Are Newer Cars Frugal?

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Some of you may be wondering why we chose to buy a newer vehicle when we are supposed to be trying to be more frugal with our money. Well, it was a decision we thought about for quite a while.

The major problem was the old van. It was ten years old when we bought it last year for about $2600, and seemed fine for a while. But then things suddenly started going on it, one by one. We were spending so much on it, we might as well have had a car payment! Now, we could have tried scraping enough together for another old vehicle, but it just didn't make sense. My husband doesn't know how to make major repairs, and we only have one family vehicle, so having another car that would potentially need repeated repairs wasn't feasible. Plus, my husband drives 90 miles round trip to work each day. He really needed the security and peace of mind that his only vehicle wouldn't break down on him. We have no family or friends in the area, so who would pick him up?

Also, the cars he has owned that he purchased fairly new were all reliable and ran well for a long time. Our truck had almost 300,000 miles on it when we got rid of it, and was still going strong. The cars we bought that already had high miles tended to have problems. It just seems that we get more usage out of cars when we've had control over the car for most of its life. We're not super-careful with our maintenance or anything, I guess a lot of people just abuse their cars.

We just figured it was worth the investment. Plus a newer car gets better gas mileage than old worn out cars. And the previous owner took the hit on the depreciation, leaving us with an almost-new car for a very good price. I'm guessing about ten thousand less than new.

We did a lot of research and carefully chose a model that would fit our needs and wants. It wasn't completely loaded (for the Town & Country--compares to other vans it was) but it had what we really wanted. We also checked the CarFax report to make sure it hadn't been flooded, totalled, etc. It had been owned by a rental company, but leased by an individual customer the entire time. Probably an executive car.

We felt the car would fit in our budget because we could count on no repairs for a good while (still under manufacturer's warranty) and we had recently given up other expenses that added up to about the amount of the car payment. We did have to pay more for insurance, but I never liked having only liability coverage anyway.

Now, buying a newer car might not make sense for other families, particularly if the husband is really good at fixing cars, but for us it was a good choice.

Got a New Van! wooo hooo!

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We got a new car! YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY!!! (See shoutbox in side bar for super-happy smilies.)

Okay, it's new to us, anyway. I'd never pay for a new car, especially a mini-van. They depreciate at least $10,000 the first year, worse if it's a Windstar. We got a 2005 Chrysler Town & Country. It is sooooo nice! We got a good price on it. It comes with CD and cassette (I wanted both, and that's not always easy to find), Sirius radio, a DVD player with wireless headphones, TWO sliding doors (yes!) and a lot of other great features. It has 29,000 miles on it, a lot for a one year old car, but over 6,000 miles left on the warranty. It runs so smooth and quiet.

I don't think I ever posted about my old van. Ugh! It seemed nice at first, it was a 1995 Oldsmobile Silhouette. After we got it, I realized it wasn't as roomy as we thought. I couldn't even comfortably cross my legs in the passenger seat. And the seatbelt would tighten up on me, and I'd have to undo and redo it to get comfortable--not very safe. There was NO legroom. And the floor was littered with diaper bags, purse, etc. so you couldn't walk to the back. Plus, worst of all, after we got it, it seemed like every month there was a bigger and bigger problem cropping up. Rotors, ignition coil, burned out tail lights, fuse problem, etc. etc. It felt like it was going to fall apart any second. The new car was an answer to our prayers...literally. My four year old son prayed with me every night that we could get a new car.

There was another T&C we wanted in a beautiful blue color, with EVERYthing I wanted, including power sliding doors, power rear lift gate, back up alarm, and a remote starter, which would be nice in the winter times, to warm up the car without it getting stolen. But they wouldn't come down on the price, and it was two thousand more, plus 4000 more miles. *sigh* But the car we got is really good. All I really wanted was a roomy comfortable van with two sliding doors, CD and cassette, and a DVD player. The DVD was crucial to me. Try going on a cross-country trip with a four year old, a three year old, a two year old, and a newborn. We've gone cross-country waaaay too many times! Anyway, the DVD player was for my sanity. I'm not very patient when the kids get loud all at once in the car. But the best thing is, the wireless headphones. They can listen to their movie (and not yank on any wires) and we can listen to the radio up front.

