2010 Goals

Last year I kept it simple and made my goals the three G's. I'll admit that I feel short some months but over all I stuck with it and now looking back it seems like our family has been able to incorporate them into our lives fairly well.

This year I'm also keeping it simple. Here are my 4 goals for the new year.

  1. Spend more time as a family. If it seems like we took the month of December off from blogging, well... we kinda did. We have cut back on the number of posts going up on our blog. It's not because we fell off the budget wagon, stopped doing creative budget saving projects or have had a major health crisis. We have decided that our daughters are growing up super fast and we don't want to miss it. We are refocusing time on what's important. Our family.
  2. Eat healthy, organic, and local. This might sound like a budget buster item to some, but the food my family eats is by far the most important thing to me, second only to teaching them about God. I'm not going to go on a food rant, but there are several reasons why it's important to me. This year I will work even harder at this goal.
  3. Save for a car. We do the 100% cash plan when we buy vehicles and it's that time again. Our car is approaching that 100k mile mark, so it's time to start saving up our pennies.
  4. Have some fun money. I know I just said that we needed to save for a car, but dang it - We need to have some fun too! We have been debt free for years and it seems like there are always large projects or expenses that eat up all our money. This year, we are hoping that pay raises will be reinstated at the Mr's employer and we can work in a new line item into the budget for his and her mad money.
That's it! There are my/our goals for 2010. Nothing radical. Just some tweaking and reinforcing. Personal finance isn't all revolutionary concepts and ground-shaking changes. It's about devising a plan and following it.

Do you have any large goals for this coming year? Feel free to share your hopes and dreams for 2010.

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Auntie Em's Give Away Winner

We have a winner! Comment number 14, Jenny O, was the lucky winner of the $20 gift card to Auntie Em's House.

But remember, Everyone is a winner. Everyone can use the code:NTJS to receive free shipping between now and December 6th. So go ahead and finish up that Christmas shopping!

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Unbelievable - An Open Response to Jim Guest

In the past, I've talked about my affinity for Consumers Union. I've also made no secret of my criticisms of CU. As a subscriber, CU dropped me this little note the other day. Titled "Unbelievable", I thought it would be pretty important to read. I was a tad surprised by their misguided request.

Dear Mr. Not the Jet Set,

It was unbelievable the first time the credit card companies jacked up our interest rates, doubled minimum payments and tacked on huge fees to try and beat a new February law that will end many of their abusive ways.

Now, they're at it again, and getting even more creative — but with your help, we can stop them cold!

Thanks to a huge outcry from American cardholders, the House just passed a bill to freeze interest rate hikes on your card balances, and give you new protections starting Dec. 1 — just in time for the holiday season. Now, we need the Senate to do the same!

E-mail your Senators right now to stop the rate increases — we can't afford to wait!

This continued attack on your wallet is no accident. A major credit card reform law goes into effect in February. The card companies begged Congress to delay its implementation so that they could "update their systems" to comply with the new law.

But instead, they've spent the time hitting you with new tricks — like a fee for paying off card balances each month. Or variable rate cards that only "vary" if interest rates increase, but don't give you the full break if interest rates drop in your favor.

If the companies can retool their computers to accommodate these tricks, there's no reason they can't abide by the new rules right now. After the recent bipartisan House vote, we have real momentum to stop these abuses. Now the Senate must hear that we can't afford the credit card company tactics, especially with the holidays approaching.

Tell your Senators to stop the rate increases and implement reforms NOW!

After you e-mail the Senate, please forward this to anyone you know who is fed up with these tactics. We have immense power when we band together — let's put the pressure on now!

Jim Guest
President, Consumers Union

Well, Jim, I have to say, "No". Thanks, but no thanks. I for one will not be contacting my Senator on this initiative. While I don't agree with these incredibly anti-consumer practices, I also feel strongly that Consumer's Union is barking up the wrong tree here.

Legislation is not the answer
These snakes have shown again and again, that they can and will find a way around. They have more lawyers than you can imagine. They will find the loophole, and they will exploit it. The CARD Act of 2009 is a perfect example of two attributes of the credit card industry:
  1. Their incredibly powerful lobby that bought them the time to run wild on consumers. Everybody knew that Congress gave them far too long to comply - their actions should come as no surprise.
  2. Their insatiable thirst to screw over consumers. Too harsh? Hardly. These companies are not here to help. They are not here to provide a valuable product or service. They have made it very very clear, again by their actions, that they are simply out for your money.
Even in prior acts of Congress on fair debt collections and reporting, they have found their ways around it, and have carried on business as usual. Legislation is not the answer.

Congress, dare I say, has better things to do
In the United States, we have:
  • A bloated tax system that penalizes those that save and succeed
  • A health care industry that's on par with credit in terms of abusiveness to consumers
  • A social security program that we all pay into, and yet stopped making sense decades ago
Not to mention a global war on terror with fronts in Afghanistan and Iraq. Far be it from me to stamp my foot and tell Congress to step up and fix my credit card.

There is a better way
Stop waiting for Congress to fix your problems. As we see with CARD 2009, they didn't quite get it right. Why would we expect their next action to be any more competent? The best thing for consumers to do is to take matters into their own hands. 5 years ago, we opted out. We stared down their offers of points and rewards and said thanks, but no thanks. We shredded those cards and never looked back.

