and Sunday is already done, so no cooking on Sunday!  We have to eat a salad and a dessert to make the casserole last 2 meals but everyone is satisfied.

We love pizza and so we have it every Friday and I make my own crust and sauce and then we top it with mozzarella and pepperoni.  I've already made pizza sauce to last until January.

The rest of the meals are for Monday - Thursday, with Thursday usually being pancakes.  I purchased 64oz of organic pure maple syrup from Vermont a few months ago for only $30 and it will last us a long time!!

For the beans and rice, I make a huge pot of pintos and then freeze it in 4-cup portions, which makes it easy to thaw in warm water for dinner with rice!  Also, the red bean sausage meal is something I make a big pot of and freeze as well, I'm actually making enough for 4 meals but the other 2 meals will be for next month's cycle.

We only use 4 pounds of ground beef a month and 3 pounds of chicken a month, so I can buy the grass-fed beef since we don't use a lot of it.  2 pounds are for the 2 lasagnas and the other 2 pounds are for the 2 hamburger meals.  The chicken is used in the 2 chicken divan casseroles.  Other than the tuna and sausage, we only consume 7 pounds a meat a month by having it on weekends.  If we eat out, we usually get something with meat but we are trying to cut back on our entertainment/eating out budget!

Here is what I had to purchase that we didn't have on hand for this meal cycle:

Grocery Expenditures so far - $107.92
  • 2 pounds salad spring mix - $4.99 (I got lucky, it was Buy One Get One Free!)
  • 1 pound light sour cream - $1.89
  • 4 pounds cheddar cheese block - $9.98 (this was a good sale, so I stocked up, this may last us into next month)
  • 2 pounds unsalted butter - $4
  • 4.81 pounds Gala apples - $4.23
  • 2 pounds cottage cheese - $4.58
  • 3.12 pounds of boneless skinless chicken breast - $9.30
  • 2 pounds mozzarella cheese - $6.47
  • 2 pounds polish sausage - $5.96
  • 12 string cheese pack - $3.35
  • 3 pounds mandarin oranges - $5.98 (my husband and daughter insist on eating these, I hate how high they have gotten!)
  • 80 oz. Frozen french fries - $3.18
  • 1.23 pounds peanuts - $1.94
  • 1 pound strawberries - $1.98
  • 3.33 pounds bananas - $1.86
  • 4 small avocados - $3.92
  • 3 pounds onions - $1.58
  • 30 oz. Whole-grain Goldfish - $6.48
  • Nabisco Chips Ahoy Reeses - $1.98 (craving!)
  • 1.3 pounds Tortilla chips - $2.99
  • 20 oz. Pretzels - $1.88
  • 13.25 oz. Whole-grain angel hair spaghetti - $1.28
  • 53 oz. Whole-grain pasta - $5.12
  • 1 pound Lasagna noodles - $1.42
  • 30 oz. Light mayonnaise - $2.60
  • 40 oz. canned tuna - $5.44
  • 47.3 oz. Unsweetened applesauce - $2.18
  • 14 oz. Canned artichokes - $2.18
  • 30 oz. Canned green beans - $1.36

Stock-Up Items - $27.01
  • 9 pounds Adam's natural peanut butter - $22.08
  • 32 oz. Lemon juice - $2.18
  • 8 oz Canola oil cooking spray - $1.97
  • 20 oz Mustard - 78 cents

What I have left to buy this month - $69.83
  • 4 pounds grass-fed beef - $20
  • Jam - $2.89 (I forgot to make ours this summer, but hopefully I can next week)
  • 18ct Organic eggs - $5
  • 2 gallons 1% Organic milk - $10.58
  • 2 gallons Organic whole milk - $10.58
  • 4 pounds organic yogurt - $5.98
  • 2 x frozen burritos - $4.80
  • Bananas & Apples - $10

I decided to start making my own bread again this month, hopefully I can get that done today so we don't have to buy bread!  I'm also going to make pita bread since my son loves it.  However, seeing what I've spent so far and then what I have to buy this month, I will still have $22.25 left to spend, so I could buy bread or maybe potato chips and ice cream because we get those cravings a lot!

Here are the rest of our meals:

Breakfast
Apple Tahini Toast
Oatmeal
Muffins
Eggs, Toast and jam

Lunch
PBJ Sandwiches
Tuna melts
Bean tostados
Chicken BBQ "pizzas"

Snacks & Desserts
Carrots & Hummus
Pita Bread & Hummus
Chips & Salsa or nachos
Trail mix (peanuts, mini chocolate chips and raisins)
Granola bars
Fruit or smoothies
String cheese
PB and Apple
Cookies, muffins or brownies

What I'm making homemade this month:
  • Bread - loaf and pita bread
  • Pizza dough
  • Spaghetti sauce
  • Hummus
  • Granola bars
  • Cookies, muffins and brownies
  • Jam

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Friday, September 12, 2014

Living Debt-Free Series - Part 2


In Part 1 of this series I shared with you how to stay debt free and steps you need to take to ensure that you are not reliant upon credit/debt.  In this part of the series, I will share ideas and tips on how you can live within and even below your means.

