My Favorite Ways to Save on Groceries

Groceries can be a major expense! If you have a large family, even more so. Even with our family of four, we can spend hundreds on food each month. I thought I would share some of the EASY things that I do to save on groceries each month.

  1. Manufacturer’s coupons.

Before you start panicking, I am NOT talking about Extreme Couponing. I don’t have the patience or time for it, so I stick to cutting coupons each week for items I use. I do keep a coupon binder and I look through it before I go to a grocery store. There are websites you can use if you’re interested in Extreme Couponing. DON’T disregard using coupons! You would be shocked to find there are coupons for items you regularly purchase and need and if you use them you can save so much money. For awhile I stopped couponing, when I started again I was staggered at how much I saved and it reminded me to stick with it. Take advantage of grocery store digital coupons as well!

2. Store coupons/apps – especially the digital ones!

This sounds obvious too, but some people don’t realize the savings that can be found here. My favorite drugstore to shop at is CVS. The reason is because CVS is ALWAYS sending me coupons through my e-mail that I can send directly to my CVS card. If I log on to my CVS account and click on the extra card section, there are always about a billion additional coupons that I can send to my card for everyday items. Pair this with manufacturers coupons or items that are already on sale and you will see the savings. Be sure to read the fine print! Those 30% off coupons don’t always include sale items. I’ll give an example. Let’s say CVS has pull-ups on sale for 10.99. They offer a digital coupon of $2 off all pull-ups. You have a manufacturer’s coupon that is $2 off. You can get the item for as low as $7. I save SO much at CVS because I never shop without a coupon there. Don’t ever shop Target without the Cartwheel App or without your Target or debit card where you’ll save an extra 5% every single time you shop.

3. Ibotta.

Y’all! You have heard me talk about Ibotta before! I write about it because it’s a really easy way to save money on grocery items you are already buying. It’s too easy to not be using. Also, if you refer a friend, you easily earn $5. All you need to do is keep your receipt, verify your eligible purchases, take a picture of the receipt, and voila – free money. After $20 you can have it cashed out in the form of a gift card or sent to you through Paypal or Venmo. The easiest money you’ll make shopping for groceries.

4. Walmart Savings Catcher

I don’t particularly enjoy shopping at Wal-mart (as I’ve written about in the past!) BUT Wal-mart is just so cheap that sometimes, I can’t resist. That being said, I love using Walmarts Savings Catcher. The way it works: you scan your Walmart receipt, Walmart compares prices, Walmart gives you the difference in price through a Walmart eCard and you can use it on any of your purchases. Now imagine combining coupons with sale items AND using this feature on the app. Win-win for your wallet. 5. Meal plan/freezer/cook/leftover life.

5. Favado.

Favado is a really excellent app that you can use to look up items and find out where certain items are the cheapest. If I’m looking to find a deal on Tresemme shampoo, I type that in and it will show me the stores that have Tresemme on sale. If I click on a store and the item, it will even show me what coupons I can stack with this item to make sure I am getting the lowest price.

6. Plan. Never shop without a list!

When I first started adulting and shopping for groceries on my own as a newly married woman, I never brought a list. I would just go to the store, walk through the aisles, and grab what I thought I needed. I ended up with stuff I didn’t need, a budget that had been blown, and essentially a hot mess on my hands. Bringing a list is important because it helps you stay focused on what you need! Also, don’t shop on an empty belly and also MEAL PLAN! So you know exactly what you need for each meal and will get just that. I recommend this grocery list template that will help you get started! They also sell these at select Marshall’s for really cheap!

7. Grocery shop online.

Here’s the thing, you’ll pay $10 for the online grocery shopping fee at some places, BUT you’ll save in buying exactly what you need – nothing more, nothing less. This is really helpful, especially if you’re insanely busy. I HATE grocery shopping , but there are times it’s unavoidable and I have to step foot into the actual store. I find that shopping online saves me money in the long run because I’m not tempted to buy things I don’t need and can look up exactly what I need to buy.