So, Jim, I have to say that your plea for help has fallen somewhat on deaf ears. We've already solved this problem. We 'voted with out wallets' and took these snakes out of our lives. Consumers needn't beg and plead, dreaming of a day of rose tinted credit cards. Pink, puruple, orange, black or green - they all go through the shredder the same. I do wish you well in your fight. We simply have no need to fight this battle.

What's your take? Is this a problem that you think the government should handle? Or is it better left to consumers to handle?

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Backyard Homesteading Book Review

I just finished reading The Backyard Homestead and have to admit that I absolutely loved it. This book has to be one of the best small scale homesteading books available.

Here is some of the reasons I loved this book.
  • Super easy to navigate
  • Enough information to actually do things they talk about
  • Practical and do-able projects for any skill level
  • Great reference list in the back if you do need more detail (like a whole book on cider making)
  • It made learning easy
I learned about chickens, making cider, and planting/pruning grapes all in the same book. It was great to have all those resources in one book instead of 3. It was amazing how much I learned from one book!

What more can I say? This is a must have for all of you who dream of homesteading on any amount of land.
backyard homestead

Have you read this book? What did you think?

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Black Friday Shopping Anyone?

While the kids were fast asleep early Friday morning the Mr. was able to sneak out to get a digital camera for $50 at Best Buy for our daughter. After the girls were awake and helping put up the Christmas decorations I made my way to JoAnn's for some great deals on fabric and patterns. I was able to get a great deal on fabric by buying the remnants of the fabric on special. All remnants are 50% off the current price. Which make for a real steal!

Later in the day I finished my Christmas shopping at Target and online. I didn't get any real good deals at either, but I stayed within my budget and bought stuff on the kid's Christmas wish list. The only Christmas gifts left are the ones I have to make. I have everything but the time now!

Did any of you go shopping on Friday? What kind of deals did you get? I would love hear about your Black Friday! Feel free to either answer in the comments add a blog post link below.

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Breakin' The Law: Raw Milk

Raw milk sales in 28 of the 50 states are perfectly legal. Michigan, is not one of those states. In fact they have some of the most strict laws here in the Great Lakes state. Since 1948, raw milk sales have been illegal here. What's not illegal is consuming raw milk from your own cow.

So since we won't be adding a cow to our long list of pets here on the one acre in town ranch, how is it that we can consume raw milk legally?

A good question. And the answer varies from state to state.

Why raw milk? Why now? Why not?

Pasteurization not only kills off the good bacteria that is naturally in milk, but also kills off the enzymes that some of us need to process lactose. Due to my intolerance, we've been buying two kinds of milk for some time - organic and lactose-free. While the lactose-free milk does not wreak havoc on my digestive system, it is kinda like consuming white sludge. Result? I could never drink it straight. Cereal and cooking only really. I could only drink a glass of it if I laced it with chocolate syrup.

So we're keeping two kinds of expensive milk - both of which can be difficult to get a the grocery store. The solution? Raw milk. Beautiful, delicious, raw milk.

For about 70% of those who are lactose intolerant, switching to raw milk will solve your issue. It did for me. We discovered this after trying some raw milk from a friend. After that, and discovering how amazing it tastes, it was only a matter of time before we signed up. Now, we are the proud owners of half a cow share - allowing us one and a half gallons per week.

But wait - What's a cow share?

Imagine buying stock in a company. By doing that, you now own part of that company. Usually, that amounts to about 0.000006% of ownership. Our half-share gives us, by my estimates, gives us 3.4% ownership, by which we have rights to 3.4% of the milk which comes out to one and a half gallons per week. Now we still have to pay for the milking of the cow. The cost is comparable to the price of organic milk at the grocery store, except here, all of the profit goes to the farmer - not a bunch of middle men. I like that.

The best part? Everything you can do with it.

Now raw milk doesn't come to you like that processed stuff from the grocery store - its' raw. Not pasteurized. Not homogenized. And that's just the way we like it. For one, you can decide how you like the milk - skim, 2%-ish, whole - as the cream is resting on top. That's right, you can skim it to your taste, and best of all, have the cream to use elsewhere. More on that later. Also, it's all intact, just the way God intended it to be. Enzymes, good bacteria... in their absence, bad stuff comes in. Leave a bit out in a cup for a few days along with a cup of it's processed counterpart. The difference is amazing.

By now, you've figured out how important quality food is to us. Raw milk is no exception. We subscribe to the theory that if you have the best ingredients, you don't need all the fancy recipes and seasonings. The simplest dish will stand on it's own. Here is a few things we have made with our raw milk that have absolutely rocked our world.

Butter: As much as the Mrs. would enjoy it, we aren't doing this with an old fashioned butter turn like her Grandmother's. No, no, you can make this in you food processor or blender. Just add cream, and switch it on. After about 5 minutes, it will 'pop' and solidify, taking on that distinctive yellow color (yes, real butter is quite yellow). And the taste? It tastes like butter is supposed to taste and that spreadable garbage in the tubs will never fully emulate. I'll take it a step further. Take that fresh butter and stir in a bit of sea salt for the only spread you'll ever need for crackers or bread.

Ice cream:
You've seen the Mrs.'s blueberry ice cream (which was amazing), but we didn't stop there. At a gathering with friends, we brought our ice cream maker and ingredients. Cream (from raw milk), raw milk, sugar, and eggs (from our hens). We made it on site and served it up fresh with our peach syrup. Our friends devoured every last drop. Now, back to our theory from above - notice what was missing from the ingredient list? Flavoring! No vanilla, no chocolate, no fruit, no nuts. It is actually the Ben and Jerry's Cream Base recipe which is intentionally unflavored. No one noticed.

