Friday, August 30, 2013

Ten Ways to 'Earn' Money by Not Spending

Thirty years ago, when our first child was born, my husband and I made an informed decision to live on one income.  Over time, we adapted our habits and found ways to avoid spending, thus freeing up dollars to use as we chose.  If you have more time than money (as the saying goes), using your time to contribute to the household economy is a smart way to earn by not spending.  

Here are ten ways to 'earn' money by not spending it :-)

1.  Drink water.
Drinking water and eliminating flavored drinks is one of the biggest boons to our budget.  My children were not raised to expect juice, tea, soft drinks, flavored sugar drinks, and all the thousands of liquids offered instead of plain water.   Occasionally we drink teas, and I like a nice cup of coffee in the morning. But all day long, water is our thirst quencher.  Water with a squeeze of fresh lemon is a real treat!

2.  Cook and bake from scratch using real ingredients.  
Serving real foods will provide more nutrition per meal and satisfy your hunger more thoroughly while keeping your dollars in your pocketbook.  Convenience foods are expensive!  It does not take much more time to measure and mix,  or chop and cook, and the end result is not chock-full of shelf stabilizing preservatives.  Fresh fruits and vegetables are an important part of healthy eating, making idea #3 possible. 

3.  Stay healthy and avoid expensive doctor visits. 
You are what you eat.  You really are. Eventually, constantly eating food that lacks nutritive value results in a body that lacks vigorous health.  Choose to eat for life!   Pack your own lunches, and take snacks when you're out shopping to avoid spending money on fast foods. 

4.  Reduce laundry by reusing bath towels.  
Toweling off clean bodies does not dirty a towel.  Assign a towel to each family member to use and hang up to dry.  The whole family gets clean towels twice a week.  This saves extra wash loads, lowering both water and electric consumption.  The towels last longer, too!

5.  Use cleaning cloths.  
We use both purchased microfiber cloths and retired bath and dish towels for cleaning.  Paper towels are reserved for greasy or nasty messes, making a roll of paper towels last many weeks.  Another plus--my boys and my husband know which "rags" they can use for outdoor work, and never grab the hand towels out of the bathroom, or the dish towels out of the kitchen.  Any more.  

6.  Have fun at home. 
Besides the obvious savings on gasoline and all the attendant costs to going out to movies, theme parks, and family amusements, constant go-go-going takes time away from activities at home. We wanted to give our children the gift of leisure time at home, time to pursue hobbies, play board games, time to lie on the grass and watch clouds or learn constellations, time to ride bikes and climb trees, time to get lost in a book.  Free time at home makes economic sense!  Watch a movie from your home or public library and pop your own corn!

7.  Use the library!  
I am a huge fan of our local library. As long as we return our items in a timely way, books, movies, magazines, and a host of other items are free!  There are free classes and clubs, and free wi-fi. 

8.  Treasure hunt. 
Embrace clothing hand-me-downs (especially for children), and the art of sharing with friends who are the same size as you are.  My favorite thrift store can quadruple the spending power of every dollar on quality goods.   Freecycle, garage sales, and swaps are all great ways to avoid spending full price on necessary clothing and household items. 

9.  Line dry your clothes. 
There is a trade-off in convenience vs. savings when line-drying clothes, and some neighborhoods prohibit this thrifty practice.  But my wind-powered-solar-clothes-dryer has provided fresh smelling crisp clothes while saving a bundle on bills.  When the children were young, the laundry hanging time was outdoor playing time, and as they grew tall enough to reach the clothesline, we shared the job.  

10.  Make it yourself. 
We make almost all of our cleaning products, and save more than I could through coupon use.  We make our own shampoos and hair conditioners.  Cultivating hobbies that save us money and contribute to the household allows us to make gifts at a great savings, whether clothing, home decor, food specialties, or toys.  With Pinterest and crafty bloggers, you'll never run out of ideas and recipes to use for gifts!  

We live in a two-income society, but it is possible to happily thrive on a small income.  It takes some out-of-the-box thinking, and purposeful living to change the way you think about and use money. 

