The 7 Day No-Spending Challenge Wrap-Up

It was so refreshing to take a rest from consumerism this week. It has given me a renewed sense of freedom and financial control, and reminded me what matters most. I hope it did the same for you!

I love that we involved the kids this time. I am so excited to have a regular monthly plan for demonstrating how much fun they can have without spending money. My hope is that it is a lesson they will carry with them and remember as adults!

the secret to having it all

The 7 Day Challenge for me is really about contentment. I wasted so much of my life wanting what other people had, and truth be told, I still occasionally struggle with it. In this world, where we are bombarded with consumerism, I think it requires effort to keep our minds focused on what matters most. That’s why I love this challenge so much. It re-grounds me in my desire for simplicity and minimalism by giving me a solid week to intentionally practice it.

If you weren’t able to join us this time, I hope you will next month! In the meantime, tune in tomorrow for your weekly drug store deals. It’s time to get serious about stockpiling again, ladies!

There Is No One Right Way

WEIRDO

Truth time. I am a weirdo.

  • I blog for a living.
  • I have 5 kids instead of the typical 2.3.
  • I homeschool.
  • I homeschool a special needs child.
  • I live full-time in a 400 square foot 5th wheel. Double weird.
  • I’ve been married for 22 years, and we still like each other. Most days.
  • I don’t shop like a normal person.

I have been both praised and harshly criticized for every one of these thing. But along this not-so-typical path, I have learned something important about myself, and about the rest of the world.

There is no one right way to do life.

Yes, there are a few eyebrow-raising fist-pounding, finger-shakers who would say otherwise. But they are speaking from behind the bars of a self-imposed prison called “normal”. Most of the time, they are speaking from such a narrow set of experiences, they couldn’t possibly know how to give advice to someone else.

This truth was finally cemented in my mind after a hundred or so public outings with my autistic son. Occasionally, out of nowhere, he will let out a yelp or squeal. Folks look over surprised, take a moment to look at him, look at me and then look away in disgust. I can tell from their face they have decided in three seconds flat that what they’re seeing is a spoiled child, and a bad mom. They judge us both based on virtually no information whatsoever.

It took awhile, but I am now at peace with the fact that I will be judged by some people, and they will find me lacking. But my 40+ years on this planet have proven to me that the more a person judges, the less they usually know. Folks who are the most accepting and compassionate are always also the most intelligent and wise.

We are all carrying around our own unique set of talents, passions, struggles and fears. We each have our own unique back story that shapes the way we do things too. They are all part of our story, and all play a role in our choices. And that’s what they’re supposed to do. God loves variety, and if you don’t believe me, just take a walk outside! His creation reflects it.

Being different is beautiful, and those who think otherwise deserve our pity and prayers. So to all my fellow weirdos wo don’t fit the typical American stereotype, it’s time to stand up and celebrate our uniqueness. We were born for so much more than a cookie-cutter life, and don’t let anyone convince you otherwise!

5 Ways To Foster An Attitude of Gratitude In Your Kids

there is always something to be grateful for

This generations kids are not like any other. They have more advantages, and more “stuff” than ever before. So how do we teach our children to live in a world of excess, and still appreciate what they have? Here are five things that have worked for me.

Practice What Your Preach
Kids will mimick what they see much more than what you say. Trust me on this one. If you want to foster gratitude in your kids, you first have to be grateful yourself. Since I tend to be a glass-half-empty person, I have to be deliberate about this.

It helps me to spend some time each day thinking about my blessings, and even journaling them in my Evernote when the mood hits me. I make a point to listen to positive, uplifting music and teaching tapes at the beginning of every day and refocus my mind on all that is good in the world.

If this is an area you struggle with too, don’t wait until you are perfectly positive to begin making changes in your household. Instead, discuss your struggles as a family. Tell them this is a challenge for many people, but that if you work together you can all find ways to have a more grateful outlook. For older kids, you can share the specific ways you are trying to reprogram your mind to be positive, and ask for their encouragement when you get off track. Tell them you will do the same for them in return.