Whipped Cream: Add a little sugar and vanilla and whip until stiff peaks. This stuff is thick and rich.

Yogurt: Some friends of ours get raw milk solely for making yogurt. There are several ways to do this.

Oh, and it's pretty awesome just to drink too.

So, just how deliciously illegal is raw milk? Very.

Ever tried it? Ever wanted to?

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Auntie Em's Holiday GiveAway

I, Mrs. Not the Jet Set, am actually Auntie Em. Yes, I know, I didn't come out and tell you yet, I also really didn't hide it either. I have never really wanted to make a big deal out of my Etsy shop because that is not the point of this blog. However, I did want to offer our lovely blog readers an opportunity to win a gift certificate for my shop as well as offer free shipping to all our loyal readers as well.

Here are some of the wonderful items that are in my shop this Christmas season. I also do custom orders so feel free to ask!

What can you win? A $20 gift certificate to my shop! Even if you don't win the gift certificate you are all still winners in my book. Everyone can use the code:NTJS to receive free shipping between now and December 6th.

The Rules:
There are several ways to enter to win the giveaway. Make sure to leave a separate comment for each entry. You can enter six ways, but use each method once per giveaway. So you can have up to a total of six entries per giveaway.

  1. Tell me what your favorite item is in Auntie Em's House.
  2. Heart the Etsy shop.
  3. Add us to your blogroll and let us know in the comments.
  4. Follow us on Twitter, RSS feed, or email subscriber.
  5. Blog about the giveaway with a link back to the giveaway post in the comments.
  6. Link to one of your posts in the Two Cent Tuesday MckLinky.

This contest ends on November 30th at 5:00pm EST. The randomly selected winner will be announced on Tuesday December 1st. An email will be sent to the winner. They will have 48 hours to provide a valid mailing address.

Thanks for checking out our giveaway!

This giveaway was sponsored by Auntie Em's House. If you would like to sponsor a giveaway we are open to sponsors. Please email us for details.

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Bagnesia Winner

We have a winner! Comment number six by Brandilynn was the winner of the Bagnesia reminder kit.

Thanks to everyone who participated in the giveaway. Stay tuned for another giveaway starting very, very soon!

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The Creative Family

Have you heard of Amanda Blake Soule? I had never heard of her until about three months ago. That was when I had read a book review for her last book on another blog. Which led me to Amanda's blog (Soule Mama). The more I read it the more I want to read her books her two books.

creative family

The Creative Family-
The Creative Family is her first book which was published in 2008. I was able to obt
ain it through the library's inter-library loan program. I'm so glad that I took the extra effort to request this book. I love it!

I have learned more from this mom then I could have expected. Yes, I did find a some great project ideas that I would like to try, but it was more then that. As actually read the book, I learned that the book was more then projects. It was about fostering an environment of creativity in your home while maintaining a simple home. Not letting the clutter of a creative family take over.

My favorite take away from this book was the idea of a collaborative craft show. The idea is really three fold. One, you remove the clutter of your child's art work from your home. Two, you build their confidence by having others look at their art. Three, your child (and the other kids) have the chance to give their own earned money to a good cause. I'm sure that we will be pulling this together with other families soon.

This book is so good that I'm actually going to save up my pennies to buy my own copy! That says a lot about a book.

Have you read this book? What did you think?

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Two Cent Tuesday

Welcome to Two Cents Tuesday!

Two Cents from the Mrs.
"Christmas is right around the corner. Revisit last years Thrifty Christmas series for some great ideas on celebrating the holiday on a budget "

Now it's your turn!

You can link to posts that are related to living on a "Not the Jet Set" budget. This could be anything from ideas to save money around the house or garden, DIY home repair, using cash envelopes, to planning your low cost vacation. We do ask that you refrain from linking to posts about weekly store deals, contests, paid ads and the like.

I look forward to reading everyone's ideas on ways to live on a "Not the Jet Set" budget. Please take the time to view other blogger's posts as well as add our button or link back to this post.

Your Two Cents:

Make sure to also use this as a giveaway entry in our current giveaway!

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Simple Times

Do you sometimes wish for a simpler time? A time when life was not full of distractions? No cell phones constantly ringing, tons of emails to check, TV, 24 hour news, tons of school activities.

I know I do! Sometimes I just wish I could go back to a time when life was centered around a self sufficiency and survival. Just raising my family on a small family farm. The kids would only go to school a few months of the year during the winter when they were not needed in the field. Most of our time was spent together with none of the distractions.

Recently I got a taste of what that would be like.

My grandmother has an old fashion glass butter churn. It was handed down to my 82 year old grandmother by her uncle. She was not sure how old it was but thought that he might have been given it used himself. She used it for many years when they had their own dairy cows after WWII. We asked her if we would bring a half gallon of fresh raw cream if she would let us use it. Of course she agreed.

When we got to her house she had it all cleaned up and ready to go. It was amazing that after setting for 40 years it worked so well. We all had a blast sitting around the kitchen table visiting, listening to old family stories, and taking turns churning the butter. Grandma said she never remembered it being this much fun back when she "had" to do the butter chore, but that day with her grand kids and great grand kids she enjoyed it. There was no distractions of life that day, no tv, no cell phones work on the farm, no running to do.

It was all so simple that day.