To live within or below your means follow these basic ideas:

                Within Your Means                                              Below Your Means
  1. Pay 10% Tithe and Give Offerings              Pay 10% Tithe, Give Offerings + Extra
  2. Housing at 35% or below income               Housing at 25% or below of income
  3. Save on Utilities as you can                        Cut costs drastically; Basics, cut out luxuries
  4. Keep car maintained & plan trips               Same but also stay home more
  5. Keep insurance costs low                            Same but consider high-deductible plans
  6. Buy discounted personal items                   Get creative and make your own
  7. Plan meals, Shop sales                               Cut down your meat, make more homemade
  8. Shop clothing sales                                     Buy used, shop yard sales, trade
  9. Eat out only a few times a month               Don't eat out, do free things for recreation

Some of you may be wondering why I had giving more under "Below Your Means" column - well that is simple - what you give comes back to you and it really is true!  The saying goes that if you never send a ship out, it can't come back to you.

For housing, it really is up to the family in what you want.  Do you want a larger house and then not save as much and spend less in other areas OR would you rather have a smaller or lower-priced home and be able to save more, do more and have other things?  With a larger home, comes higher utility costs of electric and gas, so you have to remember to factor those in as well.  Also, you need to think about property taxes and homeowner's insurance when counting the cost of your larger home.  You can usually save significantly with a smaller home and still be comfortable.

Other than the varying electric and gas utilities that I talked about, there is water, sewer, garbage, phone, internet and cable.  Water is based on usage, so it is easy to save there - just stop using so much and find ways to cut down.  I wash all my dishwasher loads on the lightest setting to save costs - it really doesn't matter as the lightest still gets everything just as clean as the highest but at a much lower cost in water and electricity.  Garbage can be saved by only using one can and you can do this with a large family by also having a recycling container.  You can cut phone expenses by just having a landline phone and a Tracfone for emergencies when out.  We only spend $120 a year for a cell phone and then my husband's employer provides him with a free cell phone for work that he can use to call me a few times a day.  These days you can go without cable because you can pretty much find cheaper ways to get your shows online.  We never did have cable but we think internet is a necessity in today's world and we like the highest speed, so we found a great deal by negotiating the costs.  I was able to negotiate the costs down and lock in the rate for a year.  Then every year, I have to call and negotiate again and it is a hassle but after it is over, we have the rate locked in for another year.

With transportation, you need to plan your trips that would give you the most cost-effective use of gas.  If you run an errand everyday, you will be wasting a lot of gas.  Why not plan your trips into one day a week?  Also keeping your vehicle maintained will help keep it running longer and thereby save you money on repairs.  Study Consumer Reports and learn which used cars have the best reliability so that you won't have it in the shop all the time.  Staying home more obviously saves you more in gas and wear on your vehicle.  We drive an almost 12-year old car and it only has 102,000 miles on it!

I've already discussed in detail on how to save on various medical plans in this post.  Basically, save as much as you can and costs will vary depending upon risk level.  The best is usually an HSA high-deductible plan.

With personal items in your budget you can save a lot by simply making your own or using generic products.  I used to buy a lot of things I didn't really need and since cutting them out - I don't even miss them, except for my Satsuma Body Shop body butter.  I tried cutting my husband's hair but I was never successful but I do cut my son's hair to save money.

Food is one area you can really save a lot of money in if you are willing to sacrifice.  You can eat meat everyday but you will spend more unless you stretch the meat or use the meat as a condiment rather than the main dish.  We prefer to save meat as a 2-3 times a week thing and save the extra money.  You can also save by buying in bulk things like flour, rice, spices/herbs, beans, etc.  You can also save by making a lot of homemade items and that also saves on health costs as you are healthier by eating no or less processed foods.  Read how we are feeding our family of 4 on $200 a month here: http://www.christianhomekeeping.com/2014/09/family-of-4-200-grocery-budget-how-we.html

With clothing you can shop for the best bargains or you can buy used and/or make your own.  I shopped yard sales last summer and got name-brand pants and tops for 50 cents to a dollar.  I wish I had gone this summer but I didn't get out to search for the next size up, so now I'm trying to find ways to get the most bang for my buck.  I had saved my "skinny" clothes and now my 10 year old daughter can fit into them - so guess who won't be buying much clothes for the next 8 years or so?

With recreation or fun money it really is up to you how much you want to spend.  You can limit eating out or not eat out at all.  You can only do things that are free for family recreation or do low-cost things.  You can buy used books or just use your library.  It really is up to each family how much they want to spend and then you go from there to find things that work with your budgeted amount.

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Saturday, September 6, 2014

Living Debt-Free Series - Part 1


Upon the heels of my Financial Budgeting 101 series, I wanted to do a series about Living Debt-Free and give you tips and ideas on how you STAY debt free.  If you have something to share, please leave a comment to help me and others!

