Friday, September 27, 2013

Insurance Philosophy

Don't worry; this won't be a long, boring article about how to pick every kind of insurance ever made. I never really understood insurance until I got married and had to get my own. Now, I completely understand the headache my mom went through when she had to call up the insurance what seemed like once a week to iron something out. I know my insurance is like anyone else's. They're great until they need to pay for something big, and then they mess it up. That's life, though.

In the Tightwad Gazette, I read a few tips that I thought were very helpful when it comes to choosing any kind of insurance.

1. Insurance won't shield you from all costs, but it will prevent you from financial disaster. I remind myself of this all the time.  No one can predict how much you will need the insurance, and there's always the question of getting a "better" plan, but it's most important just to have insurance in the first place!

2. Set the deductible as high as you can afford, but not so high that it's unbearable. Because we have done this, we don't pay anything for our premium each month.

3. Cancel what you don't need. We just have liability insurance on our car since it's old and not worth having full coverage.

4. Shop around for the best price. This is tedious to do for anything, but it can save a lot. Employers generally have much better insurance coverage than private insurance. Our health and dental insurance come through James's work and we have car and life insurance from USAA. We called a couple of places before getting homeowner's insurance, so it saved us over $100 a year and got us better coverage.

5. For life insurance, use term unless you are wealthy. (The other option has to do with investing. USAA gave us term.)

6. Change your insurance when your life changes. We were able to drop full coverage on our car when it wasn't being used as collateral in a loan. Our other changes have been because of employment and adding new people to the family.

How do you feel about insurance? Is is more of a headache or a blessing?

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Challenge

I feel that my life's greatest challenge is simply not knowing everything about the future. No one does, but it bugs me at times because I want to look forward 6 months and know with a surety that everything is going to be my definition of perfect.

Before I married James, I had a hard time visualizing being married to anyone. Who in their right mind would want to spend eternity with me? I get on my own nerves at times. Yet, it still happened, and I'm happier than ever with a man who got the worse end of the deal. With my being 8 months pregnant right now, he puts up with a whole lot! It's still weird to look back and see how perfectly the timing worked out with our wedding. My family had only week where they could make the 3-day drive to Idaho from NC, and James happened to propose 6 weeks before that. It was truly a miracle.

Our children so far have been perfectly timed, or so it would seem. I could say that it's been exactly as I wanted. I wanted to be a mother as soon as I could, and Joseph showed up a month before our first anniversary. He was even kind enough to be born on his due date, something that still pleases my OCD very much. :)

Kenny was born 22 months later during spring break, just by chance. Still, it was pretty convenient, even though he was 3 days late. I wouldn't have said that was perfect, but it was. Mom was still around when I came home from the hospital.

Although our boys were both born while we were poor college students, miracles and sacrifices have always helped us pay for them. Looking back, our financial situation has always defied logic in a way. I thought that a steady job would help my faith a bit, but I still waver when I try to think about all the things we'll need to pay for (or would like to) in the upcoming year. I have no idea how it will all happen.

Our little girl is due in less than 4 weeks. I do not doubt that she belongs in our family. I do wonder why the Lord wanted her here so soon at a seemingly inconvenient time. Our insurance resets in September, which means she will cost more that we originally thought. I didn't know that until recently, but it threw me for a loop since it means we probably won't be able to take advantage of the hospitals "pay up front, get 40% off" deal.

I've spent too much time complaining this time around. The heat and fatigue nearly killed me some days (or so I thought). I have a lot to be grateful for. I found out that she was a girl right during yard sale season, so I was easily able to buy everything I needed for her in a short amount of time and for not much money. My boys have been pretty understanding when I needed rest. Joseph would bring me a blanket while I lay on the couch and rested. Kenny has learned to get along better with Joseph. He walks, talks, and never cries at bedtime anymore. I thought that stage would never end, but now my little guys talk and laugh with each other before they go to sleep. They usually get along, though they do fight like brothers. I couldn't be more grateful for that.

I've always had exactly what I've needed in my life - rarely more. I don't need to have a surplus of money, energy, or time. It doesn't matter that I can't look forward and see exactly how everything will work out. That's why faith is so important. I know that I am where I'm supposed to be - home. I love my job as mom even though it drives me crazy almost daily. I can't think of a job with better rewards. It's not going to get easier with 3 instead of 2 kids, but somehow I feel less nervous than I have over the last 8 months. It's going to work out, even if I can't see it perfectly.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Homemade Gifts

To me, homemade gifts are special. There have been times that I feel guilty in knowing that I've given someone something that didn't cost me any money, but then I think again.

Time.

Time is the gift you give when you give something homemade. No one will ever know how long it took to make a loaf of bread or knit a blanket, but it's understood that a sacrifice in time made such a special present.