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Holy Simplicity

I just finished reading the book Holy Simplicity this week. I thought that this 86 page book on Simplicity would be an easy and fast read. Boy was I wrong! I don't think that it has ever taken me so long to read a book honestly.

Now don't get me wrong, I learned a lot from the book, but it is not a simple read. To truly get the most out of the book I felt like I could only read a few lines and then reflect and study those lines. I do feel like I learned more about spiritual simplicity from this book so it was a worth while read.

Here are some of the many interesting things that I learned from this book.

  • The simple soul has one goal. That is to please God.
  • The only motivating force you should have is to love.
  • "A soul of holiness does not strive for that holiness. It strives to love, to love wholeheartedly; there lies the difference."
There was so much more that I learned. I think that in maybe a year I'll pick this book back up and read it again. I'm sure I'll learn even more the second time around. This book focuses on learning holy simplicity from the Saints and Scripture. However, even if you are not Catholic (or even Christian), you can still learn a lot about how to simplify our complex inter-souls. It never hurts to work on bringing internal peace to our bodies.

This review was written as part of the Catholic book Reviewer program from The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on Holy Simplicity.

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Bagnesia Product Review/ Giveaway

How often do you forget your reuseable bags in the car when you go to the store? We have talked about this topic before. It is frustrating and not the easiest thing to remember in our busy fast paced lives.

I was lucky enough to get the chance to try out the Bagnesia Reusable Bag Reminder Kit. I have to admit that I was a little skeptical about it's effectiveness going into the "trial". Would I really notice the reminders or would they get tuned out after a couple days? Three weeks later I can tell you that they really did work! I still notice the door tag and the steering wheel wrap. If you or your loved one has problems remembering your bags this product might just be your cure for Bagnesia!

The Bagnesia Reminder Kit contains simple, effective products that work together so
you always remember to take your reusable bags into the store. The kit includes an eye-
catching door hanger imprinted with the words “grab your bags” reminding you to put your bags in the car. They have developed a neoprene wrap that attaches to your steering wheel at eye level labeled with the words “grab your bags”
prompting you to take your bags with you as you exit your car. Bagnesia’s stylish compact bag unrolls from the size of a cell phone and expands to hold the equivalent of 3 plastic bags
worth of groceries. It is both durable and washable. A convenient clip included in the kit
allows the user to slip the bag onto a key chain or belt loop or clip several bags together. All of
the products included in the kit are packaged inside a reusable drawstring pouch that can
double as a handy place to corral several compact bags, keys, coupons or a cell phone.

What a deal for only $14.99! And they offer international shipping too. This makes a great gift for your earth friendly friends.

Would you like to win a free reminder kit? If so then check out the rules below.

The Rules:
There are several ways to enter to win the giveaway. Make sure to leave a separate comment for each entry. You can enter six ways, but use each method once per giveaway. So you can have up to a total of six entries per giveaway.

  1. Tell us something new you learned from Bagnesia's website.
  2. Stumble two of our posts, then comment saying which posts, and your stumble username.
  3. Add us to your blogroll and let us know in the comments.
  4. Follow us on Twitter, RSS feed, or email subscriber.
  5. Blog about the giveaway with a link back to the giveaway post in the comments.
  6. Link to one of your posts in the Two Cent Tuesday MckLinky.

This contest ends on November 20th at 5:00pm EST. The randomly selected winner will be announced on Monday November 23rd. An email will be sent to the winner. They will have 48 hours to provide a valid mailing address. Bagnesia does offer international shipping so everyone is welcome to enter.

Thanks for checking out our giveaway!

This giveaway was sponsored by Bagnesia. If you would like to sponsor a giveaway we are open to sponsors. Please email us for details.

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Two Cent Tuesday

Welcome to Two Cents Tuesday!

Two Cents from the Mrs.
"When trying to save money don't always think big. Think small, everyday small. It's the little things in life that add up to large savings. "

Now it's your turn!

You can link to posts that are related to living on a "Not the Jet Set" budget. This could be anything from ideas to save money around the house or garden, DIY home repair, using cash envelopes, to planning your low cost vacation. We do ask that you refrain from linking to posts about weekly store deals, contests, paid ads and the like.

I look forward to reading everyone's ideas on ways to live on a "Not the Jet Set" budget. Please take the time to view other blogger's posts as well as add our button or link back to this post.

Your Two Cents:

An extra bonus! If you add your link this week and/or next week you will earn extra entries into the new giveaway starting tomorrow. Make sure to come back tomorrow to enter the contest.

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Craft Show Results

I spent weeks working on projects and days fretting about the success or failure of my first craft show. Did the hours of table display prep work pay off?

Financially, no, educationally speaking yes. There was three other large sized art and craft shows going on that same day in our town. So there was lots of competition and the fair I was in was most peoples last stop. I had lots of people come through who talked about what great ideas I have. But didn't buy. Some of them I could tell were shopping for ideas while others were looking for steals. I also didn't think that it helped that a little old grandma was set up across from me who was basically giving her sewing projects away for free. She had prices like one dollar for a burp cloth, 3 dollars for crayon roll and $10 for a good sized flannel quilt. I'm not even sure how she could make money even though she was selling a lot.

All this info helped me to decide that my time is more valuable then what people are willing to pay at craft shows. I'm not going to spend $12 on materials and charge a total of $15 making my three hours of work worth nothing after paying for slot, business cards, price tags and other associated business expenses. I don't think that I'll try it again. Instead I'll stick to my Etsy shop and making gifts for friends. Even though everyone says I should sell my stuff, no one is really willing to pay for it (at least in this economy).

