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Finding Contentment in the Pit of Debt

In the pit of debt and feeling overwhelmed? Read this for encouragement!

Guest post from Ariel of :

I sat at the table and cried.

Our 1100 square foot house was practically choking me. The kitchen cabinets were falling off. The dishwasher had been broken for nearly a year. Our wooden kitchen table was “lovingly” dinged, dented, and wobbly. The children had peeled paint off the wall like a banana peel. We held our breath every time we walked around the garage because we had no idea when it might decide to fall.

Our family of six isn’t getting smaller. We’ve got four kids all under the age of ten in a three bedroom house with one working bathroom. We also homeschool, so there are books everywhere (which, isn’t a huge problem!), and have two Golden Retrievers who shed more hair than they have.

We were in a pit of debt and trying so hard to climb out.

As I sat there sobbing, I felt I’d never see that glistening homeschool room, bookshelves to the ceiling, or perfectly groomed dogs. Everything felt so mountainous.

Our debt was a hindrance in our finances and our marriage. It caused fights, discussions, tears, and holding a magnifying glass over ourselves to find traits and habits we didn’t like. It also made this mountainous climb feel impossible.

The worst was the guilt of wanting money to afford nicer things. So I cried for my guilt and I cried for my foolishness.

Some people will say that being in debt is not forever, that we can get out and change our lives. I believe this is true. But I also am a realist and know that not everything I want will actually happen.

I may never have the homeschool room I desire or gleaming shelves of books. My kitchen may never be lined with fingerprint-free gray cabinetry worthy of HGTV and a dishwasher that cleans cooked-on eggs.

Sometimes it’s disheartening not to have things that make our lives easier or look magazine-worthy or offer us a pleasing aesthetic… but we cannot let that weigh on us. The truth is, even if I eliminate all my debt, that doesn’t mean I’ll have everything I want.

The good news is, both finances and attitudes ARE changeable based on our own perception.

I don’t want to stay at that table and cry. I want to get up and change my outlook and my situation.

I don’t have a working dishwasher, but I have four kids willing to pitch in washing dishes every day.

I don’t have sturdy bookshelves, but it gives me an opportunity to be creative in how to store them.

My dogs will provide many memories for our family, despite the clumps of golden hair I find lurking in every crevice.

What’s a life at the end when you’ve got everything you’ve wanted?

What matters is stewardship of our resources: our time, finances, and relationships.

My situation doesn’t have to define my perspective; I get to choose that. And in the pit of debt, when it’s overwhelming and heavy, perspective is a life-line!

Ariel is a Mid-Western wife to Greg, and stay-at-home mom to four kiddos. She is a freelance writer, homeschooling mom, and blogs about the challenges of motherhood at . She loves books, coffee, and avocados.

How to Practice Hospitality on a Budget

Show hospitality -- even when you're on a tight budget! These are GREAT tips!


Guest post by Amanda of :

If you live on a tight budget, practicing hospitality can be a strain on your finances. We might like to have friends over but worry about the cost that can be associated with inviting people into our homes.

If you’ve never lived on a tight budget, this may come as a surprise. But the truth of the matter is, if you’ve ever been in a tight financial situation, you know that every dime matters. You are more than likely aware of even the smallest expenses and the affect it can have on whether or not you can pay your bills each month.

It is something that can cause a lot of stress because you may want to open the doors of your home more often, but worry about how to pay for the extra expenses. However, sometimes we think we need more money than we actually do to make hospitality a priority.

There are ways to keep costs down when offering hospitality to friends and neighbors.

Here are some ways you can enjoy time with others in your home while making sure it doesn’t cause financial strain…

1. Make it a potluck.

If having friends over for a meal, ask them to bring something, such as a salad or dessert.

Whenever I am invited over somewhere for a meal I ask “what can I bring?” The same happens when I invite others into our home. It brings down the cost of dinner.

2. Make budget-friendly meals.

Some great ideas are hot dogs, tacos, pasta, chili, quiche, or homemade pizza.

