Monday, March 28, 2011

Grocery Shopping on a Budget (without coupons)

There is a lot of hype out there about how much money you can save by buying five newspapers and clipping coupons until your hands bleed . And to a point, this is true . I know my sister, my mom, my sister-in-law , friends , and many many people I don't know that do this . They come home from the grocery store with their car overflowing. At the bottom of their receipt it says something like :

Total : $45 .00 Amount Saved : $200 .00

While I agree , paying $45 .00 for $245 .00 in groceries is a big savings , I have to ask . Is it really worth it ?

Before you roll your eyes at me and say I am crazy for even suggesting that "saving $200 .00" isn't worth it , hear me out .

I get coupons in the weekly mailer . Every week I flip through them to see if there are any coupons for items I normally buy . Extremely rarely do I find those . If it isn't something I would normally buy then spending any money on it at all is a waste of money . Yes , you heard me . It is a big fat waste of money . So when you come home and brag about the awesome "deal" you got on buying foods and snacks and goodies that I wouldn't even consider buying , even the store brand of , save your breath . I am not interested .

If there is anything I have learned since spending 3 years desperately trying to dig our family out of debt and break those bonds , it was this . Just because it is a good deal doesn't mean you can afford it . This is a terribly hard idea to wrap your head around . It took me a long time to cope with this simple phrase . I would walk past the clothing stores and see 75% off signs posted all over . I would tug on my husband's arm and say , "But honey ! It is such a good deal ! I can't pass it up ." He would put his foot down and tell me , it isn't in the budget . And of course he would be right . I would do the same things for him , when he would see a new tool , shining on the Snap-On truck at work . He would call me and say "But honey ! It is such a good deal ! I can't pass it up ." And I would gently remind him of the same lesson he reminded me of the day before .

It sucks being broke . It sucks not having money . But life sucks even more when you let your money have control over you . Remember the old D . A . R . E . slogan ? "Just say no". Well , with money , it's the same thing . It can have control over our lives if we let it . We work so hard , our husbands work so hard to bring that paycheck in . Let's keep it . Let's tell it where to go and what to do . Because if we don't , it's going to go anyways , and we will be left with the bill .

Sorry to have gotten a little off track there . My simple question to you is this . Do you need the things you are buying with those coupons ? Are they healthy ? Do they fulfill a spot in your weekly meal plan ? Do you even have a meal plan before you hit the grocery store ? If you answered "No" to any of those questions , I suggest you sit down and take a long hard look at your income and outgo with both food and money . Do this with your spouse or significant other . We aren't very good at holding ourselves to commitments unless someone else is on board with us .

I am a mother to 3 beautiful kids . I am 8 months pregnant and I have a wonderful , loving and hardworking husband . I homeschool my children and am a stay-at-home-mom . My financial contribution is to make sure we don't squander the precious income my husband works so hard for . I prepare and cook twenty-one meals a week on a budget of $60.00 . (Mind you this amount was only $30.00/week when we were trying to get out of debt and we still managed without coupons !) It is possible , just look at what you have , plan your meals , and don't buy superfluous junk foods . If you want treats , bake them, or get them from what is in-season in the produce isle . If you want to go out to eat , make sure you budget for it , and don't make any exceptions .

Now I don't think everyone shouldn't do coupons . There are plenty of things you can get with coupons that are useful . The most common thing I hear is getting free toothbrushes or hand soaps etc , by using multiple coupons , or matching coupons with sales . So yes , coupons can save you money . For me , taking the time to go through the coupons to save a dollar on toothpaste isn't worth it because that is likely the only coupon I would be using . If you buy all those miscellaneous items , (The frozen dinners etc .) anyways , then yes , please coupon .

I guess I just want people to evaluate themselves here . Figure out if you would really be "saving" all that money with coupons or not . If the coupons aren't for something you would normally buy , then don't bother . It would be much more beneficial to spend your time planning meals that match up with your local grocery stores weekly sales .

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Buttons for your Blog

Since starting my venture into the blogging community I have done some research on how to make my blogs easier to access.

I have since taught myself how to make a Linky Button that people can copy the html from my page so they can have your icon on their page that links back to your page (that was a mouthful!)

I have also figured out the html and java script necessary to make Social networking buttons for Facebook, Twitter, RSS Feeds, Favorites list, and Email. This was quiet a bit of figuring on my part, but I got them to work and I will attempt to put the process here in the simplest way I can.

