How to Clean Up Your Own Credit File

A. Sarnoff
In 1995 I was saddled with my own debt AND debt that wasn't mine - stolen info, fraud, etc.  In 1997 I read a book that taught me how to clean up my credit.  I did what the book said, and, at the same time, I paid off my OWN stupid debt!   It took me two years.  In 1999 I bought my first home.  In 2014 I became 100% debt-free.  You can do it, too!  One year from now you will wish you began TODAY!  So do it!

The first step, of course, is to begin paying all your debts on time.  That is so important!  Use a bills calendar.  Credit reports reflect late payments.  Next, consolidate your debts yourself, if you can find a 0% or lower rate card than what you currently have. You'll have to be careful about transfer fees.  But better than that, pay off the small debts, then roll that payment into the next largest debt.  This is called "snowballing" your debt by Dave Ramsey, or "rapid debt repayment" by Mary Hunt (love her calculator on her website).  Then, of course, cut up your cards, but don't close any accounts until things are under control.  Click on my posts for Living on One Income and you will see all about how to do this.

Have you ever received a letter denying you credit?  If so, there are a few things you can do on your own to help clean up your own credit file, especially if the negatives on your report are not really yours.  Don't pay anyone to do this for you.  Only you can do it. 

Start by visiting www.annualcreditreport.com.  This is the correct site.  Don't go to another.  Request your information from just ONE of the three reporting agencies.  Put on your calendar to do the next agency in four months, and the final agency four months after that.  Then do it again the following year until your credit is satisfactory.

1)  Go through your report and list all the wrong items:
            Misspelled names, work names, street names. 
            If an address was transposed, such as 4107 Main and 4170 Main Street, put in your letter:  "This was obviously a transposition of numbers on the reporter's part, and is causing confusion.  Please delete the incorrect address of 4170.  The correct address is 4107 Main Street."

Ask them to delete information (list it) that is negative and is over 7 years old (10 years for bankruptcies). 

2)  If something is wrong, say so in your PAPER letter to the credit reporting agency.  For example:  "I've never heard of this company.  This isn't my account.  I have never done business with them."  (Especially happens when your name is common - we once had a neighbor with the same name!)

If a relative's debt shows on your report - that may be good IF their credit is good.  For instance, when I was starting life I got myself into stupid credit debt.  But my parents' credit was showing on my file, and they paid everything on time.  This helped me!  But if they were behind, then I would have asked to have their accounts deleted from my report.

3)  If something is listed twice, say so!  "Why is this debt listed twice?  As LA12345 and just 12345?  Please delete as it appears that I have two debts.  Thank you."

4)  You can dispute inaccurate information.  The credit reporting agency (CRA) will do an investigation and give you a written report.  If an item was paid and it doesn't show, tell them:  "I have proof that this was paid 10/2016 (copy attached)."  OR  "This account was settled.  Please delete."  OR  "This was paid by a settlement agreement in 2015."  OR  "This was paid to another collection agency in 2012."  OR  "This was dismissed in 2009. Please delete."  OR  "The wording is wrong on my XYZ card acct #54321 - it should say 'Paid satisfactorily' or 'paid as agreed.'  Please report it correctly.  Thank you."

5)  Once you've made your case, mail off your letter and wait for a response (usually within 30 days).  When you receive your new report, if there are still items you want to see removed, you can send another request.  Just ask to have it removed - especially if it isn't your debt and is fraud!

Years ago someone in the duplex behind me ordered a pager in my name.  He didn't work and waited for delivery.  He signed my name!  I obviously disputed with the debt collector.  They said, "Sorry, we have proof of delivery" and sent me a copy.  I didn't let it go.  I wrote back that I refused to pay for something I neither ordered nor received and told them what I believed happened.  They sent an affidavit to have notarized, which I did, and it was removed from my files.

6)  If the CRA's investigation doesn’t resolve your dispute, you can probably add a brief statement to your file, explaining your side.  Of course, if all the debts really are yours, you are simply going to have to pay the consequence of waiting 7 years and begin good credit habits today.  But you can change your report to reflect "Paid by agreement" (as in you negotiated a payoff with the debt collector, even if it wasn't for the full amount) instead of "Delinquent."  It's up to you!  Mary Hunt paid back over $100,000 to her creditors!

7)  If, at the end of a year, you have one CRA reporting that is more accurate than the others, you can actually contact the other two companies to put a note in your file that says something like, "This CRA (name it) is not maintaining reasonable procedures to maintain maximum accuracy in the reports it keeps on me.  This report is inaccurate and shouldn't be given credence. Please contact this CRA (name the good one) for an accurate report."  I never had to do that, as I was able to clean up my reports on my own, just by writing letters and keeping on top of things.

8)  Keep track of when negative credit is to fall off your report.  Put it on your calendar.  When your next free report is available, make sure it has been removed.  Follow up and ask them to remove it!  "Seven years has passed.  Please delete this debt."

8)  If you keep disputing a debt and they cannot verify it, or drop the ball in verifying it, it can be dropped from your report.  This takes DILIGENCE on your part.  You must respond immediately to their letters.  Don't be frightened.  It is personal on your part, but not on theirs.  Only you can protect your own credit.  Be ready to FIGHT, but be nice.  Fight as in don't give up and get scared.  You do this when someone, an old roommate or an ex, takes advantage of your good name and opens a catalogue account or other credit card and never paid the bills.  Clear your name!  Don't give up!  It can be done!

