Simple Country Wisdom

Country Living has a lovely book called Simple Country Wisdom, 501 Old-Fashioned Ideas to Simplify Your Life, by Susan Waggoner.

I've been using this gem of a book for several years now and refer to it even more than Home Comforts. It has beautiful pictures, and easy to read pages with lots of headings so you can easily peruse it to find the details of what you "kinda remember reading."  You know, "didn't I read about something that deodorizes closets?"  Oh yes, go to All About Closets, and notice that you starred the last paragraph regarding how to refresh cedar wood blocks.  Now I remember!

The book has 4 sections:  The Home that Welcomes; Behind the Scenes; In the Kitchen; and Harmony.

The Home that Welcomes discusses what makes a welcoming home, clutter control, and what meets the eye (colors, textures, painting, decorating, senses), along with beautiful and inspiring pictures.  The pictures are one of my favorite parts of this book - I actually like most of them - they aren't pictures of mansion homes, but comfy "cottage-like" homes.

Behind the Scenes discusses the elements of clean (how to clean, windows, and trouble spots), and the tao of laundry (washing, drying, line-drying, and ironing).

In the Kitchen touches on organization, cleaning, caring for dishes and appliances, her favorite food tips run 20 pages, and "better living through baking" with lots of tips.

Harmony includes a chapter called In the Garden and one on A Greener Life. 

I am currently trying to go through this book chapter by chapter implementing what I am reading.  It isn't "too-much."  It's thoughtful, inspiring, and do-able.  I'm finding it very helpful and thought you might, too!

(I do not make money on any book I recommend.)


Living on One Income

photo credit

We had to cut 60% of our budget in order for me to stay home. Here are my best tips for you.  The blessings are so worth the effort!