3. Invite friends over for dessert and coffee.

Instead of having guests over for dinner, have them over for a mid-afternoon or evening dessert time.

Or host a bonfire where everyone can roast marshmallows and just hang out.

4. Skip the paper plates and cups.

Yes, I know paper products save time in the kitchen, but they are just another expense that you can avoid by washing dishes after the meal.

5. Serve flavored water.

Avoid high-sugar beverages and serve water with cucumber, lemon, or mint.

The flavor infusions will make you feel like you are at a spa, and everyone will feel refreshed, all while you save money on the cost of drinks.

When it comes to practicing hospitality, don’t try and keep up with the Joneses.

Don’t wait until your house is perfect and your bank account is overflowing to invite friends over. People want to visit you because of the conversations and laughter you will all have together, not because of the food you serve or the perfectly matched and expensive furniture you might own.

Years ago we lived in a small home and would regularly host potlucks. We didn’t want to leave anyone out, so we often had numbers upwards of 40 people in our small home. Kids were running everywhere. Chairs were set up in every room to allow space for sitting. People had to move out of the way to let others walk by in our narrow spaces. Everyone used mismatched plates I purchased at the thrift store.

Yet, as people would leave after an afternoon of chatting and laughing, they would often ask, “When is the next one? This was so much fun!”

People just like to be welcomed into your home and included. Don’t miss the opportunity to get to know others better because you feel you need to wait until there is more money in the bank to make everything perfect.

Why not invite someone over this weekend?

Amanda Ashley is a stay-at-home mom who spends her days homeschooling her 3 kids, caring for her chickens and ducks, and washing mountains of laundry. She blogs over at , about thrifty living.

7 Budget-Saving Cash Envelope Hacks

Whether you're new to cash envelopes or a cash envelope veteran, these 7 hacks are genius!

Guest post from Lauren of :

Whether you’re just learning how to budget or you’re a seasoned pro, incorporating cash envelopes into your budgeting system will undoubtedly save you money.

It’s often easier to overspend with a credit card, while cash helps us to be more conscientious about our purchases… but let’s face it, cards sure are convenient!

However, if you’re willing to give it a try, a cash envelope system will help you save money and stick to your budget every single time. Here are seven tips to help you make the switch.

1. Start with just three categories.

There’s no rule that says you have to commit to all cash, all the time.

Instead, try easing into a cash envelope system by picking three categories. My top recommendations are groceries, restaurants, and entertainment.

You’ll immediately notice how you feel differently about spending cash versus swiping a card and how easy it is to keep track of your budget.

2. Budget your cash categories in $20 increments.

It’s one thing to make a quick trip to the ATM, but it’s a dreaded chore to have to stand in line at the bank during business hours.

If you budget your cash categories in $20 increments, you can simply grab your cash at the ATM and fill your envelopes in no time.

3. Schedule your ATM runs.

As with any system, you have to follow it in order to be successful… so write down “ATM at 4:00 pm” on the calendar like you would a doctor’s appointment. It’s shockingly easy to forget about this little mini-errand until it feels like part of your normal routine.

4. Make a “no borrowing” rule.

If you leave your money at home, it can be tempting to bring out the debit card “just this once,” promising yourself that you’ll reimburse the account.

One purchase leads to another, and before you know it, everything is out of whack.

When you commit to the “no borrowing” rule, you ensure success with your budget.

5. Divide up the grocery envelope.

Using a grocery envelope is all well and good until you realize in the middle of cooking enchiladas that you’re out of cheese. When this happens to me, I call my husband and ask him to pick up said missing ingredient on his way home from work.

In keeping with the “no borrowing” rule, give your spouse a portion of the grocery money so either of you can make that quick trip when needed.

6. Don’t use envelopes.

There’s nothing magic about the actual envelope. Lots of people prefer not using envelopes simply because they don’t fit conveniently into their wallet. And that’s a valid consideration!

The good news is you have lots of great options, such as color-coded mini binder clips and store-bought file folders that you can cut out to custom-fit your wallet. If you want to invest a little money, you can even buy a wallet designed specifically to organize your cash by category.