In 1997, I went to an urgent care clinic, and at the end they presented me with the bill, which I paid in full.  Days later I received an exorbitant bill!  The fire in me was ignited.  I wasn't going to pay one more penny that I didn't owe - and I haven't.  I called up the clinic and said, "You presented me with a bill, and I paid it in full.  You can't just suddenly decide I owe more!"  The woman actually laughed, and said, "You're right!  We can't.  I see that you did pay the bill we gave you.  If it was incorrect, that's our problem.  We can't bill you more after the fact."  

That positive outcome gave me more courage to speak up.  I went to the mall and bought an outfit.  I decided to splurge on the matching purse and jewelry after carefully considering the prices and my finances.  When I got to the cash register, all went well until the purse was rung up.  It was three times as much!  I said, "But the price tag says $13."  She replied, "The price tag was mis-marked." !!!  I told her that she could not raise prices on tags at the cash register, mis-marked or not!  The woman behind me spoke up, "That's correct.  That's the law."  Now normally I would have put the purse back.  But the fire had been ignited in me.  I don't let people walk all over me anymore!

A. Sarnoff
I lamented to someone, "Every month I seem to have a financial catastrophe.  A bill I don't expect always comes my way" and related the above.  He replied, "Janine, that is life.  You should expect a problem like that to come your way every day.  And when it doesn't - rejoice!"  His comment actually changed my mindset from martyr to rejoicer!  I was feeling like I was the only one this was happening to.  But it happens to everyone.  And when you have good days without financial woe - REJOICE!
Disclaimer:  I majored in Consumer Economics, and as part of my classes I helped counsel people considering bankruptcy.  This was two decades ago, and this post cannot be considered legal information.  You need to consult your attorney if you are considering bankruptcy. 


The Perfect Year, Area #4: Serene Spaces (Choosing a life of Peacefulness)

1.  Practice silence in the car.  Turn off that radio.  Or have a child read out loud.  Or get books on tape.  Adventures in Odyssey! Or old radio shows.  Silence helps your children to talk to you, and if alone, for you to think deeply.  Or introduce your child to one classical piece of music each day.  It always grows on the child.  It's brain food.  It's also calming.  And they will begin to recognize it all over the place.  Learn together.  My favorite: Pachelbel's Canon in D. 

2.  At home - turn off the TV.  Turn off the music.  What do you hear?  "Be still and know that I am God."  When was the last time you were still?

3.  Practice Peace.  A quieter home - just people living, candles (real or battery).  Listen to the quiet sounds of home.  Choose family books to read aloud.  Begin with a Children's Bible storybook, such as The Rhyming Bible for little ones, or Uncle Arthur's Bible Story set.  It's the best!  He also has a set of "Bedtime Stories" and a set called "The Children's Hour."  More on this in Life - In Order.       

We are currently reading "Rabbit Hill".  Almost any "old" Weekly Reader book - from the 50's and 60's - will be excellent for family read alouds.  Carolyn Haywood books are perfect for ages 4-9. Most Catherine Woolley "Ginny" books are great for girls 4th grade+ - they are in reprint (loved all except "Mysterious Light").  Try the "Mad Scientists Club" books - they are in reprint in 2 volumes. Boys will love, and many girls, too.  "Meet the Austins" and the 2 Christmas prequels are fantastic for 11+, but the sequels are terrible.  Classic books are typically for the older child.  Try booklists from Heart of Dakota. She's done a fantastic job of compiling the classics and the correct age group (unlike others).

4.  Buy a swing this summer.  A big one that you can cuddle your family on, and also lay down on.  It's a great way to read together and play verbal games outside, like trivia games, or 20 questions.  Start saving now from your grocery money!

5.  This week, practice praying with your family.  Out loud.  Bless them.  Ask God for healing and a peaceful home.  Pray for world events and peace. 

King Solomon, paraphrased, said:  Eat!  Drink!  Rejoice!  Sing!  Do good!  Love!  Live joyfully with your wife!  Do with your might what your hands find to do!  Praise the Lord!  Fear God!

6.  Take big breaths.  No need to empty your mind.  God said to fill it with Scripture.  No need for yoga to take big breaths.  No need to meditate. 

Philippians 4:8 New International Version (NIV) says: Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthythink about such things.  A good verse to post by the t.v.! 

Just turn down the noise, take big, refreshing breaths, pray, SMILE, SING a capella, dance with your babies, love on your hubby, and ENJOY THE MOMENT.  Then you will have a perfect year.


A Perfect Year, Area #3: Radiant Health

A. Sarnoff
Health has to do with food, water, sunshine, laughter, smiling, alcohol, drugs, smoking, love, sleep, stress, clutter, fat, exercise, soda, snacking, and work. 

We have a bigger say in our health than we care to admit.  Try one of these each week.

1.  Create a pantry.  Choose your largest cabinet.  Hire someone to put in shelves if you can't do it with wire risers from Big Lots or Bed Bath & Beyond.  You also need risers for cans, so that you can see them 3 or 4 deep.  Can be found at BBB or Home Goods.  Probably Container Store or online organization stores as well.  You need air-tight bins for flour and sugar and oatmeal or cereals.  Tape the directions, recipe, ingredients to the front and keep a measuring scoop inside if possible.  Label shelves if you can't see at a glance what is there. 

