7 Habits of A Highly Effective Stay at Home Mom

Have you ever read the book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective PeopleIt’s a great book and I love the idea of developing habits to help me to be more effective and productive.  This gave me the idea to ask some of the most highly effective stay-at-home-moms what HABITS they have that help them to be highly effective at their many responsibilities.  Now I get to share the ideas I’ve gathered with you!

7 Habits of Highly Effective Stay at Home Moms:

 1. Make your bed.  I know this one is not a new concept to anyone and that’s because it really does help get your brain in the right mindset to be productive.  My sister who offered this as one of her habits said it like this; “Messy Bed = Messy Head.”  I had never heard that and I love it!  What a simple way to clear your head!  If this truly becomes a habit, then you will do it no matter what!  I have made my bed at 3:00 PM before, just because I hadn’t had a chance to do it yet and it really did help me feel better about the whole day!

2. Wake up early to get in YOU time.  My friend said that she likes to wake up early, before anyone else, to study and exercise so that she makes sure to get in something for herself.  I love the analogy that in an emergency on an airplane, we are told to put our own air mask on FIRST before helping anyone else (even our children) so that we can ensure that we have the ability to continue to help others.  The same thing goes for moms during their day to day routines.  If we don’t take care of a few of our own needs first, then we are not as likely to be helpful to others (including our children).  I know that when you are up in the night with waking children, that you probably feel like the “YOU” time you need is to sleep.  I also know that I have never once regretted getting out of bed, but I have regretted more than once when I sleep in. It can be difficult to start, but if you make it a priority, it will become a habit and become easier.

3.  End the day with 5-10 minutes to pick up the house.  I know that sometimes we think, “what’s the point of picking up anything” because the house is so messy and we feel like it will take too much time to even put a dent in the mess.  But I bet we would be surprised what can get done in just 5-10 minutes.  Set a timer, so that you don’t get sucked into cleaning the whole house.  I usually choose one area of the house that matters the most to me to be tidy and focus on that area.  For me, it’s the upstairs living area (kitchen, dining room and living room).  If that main area is somewhat picked up, I feel better about starting the day tomorrow.  My basement, where all the toys are, can be left messy without it bothering me the next morning.  So decide what area is most important, set a timer, and make it a priority until it becomes a habit.

4.  Do a little cleaning every day.  Cleaning the whole house in one day is not an option for me.  That would take at least 2 hours without interruption (which is also not an option) and by the time I finish one room, there would be a new mess in another room.  I just have to accept the fact that my house for now, will not stay clean for long.  My sister is great at this.  Her house always gets cleaned during the week.  She makes sure to clean the bathrooms one day, floors another day, dust another day, etc.  She said that she does not do it all at one time, but throughout the week and she knows that her house is staying CLEAN.  This is different (at least in my mind) than staying picked up.  A house with toys laying around is not a dirty house, but a bathroom with pee stains on the toilet is a dirty toilet.  So do a little actual cleaning every day to ensure that the basics are being done.  It’s best to set a schedule:

Monday: laundry

Tuesday: bathrooms

Wednesday: Sweep & mop

Thursday: dust & vacuum

Friday: run errands and/or extras at home

5.  Do the dishes before going to bed.  There is not much that I hate more than waking up to a messy kitchen filled with crusty dirty dishes.  I usually aim to do the dishes and clean the kitchen immediately following dinner, but if we have to be somewhere before I can do that, then I make sure to take 15 minutes and do it after kids are in bed and before I go to bed.  Our mornings are busy with getting ready for school, eating breakfast and making lunches.  These things in and of themselves can be stressful, but if I have clean kitchen counters and a clean table for my kids to eat on and an empty sink for the kids to pile their breakfast dishes in, it is more enjoyable for everyone!  Again, this might feel like a huge burden at first, but if it becomes habit, you will wonder how you ever used to sleep knowing what was waiting for you in the morning!