#1 Task for Staying Debt-Free  - The first step to living debt-free is to make sure that you have an emergency fund!  If you don't do this, then you probably won't STAY debt-free for long because things break, cars need repairs, kids get sick and on and on and if you don't have money set aside to pay for these things, then what will you do?  Borrow or put it on a credit card and pay interest.  Many financial advisors recommend you have 6 months worth of living expenses (not income but expenses) saved up in a savings account somewhere that you can get to easily in the case of an emergency.  This will help ensure you staying debt-free when trouble shows up at your door and it will.

#2 Save for future purchases - If you plan on buying a big-ticket purchase in the future, which most people do, then you need to have a fund to save for it since you are no longer using credit and paying extra with interest.  Most people need a car these days and if yours is older, you probably should start saving up for a newer one.  Save until you get enough and then go shopping with cash!  Not only will you save on all that interest, but you will get a reduced price by paying cash and if you can trade-in your older car, you will save even more.  Say goodbye to car payments with interest and hello to saving and buying a car with cash!  You will feel awesome when you ride that car off the lot knowing it is PAID FOR!

More things that you can save for are:  electronics (computers, gadgets, etc.), furniture, school supplies or homeschool curriculum, vacations, appliances, and whatever else is a big purchase that needs time to save for.

I will give you an example of a car fund and how it would work to save up for one.  Say your goal is to purchase a newer car in 3 years.  A good, reliable used car for $12,000 is your goal and your current car will have a trade-in value in 3 years of about $3,000.  Subtract the value of your trade-in from the price of the newer car and that leaves you with needing to save $9,000.  Now you know you will need to save $250 a month and you will be able to shop for a $12,000 car - which could very well be a much higher car but you can negotiate that down to $12K easily when paying cash!  Say, you just want to spend $8,000, so subtracting your trade-in, you only need to save $5K, which is only $139 a month.  No interest to pay, just the price of the car - now that is freedom!

#3 Insure Everything - This is one area you must do in order to stay debt-free.  You can't predict the future but you can insure that you are covered when something tragic happens.  This includes health insurance, home/renter's insurance, auto insurance, life insurance, disability insurance, identity protection and anything else that you need to insure that has the potential of bankrupting you or ruining your financial life.  Trust me as I know personally what it feels like to be WITHOUT insurance and a crisis happen - we have paid our share of medical bills because of our lack of health insurance a few years ago.

For those that think you can do without life insurance, well you CAN but are you sure you want to?  What if your husband dies today.  How would you pay for his funeral?  Or better yet, WHO wants to think of how they will pay during that time?  You will be grieving and you sure don't need the extra burden of financial ruin.  It isn't just the funeral either, how will you support yourself or your children?  What will you do until you find a job?  How will you pay for child care?  And on and on.....  These are things a lot of people don't think about until something like this happens and then they spend the rest of their lives thinking about it. 

Same thing goes for disability insurance in the event that your husband becomes disabled and can no longer work.  Disability from Social Security is barely enough to even live on, much less support a family!  The rest of the insurances are really no-brainers, I mean if you go without home/renter's, auto, identity protection or health insurance - you are just one crisis away from debt and/or bankruptcy.  Insure everything!

#4 Live Within or Below Your Means - Most people agree in living WITHIN your means, but how about living BELOW your means?  If you live below your means, you can save a whole lot more.  Whatever you do, always live within your means and not above!!  If you make $50K net - live on $40K and throw the rest in savings.  Then, if one day you get the urge to go to Italy - hey, just GO!  Or you could live on the $50K and have a bigger house, nicer car and more luxuries if that is what you choose.  I prefer to live below our means because to me, that Italy trip sounds pretty sweet!

Part 2 is here where I give you ideas and tips on living within and below your means:
http://www.christianhomekeeping.com/2014/09/living-debt-free-series-part-2.html

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Sunday, August 31, 2014

Family of 4 Health Insurance Options

I've found that a lot of people do not actually know about the various ways to afford healthcare that are available today and meet the law requirements.  I will start out with the obvious ones that most people know about and then share with you some others that are available to Christians.  I'm just going to talk about the ones that I'm personally familiar with - if you know another option that is better, leave a comment!

  1. Traditional Health Insurance - this is your basic health insurance that has a premium, deductible and then copays or coinsurance.   These plans are usually the highest of all the ones I'm going to talk about today.  They are also usually NOT the best choice as your total yearly costs are the most expensive.  You can purchase these online, through the exchange (what a joke) or they are normally offered from your husband's employer and given at a reduced rate and you can pay your premiums with pre-tax dollars in a payroll deduction.
  2. Health Savings Account High Deductible Health Insurance (HSA) - these health insurance plans require an HSA (Health Savings Account) and are generally the best option when you look at total yearly costs.  The plan itself can have a high deductible ($3K or above) and then you pay a certain percentage up until your out-of-pocket limit.  You can set aside money to pay your medical bills through the HSA and it is pre-tax and stays tax-free if you pay only approved items with your HSA (medical, dental, etc.) and your premium is also pre-tax through your payroll deduction.  Most of the time employers offer this option along with the first one and this one is the least expensive as premiums are way lower and when compared to the yearly costs of the first plan, this one wins. 
  3. Christian Sharing Medical plans - these are plans only offered to Christians and are very affordable.  You pay a set amount each month depending upon age and/or family size, then you either only pay up to a certain amount of your bills a month and anything over is paid for by others OR you set your deductible and premium and once the deductible is met, you pay nothing.  These plans would be good for those who don't get a discounted plan from their employer or for those that don't foresee any medical needs of substantial amounts in the upcoming year.  The downside is that you pay your monthly premiums with after-tax dollars.