You will first need the images you will be using for your button(s). You will need to upload them to a website like Photobucket so that you will have a URL for your images. There are a lot of super cute, fancy and fun social networking buttons that are offered free. I just went to Google and searched "free social networking buttons." The site I like the best so far is Webtreats. Your Linky Button image should be approximately 150 pixels x 150 pixels. I like the social networking buttons around 75 x 75.

The Add to Favorites Button should work on both Firefox and Internet Explorer. I am not sure about any other browsers though.

The HTML required for your buttons will look like this. Simply copy and paste these into an HTML widget on your blog and replace any of the writing in capitals with your information.

For example, where it says YOUR BLOG URL HERE, I would delete that and replace it with

Where it says NAME OF BLOG HERE, I would delete that and replace it with Leetah In Writing.

Where it says PICTURE URL HERE, I would delete that and replace it with the "Direct Link" from Photobucket to my picture. Mine happens to be

Where it says YOUR USERNAME/PAGENAME HERE, I would delete that and replace it with my username on my Facebook account or Twitter account. personal Facebook pages don't automatically have a username, you will have to set one in your account settings, however, it is better to have a Facebook page for your blog anyways, and that will have a Page name. For my cooking blog, this part of the link looks like this, For Twitter it is

Where it says YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS HERE, simply type in your email address like you would anywhere else.

For the Linky Button:

For the Facebook Button:

For the Twitter Button:

For the RSS Feed Button:

For the Add to Favorites Button:

For the Email Button:

I hope this helps! Feel free to ask questions or leave comments! Don't be shy!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Time for a House?

My husband, Chris and I have been renting for just over three years now since we sold our last house. We are now debt free and have an emergency savings of three months of expenses. The time is at hand to start considering a house again, but I'm terrified to mess it all up again. I feel like nearly every decision we have made about housing in the last seven years has been a disaster.

When we were first married we rented a little one bedroom apartment on the "westside" of the freeway. The counter tops were peeling up and there were cops with their flashlights searching the parking lot almost every night. It was the best deal my husband could find at $700.00 a month.

As our six month lease expired, we decided to "save money" by moving in with my parents. This wasn't a horrible decision, just cramped. My brother and his wife and child were already living there as well. As I approached my due date for my first child, my husband was laid off. It was lucky then, that we were living with my parents, or we wouldn't have been able to pay rent.

Chris acquired a new job in southern Utah and so we moved to Cedar City. We were able to rent a 2 bedroom, all be it tiny, apartment on the SUU campus for only $400.00 per month. This was great because my husband was making $5.00/hr less than he was making in Salt Lake.

We started getting the feeling that we needed to have a house. Family and friends were all encouraging us to stop throwing away our money on renting and buy a place. I needed to start working if we were going to afford a house, so I secured a job at the local Pizza Hut as a Shift Manager.

In the meantime, we found a realtor, a home, and a loan. $120,000 which was $820.00 a month. This ended up being more than 1/3 of our combined take home pay. Then, when we had been in the house for two months, my job fell apart and I quit.

I made the rash decision to move back up to Sandy. My husband took a job at my father's company and we found an apartment for $720.00 a month and we sold our house to Chris's step-father as a rental property.

Feeling the pressure of our debts enclosing around us we decided to move in with my parents again. Unfortunately, to do so, we paid nearly $2,000.00 to break our lease.

We lived with my parents for six months before wanting a house again. My brother-in-law was trying to sell a bunch of properties he had in his name before he went bankrupt, so we bought one from him. We paid $178,000.00 for it. We didn't have any money for a down payment so we ended up with an 80/20 interest-only loan, making our payment $1,375.00!! I obtained a job with my dad as well. My husband and I were both making over $18.00 hourly, but we couldn't make ends meet.

We sold the house before it ruined our marriage. I quit my job again to be an at-home-mom to our soon to be 3 kids. We moved to Layton, to be closer to Chris's new job at the Bountiful Skypark. Our rent was $925.00. It seemed doable at the time, but Chris worked 3 jobs to keep the bills paid and food on the table.

Again, my parents house tempted us when our lease was up. But this time we had a plan and we would be debt free before we moved out of their basement again. A year and a half into it, my sister and her family moved in. We were 3 months away from paying off our last debts but the tensions between my husband and brother-in-law took over. Moving again, this time to Riverton with a $815.00 monthly rent.