6.  Do ALL of the laundry in one day: wash, dry, fold, put away!  This is a new habit of mine that has been LIFE CHANGING!  Maybe a little dramatic, but seriously… life changing!  I used to wash whites and darks on Monday, colors and kid clothes on Tuesday, towels and sheets on Wednesday.  I washed those things during the day and usually left them in the laundry basket to fold later that night while sitting on the floor and watching a show.  Then I put the folded clothes back in the laundry basket to put away the next day.  Basically, I was never DONE with the laundry. Ever.  Every day I had something that needed done with the dang clothes!  I have now set aside Monday’s as my laundry day and that is the only day I deal with laundry… for the whole week!  I make sure that I can mostly be home all day on Monday and I start first thing in the morning.  I do the 4-5 loads of kid clothes first.  As soon as one load is washed and dried then I fold it on my bed and leave the piles there.  After all kid clothes are washed, dried, and folded on my bed then I sort them into their own laundry baskets.  This is usually getting finished by the time that kids are getting home from school.  The three oldest kids put away their laundry right when they get home from school.  Then I do the three loads of adult laundry and by then my husband is home to help get those loads folded and put away while I’m working on dinner.  Every once in a while I do need to do towels or sheets on Tuesday, but I’ve noticed that when I do that, they sometimes sit in the dryer until next Monday when I do laundry again.  Aiming to get it all done and put away in one day helps me to feel like I can get other stuff done during the week and we all have clean clothes in our drawers for the whole week.  Try it!

Kid’s laundry folded…
Washed, dried, folded, and ready for my big kids to put away!








7.  Have a schedule and routine and write it down!  I am a list person.  Big time.  I use my notebook and write my schedule for the week in the exact same layout and usually the same things week after week.  Seeing your schedule written out will help you prevent double-booking your time, forgetting out of the ordinary things, and will help you feel great about how much you’ve accomplished.  Daily routines help you stay on track with some of the habits we’ve already discussed like cleaning something every day, doing the dishes, laundry, and having time to do something for you.  A schedule helps make sure that you are getting out of the house and meeting the needs of other people (story time, play-dates, volunteering, etc.).  There is something wonderful about consistency!

There you have it.  I’m sure there are 70 x 7 other habits that I should include in this list, but I felt good about starting with these 7 habits.  I just googled to find out how long it takes to develop a habit.  I always thought it was 21 days, but “new research” has found it to take 66 times before an action is considered a habit.  So give yourself some time, set a goal 2 months out, and hopefully a new habit will have formed to help you feel like a highly effective stay-at-home-mom!  I personally am going to improve #4!  I don’t even want to admit on here how many times I’ve mopped my kitchen floor since we moved to our new home 8 months ago…

Oh, and one more thing.  I asked my sister-in-law (who is highly effective) for her habits and she had an interesting spin on the topic.  She recommended that readers learn about the 4 tendencies that Gretchen Ruben discusses in her book, The Four Tendencies.  The more we learn about ourselves and what makes us tick, the better we can improve our habits and become highly effective in the work we do within our home!

I would love to hear about what habits you have that help you to feel highly effective and nice and happy!

Encouraging Kids to do Hard Things (plus free printable)

Doing hard things is well… hard.  And none of us ENJOY doing things that are frustrating and hard.  But I think deep down we know the value in doing hard things.  My good friend introduced me to the quote “I can do hard things” several years ago and now I see printables and cute signs with this saying everywhere.  I love it.   It is so simple, yet so powerful.  What if we all believed that we truly can do hard things?  What if our KIDS believed that THEY could do hard things!?  How different would attitudes be?  In my own household, I know that this single belief would benefit the overall feeling and attitude in our home.

I have one son who is showing very little confidence even at a young age. Which baffles me.  Before having my own children, I would have sworn that all kids were confident in themselves and their skills.  We’ve all seen a kid say, “watch me!”  as they jump over a crack and truly believe that they are the greatest things since sliced bread.  Now that I have my own children, I know that there is plenty of that kind of confidence going on, but there is also a lack of the belief that they can do hard things.  Since my kids were young, one of my top parenting goals has been to instill a sense of self-confidence in my children.  I’m learning that this is harder than I first imagined… but “I can do hard things!”

So how do we teach our children that they can do hard things and in turn, boost their confidence levels?  In a world that works incredibly hard at making things easy, this can be a difficult task.  I know that there are many times that I have bailed my kids out of hard situations, which is exactly the opposite of what I should do:

-Times that I have taken them a lunch at school when it was forgotten on the counter.

– How many meals have I prepared completely alone simply because it’s easier on me to do it alone, rather than have them in the kitchen helping me and learning how to cook?

-Clean the house and do chores on my own because it is easier and will get done better if I just do it myself.

-Let my kids quite piano lessons and swim team.

I’m sure there are many other examples of ways that I have enabled my children and robbed them of the opportunity to do hard things.  So how can we encourage them to do hard things?