8. Shop at Aldi’s.

Aldi’s is insanely cheap and has some really solid items you can purchase at a fraction of the cost of what you would pay at a big box store. I don’t shop here all of the time, or even super regularly at that, BUT if I am really looking to slash spending I come here. The items I buy: rice, cereal, peanut butter, cooking items, etc. I don’t buy meat or produce from here, but I know so many people who do! It’s just my personal preference, I usually buy those items at Shoprite or BJ’s. Don’t count Aldi’s out as they’ve added many gluten free items and organic items at very reasonable prices.

9. Meal Plan.

This goes along with planning. I use a Google Calender to plan our meals every two weeks. This week I’ve slacked, but I meal plan and then make my grocery list around that. This way I have exactly what I need to cook and also don’t have to worry about spending money eating out on the week. Meal planning will help you stick to a grocery budget!

These are some simple things I do to save money on groceries. Nothing here is groundbreaking, but I wanted to share what I like to do personally! I always love hearing about new ways to save, so if you have some strategies that work for you please leave a comment and share!

 

Thred Up Review – The Good and Bad

I’d heard about Thred Up from a friend at work. She raved about it. I kept seeing it everywhere and decided to give it a try – especially because I have been trying to stick to a tight budget! I am a Plato’s Closet gal but haven’t been for quite awhile. I LOVE shopping at good thrift stores because there are so many choices and at such a reasonable price. Thred Up is like an online version without having to dig through the racks.

I went on a few times and was overwhelmed with all of the options and possibilities, I would browse and then feel like there was too much to look at. Finally, I started to sort through and ended up finding a few pieces I liked. I decided to order because it was 40% off of everything, which I thought was a good deal.

I ordered a total of eight items, which came out to a total of 87.99 which included $5.99 shipping. With the 40% off it came out to $58.74. This means for eight pieces I paid $7.34 for each item.

Not bad considering a few of the items were dresses! After a few days, my order came in!

Super cute!

This top was $6.

This top was $5.95 from Xhiliration [Target brand].

This dress came out to $7.20 from Old Navy.

This dress came out to $7.20 from Old Navy.

Another dress from Old Navy $7.20.

This top came out to $4.80.

Another dress from Old Navy for $7.20.

Brand new dress from Forever 21 with tags, $7.20.

So, out of all of the items I ordered, I kept five and returned three.

I returned:

  • The Target top – fit very strangely and in a crop top kind of way that wasn’t flattering on me.
  • The Yellow sleeveless – this one was annoying because a button was missing! Someone had replaced it with a safety pin! Thrifted or not, I’m not paying for something that’s missing a button.

I didn’t like the fact that someone obviously tried to pass this off like it was in good condition but was missing a button. I did not order this from the “Basement” section of Thred Up, which is basically a section where clothes have flaws, but the buyer knows about it before hand and decides to purchase. This felt deceptive so I was annoyed!

  • The white cutout.

I LOVED this top! However, on closer inspection there was a slight gray mark. On a white top, it was noticeable. I decided to send it back!

The way Thred Up works, if you want to return items within 14 days you will receive full store credit. If you choose to get your money back, you have to pay $8.99 in shipping and handling. I’m not willing to pay that for thrifted clothes so I opted for the full store credit. You fill out everything online. They want you to tell them why you’re returning it. Next,  you print out two pages, one which has the specific clothes you’re returning in list form and a shipping label. You ship the items in the same box the clothes were sent to you.

So, overall, would I use Thred Up again?

Probably. Why? I think the pros outweigh the cons!

Things I liked:

  • Clothes are cute and reasonably priced
  • Return policy is good
  • You can shop by brand, size, etc. Easier than going through a thrift store.

Things I Didn’t Like:

  • Two of the items having issues! They need to check their products better.
  • The 8.99 fee if you want to get your money back on a refund.