My friend Holly, who is a fellow thrifty mom, blogs regularly on stretching those hard-earned dollars through couponing and gardening, and shares great thoughts and yummy recipes.  We thought it would be fun to post on the same topic, as we are all looking for ways to do the best we can with what we have.  Be sure to pop on over to WhollyHolly at 
and find her post on Ten Ways to Earn by not Spending!

I would love for you to share your ideas in the comments!!  

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Our Experiment with Year-Round Home Schooling

Last year, my family opted to school year-round.  Learning is our lifestyle, and school time is such a part of our routine that we decided to enjoy the flexibility of using all 365 days of the year for life and learning.  I wrote about my kids' request , and we "officially" started our school year on the local public school's Back-To-School Day.  The kids decided to count the "school" days, and here we are, back to the beginning of school again :-).

Was it a success?  

YES!  Our experiment in year-round schooling worked so well, we will continue.   In case you are considering a year-round schedule, I'll share our discoveries.  

How many school days did our 3-4 day school week actually total during our experiment year?  

Typically a school year equals 180 days of classroom instruction.    Anyone who has ever sat in a classroom knows that a class hour is not 60 minutes.  (Remember, I have high schoolers now).  Classes let out 10 minutes early to allow students to get to the next class at the top of the hour, so a class hour equals 50 minutes.  180 days of 50 minutes of class equals 9000 minutes, or 150 clock hours of instruction (in theory).
Of course, none of the above calculations subtracts minutes for classroom announcements, taking attendance, daydreaming, and finishing one's work and waiting...waiting for the bell to ring.

We tallied 160 days of school, not including field trips and other learning activities during free time.    So, we definitely had plenty of school days and accomplished more schooling than in our previous nine-month years. 

What are the benefits of year-round schooling?

The major benefit for our family was Freedom.  We felt free to take a day off whenever necessary to attend to Important Events.  In spite of an emergency week-long hospital stay for my dear husband and numerous doctor appointments afterward, my previously unknown chronic spinal condition rearing its head and demanding attention and a lot of rehabilitative time, and preparations for my daughter's wonderful wedding, our educational habit kept us plodding along all year, reducing stress. 

Another benefit is that with consistent learning, my children are breezing through introductory review sections in their math texts.  Spelling improved constantly and is still improving.  Can we say READING??!!  Wow, my daughter discovered a new genre of books and is soaking them up like a sponge, happy happy.  Our science and history gained momentum that has not lagged.  Retention or Recall of information is a definite plus.  

Flexibility in subjects was another unforeseen benefit. Some weeks, my children would focus in depth on history or science, even math, doing much more than one lesson per day.  They had time to take on a big writing project and devote an entire week to it, before returning to the regular multi-subject day. Without artificial time boxes for subjects, my children spent whatever time necessary each day to work in their subject areas, stopping at logical transitions within the subject.  I've seen more self-motivated learning because of this freedom and I LIKE IT. 

One tip for lesson planning in high school, whether you school 9 months or 12:  let each subject's lessons track separately.  Then, if your child gets on a roll, getting "ahead" in one subject won't "mess up" an every-subject-on-one-grid lesson plan. Been there.  Abandoned that.  

Any draw-backs to year-round home schooling?

I can think of one.  Having three months to browse curriculum and plan for the coming 9 months is a bonus.  If you are brand new to home learning and teaching, you may need the summer months to read, to research, to learn and to prepare for this life of learning.  Some people wear themselves out during a nine-month year and need to recharge for three months.  We have had years like that!  But, the flexibility of adapting our lesson plans in response to emergencies, physical challenges, and just plain fun (planning a wedding), turned out to be much more effective for us as we progressed through the year.  We worked hard and stayed on-task when it was a school day, and when it was not, we could completely focus on other work or fun. 
Our year of school was quite enjoyable and stress-free from an education angle.  That was good, since life presented more than the usual allotment of challenges ;-).   When I had a houseful of many young children, and summers full of ministering to neighborhood children, year-round school may not have worked as well.  In this new season of family, it is a good fit!  

How do you fit your home school around your life?