Hopefully the items will sell in the Etsy shop. Keep an eye our for a lot of new fun listings soon!

Have you tried an art and craft show this year? How did it go for you? I'd love to hear!

Don't forget that tomorrow is Two Cent Tuesday! Please join us by linking back to one of your posts from the past week or two.

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The Missing Mrs.

It feels like I have been missing for two months but it really has only been two weeks. Things will get back to (our) normal after this Saturday's craft show. It has been a very busy couple weeks finishing projects for the show, working on potty training, an have kids at home because of school closers due to flu outbreaks. Anything but normal!

Starting next week you can look forward to some great posts, reviews and giveaways! I don't want to give to much info away but I think that you will enjoy having me back.

Until then have a great weekend!

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Two Cents Tuesday

Welcome to Two Cents Tuesday!

Two Cents from the Mr.
"There's lots of ways to save as winter draws near. For example, the Mrs. just finished putting up apples for the year. She's also done strawberries, blueberries, peaches, peppers, tomatoes, pumpkin, and butternut squash! We're ready for a long winter."

Now it's your turn!

You can link to posts that are related to living on a "Not the Jet Set" budget. This could be anything from ideas to save money around the house or garden, DIY home repair, using cash envelopes, to planning your low cost vacation. We do ask that you refrain from linking to posts about weekly store deals, contests, paid ads and the like.

I look forward to reading everyone's ideas on ways to live on a "Not the Jet Set" budget. Please take the time to view other blogger's posts as well as add our button or link back to this post.

Your Two Cents:

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Guest Post at Debt Free Adventure

Be sure to tune in later for our Two Cents Tuesday post (and leave your two cents, too!), but first I want to direct your attention to a guest post we wrote for Matt at Debt Free Adventure on Tithing Our Time. It's a new concept that we've been considering and finally pulled together.

So head on over to Matt's site and and give it a read. Be sure to leave a comment, as we'd love to hear your thoughts. While you're there check out some of Matt's posts and don't forget to subscribe.

Here are some posts not to miss at DFA:

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Health Insurance: Open Enrollement Time

It's open enrollment time at my employ, and while the Mrs and I are decided and done, it seems that most folks have hardly logged on. Since we're going through the second major plan overhaul in 3 years, people have TONS of questions and no clue as to which one to choose.

The Providers and their vague presentations and explanations have come and gone and folks are still sitting around at lunch saying, "I don't know what to pick." Now, I don't intend to demean these folks. Modern health care is quite complicated and an incredible amount of responsibility is in the lap of the consumer. This is a difficult and important decision - more now than ever.

My response, usually starts with, "Here's how we decided..."

First, a little backstory:
We have two options for employer sponsored health insurance. One plan is like a PPO, but they have added some hoops to jump through. The other is an HSA. To make this decision, you really need to know three things about the plans:

  • The Deductible (the amount you are responsible for before the insurance actually kicks in)
  • The Premium (the amount that you kick - monthly, yearly, whenever)
  • The Out-of-Pocket limit (the co-insurance amount you are responsible for above the deductible)
Here are the numbers for our plans (these are for employee and family):




Deductable (per yr)


$X + $70

Premium (per mo.)



Out-of-Pocket Limit (per yr)


For this example, you can assume that most other details are equal. As you can see, the PPO has higher premiums ($840 per year), but the deductible is $3,000 less than the HSA. The out-of-pocket limits are the same, making that part irrelevant. So what does all this mean? "Well, here's how we decided..."

For two years running, we've hit our out-of-pocket limit in April or May. Lately, we've been what they refer to as 'heavy users of insurance'. We don't have chronic ailments, but we did have a baby last year. And this year, we had 3 ER trips. the net result of 2 busy kids and 2 active parents. We're healthy people, but lately we've been quite accident prone.

Really, each employee has to make a gamble. either we choose the PPO and plan on using up the low deductible, or we choose the HSA and hope hardly see the doctor all year (thus taking advantage of putting in less per month). While we like the idea of rolling over unused HSA funds to the next year, so far that hasn't been a reality.

We chose the PPO.

Is it right for everyone? Definitely not. A greater difference in the premiums would make the HSA more attractive. This is especially true with a fully-funded emergency fund. We could use it to cover $4k in medical expenses, but that also means that the EF would be depleted and not able to be use for other emergencies.

What has your experience been? Does the HSA work for you or your family?

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Vacation Or Bust Update

Our challenge is to raise $1300 before Christmas vacation. For more details checkout our original post. We know that it's a lofty goal to reach that fast without adding any salaried income to the mix, but we also live on a tight budget. A vacation is a luxury not a necessity.

Here is the breakdown of what we have done so far this month:

  • Garage Sale- We decided to have an impromptu garage sale with a friend who lives on a busy road in a really nice part of town. It worked out great! We sold most of our stuff and made $427 to put towards our vacation fund.
  • Survey- Ironically the week we started the challenge the Mr. got a call from a magazine he subscribes to asking him to take part in a large web-based survey the following week. His reward was a check for $150.
  • Blog- We made $71 in blog revenue this month after paypal fees and other costs.
So far this month we have made a grand total of $648! Not bad for just under 4 weeks. We are only two dollars shy of the halfway mark. The garage sale was our biggest money maker planned. It did give us a great boost in the right direction but we are running out of stuff to sell for money.