I give some homemade gifts, which usually means food or crafts (the ones that don't fail). I don't remember them all, but I remember the faces of the people I gave them to if I was there.

Other times, I have given my actual time as a gift. For two Christmases (not in a row), I gave my family service instead of tangible presents. During that service, we were able to spend time working together, and it felt good.

I love receiving homemade gifts as well. I have lots of empty Mason jars and home-sewn things to prove it.

Giving homemade gifts is not a cop-out for a real gift. I think they're almost more real than a gift from the store. Gifts you make yourself are a way to share your talents with others, even if your talents don't include going shopping or making a lot of money.

Nothing makes me happier than seeing Joseph snuggle with Bummy, a sock monkey I made for him when he was a baby. That thing is ratty and a little lopsided since it was a really old sock, but that doesn't matter to him.

I won't do every gift homemade, but I think I will remember them better.

This is the very essence of a frugal lifestyle: keeping the balance between time and money. When I have money, but no time, I buy. When I have time and no money, I make. I have never run out of either.

How do you feel about giving and receiving homemade gifts?

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Yucky

The past two weeks haven't been fun. It started when Kenny got a pretty bad diaper rash that wasn't getting better after a couple of days. He was irritable, which made me snap a lot. He screamed bloody murder every time I changed his diaper, which was very often! Joseph randomly picked up a cough. He had no other symptoms of illness, no runny nose, nothing. That cough is still lingering, and it disrupts his sleep enough to make him grumpy as well. I decided to treat Kenny's rash as yeast, so it's 90% better now. The last 10% is annoying as heck to clear up. He's got a cold now, and Joseph picked up the same rash. They're on a roll this week. Before noon today, I'd changed 5 poopy diapers. What I'll do with 3 kids in diapers, I have no idea! I know it won't last forever. Neither boy is terribly ill. Their rashes are healing well, just taking a lot of time to clear up the last little bit. I can't make them get better any faster, not really, but I sure wish I could.

I'm still tired, but I know I'm just normal. Dealing with the sickness these past weeks has made me a little grouchy. It's not the diapers, really, or the coughing. It's the whining that accompanies it. James has a little bit of a cold too, but I'm hoping I stay well since I'm already pretty worn out from taking care of everyone else, not too patiently, I might add.

Some ladies in the ward have offered to throw me a baby shower in a couple of weeks. I'm pretty excited, because I know hardly anyone yet. If I'm not wrestling with Kenny, I'm trying to just stay awake during Church.

James's family is coming to visit this weekend. I'm pretty excited, because we probably won't see them again until Christmas. I feel a little bad about not wanting to travel during Thanksgiving, but I will have a one-month-old. I know that recovery gets a little more rough each time, so I need my full 6 weeks to be non-stressful. My two brothers and one sister at BYU-I will come to visit Vernal during Thanksgiving. Hosting people is much easier for me than travelling! A little extra cooking never bothers me, and I get free (and very willing) babysitters.

James and I have had a really busy week so far, and it's not over yet (even before the family visit). His trainings for school have kept him late, and I've been trying to get visiting teaching done since I'm not very good at that. One thing I always end up wondering: how many phone calls in a month is annoying to a person? I always seem to have one person who never EVER calls back. How many times is it appropriate to call and leave a voicemail? I don't want to be a pest. 

Friday, September 13, 2013

Reuse It!

Though I don't reuse every single thing that comes into my house, I do try to make the best of free materials that come my way. It saves me money because I don't have to buy containers for anything! Some of my favorites:

1. Grocery bags. We use these as liners in trash cans or for carrying lunches to school. Between shopping trips, I often use up all of my bags!

2. 5 gallon buckets. I have some wheat stored in these. Since I've used up a couple of buckets of wheat, I use the extra buckets for my rice and flour. No canister is quite big enough for how much of I use of those staples. I didn't have to spend $5 for each bucket either!

I've also started a container garden using 5 gallon buckets. Before Joseph got a toy box, his toys were stored in one.

I have a few extra buckets outside that I use as mini trash cans when I do the weeding. Fun, right?

3. Mason jars. I've often been given canned goodies as gifts, so I save the jars and rings. For temporary lids, I use old Parmesan lids. They work great for salad dressings, syrup, etc. Once I get into canning, I should have quite a stash built up...

I turned a couple of jars into soap dispensers, which I love!

4. Baby food jars. Though I never bought any baby food, I was given some. I used the jars for my own baby food, and once my baby was done with it, I used them for storing spices. They're the perfect size!

5. Ice cream buckets. These are especially great for food storage items like beans and pasta.

6. Milk jugs. Since they're not super sturdy, we rinse them out, fill them with water, and SHOOT them! They're actually really great targets because it's easy to tell when you've got a hit. :) I'm not a bad shot, either.