Oh, and another great feature is the dual zone climate control. The driver and the passenger can each choose the temperature level on their own side. Great if one person tends to like it cooler than the other. Plus there's a rear climate control for the kids, for when they get older. This car is also really roomy. Being overweight, when I cross my legs, I'm really putting one ankle on top of my other knee, so you need a lot of room width-wise. This one has it! And the seat belt doesn't lock up and strangle me, praise God! I can't tell you how much that bothered me. I was seriously praying after we bought it that it wouldn't lock up, because I forgot to check. It didn't, and the seat belt is a nice soft kind, not stiff.

But the best feature is the Stow-n-Go seating. All the rear seats fold down into the floor, which is great because I'm always hauling something home from a yard sale or something. I can just pull out the safety seats, stow the van seats, and stack the safety seats in a corner. But better than that, when the van seats are all up in place, you can use the compartments under the floor as storage. Major storage! Now we keep a large diaper bag full of diapers, extra clothing, etc. under the floor, and a small bandolier style diaper bag under a seat for trips into church or the store. Plus I keep phone books, road atlases, extra toys, etc. under there. Sooooo nice. And the van is big enough to easily crawl to the back to buckle the kids in, which is great when you're a larger size. Or pregnant. Or both! (No, I'm not pregnant yet, lol.)

Can you tell I'm happy? Wheeeeeeeeeee! I'll update this post with a pic of the van. Too dark now to take one. If you're looking for a new van, I'd recommend it. We're so happy with it. :-D The only downside is that I am seriously doubting we'll be able to add a third car seat in the back row. It doesn't look like there's much space between the two that are there. We'll probably have to invest in the slimmest booster seats on the market. I guess we'll see.

Belated Father's Day

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This should have been posted last weekend, but I thought it was important not to forget all together. How was your Father's Day...more specific, how was your husband's?

Sometimes we forget to take the time to show our husbands how much we appreciate them. I know I do. My husband is a wonderful father who loves to spend time with his children. He would like to develop friendships with men outside the family, but he hates the idea of spending his precious free time with anyone else but his family. He loves teaching things to them, and reading to them, and playing on the floor with them. I knew before we married he'd be a good father, but I had no idea he would be this good. It means so much to me that he loves and takes care of his children so well. He's so willing to help out, change diapers, look after them so I can take a nap. He's completely "tuned in" to their lives.

The children all looooooove Daddy. He's the man. It's so funny that even though my children are kept close to me all day, and were all breastfed, they are still so attached to him. But I guess it's not so surprising, since he's so much fun for them, and he's so patient with him.

This Father's Day I had a lot planned, but unfortunately relatives came to town, so the plans were pared down a lot. But I made him a card on the computer (I didn't like any store ones, and this one was much more personal) which included pictures of the children and little scribbles by each of them. I also bought a carrot cake, his favorite. I was disappointed that I wasn't able to do more. Next year I plan to do a lot more. I can't tell you what, though. He doesn't read my blog, but you never know if he might decide to someday. ;-)

If things got crazy last weekend and you didn't get a chance to tell him, let your husband know every single thing that you love and appreciate about him as a father.

Frugal Tip: Dispose of the Disposables part 2

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Have you priced diaper wipes lately? Wow. Now I admit I pay for the good ones. If you're going to buy something to wipe up poop, pay for something you think works, lol! I tried the cheaper ones, they didn't seem to wipe easily, weren't wet enough, etc. I use Huggies Naturals Pop-Up. I think it's $6.84 or something like that, at Walmart.