Also, Thred Up has an option where you can sell your clothes to them and they will pay you. However, I’ve done extensive research and it sounds like Thred Up doesn’t pay much for even items that are in excellent condition. It sounds like they used to! They have something called a “Clean Out” bag where you can put clothing you don’t want that’s in good condition in, send it to them, and they’ll pay you for anything they choose to keep and donate the rest. The bag used to be free, now it’s $9.99 and the payout isn’t much. Before I did the research, I put in for a bag. I put some items in and am sending it in, so if I’m wrong I’ll let you know! BUT I will stick to Ebay for my valuable items/items in excellent condition.

Bottom line: Thred Up is a solid option if you are into thrifty clothes! However, when you receive your order check your items carefully! If you plan on returning, do so promptly so it falls within the 14 day return policy. This is a good option if you HATE to dig through racks. They also have items that are brand new with tags. I don’t think I’ll buy from them all the time, but once in awhile I will check them out! They just need to go through their items more carefully before putting them up on their site. Make sure they are in the condition you are trying to sell them for Thred Up!

Wore the Old Navy piece to work!

Have you ever used Thred Up? Why or why not? Would love to hear from some others on your experience with them!

 

8 Ways to Save Money and Make Money

There are times in life where you need to stop spending and are in a position where you need to save or even make money right away. Perhaps you’re saving for a vacation or it’s right after Christmas and you’re trying to rebuild your savings. Maybe your family is a position where there is limited income. Maybe you just want to rein in your savings and make some money. Here are some tips/suggestions that have helped me!

  1. Go on a spending freeze.

You heard it straight. STOP SPENDING MONEY. I have been able to do a successful spending freeze for about two weeks. The goal can be up to YOU. A spending freeze means you complete freeze spending on anything. Ideally, you want to try this for about a month, but you can adjust the time as necessary. One of my favorite bloggers writes in detail about this here. I have also shared my experience about what it was like to go on a spending freeze. You can save money REALLY QUICKLY doing this. You would be shocked at what you might spend on a daily basis, though it does take some prep work! A coffee here, a quick snack here, a stop over at this restaurant. Freeze your budget, expand your savings.

2. Download the Ibotta app and start cashing in.

I heard about Ibotta a long time ago and used it awhile ago! A friend recently sent me a link and was telling me about it and I decided to use it. It’s ridiculously easy. You shop at a store of your choice. After you’ve finished shopping, you look to see if any of the items you purchased offer a cashback reward on Ibotta. You scan your receipt, scan the item, and voila – you have money. After you’ve made $20 you can withdraw it and SPEND. This is by far an easy way to make a few bucks. It works even better if you look on Ibotta first and see what items you can receive cash back for!

3. Ebates.

Ebates is THE BEST. I’d heard about Ebates for awhile but didn’t get all of the hype. Finally, around Christmas season, I decided to look into it. Ebates offers a rebate anytime you shop online. This means that I can spend $50 at a store online and if Ebates offers 10% back, I automatically earn $5. You can also make major bucks for referring friends. They issue out two “Big Fat Checks” each year. I have one coming to me for about $50. There are Ebates for almost any store imaginable.

4. Sell your stuff on Ebay.

I started selling things on Ebay when I was pregnant and really started picking it up after the boys were born. Ebay is by far my favorite way to sell and in my opinion, the easiest. I have sold on Facebook group sites but I don’t like meeting up with strangers face to face. I’ve had the most success selling baby/toddler/children’s clothing and women’s clothing. Those jeans that don’t fit from American Eagle or Express? Sell them. That top you bought at Target that you don’t love anymore? Sell it. Those clothes your kids only wore a few times? Sell it. I’ve made a few hundred dollars doing it and it serves two purposes – you clear out your house while making money!