1. Tell them they can.  “I can do hard things” should be a mantra in every home and should be repeated over and over again.  The kids should want to slap us in the face because we remind them of this so often!  This is one declaration that can be fitting in every home and family situation.  It applies to all of us.  There is power in saying something out-loud, so say it and say it often.  There are tons of printables out there, so find one you like and have it hanging on your wall.  Here is my printable.

2. Let kids fail.  This is one of the hardest things for me to do (good thing that I can do hard things, right!?).  In many of the parenting books I’ve read, I have learned that it is good for parents to stand back and let kids fail as they are growing up.  Even if what they are failing at may seem like a big deal at the time.  If we let kids fail while they are young and the risk is low, then they can hopefully learn and not repeat that mistake when they are older and the risk is higher.  For example, if we repeatedly bring their homework to them because they left it sitting on their bed when they are in elementary, middle and high school; what is going to happen when they are in college and forget to turn in assignments on time?  The consequences of missing a deadline in college are much greater than the consequences in K-12 school.  If we see their homework sitting on their bed in 5th grade, we should simply leave it there.  Sure our little sweetie might miss recess that day, but isn’t that a good lesson for them to learn to be more responsible?  I have yet to master this parenting technique, but I do understand it’s value and I’m working on it.

3.  Let kids lose.  What!??  This is practically child abuse in today’s world of “everyone gets a medal,” right?  Most of us have probably witnessed the tantrum of a child that has lost at something.  It’s not pretty.  Unfortunately, losing is part of life.  We can’t win them all, so we must learn to lose and lose with dignity.  It is hard to lose and it’s often easier to let kids win if you have that control of the situation, but it is not helpful in teaching them that they can do hard things!  My husband is  the best at this. He does not let the kids win at any type of competition they are doing: basketball, board games, football, wrestling, or knowledge of random facts.  Most of the time the kids handle this just fine, but there have been tears over losing and he just tells them to buck up.  Mom’s are not always as good at this one.  Letting kids lose and teaching them how to do it without being a poor sport is tough and never-ending, but it can teach them that they can do hard things.

4. Let kids struggle.  This one is most obvious on homework in our home.  Kids figure out quickly that it’s easier to say, “I don’t get it” and then zone out as parents try to explain how to do it and wait for the answer.  This one is hard for me too to not rush in with an explanation.  I’ve found that I do better if I am busy with a task or walk out of the room while they are doing homework so that I’m less inclined to jump in and help at the first sign of stress.  Kids need to struggle to figure out a solution.  Sometimes the answer isn’t clear or easy and they just need time to work through it.  Sit back, remind them that they can do hard things and see what happens.

5.  Don’t solve every problem.  I tend to be a problem solver.  I like to have the answer for everything, but I can see that this does not encourage kids to do hard things.  Last night one son was crying and devastated because the other kids were singing along to The Greatest Showman soundtrack.  He said it “hurt his  feelings when they sang.”  I was truly speechless.  This was one problem I didn’t know how to solve, so I told him, “well, you can’t make people stop singing, so I’m not sure what to tell you.  You are smart and I’m sure you’ll think of someway to solve your problem.”  I let him know that I would love to hear what he comes up with.  That situation was easy to not resolve, because it was so ‘out there.’ But other problems, like fights with friends for example can be harder to sit back and watch when you know darn well how to fix that problem.  Too many times parents step in and try to protect their kid if they believe there is injustice going on, but it is not always helpful for the child.  Sure that one problem might get fix, but what about the next and the next.  Parents will not always be around to tell the other kid to knock it off.  When my daughter is having friend issues, sometimes I tell her a story about a similar situation that happened to me with my friends and how I dealt with it.  Or I ask her for her ideas on how to resolve the problem.  She usually has good ideas on her own.  I have a feeling that this in only going to get harder as a parent as kids get older and problems get worse.  But I can do hard things!

6.  Give kids responsibility.  When they have tasks that they are responsible for they are given the chance to prove to themselves that they can do hard things.  Consequences for not doing their responsibilities should be defined and followed through on.  As they carry out their responsibility, you can praise them and point out how well they did that hard thing.  Household chores are a simple way to do this one.  Even the chores that you want done well… let them learn.

7.  Remind kids of the times that they have done hard things.  Simply pointing out that they’ve done it before can be encouragement that they can do it again.  Share your own stories about when you’ve done hard things.  Keep these conversations going all the time.