That was fine before, but now with a fourth child in diapers (well, number one is mostly trained, but he's been using up pull-ups lately) it's crazy. Plus I was using them to wipe the table and dirty hands, too. I stopped that by buying microfiber towels that I cut into quarters (see previous post). But what about their intended purpose? I make homemade wipes.

Gasp! No! Eeeeeww! I can hear it now. But really, it's not that bad, especially if you're using cloth diapers. I thought it would be nasty, but it's no worse than the cloth diapers. They work really well. I use cut-up flannel baby blankets--you know, the ones everybody gives you, but are too small to use with any baby but a preemie? You have to hem the flannel, though. You could use the microfiber cloths, poop would probably rinse even easier off those, but I'd cut them into smaller squares and be sure they're not too wet when you use them--they hold a lot of water.

The easiest way to use them is to get one of those sprayers you can attach to the water line at the back of the toilet. It hangs on the side of the toilet. You just turn it on and spray over the toilet. It's pretty handy for toilet cleaning too. They sell them on a lot of cloth diaper sites. Don't pay more than $35 for it (it's worth it, trust me, and easy to install).

You can use your wipes three ways: wet each one as needed at the sink (sounds like a hassle to me), you can make up some diaper wipe solution and pour it over a stack of wipes in an empty wipes box, or you can keep a stack of dry ones on the diaper changing table, along with a sprayer of wipes solution, and spray each wipe as needed. I prefer method two, although you have to keep in mind that the water in the wipes tub will get mildewy if you don't take steps to prevent it. There are tons of wipes solution recipes on the web. I like the ones with a few drops of tea tree oil and lavender oil. Use distilled water, or it will mildew quicker. Only make up enough wipes that you can use in two days. Smell the wipes every day. If they smell mildewy, throw them in the wash, clean the container, and start over.

The amount of laundry the wipes add is negligible. If you use one pack of brand name wipes a month, this should save you about $7. But it all adds up.
I'll post more about diapers in the future.

The Duggars are Back!

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For those of you who love to watch the documentary programs aired on Discovery Health (and other Discovery-owned stations)about the Duggar family, I have great news...they're back!

The most recent installment of Duggar shows just aired on June 11th, called On the Road With 16 Children. It is airing again today at 4 p.m. Go to www.discovery.com to the Discovery Health section of the site for times. And if you miss it, don't worry, just keep an eye out and they'll replay it, like with the other shows.

For those of you who are thinking "Who the heck are the Duggars?", click on the Duggar Family link in my side bar, or read on. There have been three previous shows about the Duggars:

14 Children and Pregnant Again!
Raising 16 Children
16 Children and Moving In

They are a family with sixteen children. The dad, Jim-Bob (yes, they're southern) was in politics for a while and makes a living in real estate. The mom, Michelle, homeschools all of her children. They seem to be a wonderful family, and an example to all of us who are quiverfull-minded...meaning we accept all the blessings (children) God chooses to give us. She is very organized, and I have picked up many tips from these shows, such as the pantry, the family closet, dressing in all one bright color when on road trips so as to easily spot a "lost lamb" (though our kids are too little to be able to wander off on their own much yet), how to live debt-free and more. I wish they'd spend more time on talking about how she runs her house.

But the miracle is that while they do refer often to how unusual Michelle and Jim-Bob's family is, they don't make fun of them or treat them like freaks, and that is amazing considering that this is mainstream media we're talking about. These shows are very enlightening, showing that it IS possible to provide for a family of 18 without being on welfare or winning the lottery. They are not a wealthy family, and though they appear to have a comfortable living now, it comes from hard work and sacrifice, and putting what is important first.

I would recommend this show to anyone, but especially to Christian families. It is nice to finally see a show that portrays a close-knit, loving, hard-working, modestly-dressed family that we can hold up as an example for us all.

So remember this: Discovery Health Channel, On the Road With 16 Children, watch it!

Also, if this picture I got from the website is recent, Jim-Bob is running for senate. If you are in his district in Arkansa...VOTE people, VOTE!!