Count Your Blessings
Take some time as a family to come up with ten solid things you like about your life. Maybe it’s that you live in the country, or that you homeschool. Perhaps you have a great pet, or a close-knit family. You might love your veggie garden or a nearby bike path. Once you have your list, neatly copy it down on this free printable, and hang it somewhere noticeable in your house. Just the act of creating and hanging this list will brighten your spirits. Plus, your family will have a constant reminder of what they have to be thankful for.

10 things we love

Click on the image above, then save and print.

Celebrate Your Life
How can you celebrate your life today? Brainstorm as a family of things that you can do right now, that are unique and special. Perhaps you can pick wildflowers on your country road, or visit friends or family that live nearby. Maybe you are close enough to town to walk or ride your bike! Try to think of ways to enjoy the perks of being in the shoes you’re in, and then go do them! This is a great way to demonstrate gratitude to the watchful eyes of your kids.

Stop Comparing Yourselves To Others
I am a firm believer that comparison is a thief of joy. We are all guilty of measuring ourselves against others from time to time, even though we have no idea what their behind-the-scenes life looks like. Why do we do that?

Kids do the same thing. If a friend has a newer phone or more expensive clothing, it can affect their own contentment.  But he truth is, there will always be someone who has something bigger and better than ours, and if we plan to base our happiness on that sort of thing, we will always come up short somewhere.  The only way to be truly happy is to stop the comparison game!

Give Back
In an effort to show love, parents can sometimes get caught up in the frenzy of driving kids to and fro, spending big bucks, and entertaining them with the latest gadgets – to the point of being extreme.  I don’t think this “all about me” mindset is going to bode well for them as they enter into adulthood, and attempt future relationships.

A great way to shake off the “me-ness” and refocus is to volunteer.  Taking a regular intermission from the ordinary day-to-day life allows kids to step back and see the world in a new light.  It reminds them that the world needs their help!

Spend some time discussing your family strengths, and how you might be able to find ways to incorporate them into some kind of volunteerism on a regular basis.  Even younger children can get involved.  When mine were little, we took their love for making cookies and turned it into a ministry for the local homeless shelter at Christmas time.  We would also help decorate a nearby nursing home for Christmas.  These are examples of things little kids can get excited about, and really participate in!

Do you have any tips for teaching an attitude of gratitude in your family? Please share in the comments!

A Peek Into Our Spend-Free Week

ns-3

Welcome to day three of the 7 Day No Spending Challenge. How are you doing so far?

In my house, we have resolved to make this week about squeezing as much (free) family fun in as possible.  We realized we have fallen short in teaching our kids to be grateful for what they already have, and use it all to the fullest.  Even though we live a minimalist lifestyle, we haven’t really discussed what that means, or why we are doing it at length with them.  So we decided to turn this week into a lesson! We figured the best way to start was to show them how much fun they can have without spending a dime!

ns-1

Today started with breakfast and homeschool as usual.  Then we decided to break out the old tent.

ns-2

Since we’re camping anyway, our “backyard” already has the makings for a perfect site.

ns-5

My daughter won the coin toss, so she gets to use it first.  Here she is trying to decide where to put her pillows, books, lunch box and extension cord!  I think she’s in it for the long  haul.  The first time she’s had her “own room” in months!

I’d love to hear how you are celebrating the No Spending Challenge. Send me a pic of your free family fun activity, and if I use it here on the blog, I’ll send you an $10 Amazon gift card.

Teaching Children That The Best Things In Life Are FREE!

Last month, the No Spending Challenge was all about simplifying our lives, and becoming aware of our consumerist habits. We went through our homes and organized, downsized and recycled as much as possible. Then we went to work on cleaning up our budget and meal planning systems. It was a productive and refreshing experience.

But this month, I want to take a different route. All too often in life, I have connected the ideas of spending money with having fun. Then when things are tight (or I am on a spending fast), I am tempted to feel deprived. But it isn’t true!

In reality, there are so many fulfilling ways to have fun without spending a single red cent. I want to be deliberate about celebrating that truth, so that my kids can grow up with a better perspective of the relationship between money and happiness.