8.  Family challenges.  Organizing a family challenge is a fun way to show kids that they can do hard things.  It might be something like a breakout room (I haven’t tried these yet, but if I understand them right, it would be a good way to do something hard together), or a ropes course.  I’ve seen more and more of these lately where you complete a challenging obstacle course together as a team.  Another idea might be to set a difficult reading goal, memorize a quote, compete in a race, or any other type of competition your family might enjoy that provides a challenge for the family to overcome.

9.  Develop new talents.  I instantly think of piano lessons for this one.  Why do we all think we must torture our children with piano lessons?  I don’t know why we do it, but it is a great way for them to learn that they can do hard things!  This is true for any new skill or talent they are developing.  It is hard to learn new things, but they can do it.  Find an activity that your child finds interesting and let them take lessons and work through the hard beginning phases.  Parents can set the example for this by learning new things as well and sharing their experiences with their kids.

10.  Write it out.  There is something therapeutic about writing something down.  It might be fun to have a family journal where everyone writes about the times they did something hard.  If it’s too personal to be shared with the whole family, then encourage kids to write in a personal journal.  Writing it down, just seems to make it more real and tangible.  It can solidify to the child that they really did do a hard thing and then reflect on how that makes them a stronger individual.

I recently listened to this talk about “hard is good.”  I do believe that doing hard things is good for all of us, even our children.  I am trying to focus more on facing the hard things rather than avoiding them.  I hope that I can be more deliberate in encouraging my kids to do hard things and that it can (eventually) help us all to be nice and happy!



How to Raise Backyard Chickens

This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission if you choose to purchase something from my links.

I have been in the chicken business for about 5 days now, which practically makes me an expert (ahem).  Although I am truly NOT an expert in the chicken department yet, I would like to share what I have learned from my research from experts and how this newbie (a.k.a. me) got started with raising backyard chickens from chicks.

I had planned on writing this post months or years from now, when I actually can consider myself an expert.  However a combination of a last minute decision to not write the post I had planned this morning, writers block for other ideas, laziness to go upstairs and get my list of blog post ideas, and the constant chirping I am listening to at the moment has led me to the decision to share with you what I have learned in the last 5 days from experience as well as all the great resources I have discovered.

Our family has always enjoyed other people’s chickens and their eggs.  When we lived in Colorado, we were friends with the nicest people who truly were experts on backyard chickens.  They shared their fresh eggs with us weekly and we took care of their chickens if they were out of town.  My kids loved to go and gather eggs and take our scraps or freshly caught grasshoppers to the chickens to watch them fight over the food.  We have missed that sweet couple and their chickens since moving to Wyoming.  We have made friends in our new town who have chickens and it was talking with her that convinced me to go ahead and give chickens a try.  This friend of mine adores her chickens and once she informed me that I wouldn’t need a heat lamp for the chickens in the winter, I was ready to try it!

Resource #1

Talk with friends, neighbors, and family about their chickens and get all the advice you can from those already doing it in your area.  They know the predators to be aware of, how to protect the chickens from the elements where you live, and what breeds do best in your climate.

Resource #2

My next step in gathering information was watching a ton of YouTube videos.  Here are links to a few of my favorite:

Resource #3

The other helpful information I received is from Murdoch’s, where I purchased our baby chicks.  The salesman answered several of my questions and they had a pamphlet and information sheets and checklists to help me get started.

Resource #4

I found these websites helpful in learning about the different chicken breeds:

Decision Time:

After gathering all kinds of information, it was time to make some decisions.