Let's look at a typical employer-given health plan:

  1. Traditional - $6,000 annual premium; $1,000 deductible then plan pays 80%; $12,000 out-of-pocket limit
  2. HSA plan - $3,500 annual premium; $3,000 deductible then plan pays 90%; $6,000 out-of-pocket limit

Now let's compare those rates with Christian sharing medical plans:

Family of 4 monthly premium -  $405
Yearly premium amount - $4,860
Responsible for bills up to $300 a month then plan pays 100%

OR

Family of 4 monthly premium of $10,000 deductible plan - $184
Yearly premium amount - $2,208
Plan pays 100% after $10K deductible

OR

Family of 4 monthly premium of $2,500 deductible plan - $500
Yearly premium amount - $6,000
Plan pays 100% after $2,500 deductible


Taking these plan scenarios, let's see what a medical crisis looks like within a year of these plans:

Worst Case Scenario - $55,000 medical bills

What you pay max for this year:
Traditional -  $19,000
HSA plan - $9,500 (can all be pre-tax dollars)
Christian sharing #1 - $8,460 (if bills are over $300 each month)
                                    $5,160 (if bills happened in one month)
Christian sharing #2 - $12,208
Christian sharing #3 - $8,500

You can see that the Christian sharing #1 is the cheapest option for a $55K scenario with the traditional plan costing the most.  However, most large employers give a portion to your HSA, so if they gave $1,000 towards your yearly costs, that would make the HSA plan comparable to the cheapest Christian sharing plan at $8,500.  You should also factor in the cost of using after-tax dollars to pay the Christian sharing plans and how the other plans will decrease your taxable income.  This can make a difference at tax time by putting you in a different tax bracket and you could factor in those numbers depending upon your personal situation to get a true cost.

When you choose a plan for your family, you can either plan for the worst case scenario or take the risk with a high-deductible plan and save on costs.  Let's say you want to take the risk, everyone is healthy and you don't foresee any medical bills (besides office visits) for the upcoming year:

No Medical Bills Scenario

What you pay max this year:
Traditional - $6,000 + office visits you pay
HSA - $3,500 + office visits you pay
Christian Sharing #1 - $4,860 + office visits you pay
Christian Sharing #2 - $2,208 + office visits you pay
Christian Sharing #3 - $6,000 + office visits you pay

The cheapest option would be the Christian Sharing #2 that has a very low monthly/yearly cost and a very high deductible, but this is risky business, you don't know if you will get in a car accident or someone will get very ill or need to be in the hospital.  If you take this risk, make sure you have the money in an emergency fund just in case!

In my opinion, the HSA high-deductible plan through your employer is the best option as it is the least riskiest but still gives you a great deal and you can pay all of your medical bills and your premium with pre-tax dollars and that also brings down your taxable income!

Notes - I didn't include Flexible Spending Account (FSA) plans because I have no experience with them and because you lose the money at the end of year if you didn't spend it.  The HSA is by far the better choice if your employer offers it as the funds roll-over from year to year.

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Poll: What Health Coverage Do You Have?

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Force vs. Choice

I share a lot of my thoughts on here because this is MY blog, so obviously it will reflect MY thoughts.  I'm not a preacher, teacher or self-proclaimed prophetess (thank God!) - I simply share my thoughts, opinions and convictions/beliefs as a Christian wife and mother.  There are some people that will not allow you to have your own opinions because they simply don't think anyone should have a differing opinion from their own or they don't feel free to have their own and don't want you to either.

Here is the problem we face in the church-world today.  People are being forced to follow a method or opinion and they are not allowed to have a CHOICE by exercising their free-will, which is God-given.  You can't take your opinion and force people to follow it.  We should only follow the Bible and anything outside of that is open to interpretation and many people have differing views or convictions.  However, if it is something that is in the Bible, no Christian should have a problem following that, as it is biblical.

There is where legalism comes in - that word that most of the time is abused and thrown around by people who would rather sit back and live like a devil.  The proper use of the word is when men make rules to follow and claim it was God that told them so and if you don't you are sinning.  These are things that are not in the Bible or they are not clear and then they are taken to a new level and taught in a way depending upon a man's opinion.  I'm not talking about rules of an establishment - everyone has those and they are just that; rules - I'm talking about man-made rules that are claimed to come from God and the risk of not following them is condemnation to hell.  There is a difference and we must understand the nature of each.