2.  Buy BAMBOO cutting boards.  You need 3 to 6 of them.  Toss your plastic boards. A University of Michigan study found that "those using wooden cutting boards in their home kitchens were less than half as likely as average to contract salmonellosis (odds ratio 0.42, 95% confidence interval 0.22-0.81), those using synthetic (plastic or glass) cutting boards were about twice as likely as average to contract salmonellosis (O.R. 1.99, C.I. 1.03-3.85); and the effect of cleaning the board regularly after preparing meat on it was not statistically significant (O.R. 1.20, C.I. 0.54-2.68). We know of no similar research that has been done anywhere, so we regard it as the best epidemiological evidence available to date that wooden cutting boards are not a hazard to human health, but plastic cutting boards may be."  Dean O. Cliver, Ph.D http://faculty.vetmed.ucdavis.edu/faculty/docliver/Research/cuttingboard.htm 

Bottom line is that germs die within 3 minutes on wood, and stay hours on plastic, even when washed in a dishwasher. 

3.  Make a money plan on grocery spending.  How much do you have to spend?  Save your receipts and total at month end.  I use a Ralph's visa card and only put groceries on it - from all grocery stores - to track my spending.  It's kinda shocking.

4.  Menu planning.  Use online menus from your favorite restaurants to meal plan.  Write it down on a 3x5 card or in a binder.  As you find a recipe, fill in the card with your notes - what pots to use, what side orders, what gets cooked first (like rice taking 45 minutes vs. 10 min beans).  Note how you changed a recipe, when you ate it, the reaction of family.

5.  If you want to add new foods, add it to your calendar.  Or make a rule, "At 10:30 each morning we will eat our fruit." Or celery. Or whatever you wish to add.

6.  Cut the crap.  This is the week to stop what ails you.  For me it was chocolates that caused heartburn, and juice that gave me a rash on my arm!

7.  Look through your books on diet or go to library.  I like Dr. MacDougall and Dr. Joel Fuhrman.  Find the foods that boost YOUR energy!

8.  Practice sitting at the table this week - for all your meals.  No more standing up!  Stand up meals cause weight gain.  Don't eat in your car this week (or ever).  Clear your table (my office!).  Set the table.  Teach your kids how to set the table.  Practice manners.  Practice moderation of food.

9.  What exercise did you like as a child?  What can you do with your child?  Ask him/her.  Depending on weather, can you walk or ride bikes to a park?  Drive to a new neighborhood with huge homes to walk?  Exercise together with videos?  Start slowly!  Don't overdo!  Choose 3 days, not every day.  Stretch like a cat in your bed before you get up.  Stretch and kick your legs.  Flex your feet.  Baby steps!  Begin with just 5 minutes a day!


A Perfect Year Area #2: A Home.

1.  Clear the clutter.  Begin with YOUR bedroom.  Then bathrooms.  Front room.  Kitchen.  Dining room.  Guest room.  Children's rooms.  Hall closets.  Front Door area and porch.  Garage.  Backyard and patio.

Try to finish in just one week.  If you can't, that's okay!  Just begin!  Make a plan.  It can be interchangeable.  Get some bags/boxes and put them into a closet and every item to be donated goes in. 

If you need inspiration, I've got it!  Read my posts on organization.

2.  Create a serene area to read, pray and encourage yourself.  It will have your prayers and your plans. 

3.  Do not subscribe to magazines.  They create discontent.  Instead, go to many different libraries over the year and check out books on decluttering, organizing, and making a house a home.  648.5 is the section in every library.  When you find pictures you like that are doable, snap a picture for inspiration.  But they must be doable - clean, clear, cozy spaces - not unaffordable additions.  And limit your internet time or pinterest time.  I had to not go there.

4.  Calendar your life - and try to "slow it down".   Take this year's calendar and transfer recurring items to the new year - on a PAPER calendar - the whole family must be able to see this calendar.  For me, all Mondays have a pink "-" in the middle, meaning don't schedule anything.  Mondays I stay home and clean (plus I homeschool every day).  On Tuesdays after school we visit family.  Thursdays we have park days and playdates.  Fridays consist of errands or visiting (all after school of course).

Each month I also have in the notes section who I should send cards to.  Some months have items such as these:  Pay taxes, income and property.  Buy socks.  Special library event.  Change a/c filter.  Phone charges may go up - try to renegotiate.  Annual curriculum sale.  Annual sale at store.  Go to special water park.  Phone minutes expire.  VBS begins.  Grandparents Day.  File homeschool affidavit.  Buy new calendar.  Living Nativity Pageant. 

This is how I remember everything.  I write it all down and transfer it from year to year.  (In my purse I keep a tiny notebook with restaurant food choices we liked/didn't like, items to remember, shoe sizes, where a store is located, etc.)   Another post on how to keep several calendars is here.

5.  Protect your sanity - create margin in your life and calendar.  It is RARE for me to do anything on a Monday.  I need that day at home.  It keeps me sane and on top of things.  It sets the tone of my whole week.  This past year we began school in early August so we could build more margin into a year.  A week off in October which is so busy with birthdays.  Five weeks off for Dec and January to have fun and not get stressed.  And a week off every six to eight weeks for the rest of the year so we don't get burned out on school and life.  How will you build margin into your life?