  1. Where to build the chicken coop. I learned that there are city codes to help you make this decision.  One code said the coop must be 25 feet from the house (not including the garage) and 35 feet from the neighbors house.  We wanted an area that would be easy to get to during the winter months (which is about 9 months out of the year for us…).  We decided the perfect spot for our coop would be next to the far side of our garage.  The garage and a fence will help protect the chickens from the wind and cold of Wyoming and there is a patch of cement on the other side to prevent predators from digging into the run.
  2. What type of coop you will use.  There are so many great designs out there, so the hard part will be choosing what works best for you.  A general rule I have noticed is that the coop needs to be about 2-4 square feet/chicken inside and about 8-10 sq. feet/chicken in the run.  We got our idea from one we saw in a neighbor’s yard.  I will keep you updated on that project when we get there!
  3. How many chickens you want.  We want enough eggs to feed our family of 6 and provide a few extras to either give away or for the kids to sell.  From what I’ve read, I think 5 chickens would be plenty to provide eggs for a family of 6.  We are starting with 9 knowing that some might not make it and to have extra eggs.
  4. What type of chickens will you buy.  There are online hatcheries that you can order your chicks from and that seems to be a good choice.  We decided to just buy our chicks from Murdoch’s, which does limit the breeds available to buy.  They were totally sold out of chicks, but getting new shipments weekly.  I got a list of the breeds that would coming in and then I did my research on those breeds to make sure they were hardy (could survive the winter).  I then showed a picture of a full grown chicken from each breed to our kids and they each got to pick 2 breeds they wanted to claim as their own.  This was a good idea in theory, but the day we went to pick up the chicks, they were already sold out of some breeds and I had been given wrong information on the date that other breeds were coming.  So we didn’t get to buy the variety we were planning on, but we are still happy with what we got.  We ended up with 2 Delaware, 2 Silver Lakenvelder, 4 Rhode Island Reds, and 1 New Hampshire Red.
  5. Where will you raise the chickens until they are ready to be outside (5-8 weeks).  Chicks need to be kept inside in a brooder box for several weeks until they are fully feathered and strong enough to withstand the temperatures outside.  The first few weeks they can be kept in a storage tub, but by about 4 weeks they need a bigger box still usually in the house or garage.  We have a good spot in our basement that is on tile floor, so we don’t have to worry about spills or poop on our carpet.  We are using a large pink storage tub.  I would recommend using a clear one if you have it, because the combination of the pink tub and the red heat bulb makes for quite a glow!  We plan to move them to a box that held our new bathtub when they get older and need more space.

Ready to begin

Finally you have some decisions made and you are ready to begin!  We might regret this, but we bought our chicks before having the outside coop built and ready to go.  We figured that we should have at least a month before they need to go outside, so we’ll see if that was an OK decision or not in a few weeks.

The first supplies we bought or gathered were:

  • brooder box (storage tub and large box)
  • heat lamp and bulb
  • Chick starter food and grit
  • Pine wood shavings
  • Chick feeder and water containers (we bought used)
  • Electrolytes and vitamins
  • Apple Cider Vinegar
  • Thermometer

The total cost so far without the chicks was $54.

Once we had the basics and had the brooder box set up and ready to go we then got the food and water ready.

The brooder box needed a couple inches of the pine shavings on the bottom, the heat lamp securely attached, a thermometer near the bottom to accurately know the temperature (new chicks need the temp to be about 95 degrees), their feeder, and something solid for the water.  We placed two bricks side by side for the water and that has been helpful to prevent it from knocking over and keeping the pine shavings somewhat dry.

For the food we poured some of the chick starter food into a container about 3/4 of the way full.  We then filled the rest of the container with 1/4 of grit to help the chicks digest their food.  After mixing it up good, it is ready to pour into the feeder.  To prepare the water, we used a gallon jug and filled it with room temperature water and added 1 Tbsp of Apple Cider Vinegar to help the chicks with digestion and overall health.  The day that we got the chicks we poured that into their water container and then added about 1 tsp of the electrolytes to their water container, not the gallon sized jug.  They do not need electrolytes all the time, but it is good for them in the beginning after the stress of being transferred.  Now it is time for the chicks!

We went and picked out our chicks and brought them home!  The chicks cost $40 for 9 of them.  Like I mentioned before, we did have to make a few last minute decisions on the breeds, but the salesman was great at helping me make those decisions.

When we got home my 5 year old was busy at carefully placing the chicks into the brooder box and then he was perfectly entertained the rest of the day!

Now What?

Now our job is to

  • Interact with the chicks (1-2 hours a day), so that they get used to us and being handled.
  • Keep their food container free of pine shavings and filled each day.
  • Clean their water container to make sure it is free from pine shavings.
  • Wipe their bums if they get backed up (a.k.a pasty butt).  I was not thrilled with the idea of having to wipe bums, but it really hasn’t been too bad.  Only 3 chicks really needed it for a couple days and then it’s been better.
  • Make sure the temperature is where is should be.  It starts about 95 degrees for the first week and then decreases by 5 degrees every week after that.
  • Clean the brooder box every other day.
  • Get that chicken coop built!