Say a man thinks that wearing red is wrong for a Christian woman to wear.  He then claims God thinks so too (without any biblical proof) and he preaches that women that wear red will split hell wide open.  This is the force that I'm talking about - forced to abstain from the color red through fear of hell, based upon one man's opinions and not God's Word.  This is where men take away God-given free will of the people and force them to follow a man through false teaching.  Preachers must be careful when using the sacred desk to share their personal opinions that have no biblical backing, as it can not only become abusive to the flock, but will destroy countless people for all eternity.  The only thing about the color red, is it will be the color of this man's hands when he stands before God to give an account.

Remember, we have a choice in everything we do!  When you feel like you are forced, then you are probably doing something that you don't really choose to do in your heart.  If it is something that God commanded you to do (like be a keeper at home, dress modestly, etc.) then you need to get your heart right.  If it is something a man told you to do (not wear red, don't accumulate wealth, etc.) then you are following a man and/or false teaching.  The Bible is our baseline - we must not make up things based upon our opinions (unless they are based on biblical principles) and tell everyone else they should do them or risk hell-fire.  God has given us all FREE WILL, we have a CHOICE, don't let anyone FORCE you to do something that God Himself doesn't even require of you!

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Monday, August 25, 2014

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Summary of Financial Budgeting 101


I hope you all enjoyed this series on financial budgeting, here is the summary of what we talked about a few more things I wanted to share.  I'm also including a link to my Scribd account that has free printables for budget planning.

I shared with you all our financial story and how we learned many lessons the hard way that brought us to where we are at today.  Thankfully, we were able to pick up the pieces and put them back together again and this time do it correctly.  We are still working towards our financial goals but have learned enough to share with others what not to do!  Thanks to Dave Ramsey, we have learned how to really have financial freedom and live like no one else.

Credit can be tempting because it gives you immediate access to what you want, even though you don't have the money for it.  Using credit is actually a sign of immaturity - just like a child wanting it NOW - think about the girl in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, sadly, that is most adults today too.  They want the clothes, shoes, purse, car, house, trips and all that NOW - so they put it on credit and then spend today paying for yesterday's desires.  BREAK THE CHAINS!!!!  As Christians, we shouldn't be bound up by debt.  Christians should be the ones that can show control (temperance) and hold off on purchasing things until we have the money to pay for it.  We should be the ones living modestly within our means and showing the world that you can be content with the things God has blessed you with - not with what Wells Fargo or Discover has chained you in.

I showed you why and how to do a budget and then even shared scenarios on how a family of 4 could live on low-middle incomes.  I also shared you with our family budget and how we manage living on one income while still giving to God, saving for the future and insuring our lives from financial crisis.  Most of the time the reason we fall into debt is because we don't have a plan for crisis situations.  You NEED an emergency fund, not a credit card.  You can't afford to pay interest and you can't afford to be without an emergency fund.  Why would you pay Visa $6,500 for borrowing $5,000?  You could have had that $5K in savings and kept your additional $1100 in interest.  You can give me $6,500 and I will give you $5,000 - sure, be that stupid - someone is making money off of your stupidity and your immaturity and lack of self-control!  As Dave Ramsey has said, you have Discover-ed bondage.

Plan.  Think ahead.  Don't think that nothing will happen to you.  Be mature - wait, have self control, be modest in your lifestyle by living within your means or even BELOW your means!  If others can do it - why can't you?  Do you need to re-prioritize your life?  Start now! 

Here are some free printables on my Scribd for budgeting:
NEW! Budget Worksheet
Monthly Budgeting Expense Worksheet
Bills Due Worksheet
Another Monthly Budget Worksheet

There may be situations where you fell into the pit of credit because you didn't have the emergency fund saved up yet.  At least you are aiming for the future, so don't get discouraged!  You have to climb and fight your way out but you WILL get there!

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Friday, August 22, 2014

Family of 4 Living On $30,000, $40,000, $50,000, and $60,000 a Year NET


I've showed you our family budget and now I would like to show some budget scenarios for a family of 4 to give you an idea of how all this works.  To make it easier, I'm using these annual incomes and considering that they are AFTER-tax incomes.  Generally for a family of 4, you would subtract $5,000 in taxes - factoring in state tax and the child tax credits.  That will give you a nice buffer.  So if you make $35,000, budget for $30,000 and so forth but as the income goes up, so do the taxes but I'm keeping these incomes low so that shouldn't be an issue.  Also, don't forget that your retirement contributions are pre-tax, which lowers your taxable income.  That is how I make these average monthly incomes work.  If you have an HSA account with your insurance plan, you will lower your taxable income even more!  But that is another topic in itself.

*I'm going to estimate that these families have a fully-funded emergency fund of $5-10K, so that they can purchase a higher-deductible medical plan.  They are also paying for disability, life and car insurance and have no car payments.  These would be ideal scenarios.  Imagine how much they would save if they had paid-for mortgages!  But in the meantime, let's assume they have a mortgage on a small, 2 or 3 bedroom home.  If you are wondering what each expense category covers, refer to my budgeting post here.