With that in mind, here’s what I’ve decided. Each month when I implement the no-spending challenge in my home, I will also go out of my way to plan fun, memorable and FREE activities for my family! My goal is to teach my children by example that the best things in life are really and truly FREE. We will play games, and visit friends. We will enjoy nature and create new traditions. All without reaching into our pocketbook.

movie night

Yesterday, we kicked things off with a good old fashioned family movie night. Instead of renting, we watched the movies available for FREE to Amazon Prime members. Add a little popcorn, and everyone was happy, happy, happy!

fishing

Then we decided to take advantage of a catch-and-release fishing pond located in our campground. Since it is on private property, no fishing license was required. We had such a good time, we are considering making this a regular activity.

Won’t you join us? Let’s spend one week every month unplugged from the spending mindset, and teaching our kids to enjoy the simple pleasures!

50 Free Ways To Have Fun With Your Kids

50 free ways to have FUN with your kids!

This week, we are getting our kids involved in the No-Spending Challenge, so we thought it would be a good idea to have an arsenal of fun and free activities in our back pocket, in case they complain of being bored or deprived! So we sat down and racked our brains, and came up with this list.

1) Visit your local library to check out activities, movies, music and books.
2) Check your community calendar for free classes & events.
3) Build a fort out of blankets in the living room and watch a movie you already own.
4) Ride bikes.
5) Build a sandcastle.
6) Play a board game together.
7) Learn a new card game together.
8) Go on a picnic.

hike

9) Go on a hike.
10) Volunteer.
11) Practice your lip syncing mojo.
12) Find a family theme song, then make up a dance for it.
13) Have a Lego building contest.
14) Listen to some podcasts.
15) Bake something using items you have in your pantry.
16) Organize a walking tour of an interesting place in your hometown.
17) Play something outside: football, baseball, basketball, etc.
18) Build some paper airplanes.
19) Start a nature journal using ideas on Pinterest.
20) Have a yard sale.
21) Organize a neighborhood cleanup.
22) Write a hand-written letter to a long-distance friend or family member.
23) Make a run to Goodwill to donate your unwanted items.
24) Create an obstacle course.
25) Do sudoku puzzles together online.
26) Get involved with current and ongoing public access television shows.
27) Have a water balloon fight.
28) Go for a walk around your neighborhood.
29) Blow bubbles – you can find recipes to make your own on Pinterest.
30) Plan your next summer staycation.
31) Go to the Humane Society and give an animal some exercise and attention.
32) Adopt a grandparent – check your local nursing home to see about visiting opportunities.

playground

33) Go to the playground or park.
34) Go on an insect hunt in your backyard.
35) Make shadow puppets.
36) Tell ghost stories in the dark with a flashlight.

beach

37) Go to the beach.
38) Go to the museum on a free admission day.
39) Play hide-and-seek.
40) Have a pillow fight.
41) Go geocaching.
42) Help out at a community garden in your area.
43) Have a scavenger hunt.
44) Work on a scrapbook together.
45) Visit with family or close friends.
46) Solve some riddles together.
47) Go through old photos and reminisce.
48) Read a book together.
49) Play dress-up.
50) Thumb wrestle.

Did I miss anything? What are your favorite free ways to have fun as a family?

Thank You!

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The 7 Day No Spending Challenge – Day 7!

7 day no spending

Today is our final no-spending day.  Woo-hoo!  We made it!  This week has not only been about avoiding the stores, it has also been about taking some time to simplify, downsize and organize our lives.  I hope you have gained some tips you can use in your home.

Personal Reflection
Taking 7 days off from spending has been a great reminder for me to keep myself on track forwhat matters most, and avoid the retail distractions all around me! We spent the week as a family enjoying some creative meals from the freezer and pantry (ahem), and spending more time together doing simple things that don’t cost a dime. I hope you did, too.

Most of the week, we enjoyed our favorite free activity: getting outside to enjoy nature!

sunset

We saw this amazing desert sunset.  Total cost: $0.

balloon

One morning, we awoke and found this unexpected surprise just outside our window. It landed right next to our site, and man was it big!  It made me smile to see how much enjoyment we got from something so simple – and FREE!

river

Later we took a hike down to a nearby river to let the kids explore.

At the end of this week, we are feeling extremely blessed by the time we had to recharge and unhook from our typical consumerist habits and focus on what matters most.

If you’d like to continue the momentum, we will be continuing this series one week every month, bringing you new tips, challenges, and even a few giveaways to motivate you to simplify your life and steer away from the stores. This monthly challenge will be a perfect opportunity to keep our homes clutter-free, our budgets on track, and our BIG DREAM at the top of our to-do list!

