Super Busy at Home

Family blog about homeschooling, autism, saving money, mom blog, travel, vacation, budgeting.

Planning our Trip to Georgia

I shared before how I plan our family roadtrips in order to get the most out of them for the least amount of money.

I wanted to share with you now how I am planning our next trip to Georgia.

I chart our route and looked for larger cities that we will be passing through.

I see that we are going through Lexington, Kentucky and Knoxville, Tennessee. I have nothing relatable in my head about either one of those places (do you guys? Do I just live too sheltered of a life?) so I Pinterest them to see what there is to do.

It looks like in Lexington there are some horse race type parks to check out but nothing that is screaming “us” so I’m moving on. I will also point out Lexington is about 4 hours from our house. I want to make sure we cover some distance in the first day of our trip so Lexington is about the closest place I would be willing to go to. Otherwise we’ll have too much traveling to do the next day as we make our way to Georgia.

So the next place I’m going to look up is Knoxville.

There look to be some things but I am not sure if that is where I want to be for very long. We are after all driving through so we don’t have a lot of time to spend.

I now check out our memberships’ reciprocal programs. We have memberships through the ASTC and the AZA. I see that there is a zoo in Knoxville that looks promising but we still have to pay 50%. That’s a great deal, don’t get me wrong, but I just want to make sure that that is something we commit to do with our time. After all, a zoo takes a large chunk of time to go through.

I check out the National Parks website and, duh! I see that Knoxville is just a hop, skip and a jump a way from the Smoky Mountains National Park. BINGO!

I think we might go that way. We love hiking and exploring so going that route ensures lots of fresh air, exercise, and it’s darn near free.

Do you ever wish someone would show you how to plan a road trip?  I am walking you through how I planned our trip to Georgia through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  It's a Step by Step Guide you can use to plan your next getaway!

In case you’ve never been to the Smoky Mountains, it is near Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. This is a really neat area but a huge tourist area that makes it really hard to stay on budget. I am sure we will do some things there but we try to steer clear of this area. An example of the area is when we went mini golfing. We went to a scabby kind of place with flaking paint and it was $60 for the four of us. Seriously. That is why we try to plan carefully what we do in the area and we look for budet friendly items.

The Smoky Mountains park spans over 800 square acres over North Carolina and Tennessee. While it is technically one park there are several sections and areas of the park including Cades Cove, Cataloochee, Clingmans Dome, and more. While there are lots of things to do I think we are going to be focusing on the Cades Cove area.

Do you ever wish someone would show you how to plan a road trip?  I am walking you through how I planned our trip to Georgia through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  It's a Step by Step Guide you can use to plan your next getaway!

Cades Cove offers some of the best opportunities to spot wildlife. When we’ve been through the Smokies before we have spotted deer, bears, elk, and coyotes. We like Cades Cove because of the settlement you can explore as well as the nature. We’ve never had a lot of time to explore the area though, so I think that will be a perfect option for us.

Do you ever wish someone would show you how to plan a road trip?  I am walking you through how I planned our trip to Georgia through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  It's a Step by Step Guide you can use to plan your next getaway!

We are so excited for our trip and can’t wait to get to the mountains!!!


I hope this kind of “me talking outloud to you helps you to see the madness behind my method for planning our trips. I can try to do this with another trip if it helps you! Let me know, friends!


Week 7 Recap of our No-Spend Challenge

Well this was the first week that I heard serious complaining about the no spend challenge. 

Emma was hilarious when she said "we had a good two months of this no spend challenge.  Now I think it's time to be done.  Let's order Chinese food." 

And believe me I was feeling the same way!  I was ready for Chinese food and not cooking too, but we didn't cave and had frozen pizzas instead. 

Can you picture me with my head hung low and pouting?  Because that's what I was looking like. 

Thankfully I am realizing that when one of us is weak and ready to give up (usually me) then there is the other person to stay strong and diligent (usually Nick). 

Valentine's Day was a bit hard with the no spend challenge. 

