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Becoming a Work-At-Home Mom: Working 60 to 70 hours per week is not something I’d recommend

If you’re new here, you’ll want to go back and read the first parts of the Becoming a Work-At-Home Mom series.

While I was trying my hand at blogging and building up our online bookstore, I was also forging relationships with some other family businesses and Christian homeschool companies. One of those relationships happened to be with a family who published a nationwide homeschooling magazine.

They mentioned they were looking for someone to join their team on a very part-time basis helping with some marketing responsibilities. I inquired further and discovered it was something I thought I might be able to do as it just involved researching companies to about promotions and cross-promotional opportunities and the ing them and trying to work out cross-promotions.

I’d had a little bit of experience working with online companies because of my wedding business, online bookstore and blog, so they were willing to bring me on to work about two hours per day for them. It was tedious work, which often resulted in dead ends, but I was learning so much about creating pitches and marketing a product and — best of all! — I was getting paid for my time!

After a few months of working in this very part-time capacity for this homeschooling magazine, I guess they decided I had some potential, because they asked me to stay on in a more permanent position and gave me more responsibilities for heading up some of their larger promotions and brainstorming creative marketing ideas.

Before I knew it, I was officially their Marketing Manager and was also managing an ad sales team. Much of what I was doing, I had little experience in, but I found that I could learn so much just by reading great books on marketing, observing other companies and analyzing what was working for them and then being willing to experiment.

It was so rewarding to see hard work pay off, magazine sales increase, ad sales generated and new ideas blossoming. I was loving just about every minute of what I was doing. There was only one problem: between my responsibilities for the magazine and my own blog and business, I was often working 60 to 70 hours per week, in addition to being a wife, mom and homemaker.

I remember working well into the night — or even all night some nights — just to get everything done. And working so many hours definitely took its toll on me and I look at pictures of myself from that time period and realize how utterly sleep-deprived and exhausted I looked. I certainly wouldn’t recommend those long work hours to anyone else!

The good news was that between the various things I was doing from home and my husband’s part-time income, we were able to stay out of debt, I was able to stay home with our daughter and we actually had a little breathing room in our budget for the very first time since being married.

In addition, my blog and our online business had continued to grow. So when my husband finished his last week of law school, we felt it was time for me to quit working for the homeschool magazine and just focus on our home, family and my own business.

It was a big leap of faith to give up the regular monthly income from the homeschool magazine — especially since Jesse still had to study for the bar and pass the bar before he’d be able to get a full-time job — but we had made it through law school debt-free (by the grace of God!) and we were ready for me to work less and spend more time being a wife and mom.

…to be continued next Saturday

Weekend Giveaway: thredUP Children’s Clothing Swap Service (15 winners)

is a recently-launched website allowing parents to a place to swap kids clothing online. coordinates swaps and can connect you with thousands of families nationwide. There’s no bidding, no auction lots, no rifling through consignment racks and no trips to the post office. All swaps are done online, with scheduled home pick-up and delivery.

So how does it work? Pick. Pay. Prepare and Send:

  • Pick a box of gently used clothes you’d love to receive for your child.
  • Pay for shipping ($13)
  • Prepare and list a box of clothes your child has outgrown
  • When someone picks your box, send it free of charge (we even have the Postal Service pick-up the box at your house).

thredUp manages the quality control and review process and take care of all the details to — hopefully! — make sure you get a quality exchange.

I had the opportunity to try out thredUp when it first launched and there were some things I really liked about it and others I didn’t. I liked that it was so simple and easy: I could pick out a box of gently-used clothes in the size of my child right from my living room. And the price was very affordable as there were around 15 items sent in the box I received — making each item less than $1.

I didn’t like that I couldn’t see what I was getting. The description of my box made it sound like there were lots of cute, brand-name clothes in the swap which were in great shape. In reality, there were two very cute outfits that my son has worn over and over and a number of other items which weren’t in that great of shape and were not what I’d classify as “cute.”

We ended up saving the two cute outfits and putting the others in our garage sale pile. If I had been able to see the items ahead of time, I would have chosen a different box — one that was more in line with my tastes in children’s clothing.

I’m guessing that if I were to do more swaps, I’d find some individuals who I loved their items and found them to be an exceptional deal for the $13 swap charge. But it would take a bit of trial and error to figure that out — which would likely mean some money wasted in the process. And considering I can usually find children’s clothing items for around $2 to $4 each brand-new by combining clearance sales with coupons and free shipping or around $0.50 to $2 each at the thrift store or a garage sale, I’m not terribly anxious to spend $13 on clothing swaps, if I’m not guaranteed there will be at least five items in the box which my children will wear over and over again.

That said, I think the concept is wonderful and I’m guessing a service like this would be perfect for some of you!  If you want to try out thredUp, you can sign up through and you’ll get 20% off all swaps in August — a savings of $2.60 per swap.