With all of the added expenses of paying for our own housing it ended up taking us an additional 8 months to pay off our remaining debts. The two bedroom apartment on the third floor was simply inadequate for our 3 kids, and again, one more on the way. It was also a 45 minute drive to and from work each day for Chris, which was costing us an extreme amount of money on gas.

Our last move was the smartest we have done to date. We moved to Bountiful, the town in which my husband works. We landed ourselves a 3 bedroom 1 1/2 bath duplex with a huge driveway and backyard for $800.00 a month. With no debts, this sum is easily manageable. However, 2 months after our move, his job cut his hours down to 15-20 hours weekly.

Luckily, we have some amazing friends who were more than willing to hire Chris on, without even an application, resume or interview! The boss took the word of his son-in-law and daughter. That seemed to be all he required. Chris is now working out of town, but he is making better money than he has our whole marriage.

So the question comes now. We have our finances in order, our ducks in a row. There are two options for us at this point. Option 1 - save money for a down payment on a house. The price range we are looking at is between $100,000 and $120,000. This would mean a 20% down payment of $18,000 to $24,000. At our current savings rate this would take between 2 and 3 years, conservatively. Option 2 - we split our savings in half. The first half, going towards our home savings, the second half going towards retirement investing. If we do it this way, we will have more money when it comes time to retire, but it will take us an additional 2 to 3 years to save for a house, which would mean no house for 4 to 6 years.

What would you do?

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Trusting in the Lord and his Prophets

Let me preface this by saying, I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and this is a talk I was asked to give in a church meeting. I received such an overwhelming response to this talk that I felt I needed to share it with a broader audience. I don't expect everyone who reads this to agree with me, as I know most people don't believe in modern day prophets or the Book of Mormon, I simply ask you to read this with an open mind and heart. Please, take the time to read this and discover for yourself the things which may be true. This is my testimony of my experiences with my husband and our family in the journey to find freedom. This is an exact copy/paste of what I read at the pulpit almost a month and a half ago.