5. Yard Sale.

I recommend selling anything that you couldn’t sell on Ebay at a yard sale. These items will be priced to sell, so when you have a yard sale you should have a lot of items and be willing to haggle. This works best in the spring or summer. For example, our neighbor was having one and advertised well, she encouraged us to have one too to drive more traffic to the neighborhood. We made about $150 and we literally threw it together. I think with more planning and pricing things well, we can make even more. This is an easy way to make money.

6. Cut those coupons. 

It sounds like common sense, but this one will make a big difference in your savings. The average family spends about $380 a month on groceries! Grab your weekly newspaper, look at coupon websites, and get to clipping. Consequently, I saved $65 grocery shopping last week! As I was looking through our budget interested in ways to slash the budget (because who doesn’t like to save); I decided to resurrect my coupon binder. I divide the coupons into categories and when I make my list each week, use the coupons that I can. Combine your coupons with what’s on sale and you will slash your grocery spending greatly. Some websites will even show you how to be an extreme couponer if you’re interested!

7. Stop going to your guilty pleasure stores. 

We all have them. Well, I know I do. The stores that you go to and can’t help but spend money in. “This is on sale…” or “It’s SUCH a good deal.” Anyone who knows me knows what this store is for me – TARGET. I can go to Target for toilet paper and walk out with everything short of the end caps. When I’m trying to save or am in a freeze, I’ll avoid going here unless I have to.  I avoid the temptation.

8. Side Hustle.

Pinterest the term “side hustle.” You will find loads and loads of ways to work a side hustle, a.k.a to make extra money on the side. My suggestion is this – if you are good at something, find a way to cash in on that. My husband is the kind of person that’s good at so many things (piano, photography, Photoshop, and a bunch of other things), work a side hustle. Sell on Etsy, write for money, do online surveys, drive for Uber. I would say my side hustle is probably selling on Ebay!

There are so many other ideas, but these are some of the things I’ve done and have worked for me. What works for you?! Would love to hear some of your tips and suggestions!

 

“So Do You Want More Kids?” and other “Fun” Questions

When I was dating Jose for awhile, the line of questioning was as follows:

When are you getting engaged?

After we were engaged, the next question was:

When are you guys getting married?

Shortly after we were married the question was:

So when are you guys having kids?

*Insert struggle with infertility here which made for a really ‘fun’ time of questioning*

After we had the boys, TWINS might I add [this means two babies came out of my belly]:

So when are you guys having more kids? Don’t you want to try for the girl?

I have been guilty of this line of questioning myself. It’s rather obnoxious though, isn’t it? Just a tad? Yet, I wanted to share my thoughts especially on the last one.

I will admit, I always without a shadow of a doubt thought that I would have a girl. I thought this because I knew that for the life of me, I was as girly as all get out. I wanted life to be sprinkled in glitter and covered in pink. I sulked for awhile when I realized I couldn’t paint my entire house pink and all of my rooms pink, because marriage is about compromise isn’t it? Just trying to paint a picture for you. Literally. I also figured God knew I wouldn’t even know what to do with boys. However, a day before the ultrasound to determine gender, I had a dream and woke up knowing with all that was within me, I was having boys. And it was OKAY. Better than that, it was an amazing blessed. I was pregnant with twins, healthy, and the boys looked fantastic.

When they were born, they stole my heart and I never felt sad, bummed, or like I missed out on something. Yet, people didn’t wait long before the question:

“So are you guys going to try for the girl?”

My heart is full, content, and COMPLETE with my little boys. I am a boy mom and proud. My house is chaotic, full of superheroes, sports, and lots and lots of wrestling. I am open to God’s plan, but feel completely fantastic about where we are as a family at this point in time!

That’s all folks.