Lessons Learned

We unfortunately learned a very hard lesson.  Our kids need clear rules about what is allowed with the chicks.  The first night we had our chicks, my husband and I were finishing our dinner while the three boys were downstairs with the chickens.  We assumed that my two older boys would supervise the 2 year old with the chicks.  But we were wrong.  My two year old, apparently tried to make a chicken fly by tossing it into the air.  The poor chick landed on the tile floor and died.  It was the saddest thing!  We buried the chick and now my son keeps asking where the chicken is and if it flew to heaven.  Since this incident, we now have strict rules with the chickens.  Carter is only allowed to hold the chicks if a grown up or my daughter is with him and he has to be sitting down on the blanket next to the coop.  This rule applies to friends that are over as well.

The happy lesson we have learned is that the chickens like to be snuggled and kept warm!  My daughter is a chicken whisperer and discovered that they like to be wrapped in her shirt and will snuggle in and fall asleep!  We snuggled these chicks while we FINALLY got to watch The Greatest Showman over the weekend.








If you are considering starting backyard chickens, I hope this will give you information and encouragement to try it out.  We are only 5 days in and other than one casualty, we are really enjoying this new addition to our family.  It is giving the kids more responsibility and a chance to learn how to care for animals.  I really don’t enjoy pets in general and I plan to have as little as possible, but I am actually excited about the chickens.  They are an animal that gives something in return!  Carter had to go to time out after his chicken incident and now he is ready to be nice and happy!

Step by step budgeting guide

This post contains affiliate links, which means that I might get a profit if you choose to purchase a product.

About 6 months into my marriage, my parents discovered Dave Ramsey and they gave us his book, The Total Money Makeover.  The principles and strategies taught in that book have been such a blessing to us!  My husband and I have been married for 13 years now, and we continue to use Dave Ramsey’s methods.  Dave teaches the importance of budgeting, saving for emergencies, saving for the future, how to invest, paying off a mortgage, getting out of debt and staying out of debt.  He breaks it down to baby steps to make it a simple plan for anyone to follow.

Dave’s 7 Baby Steps:

    1. $1000 in an Emergency Fund
    2. Pay off all debt using the snow ball method
    3. 3-6 months of expenses in savings
    4. Invest 15% into a Roth IRA
    5. College fund for children
    6. Pay off mortgage early
    7. Build wealth and give

Sounds easy enough, right?  It really is a simple and straightforward plan and he teaches how to do each step.  We have not made it past baby step 3 in our 13 years of trying.  I don’t tell you that to be discouraging about his system.  It’s a great system, but here is our situation: we got married while we still had 3 years of college ahead of us.  I had scholarships and we both had financial aid, however, we still had to pay a fair amount of tuition, books, and fees throughout college and our financial aid decreased every year as we worked at better jobs and made more money.  I am happy to say, that with budgeting, we were still able to graduate WITHOUT student loans.  Budgeting, working hard, being disciplined (and obviously the scholarships and financial aid) helped us reach that accomplishment.

We quickly saved the $1000 and then for the next 3 years worked on baby step #2 to pay off the small debts we had (wedding ring, car, and a $1000 student loan I took out my first year).  It took us that many years to pay off about $2,500 in debt and then stay out of debt while getting our degrees.

After college we were debt free and had $1000 in savings, so it was time for real jobs.  However, we were not able to move on to baby step #3 because my husband was going to get a master’s degree and I only taught elementary for 1 year before quitting my job to stay home with our first child.  So for the next 5 years or so, we continued to budget and be disciplined so that my husband could get his Master’s degree without going into debt all while having more kids and living on one teacher’s salary.  But we did it!  He finished his Master’s degree and by that time we had 3 kids, lived on one income, had bought a house and a minivan.  We did have to take out a short term student loan, but it was paid off in a few months when we got our tax return.  In the end of our education process we made it with 2  bachelor degrees and 1 master’s between the two of us without student loans and while living on one income and raising a young family.  The one area we did stray from on Dave’s advice was buying the minivan.  We did go into debt to do that, which he is absolutely against, but at that time we felt it was necessary for our family.  We took out a 7 year loan, but had it paid off in 4 years.

Fast forward a few years.  We are still living on one salary (my husband is a school counselor), we have 4 kids that are involved in many activities, we sold our first house and bought another, we are debt free and have $1000 in an emergency fund.  So it has taken us 13 years of continually working on this system, but we are finally ready to begin baby step #3.  We could not have made it even this far into the process if we had not been diligent about budgeting.  I will say this over and over; we are NOT perfect at sticking to our budget!  We do budget before each and every paycheck, but sometimes life happens and we cannot stick to it every time.  But I did want to share how we budget and what we have found to work well for us.