We are not huge spenders for Valentine's Day.  I've never gotten Diamond anything.  I do usually get roses.  But this year I knew I wouldn't be getting anything.  Still there was this TINY part of my brain that was just wishing and hoping that he would come home with something that I would act upset he spent money for but secretly was delighted he brought home. 

You know what I am talking about! 

But he didn't buy anything.  Well I take that back he did go to the store and bought crab and oysters to go with our beef tenderloin stay-in date meal. 

However I had had the same thought of a little surf with our turf and bought lobster tails. 

So it was a huge seafood feast. 

Nick also came home with an old fashioned love letter. 

It was my first one ever and it made me sob.  Big, ugly tears, sob.

It was perfect.  It helped me to realize that some of the most beautiful things in this world are free.  They don't cost money, they aren't big and flashy, but instead are simple and true words that mean the most. 

The days before Valentine's Day I was prepared that we wouldn't be buying the kids a ton of fun Valentine's stuff like we normally do. 

Valentine's Day on the No Spend Challenge

I had purchased Emma's Valentine's Day gift last year before we started the no-spend challenge.  So I purchased a small lego set for Calvin so he would have something soon. 

To make their special day a bit more special we made some sweet treats with things that we already had at home so they didn't cost a lot of money. 

Valentine's Day on the No Spend Challenge

We made cookies which was lots of fun! The kids took a cookie decorating class last year so I whipped up a batch of royal icing and we had fun decorating cookies for our friends and family (and for us, of course!)

Valentine's Day on the No Spend Challenge

We had fun breakfasts!  For this I made toast and used a cookie cutter to carve out a heart from the center.  I then put Peanut butter on the heart and strawberry jam around the outskirt of the toast.  We had strawberry milk because strawberry milk makes everything better.  And I love these napkins that I bought last year from Marshalls. 

Valentine's Day on the No Spend Challenge

And of course we had fun lunches!  The kids' favorite lunch is a muffin tin lunch.  I bought these sweet 6 cup muffin tins from the Dollar Store, and then I put fun things in them!  For this lunch I gave them strawberry flavored string cheese, vanilla yogurt with sprinkles, strawberrys, grape tomatoes, more strawberry milk, and some heart shaped sweet tarts. 

I love giving them fun lunches, it really helps to break up the homeschool day and make things more exciting. 

Valentine's Day on the No Spend Challenge

A special part of Valentine's Day was someone sending me a gift!  I love colored pens and someone sent these to me with a sweet Homeschooling Momma card.  I have no idea who sent these to me but it was just the sweetest thing! So if you are reading this and it was you, thank you!

All in all it was a great Valentine's Day and week. 

It was really nice when it was all said and done to not have the guilt that I spent too much on the kids or spoiled them more than I should have.  It was a great day and we loved spending time with one another which is the best part of Valentine's Day! 

I hope you all had a great Valentine's week.  Please let me know how you are doing on your own no-spend challenges. 

Love to you all! 

Weeks 5 & 6 Included Deep Cleaning and Sorrows

It was crickets from me last week and I am so sorry!  We had a funeral and a very bad autism week and before I knew it the week had ended. 

This was a sign Emma put on her door...she's obviously reading Anne of Green Gables!

I was emotionally spent last week.  Saying good-bye to a dear family friend was hard.  And then we've been dealing with some really, really matters of the heart with Cal.  Things keep creeping up in which I have no idea where they are coming from or why.  I'm trying to hang on for dear life as a parent but my, oh, my that boy sure knows how to stretch his Momma! 

I'm not going to lie, when I am having these hard times I do not want to cook or eat cleanly or only shop for my needs.  Everything in me wants to go to Culvers and buy everything and then double size it. 

But I didn't and I consider that a victory and at least some-what of a step in the right direction. 

Anyway...

I mentioned in my last post that I had found myself spending money due to my house not being clean so I was unable (or unwilling!) to entertain friends. 

So last week I moved some things around in our schedule and cancelled school for the week. 

By the way, I love the flexibility of homeschooling that I can take time off when I need to rather than having to fit into a rigid schedule. 