The plan for the next couple weeks is to sell of a few odd ends and I'm going to try selling some of my handmade items at a local craft fair in two weeks. I'm hoping to make about $20-30 each on the odd end. I have no clue what I'll make at the craft fair. It's the first time I've tried something like that so it's all an unknown. Hopefully it will raise some cash instead of just being just a learning experience.

Do you have any ideas for us to raise some fast cash? How have you raised vacation funds in the past?

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Still here...

Posting has been a little light lately - Ok, it's been 6 days. Fret not -we're still here.

Life has just had us feeling a tad under water lately, and that's ok, it happens from time to time.

The Mrs. is up to her knees in apples as she spends her days making and preserving applesauce for the year. It's a ton of work, but she will survive it and be back soon with more inspiring posts.

I've been laboring in the garden every non-rainy chance I get, trying to finish the fence and grape arbors for the garden makeover. 300 feet of fence takes time when you do it from scratch. I've also been trying to wrap up other fall yard work before all the nice days get away from us.

But not all of our time has been spent away from the computer.
Here are some things we have been working on that you can look forward to in the coming weeks

  • Raw milk - how deliciously illegal is it?
  • The truth about debit cards - just the facts, ma'am.
  • Part 2 of our look at Roth IRA conversions
  • We're prepping several guest posts for other blogs
  • And tomorrow.... an update on Vacation or Bust 2009!

photo from Flickr

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Going Once, Going Twice, Sold to Mrs. Not the Jet Set!

I have to admit that I LOVE auctions. I'm picky about which ones I go to and I do have favorite auctioneers. Saying that I rarely walk away from an auction disappointed. This past weekend was no exception to the rule either.

A local plant nursery decided that to stay a float after a bad year they would auction off a large amount of their stock. It's heart breaking to know that a local person is on the brink of losing their business, but by spending the money at the auction you do have to look at it as a way to help them.

There was over an acre full of stock that they were getting rid of. Most of it was trees with the smallest being 6 ft tall and the largest ones needing to be moved by semi-trailers. I'm talking massive 20+ feet tall trees. My goal and budget was to accure a couple fruit trees for our open front yard. When the auction started I realized quickly that I was going to get lucky. The people bidding were all wholesalers or developers. No one had any interest in "edible" plants. Because of this stroke of luck I was able to walk away feeling like a million bucks. I bought 5 large seedless concord grape vines for $10 total. Five apple trees (Granny Smith and Empires) for $17.50 each along with 2 aprocots and 3 cherries for $12.50 each. These trees were each 9 feet tall and in 10 gallon containers! What a deal!!!

It will not take long for those large plants to start recouping my initial cost. It might even take the Mr.'s back longer to heal. Sorry for all the digging honey!

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Two Cent Tuesday

Welcome to Two Cents Tuesday!

Two Cents from the Mrs.
"When you realize you NEED something don't run to the store right away. Instead take the time to find a creative solution you already have in your home. I've found countless ways to use my extra mason jars. "

Now it's your turn!

You can link to posts that are related to living on a "Not the Jet Set" budget. This could be anything from ideas to save money around the house or garden, DIY home repair, using cash envelopes, to planning your low cost vacation. We do ask that you refrain from linking to posts about weekly store deals, contests, paid ads and the like.

I look forward to reading everyone's ideas on ways to live on a "Not the Jet Set" budget. Please take the time to view other blogger's posts as well as add our button or link back to this post.

Your Two Cents:

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The Bible, Money and Marriage

Before you read this post please read my disclaimer below:

I'm by no means a biblical scholar or a theology teacher. What I do know is that you have to read the bible, think about how it would apply to today's world, and look at what your specific faith teachings/ interpretations are for that specific bible verse, parable, or allegory. Please discuss this topic with your own Priest or Pastor if you want a clearer outlook from your faith's perspective.
Okay, On to the post.

Last week I posted about my view of Suze Orman's advice to married couples. I knew my stand would be controversial but most of the time following God's will is not the path of least resistance. Because of that I did get some feedback from readers that didn't see things my way and that is just fine. I don't expect everyone to see the world the way I do. If I did then life would be boring and I'd never learn anything new. However, one commenter did ask where in the bible God said that we should have joint accounts. I felt like answering that question in the comments would not give it the full justice that it deserves.

Here are some of the places in the bible that I feel address this topic of having unity in your financial lives as a married couple.

> Gen 2:24 "Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh" By one flesh it means that you have one set of hands, eyes, ears and so on. If you are to truly be one you would have to truly say what is mine is yours and yours is mine. We share everything we have, including money.

> Mark 10:9 "what therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder" If you are not let anything get between you that means more then a job or another woman. It means the kids, politics, and money too.

> 1 Corinthians 12:4-7 "Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of working, but it is the same God who inspires them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good." It's rare that both spouses are financially savvy. It's also rare that they both have enough free time on their hands to do double the work. God gave us each our own set of talents and as a married couple you are to share them as "one flesh" not withhold them from each other. My husband is good at hanging pictures, I'm not. He hangs all the pictures in the house even the ones I want hung. I'm good at sewing, he would probably sew his fingers together. I mend all the clothes in our house. We share our gifts for the common good of our marriage and family.

> Proverbs 15:22 "Without counsel plans go wrong, but with many advisers they succeed." Two heads are better then one. If my husband and I both look at all of our money together we can make better decisions together. As a parent I want to make sure to include my husband on issues of raising our kids. If we discuss and agree on a parenting method (like sleeping habits of the baby) then we are much more likely to succeed by working together vs. each trying our own method which would confuse the child. The same goes with our income. We put all of it together and decide together what to do with all of it.

