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9 Unexpected Things That Have Happened on Our Road to Debt Free

We’ve experienced both highs and lows on our road to debt freedom and today I want to share with you some of the fun and unexpected things that have happened on our journey.

  1. Less mail and far fewer bills in my mailbox. Most days there’s nothing in there. And I kind of like that.
  2. Surprise expenses are only annoying now and not fear inducing. When we took our son to the emergency room last winter we weren’t afraid of the bill in the same way we would have been before our debt free journey so we focused more easily on making sure he was getting the care he needed.
  3. Budgeting has become a fun game for us. At first making a budget is confusing and frustrating. But as you see progress it gets fun. Trust me. (If you haven’t started yours here are two blog articles that might help you: How to Make a Budget That Works over at BeingFrugal.net and How to Make a Budget over at ChristianPersonalFinance.com)
  4. As we’ve gotten closer to debt freedom we are getting giddy about making plans for our money instead of our debt making the plans for us.
  5. There are almost no arguments about money in our house. I can’t recall the last time we argued over money. (Underwear and socks left on the floor, yes. But not money.)
  6. I’ve learned to cook some great fun food, like homemade pizza. Eating at home is healthier and we don’t need to leave a tip. When we do eat out it really does feel like a treat because it is.
  7. My kids understanding of money has improved greatly. And I’m very motivated to make sure they don’t travel the debt road we have.
  8. Vacations planned and paid for in cash are FAR more fun because you can truly be in the moment. I love knowing on the ride home that I will not be getting the bill in the mail. The memories stay more golden for me this way.
  9. My five year old walking around hollering “Freeeeedooommmmm!!!!!” or “I’m debt free!!!!!!!” from listening to Dave Ramsey’s free podcast with me in the car or while I’m on the treadmill is hilarious. But clearly he’s listening.
Comment Worthy:
Add a 10th thing to this list! What has been a fun and unexpected result of your debt freedom journey?

This Little Piggy Went to Market-The Farmer’s Market, That Is!

This past Saturday morning, my boys and I were up and out the door early. We had a morning date planned. We were headed to the local donut shop for a treat of donuts and milk for them while the donuts were still fresh and a big steaming cup of coffee for me. Of course they got the rainbow sprinkles (what kid can resist rainbow sprinkles on anything?).  How I love a $3 date with my boys!

Then we headed down the road to check out our town’s Farmer’s Market in the park. Last year we moved to a town of about 30,000 (which includes the outlier areas) so it’s definitely no metropolis. We actually are the largest town for about 75 miles in any given direction (over 200 if you go north!). We’d been given advice to get to the Farmer’s Market early since their aren’t a ton of vendors and, at the very least, to be there when they are allowed to start selling. We pulled in right on time. I was amazed at the number of vehicles amassed in the parking area near the little park. The boys were excited. My oldest was practically bouncing up and down to be able to buy food from real live farmers (he, of course, doesn’t remember trips to Farmer’s Markets we’d made when he was younger and we lived in another town that was chock full of them and I think he was thinking along the lines of Old MacDonald). My littlest was just happy to be outside on an already hot desert morning in his new shoes toddling along and fascinated by his own feet and the gravel beneath them. On occasion he would look up and grin big and wave a frantic toddler style hello to the cars still driving in or the people  around us heading to the same destination we were. We made our way to the small grouping of vendors set up beneath the blessing of shade from old, full trees and assessed where we should start. There were maybe ten vendors in all, but I was pleasantly surprised to find a lovely offering considering the arid environment we live in. I spotted a man selling beautiful, enormous heads of lettuce and a lovely selection of beets and headed in his direction. The lettuce was so pretty that I didn’t bother asking what kind. It was $1.50 for the head and far larger and more healthy looking than the plants offered in our grocery store for about the same price. I pointed and said “I’ll take that one please! And tell me more about your beets.” He had two varieties and explained the benefits and drawbacks of both. I let my five year old choose the bunch he wanted and in the bag they went. I happily exchanged my money for the produce and headed to the next vendor. I went on to buy a swiss chard, the biggest zucchini squash I’ve ever seen which has an excellent future as zucchini bread, fresh sage, a small bunch of sunflowers and purple bell peppers. I would have bought a dozen fresh eggs but a friendly woman managed to zip them out from under me while I was happily chatting with the seller who was telling me that the squash I was buying from her was so big because of recent rains but that they were still excellent and agreed with me on my assessment that it would make good zucchini bread. I had some eggs left at home, so the seller, the lady who actually got the fresh hen eggs and I laughed about my poor timing and agreed we’d try again Wednesday evening for fresh eggs. The seller went on to apologize that she had no more eggs on hand and told me how her hens slow down considerably when it is hot. My children were at my feet picking grass and watching the exchange keenly. Suddenly my son exclaimed “Hey Mom! There’s a kid pulling a kid!” and we all turned in time to see a little boy leading a young and defiant goat on a rope. We laughed. We had our bag full of produce and took one more pass through to look at the offerings of handmade aprons, pottery, and blown glass.