A Perfect Year, Area #1: An income.

We all need one.  If you are single, then it all falls on you.  But if your hubby is working, can you find a way to work less, and live on less?  The majority of people actually can, but won't.  That is up to you.  Where there is a will there is a way kind of thing. 

If you want to work, that is fine.  I'm not trying to get you to quit.  Just keep in mind that the "Research shows that women who work 41 to 50 hours a week are 1.6 times as likely to develop heart disease and 1.5 times as likely to get cancer compared to those who work 30-40 hours per week (averaged over a 32-year period).  The more hours you toil, the higher your risk."  Allard Dembe, Sc.D., Good Housekeeping, Jan 2017.

This is mainly because once you get home, your work doesn't end - it's just beginning.  So your life is nothing but work.  And I'm concerned about the women I see who work themselves to death.  End of speech.

So here goes:  Begin with where you are and budget.  It's a "money map" - where you WANT your money to go, and where it IS going.  So the food goal may be $400, but at the end of the month when you total receipts the actual may be $775. 

Then you keep adjusting it as you go each month.  Do you need to add more to food, or were you buying gift cards?  Are you budgeting for gifts?  Or eating out too much?  Or does miscellaneous keep going on the credit card?  What are you spending your money on?

What is the one thing you can't pass up?  Lipstick, shoes, candy, cute stuff? My son said for him it is stuffed animals.  For me, I used to say, "It's only $15."  ONLY?  When you identify YOUR "widget" then you can recognize that spending hole in your pocket. 

Put it on PAPER!  It's the only way to gain control.  And if you fill in boxes as you pay something (mine has the months of the year across the top on 4 sheets of paper), then when you wake up at 2:00 am wondering if you paid a bill, you can glance at your map and see that you did, because your chart was filled in.  I have the day paid, and the date due, next to my pymt amount.

Paycheck #1
Paycheck #2
Extra pyck
Tithe on extra
Automatic Savings
Automatic Savings
Cash for month
Lawn guy
Heat, trash, water
Phone and internet
Visa bill
Grocery store visa
Dept store visa
Home Goods visa
Prop Taxes
Dec & Feb
Life Ins due Jan
House Ins due April
Erthqke Ins Apr
Car Ins due July
Car Reg Dec/Jan

For me, "cash for month" includes a small amount of unbudgeted spending money for each of us, our gasoline money, haircuts, pizza, stamps/office supplies/misc money, all in their own envelopes to keep track of. 

If I'm out of gas money I'm done for the month.  If it is an emergency, it can come from an emergency stash we have hidden.  But I can't say yes to going across town for a playdate.  I'm out of gas and out of money.  The end.  No debt.  They can come to me, or they can understand.  I haven't lost a friend yet!

A. Sarnoff
Several years ago we needed a new roof, and $17k to pay for it.  The roof was leaking.  We put up tarps for years.  It took over one year of planning, repairing items, and selling items, to work and raise the money for this.  It took prayer and what felt like miraculous answers on what to sell to come up with this extra money.  But we did it - debt free!  The Lord led us with ideas, and doors closing and doors opening.  It was difficult.  But we did it!

I've written much on finances.  Many times it is easier to quit spending money than it is to bring in new money.  Remember, it is only for a season.  Try and find books from your library on how to make money.  I've read some excellent ones on how people survive without steady employment, and it all has to do with seeing opportunities and following through.  Working diligently and asking God for help and discernment. 

Again, you have to know what you WANT or you'll never get it.  I WANT a roof over my head that doesn't leak.  Start writing down the ideas on how to achieve that.  Start reading the money books.  Listen to Renee Ellison's CDs on money or get the written version.  Listen to or read Mary Hunt's books or website. 

How am I going to get out of debt?  Use Mary Hunt's Rapid Debt Repayment Program.  Subscribe to her website debtproofliving.com.  You can read all her newsletters.  Print them and read several a week until you change your mindset.

How do I change my thinking about money?  Try books or tapes such as "Your Money or Your Life" or "Automatic Millionnaire."

Here is the link to the 13 posts I've written about how to live on one income.  We have been 100% debt-free for several years now and I've written several times on what I did to become debt-free.  This is important!  Do it!  Only you can control your own finances!  God bless.


The Perfect Year

A. Sarnoff
The "Do It All Perfectly" Year.  Isn't that what we wish for every New Year's Eve?  Isn't that the phrase that gets us to buy magazines and say we need to get organized?  I just wish I could do it all... and perfectly.  

The word I kept hearing over and over in Christmas marketing this year was "Impress."  "Impress your friends and family with...."  Really?  That isn't what I choose for my life.

A. Sarnoff
I guess I felt the need to impress in my earlier years, but not now, because I learned the secret... no one wants to be impressed.  They just want to be comfortable in your presence.  They don't want their clothes, home, food, children's manners, etc. to be judged.  If you are living to impress others, then they aren't really your friends.  Find true ones! 

