Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Money Thing

Belize has very colorful money. Red, brown, blue, purple, wine, black...although that is beside the point of this post. This is what a Belizean $100 looks like. (50 US)

The money thing. It is such a powerful subject, isn't it?... Daniel and I have struggled through many of his school years trying to survive on little while raising a family. It has been a challenge, but then, I consider myself to be a person who loves challenges so for the most part I have enjoyed it. I learned that life is as enjoyable as you make it, and it doesn't mean making millions of dollars. (Although I wish we were making that much.:) 

The children will be just as happy and can be happier than others, if they are encouraged to let their imagination soar with what little they have. At one point I remember that our neighbor told us many children she knew were not as creative as ours, because they are handed everything they want and thus have no need to 'create' anything. It pays, in more ways than one, to not give your children everything they ask for, no matter if it is in style and ALL the other kids have it. The contentment they can learn from having few toys will be priceless. Like a family friend once said, "We give our children everything they need, but only a little of what they want." So good!

Living with little can be fun and challenging, but what's not cool is living with debt. Unfortunately we were not able to go through all these years without making some, and we came to a conclusion recently. We are getting out of debt! Whatever it takes! The bible says he who is borrower is slave to the lender. We were tired of this slavery. When we first came to Belize we thought, good, its much easier to make a living here and we won't need to be so careful with our money. Wrong! After a year of being here, we realize it is this attitude that can keep us in debt for our whole life. We awoke. We saw things needed to change. We did. We bought the book, The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey...if you have heard of him before, then you know what we have gotten ourselves into. Sigh. It's going to be tough. Another challenge! We have learned some very valuable principles so far, and can see that sticking to them will make all the difference financially. We feel like we actually have control over where our money goes now and don't have to look back at the end of the month wondering where it flew off to. I found out about this Ramsey by reading other blogs and especially April's story, so I already knew that it required a sincere commitment.

I am becoming more creative than ever, seeing what I can do at home to save money. (I opened a new blog, Pioneer Home Recipes, where I am going to upload many more recipes yet. It will help you make most anything at home for a fraction of the price you have to pay if you purchase the same item from the store. These recipes are results of years of collecting while trying to live on less.)

Following are some few ways we make do on less: 

hanging my wash out to dry,  we have no dryer
not going to restaurants, (which is a hard one for us!) 
purifying water using sunlight; we have to buy drinking water, but I supplement by purifying some for use in cooking and freezing for ice.
don't drive unnecessarily (have a menu plan so shop weekly if possible; carpool) In Belize gas prices are outrageous, and even though we live only a few miles from the store, we still try to limit driving.
In the past, I have made cloth diapers from a used flannel sheet,  made baby wipes, and diaper covers.
made baby food and cereals
make almost any food from scratch
turned off the porch light at night, 
gotten rid of my maid
had a yard sale
exchanged old bulbs with new fluorescent ones
use only homemade napkins
buy no paper towels - only use old towels and sheets a t-shirts cut up
turned fridge and freezer temp down
we have no water heater, so we shower with cold water or heat the bath water for the children on the stove(no problem for this country where a cool shower is preferred...)
I wash with cold water only. 
make my own laundry detergent.
raise our own chickens
having family fun means  to:
pack a picnic, play a game, or read stories, ride a horse, go swimming, camping, go see the crops or watch a good movie

Just doing one of these things might not make much difference at all, but combined, it amounts to a lot of savings. Multiply those monthly savings by 12 months, and then 5 years, and we are surprised how much we can save!

Ways I try to make money:

(Before you get the wrong idea here, the decision to make money was all mine, not something my husband requires of me.)
Cook lunch on Mondays for a crowd of people; I enjoy this as I can now run a little 'restaurant', something I always thought would be fun. I usually have between 4-8 customers. 

Sometimes I cater for a crowd. This is so far the best way for me to make money. It means I am doing it on my own time, so I only do it when I have time for it.

Sell buttermilk to the local store.
Selling wallhangings and quilts, when I have time to make them

I have also sold kombucha, homemade wine, baked goods, and more foods that people are hungry for but that take time to make. People might ask me to make ice cream, bake a cake, or something similar. I only do it if my time and family allows me to do it;  family comes first. 

