Wednesday, March 19, 2014

How We Strategically Downsized

Today I start a series telling how we strategically downsized. By strategically I mean selling things at the optimum time using many different resources to get the highest dollar out of each item.  Today will be an overview.  In subsequent posts I will go into more detail on the particulars of each option, the pros and cons on selling online versus local, and tips I have learned on how to sell your items for the most amount of money.

I have sold things many different ways over the years.  When we decided to sell half of our belongings to move out to Virginia it was really quite simple as I had already been using these resources for years.  I knew how each worked, how to competitively price things, and how to close a deal quickly.  I used almost all of these in the 6 weeks that I had to sell our belongings before moving last summer. We were able to get rid of so much stuff and went from 3200 square feet of living space to about 1200! And we made so much money selling our stuff it paid for our move out here!

I am still getting rid of things! Some of the smaller things that did not sell because I did not have time or they were not in season came with us to Virginia, and I am making my way through the totes.  This is the way I make a little spending money on the side. J  Will I eventually run out of things to sell?  Possibly, but once we downsized I learned I do not need as much stuff to lead a happy and content life, so I am paring down even more.

So let’s begin……  The different resources I have used are:

  • eBay – Used to sell higher-end clothing, handbags, and shoes; smaller high-end or like new household items; gently used electronics; smaller antiques; books and home school books; yarn and craft supplies.

  • Consignment Stores – Nicer name brand clothing without flaws. The clothing would be ones you would like to get more than a dollar or two per item.

  • Children’s stores that buy directly from you, such as Once Upon a Child. These places buy brand name children clothing. The stores will give you less than a consignment store for your items, but the perk is you get a check the day you take your stuff in.  Perfect if you need fast cash and don’t have time to wait for a consignment store to sell your stuff or you don’t want to have a garage sale. Once Upon a Child is located all over the US and most likely there is one in your state.

  • Craigslist – Larger items like furniture or appliances, outdoor equipment, vehicles, musical instruments, and heavier antiques. I use this to sell things I know people will want to look at before they make a commitment to buy and heavier items that would not ship well.

  • Facebook Selling Groups – Used the same as Craigslist. Most towns have these groups available.  I usually cross-list the things here with Craigslist for a wider audience.  I also list things occasionally on my personal facebook page to let my friends know what I am selling.  I sold a bed headboard for $500, a sofa and loveseat for $750, and coffee table and end tables for $300 within hours because I posted them to my friends first. I have also bought furniture this way before.  Buying used is so much nicer when you know the past owner!

  • Garage sales – Everything else.  Remember garage salers are looking for a deal.  Rarely do you get a really good price for even high end items.  I usually use the resources above first and then have a garage sale with everything that is left over.

When using online resources there are a few thing to keep in mind; take good pictures, write a good description, and be prompt in answering any questions. The more information you provide the more likely you will be to sell your item at a good price! I will go into more detail on this in upcoming posts.

With everything it is best to sell things in season.  Sell lawn mowers in March- July, snow blowers in October- February.  If selling clothes, you’ll get the highest dollar if you sell things right before the season they are appropriate for.  I have made good money selling my kids’ Christmas and Easter outfits 4-8 weeks before the holiday.  If selling home school books or textbooks, list them in June or July when most people are looking for books for school in August. 

Also, be honest in your descriptions.  If there is a slight flaw don’t be afraid to still try to sell it, just be honest in how it works or looks.  Sometimes people will still be willing to buy it in less than perfect condition.  I once sold a coffee pot on a facebook selling group that had a small leak.  I still got $20 for it because I sold it to a man who was handy and thought he could fix it.  Sometimes my textbooks will have margin notes or highlighting.  These still sell, just at a slightly lower price.

Garage sales are the exception to selling in season because people shopping garage sales are usually thinking ahead and willing to buy off season items, if they can get them for a good price. But even at garage sales seasonal items sell best!

Next time I will go into the particulars of selling on eBay; such as how I amassed a small fortune selling yarn for one of Chad’s co-workers and how I got retail prices on used kids clothing.   I usually get the most questions on how to use and what to list on eBay.  I will try to answer the most common questions.  If you have any questions please feel free to email me or leave a comment and I will try to cover them in next week’s post!

Monday, March 17, 2014

The Beauty of Virginia

Even though I was born and raised in Nebraska, I have always wanted to live by the mountains.  Now don't get me wrong.....I love my home state and there is something very wild and beautiful in the flat miles of cornfields, the windmills in an open pasture, and the vast stretches of empty sandhills in the panhandle. But Virginia has a different kind of beauty.  I love the winding roads through forests that open into rolling pastures with farms and herds of cattle.  I love the mountains that offer panoramic of views at the top.  I love to hike the trails that are abundant through this state, through the leafy green hardwoods in the spring and summer and the crunching leaves in the fall. And I love the fact we have countless hiking trails just a short drive from our home.