When we got in the car to head home the whole car smelled of sage which transported me almost instantly to my childhood and the smell of summer and the creeks and rivers near where I grew up. Both my children were content in their car seats. My five year old asked where the real farmers were. I told him that the people selling us what we just bought were the real farmers. He smiled. He said, “Really? They looked like regular people.” I said, “They are.” He said, “Mom, someday when we have a farm can we have a goat so I can be a kid pulling a kid?” I smiled. I said, “If we someday have a farm, sure.”

All told, I spent about $12 at the Farmer’s market. Did I get the variety of produce that is usually available to me at my local grocery store? No. But I did get a good price for a good product. And we got so much more. We got the opportunity to connect: With our community, with our food and with our place in the world. We learned things (like how one of the regular customers is more interested in the beet greens than the beets so she chose her bunch based on the leaves. It inspired me to find a recipe for beet greens to go with dinner that night. And my children loved them).  We weren’t on autopilot. We were present in the moment and it was joyful. It was busy but everyone was friendly, happy, and conversational. There was no long line to wait in. There were no magazines to tempt me or candy at eye level for my children to plead for. Some of the items may have been a little more expensive than what I would have paid in the supermarket, sure. But my money went straight into the pocket of the people doing the hard work and I really love that. I liked looking in their eyes and appreciating their contribution to the world. I liked learning something from them. I liked shaking their hand as I handed them my money and I liked realizing how utterly simple and unprocessed my food was when I brought it home and laid it out on the counter with the dirt still falling off the leaves and roots. Sometimes budget friendly intersects beautifully with bringing an unexpected bounty of experience. When was the last time you saw a kid pulling a kid in your local Walmart? On second thought…maybe I shouldn’t ask that.

If you haven’t checked out your local Farmer’s Market this summer, please do. Go meet the people who grow your food. Sometimes they’ll throw in an extra sunflower for free just because they are kind. Go shake their hands and look them in the eye. Buy cookies or bread from someone who puts their heart into it (unless you make your own like I do, of course).  It’s a glorious experience. Even if you don’t buy much, it’s budget friendly frugal fun.

Join me tomorrow for my list of what we did and some fun new things we learned about what to do with our Farmer’s Market bounty!

Comment Worthy:

Do you go to your local Farmer’s Market? What is your favorite thing about it?

Some of our Farmer's Market bounty: A bag of swiss chard, sage, sunflowers and beet greens (beets were roasting in the oven!).

A very large zucchini with a future in zucchini bread. And pretty sunflowers that make me smile. And the pollen on the tables that keeps shedding but leads to great educational conversations about how flowers and bees work together!

Thoughts on the 4th of July

As we head into the 4th of July weekend, I feel compelled to consider our freedoms, our flag and how grateful I am to be a citizen of our great nation. No matter our troubles, no matter our challenges, I am an American. And I am grateful. I am grateful for those who have protected our freedoms. I am grateful for those who question our direction to make us think more deeply on it. I am grateful for our unique culture of courage and fortitude. I am grateful for the those who came before and hopeful for those who will come after. I am grateful that I still get tears in my eyes watching fireworks and hearing the Star Spangled Banner on the 4th of July. I am grateful for hot dogs on barbecues and fireworks in town squares. I am grateful for children’s faces silhouetted, dazzled by colorful celebratory explosions in the night sky. I am grateful for liberty and for the pursuit of happiness. I am grateful for religious freedom. I am grateful for red, white and blue snow cones. I am grateful that Ray Charles’ rendition of America the Beautiful moves me deeply. I am grateful that, while we are not a perfect nation, will never be a perfect nation, we strive for better in our country, even when we disagree on what that is. I am a grateful American.