How we budget

When we first started budgeting we used paper and pencil and a budget sheet.  But since 2006, we have been using a spreadsheet on the computer, so I can still go back to that year and see all of our budgets for the last 12 years.  In fact, I did go back and look at November of 2006 and we made a total combined amount of $1217.78 for the month!

I have adapted and changed a few things over the last 12 years to find what works for us.  A few general things about our budget…

  • We use one spreadsheet per year and each month is a new tab:
  • Use a formula to subtract all the expenses from the income to know how much is left over or how much is lacking
  • Try to budget EVERYTHING (bills, gifts, donations, food, gas, money to pay kids, entertainment, hair cuts, etc.)
  • The goal is to have your income and your expenses zero out.  So spend everything you make.  You can “spend” it into a savings account, but make sure that you assign a place for every penny to go.
  • Budget before every pay check.
  • We now save our budget into google docs so we can view it anytime rather than saving it only to our computer.
  • I use a “description” column to explain anything out of the ordinary.

The first step in your budget it to list all income and total that income (I am going to show a mock budget so these are not the actual numbers we budget).  The formula to insert into your “total” cell for each pay check is =SUM(B3:B5)  But if you are in column C then you would change the B to a C.  And if you have more rows for income then just change the numbers to match the row numbers of your first and last rows of income (so change the 3 and 5 to whatever your first and last row numbers are).

Next, you will list all your expenses.  I color code the numbers.  Black means that I paid it using my debit card or online and that it has been paid.  Green means that I need to get cash for that amount.  Red means that the money is in the checking account, but I have not yet paid it.  I divide the bills according to when they are due so I know which pay check I will use to pay each bill.  In the description area I use a / to separate the explanation for the first and second pay checks.  As you can see, I get as close to zero in the total box as I can.  The formula for the total boxes are =B6(SUM(B9:B38)) for the first paycheck column and =C6(SUM(C9:C38)) for the second paycheck column.

After assigning a place for your money the next step is to put that plan into action.  Start by paying all the bills online or setting up automatic payments.  I have learned over the years that if I wait to go to the bank to get out the cash that I usually spend it with my debit card and then it messes up my whole budget.  So next, go to the bank and get the cash you need.  I go so far to figure out what bills I need so that I can then put the right amount into that envelope (yes, I use the envelope system!).  For example, if I were getting the cash for the first pay check I would ask for 3-100 bills, and 6-50 bills and then put those into the envelopes they belong. The blow money would be divided up between my husband and I and that is the amount that we can spend on whatever we want.  The surprise money usually just stays in the checking account and is there for the surprises that come up.  If there is extra left over then it will roll over into the next pay period.

Everything looks very nice on paper and seems to work out perfectly, but that is not always the case in reality.  Some months are very tight for us and during those months our food budget might be $50 and we don’t usually get to budget blow money or surprise money because those are the only flexible areas.  When we are extremely tight and out of money, but feel that we need food or gas then we do use our credit card.  This is absolutely against what Dave Ramsey would advise!  We are very disciplined about paying it off completely every month, so it has not become a problem for us, but if you don’t have that discipline then I don’t recommend using that as a backup.

As I’ve mentioned, we are not perfect at sticking to our budget, but I love knowing exactly where our money is going and how tight we need to be that pay period.  Budgeting gives us direction and helps my husband and I to be on the same page with our finances.

I would love to hear about your experiences with budgeting.  I won’t lie… budgeting doesn’t always make me nice and happy when we have tight months.  But staying out of debt and having a plan with our money does help me to feel nice and happy in the long run.  It may seem like a lot of work in the beginning, but the more you do it the easier it is.



Instapot Potato Burritos

Do you have an Instapot yet?  I borrowed my sister’s while she was in the process of moving and I fell in love!  I had it for about a month before I mustered up the courage to actually try it.  It all seemed so intimidating.  The first thing I tried was meatloaf and baked potatoes together in the pot.  I learned an important lesson with this first experiment… the Instapot needs water. I tried cooking it twice for 30 minutes each time and after each time the meat was still raw!  Finally I had an idea to add a bit of water to the bottom and thirty minutes later I had perfectly cooked meatloaf and tender potatoes.  After this test, I started getting brave with the instapot and trying my own things.