Good morning. My name is Candiss, and my husband is Chris. We have 3 children and our number 4 is due May 11th.
Our oldest child is Raven, she is 6 ½ years old. She was an angel sent from heaven to me and everyday she continues to remind me of how blessed I am to have her in my life. Raven is a wonderful help with her siblings and is extremely excited that she will finally be getting a little sister.
Next, exactly 2 years later, we were blessed with Eldon, who is now 4 ½. Eldon is my little tender heart. He is always happy to help, to the point where it often gets him walloped by his younger brother who doesn't want any help. Eldon has a heart of gold.
The current youngest is Cael who will be 3 years old at the beginning of March. Cael is all boy. He likes to rough house and often picks on his older siblings, leaving them in tears. Though Cael doesn't like getting in trouble and becomes completely docile and full of mourning when he is reprimanded.
Our fourth child who currently remains under development is due to be a girl. Her name will be Ember and we are extremely excited to meet her.
Chris and I have been married for 7 ½ years. Those years have been filled with many ups and downs in our efforts to meld our two lives together. With the help of friends, family and most importantly, God, we have made it through our trials, stronger for having experienced them.
We moved to Bountiful almost 3 months ago to be closer to Chris' job. But at the beginning of December his employer of 3 ½ years cut his hours down to part time employment. We count ourselves blessed to have another job practically fall into our laps by the first of the year, though it will take several months to adjust to the new schedules involved. We are even more fortunate to have followed the council of the prophets concerning our finances. For if we had not heeded their council we would have had many more hardships and stress to endure in those weeks with little to no income.
Let me start with a little bit of background as to how we grew to trust and depend upon financial guidance and council of family responsibilities given to us by the Lord through his inspired prophets. In 2007 we found ourselves in what seemed to be a bottomless pit. Chris was working 1 full time job and 1 part time job. I too, was working full time. My sister was raising my kids for me while I worked to support our lifestyle. We had 2 kids and would soon find out we had a 3rd on the way. We owned a home in Sandy. 4 bedrooms, 2 baths and it sat on a beautiful ½ acre lot on the Dimple Dell gully. We also had 2 cars, complete with monthly payments, 3 credit cards, maxed out and more medical bills than I care to try and count. So to make it simple, we had 2 ½ jobs, 2 ½ kids, a marriage on the rocks and way too much month left at the end of our money.
Statistically most divorces are cited as occurring because of money problems and we were on that track going faster than a bullet train towards the solid cliff wall that could ruin our lives and our kids lives forever.
One day while we were in the car we found ourselves listening to the Dave Ramsey Show. I had heard my eldest brother mention him on occasion so we decided to listen to what he had to say. I was a little dumbstruck at first, what with him saying it was possible to have a car and no payment, a student without a loan, a home with no mortgage, no need for credit and no credit cards. But in our hearts, there was a glimmer of hope, that these things were possible. After all, why wouldn't they be? In 1st Nephi 3:7 it states “...I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing for which he commandeth them.” And had the Lord not commanded us to live this way? To be free of the bondage of debt? In modern days the prophets have counseled us to live within our means and to avoid debt except for a modest house and if necessary, schooling. We continued listening to the Dave Ramsey Show over the next several months.
We found out I was pregnant with our 3rd child and decided I needed to stay home and raise our children. My 2nd child, Eldon, had already been showing greater signs of attachment to my sister than to me and it was breaking my heart. I love my sister, and if I weren't around I wouldn't want anyone else to raise my kids but her, however, I wanted to be around, I was here, but I wasn't really, I was at work from the time I woke him up in the morning to load them up into the car, until I returned at night and he fell asleep on the drive home. In order to allow me to stay home we needed a serious lifestyle change and that included selling our house and renting an apartment for less money monthly. It would not only shrink our monthly payment on our residence by renting, but also decrease our utilities and if we could get a place closer to work, our gas budget. We put our house up for sale in June 2007, right before the housing market crashed and we were able to sell it by November 2007. I quit my job and we moved to Layton. For a few months Chris worked 3 jobs until we had enough debts paid off that he only needed to work 2 jobs to keep the bills paid and I did my best to make $30 a week go as far as possible for our food budget. It wasn't easy, as a matter of fact, it was extremely trying, but so much more satisfying knowing that we were on the right path.
The Church has an extremely wonderful pamphlet they offer for free called “One For the Money” that helped guide us on our journey out of debt. We were so far in the hole that we also looked to outside sources for help, including Dave Ramsey's book The Total Money Makeover. He has so many great resources available to help you get out of debt and get on track that we probably couldn't have done it as quickly as we did, without his guidance as well.
We learned what it really meant to budget. That we needed to tell our money where to go, not just track where it went, because if you don't tell your money where to go, it's going to leave anyways. Chris began packing a lunch every morning and we stopped eating out. We sold everything we could until the kids thought they were next, in an effort to pay off our credit cards and medical bills. When Cael joined our family in March 2008 we had enough money saved to pay the hospital upfront, for which we were given an extremely generous discount. Cael was delivered C-Section because he was breech. This was not planned, but because we had taken the time to save the money needed for a normal birth combined with a timely tax return we were able to leave the hospital not owing them any more than we had before we entered and it was a tremendous feeling.
Dave Ramsey commonly quotes Proverbs 6 which speaks about surety, or debt. Proverbs 6:5 says “Deliver thyself as a roe (which is in the antelope family, similar to a gazelle) from the hand of the hunter, and as a bird from the hand of the fowler.” Our debt is the hunter, or the fowler. We need to run away from our debt as fast as we can. We need to pay it off as fast as we are able, put all vacations, wants and extravagances aside and put any and all money available towards earning our freedom, and escaping the hunter.
When our lease was up with our apartment we decided to move back in with my parents for the remainder of our debt elimination efforts. With only 3 months left until we would reach our goal, another member of my family needed our place in my parent's basement, having just lost their home to bankruptcy. We began renting again and I started a graveyard shift job at the Jordan Valley Hospital. It was a short lived job, only lasting six months before I remembered why I had stopped working the last time. I needed to be mom. I also began homeschooling my daughter Raven, and it has been extremely satisfying.
July of 2010, 2 ½ years after we began our journey to follow the council of the prophets and live debt free, we paid off our last debt. I cried, so overcome with the newfound freedom that is unlike anything I have experienced before. I still cry when I listen to Dave's show on Fridays and listen to all the people tell the world that they are debt free. One day I hope to be able to own a home again, but not until we can afford it. Chris started school again this spring semester and we have no plans of taking out loans for funding his education. We are free. Free from the bondage of debt and the chains it placed on our marriage and our family. We are so much stronger for having gone through this experience, though I do not wish it upon my children. Chris and I have determined to teach our kids this principle, the importance of our agency, and the importance of having a mother in the home. 

I have linked in any references so that you might find them easier if you are interested. Thank you for your time. May God bless your day.