Family of 4 Living on $30,000 a Year - Average Monthly Income of $2,500

Income 
$30,000 after taxes

Expenses
Charity = $350
Savings = $320
Housing = $700
Utilities = $180
Food = $280
Personal = $130
Transportation = $230
Medical = $230
Clothing = $40
Recreation = $40
Debt - 0

This family has a high-deductible Medi-share plan to save on premium costs and they have their emergency fund fully funded to pay for any medical crisis that may happen this year.  Or, this family can get medicaid coverage because they are in poverty.  If they do that, they can then budget the medical money into other areas.  Their savings amount goes to fund their retirement and savings account.  They have to live in a very small home because they are living within their means.  They keep their costs down and consumption to the basics until they can pay off their mortgage.  Once they pay off their mortgage, they can either increase the other areas or add more bulk to their savings.  They find free things to do as a family and only reserve $40 for eating out or having friends over for dessert.  They shop consignment stores for clothing or the mom sews.  Many families live on this income and they make it work but it isn't ideal for sure but it can be done.  There is just NO room for debt! 


Family of 4 Living on $40,000 a Year - Average Monthly Income of $3,333
Income 
$40,000 after taxes

Expenses
Charity = $420
Savings = $600
Housing = $850
Utilities = $213
Food = $300
Personal = $150
Transportation = $250
Medical = $400
Clothing = $50
Recreation = $75
Debt - 0

This family does as the family above by saving 15% of their income for retirement but they will obviously give a larger portion and have a larger retirement.  They are also saving extra for misc. purchases that they choose to save for.  They can afford a higher housing cost than the $30K family but with that comes higher utility costs.  They spend more on food and personal items because they can and they also pay for a lower-deductible Christian sharing medical plan than the prior family but it costs more a month.  They are able to spend more on clothing and recreation but not so much as they can splurge yet until they pay off their mortgage.

Family of 4 Living on $50,000 a Year - Average Monthly Income of $4,167
Income 
$50,000 after taxes

Expenses
Charity = $510
Savings = $712
Housing = $1050
Utilities = $300
Food = $450
Personal = $200
Transportation = $320
Medical = $400
Clothing = $75
Recreation = $150
Debt - 0

This family is doing everything the prior families are doing with funding their retirement with 15% of their income and saving extra for whatever purchase they have on their list at the time.  They decided to get a larger home and with that comes an increased housing cost and utility cost.  They spend more on food and personal items but they decide to keep the same plan as the family before with a Christian sharing medical plan.  They still are frugal in their clothing expenses but decide to spend more in recreation because they like to go on field trips to the zoo or museum and this also increases their transportation costs as they use more gasoline for these outings.

Family of 4 Living on $60,000 a Year - Average Monthly Income of $5,000
Income 
$60,000 after taxes

Expenses
Charity = $600
Savings = $1425
Housing = $1050
Utilities = $300
Food = $500
Personal = $200
Transportation = $300
Medical = $400
Clothing = $75
Recreation = $150
Debt - 0

This family can live comfortably at this income as they are funding their retirements as all the previous families but they are also saving a lot more for other purchases.  They could also pay off their mortgage incredibly early by living on the lower income levels.  They can spend more in housing but they choose not to, so their housing and utility costs remain the same as the previous family.  They like to spend more on food and clothing but they keep their recreation and transportation costs about the same as the previous family so that they can fund their annual vacations and other big purchases.  They also keep the same Christian sharing medical plan to keep their costs low.


If you make more than $60,000 a year, it might be a good idea to live off a lower income and build wealth.  Set up your 6-month of expenses emergency fund, fully fund your retirement, pay off your mortgage, etc.  If you could live off the above scenarios and save and/or invest the rest - you could retire very early or even save to travel the world.  The possibilities are endless and it is in your favor.

Many families live in the $30-40K range and they have more than 2 children!  So tell me how a couple living on $50K can't seem to make ends meet?  I know families with upwards to 9 children that make it on very small incomes WITHOUT GOVERNMENT ASSISTANCE and they live well and are happy.  God can make any budget work - God and the biblical principles of the bible!  Do what the Word says and be content with what you have and enjoy the showers of blessings that God pours on you year after year!  I call it basking in His bounty!

Notes
If you aren't debt-free and don't have a fully-funded emergency fund, then you would have to tweak other areas of these budgets to accommodate for higher medical and debt payments.  You can easily move money around the different categories as it suits your family.  If you want a larger housing cost, you will have to lower other categories.

I've seen budgets that did NOT work on paper but somehow every month God provided - don't lose hope, aim to do right and God will help you!

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Thursday, August 21, 2014

Our Family Budget


My husband doesn't want me to share our income or amounts of our expenses but he did say I could share our percentages.  You can read about recommended percentages in the last post I did.  Here is our budget and where our money goes:


We have always given more than needed to cover anything that we may have forgotten that was given to us in gifts, food or whatever.  Sure, we probably don't need to do that but we choose too and besides - it is all God's anyway and He said to prove Him in Malachi:

Malachi 3:10
Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.