> Proverbs 31:10 "An excellent wife, who can find? For her worth is far above jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her, And he will have no lack of gain. She does him good and not evil All the days of her life." Trust each other. Have faith in the other person. You are on the same team so act like it! If we as a married couple can trust each other we will have no lack of gain. If you spouse should be worth more then jewels and your heart is to trust your spouse, why then would you not trust them with joint accounts?

As a Christian the ultimate marriage to look up to is that of Christ and his bride, the Church. So I ask myself, "What would Jesus do?" Would he not fully share his money with his spouse?

Outside of the bible specifically most if not all Christian teachings do say that you should have shared everything. The most known Christian personal financial teachers all say it too. Including Dave Ramsey, Larry Burkett, and Phil Lenahan.

Another thing those same PF gurus will teach you is about communication in a marriage. Something most marriages need more of. Clearly, in the case of Jon and Kate Goslin, they needed more communication - not less. Separating your finances is simply a brick wall for communication - a place for spouses to hide their spending sins. Joint accounts takes your marriage in the opposite direction to a place called unity. My husband has full knowledge of the amount of money I spend on my garden and on sewing projects. I'm fully aware of how much he spends on his tools and other stuff. It's okay to spend money on things that only one person enjoys without feeling ashamed or the need to hide it from your spouse. It's just apart of having a mature and selfless relationship.

On a personal note, while we never had separate accounts, we were not always on the same page about our finances. I can assure you that this did not do us any favors in maintaining a healthy marriage. He spent and I got upset. I spent and he had no clue. Hurt feelings, confusion, blaming.... maybe you've been through this too? But since we got on the same page, since both of us agree on our spending before we do it, since both of us understand our common goals as well as our personal goals, we now have this incredible unity in our marriage. There's no ambiguity, and we love it. The more open and vulnerable we become to each other the stronger our marriage and finances become.

So how are the accounts arranged in your marriage? How does it correlate with your faith and it's teachings?

Feel free to join us tomorrow for Two Cent Tuesday!

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Just a Reminder....

There's been a lot of discussion lately on credit cards and debit cards (as if it ever really settles down). After several great discussions and debates, I ran across a string of posts from the Consumerist - one of the few consumer advocacy blogs. The articles were interesting individually, but more compelling as a body of work.

Hit the link below for a summary of this collection and a little reminder for those of us who have taken the plunge and gone credit card free.

From "Consumers Pay Down Credit Card Debt for 11th Straight Month":

The Federal Reserve has released data on consumer debt for August, and for the 11th month in a row we've paid down credit card debt and increased savings. Take that, rate-hiking credit card companies!
Great, right? For many millions of Americans, this theory of 'just pay off the balance each month' panned out to be little more than just a nice theory. The reality was credit card debt, and we also know that the leading causes of that credit card debt is due to a loss of income and/or medical expenses, not uncontrollable spending.

From "Man Puts Deposit Down On Used Car, Backs Out, Can't Get Money Back":
Back in April, Nait put a $500 refundable deposit down on a used car, then decided he didn't want to buy it anymore when he found it needed $10,000 in repairs. Five months later, neither the dealership nor Capital One, will refund his money. He gives a blow-by blow here.

So much for credit cards being that magical line of defense between the consumer and a shady business.

From "Ending The 0% Balance Transfer Era":
Ah, the glory days of American credit cards. When your credit card's interest rate went too high, you could find a different card with a deliciously low promo balance transfer rate, and revel in your low interest. At least, until you let the card sit idle too long or made a late payment, and then started the cycle over again. But no more.
The first comment here is also of note:
I've never found a balance transfer that would help my wife and I spend less and/or pay off quicker. Has anyone found a good way to do this that doesn't involve a balance transfer?
Right, and you never will. The balance transfer can only be effective as a temporary band-aid on the hemorrhaging that is your money. It may stop the bleeding, but yet hasn't solved anything. Want to spend less, and/or pay them off quicker? Close 'em, Shred 'em, and Forget 'em.

From "BofA Pledges To Stop Raising Credit Card Interest Rates":
The AP reports Bank of America has promised to stop jacking up interest rates on credit cards with fixed interest rates. But that doesn't mean your rate won't jump.
Sounds a lot like previous promises to stop beating their wives abusing customers. No, no - I'm sure they mean it this time.

From "Help! My Credit Card Is Adding An Annual Fee!"
Michael is in a situation that we anticipate will become very, very common in the coming months. His credit card company has imposed a $99 annual fee. He can accept the fee, or close his account. Not only is this his only credit card, but it's the oldest credit line he has, so closing it would hurt his credit score. What would you do?
You guys are just pitching them underhand.... that's an easy question - Close 'em, Shred 'em, and Forget 'em.

So those 5 recent posts, as I said, make for a compelling body of work. How so? Think about it this way:

If you have no credit cards, then none of this has any affect on you. Any of it.

The first is nice to hear, and even nicer not to be participating it - or even capable of participating in. Of the many things credit cards claim, simplicity is not one of them.

Just a reminder...

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How to Ruin Your Marriage

Step One: Listen to Suze Orman

Step Two: There is none needed after step one.

