Monday, October 24, 2016

#JohnsonFarms in Kansas City ... Thank You for a Great Halloween Treat, Tutu!

I don't even know how many years we've been going to Johnson Farms. My mom doesn't live far from there so she was the first to tell us about it when my kids were tiny and we've been going for maybe 10 years if I had to guess. I just remember taking very tiny kids there, nursing there, pushing a stroller there (something I don't do anymore, which still feels weird = freeing and yet bittersweet).

This place is a great pumpkin patch and play area for the kids. There is so much to do and my kids are always occupied for hours. We usually try to go on a day when school is in session so we don't have a lot of crowds. This year we went on a NUTSO CRAZY DAY because schools were out on the day I scheduled us to go = a Friday that my husband was off work. Still, by around 3 p.m. most of the crowds take off and we have the place to ourselves.

Thank you, Mom (Tutu), for Halloween money for the kids so they could get into Johnson Farms and also get pumpkin donuts and apple cider slushes. We picked out our own pumpkins (one for you also, Mom!) and even had a late lunch there. The weather could not have been more perfect and we thought of you the whole time! Please enjoy our day in pictures at Johnson Farms!


Get Over $90 in gift cards when you earn with Uber!

For those of you looking to earn extra money, driving for Uber may be the opportunity you're looking for! You set your own hours so you can earn as much or as little as you want! Thanks to Swagbucks, you can get paid to try it out! (I have seriously been thinking about doing this, seeing as how I have a 12-passenger van and a lovely monthly payment to go along with it.)

Just for signing up, you'll get 1250 SB (the equivalent of over $12 in gift cards to places like Amazon, Starbucks, Target, Walmart, and more, or just PayPal cash)! Once you take your first paid passenger, you'll get another 8000 SB ($80!) in addition to your earnings from driving. Click here to get started.

What's more, if you sign up through me and complete even the first part of this offer before November 1st, you'll get another $3 bonus (300 SB) in the first week of November. So we're talking about almost $100 in free gift cards just for making even more money on the side. Another great way to make a little extra is through Swagbucks - they have a lot of different ways you can earn free gift cards every day! I signed up with Swagbucks years ago and have earned so many gift cards ... and then I started taking my SB in PayPal credit deposited directly into my PP account.

Swagbucks is a great way to bank points all year and get gift cards for birthdays and Christmas! I buy things I normally buy, like things on eBay or even my Time4Learning homeschool subscription, and get points! Then, of course, you can also take polls and surveys and watch videos and buy more stuff you would normally be buying online. I really rack up the SB when I get Christmas shopping done ... think LEGO double VIP points in October through LEGO and then Swagbucks on top of that! WIN WIN!

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Simple Changes to Make To Your Household Spending to Cut Down Debt

For whatever reason, many of us might find ourselves in some household debt. We might be in debt for our home and perhaps a car and education. Those debts are a little more controlled, and we have a monthly amount that is paid off. But when the credit card bills add up, just from everyday spending, you know it is time to make some changes. So here are a few hints and tips to help you reduce your spending, which in turn, will help to clear any credit card debt that you have.


Make Your Own

One great way to save money on your day to day bills is to make things yourself. Cooking from scratch, as well as making your own laundry and cleaning products can save you quite a bit. It is most likely going to end up being better for you too. So what is not to love? There are many websites and sources online that will have recipes and hints and tips you can follow. For many of us, it might be a new concept, to start making your own laundry detergent! So somewhere like The Fortunate Investor is somewhere that you could look. It has articles you can read about saving money on household things, like cleaning products, for example.

Get Rid of Unnecessary Things

There are lots of things that you will have around the home that you could get rid of. From possessions to contracts, they can all be reduced. You could hold a garage sale, for example, or sell belongings online. You could even start to think about contracts in the home that you don’t really need. Do you need the all-singing-all-dancing cable package? Could you reduce it to a more basic package, for instance? Could you get rid of it all together? Things like that might be a nice idea. But if you don’t get that much use of it, is it worth it? Just things to think about to help you make some savings.