Give God 10% and give yourself 10%!  Currently we are building our long-term savings, moving expenses and our retirement fund.  We have been building our retirement since our 20's and will be millionaires when we reach 65, we have even knocked off 4% for inflation.  Our future is set and that is what helps me sacrifice now, knowing that we will live like no one else when we are 65 because we are living like no one else now.  On our financial plan, we will own a home in full, own a second home from inheritance which we plan on selling, have millions in retirement and have had insurance to cover any financial crisis up until that point.  All of this on ONE income - so for all those that say we are so poor having the wife stay at home - let's talk when we reach retirement age ok?

We rent a mobile home and we have a good deal, one that you just shouldn't be able to get in the area we live in but God provided!  Other than that, we only pay renter's insurance.  If anything breaks for leaks, the landlord fixes it!  Our utilities are phone, internet, electric, water and garbage.  We don't have cell phone bills but we do use an emergency cell with Tracfone that we pay only $120 a year for.  I'm home mostly all day - we simply don't need a phone bill larger than $30 a month!

We are believers in insuring for the future as we learned that lesson through NOT insuring things, which I spoke about in our financial story post.  We insure our rental home, car, health, life and retirement (though retirement isn't insurance, it is savings).  Being prepared when the storms come can help you not have a total breakdown as I've seen others have.  We learned from Dave Ramsey not to depend on Social Insecurity because by the time we are retirement age - it will be a miracle if it is even around.

You may have noticed that a lot of our income goes to medical, this is because we currently had a lot of medical bills with my 2 surgeries and my son's hospital visits.  We also pay this amount even if we have no bills because are funding an HSA with pre-tax dollars that remain tax-free.  I think that every family should take advantage of these accounts!  Premiums are only going to go up, so we are accepting that a very large portion of our budget must go to medical insurance and our HSA, since I also plan on having more children, which means more c-sections.  For my pregnancy and c-section in 2012, it cost $75,000!  We only paid about $6,000 of that - thanks to insurance!

We own our car and just pay for car insurance, gas and maintenance (oil changes, etc.).  We plan on always driving a used car and never having a car payment.  I can wait on my dream car until I'm a millionaire in retirement - we have goals and car payments aren't part of my dream!  We buy clothing usually yearly or whenever needed.  We normally don't buy clothing each month.  We don't do much recreation that costs money but we do get take-out quite often, so that would be part of that category.  We have no debt except for a few medical bills left but that is paid for with our HSA.

The last two categories I haven't talked about yet are food and personal.  Our food budget has gone up very high due to my ill health but now that I'm regaining my health, I plan to get it down again.  Personal money is for my husband's haircuts, his spending money, homeschool supplies and miscellaneous needs like diapers, wipes, soap, etc.

The debt category didn't even make our pie chart because it is ZERO!

I hope that you enjoyed looking into our family's budget and how we use our money, I plan on doing a mixture of family scenarios in the next post!

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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Why and How of Budgeting


What is a budget and why do we need one?  A budget is simply a way to keep track of where your money goes.  The Google definition is: an estimate of income and expenditure for a set period of time.  The reason why it would be good to have a budget is simply so you can SEE or find out where your money is being spent.  You don't really know unless you see it on paper - exactly what goes where.  If you want to get anywhere in life financially, you need to name every dollar!

Now onto how you do a budget.  There are some numbers you will need to find out before starting your budget, so write these down in a place you can refer to whenever you need to readjust your budget.

  1. Income - how much money is coming in to your home in any given month.  If you don't know, look at your pay stubs or take the hourly pay and multiply it by 160 hours for a typical 4-week month.  Include any child support or any miscellaneous incomes into this number.  
  2. Expenses - this is anything that goes OUT or that you pay for, how often (weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, etc.) and if they are regular or just a one-time expense.  

Generally, you would do a budget each month but if your income and expenses are quite constant, you could probably get by with only doing a budget quarterly, or 4 times a year.  If you are like me and love to crunch numbers, well - you will be doing one quite often.

Here is a list of common expenses that almost everyone will need to budget for, I'm using the general categories that Dave Ramsey uses:


  1. Charity - this is where you would include tithe, offerings and any other giving.
  2. Savings - this isn't just what you hope to save in a savings account, this also includes retirement plans and other investments.
  3. Housing - includes rent or mortgage payment (and all that entails like property taxes, homeowner's insurance, etc.), renter's insurance and repairs if you own.
  4. Utilities - phone, internet, garbage, water, sewer, electric, gas
  5. Food - pretty self explanatory
  6. Personal - this is a catch-all for the needs, things like haircuts, toiletries, homeschool purchases and whatever else you feel that you need to purchase.
  7. Transportation - these are things to do with transporting you and/or your family that are needed like car insurance, gasoline and maintenance.
  8. Medical or Health - health insurance, dental insurance, medical bills, prescriptions, contacts, etc.  I also include disability and life insurance in this category.
  9. Clothing - budgeting a certain amount every month but you don't have to spend it each month, you can save it like we do and shop for clothes once or twice a year.
  10. Recreation or Fun money - whatever you do to have fun that costs money.
  11. Debt - all debt you have that is outstanding - car payments, credit cards, loans, etc.