This week we have been cleaning, cleaning, cleaning.  But more than cleaning we have been purging our home of necessary items. 

It will easier to keep things tidy with less things to tidy, right?

It has been a very freeing feeling. 

For example, I took all of the dresses out of Emmas closet.  She had 37 by the way.  We weeded through what she plain just didn't like, what didn't fit, what was too big, etc. And while she still has a boat-load of dresses we at least now only have 28 dresses. Okay we stink at getting rid of things but we did get rid of some.  The "use it up" part of me wants to keep what we have already been given or purchased because we have it....the minimalist emerging in me wants her to have 4 dresses.  They argue a lot in my head as to what the correct method should be, lol.

I know everyone loves Spring Cleaning but I personally love Winter cleaning...there's nothing to do outdoors anyway, cleaning gets your heart pumping and gets you moving, and when Spring finally does come you can be outside and have the satisfaction that your home is already clean! See?  What's not to love?

We not only cleaned our house but we also kept telling that each room that was clean was now "sealed". 

When the whole house was cleaned I sat the kids down and told them our entire house is clean so our entire house and our lives are now "sealed". 

But what does sealed mean?

It means that we are keeping it clean of clutter, dirt, and most of all, bad attitudes and past habits. 

We had gotten into such a rut of viewing our home as dingy and bleh, and when you do that it is so easy to not have motivation for keeping it clean. 

But when things are clean everything looks as if in a new light.  We should take care of our things.  We should honor them and feel blessed to be so blessed. 

So we are sealed off from complaining.  We will no longer be inconsiderate of others by making sure we now pick up our items and leaving a room how we found it (I'm not sure why but this one has seemed to really stick with Cal which I am loving!). 

A week has gone by since we "sealed" our house and I can tell you it is working! 

This weekend things got really out of sorts but when I asked the kids to help tidy up they were more than happy to get things back to how they were...it was amazing!  Usually it would be a lot of fussing and complaining but they had noticed the clutter too and they were unhappy about it too! 

And you know what else is nice?  Cleaning!  I know that sounds weird but it is so lovely to vacuum without having to move a bunch of stuff to do it.  Novel, right? 

I hope your weeks have been great.  I miss you all and I miss writing and you guys keeping me accountable in this journey! 

I hope you have a fantastic week...love you all! 

 

 

Coffee Shop Hop and Week 4 Recap: No Spend Challenge

Week 4 has come and gone and I cannot believe that an entire month has gone by in our no-spend challenge!  11 more months to go, right?

I can't wait for this year to be over, not because I am writing down all of the things that I am going to run out and buy but because this takes some serious effort. Legit. This week I had some bad moments.  Let me tell you about them:

Coffee Shop Work Sessions are wreaking havoc on my no-spend challenge.  What do you order to save money?

Monday I met a friend for coffee to work on a project together.  She was super sweet and had asked if she could come over to our house.  But for real our house looked like Stonehenge with Christmas bins stacked everywhere so I declined and we went to a coffee shop. 

It wasn't until I was driving to the coffee shop that I had one of those lightbulb moments, thinking "huh, I guess I'm going to have to actually purchase something."  You know how shop keepers frown upon you just sitting there and not actually getting something. 

I purchased my coffee and got a small one but I did get one of those frou-frou drinks and it all being said it was $5.  I kind of did a walk of shame to the table with my coffee and felt bad for spending so much. 

Coffee Shop Work Sessions are wreaking havoc on my no-spend challenge.  What do you order to save money?

The next night, Emma had scouts which is in across the state line and takes me over a half an hour to get her to.  Driving home during scouts results in me constantly driving so I decided by golly, I was going to find somewhere and get some blogging done!  It would be great!  I found a cute, quirky coffee shop, and again, decided it would be best to buy something. 

This time I was prepared.  I ordered just a small cup of coffee.  That should be harmless enough, right?  Except the darn thing was $3.  Again I had to do the shame walk with my cup of coffee.

I've started feeling like an old man that complains constantly about the cost of a cup of coffee.  Martin. I've become Martin from Frasier. 