Use Reward Programs

Many stores have loyalty and reward programs that can be really beneficial. So think about the stores near you and what they offer. Quite often you can earn loyalty points that can be converted to things like coupons for money off your gasoline. To get some money off, for things that you will be buying anyway, is completely worth it. So shop around and sign up to some loyalty programs.

Cut Down Grocery Costs

A lot of our household budget goes on groceries. What we can eat add up to a lot of money if we don’t restrict things. So make yourself a weekly budget if you don’t already have one. Then think about making some switches. Cereals are expensive; so why not switch to oatmeal and porridge instead. It is also a good idea to buy some of your products in bulk. Things like meat can be bought in bulk, divided up and then stored in the freezer, for example. It will save you money in the long run.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

I Like When God Smacks Me Upside the Head (Are You Living Your Life Like a Saint?)

I didn't really want to go to Religious Education class last night with my kids. Eva asked to stay home and I said, "It's only the 6th class and we already missed one to be with Poppy, which turned out actually instead to be me nursing a horrific dying tooth nerve that night. We can't miss tonight. Sam is doing First Communion in the spring and needs to go to all the classes."

Still, I didn't want to go myself. The past classes had been difficult trying to understand what the Spanish-speaking speakers were talking about when I know maybe a first-grade level of Spanish (we go to a very welcoming church). Our director would try to translate but that became a little disruptive to the Spanish-speakers trying to understand the lecture. I wasn't really looking forward to my brain being on fire more after a tiring day with another tiring day on the way (co-op tomorrow).

We went anyway.

This time my three English-speaking companions and I were taken into a classroom (ironically, the one I taught in last year and had such a hard time because trying to teach kids Religious Ed directly after they've been in school all day was REALLY difficult). A video was put on and I was like, "Oh, I am going to fall asleep."

The video was about saints. And four saints were covered that blew my mind wide open. I sat there taking notes and trying not to bawl like a pre-menopausal baby when Edith Stein's (a Jewish-to-Catholic saint? Shut the front door!) story was told and it turns out she died in a gas chamber.

I wasn't super impressed with The Little Flower even though most Confirmation girls choose her as their saint, and Edith Stein was cool and all that back when it wasn't cool to be a woman. But the two that affected me were Katharine Drexel and Mother Teresa. Drexel was brought up all fancy and then used her $4 million from her parents dying to help Blacks and Native Americans. Talk about philanthropy! Mother Teresa ... what sacrifice!

And you know what I never truly sat and thought about? The fact that these people did not set out to become saints. They were not pious and selfless from the moment of their birth. They all come from different backgrounds and locations. They were not perfect. The Little Flower had to be dragged out of the Pope's pad by guards because she was a teen begging to become a nun and wouldn't give up. I dug that part because it sounds like something that would happen to me when I get an idea in my head and won't let it go!

THEY WERE HUMAN. Sometimes they were annoying and tenacious, but those qualities paired with hard work get stuff done.

The evening left me asking this:

What can I, as the homeschooling mother of 5 and wife of 1 do to make things better in the world? Maybe my calling is raising and educating awesome kids who might go on to do crazy-rockin' things in the world. That thought makes me laugh and feel less-than, as I look at the piles of dishes and laundry and think about how many popsicles I let them eat in the summertime and how we sometimes skip schoolwork for fun outings and how they have too much screen time. Maybe my calling is taking in extra kids when they need a place to just be kids. Maybe my calling is to someday write books that help people beyond getting published in magazines and learning how to make tater tot casserole.

Even if you aren't Catholic, and I was not raised Catholic (or even really Protestant yet I was drawn to it anyway), are you living your life like a saint? I'm not talking about being PERFECT. The saints were never perfect. Some of them have incredibly sordid pasts but turned their lives around and gave up their lives for a more selfless pursuit or two. Are you living your life like a selfish jerk or like a giving, loving, kind, patient, forgiving person?

