Where is this going?

Last night C and I got into a bit of an argument. Nothing to worry about and nothing that wasn’t resolved. I have been having an internal struggle that I have been projecting onto him. I feel like I’m not pulling my weight (and I can hear my friends laughing now). I have always brought in some form of consistent income, but right now I really haven’t. I have been focusing my attentions on raising the kids, keeping the house in order, and building the house/farm. That takes a lot of energy, but truthfully I could fit in more if I wanted to. I feel like, by not bringing in an income, I am taking the “easy way out”. I know that C wants to be at home and I know he wants to spend his days working on the farm and I feel like I am selfishly taking that from him. I’ve been snippy and rude to him because I expect he is upset with me when he’s not. 

Then I went to church this morning. I always seem to get some sort of answers when I go to church. I realized that I am doing so much more than I think I am. Mainly I’m writing. I’m writing this blog of our journey not just as entertainment but also to turn into at least one book when it’s all complete. Right now is Cs time to be the “breadwinner” but once the house is built and the cars and land are paid off we won’t need nearly as much income and most of that will come from the farm, and the rest will come from me and possibly C if he wants to.  

Now onto the farm. 

I am constantly being reminded of why we are building this farm. To help people, but most of the time it’s hard to see what that means. 

I know that the path that has led us here has shown is the struggles people face in a daily basis and has given us ideas on how we can help, but what does that really look like?

Truthfully I have no clue, and I won’t until the house is done and we can focus our attention on where it needs to be. There are so many idea we have brainstormed, but we know we cannot do them all. So we will lay them out and see where God wants us once we have the opportunity to do them. We know we are going to feed people by offering naturally grown produce and pasture raised meat at low prices. We want to help people grow their own gardens, become less dependent on utility companies, and learn to cook from farm to table on a budget. 

Will we help people set up partial grid sustainable energy sources? Will we provide pay what you can services? Will we help develope community garden?  Only time will tell. What I do know is that we don’t want to offer food pantry type services. Food pantries are great. They are a much needed service in every community but they don’t tend to help people get out of the situation of needing their services. We want families to not have to be food insecure by helping them spend less on food and utilities. We shouldn’t be going broke on necessities. 

The joke is that one day I want to be on Ellen talking about the book and how important these services are, because let’s be real for a moment, we can either wait for people to be paid a living wage or we can decrease their spending so that their current wage becomes a living wage.  So let’s stop talking about the problem and do something about the solution. 

 

We can officially build

We have obtained the building permit!  We slaved over these plans. We stressed. We worked until they were PERFECT.  We went into planning and zoning completely anticipating they would make us go back and get an architect to sign off on them, which basically would have been someone singing off on what an engineer had originally made that we modified slightly. 

They handed C some papers to fill out, asked him some questions, we wrote a check, and they handed us a building permit. We have to have our electric inspected so we have to fill out all of that paperwork too, but WE HAVE A BUILDING PERMIT!!! 

C’s reaction: “building permit quest complete. New level obtained.  100,000 exp points gained” 

   

Being jobless

i wanted to update you all on the C job situation. Things here aren’t as bad as they could be. They have actually been a lot worse. Thanks to some amazing friends of ours we were able to get C in at a temp agency. He works at a local stamping facility stamping out parts for ford. It’s really hard work and he makes a lot less than he did at his other job, but it’s work and he makes more than he would getting unemployment (only by about $2 an hour though).  The only good thing about this job is the hours. He goes in from 7-3:30. Although to make up for last week he went in Friday, Saturday, and Sunday too. We have both decided he isn’t working Sunday’s anymore. He needs a break and Sunday’s are 12 hour days. 

Mentally we are a mess. He is stressed, I am stressed. We almost didn’t have enough money to float us until he gets his last paycheck on Thursday. I had deposited a check for my business that took 3 days to go through so I was convinced it was going to be a bad check. It went through today but if it hadn’t I wouldn’t have been able to drive my son to school. We are spending a lot less on gas but the week before he was fired his boss put him on a route that used up all of our gas allowance for the 2 weeks and we are never going to get that money back (his boss reimbursed for gas at the end of the month). 

So here we are, 2 steps back from where we were, he hates his job but it’s a job. We are both stressed to the max, we are both disappointed that we have had to put the house on hold, I feel like all we do is yell at the kids and it’s not their fault. They cancelled our state health insurance because they messed up on their end but can’t fix it in the system until their IT department can look at it, so I have to call back next week. Now we can’t even get sick. Hopefully C will get hired on full time somewhere soon. I really don’t know how much longer I can do this. 