Frugal Tip: Dispose of the Disposables part 1

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One way I am chipping away at the waste in our budget is trying to ban paper towels. No, not altogether...I think it's worth the money to clean up something particularly greasy or nasty. But for normal spills and messes, paper towels are a waste. I have tried to scrounge up some rags from our towels, but unfortunately we have so few that our "holey" towels are actually still in use, lol!

We're going through way too many of those paper towels. Now I admit to sometimes using them as plate substitutes for PB & J sandwiches, but when my husband uses three of them in one night to dry his hands after doing the dishes, when there is a perfectly clean, dry hand towel...something's got to give!

Then I heard rumors on other blogs about these microfiber towels available at Sam's Club. Found in the automotive section, they are sky blue in color, and come in packs of 25 for about $11.25. They are almost as big as normal kitchen towels, but square. Kind of an odd shape, and a little unwieldy for anything other than drying dishes. So I cut them into quarters. Brilliant!! They don't even need to be hemmed, just cut and use. They are just the right size for wiping faces (I admit to using baby wipes for this normally, yikes), wiping tables, counters, floors, chairs, etc. They catch crumbs great, and hold a TON of water. I originally heard about these on blogs and websites about cloth diapers, because uncut and folded into thirds, they're supposed to make great diaper doublers or inserts for cloth pocket diapers--and they do.

If you cut all the towels up, that makes 100 cloths, plenty for my family. A really large family may want two packs. If you think of the savings, it could really add up. It's almost $17 for a large pack of paper towels at Sam's. If you use Bounty. I don't know how long that lasts us. I think a month, maybe more. So the microfiber cloths more than pay for themselves in a month. And the cloths are so small that if you're using just a few a day, it won't add to your laundry at all. If your family would normally use one large pack of paper towels a month, this will save you around $193 a year, and a lot more if you use more paper towels than that,or if you buy them a roll or two at a time.

There are many other uses too, such as "cloth diapers" for dolls. ;-)

So I've asked my husband nicely if he might think of using the hand towels to dry his hands, and the cloths to wipe up spills, etc., so we can try to conserve money. Hopefully he'll remember. :-) If not, at least I'll save money using them myself!

Yard Sale Fever

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I think I am coming down with something. The symptoms are: racing pulse, breathing fast, breaking out into a cold sweat. What is the cause? Well, the symptoms occur only when I am driving down the street and see it...the YARD SALE sign!!

Oh, how I love to turn the car around and follow those beloved neon paper signs to that "pot of gold" at the end of the rainbow...a driveway full of someone else's junk! There is no thrill quite like discovering a treasure--either something you can't get anymore, or something you've been wanting, for a great price.

My chest swells with pride as I climb back into my car with a pretty picture, a cute toy, or a really neat book, for less than a dollar. I can't wait to show my husband my new dress, or the kids their new toys, or put that new knick-knack on a shelf. Even better yet, when I look into the FREE box, and find something that I can't believe they are giving away! Yeee haaaww!

Garage sales (yard sales, moving sales, tag sales, whatever) can be a great way to get things you need for a great price. Some stuff is like new, and some (with a little creativity) can be good as new...and even more interesting. Once I paid twenty dollars for two van loads of furniture plus a bunch of smaller miscellaneous items. It saved my family a lot of money, because we really needed some dressers and dining chairs (I later found a table and three more chairs for free).

However, these sales can also become addictive, to the point where instead of saving money, you are wasting it. It is easy to buy things you don't need. Sometimes you can even develop a habit of buying without thinking, and end up with a bunch of things you never use cluttering up your house.

It can also cause strain between you and your husband. He may resent seeing you drag other people's junk in the house week after week, knowing that most of it wasn't needed, and your budget is very tight. This isn't fair to him.

I realized this myself recently. Although my husband has been wonderful about it, I can tell it has been bothering him when I go yard saling. I have cut way back, and resisted most temptations, but I can't hide it anymore. Yes, my friends...