Would you like to win a free box of clothing from thredUp? Just click on the graphic below and type in your name and email address. 15 winners will be chosen and posted on Monday. The winners will get to choose a box of clothing from any of the boxes available on thredUp.

Weekend Giveaway: Tony’s Pizza Party Kit ($100 value) to 2 winners

is giving away a fully-loaded Family Fun Kit to two winners this weekend. This kit includes all the tools you’ll need to create a fun-filled night for your family and friends.

The Pizza Party Kit comes with:

10 Coupons for a free Tony’s Pizza product of your choice
$25 Best Buy gift card (to use to purchase family entertainment)
2 Pizza aprons
2 Stone cutting boards
2 Wire racks
2 Pizza cutters
Red gingham paper plates
Red gingham napkins

Tony’s graciously provided our family with our own Pizza Party Kit and we enjoyed having a fun Pizza Party. Actually, truth be told, they sent us so much stuff that it lasted for a family pizza party and a get-together with a bunch of others, too.

While we prefer our homemade pizza to storebought, it was amazingly handy to have premade pizza in the freezer to just throw into the oven, add a salad and dinner was done in around ten minutes.

You can print a . Also, check the back of the Tony’s Pizza boxes as many of them have coupons for a .

Would you like to win a Tony’s Pizza Party Kit? Just click on the graphic below and enter your name and email address and you’ll be entered to win. Two winners will be chosen and posted on Monday.

We Paid Cash! :: White Picket Fence

We paid cash!

Testimonial from Tawra

We paid cash for my beloved picket fence!

My DreamWe paid cash for our picket fence.

Ever since we were married almost 16 years ago I have wanted a cute little house with a white picket fence. I know it sounds corny but gardening is my passion! I especially love cottage gardens so the fence was always a dream of mine.

When we first got married we weren’t able to do it right away because we couldn’t afford it.

In the first five years of our marriage, we paid off  $20,000 in debt and medical bills on $22,000 a year average income. In the years following, we endured a job loss, the selling of one house and the buying of a new one in the country.

We paid cash for our fenceHow We Did It

Finally, after working and saving for 13 years, my picket fence was going to be our first big “fun” purchase. We hadn’t been on vacations (except to visit family), didn’t eat out and were ultra frugal. I was excited!

In six months, we were able to save up enough cash to pay for it! And we paid $800 for fencing that should have been $1500.

Our store offered a coupon where when you bought $50 or more you would get $10 off. Each time you purchased something, the register would spit out another $10 off of $50 coupon.

It took us three hours to go to two stores for all of the supplies. In all, I made twenty transactions but saved $200 in coupons and another $500 because the fencing was on sale. $700 for three hours of work is a great savings in my book!

I kept telling people who would get in line behind us that we were going to be a while and they were all fine with it and found another line.

One lady decided to wait and I told her what I was doing. She said, “Cool, I’ll have to do that!” She had about $600 worth of stuff in her basket so she was glad for that tip!

We paid cash arborWe installed the fence ourselves, saving another $2000 and now I have my wonderful, long awaited  picket fence! You can see that the flowers already love it!

Tawra Kellam, along with her mom, runs and are the authors of Dining On A Dime Cookbook. In the three years since they’ve paid off their debt, Mike and Tawra have also paid cash for lots and lots of plants, a car, a baby, a riding mower, furniture for their new house, paid down 50K on their house.

Have you saved up and paid cash for something — large or small? .

A new approach to working smarter, not harder

We’re on our annual extended family vacation at a lake in Arkansas this week and I’ve been reading
by Eric Brende. I’m really enjoying the book (expect a full review next week) and am very inspired to do a better job of making things from scratch and doing things myself. I’ve become a little lax in the last year as our income has increased and we’ve not been in such a position that we’ve needed to pinch pennies as hard.

However, this book has motivated me to think outside the box and to be more proactive in looking for ways we can save money and use fewer resources — without expending a great deal of extra energy ourselves in the process. I guess it’s a new approach to the working smarter, not harder philosophy I’ve always had.

So expect to see more do-it-yourself-type posts in the coming months as we experiment with new ideas. We’ve already written out a long list of things we’d like to try including making our own laundry soap (I know I said I’d never try again after my first attempt was such a total flop, but I’ve decided that maybe a new recipe might make a world of difference!).

Speaking of which, I loved Tammy’s post today on . I think I’m going to make that mouth-watering chocolate cake to celebrate the completion of the P90X program (I must stop looking at the cake pictures and tempting myself as I still have around 70 days to go!).

Do you have any other fabulous (and healthful!) make-it-from-scratch recipes you’d recommend or do-it-yourself ideas you’d love for me to try and blog about? Leave me a link or email me and I’ll definitely consider it!

photo by

How to Get the Most Out of Swagbucks

Amy Andrews, my assistant and the blogger behind the fabulous site, has an excellent tutorial up on her site today on . If you need some simple step-by-step tips for getting started and being successful with Swagbucks, you’ll want to check out her post.