Don’t get me wrong, I will do it for however long I have to, but I’m depressed, he’s shutting down because he is tired all the time. We are here because we need to be here. I know that. We are here because we are working with the people we want to help, but damn it’s hard. It’s all we can do to get up in the morning. How do people do this all their lives?  

How to raise children on a budget- my version

I have been coming across a lot of articles lately titled something like “raising a child on a budget” or something along those lines.  So apparently this is a fairly hot topic right now.  I do have to say that too many of the articles are written more from the perspective of someone who really means “budget” as in you know how much you can set aside each month for baby stuff.  Lets get real.  Really real.  Lets actually call this article “How to afford a child when your flat a*^ broke”.

raising kids

Here is my honest opinion: Children are not expensive.

The figures are insane if you look at the cost of raising a child born in 2013.  $250-300 THOUSAND DOLLARS.  … Really?  That doesn’t even include college!  According to these figures housing is the most expensive cost, followed by childcare and education, then food, lastly transportation, healthcare, and miscellaneous stuff falls at the bottom.  These figures are confusing to me.  I guess the understanding is that as we have more children we are expected to have bigger houses… ok, i can see that logic, sort of.  Childcare and education… childcare is EXPENSIVE, education really shouldn’t be, unless you are paying for private schools or special programs.  Food I get, and healthcare i would think would be a larger chunk than that, although my kids qualify for medicaid so ours is free, but im not sure how long that will last since we are making more money now.

So lets take these figures and break them down into my thinking.  Really the only kid that should be expensive is the first, they are paving the way.  You know what to expect after the first one. Plus hand me downs are fantastic.  So lets look at what you need when having a baby.  These are my essential items: 1) a co-sleeper bassinet 2) a moby or some sort of baby carrier 3) a carseat 4) at least 7-10 cloth diapers.  I prefer the one size covers without a pocket.  the Flips are my favorite.  I also would have about 15-20 inserts.  the really nice sturdy cotton flour sac towels are the best.  you get them in the kitchen section and they are like 5 for $5.  That’s it.  That’s what I have for newborns.  No special shampoos or bath seats or random stuff that’s just gonna take up room.  My babies shower with me, and only about 2 times a week.  I don’t use harsh soaps on them, usually just rub a handmade soap onto a washcloth and rub them down.  I don’t even really have a diaper bag.  I have a large bag that i sometimes take with me with a change of clothes for the kids, diapers, and snacks but i rarely use it.  usually i just throw a clean diaper in my purse with a plastic bag for the dirties.  You really dont even need a changing table.  babies can be changed anywhere, especially if you have a towel handy.

There is big stuff you will need for later.  That’s the crib, the high chair, and some sort of a swing or bouncy chair.  something that entertains them so you can put them down and walk away for a little bit.  Ask for those for your baby shower (ask for ALL the essentials for your baby shower).  The bouncy seat you will probably use pretty quickly but the rest will take you probably at least 6 months so if you dont get it, you have some time.

Here is the most expensive thing i have come across: if your income relies on both of you working.  Childcare is expensive.  We were lucky enough for me to be able to work part time from home which means we dont need childcare.  I highly recommend if you can figure out how to be able to survive on one income, or can have a job that allows you to be flexible with your schedule, that is the best, plus there is nothing quite like staying at home and raising your kids.  I still do pay for childcare when i can though.  i prefer to have someone watch the kids 2-3 times a week for 2-3 hours at a time (when we can afford it).  That ends up being about $10-15 a day.  That’s not too bad, especially when it allows me to make at least $150 more a week than i would have, and have sanity.

Lets now tackle the big one: housing.  We are about to be a family of 5/6 and we are building a 1500 sq foot 3 bedroom home, which will probably end up costing us about $80,000.  We expect our kids will spend most of their time outside or in the family room/kitchen with us.  They dont each need their own bedroom.  I understand that house size and bedrooms are completely a personal preference, but don’t feel like you cant have a child because you only have a 2 bedroom place, you totally can.  Housing costs to me is a total non issue.

Food: well, you know my stance on food.  But still food cost is a big one.  This is also an area where each kid will cost approximately the same.  it’s not like other costs where once you jump the hurdle of having the first the rest are far less expensive.  it doesn’t work that way.  So we cut costs other ways.  Mainly by growing our own and making everything from scratch.  We have been discussing our food budget since we are off of food stamps and we are looking at about $100 a week.  That’s not because we can’t afford more, that’s because we don’t WANT to buy more.  That $100 would feed us VERY well.  Very Very well.  with snacks and 3 meals a day and real hearty nutritious stuff.  According to the USDA the average family of 4 should be spending $146-289 on food every week.  To me that number is crazy.  I could eat a gourmet meal every night on that kind of budget.  Once we start growing our own livestock and hunting deer we wont even have to worry about the cost of meat, and possibly even most dairy.  Although we will have to pay for the livestock, that cost isn’t $0, but it is smaller than what we would be paying at the store.