My name is Mommaroo2, and I am a sale-aholic.

I can't pass up a yard sale. If I have only two dollars to my name, I will still stop. I'm ashamed to admit it, but I have even been known to make arrangements with kind souls to have them hold an item for me until later in the week, when we get paid. Thec worst thing is, I will tell my husband I'm only going to look for a particular item we need, and that is my intention...then I'll come home with a big bag of other stuff.

I told myself that I had it under control. I can stop anytime I want. Yesterday, I went out to find those clothes for my son, because he really needed it. I was strong at first. I passed up the box of flexi blocks for three dollars, the marble run game for two dollars, and even the Brita water filtering pitcher for a dollar that we really (kind of) needed. I was so proud!

But then I saw it...the cutest framed picture you ever saw. It was very similar to a Thomas Kincade. I loved it. I wanted it. I HAD to have it! It was five dollars. I'll offer them three, I thought. No, $2.50. They'll never take it. But...they did. Well, it's a great deal, and it's sooooo pretty. Okay, that's the only extra thing I'll buy. At the next sale, there were three heavy hardcover fairy tale books for children. 25 cents each!!!!! How could I pass them up...after all, that's just 75 cents. After that, it was all a blur. Fifteen yard sales and twenty dollars later, I made my way home, mortified. I couldn't resist the temptations!

I had told myself we could afford for me to spend a few dollars, but at home I realized I had spent money my family truly needed this week. Here I am trying to find was to save my family money, and I was throwing it out the window!

Yes friends, the time has come to admit my addiction. Unfortunately, there are no "sale-aholics anonymous" groups, therefore I will have to overcome this addiction on my own. It will be difficult, yet it must be done for the good of my family. So from this day on, I'm going cold-turkey. No more yard sales. None, nada, zip, zilch. Until I can control my impulses, the Queen of Yard Sales must abdicate her throne. It won't be easy. I know that the Fever will strike, and I will have to force myself to drive past the lovely neon signs, quell the shakes, and fight the uncontrollable urge to screech to a halt and race up the seller's driveway, purse in hand...but...*sigh*...it's the only way.

Wise Wife's Guide to Stretching Her Husband's Dollar

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Over at Getting Back to Basics, there is an ongoing series called the Wise Wife's Guide to Stretching Her Husband's Dollar. It's a fabulous title for a fabulous bunch of posts about conserving your family's resources. I highly recommend it. This is one of my favorite blogs to read.

I have been trying to cut back on expenses, by cooking only healthy foods from scratch, trying to eliminate "disposable" products in my house (diapers, paper towels, baby wipes), making my own cleaning products, and hanging some of my laundry to dry. I can always use more advice on the subject. I know I have a long way to go before I can consider myself to be a good steward of my husband's money.

Bread Baking

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In my quest to lower my family's expenses and raise our level of health, I am trying to bake my own bread. I've only done it a few times, but I'm getting the hang of it, and it tastes soooooo good fresh out of the oven, with butter.

Tonight I used my bread machine that I got at a yard sale for the first time. It's baking now, so we'll find out. Unfortunately I started it so late, that I'll have to get up at 4:30 am to take it out, in order to have a crisp crust rather than a soggy one. I hope it turns out well.

I probably won't use the machine often. I like the idea of making it by hand, plus with a bread maker you can only do one loaf at a time. I'd like to make 5-6 at a time, and freeze the extra. Tomorrow my husband is baking a bunch of stuff so I'll have a freezer full of baked goods for snacks and easy meals once he goes back to work. We're planning on making some sweet breads, muffins, bread, and breadsticks. And knowing him, a cake! Well, HE'S making it. I'll be resting in my chair...at least that's the plan...I haven't truly rested much this week! I'm hoping to get up the strength to fold some laundry tomorrow. I'll let him put it away though. Oops, I've gotten way off-topic! ;-)

Back to the bread...can anyone tell me what freezing does to it? Is it still pretty good when you thaw it? I know store bread seems the same, and although I'm sure homemade bread won't be as good as fresh-from-the-oven, I'm wondering if it's still as good as next-day bread. What do you knead your bread on? My mom has a big pastry board she uses for pie crusts. I wish I had one to try for breads. When I use my countertop, it seems to stick a lot, and I end up putting in too much flour to keep it from sticking.