7. Buy gift cards for online shopping.

In an increasingly online-oriented world, it’s almost impossible to avoid online shopping. I shop on Amazon for essentials like diapers and I’m so thankful for it!

But since you can’t use cash for online orders, here is a workaround: use cash to buy a gift card.

Almost every grocery store sells gift cards you can use online, so add it to your shopping list, pay for it with cash, and then enter the gift card code to the store’s online site.

This also provides a safeguard from online impulse shopping. If it’s worth buying, it’s worth taking the time to buy a gift card first.

Be patient with yourself as you get acclimated to a new way of spending money. New habits — especially good ones — take time to get used to, but you can be confident that incorporating cash into your budgeting system is worth it!

Hi, I’m Lauren! I share practical solutions to conquer financial stress at . I’m a wife and mom, a follower of Jesus, an aspiring morning person, and a trained financial coach. I’m excited to show you how to take solid financial principles and apply them to real life!

5 Work-at-Home Jobs for Beginners

This list of easy work-at-home jobs is so helpful for beginners!

Guest post from Angie of :

It’s the dream of many moms to work from home. Perhaps you are looking to transition from a traditional full-time career, or maybe you simply want to start contributing to your household financially.

While finding legit work from home sounds so easy, many newcomers quickly find themselves in a catch-22. Many companies want prior work-from-home experience, but how do you get that experience when no one will give you that first job?

Luckily, there are a few industries and even a few companies known for giving work-at-home beginners a shot. There’s a great variety to choose from based on your skills and interests. Some of these opportunities may not require any specialized experience at all!

1. Freelance Writing

This is always one of my favorite industries for moms. Most companies hiring freelance writers do not have any set schedule, meaning you can work whenever you want whether that be at 3 in the afternoon or 3 in the morning. You also don’t need any special equipment. You can write from your existing laptop or desktop. You may even be able to use your tablet, though an external keyboard may help you with production.

Another perk for writers is that you can write from anywhere. You don’t need an “always on” internet connection with the exception of when you are conducting your online research or uploading and sending your completed assignments. This makes it a great opportunity for those traveling often or wanting to do a little work outside of the home office.

and are two companies occasionally open to new writers.

2. Tutoring

We have seen a big increase in the need for online tutors, especially English as a Second Language tutors. ESL tutoring companies often do not require a teaching certificate or formal teaching experience. You may only need a bachelor’s degree in any subject.

These gigs are typically performed via webcam and with students in other countries. If contracting with a Chinese or Japanese company, this may mean the scheduling demand is in the early morning hours here in the U.S. There are companies working with students in other parts of the world, however.

and are two companies with students worldwide.

3. Transcription

If you have great typing and listening skills, transcription can be a lifelong work-at-home career. In this role, you are listening to audio files and typing them into text.

While once considered a gig that would go by the wayside with speech-to-text technology, we have seen a little increase in recent years as bloggers and online entrepreneurs turn to video content and podcasting. Many want those video and audio files available to followers as text as well.

and are two companies that periodically hire new transcribers.

4. Search Engine Evaluator

Search and Ad Evaluation are favorite gigs among my followers. These are often flexible positions in terms of scheduling. They also don’t pay too bad.

These positions will have you evaluating search results and online ads for relevancy and quality. Many positions ask for a high-speed internet connection. This is one opportunity you may be able to do from your smartphone if the role is open!

The testing can be long and tedious for these positions. There are a lot of guidelines to follow. That being said, once you learn the guidelines the gig’s a breeze. I have several readers who have been with the same company for years and still love what they do.

and are leaders in this industry.

5. Customer Service

So, maybe a phone gig isn’t your dream job. There are very few people out there for whom it probably is. That being said, if you can swing it I highly encourage giving it a shot. At least temporarily.

The thing I love about customer service gigs is that they can often provide the hours and guaranteed pay many newcomers to the work-at-home world are seeking.

Many companies have both part-time and full-time roles available. Some companies even offer health insurance and paid time off for those looking for a work-at-home job that resembles more of a traditional employee role.