2016, I Won’t Miss You

While everyone is over here writing really emotional posts about 2016…I’m over here like:

2016. I won’t miss you. Yes, there were so many amazing highlights to this year:

  1. My family – my sweet boys, my amazing husband. This year more than any other year, I have never been so grateful for this squad that I get to call my own family!
  2. My niece and best friend moving to the East Coast.
  3. An awesome student teacher who literally made this school year a million times greater because she was so amazing.
  4. A church family I love, pastors who are the REAL DEAL. Love them so much.
  5. Husband making a career move to full-time agent which opened up so much more family time.
  6. Home renovations.
  7. Boys went to preschool and are slaying the game.
  8. I’ve really learned who “my people” are this year – this has been amazing.

There are a thousand blessings upon blessings that I can go on and on about!

But…if I’m being truthful. I won’t miss this year. This year was a HARD year. There was so much triumph, but a lot of pain as well. I ended this year being confident in who I am, being unshakable in what I believe, learning how to prioritize my life (God, family, ministry) and the lessons continue to unfold. I am so tremendously grateful for such an awesome husband and two gorgeous little boys who give me endless joy every day. For that, I feel like a winner at life. Nonetheless, 2016…

I won’t miss you, don’t want to repeat you.

On the other hand, 2017…

The Power of a Forever Friend

Every woman needs a forever friend. That 3 am friend you can call at any moment and they will have your back no matter what. They listen. They don’t judge you. They don’t gossip about you to others. When you hurt, they hurt. Their victory is your victory.  You want to see each other win at every single turn and celebrate each other when you do!

I once read this post about how childhood friendships are the BEST friendships you’ll ever have. I agree with so much of it. I have been blessed with SOLID friendship from two people in particular who have been there through the best and worst moments of my life. We have had ups down, we have loved each other, fought with each other, forgiven one another…and over fifteen years later, are still the ones I can go to no matter what. Life has proven this repeatedly and I realize how blessed I am to have this! Maybe you don’t have that kind of friend yet. Can I make a suggestion? BE that kind of friend for someone else. Here are the qualities of a forever friend:

  1. They’ve seen you at your absolute worse and absolute best. And still love you.

In literally my best and worst moments, my forever friends have been by my side. Engagement? Check. Wedding? Check. Parenting craziness? Check check. When

2. They aren’t intimidated by your success. When you win at life, they win and celebrate you.

Sometimes women don’t do well with celebrating other women. In a culture that at times, tries to pit us against one another, it’s a great thing to be surrounded by people who WILL celebrate your life wins with you. Promotions, meeting the love of your life, a new house, new car, exciting achievement. I wasn’t always so good at this! I struggled with comparison! I can honestly say, I’m not at that place and have grown, and I’m proud of that.

3. They’ll keep it real with you when no one else will.

My forever friends are the first one to call me on my crap. If I’m being a diva? They won’t tippy-toe around it. They’ll call me out quicker than you can blink an eye. They don’t do it to hurt me or tear me down, they do it because they love me. And so when it’s hard to hear what they might be saying in that particular moment, in the longterm, I’m grateful.

4. They hear you.

Good listeners are EVERYTHING. Nothing is worse than being around a person who doesn’t genuinely listen when you’re talking to them. Instead, they are thinking of what they can say next or cut in with what they want to say. A forever friend will hear you out, process what you’re saying, and then respond. Or sometimes say nothing. And that’s okay too.

5. They know how to laugh. At you and themselves.

They don’t take things too seriously! I love being able to laugh simply by making direct eye contact and thinking the EXACT same thing when you probably shouldn’t be. When everyone was taking tennis quite seriously, we were thrilled we found the perfect air guitars!

6. Major life moments – they’re there.

You’re not an inconvenience, burden. They do everything they can to support you at every turn. My girls have stood with me through dating, engagement, graduation, marriage, first home buying, preemie babies, and more. Even in the little life moments, it’s not a burden for them to be there because they want to be!

7. They make time for you. You make time for them.

Not a novel concept, but one of the biggest friendship killers out there. If someone or something is important to you, you make time for it or them. With one of my girls, we actually get our families together once a week and eat dinner, watch our favorite shows, catch up on life. We trade off on who will cook and where it will be. With both, if we can’t see each other we will call each other on the way to work, when we get off work, or text throughout the week.