Last summer we spent 4th of July in the town where this man made his home so I thought I’d share a work of his today.

RAGGED OLD FLAG

Written by Johnny Cash

I walked through a county courthouse square,
On a park bench an old man was sitting there.
I said, “Your old courthouse is kinda run down.”
He said, “Naw, it’ll do for our little town.”
I said, “Your flagpole has leaned a little bit,
And that’s a Ragged Old Flag you got hanging on it.
He said, “Have a seat”, and I sat down.
“Is this the first time you’ve been to our little town?”
I said, “I think it is.” He said, “I don’t like to brag,
But we’re kinda proud of that Ragged Old Flag.”

“You see, we got a little hole in that flag there
When Washington took it across the Delaware.
And it got powder-burned the night Francis Scott Key
Sat watching it writing _Oh Say Can You See_.
And it got a bad rip in New Orleans
With Packingham and Jackson tuggin’ at its seams.”

“And it almost fell at the Alamo
Beside the Texas flag, but she waved on through.
She got cut with a sword at Chancellorsville
And she got cut again at Shiloh Hill.
There was Robert E. Lee, Beauregard, and Bragg,
And the south wind blew hard on that Ragged Old Flag.”

“On Flanders Field in World War I
She got a big hole from a Bertha gun.
She turned blood red in World War II
She hung limp and low by the time it was through.
She was in Korea and Vietnam.
She went where she was sent by her Uncle Sam.”

“She waved from our ships upon the briny foam,
And now they’ve about quit waving her back here at home.
In her own good land she’s been abused —
She’s been burned, dishonored, denied and refused.”

“And the government for which she stands
Is scandalized throughout the land.
And she’s getting threadbare and wearing thin,
But she’s in good shape for the shape she’s in.
‘Cause she’s been through the fire before
And I believe she can take a whole lot more.”

“So we raise her up every morning,
Take her down every night.
We don’t let her touch the ground
And we fold her up right.
On second thought I DO like to brag,
‘Cause I’m mighty proud of that Ragged Old Flag.”

Inspiration Thursdays: A Free Tool for You Today

Because Thursday’s child has far to go…

 “Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.” – Maria Robinson

I’ve got a free “tool” for you today.

It’s a funny thing about budgets and getting debt free. It’s about money, our beliefs about money, and our behavior with money. And I don’t know about the rest of the world, but we Americans seem to have a lot of shame about how much money we make or don’t make. How we manage or don’t manage it. What we know or don’t know about money (which according to some recent surveys I’ve read is pretty paltry but we’re all starting to fix that!). Today, I want to suggest to you that money is a tool. It’s no different than a hammer. Or a wrench. Or a screwdriver. When my husband and I first got married we had a piddling little mix of tools that were mostly old and hand-me-down and housed in a rusty old classic metal red tool box (my favorite, of course, is the little all-in-one hammer-screw driver my grandma gave me years ago and  clearly that suits my rice and beans practical nature!). Over time we’ve added many tools to that rusty old tool box. We keep the box because we love the patina of it and it reminds us of where we came from. We keep the old tools for the same reason. Over time we’ve added new tools as we’ve found needs for them and as we’ve been able to acquire them-some used, some new. They serve us well and we’ve learned to better use our tools along the way.

What if, for just a minute, you stopped letting money define your success and started seeing and using it for what it really is: a tool? How would that change your habits and your approach to it? Would it take some pressure off your shoulders and lighten your heart a little bit? One of my favorite financial “tools” is super budget friendly. It’s FREE. I have developed the habit of downloading a free podcast from Dave Ramsey to listen to while I log miles on my treadmill (when I’m running outside I’m in God’s country and listen to inspiring music instead). But on my treadmill I plug in that podcast and get inspired not so much by Dave but by the people that call in to talk to Dave. I let others successes challenge and inspire me. I let their challenges and failures help me feel that I’m not alone and that if they can get through it so can I. I’ve even been inspired to let out a whoop of joy for other people I’ve never met after hearing their success stories. In that moment I know I can and will get there too. I encourage you to try this tool out to let it inspire you whether you are debt free now and staying on track or still trying to get there. Do it just once. If you don’t like it-it was free-and since we all know just how budget friendly FREE is-it’s worth giving it a shot. Check out Dave Ramsey’s Free One Hour Podcast

Money is a tool. Knowledge is a tool. Inspiration is a tool. Let that give you a fresh start today to work toward your new ending!