*I think my comment box has disappeared! Can you let me know here or at Thank you for your help!

How to Balance Your Side Gig with Your Full-Time Job

It's becoming increasingly common: middle-class men and women are taking up side-jobs and freelance assignments in order to bring in extra cash. The so-called "gig economy" is growing, and fast. And it's easy to see why, as it allows individuals to work on their own time, at their own schedule, to earn extra money. However, while the extra money is certainly good, it can lead to a packed schedule that makes it difficult to maintain a healthy work-life balance. Here are ways that you can balance your side gig with your full-time job. Yes, it is possible to have your cake and eat it too!

Side Gigs: Abundant and Available!

Before we discuss how to balance your side gig with your full-time job, you may be wondering what jobs are available to you and how to get them. Many people have an interest in taking up extra work on the side but don't know where to start. The options are actually quite diverse.

Ride sharing apps like Uber and Lyft are two of the easiest ways to get started; simply download the app on your smartphone, create an account, and get started. Anyone with a car that is properly maintained and relatively new can start earning money today. There is also the lucrative (yet highly competitive) field of online freelancing. Thankfully, sites like Fiverr and Freelancer allow individuals who possess the talent but lack the network to have a fighting chance at landing gigs.

Of course, there is also entrepreneurship. If you have dreamed of starting your own business but fear the risks, consider running your business on the side while you develop and grow your clientele. Some entrepreneurship options, such as Amway, allow you to leverage a vast support network while selling products with a proven track record. Other options, like Etsy, are perfect for individuals who craft their own wares, like jewelers or artists.

Essential Tips and Tricks

With that out of the way, let's get to the heart of the matter. Holding down two jobs isn't easy, particularly if one of them is a full-time job. But it is possible, and millions of people across the country are doing just that (and earning extra money in the process). Here are some essential tips and tricks that can help you cope with the demands:

1. Be Prepared to Work

There's no getting around this. Taking on a side gig will likely mean sacrificing a night out with friends, a fancy meal with a loved one, or an opening night show at the cinema. You must be prepared to work hard. You will be busy!

2. Wake Up Earlier

Part of working hard means giving yourself extra time in the day to do the things that used to be routine. This may include doing the dishes or washing the laundry. Or perhaps it's fixing lunch for your school-aged children before they wake up. Set that alarm clock an hour earlier.

3. Leverage Your Day Job Skills

If you work in a professional field and are proficient in a specific skill, the odds are good that someone is seeking the very skill that you have, and are willing to pay for it. As the gig economy becomes more pervasive and commonplace, more and more companies are becoming comfortable with freelancers. Start leveraging your expertise.

4. Get Organized

Taking on freelance work means having to meet deadlines, satisfy job requirements, and schedule your own work time. There will be no regimented 9-5, Monday-Friday schedule to coddle you along. You will be responsible for everything. So do yourself a favor and get organized! It will make everything easier. Look into getting an app like Wunderlist to keep tasks and deadlines organized right on your phone.

5. Remember to Unplug

If you work too hard, you run the risk of burning yourself out. And if that happens, you can't help your employer or yourself. Remember to give yourself free time. As a freelancer, it's important to take a break every once in awhile for peace of mind.

6. Maintain Open Lines of Communication

Most companies allow their employees to work independently outside of the office, so long as it doesn't result in conflicts of interest or affect your work in the office. If you decide to sell Amway or drive for Uber, be upfront with your boss so that expectations are clear.

Considering a Side Job? Go For It!

It may be challenging at first, but maintaining a full-time job while freelancing or starting a business on the side is possible. And if you stick with it and dedicate yourself to achieving your goals, you will likely find that the rewards more than justify the means. Follow the tips outlined above and you can maintain a healthy balance between your full-time work and your side gig. And who knows: perhaps it might even enable you to ditch your full-time job altogether!
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