My dad has coached basketball for as long as I can remember, and my mom used to help him with a fundraiser for his team.  She made hundreds of potato burritos and bean burritos to sell during his home ball games.  She eventually recruited a few other moms and taught them how to make these burritos and together they would fill 2 or 3 roasters with the burritos and sell out in one night.  It just didn’t feel like a home basketball game until you had your burrito.  My dad is no longer coaching, but my family still makes these burritos for dinner as well as to store in the freezer for a quick meal.

I was making dinner one night for someone who was allergic to chicken and celery (odd combo) and it just so happened that I was out of beef and only had chicken for meat.  So I needed a meatless meal and I decided to give potato burritos a try, but I wanted to see if I could use the Instapot to speed up the process.  It worked wonderfully!

Potato Burritos

Ingredients: potatoes, canned green chilies, Mexican style shredded cheese, tortillas and an Instapot


1. Peel and cube potatoes then place in the Instapot. (You can do as many or as few potatoes as you would like.  I would at least use 4 good sized potatoes and more if you want to freeze some burritos for later.)

2.  Fill the Instapot with water to completely cover the potatoes with water.

3.  Pressure cook the potatoes on high for 15-20 minutes.  You can play with the time depending on your pressure cooker.  You want the potatoes soft enough to easily mash with a potato masher, but a few chunks are good.

4.  When the timer has gone off on the pressure cooker, do not turn the valve to vent the steam.  Let the pressure release naturally.

5.  While the potatoes are cooking, use a food processor to grind the canned green chilies.  You can use 1 or 2 cans depending on how spicy you want the burritos.  If you prefer chunks of green chilies, you don’t have to chop them in the food processor.

6.  After the potatoes have released the pressure (about 10 minutes), open the lid and check to make sure they are tender.  If they mash easily with the fork, then drain some of the water, but not all.

7.  Use a hand potato masher and mash the potatoes. Remember, a few chunks are fine.  It will have the consistency of lumpy mashed potatoes.

8.  Part way through mashing, add a handful of shredded cheese and the green chilies.  Continue to mash until desired consistency.  Mine were a bit watery so I let them sit without a lid for a few minutes to let the water evaporate and then they were perfect.

9.  Scoop a good amount onto the tortillas, fold in the side, and roll the burrito.

10.  Eat right away or wrap each burrito in foil to either heat in a roaster for a big event (like a ball game) or stick in the freezer for later.

11.  To reheat a frozen burrito, remove the foil and wrap in a paper towel.  Microwave for 3-4 minutes or until the middle is warm.

We enjoy these potato burritos smothered with green chili or dipped in salsa and sour cream.

They would also go well with my homemade queso you can find here.

I would love to know if you try these and what you think!  I know that a potato burrito sounds like a strange combination, but it sure makes our family nice and happy!

Painting a Bathroom Vanity

We had a leak in our upstairs bathroom, which meant that we had to cut a hole in the ceiling in our basement bathroom in order to find the leak upstairs.  And since we already had a hole in the ceiling we decided to go ahead and rip the cheap plastic shower walls off, tear the bathtub out, and remodel it all.

Sounds like the If you Give a Mouse a Cookie books, huh?? If you tear a hole in the ceiling, your going to rip the shower apart, if you tear the walls out, you might as well take out the tub, when you take out the tub you will need to replace it, after you replace the tub you will need to tile the walls, after you tile the walls you might as well tile the floors.  Now that you have nice new floors you will need a new toilet and you might as well redo the vanity.

This is our life right now, so get ready for a lot of bathroom DIY tutorials.  After tearing out the shower, we decided to paint the vanity next before we redo the floors.

My sister recently bought a house and has remodeled everything in it.  She painted her kitchen cabinets using regular latex paint in this pretty shade of gray.  So I borrowed her can of paint and quickly gave my bathroom vanity a make-over.

Here is the before






We first used KILZ as a primer to help the paint hold better.  We don’t often prime before painting, but on cabinets made from something other than real wood, we decided it would be a good idea.  We did not even take the drawers out or the door off, but I did later remove the door to do the paint.  We just removed the knobs and painted it without any other prep.  And as you can see we did not worry about covering it well, just one coat was enough.





We let that dry really good then it was time for the paint.  We used Easy Care brand.  The color is Bachelor Pad and the finish was satin.  We used a regular bristle brush and painted following the grain.  It took two coats to cover it well.









It was really a quick project that made a big difference.  The latex paint covered well and I think the knobs will help it last and hold up just fine.  Sometimes we think painting cabinets has to be a big project and a high expense, but in a bathroom it can be much more simple that we might think.

A quick and easy make over with a big difference makes me nice and happy!