Now, what do you REALLY need in your life?  Please just quickly jot it down, right now.  Let's see if we come up with the same things.  If YOU actually do this, actually jot down on a piece of paper what you REALLY need, then it is more likely to take precedence over insanity.  Do you NEED to work 50-60 hours per week?  Do you need to drive your children to five events every week?  Do you need to eat every meal out?  Do you need to be in debt?  Does your home need to be messy, cluttered, dusty, and unlaundered?  Of course not.  What do you need?

This is what I need.

A roof over my head.  An income.  My family.  Health.  Food.  Water.  Sunshine.  Laughter.  Love.  Warm and cool clothes.  Peace.  Clean spaces.  Open spaces.  Green spaces.  Serene spaces.  Friends. An intimate walk with our Savior, Jesus.

Did I miss anything?

So all of these things really fall into just 4 areas:

1)  An income
2)  A home
3)  Radiant health
4)  Choosing peace

These four areas, I just realized, seem to be the message of my life when speaking with others.  When I'm with other women, those four topics come up repeatedly.  I studied them diligently for about ten years...read hundreds of books until I made up my mind how to live, and what is important to me.  

My next 4 Mondays will detail these 4 areas.  I'm calling it "A Perfect Year" only because that is what we wish for.   It will be "perfect" only because you are being conscious of where you are spending your time and money.  If you took these four areas and worked on them a month or quarter at a time, you would focus on what is truly important to you.  For some, that might be travel, and that isn't on my list.  But that could fall into any of those four categories. 

My posts are simply an encouraging jumping off point for you to plan your life instead of life just happening to you, and feeling out of control.  There are enough things that make us feel that way - especially a loved one's illness.  That throws our life into chaos.  So I'm hoping you will reflect, and dream, and put your goals on paper this week, the beginning of a new year (or any week you are reading this).  Because, truly, it really does make a difference.  You will do little things to help move you to a more serene and stress-free life.  God bless.


QUIT...and I'll give your husband a better job

Living on One Income - The Prequel

Comment: "We aren’t living in luxury! We don’t have a large home, we don’t drive luxury cars, our kids are in public school, we don’t have maid service, and we don’t even go on vacations! There is no way we could make it on my husband’s income, but I WANT to be home!  What do I do?"

Over a decade ago I read an article by Patricia Chadwick called “Leading Me Home”.  I tried to contact her for permission to share the article, but my e-mail bounced back.  I hope she will not mind me sharing it.  This article was so encouraging to me that I wanted to share an excerpt:

“While we didn't live an extravagant lifestyle, my husband's wage was low, and his work was seasonal. In my mind, there was no way I could quit my job. Over and over again I would feel the Lord prompting me to become a homemaker. I would hear Him speak to me when I read the Bible. I would hear His voice when I heard a sermon. In my time of prayer and devotions, I would feel Him prompting me to trust Him to take care of me. I would cry out to Him, "But Lord, you don't understand! Give my husband a better job and I will gladly quit!" He would gently respond, "Quit, and I will give your husband a better job!" This struggle went on for over a year. It then became clear to me that there was a lesson I needed to learn. I had to learn to "live by faith."

…I discussed it with my husband and we made the decision. I would give up my job and I would trust God to supply our needs. Once it was decided, a peace flooded my soul. Somehow I knew God would be faithful and honor His promises to me because of my choice to follow His will for my life.

I have never regretted taking that step of faith and trusting God to supply my family's needs. I cannot say it has always been an easy road to travel. My husband could not find a better job at first and finances became very tight.  I had to learn how to live very frugally. I was tempted more than a few times to turn back, but God always assured me He would provide. And provide He did. My family never went without. God always supplied all our needs. Eventually God did provide my husband with a year-round job with benefits.  He showed Himself to be faithful in numerous ways…”

At the time I read her article, I was working full-time, and my husband was only working part-time.  He had been going to school and was content to work part-time.  But then we decided to have children, and we both knew we wanted me at home.  But what to do?  How in the world could we ever get by without my income?

I got pregnant and told my bosses I either needed to quit, or go part-time.  Then I lost the baby.  But that was even more incentive to work less.  Less stress.  I kept repeating to myself, “Quit…and I’ll give your husband a better job.”  Three months later I became pregnant again. 

We began to live on less by cutting out the obvious extras, but it was apparent there would be no way we could make it on just his income.  Major changes would have to happen.  I felt shaky, wondering how this would work out and if God would really provide when it was time to turn in my notice. (“Quit…and I’ll give your husband a better job.”) 

I found a replacement for my position, but kept my option to return to work open.  After all, Patty was the one who heard God say “Quit…and I’ll give your husband a better job” – not me.  And they offered me a bonus to come back in a new position!  At my shower, a female boss told me that the first few weeks back would be heart-wrenching, but that I’d get over it. 

Would he find full-time work?  He’d been part-time for years!  First he had cared for his grandma, and then had gotten a Masters degree, but no one was hiring in his field. 

We had a shaky four months of learning to live on less, wondering how in the world we would be able to make it if he couldn’t find full-time work.  And then, even if he did, it would still be way less than what we were accustomed to. 

Yet, four months after I went to half pay, my husband’s long-time (29 years!) co-worker just up and quit and my husband was offered a full-time position!  We were so surprised that he was able to remain at his company and did not have to find new work.  We were elated that the offer came before the baby.  So we had another four months of my income to pay off my car, pay off all credit-card debts, and pay my midwife her $4,000.  This was so surprising to me…I had been doubtful but hoping.  I had expected God to lead him to a job the day before (or after) the baby came. 