I think bread making is an art, but my last loaf was pretty good, so it's not too hard. Once I find a recipe I prefer to others, I'll have to run an analysis on how much it costs to produce. I'll be using organic ingredients, which raise the price, but I still think it's cheaper. And a heck of a lot cheaper than buying organic bread--it costs almost four dollars for a tiny loaf!!!

Parenting Tip of the Day

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I read something recently that made me think. How often does my child see me smile throughout the day? Or frown?

Wow. At first, we're tempted to think "of course I smile more than I frown." But do we? If we are having a bad day, how often will we frown, mumble, complain? How often will we get frustrated with our children...even when they've done nothing wrong? How many complaints, or gossipy conversations, or sarcastic remarks do our children overhear? These things are never so evident than when we have a four year old who listens and understands much more than we realize, and who then repeats every word and tone of voice he or she hears!

So today, let's be aware of what we say and how we say it, and the expressions on our faces, and make sure that our children see and hear far more positive things than negative.

Contest Winner!

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I have selected the winner of the "Cruddy Job Challenge". I thought it would be a big decision, but as it turned out...SHE WAS THE ONLY ONE WHO ENTERED! Mrs. Wilt of The Sparrow's Nest, you are now the proud owner of a lovely 1951 Simplicity Apron Pattern! :-D


Thank you for entering, Mrs.Wilt! I liked your post on reclaiming your closet. That was a great idea on storing your hats. I plan to buy more hats, so I think your idea will come in handy for me. For anyone who would like to read her prize-winning post, go to http://the-sparrows-nest.blogspot.com/2006/05/reclaiming-my-closet.html and don't forget to check out the rest of her blog. It's my favorite, so many inspiring ideas, and fun to read! Plus she has a shoutbox and chatroom.


Mrs. Wilt, I'll contact you to make arrangements to send you the pattern, hopefully before the weekend. Please be sure to let us all see the results when you make your first apron! I'm sure it will be beautiful! I wanted to use the pattern myself, but I knew I'd never get around to it, so I'm glad to see it find a good home. :-)

I'm still working on my kitchen, but veeeerrrryyy slowly right now, while I recover. Yesterday bought a few storage containers to organize the clumps of hair accessories I have in a basket for my daughter. So instead of an unsightly basket on the kitchen counter, I have an organizer with a handle kept inside the diaper changing cabinet. The container was chosen from the hardware department, and I wanted one that had a snap-shut lid and handle, so I could send my daughter to fetch it for me whenever I was getting her ready in the morning.

Home from the Hospital

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Thank you all for your prayers. The surgery went well. There was only one hernia to repair. I was pretty sick feeling and in a lot of pain the first day, but then they worked out the medication and I continued to get better after that. I was in the hospital four days. I pumped the whole time for my daughter, and she latched on right away when I came home. I was relieved, because I worried she wouldn't want to nurse after having bottles.

I'm still extremely sore, but the doctor gave me plenty of pain medication (unlike my last o.b., who didn't seem to care that I was in pain the whole time, grrr). My wonderful husband will be home for a week to do everything for me. He even tidied up and organized some stuff for me while I was gone. :-)

I was very nervous before going in for the operation, because I was getting general anesthesia, and I was in the hospital alone (my husband had to drop me off and stay home with our four children). But it ended up being no big deal, and I was glad they put me under, since it meant not having to experience any discomfort or fear during surgery.

Well, I'm pretty sore right now, I'll post more tomorrow when I feel better. God bless.