One thing to keep in mind is that not all phone jobs are sales jobs. If that’s one of your hang-ups, you have options. , for example, hires virtual receptionists. contracts market researchers. There is so much variety in this industry, you can likely find something that will work if you look hard enough.

Final Words

Most of the rates for the work-at-home jobs mentioned in this post are pretty low to start. But, they are just meant to be stepping stones leading to something better.

You should consider them a “foot in the door” and something to put on your resume when applying to those jobs you really want. As your experience and production increases, move into more profitable positions. Apply to better jobs. Continue to better your position in the work-at-home world!

Angie Nelson began working from home in 2007, when she took her future into her own hands and found a way to escape the corporate cubicle farm. Today she shares her passion for making money from home on her blog .

How I Made $1,000 in 3 Days on Etsy!

Want to make an income on Etsy? Read this for encouragement!

Guest post from Dezaree of :

“Life is like a turtle…you don’t get very far unless you stick your neck out.”

And that’s exactly what I did!

My parents home of 20+ years was in trouble. Their property taxes were three years passed due and their home was going to be put up for auction if the $936.00 bill was not paid in full. They had less than one month to pay it.

Due to my mom’s disabilities and my dad’s cancer, they have a very limited disability income. There was no way they could come up with the money in that short amount of time.

My husband and I started saving everything we could in an effort to help them, but I was scared we wouldn’t be able to help enough — after all, we had our own bills to pay too.

I had to get creative…

I made a few little bracelets with crafting stuff I had laying around, hoping I could make $100 to go towards my parent’s bill.

I was hesitant to list them on my Etsy shop… would people actually pay $5 for something so simple? They aren’t my normal work for my shop. Could I really sell enough to matter? I am just waisting my time?

Even though I didn’t think anything would come of it, I “stuck my neck out” and listed the bracelets — along with the story of why I was selling them.

To my surprise, I sold $1,000 worth in just 3 days!

THREE DAYS!

People. Are. Amazing!

I was so shocked and so very grateful! I was able to pay my parents bill in full just from the sales of this simple little bracelet!

My parents were definitely shocked and in disbelief when I told them! My Dad almost passed out! They asked me how was it even possible?! All I could say was, “there ARE amazing people left in this world after all!”

I kept the listing, the story, and a special message to anyone that happened to click on it…

“I hope that this little turtle is a reminder to anyone that wears it that:

* Even though you are small, even though you’re just one person, you ARE capable of BIG accomplishments!

* Even when you think something is impossible, STILL TRY.

* Even if the journey is slow, it WILL be worth it and you CAN do it!

Every time you look down at your wrist and see this tiny turtle, remember theses things!

Maybe it will encourage you to do your own “fundraiser”. Maybe it will encourage you to try something different. Maybe you just need a little reminder that it’s ok to stick your neck out once and a while!”

Etsy can be intimidating, but I’ve found that it’s more than just a site to sell handmade things. It’s a community. A community of people with creative minds and big hearts.

It cost me less than $0.25 to make each bracelet, but by sharing my personal situation with everyone, I was able to create an amazing fundraiser. I also used my personal Facebook page and a Facebook Etsy group to share my listing and story.

It might not work for everyone, but if you need to do your own “fundraising” for a special reason, I would encourage you to give Etsy a try.

My name is Dezaree and I own , a memorial jewelry Etsy shop. I was afraid of listing something that wasn’t what I normally sell and afraid of sharing my very personal situation. But, I took the chance and was amazed at the outpouring love of complete strangers!

6 Simple Secrets to Inspire Entrepreneurship in Kids

Want to encourage your kids to be entrepreneurs? Check out these 6 simple secrets to do just that!

Guest post from Miranda of :

Shaping an entrepreneurial spirit can be natural when kids are young — eager to learn and explore new ideas.

When parents model a creative way of thinking and offer plenty of opportunities to explore their interest, kids connect to an entrepreneurial attitude, develop their talents, and learn positive ways to make income.