I go with the children to hubby's workplace to sell cookies, lemonade and other foods. (This is how they try to make money to pay for bible camp this year. They ended up making 67 of the 80 it cost.)

I hope to share more money saving ideas in the future. I plan to go back in time a couple years when Daniel was still in school, and show you how we lived then. Even though it was not always easy, I look back at those photos with fond memories, and am thankful for every experience we had then!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Tin Buckets

Here is a very good way to recycle those coffee can tins you have been collecting but don't know what to do with.

What you need is:

tin can
coat hanger
spray paint

Open up the coat hanger, and sorta bend the wire around the can to get an idea at what length you want to cut it. 
With the hammer, make two holes opposite each other just underneath the rim for the wire to go through.
Bend the wire ends upward.

 Spray paint it with your or your child's favorite color.

 It really is quite simple, yet so much fun for the little ones to play with!

Linking to this party: The Shabby Nest

Monday, June 20, 2011

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Want some chocolate?

Today I witnessed some genuine brotherly love in our house. I had sent the oldest son on a small errand, and when he came home I noticed he hurried up, and it looked as if he had something in his hand. I thought he might have a treat or maybe a pretty stone. When he got inside he asked little brother if he wanted some chocolate. There, on one his not-so-clean fingers was a little bit of melted chocolate, which he had tried so hard to save all the way home so he could share it. What could I say? Little brother licked it off happily...

May we all learn from a child the joy of sharing!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Kombucha Mushroom--Perfect Cleaner!

Ever wonder what those fat grandma mushrooms are good for? I found out today; they clean a sink better than anything I've tried before. Our sink was stained with calcium deposits from hard water. Today before Jessica cleaned it I rubbed it well with a mushroom and let it sit a while...then rubbed it again, and let the mushroom sit on the drain hole. And then we cleaned it, and now our sink shines like it hasn't the whole time we lived here. The faucet looks shinier too. So, now you know what other use you have for them. I am going to try them on the toilet too...

Fried Okra

Okra never used to sound appealing to me, but then I was at Cracker Barrel and had some, and ever since I have loved it! Here is the way I make it. It comes so close to Cracker Barrel's that you might not even notice the difference...

1/2 lb. okra
1 cup cornmeal
1 Tbsp. salt
1 cup cultured buttermilk

vegetable oil

Choose okra that is an even green color and not too long. Trim stem ends from okra and cut into 3/4" lengths. Toss okra in flour to cover lightly. Soak in buttermilk for 15 minutes. Mix cornmeal, salt, and pepper in a plastic bag. Add okra and toss to coat.
Heat 1/2-inch of oil in a 10" skillet (cast iron is traditional) over medium high heat.When oil begins to simmer, add okra to skillet. Cook, turning occasionally, until golden brown. (Stir gently to avoid losing coating.) Drain on paper towels and salt again if needed. Enjoy!

Linking to this party: This Chick Cooks

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Aquarium Craft

We have this very good craft book by Kathy Ross and the children love finding easy crafts for them to do. Today they wanted to build these aquariums. They were able to do most of it by themselves, but I needed to help with a few details like the clear plastic wrap on the outside.

  1. Take a small to medium box, and cut all around the box at about 2-3 inches from the bottom
  2. Paste blue background paper on the back (which is the back of box).
  3. Paste some pictures of seaweed or rocks on the blue paper.
  4. Cover with bubble wrap.
  5. Now paste pictures of fish and other sea creatures on the bubble wrap.
  6. Cover clear plastic wrap over box and tape on the sides
The instructions say to use foam for the fish, and then not paste them on, just leave them loose in the aquarium, and then you are supposed to be able to rub a tissue or your hand on the plastic and the fish should move around to your touch. We did it more simply. I have no idea how well that idea works, but if you find out, let us know!
Another simple aquarium craft is to take a foam tray, paste small sea creatures to it, and cover the whole tray with clear blue plastic wrap. Simple, but lovely!

Have fun on a rainy day!

Linking to Nothing but Country
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