The rest of the week went fairly smoothly.  The only other thing we spent money on was dinner Friday night.  We were supposed to go out with our neighbors last year and we could never make it work.  Finally we were all available and we didn't want to let our no-spend challenge get in our way. 

So we all decided to go to a restaurant that was participating in "Restaurant Week"  an event near us where certain restaurants offer reduced pricing on their meals.  Nick and I were able to get appetizer, dessert, and entrees for the 2 of us for $33!  It was a really good meal!  We ate at the Lasalle Kitchen and Tavern.  If you are ever in South Bend you should drive over and check it out...really good food and a really fun atmosphere with live music at the bar. 

Saturday we had fun going to visit Nick's grandma and then we drove onto a chili-cookoff for Emma's scout troop.  We had a wonderful (and cheap!) day visiting with friends and family. 

All in all it was a great week although I totally messed up with the coffee shop purchases. 

However I have used those as some jumping off points to change my behavior. 

After all, if my house had been clean and tidy I would have had no problem having my friend over to talk and I wouldn't have spent anything at all. 

So as a result of that I moved some things around so we could skip school for this week and I am deep cleaning our house.  Together as a family we are purging so we have less stuff to put away and maintain.  By the end of the week I am hopeful we will have a place for everything and everything in its place. 

I've also learned that I need to have a go-to drink to order when I go to a coffee shop.  I would love your suggestions!!!  I love coffee, tea, anything.  It just needs to be inexpensive so I feel at least a little bit better about buying a want item.  I do have to visit coffee shops as I am on a lot of committee's and part of groups that meet at coffee shops. 

Please help me with what do order!  Comment with your suggestions!  I'd love for you to help me out!

Coffee Shop Work Sessions are wreaking havoc on my no-spend challenge.  What do you order to save money?

 

 

The Rules for Our No-Spend Year

As I mentioned in the last post, we as a family are going to not be spending anything extra through the 2017 year. 

Today I thought I would share with you the rules we have set out to follow as a family.

I am sharing all of this with you as an extra added layer of protection for us (ha!) that will hopefully provide the accountability to help us continue this for the entire year. After all, y'all are watching us so we better not sway from these rules! 

Because right now we feel kind of scared and nervous and ridiculous about this.

But it will be fun to see if we are up for the challenge. 

One of the things I think I should mention (in case you are missing my obvious hints to get you to read my last post, ahem!) is that this is not just about money.  We are trying to change our thinking and our attitudes as a family.

That being said, we have different traditions and ways of living in our family than I am sure you do in your family and vice versa.  For example, since our kids have turned 8 we have given them the choice for each birthday to have either a party with their friends or to go on a local-ish trip.  This year they have both chosen trips.  We will still go on the trips but how we go and what we do and spend will be different than before.  Now is the trip actually needed?  Heck to the no.  But we have already decided to go ahead and take those trips.  That's a decision our family has made. We recently purchased a lake cottage that needs some work.  While we will not be dumping money into it during our no-spend year, we will still be spending money to begin the renovations on the cottage.

 So you see, how we do this will look differently than how you would do this.  And that's okay. 

If you are doing this too and have taken the challenge I'd love to hear how you plan to do this!

Now, the rules are not set in stone.  Moses did not come off Mt. Sinai with them.  They are rules our family will have to look back on so when we want to spend money on something really, REALLY badly; we will have something we can look to to remind us of what we are to do.  Because I know how this goes.  I will twist every rule I can get my hands on to be able to buy something.  I need the rules.  My kids need rules.  We are rules-kind-of-people. 

Here are our rules for our year of Not Spending:

  • We'll Only Buy for Our Needs

This year we are buying only things we need and not things that we want. 

This has already been hard for me. 

I have wanted to buy Christmas clearance so, SO bad.  But I don't truly NEED anything there.  And Lord willing all of that stuff will be there in years to come.  Try as I might to convince myself that I have to buy it all now, it really will be there in later years. I have so much wrapping paper and everything already in our attic that I don't need to go out this year and mindlessly buy a bunch of stuff. 