For the most part, I keep sturdy containers and almost all glass ones with lids. I don't keep a lot of flimsy plastic (like sour cream containers) because they don't hold up as well and aren't see-through. I think I've had too many experiences opening one and finding someone's gross leftovers, not sour cream! :)

What are your favorite things to reuse?

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Answers

I've had a few things on my mind besides the baby. (That in itself could be another whole post, because I've had the strangest dreams about her!)

My family's health is really important to me, as I'm sure it is for any mom. Moms are usually in charge of the cooking, so they make most of the health decisions for the family. I never thought that it would be such a big responsibility. I can cook, yes, but who's to say that what I cook is really worth the time and effort? I hadn't studied a whole lot about the quality (nutrition) of the food I make until a few years ago when Joseph was starting to eat solid foods. Something prompted me, in a way, to search for answers to this question,

"How can I feed my family foods they like while effectively balancing cost, nutrition, and time?"

I've read lots of books, some pretty nontraditional when it comes to nutrition. I've tried to make everything that I can from scratch that I don't consider to be a huge pain. For the most part, I'd say we eat "real food", which, along with the Word of Wisdom, best describes how we eat on a normal basis. I spend a lot less than the government says I should be...about 55% of their definition of "frugal". Yet still, something nags me that I could be doing better.

My husband is not normal. (Really!) Due to a chronic health issue, he deals with malabsorption. I've struggled with the thought that it may shorten his life, but also that what I feed him may have a whole lot to do with how long that life is. Since spending more money isn't really an option, I've been thinking a lot about what I can do to make the quality of food we already eat even better.

The answer was clear and simple and came to me while I was studying about food storage (for the long term, which I will be writing about on my other blog).

Sprouts.

I've been at work sprouting everything in my kitchen that has the ability. And guess what? No matter what I sprout, it increases the nutrition by a TON. I've been doing a lot of research on it, and I can't believe that it's not a more commonly explored topic. I realized that even if we can only store basic grains and beans in our long-term storage, that's okay, because sprouting them provides a wealth of vitamins and minerals that otherwise would be locked up. It also increases digestibility, a huge advantage for a person who doesn't digest well, and decreases cooking time, which is always a plus. I can't believe that the answer was staring me in the face this whole time.

My goal now is to sprout all the beans and most of the grains we eat from now on. Ever since eating some sprouts today, I've been craving more. I love healthy cravings, because it feels doubly good to give in to them. That's definitely something I can live with. ;)

Friday, September 6, 2013

Saving on Electricity

Our last two apartments and our house have been all electric (minus the stove here). Since electricity is more expensive for heating than gas, I've tried to make sure that our bill isn't completely outrageous each month by doing a few simple things. It's impossible to calculate exactly how much each of these tips saves, but there is no doubt that they do help.

Know which things in the home use the most electricity and use them only as much as you have to. From what I can gather online, here are the top energy users.

1. air conditioning - We have a swamp cooler instead. I use it when it starts getting uncomfortable inside. At night, we blow in the cool air using box fans. This makes a huge difference in how much we have to use the swamp cooler. (Living in a desert does have its advantages. Swamp coolers cost a lot less than AC to run.)

2. dryer - If I've washed a large load of clothes, I spin them twice to make sure all the extra water gets out. This cuts down on drying time and saves energy. I dry things for the minimum amount of time that they need and hang up a few pairs of jeans to let them finish drying if they're the only thing still damp.

3. water heater - I'm not good at this one, but taking shorter showers obviously helps. I only wash my dirty rags in hot; everything else gets washed in cold because I don't think warm water makes a difference in how clean they get. We turned the temperature of the water heater down. It saves money and prevents burned fingers, and it's never hot enough anyway to sanitize dishes washed by hand.

4. water pump - Use less water in general. I asked a couple of people's opinions on how often we needed to water the lawn before jumping in and trying to water it every day (since it doesn't need it that often). Keeping the grass longer helps it need less water. I do only full loads of laundry and adjust the water level if I need to. The little boys take a bath together 1-2 times a week and only get the minimum amount of water needed to get them clean. I need to do better on shorter showers. :) In general, I never leave the water running, and we make sure that none of the faucets drip.

5. stove -  I do all my baking for the day all at once. I try to use the coolest part of the day and have the oven on only as long as I need it. I actually have a gas stove/oven here, but the principle still applies.

6. fridge - The biggest thing here is making sure kids keep the door shut. We are blessed to have a fridge with the water in the door, so Joseph can help himself and doesn't need to open the fridge to get a drink.

7. lights - We switched all of our bulbs for energy-efficient ones. They cost about 1/4 as much as incandescent to use, and they last a lot longer. We've been using them for 3-4 years now and haven't replaced any. (We took them with us when we moved.) My kids are already getting lectures on keeping lights turned off when we aren't using them.