1)   You must be agreed that you being home is more important than a higher income.  If he is resentful you will encounter problems.  You can have a trial time as well – he might not believe you can cut expenses.  But you can!  Joni McCoy of MiserlyMoms.com has a wonderful audio tape telling her story that is incredibly inspiring.
2)  You must know WHY it is important for you to be home.  Finding Your Way Home, which I talk about in its own post (here), is an excellent resource.
3)  Determine how much the second job will actually cost you – taxes, childcare, clothing, gas, parking, mileage, lunches, dinners, office parties, “I deserve it” treats, medical costs for not being able to stay at home caring for your family, guilt gifts…
4)  Only shop for clothes once a year.  Ask for gift cards for your birthday or Christmas.
5)  Ask your husband to mow your own lawn.
6)  Eliminate your dry-cleaning.
7)   Shop consignment stores like Children's Orchard, or quality thrift stores, or garage sales.
8)  Don’t become addicted to junk at garage sales or stores.  Have a LIST of what you need and look for items on your list.  Be careful.  Don’t waste your family’s hard-earned money!
9)  Know what you spend and why – track it.  Where can you cut back realistically?  Make your budget work on paper, and then see if it is realistic.
10) Keep a set amount of spending money for each of you – this is only realistic ($5 to $40).
11) Don’t forget to budget for gifts each month!  Be realistic about homemade gifts – would the person rather have the gift you made or the $15 you spent in materials making it?  I buy a $10 gift card each month at Target as part of my monthly expenditures.
12) Buy cards for fifty cents or a dollar at The Dollar Store, or make your own, esp. from your children, or to other children.
13) If you have debt, using Mary Hunt’s Rapid Debt Repayment Program for $10 for 3 months or $25 for the year is totally worth the cost.  You can also read all the back issues to inspire you.  I believe Dave Ramsey calls this the “snowball” method.  Her calculator though, is worth the cost because you can keep running the numbers as you add extra money to your debts.
14) Put aside money for car repairs.  Keep it in a separate account – 1/12th of your annual expenses.  Mary Hunt of DebtProofLiving.com calls this a Freedom Account.  It is very helpful and reassuring to have.
15) USE THE ENVELOPE SYSTEM!  Even if you pay your credit cards in full and on time, you will still save much more money if you are using cash and the envelope system.
16) Get a free utility audit, now that you are home and will be there when the guy arrives.
17) Try to raise your insurance deductibles.  Sometimes combining home and auto means savings, but sometimes it is more prudent to go with different providers.  Shop around – but only go with a BIG name provider.  Little names mean trouble.  RESEARCH the company! But also make sure your home will qualify with the new guy.  Don’t jump the gun.  The savings can be tremendous, though, by shopping around.  Changing our car insurance provider tremendously helped me to stay home.  I didn't go with the cheapest guy - I went with the biggest name, best coverage, at a great price.  Ask how you can qualify for more discounts.
18) Now that you are home, you can possibly qualify to be a pleasure driver, instead of a commute driver.  This can lower the rate, plus, if you drive (and can document within the year) less than 7,500 miles, or even 5,000 miles, you can really save big!  We thought of being a one car family, but my car expenses are so low that the convenience of a second car was worth the cost.
19) Luckily, children at home get sick less often than children in daycare.  Focusing on your family’s health usually means better nutrition and less illness.  This lowers co-pay and medicine costs.
20) Only have one car payment if you are in that situation.  Always try to pay off the car early, and then keep your car for ten to eighteen years.  We just put in a new engine.  It was cheaper than buying a used car.  Dave Ramsey has great tips and videos on buying used cars, and discusses why you should only buy used, and how to never, ever have a car payment again.
21) Budget for meals out – keep cutting them down, but keep a set amount for those times you crave pizza or are out with others.  Our budget is only $20! And we've adjusted to thinking that is a lot of money to eat out!  If we want more fast food, then we use our personal spending money.
22) Start tithing if you don’t already.  Begin at 1%.  Increase another percent with each raise, and with each debt paid off, until you are at 10%.  You will be blessed for it in many ways.  (During the Great Depression, there was an unofficial study done at a church.  As each man came in for a handout, the pastor asked him if he had tithed when he had a job.  Each man replied that they had not.  By the end of the depression, his conclusion to the congregation was that every man who had faithfully tithed was helped by God…every man who had not tithed had to be helped by the church.) (I'm trying to find the source of where I first read this story.)
23) Start saving 1% at a time, too.
24) You must get rid of all debts as rapidly as possible before you spend money on “extras.”  Renee Ellison of HomeSchoolHowTos.com has an excellent audio cd called Domestic Tips to inspire you, as well as written information, at reasonable prices.  I’ve listened to this CD dozens of times.  It has greatly helped me to change behaviors and not spend money.  The CD is her reading her written information, so you don’t need both.  It helped me to hear it over and over.  Reading kind of goes in one ear and out the other.  But listening while cooking I always heard something new!  I have the Teaching Tips CD as well; both are fantastic. 
25)  Vacation with family members to share expenses, if you must go somewhere, or stay with friends. 
26)  Don’t buy or rent videos – check out ALL the libraries in your area, not just the one you usually go to.  There are incredible free or low cost deals out there!  If you still have a VCR you can get movies for free from others.
27)  When you want big ticket items or a new kitchen, remind yourself that you’d rather be at home than working to pay off a loan!
28)  Instead of reaching for a marketed product for your need, search The Dollar Stretcher at Stretcher.com for solutions instead.
29)  Encourage yourself by reading others’ stories, searching for ways to cut expenses, find friends who stay home too, and do things you enjoy – don’t just clean.  Stretcher has great articles.
30)  Get outside with your kids in the backyard or on a walk.  Take them to the park, library, and other free events once a week.
31)  Plan special things for daddy that doesn’t involve money.
32)  Spending and keeping money determines success – not income.
33)  Once a week research how to make something from scratch, like "bisquick", cake mix, soup, or condensed soups to use in casseroles.
34)  Bless others with your excess and find yourself blessed back!
35)  Follow the principles of The Automatic Millionaire and the Workbook.
36)  Teach your kids about The Millionaire Next Door and how real millionaires live – not the tv ones.
37)  Have an emergency fund – this should be separate from your Freedom Account.
38)  Downsize your house if it will keep you at home!  Houses can be lost, contents can be lost… memories stay. It all depends on IF you REALLY want to be AT HOME.  I meet women who say it's impossible.  On paper it's impossible for us, too!  Yet I've been home 10 years now.  Living in a small affordable home was key, as was paying the cars off quickly.
39)  Don’t get involved in a home-based businesses.  You can usually learn to save much more money than you can earn with a home business.  Plus, a business really cuts into your time – is it worth it?  Husbands thrive when they can boast that they are the sole provider.  When you complain that there isn’t enough and that you must do something to help the poor guy out, it usually backfires.  He’s not happy, the babies aren’t happy, and you are once again overworked.  Just let him provide while you find new ways to thrive on the take home pay.
40)  Write down possible contingency plans if he gets laid off.  Traditionally, when a man got laid off, the wife took a temporary job with a set time limit (say, three months) while he looked for work.  As this can backfire in this day and age, I would suggest your contingency plan might be before- and after-school childcare, just until he finds a new job.  Make sure you follow the law, and you may need insurance, especially if you take care of a child all day (or when a single parent works nights, all night). 
41)  Have a toy sale in November, OR take them to a consignment shop like Children's Orchard and trade them for new toys.
42)  Plan your days.  Without a daily plan, you’ll falter and waste both time and money.
43)  Plan your meals.  Plan your meals around grocery fliers if possible.
44)  Designate days to accomplish things (FlyLady.net is a good role model).
45)  Resist the urge to fill your time.  If you have your days planned with how you and your husband envision what should happen with you at home, you’ll be able to say “yes” or “no” to people asking you to do things.  Remember why you are at home – does the “yes” or “no” answer fit?  My friends know I stay home EVERY Monday. Monday starts a great foundation for my week.
46)  Plan activities to do at home with your kids.  Have fun with them!  Don’t let the time slip by unconsciously.
47)  If you are happy, everyone around you will be happier.  If you aren’t, determine why and make baby steps to change it.  Happy wife, happy life.
48) Stay HOME.  You’ll get more done, you’ll spend less, and everyone will be happier (really!).
49) Regular park days, once or twice a month with the same group of people, will provide lasting friendships.
50) Try to keep beating your budget.  I write on my envelope the total spent on the envelope for the month.  Money saved should be used partly for debt, and partly for fun! 
51)  You might consider paying young children in Chuck E Cheese tokens.  You can get a coupon deal and it will cost you less than using money.  Go when they earn 20 coins – and don’t buy any food!  Bring a few extra coins for you to play with them and to replace any coins gobbled up by broken machines.
52) Keep looking for ways to save – Read www.lainesletters.com.  Click on the letter and read “Home Economics: Fifty Ways we Paid Off Our House on One Income.”  (So bummed! These links no longer work.)  Yay for Lori Alexander!  She re-typed Laine's Letter here.
53) Check out the mortgage, car and debt calculators at Bankrate.com.  For debt I recommend Mary Hunt's, but bankrate's are free!
54) Read "Your Money or Your Life" by Vicki
Robin and Joe Dominguez.  It can be life-changing!
Best financial book out there.  It also made me
stop being scared of inflation.
55) Read "What I don't Use"and Other Thrifty Tips.
57) Pray before you pay.
Plan to take care of your husband, and 
watch him take care of you! 