If you would like to inspire entrepreneurship in your children, here are 6 tips to help you do just that!

1. Teach Kids to Work Hard

In order to thrive out in the world, kids need to be able to work hard.  Find a balance between allowing your kids to just be children and treating them like adults.

Too often parents have no expectations for their kids other than to be outwardly successful.  But we want our children to be able to mentally and physically endure.  That kind of inner strength only comes when pressure is applied.  So as tough as it can be, we have to allow our kids to struggle through learning a new skill or balancing homework, chores and activities.

Do you have a side or family business?  Have them help out.  Do you have lots of neighbors?  Find a neighbor that needs help and allow them to “hire” your tween.  Volunteer in the community or your local church.

When a child has to push through their natural desire to quit they will discover they can do more than they thought possible.

2. Teach Kids to Set Goals

Everyone has dreams and ideas.  People talk about them all the time.

But we don’t want our kids to just be talkers.  We want them to see and realize their dreams.

Teaching our kids to set and accomplish goals is a simple way to inspire entrepreneurship for a lifetime. Goal setting helps your child to see how to break a big job into several small tasks. It allows kids to see that they can accomplish huge dreams if they are willing to work at it a little bit each day.

Kids typically think more short term so allow them to think of a goal they would like to accomplish in the next few weeks.  Give them the opportunity to pick a few ideas.  Then walk through the steps of turning their dream into a goal by creating small action steps that they can do a little each day or each week.

Stay away from vague goals such as,”I would like become a reader.”  Instead write, “I would like to become a better reader by going to the library once a week, picking out books I enjoy, and reading 15 minutes every day.”

3. Teach Kids that Failure is OK

If we want to teach our children to take risks and try new things, then we need to teach them that failure is OK.  Otherwise, we are heaping a lot of stressful expectations on their back.

One way we can teach that failure is OK is by stepping out of the way when they want to “go for it”.

Don’t let your fear of them failing get in the way.

Once before a talent show my son (8 yrs old at the time) kept insisting that he needed to borrow a bigger drum set to play for the performance.  I kept insisting that he just use his small set not wanting to see him flounder around on a big set.  He finally persuaded me.  No one else was more surprised than me when he rocked the house that night on the big set!!

When they do fail, focus your encouragement on how hard they tried or the fact that they were willing to take a risk.  Talk to them about past failures you have had, and what you learned from them.

4. Give Kids Learning Opportunities

As time allows, give your children chances to try different sports and activities when they are young. But also think outside the box.

Is there a job they would enjoy doing at church, helping a relative, or an organization in the community?

Our children have done everything from helping out at a family deer processing business to creating greeter gift bags at church to running sound for a local non-profit organization.

As kids interact and learn they will see the variety of jobs out there, learn to handle themselves around adults, and begin to think outside structured activities and jobs.

5. Help Kids Start a Small Business

Some kids have a strong entrepreneurial spirit and will come up with lots of ideas.  Encourage them to put one of their ideas into motion.

There is a wonderful book called  by Carol Topp, that will guide you and your teen through the creative and practical steps necessary to develop their own business!

6. Allow Kids to See Parents Grow

When I teach groups, we include an exercise asking parents to make one small improvement to their life that week.  I am always surprised when parents say, “We are fine like we are,” or “I can’t think of anything we need to improve.” What?

As parents, we should continue to challenge ourselves to grow and try new things.

What excited you recently?  Did you learn something new at work? Or while reading a book?

Share your learning experiences with your children.  Children want to be where life is happening!

Some examples of things our children have seen us try: a recipe contest, farming, building a pond, making maple syrup, running for public office, selling herbs, starting a blog, running an excavating business, building a house, remodeling a house and starting a freezer beef business.

Life should be happening in your home!

Encourage your kids today with these 6 Simple Secrets to Inspire Entrepreneurship!

I’m Miranda, . Vibrant Life Mentor. A city girl married to a country boy!  encourages and equips moms of tweens & teens to care for their emotional health and the well-being of their family.  Find practical advice to develop a EMOTIONALLY VIBRANT family life!