So here is my summery: I LOVE my kids.  I love my kids more than I knew I could love.  I love being a mom (even though some days I just wish i had a good tall glass, make that bottle, of wine to get me through the day).  Of all the money issues we have had over the past 2 years not once were my kids one of them.  They are probably the least expensive part of my life right now.  So when I hear about how to “raise a child on a budget” I have to laugh, because you really don’t need a budget to raise a child.  Lets rephrase that again, you don’t need a budget to raise a WELL EDUCATED, DISCIPLINED, INTELLIGENT, LOVING, QUALITY MEMBER OF SOCIETY child.  You don’t  You just have to WANT to put forth the effort to do it.

The race has officially begun!

WE WILL BE LAND OWNERS SOON!!  The owner accepted our offer!  No counter offer, no having to figure out new numbers, he accepted our offer right off the bat!

For those of you who are planning on becoming self sufficient yet have limited immediate resources or bad credit or both here is my advice to you:

1) find an area where you would like to live and land is fairly inexpensive.  We chose an area that was about 20 minutes out from our ideal area (where a 5 acre lot goes for $60-$100,000), and ended up spending $43,000 for almost 11 acres of land.

2) find a piece of land that is the closest to what you want and ask about owner financing.  Many times the owner will be willing to do a 5 year financing plan because banks tend to not want to give loans to people just buying land, especially not if you are planning on building your own home.  So you must be creative on how you can buy the land without having the money up front and without having to go through a bank.

3) Don’t insult the owner.  Don’t get me wrong, you want to make sure your offer is within your budget, and allows for some wiggle room if they don’t accept your offer and you must come back with a second offer.  ie: don’t give them your top numbers first, but don’t low ball them either.  Here is what we did, we knew the seller wanted a large down payment which we couldn’t offer, so we offered a down payment that was within our budget but offered a high monthly payment with a high interest rate.  we figured out what a 10 year loan would be with 7% interest, which ended up being $50 below what we wanted our monthly payment to be.  We aren’t too concerned about this because we will be paying off the loan in less than 5 years.  Once a property is built on the land a bank is far more likely to give a loan.  Also once the property is built the funds we were using to pay the rent on where we will be staying and what we are budgeting towards building the house will be able to go towards paying off the land as well.

Now that our offer has been accepted we have a race to complete before papers are signed.  We need to research what permits we need in order to build.  We need to go out and start measuring and blocking off where we plan on building.  We also need to start putting money aside and fundraising for the build (we have a lot of money to drop very quickly in order to excavate and put in the foundation).  Above all we need to find a place to live and start packing.  We aren’t going to stay in our current rental property.  It’s too expensive and too far away.  We are looking for something small and no more than $350 a month, and much closer tot he property.  This will easily fit into our budget and we wont have to dread the drive to work on the house.

As of right now we have to finish Feb with $3000 as a down payment.  right now we have $700.  Our major goal is to finish january with $1500, Which means we need $800 to finish this month.  That’s totally doable, hopefully, it does make me feel a bit ill to think about, but we can do it!

Also I am looking into doing a fundraising project to raise money to build the house.  Any thoughts on which fundraisers are best would be much appreciated!

Budgeting

I’m gonna get down and dirty here.  One thing that I have been very guilty of is being overly optimistic about money.  To be completely truthful, we have none.  However, when we DO have some we tend to be a little less strict on our spending than we typically are.  I think that’s fairly typical of people in our position.

I am going to be completely truthful about our budgeting right now, as i think we all should be.  I think we all give this air of “everything is ok” and that’s not ok.  We need to share our burdens with someone, it’s not healthy to live with that sort of stress.  I’m not just talking about money either, i mean at all, in all circumstances.  Maybe you have money but you are lonely, or are having stress in an area that you really shouldn’t be handling on your own.  Talk to someone, please.  Stress is not healthy.

This is our current budget:

$750 rent

$200 electric

$185 cell phones

$80 internet

$25 water

$85 car insurance

$200 gas for the car

$15 for trash (we pay $45 every three months)

then we have various other bills we pay whenever we have a little extra money

Thankfully we don’t have to worry about food anymore, although our food budget was never very large anyway.  We were given $277 for food every month, although they gave us a month and a half to start.  We have a full fridge and enough food to last us into the new year.  The only thing we have to buy before then is the fresh vegetables.  That’s it, and we still have over $200 left over to go into next month.  I am thrilled.