If you want to figure out the energy usage of something, use this formula

(watts X hours used) / 1,000. This will give you kWh, which you multiply by your state's charge per kWh to find the cost of operating the appliance. (In Utah, we get charged 8.6 cents per kWh. You can find this info online.) Another thing to consider: during the summer, the less energy you use, the less you pay per kWh.

How do you save on energy in your home?

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Hanging On

I thought my life would get a lot easier once we were settled into our house. Well, physically, I do feel a lot better. While I was working on lots of home projects, I ached...A LOT. Now that I'm back to my normal schedule, which isn't too hardcore, I don't ache except when I wake up in the morning (we have a horrible mattress!). I'm done being pregnant (not really, just frustrated). I've spent over 2 years of my life pregnant now, and the strain just doesn't get any easier! I worry about the same old things...if I'm eating well enough, my weight, balancing naps and nighttime sleep so I get enough. I had terrible insomnia with Joseph for the last two months. With Kenny and this time around, I don't, but I wake up feeling tired. Every. Single. Day. It gets old. Why sleep when it's not restful? I don't know, but I guess I'll keep trying! Newborns are always a welcome relief to me. I feel like I finally have energy, ironically, even though I'm going through healing from birth and have crazy hormones. I am not a nice person when I don't get enough sleep.

I usually am at the end of my rope by the time naptime (1:00) rolls around. I know that a lot of it is perception, but it seems like the amount of toys on the floor is overwhelming. I feel like screaming when I have to sweep (once again) to avoid stepping in gooey rice or who-knows-what since Kenny is not the meticulous eater that Joseph was (and is). It also feels like no one is listening to me when I ask them to help out. Really, I just have a heck of a lot less patience. I sat down to take a rest right before naps. Joseph, who is very perceptive, came up and asked me if I was sad. He then said, "It's okay, my mommy, I'll give you two hugs and two kisses." And then, after doing that (which made me cry), he said, "My daddy will make you happy." That, of course, made me cry more. When I put him and Kenny to bed, Joseph kept saying, "Good night, my sad mommy. It will be all right." I couldn't help but marvel at what an awesome kid he is. I'm glad he's mine.

Kenny is walking all over the place now. I'm not used to seeing it, so it still weirds me out even though he's been old enough to walk since who knows when. He simply didn't want to until last week. He is starting to challenge me even more than before. Bedtime is no longer an issue, but he's decided to use biting as a way to get what he wants. He bit Joseph pretty hard on the arm today, so he got a little swat on the behind which made me feel terrible, because then both boys were crying! Biting is a new/old thing for him, and he's young enough that I could almost overlook it, but I can't if he's going to hurt people. I worry a little about nursery in a month. He is starting to communicate more and knows a few short "sentences", such as, "Take it!" and "Baby down". It's cute to hear him sing and do motions for "Book of Mormon Stories" and "The Wheels on the Bus". He absolutely loves music and dances to everything. I can tell that he's already going to be one heck of a stubborn toddler, but not unlike me at that age. I think that's what scares me the most...a kid who is just like me!

I took a trip to Provo last Friday/Saturday. It was really great. I've been bad about staying in touch with my old roommate, Tanisha, but I finally called her up and arranged to take a trip by myself (James's idea) to see her. I left after James got home from school and got to Provo around 7:00. Nisha and I stayed up too late talking and catching up. I slept all right, just not long enough. We ate a leisurely breakfast and took a tour of BYU campus, which I've never done before. I loved the art and science buildings! We then got Thai for lunch. Nisha introduced me to Thai food, and I am ever grateful for that...and the recipes! There is no Thai food in Vernal, but I can make some darn good curry and pretty darn good pad Thai. :) We hung out in the afternoon and then found a Hispanic festival going on in downtown Provo, so we stopped by and got some food there. My drive home was pretty good.

I spent the next two days recovering since I was completely wiped out. We didn't do anything special for Labor Day, though James did help our neighbor finish his French drain and put a little gravel in our yard on the side. It looks a lot better, because it was just dirt and weeds before. James got a new calling, 2nd counselor in the elders' quorum. I laugh because it's the exact calling he had in our old ward. Apparently, there is a lot of work for him to do.

Our ward is really awesome. I feel like I haven't been as good at reaching out since I'm tired and have Kenny half of the time during Relief Society. On a good day, he is still challenging. I can't blame him too much, because Relief Society starts at his naptime. 11-2 church is definitely not my favorite, because it takes away my chance to nap too, so I can barely stay awake during all three meetings. Oh well. We have one more month until Kenny goes to nursery, and a few weeks after that, our baby girl is due. I sure hope I'm up to the challenge of 3 kids, because that day will be here soon.