Once you have your total income and total expenses written down, it is time to get down to crunching the numbers.  You will also want to know how much taxes are taken out each month.  I do our taxes each year, so I've calculated a certain amount that we claim and I know our tax rate, so I deduct that percentage from our monthly income. 

You only want to budget your total income MINUS your taxes - that will be your NET pay.  So starting with you net pay, subtract your expenses.  If you have money leftover, you need to place it into one of the categories and if it isn't needed - put it in savings in some form!  You should have what is called a zeroed-out budget - give every dollar a home.

Dave Ramsey recommends a certain percentage of your income towards each category and I did a pie chart to show you what this could look like:

Charity - 10-15%
Savings - 10-15%
Housing - 25-25%
Utilities - 5-10%
Food - 5-15%
Personal - 5-10%
Transportation - 10-15%
Medical - 5-10%
Clothing - 2-7%
Recreation - 5-10%
Debt - 0%


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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Our Financial Story


What better way to start this series than to tell you our financial story.  I will begin at the beginning of our marriage about 15 years ago when we were both working.  We had money rolling in and we were 20, we didn't budget and had no idea where that money went every month.  Once I started staying at home, we only lived on my husband's pay and it was a big shock to us to say the least!  There were times we didn't even have money in the bank and just prayed we would make it to the 1st or the 15th!

We moved a lot in town from apartment to apartment because I was never satisfied where I was and I gave my husband a hard time about it.  He let us move those many times because he wanted me to be happy.  Here I was, supposedly a "Christian" wife and discontent with everything my husband tried to provide for us.  Needless to say, our marriage wasn't going very well either.  We had our first child 3 years into our marriage and we had no money to pay the medical bills.  So, we applied and qualified for medicaid and my pregnancy and c-section were covered.  However, after I had the baby, I was no longer covered and sickness came off and on throughout the years and so did medical bills.

Years of discontent fueled reckless spendingWe never could get ahead because I was literally the millstone around my husband's neck that drained our finances and him!  We ended up with massive amounts of medical debt, credit card debt and a car payment that we could not afford to pay.  There was seemingly no hope.  Then, I decided that I wanted to leave Alaska because it was Alaska that was making me so miserable I thought.  I told my husband I was going to move to Washington with or without him.  I prayed for $20,000 and God gave it to us through an inheritance we didn't know was coming to us (why I don't know, I sure didn't deserve it!).  So my husband reluctantly decided to move us to Washington in 2006.  We paid for the move and I was able to secure him a job before we even moved.  Everything looked great but God didn't call us to where we were and I was about to learn quite a few lessons on never doing that again!

Upon getting a higher-paying job in WA, we had the choice of whether or not to buy health insurance.  I didn't want our money used to pay for something we didn't NEED as I was better, I mean who NEEDS health insurance anyway?  That is only if you have cancer and things like that - we were young and we would be fine.  Shortly, thereafter I ended up in the hospital for 13 days and we ended up with $40,000 worth of debt.  In the meantime, I had rededicated my life to God and gotten "right" and started being a submissive wife to my husband.  I no longer let my discontent rule our lives, however God was going to teach us a lesson that we wouldn't forget.

We had wanted to apply for financial assistance to pay the $40,000 medical bill but I remember when praying about it - God distinctly told us NO!  We were going to pay this debt and we were going to learn some lessons.  When I called the hospital billing to tell them we were not going to apply for assistance but pay this debt ourselves, they had an interesting story to tell.  Someone came in and wrote off $26,000 of the bill.  They don't know who, no one authorized it and they don't do that and she was perplexed and after talking with others in the office - no one knew WHO or HOW but it was someone with administrative privileges and we didn't owe $26,000 of the bill!  We still had a lot more left to pay though, that along with more credit card debt and a car payment had us back in the chains of debt.

We came across Dave Ramsey and read his book and my husband decided that we were doing this - we were going to be debt-free and never use a credit card again!  We were also going to pay for insurance because we didn't want to go through what we went through again.  We did the gazelle intensity and ended up paying close to $81,000 in debt OFF by 2011.  We were finally DEBT FREE!!!!!  We drive a paid-for car, we have no debt, we buy only what we can afford and our medical bills are paid with money we set aside in an Health Savings Account (HSA) that is tax-free.  We learned our lesson and so thankful we did!

We have had medical bills since then but thankfully, they are small in comparison to what they would have been had we not had health insurance!  We haven't touched a credit card in 5 years and don't plan on ever doing so.  We decided to live by biblical principles not just in our lives but also finances as well.  God has only blessed us and during times where we should have sunk under the weight of financial distress - God lifted the load off of us!  We didn't need Discover or Visa - we had God now and He is the only master we want to serve!

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