I will keep updating this list as I remember ways we met the goal.   Janine at www.keeping-house.blogspot.com


How to Keep Your House Neat

Elosie Wilkin "We Help Mommy"
Clean in ORDER.  That means, you pick the most important room in the house to YOU, and start there.  You never deviate from the path (otherwise you get sidetracked). It works really well because it is thorough

Example:  I start with our bedroom.  I make the bed, take clothes to laundry baskets, straighten dresser tops and books.  If it is a cleaning day or changing sheets day, I do it. 

Then I move on to the next room clockwise. 

If I find something that does not belong in the bedroom I take it to that room, and just place it down anywhere.  I don’t decide to feed the cat, or wash dishes, or sort laundry or wrap a gift or…
I simply place it down and go back to the room I’m working in. 

This ensures that: all the clothes from each room in the house ends up in the laundry basket before I sort and begin the wash; all dishes are in the kitchen; all trash cans emptied; all toys are in the playroom; etc.  To me there is nothing more frustrating than finishing the whites and then finding socks or towels in every other room because I didn’t go IN ORDER and started the laundry too soon.

But!  If I’m in the living room and something needs to go into a bedroom that I have already straightened, then when I go into a completed room I PUT IT AWAY immediately.  No lying it on the bed.

This has worked really well for me except in the area of dishes.  Sometimes I just need to get a load going before I clean in order; otherwise, I may not have clean counters to make dinner on!

Choose which room motivates you to keep going. 

I chose the bedroom because if I need a break that is where I rest and read.  I really like my bedspread and pillows, so it is easy for me to WANT my bed made, plus, when the whole house is a mess it becomes a sanctuary I can run to to get motivated again.

The more you do this, the easier every day becomes because your things have homes and you can find them when you need to, plus the house stays cleaner longer.

Go home, and take care of what you have.  Provide places for all your things! ~Mother Ann, Shaker Founder


Waking Up With the Sun

Eloise Wilkin
In paying attention to the sunrise/sunset calendar I printed from sunrisesunset.com, I realized that January 1st is the perfect month to begin getting up earlier! 

Every day, set your alarm for the same time the sun rises.

January 1 - 14:  You have two whole weeks to get used to arising at 6:58!

January 15-18:  Arise one minute earlier:  6:57
January 19-21:  Another minute:  6:56
January 22-23:  6:55
January 24-25:  6:54
January 26-27:  6:53
January 28:       6:52
January 29-30:  6:51
January 31:       6:50

You've painlessly begun your quest to get up with the sun!

Half of you are thinking "I WISH I could sleep in that long" but the other half is praying that God will help them as they attempt to arise earlier.

You can always set your alarm for 5-10 minutes earlier than the sun so that you can be outside when it arises.  I've come to love the pre-dawn hour.  Speaking of which - the sun is rising!  Out I go for my walk.

God bless you through the coming year in your quest to live the life God intends for you.