We did our best - we prepared, lived frugally, rarely ate out, planned, budgeted and lived simply.  But our savings quickly ran out.  Four months after baby, we were looking at my returning to work.  Saying no, but not understanding how we could possibly make ends meet. 

So I cried out to God to help me and He did amazing things.  Surprisingly, my job called the next day and asked if I’d like to work from home a few hours a week.  A new law had gone into effect, and they needed someone they could trust to oversee that employees were complying online.  I wasn’t needed in the office.  Clients would never call me.  It was doable while baby napped or when hubby was home at night.  A new job had been created due to government regulations – something I could never, ever, have planned for or asked for.  I was the first person to work from home.  They chose me after I cried out to God and I believe God planted my name in their ears.  It was just enough to keep me at home.

And then He began teaching me, guiding me to resources on a different way to live (thank you Nancy Campbell of Above Rubies), showing me how to live on less.  

IF you are a Christian (for I can only speak to Christians – I know nothing about the spiritual laws of other religions), then our Bible, in Titus chapter 2, says we are to be keepers at home.  That means you can rely to God to help you.  And it is super scary because we do not know how He is going to do it.  But God knows your heart and your circumstances.  If you don’t want to be at home, that is fine by me.  But if you do, cry out, plan and prepare all you can, then walk in faith.  Let God guide your steps.

For ME, it began with DOING all of those things I outlined on my posts Living on One Income and My Top Grocery Shopping Tips.  

For ME, it began by paying off all unsecured debt and my car before I came home.

For ME, it began by working from home, where my hours decreased every year until during the fourth year I pleaded with God to help me live only on my DH’s income (I was laid off within a week).

I had to create a budget and a Bill Paying Calendar.  Without it I lived in confusion.

I read and implemented the steps in Your Money or Your Life.  

I stopped buying things I thought I had needed.  See What I Don't Use and Other Thrifty Tips.

I did the uncomfortable things like changing my levels on insurance, especially switching to being a "pleasure driver," and changing insurance companies.

For me, it means attending homeschooling meetings that have a “free” table.  I receive almost everything I want for free or greatly reduced from thrift or consignment stores.  (I say “want” and not “need” because all my needs are taken care of through our income.  It is my wants – clothing, toys, curriculum, books…that I need to find outside of our income.)

For me, it means praying it in.  Everything I want I pray about.  Once I prayed for a light under my kitchen cabinet.  I never expected it to show up on a free table.  But it came and I’m still using it, years later.  My son prayed for a $100 stuffed animal that of course we said no to.  He found it at a thrift store, brand new, for $4.

For me, it means selling used clothes and toys to Children’s Orchard, or books and toys on e-bay, and getting what I (or my son) want in return.

You get the picture.  This is what I do. Where there is a will, there is a way, and God can lead YOU down it, if you will follow.  This post feels inadequate, because I do not have YOUR answers.  I just know it is possible, because I, and the majority of my new friends, do it, in a high-priced area, on very little. All of my friends are in the same financial boat, but we share with each other what our excesses are.  God knows what we need and He provides it beautifully.  If I was working, I'd miss His provision.

May God bless you as you walk in HIS way.   It is doable.   Begin.

(I’m hoping to write soon on: Can I really trust God to lead me, provide for us and help me come home?, the book There’s No Place Like Home, and some of my answered prayers for finances during those first shaky years for encouragement.  I needed constant encouragement my first few years home.)


Mom's Famous Sayings - Complete the Sentence

I did this complete the sentence "quiz" last mother's day and everyone had a lot of fun.  Feel free to copy and paste and make your own version for mother's day.  
(A. Sarnoff)
  1. If you don't stop, your face will _________. 
  2. I only have two ______________!
  3. Let me ______________ it and make it better.
  4. Go ask your _______________.
  5. Because I ______________.
  6. Because I'm your ______________.
  7. Get your hair out of your ____________.
  8. Eat it, it's ______________________.
  9. Don't put that in your ______________; you don't know where it's been!
  10. I don't care who _______________.
  11. If all your friends _________________, would you do it, too?
  12. You call that _____________?
  13. Clean your plate, there are ______________________.
  14. ______________ doesn't grow on trees.
  15. Don't ever forget that _________________________.
  16. You'll always be my _____________________.

Possible answers (if giving away prizes YOU need to determine which answer you will accept as correct; sayings vary in different parts of the country/world)   
Mother is MY
pin-up girl!
(A. Sarnoff)
  1. Freeze or stay that way
  2. Hands
  3. Kiss
  4. Father
  5. I said so
  6. Mother
  7. Mouth or face
  8. Good for you
  9. Mouth
  10. Started it or said so or is going or they are
  11. Jumped off a cliff 
  12. Music or clean
  13. Starving children
  14. Money
  15. I Love You
  16. Baby / Boy / Girl / little angel
Happy Mother's Day!


Easy Logic Test to Determine Math Readiness

There are two schools of thought in teaching young children: "Better Early Than Late" and "Better Late Than Early."  I fall into both camps. 

I agree with all those people who see that their preschoolers can memorize anything, and believe you should take this window (that closes around age 7 or 8) to help your child memorize Bible verses, the times tables, helping verbs, and other pertinent life facts. 