8. They’re ridiculously loyal.

This means they have your back. You know that no matter what, they are your “ride or die.” The end!

I feel grateful that our friendship has withstood the test of time. Circumstances have shown me the solid, steady, strength I have in these amazing women. For that, I am insanely grateful.

The Benefits of Living in South Jersey

benefitsoflivinginSJ

For a time when I was younger, I loathed where I came from. “It’s boring here…” “This place sucks…” were the typical things I  thought. But the older I get, the more I appreciate East Coast living. Particularly South Jersey East Coast living. There are tons of benefits.

  1. Beaches and beaches galore. 

An hour away tops, we can choose from Ocean City, which is literally known as one of America’s BEST family resorts out there. And I’m not even being paid to write this. If you want a different scene, you can choose Atlantic City, Wildwood, Wildwood Crest, Cape May [which has beautiful historical Victorian houses and Lighthouses as well]…the list goes on and on. The point is, there is a beach for everyone and every occasion. I recognize that some people in other states will never experience a beach in their year. We have close proximity to some awesome ones.

2. We are a train ride away from NYC. 

Drive one hour to the train station. Hop on a train for two hours. Reach your destination. You are in New York City. People travel across the world to come to one of the most amazing cities that exist. We are only a few hours away and can go whenever we want. I have gone to NYC so many times and never take it for granted that it’s SUPER COOL that we have such easy access. NYC during Christmastime is especially a treat.

3. We are only a few hours away from Washington, DC. 

Washington, D.C., the nation’s capital and another place that people travel across the globe to check out, is only a few hours away. It can be checked out during a day trip, though we’ve had the chance to stay there as well and check out. AND THERE’S  SO MUCH TO DO. Georgetown has a trendy shopping area, cool restaurants, and obviously, there are all the historical sites too. And only a few hours away.

4. We are only forty-five minutes away from Philadelphia.

Another city that is so rich in history and also has a ton of things to do for families, singles, couples, etc. The Please Touch Museum is a MUST for kids, specifically toddlers! Penns Landing has a rich nightlife and is beautiful on summer nights. And it’s so close and easily accessible. It also has an amazing Ikea. Which is vastly important. Ha!

5. You can live close to a cool city without the city life – if you want.

As much as I love visiting cities, I am a country bumpkin. Sometimes I think I want to own acres of land. I like having a neighborhood I can walk my kids in, I dislike traffic, and people I love live in the city so I can have the best of both worlds. A win-win situation!

Ultimately, I enjoy living on the East Coast. There are tons of benefits! Though, if God wanted us to, I would be open to moving down South as well. Like I said, I’m a country bumpkin at heart.

6. Great variety of countryside and Jersey Fresh fruit/veggies.

South Jersey has a lot of country, farms, and all of the like. Jersey is known for having some pretty stellar produce, known as Jersey Fresh, and if you’re a foodie you will love that. And the fact that there are a bunch of farm stands where you can buy it some at any moment.

7. Tons of fall fun. 

I think South Jersey does a pretty great job at offering tons of fall fun from hay rides, to pumpkin picking, to apple picking, and more. Some of the top South Jersey hotspots to hit for this fun:

8. Rowan University, a Nationally accredited university, located in a fun college town.

I’m definitely biased because I graduated from Rowan University. Rowan has come such a long way from the time I’ve graduated, which has been about seven years or so now. It’s such a good college and it’s not as overwhelmingly large as Rutgers, which is another ridiculously amazing school (my little bro went there) but if you are into a small town vibe, Rowan is probably a good in-state college for you. Also, has a killer education program. Of course, this is my alma mater, so maybe I’m biased? Nope!

Overall, South Jersey has its perks and benefits, although it’s not necessarily the most exotic place in the world, it has some upsides. Thought I would share!