Does that seem a little harsh? I don't think that it does. It actually took me several days to calm down enough to write this post. Last Friday I was watching the Today show while folding laundry. It's the one time I actually watch TV. Anyways, on comes Suze looking like she just rolled out of bed with a hoodie on and her hair not done. I usually don't judge people by their looks but come on, your on national TV. Matt proceeded asked her about what couples should do with their money so that they don't end up like Jon and Kate (I guess Jon emptied their bank accounts before he moved out). What is her wise advise?

Don't trust your spouse from the beginning. The preacher didn't REALLY mean "and now you are one". And if you are a stay at home wife you must feel like a little child asking her daddy for her allowance. How in the world does any of this advise make for a strong marriage? I can tell you right now that if we didn't have joint accounts on everything along with 100% open communication about our finances I would not feel comfortable staying home with my kids. I also would never fully trust my spouse. How could I if he doesn't fully trust me?

On top of all of that depending on what state you live in your death could cause even more financial stress then the emotional stress of losing a spouse. Right now we are "walking" with a widow from our church who is suffering. She lost her husband last month unexpectedly. Because they had bought off on bad advise like Suze's she didn't know what type of financial stuff was going on in her husbands life. It turns out that he had a mountain of credit card debt that she didn't know about. She didn't even know he had the cards.

Right now you are probably thinking so what? She isn't liable for his debt. You are right, but his estate is. Their home as well as their paid for cars where all in his name since they could qualify for better rates that way. Now she is looking at losing everything they had work for. Along with the home they raised their 12 kids in.

If they had joint accounts she would have known what was going on. She would have said "No thanks honey, I don't NEED a new coat this winter." She would have made different decisions. He would have been held responsible for his actions as well. Living two seperate financial lives in marriage only caused their family extreme pain and suffering after his death. She lost her husband and her whole world. She is now faced with moving out of state to live with one of her children because she has no home.

If that is what you want your future to be then go ahead and take Suze's advise. Have separate accounts and just one "monthly shared bills" account. For me and my household... We will serve the Lord. We will be one in marriage. We will make all of our financial decisions together in an open and honest way. We will give, spend and save while keeping in mind that we are called to be good stewards of all God gave us. Because really, it's not ours to begin with! Why hide it from our spouses when we are called to do just the opposite?

And by the way, if you work for the Today Show I'd like for you to know that was the last time I will watch your morning show so long as she is a guest on your program. I'm sure that some of your competitors have better experts on their show. I mean really, can't you do better then a never been married lady in a hoodie, with bedhead giving out serious marriage financial advise?

You can view the follow up post based on the comments below at this link.

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Two Cents Tuesday

Welcome to the first edition of Two Cents Tuesday!

Two Cents from the Mrs.
"One of the ways we have been able to stretch our clothing budget in the fall is by making baby legs for the girls to wear with their summer tee shirts and skirts. "

Now it's your turn!

You can link to posts that are related to living on a "Not the Jet Set" budget. This could be anything from ideas to save money around the house or garden, DIY home repair, using cash envelopes, to planning your low cost vacation. We do ask that you refrain from linking to posts about weekly store deals, contests, paid ads and the like.

I look forward to reading everyone's ideas on ways to live on a "Not the Jet Set" budget. Please take the time to view other blogger's posts as well as add our button or link back to this post.

Your Two Cents:

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French Memo Board Made Easy

Maybe it's just me, but I always thought that those cool looking French memo boards like they would be hard to make. Then I actually took the time to think about it and realized just how easy it would be to make!

This project cost me nothing but about 15 minutes of my time. First I located a piece of scrap 1x4 pine in the garage scrap bin, some leftover batting and fabric in the sewing room. Then I located a package of coordinating rick rack that I had bought at a garage sale a couple summers ago.

I stretched the batting and fabric across the board and stapled it in the back like I would do when I recover dining room chair seats. Next I laid out the rick-rack in a X pattern. After I had it laid out the way I wanted it I pinned it into place. then I turned it over and stapled it into the back as well.

I thought I was done until I realized that I forgot about hanging it! The Mr. managed to wrestle up a two saw tooth hangers for me and we were back in business.

This was a really easy and fun project to do. I would even be willing to do it with my kids help if it was not a present for them. ;-)

Remember to join us tomorrow for the first Two Cent Tuesday!

For more great ideas visit us on:
Works for me Wednesday
Tackle it Tuesday
Make do Monday

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Top Three Cookbooks

Sometimes it's hard to find recipes that taste good and are healthy. That's when I take the time to be creative in the kitchen. However, I'll admit that instead of re-inventing the wheel I prefer to use my favorite cookbooks and save the creative juices for the sewing room and our budget.

I found it hard to narrow it down since I do have several cookbooks I use on a somewhat regular basis, but here are my top three favorite cookbooks.

America's Best Bread Machine Recipes - By Donna Washburn
I tried several different bread machine recipe books. This is the only one I use now. We love all the recipes. When I made the homemade pizza this was the book that I used for the pizza dough recipe.

Betty Crocker's Picture Cookbook (1950's version)- By Betty Crocker Editors

Every kitchen needs the cookbook. It's filled to the gills with all the great basics that every cook needs to know. If I forget how long to bake a potato or how to cook a type of meat I know that Betty has me covered!

Deceptively Delicious -By Jessica Seinfeld
I'm sure I'm not the only mom who struggles to get their kids to eat veggies. This wonderful cookbook has helped me expand my thinking on the many ways to sneak veggie in. She also has wonderful information about teaching your kids about food choices and nutritional information for the fruits and vegetables she uses.

These are my top three must have cookbooks. What are your top three?

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