We end up paying about $1540 a month in just basic bills and getting to and from work.  C typically makes about $1500 when he is working full time.  At the moment he is making closer to $800, which basically means we barely pay our rent.  We also get $360 from my sons disability and i bring in about $600 from my work.  right now we are basically scrounging to make things work, but we are still somehow able to save even little bits for our project.  As it stands right now we probably aren’t going to end the month with $1500, but $1000 still looks very doable.  We had great success with our fundraiser, which was really exciting and encouraging.  This is my one stress, money.  The thing that keeps us up at night.

Our landlord has been awesome and has allowed us to pay our rent in two segments during the month.  We paid our second segment yesterday.  After we got home C got a call from the property manager telling us he had to come over and bring us something.  For about 30 minutes we were very freaked out that we would be getting an eviction notice.  When he showed up at the door with a giant ham we just about cried.  It was pretty amazing.

The point of this is: it’s ok to open up about your struggles.  It’s ok to say, “we barely make our budget every month”.  it’s ok.  We plan on being very open with our budget not only through this whole process but from now on.  We need to be in order to do what we want to do and teach people to stop being victims and start taking control of their lives and their finances.

This is our ultimate plan:

$450 mortgage payment ($50,000 at 15 years)

$185 phone

$80 internet

$85 car insurance

$200 gas for car

Which would be about $1000 for everything.  This is a prediction of the amount we will be spending but we are hoping to be able to build the house with only a $20,000 loan, which would be closer to $250 a month.  Plus our cell phones and internet should really be paid for by our businesses.  Once again we are not counting food, however, buy this point we really shouldn’t be spending much on outside food.  We will be spending money on growing our own but we aren’t sure yet what that will cost.  Nothing near what we are currently spending though.

That’s a little more than one of C’s current paychecks to pay for everything.  That’s exciting for me to think about.  This is what makes me press on.  We shouldn’t be making enough to survive, we shouldn’t be working to pay bills and everything else falls to the wayside.  That’s not a life.  That’s not living.  We want to LIVE and show other people how to live as well.

Money is no God to have

I am learning a lot about this journey as we strive closer to our goal.  I find it amazing how this isn’t just a piece of land, or a house, or a dream, it’s a life choice that will not only change us but also hopefully change those around us.

A lot has happened in the past two weeks to drive us even closer to this goal.  We are moving in May, period.  Things may happen but we will figure it out, we always do, but we have to move in May.  We can no longer live the life that we are living.  It’s not healthy for me, for C, and definitely not for our kids.  I do not want to raise my kids in the situation we are in now.  They deserve better than this.

I am going to get religious here, and I’m sorry if I offend people but I feel this has to be said.  I have spent too many years getting more and more frustrated with the way America is going.  At bible study the other night we were watching a video, a woman was giving a sermon and in it she said that as Christians it was our duty to vote for the politicians that held up good Christian moral values, and as soon as she said it I laughed.  I couldn’t stop myself.  Those politicians don’t exist anymore. If we were to truly follow what she was saying nobody would vote for anyone.  We are told as Christians that we are to worship no other God, and have no idols, but we do have idols.  Money is our God.  I hear time and time again from people that we are a Christian nation, well aside from the obvious religious freedom aspect of America, we will also NEVER be a Christian nation because we worship money. If you took any politician and gave him the choice between money and what is good for the people they would chose money hands down.  That isn’t the world that I want to live in, nor is it the world I want my children to live in.

I absolutely love my church family, we are a small church, very close knit, and for the first time I feel like I am in a church family that strives to live by Jesus’s teachings, to love others as He loved us.  I get so frustrated watching Christians today hide behind the mask of being Christian as a reason why they should get away with not following that command.  It’s very hard for me to be in close relationship with people who think only of themselves and how they can gain from other people or situations.  I want to scream, “It’s not about you”.  Stop trying to manipulate situations to be in your best interest.  Take a step back and look at the situation as a whole.  How will your actions effect not only yourself but those around you.  What consequences are going to come from this.  Are other people going to be hurt in the process or just you? Stop putting your best interests in front of others, that is not the Christian way.  That’s not the way of any religion.  As much as it pains me, and as much as I have to swallow my pride time and time again, I would much rather do what is best for the greater good and take the hit myself than gain from my actions and watch others suffer.  I couldn’t live with myself.

We don’t want to be a slave to money anymore.  We don’t want to have to put money ahead of people, and i feel sad for those who do.  Money is no God to have.  It will only make you miserable.