If you missed this series, here’s a shortcut to each post:

Starting this evening, I will resume posting deals as usual, so we can continue to maximize our budgets.  Beginning with some nice freebies and cheapies at Walgreens and CVS for the upcoming sale cycle.  I hope you are ready to get back at it!  You can have a look at the MBH editorial calendar HERE to see what you can expect.

So how much did you save this week? Share in the comments!

The 7 Day No Spending Challenge – Day 6: Budgeting

7 day no spending

So often I am asked how we are able to manage an extended cross-country travel adventure with such a large family on a measly $4,000/month budget. There are a few obvious answers, like avoiding restaurants, amusement parks or anything with an admission fee. We plan our meals carefully to avoid waste, and use coupons to maximize our savings. But you might be surprised at my #1 secret for staying on top of my budget:

We only spend money one day a week.

Yep, that’s right. It’s sort of like having a 6 Day Spending Challenge going on all the time!  By limiting ourselves to one day of spending, we are forced to be thoughtful in where our money goes. This is the day we pay our bills, get our groceries and fill up our gas tanks. We also withdraw any cash we will need for our cash envelopes.  It’s a pretty simple trick, but it has done amazing things for our budget.

If you’re wondering how you might try this kind of system, here are my recommendations.

Choose Your Spending Day
Ideally, you will be able to choose the same day every week. It should be a day when your deposits have cleared and you have enough time to pay your bills, update your budget and withdraw your cash. The important thing is to keep yourself committed to doing all financial transactions (except cash) on one day.  The remaining bank balance can be allocated to bill payoff, emergency funds or savings accounts.  Just make sure you have assigned a task to every single dollar so you aren’t tempted to spend.

Use the Cash Envelope System
We are big fans of the cash envelope system in our home. It’s an invaluable tool for keeping us on track financially. With regards to the Once-A-Week Spending plan, withdraw a set amount for each cash category and add it to the envelopes. Once it’s gone, it’s gone! Our categories are: clothing, food, auto/gas, birthdays/holidays and short term savings.  The money in our “food” envelope covers groceries, school lunches and dining out.  When I save big bucks at the grocery store using coupons, I have ample funds left over for a nice restaurant meal with the family.  When I don’t, we don’t go.  How’s that for incentive?

No More Impulse Purchases
When left with a specific amount of cash for six days, I am forced to be more mindful of my purchases.  For example, if I plan a trip to Target to pick up a few sale items, I will not be tempted by the clearance holiday items or the new candles or any of the other trinkets that use to find their way into my cart.  I know that if I indulge myself, I will pay for it…and so will my family.

What About Emergencies?
Emergencies are our only exception to the rule.  The Once-A-Week Spending Plan has enabled us to have a well funded emergency fund because we no longer give in to impulsive purchases. If the air conditioner breaks or the car needs servicing, we are able to use an account we have specified for emergencies and take care of it.  It’s important to have an understanding with all members of your family as to what constitutes an emergency so you’re all on the same page. For us, it is a dire need that will adversely affect our ability to function: car maintenance, home maintenance or health care.

What do you think?  Have you ever tried a long-term spending fast?  How did it go?

7 day no spending

Join us this week, as we turn away from consumerism and focus our efforts on a 7 Day No Spending Challenge!

The 7-Day No Spending Challenge – Day 5: Reflection

7 day no spending

Today is day five of the 7 Day No Spending Challenge. So far, we have set goals, purged our house, ditched the Joneses, and revisited our meal planning system. Today is a day for reflections.

If you’ve never been on a spending fast, or even if you have, you likely encountered some unexpected challenges this week. Take heart. The more we practice intentional spending, the better we will get at it. Today is a day for pausing and looking back on the journey thus far. Take a moment to jot down what is working, and what you might want to do differently on your next spending fast. If you plan to join us again next month, you can use this information to make your next effort even better.

Tomorrow we will talk budgeting, which is something I get asked about a lot. If you want to know my secret for traveling full-time with a family of seven, stay tuned tomorrow to see how I do it. I’ll show you my strategy, and give you all the ins and outs.