At age four, my son (like your child) was memorizing a favorite video.  When my husband was aged 4-8 he inadvertently memorized commercials (and can win all jingle contests at parties).  When I was that age we went to church three times a week, and so without trying to, I memorized hymns (for which I am forever grateful!). 

But I didn't want my son memorizing The Three Little Pigs video!  So we began Classical Conversations, and I'm glad we did.  He (we) learned a lot.  Their timeline song is amazing! It has been so helpful in our school work.  Beginning CC with your 4-6 year old is an example of Better Early than Late.  So is teaching them to read and write, do skip counting or memorize addition, subtraction, or multiplication songs.

One homeschool company is very vocal in saying it is ridiculous to memorize when the child doesn't know what it means, but I disagree.  We learn many things by rote before we can understand what they mean.  Bible verses, theology, nursery rhymes, the states, hymns, abc's, helping verbs, the Preamble to the Constitution, the Bill of Rights.  I had to memorize the Preamble and Bill of Rights in middle school, but had no idea what they really meant.  Thank you "School House Rock" for your grammar and history songs!  I may have failed 7th grade without you.

The idea of Better Early Than Late is to learn as much as you can while the window of easy memorization that God gave our brains to learn language is open.  Missionaries who took their children to a foreign country discovered the ability of their children to learn the native language easily.  Maria Montessori recognized the value of Better Early Than Late training 100 years ago when poor city women left their pre-school aged children with her, thus beginning our preschools.  And it is a great idea.

YET, there is a really good reason that the majority of states do not require Kindergarten.  Six is usually the legal age to begin school.  150 years ago the age was 7.  These people realized that children forget what they learn (unless truly memorized and gone over often, such as favorite songs, or the abc's), and that you are constantly re-teaching a child and it takes a long time for them to grasp a concept.  This is very true.  So these people say do not teach language or math concepts to a child before second, third, or fourth grade, depending on the child.  And they are correct.   Why take a month to teach a concept, when you wait a year and it takes two weeks, or wait two years and it takes one week, or wait three years and they understand in only a day's lesson?  These are the Better Late Than Early proponents.

Go ahead and teach your child what he is naturally learning, memorizing, grasping, wanting to know, and the "grammar" of things (such as abcs, math facts without concepts, possibly how to read, the songs about nouns, verbs, adjectives, etc.), just don't expect him to be able to USE the facts yet.

Why pull out your hair with explanations that their brains cannot yet grasp?  That is how God made their brains....THEY HAVEN'T REACHED THE LOGIC STAGE yet!   So no amount of teaching or review will help.  They will be frustrated and think they are stupid, and you will be frustrated and stupid, too, for trying to force the impossible.

Schools took the guidelines given to them by people who studied how children learned and said, "Well, if they are ready at eight, let's just give them a preview of adjectives, nouns, conjugations, geometry, and algebra now to prepare them."  They totally didn't get that the child's brain IS NOT READY to learn these things.  The introduction of these concepts make our children CRY over their math and reading and spelling and geography and language arts.   A few children (especially older kids and girls) in the class do well, and so that becomes the norm.  

Is your child crying over a subject?  You need to STOP that subject.  Or he will feel like a failure at it his whole life.  People often say they aren't good at math.  But, if as adults, they retake math (especially while homeschooling their own kids), they discover that they CAN do it after all.  It was simply a case of not being ready....not being "stupid."

So here is the super simple logic test that schools were given decades ago that they never implemented, but which has been passed on in homeschool books since the 1960's:

You only need 4 things: 
  1. Your child's favorite drink
  2. A short, fat glass
  3. A tall, skinny glass
  4. A measuring cup
Pour the soda/juice into the measuring cup and tell him "I am measuring 4 ounces, see?"  Then pour it into the short, fat glass.  Show him you are measuring another 4 ounces and pour it into the tall, skinny glass.

Then ask him which glass he wants.

When my son was six, he said he wanted the tall, skinny glass. 

"Because it has more in it."

End of experiment.  My child has NOT reached the logic stage and teaching him math is a waste of my time, or the teacher's time, or the remedial teacher's time, and especially, of my child's time.  It is physically impossible for him to "get it."  One day he will remember that 1 + 2 = 3, but the next day he won't understand that  2 + 1 = 3.  Because he doesn't get it.  He can't.  His brain isn't there yet.  He's not stupid.  If you force it and frustrate him he will feel stupid to the point of giving up and declaring a self-fulfilling prophecy that he is never going to be good at math.  

Age 7 I repeated the experiment.  I showed him beforehand that the measurements were the same.  He chose the tall, skinny glass because "it has more."  I did not try and explain afterwards "but they are the same!" in an exasperated, whiny mom voice.  I just let him drink his soda. 

We practiced our skip counting but we did NOT do any math worksheets.  When I had earlier tried to introduce them he cried.  I stopped at the wise counsel of Carole Joy Seid, Mary Hood, PhD., and Dr. Raymond & Dorothy Moore (you can google them all for their books, pamphlets, CD's, DVD's, etc.)

At age 8 I once again did the experiment at the beginning of the school year. 
He once again chose the tall, skinny glass.


"Well, I KNOW that both glasses have the same amount of soda in them, but the tall, skinny glass LOOKS like it has more, so that is the one I want."