If you’ve got some great inspirational tools in your tool box about your money and your budget-I’d love to know about them-comment away!

Even Elmo is doing it!

This morning I turned on Good Morning America. It was actually on in the background as I buzzed around getting ready for our schoolwork today. As I stood in the kitchen pouring a second cup of coffee I heard my oldest son call out “Hey Mom! Even Elmo is doing it!” I joined him in the living room to find out what exactly Elmo was doing that had him hanging out with the Good Morning America folks. Turns out Elmo has jumped on the bandwagon for learning how to use money wisely! Very cool!  He talked about his Save, Spend and Share plan and the jars for each. I had to laugh. This is great stuff! We recently invested in the Dave Ramsey Financial Peace Jr. Super Pack collection-on sale of course- (for ages 3-12) as part of his first grade curriculum which teaches how to Save, Spend and Give (so pretty much the same kind of thing). When the set arrived in the mail he was over the moon (which of course thrilled me because I wasn’t sure how he’d like it). In less than two weeks we’ve gone from him thinking that money is just given out at the bank to him starting to get a good, rounded understanding of money as a tool and a responsibility. We’d been trying for a long time to help him understand but somehow Dave Ramsey’s character Junior connected better with him. And now we can add Elmo to the mix. My oldest is five and a half. He’s at that age where Elmo is still enjoyable but not really his thing anymore. Dave Ramsey’s set is geared more toward older children so it’s a good fit for us. In the last two weeks we’ve seen an amazing growth in his understanding and character building with being a good steward of money. And it helps him understand Mom and Dad’s goals for our family and why we feel it is so important to get out of and stay out of debt. I’m thrilled to see Elmo putting this out there too.  Elmo’s program is officially called The Sesame Street For Me, For You, For Later Kit and it’s FREE . (And we all know FREE is budget friendly!) Teaching kids about money is smart way to help your kiddos embrace a Rice and Beans Mentality and these programs make it so much easier to teach great financial principles and make it fun! (And just for full disclosure-I’m not benefitting from either of these companies-I just find their programs to be fantastic and helpful!).

Checking out Elmo's program online.

Dave Ramsey's cool Give, Save, Spend banks and my kiddo's cool wallet.

FREE Books!!!

Well. For a little while anyway. Usually three whole weeks. And with amazing modern technology you can usually renew your items at the end of your three weeks for more time. Where can you get amazing FREE books? Are you ready for this?? Your LOCAL LIBRARY. If you haven’t stepped into your local library since card catalogs were the kind you pull out of drawers and were actually on CARDS then you might just be in for a treat. Libraries, even the ones in the smallest of counties, have a surprising number of free resources. Most libraries now let you browse their catalog online from home, some let you reserve books from home and some pull the books for you in advance to pick up at the front desk. If you get close to the due date and you haven’t quite finished your selection (or started on one as sometimes is the case with me!) you can log in from home and re-check your items. Libraries these days have a ton of great books, DVD’s, CD’s that can be checked out.  Most also have free Wi-Fi. I live in a very rural area and even our quaint, small public library has some fantastic resources and plenty of current movies (including some great foreign selections if you like!). When I lived in a more metropolitan area I could “order” the books I wanted and pick them up at the desk without having to wander the stacks (unless you want to and I often do just to lose myself for a while). If you have children there are often great programs and story times and the librarians are usually wonderful resources for where to find out what is going on in the community. The last time I walked out of my library (last week) I had more than twenty books (many for my children, but at least six for myself). If I’d walked out of a bookstore with this many books I cringe to think of the money I’d have spent. While I do buy plenty of books, I usually only buy the ones I want on my bookshelves for years to come. The rest I find at my wonderful local library.  Free entertainment  fits in very nicely into anyones budget! Free is budget friendly.

I’d love to hear your thoughts: Do you have a library card? Why not??

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