So we are not going to be buying something unless there is a need that we have determined.

  • Food Must Be From Home

We go on a lot of vacations.  At least we have in the past.  Nick is on the road a ton and there are a lot of opportunities for us to travel with him fairly inexpensively.  The most expensive thing about those trips seems to be all of us going out to eat. 

Nick has said that he wants to make sure we can still travel as a family and travel for field trips and things but we are going to be cutting all of the food costs out (mostly!) by bringing food from home. 

This also applies to going out to eat.  Craving pizza?  Instead of calling Dominos we will make it at home.  Is pizza a need?  No we could eat beans all the live long day but we are going to allow ourselves to enjoy some of our wants (of food, at least!)

  • Homemade is Best

I've mentioned before that we are still going to be celebrating holidays and birthdays. I am sure we will purchase some gifts but we are going with the motto that "homemade is best".  I have a kajillion craft kits and projects that I could make for people for gifts.  Not only would those provide us with a meaningful gift but those are things we have already purchased, money invested in things to do that have been sitting around for years.  So a gift and something to spend my time doing...seems like a win, win for me. 

Rules of our No-Spend Year.  Super Busy at Home.

Homemade will be implemented, not just with gifts but with everything.  Games during the summer?  Homemade.  Halloween costumes?  Homemade.  So and so forth.  We are going to be making lots and lots of things.  And that will keep us very busy which I like the idea of very much.  No more bored children here...they'll be too busy making something.

  • Maximize Our Usage of What We Do Buy

There are some things that we will still be purchasing.  This may seem crazy to some but we are keeping our gym membership. Our kids take swim lessons there as well as 4 other types of classes.  We get huge discounts by having a membership.  That being said Nick and I don't always take advantage of our membership like we should. 

But this year we will so we are getting the most out of what we are spending.  After all, with a family gym membership of $50 a month, going every day figures out to be less than $2 a day for our family of four to go and exercise and spend time together.   And that seems like a good deal, especially with us not spending money on other "fun" things. 

So like with our gym membership, whatever we do buy we will get the most of our purchase.  Like how my Grandma washes plastic baggies and reuses them (we will not be washing out plastic baggies). 

  • Think Before We Buy

So this would seem like a no-brainer but allow me to explain.  We have a notebook that we are going to be keeping as a family.  If we have something that we really, REALLY want to buy, we are going to write it down.  We'll jot it down and then come back in a few days and write how we remedied that need.  What we learned from it.  I am imagining I will be writing several entries about wanting to buy Emma an outfit I see.  And I'll probably go back and reflect that we lived our life with what we have and survived.  Hallelujah!

Also if we have something that we think truly is a need, we will write it down and ponder it.  Pray about it.  Stress about it.  After all, is it really a need? 

I found myself doing this very thing this morning when I was cleaning the tub.  I was almost out of cleaner and instantly thought "I need to go buy more cleaner."  But after pondering it I thought about how I have a ton of baking soda and vinegar that would clean our bathtub.  And I have bleach.  And if I was really honest with myself (this is embarrassing) I have bottles and bottles of cleaner that have never even been opened.  So by stopping to think about it I found that I really didn't have a need at all. 

  • Birthdays and Holidays are Still On

I mentioned above that homemade gifts will be given from our home.  But I am sure we will still buy gifts.  To clarify our gift buying, if we do buy gifts we are going to have a strict budget and keep to it.  No more frivolous buying of spending a ton of money on any and every little thing.  Those times are done. 

So those are our rules.  As you can see we could make this a lot more strict and say, "beans only, no gifts, nothing!"  But we are keeping some things in our lives that aren't true needs but things that are needed for our family to be happy.  For us this isn't about making ourselves miserable but rather to find those areas where we need to change, to learn gratitude, and to grow, and stretch ourselves in those. 

Are you taking a no-spend challenge?  What are your rules?

Comment below if you are joining me with a no-spend challenge and what your rules are. 

Have a great day friends!

The Rules of our No-Spend challenge.  Super Busy at Home.