Why I Love Being a Teacher

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This week is Teacher Appreciation week and my sixth year of teaching. When I went in for my interview, I walked up to the receptionist’s desk and she said, “Wait a second, I need to write you a late pass.” I looked at her confused and said, “Um, I’m here for an interview.” She said, “Oh my gosh! I thought you were a student…I’m sorry!!” I laugh every time I think about that.  While I may or may not still look like a teenybopper from high school, it’s been six years since I’ve been a full-time teacher. Six years later (I’m still such a baby in this profession!) and I still love what I do. Why? Here are the reasons:

  1. I have the opportunity to impact students positively every day.

For eighty minutes each day, and sometimes even longer, I have the opportunity and what I consider to be a privilege, of pouring into a student’s life. I have a responsibility to teach them, yes, but I have an opportunity to do more than that. My class can be a bright spot in their day or even in their life. For some students, my class may be a safe haven. A place where they are accepted, encouraged, and challenged. These kids are basically entrusted into my care for that time. It’s an awesome opportunity.

2. When a student “gets it,” it’s the best feeling ever.

Picture this – you’re teaching something over and over again. You have gone over it what feels like a BILLION times. You might even feel ready to pull your hair out. You have demonstrated the concept in every way possible. Through the use of technology, in small groups, acting it out, singing it to them, creating a choreographed dance number, …you get my drift. Still, nothing. BUT, you decide to try again. As you go over this concept once more, you see the lightbulb going over. The flash of recognition over that student’s face. The nod of the head. They finally got it! That’s worth something! That to me, is super satisfying and reminds me of why I became a teacher. To TEACH and to have a student understand.

3. I work with great people.

I love the people I work with. They make it really easy to get up every day and come to work. I never get up and say, “Oh man, don’t want to see those people again…” and that’s really important to me! I am with my colleagues for a good portion of the day and working with people I love makes it feel less like work. We are a family. Albeit, sometimes a semi dysfunctional and weird family, but still.

4. I love the subject I teach. Like…LOVE.

I teach Language Arts. I love teaching this subject because I believe so strongly in the power of being able to express yourself through writing. I believe in the importance of reading often and regularly.If you are a good reader and/or writer, you can be an awesome articulator or communicator. There is power in that! If you’re interested in learning more about the benefits of reading (yes, I’m totally making this a teachable moment, it’s the teacher in me #sorrynotsorry), click here and here.

5. The students I teach will be our future teachers, decision makers, and leaders.

They are literally the future. YES, I know we all know this. But do we really know it? I mean, think about that. Marinate on that thought. Soak it in. Now are you terrified just a little bit? Just a tad? Or are you excited and confident that they will build for us a better tomorrow? I want to teach these guys and teach them well. I want them to learn Language Arts, absolutely, but I also want them to be contributing members to society.

6. It means everything to me when I know I made a difference in a student’s life.

Sometimes teachers have the opportunity to receive positive feedback or to hear words of encouragement from a student. When it happens, it is AWESOME. It doesn’t even have to be super deep or philosophical. The simple statements mean just as much to me – “You’re really helpful. You helped me understand this topic and it was really difficult at first” or “I really like this class. Can we stay here all day?” Those statements make my day! Because I know that I’m not some superstar master teacher person. BY FAR. I can be naggy, annoying, ridiculously corny, and impatient. Because I am a human. I think that’s why it matters even more to me when a student says something kind. To know that I made a small ripple in the ocean of their life means something to me.

7. Because I am doing what I am called to do.

You’ve heard the saying, “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” Here’s something else, “Pursue what you’ve been called to do, and you will feel fulfillment.” That’s how I feel when it comes to teaching.

Are there parts that I sometimes don’t like? NO, NEVER. Just kidding. Of course. In a world that sometimes likes to throw teachers under the best or undermine what we do or the importance of what we do, it can be challenging. But I remind myself WHY I became a teacher. Not for the paperwork, the test scores, or anything of the sort. Not for all of the acronym types of assignments and tasks. Not for a paycheck or summers off. For the student. At the end of the day, that’s what it always comes down to. Happy Teacher’s Appreciation Week!