My child was ready for math! And there has been no crying! 

Oscar Ramos illustration
At age 10 there was a little whining when we transferred over to memorizing the multiplication tables (which is why I wish we had not done skip counting and had just memorized the table, but oh well).  With math sheets three times a week, and slowly learning the tables, he is doing GREAT in math! 

At age 10, he is doing 3rd grade math, 5th grade language arts, 6th grade spelling, 8th grade reading, and 10th grade history.  He taught himself how to type.  He taught himself about how computers work.  Should I worry that he is "behind" in math?  Behind by whose standards?  He will never forget the steady foundation of the math he is learning well, right on HIS schedule.

If your child is crying over any subject, stop that subject and focus on what he does well.  Wait one year before re-introducing the troublesome subject again.  God bless!

UPDATE May 3, 2016:  I just found this article from Trivium Pursuit that goes into detail about what I was trying to convey:



Stuffication! Thoughts and Books on Decluttering.

Decluttering happens in layers.  Thirteen years ago our house was so stuffed from inherited items that we had no space, and the fixer-upper house we had was a bit dismal.
Then we had a baby.  First borns come with a lot of stuff!

Through concentrated effort I was able to remove all the stuff we didn't use regularly into one bedroom and one large patio room, plus storage over the garage.

Layer one was gone through.  We could breathe again.

Then two more grandparents went to heaven.  We received a truck load of furniture and stuff.  Beautiful stuff, that brought back memories.  It was so hard to let go of my grandmother's rocking chair.  The extra tv. The china. The fridge magnets. The "good" (unused) towels.

Despite letting many things go, we managed to refill all the empty places.

I kept going forward with my routines of caring for baby and cleaning.  I stayed out of thrift stores, but not consignment baby stores!  I'd drop off a load and bring home a new load!  It was wonderful, and cheap.  I'd do it once a month.  It satisfied my shopping desires and kept me out of debt.  But no real decluttering was done.

When an uncle died, we were again the designated ones to clean out his apartment.  But we were proactive and contacted Salvation Army for a Monday pick-up.  Stuff filled our living and dining room.  We sorted for hours.  We gave away half, and put half into our patio room turned shed!

WHY?  Too good to give away?  Too hard to part with, even though it was free to us and we didn't need it yesterday?  Why did we feel compelled to keep a whole video library of movies we'd already seen?

When decluttering king Don Aslett said it IS painful to declutter, I finally realized that I just needed to face the pain!  Feel the pain and do it anyway!  So now, empty spaces are opening up again. For most people, decluttering isn't easy. So don't berate yourself.

To motivate me, I read quite a few books from the library.  I would read, and let something go.  Rest and read, go through papers.  Rest and read, put something on freecycle.... donate books to the library for their sale.... take a box to AmVets .... take items to my favorite thrift store.   A few things I even sold on ebay.

Freecycle and ebay were the best for me because I knew the items were going directly to people who wanted them.  A friend took teacups.  Our uncle's John Wayne lamp went to a JW admirer on Freecycle. Some people even took broken clocks, mended milk glass platters, dusty old books...

The biggest thing I had to learn was just to GIVE.  Not think about the monetary value I had placed on an item, just give it.

Now I'm ready for yet another layer!  Plus, I'm decluttering the patio room!  And it is almost done!  I may even put up before and after pictures.

I'm blessed to have a neighbor who is downsizing her five-bedroom home to move into a log cabin 3000 miles away.  We e-mail regularly and talk on Fridays to encourage each other.  We boast about our successes, and commiserate about what was painful to let go.  We spur each other on to the next room, and the next layer.

Now that I have realized decluttering never ends, I no longer feel so out of control or behind.  My house will never look perfect or like a magazine but that is okay!

Here are the favorite books I read in the past few months that did me good (they are in no particular order):
  1. Secrets of an Organized Mom by Barbara Reich
  2. Organic Housekeeping by Ellen Sandbeck (the yellow cover with the lemon)
  3. Absolutely Organized by Debbie Lillard
  4. Clutter Busting by Brooks Palmer (great for men, too!)
  5. The Messies Manual by Sandra Felton
  6. Don't be a Slave to Housework by Pam McClellan
  7. Confessions of an Organized Homemaker by Deneice Schofield
  8. Organizing for Life - Declutter Your Mind to Declutter Your Life by Sandra Felton
  9. The Money Saving Mom's Budget (best book on finances I've ever read...I did all those things she talks about and that is why we are debt-free today) by Crystal Paine
  10. Simple Living Handbook: Discover the Joy of a De-Cluttered Life by Lorilee Lippincott 
  11. The Clutter Cure by Judi Culbertson (I may just have to buy this one!)
  12. Unstuff by Hayley and Michael DiMarco
  13. For Packrats Only, and Clutter's Last Stand, both by Don Aslett
These books can be found in the 648 section of your library, or buy online.

Final Thoughts

We are called to give.  Tell them to use their money to do good.  They should be rich in good works and generous to those in need, always being ready to share with others. 1 Timothy 6:18

Those who shut their ears to the cries of the poor will be ignored in their own time of need. Proverbs 21:13

Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it.  Proverbs 3:27

Remember, it IS painful to let go.  Recognize it and do it anyway!

God's blessings on you as you G I V E !