Our first fundraiser

We have begun our first fundraising event.  It’s through social media and it’s called: Buy a gift and help build a house.  It going really well so far.  We have raised $83.  Our goal is to raise $500 and we have 7 days left.  The way it works is people order things from either my business or C’s business and 100% of the profits go towards the down payment on the land.  Asking people for help is one of the hardest things.  I hate doing it, but I know if I don’t ask, if i don’t share our goal with other people, it wont generate the excitement it needs to get it finished.  So here we are, in our first fundraiser of many.  Wish me luck and let me know if you want to help!

Important lessons we should be teaching our children

We hear this time and time again, “I want to give my kids the things that I didn’t have”.  It’s a great sentiment, especially for those who didn’t grow up with much.

I have been in both places.  I have wanted for nothing and have had extra to spare and I have struggled to pay for food and gas to get to work.  Neither place is an especially happy place for me to be, but if I had to chose between one or the other I would chose the later.

I never again want to live in excess, and I don’t want to teach my kids to live in excess either.

In church today the sermon touched on how we aren’t truly grateful (and the way that I took it) you don’t truly know yourself until you have nothing.  We live in a world of excess, where we praise excess, expect excess, and we live in the comfort of this excess, yet it can be lost easily.  It’s just things, money, arbitrary items and numbers that can be taken from you in an instant.  It isn’t until these things are gone and you are truly humbled do you realize your strength and where it comes from.  I still struggle with the thought of other people knowing how little we have, I feel that it makes me less than them, but it doesn’t.  Whether your strength comes from yourself, or your God, or whatever it is that you believe in that keeps you stable, you don’t really know until you lose it all.  Two years ago I realized that no matter what happened in my life that God had a plan for me and I had to trust that plan.  The less I have in my life the more I trust the plan that he has.  It’s a comfort to know this.  I am a better person for it.

When we have more money, when we are finally able to pay all of our bills and put money aside, will I give my kids the things that I can’t give them now?  Probably not.  I will put money aside for their college funds, I will put money in a retirement fund for us, and we will probably have some sort of small savings, but i like who we are now better than who I am when I have disposable income.  We have discussed it in great detail and whatever excess funds we have we will donate to a greater cause.  I don’t want us to buy something new every time an old thing breaks, I want us to try and fix it first.  I want our kids to have essential problem solving skills aside from just spending money.

I recently went on a rant about how we put things above people.  It was a harsh rant, and probably should have been more thought out more than it was, but the truth of it is still the same.  When I had excess I put money and things about the Lord, people, and my family.  I became a person I was no longer proud of.  I don’t ever want to see that person again, and I don’t want to see that person in my children.  I want to teach them the value of money, the value of faith, the value of critical thinking, and the value of people.

When we do have more money we will sit down every few months, with our kids, and decide what we want to live on, what we want to put in savings/college/retirement funds, and the rest is going to people in greater need than us.  We will involve our children because I want them to understand what we do and why we do it.  I want them to understand money before they leave home and have to control and handle it on their own, and I want them to have faith that no matter how much money they have that they can be happy.

More ups and downs

I would absolutely love for this blog to be all about the ups. We propose this goal and things are just awesome everyday, and the momentum keeps growing exponentially, but it’s not. It’s life, and life doesn’t work that way.

You have your ups and your downs. Sometimes the ups are very up and sometimes the downs are very down. As much as I want this blog to be about how you can make a great fulfilling life for yourself even given the hard circumstances most Americans have to face, it also has to be real. It has to face the real harsh realities that those of us living in it have to face on a daily basis. It’s hard. It’s very hard.

I don’t feel like getting out of bed today. I have massive sinus pressure, I can’t breath, I have a throbbing headache, I’m stressed to the max because of money. after promising he wouldn’t get less than 30 hours at work they once again cut Cs hours down to 24, we can’t live off that and nobody is hiring anything other than seasonal employment right now. Both kids are screaming at me. All I want to do Is take a nap but between the kids being hungry, needing to use the bathroom, thirsty, bored, throwing fits, I can’t even sit down for longer than 10 minutes and truthfully all I want to do is cry.

So welcome to my life. Hopefully it will be better tomorrow.

Update: Things are still rough, we are getting through though.  For anyone who says that people who are on assistance are lazy, that may be true for some, but it is the most annoying process that I have ever encountered in my life and if we weren’t days from having our electric shut off I wouldn’t even bother.  Also C has some pretty good job prospects so please keep him in your prayers that he will get something.  this month is going to be ROUGH.