What 28 taught me. Hello 29.

bonnie & Carole

Yesterday I officially turned 29. One step closer to 30. Most women dread getting older, but I don’t have a fear of that. I do like to take time and reflect on what I learned over the past year though. What did 28 teach me?

1. To have  a voice. 

As I get older, I find that I’m much more confident in speaking up and voicing how I feel, even if it’s uncomfortable for others. Being a mom, teacher, wife, and leader in my church have all played a part in developing my voice.

2. To unplug and plug into what really matters.

For me this was literal. I think I saw how attached I was to my electronics and how I was missing out on actually being present.

3. Serving others makes me happy and fulfilled.

I found that I enjoy serving, hosting, and giving even when I feel like I don’t have much to offer. I think I have learned to serve with my heart and to serve without wanting or expecting anything in return.

4. The world doesn’t revolve around me.

Humility is a lesson I’ve continued to be taught. I think it’s because it’s not something I’ve quite mastered yet. It’s humbling to recognize that there are things so much bigger than ourselves. It puts things into perspective.

5. Making assumptions will make you look like a fool. Especially because my assumptions are typically wrong.

When I make assumptions about people or situations, I’m almost always proven wrong. Its better to deal with reality than assumptions.

6. I am an awesome mom.

I am proud of the mother I’ve become. I know that I love my boys well and my parental instincts have never failed me so far.

7. My possessions don’t define me.

I’ve come to a point where I’ve realized that stuff is just, well…stuff. I’m more than the car I drive, the clothes I wear, and the latest toys my kids have or don’t have. The end.

8. How to learn to love my small home and see it as a blessing and not a curse.

I think it’s easy to compare with what others have and allow yourself to feel jealous or resentful about it. I have a small home that I use to bemoan. “One day when we get a bigger house…” but I’ve learned to enjoy the here and now and look at the fact that I am a homeowner. I have a mortgage that is cheaper than any rent I’ve ever paid. I have a house where people feel at home in and welcomed in. That’s winning in my book.

9. Not to cave in on something I strongly believe in, no matter how much opposition I face.

I think this year I’ve been in positions that have at times, backed me up against the wall. The easiest thing would have been to cave in because fighting for my convictions was the hard thing to do. But I did it and am proud of that. It’s made me stronger.

10. Dreaming is everything.

I’ve been pushed to dream bigger than I have ever dreamed before. I have been challenged to place no limits or restrictions on the dreams of my heart. By who? God. Myself. My husband. It is everything.

When I look back at 28, I am not filled with regret. I’m filled with contentment. Goodbye 28, hello 29.

Spending Freeze Update – Freeze Over!

So here is the Spending Freeze update. After going strong for about two weeks (two and a half to three give or take?!) we ended the freeze early. We were doing SO well but fell off the wagon hard during the weekend of our church retreat. We also had a few things going on where we had to spend money and it kind of spiraled downwards from there. Honestly, instead of feeling defeated I feel quite proud of the fact that for over two weeks straight we didn’t spend money. This taught me that a freeze IS possible and I am going to aim for doing another one this year and hopefully, nailing it for the entire month.

What I learned:

  1. I don’t need to spend money constantly.
  2. There is a major difference between a need and a want. I need to think about how badly we need something before purchasing.
  3. The best way to avoid buying, is to avoid going to the stores. For me this was key.
  4. Planning is an essential tool to money-saving. Meal planning especially.
  5. I cook more when I am “forced” not to spend money. I am also forced to be more creative with my meals.

Overall, going on a freeze for a short or even a longer period of time can be beneficial. This is especially true if you spend money on frivolous things without realizing how much it adds up! I will definitely try this again, but hopefully we can go the entire month! We’ll see.