I also love the history that is right at our fingertips.  For a history buff like myself, being in the heart of civil war country is very exciting.  Why, just down the road from where we live you can see where Lee surrendered to Grant! In a 3 hour drive we could go to Washington DC, Jamestown, Colonial Williamsburg, Richmond, or the beach. We could live here the rest of our lives and have new things to explore!

Last weekend we spent time with my brother up in Northern Virginia.  He and his sweet wife just bought a beautiful home in the mountains.  While we were there we were able to take a hike around a lake that is down the road from their home.  Today I want to share a few pictures I took.

Here is the lake we hiked around.....

Remy on our hike....he really blends in!!

The geese on the lake.....

I am excited to hike this in the spring if it was this pretty in the winter......

We hiked around the entire lake which was about 2.5 miles.  Koda came along and loved it as well.  Especially the jumping in the lake part!  We were quite the crew with Chad, Remy, Koda and I as well as my brother, sister-in-law, their two granddaughters and two dogs! We had a fun time!

On the way home we stopped at an old covered bridge for a few pictures...

I can imagine all the horses and buggies that have driven through here over the years! 

The tree lined road that goes up to the bridge.  I will definitely be back for more pictures this spring!

We had a great spring break!!  Remy is on his spring break now spending this week with 3 of his uncles deep sea fishing in the Atlantic!  This is the trip of a lifetime for him.....I am just praying he doesn't get sea sick.  He has never been on the ocean before!  Hopefully I will be able to get a lot of blog work done this week! :-)

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Spring Break

This week is spring break for Chad so I am going to take a little break from blogging so I can spend time with him.  But first, I will show you a few pictures I took today around the acreage.  It was beautiful weather so we spent quite a bit of time outside.  We are so ready for spring, and flowers, and garden plans!

I love this cow's face.  She was pretty friendly when I leaned over the fence to take her picture.

Our nearest neighbors......

Here is the spot of my future garden.  See the compost pile in the left corner?

My flower bed is aching for some prettiness!!

Chad and Remy trimmed the pine trees today so I can see the mountains better from my kitchen window.  They also rehung the bird feeder.

Here is the view I can see now that the trees are trimmed!

And lastly....I spent a little time rocking today.  Looking forward to warm evenings on the front porch!

Hope you all have a nice week.  I will be back next week with a post on how we downsized and the things I did to get rid of so much stuff!  Have a beautiful week, friends!!

Friday, March 7, 2014

How We Taught Our Kids About Money

Today I am going to talk a little bit on how we taught our children about money.  While I am not an expert by any means, this is what worked for our family.  Hopefully at least some of the things I share will be helpful to you.

Naomi in 2005

We first started teaching our children about money back in 2005.  At that point in my life I was pretty awful at handling my own money.  Regardless of this fact, I did start our children out on the right foot with money.  During that summer we had a pool membership and we would go swimming with our friends at least once a week. It never failed that while we were there the kids would want snacks and I would end up spending $15-$20, just on snacks, and then going to get ice cream afterwards as well.  My girls were 11, 9, and 9 at the time, so I thought this would be as good a time as any to start teaching them about money and budgeting.  I started a chore list of household tasks apart from keeping their rooms picked up.  Rooms had to kept neat and they were not paid for that.  Chores included loading and unloading the dishwasher, cleaning the bathrooms, dusting the house, vacuuming, and watering the flowers outside.  They each had assigned chores.  Every week I would pay them a commission based on the chores they completed; the chores had to be done on-time and done right.  It ended up being about $8 a week per child. (This increased as they got older.)  This money was to be used to buy snacks or anything else they wanted.  They could spend it all at the pool, or they could save it to buy bigger things after a month or two.  I didn't dictate how to spend it, other than the fact that 10% needed to be saved and 10% could go to a charity of their choice.  I also told them I would no longer be buying snacks at the pool and that they had to use their money if they wanted something.  (I still occasionally would treat them to ice cream afterwards though.)  This was a good start and way to teach them how to handle and budget money, and we continued this for the next several years.

It was when I was getting a hold of my own finances that I heard Dave Ramsey talk about giving his kids a stipend.  Teenage children were given a larger sum of money each month, basically the amount typically spent on them apart from food at home and basic toiletries. This would be money for activities with church or school, clothing, and beauty products/haircuts; pretty much anything a teenager comes and asks his/her parents money for.  This was separate from the commission we gave them, and once they became old enough to get jobs we no longer did commission, just the stipend.  They still had things they had to do as members of the family, like keeping their room clean, doing their own laundry, cleaning their bathroom, and cleaning up the kitchen if they cooked. These had to be done properly every week or they were grounded from going out with friends.

I remember when we went to the girls and told them we were going to be giving them a fairly substantial amount of money every month, their eyes got huge!  This was exciting for them.  As the months progressed it was interesting to see how they handled their money.  One was freer with her money than the other two.  There were a few tough months for her when she ran out of money before the month was over.  We had to stick to our guns a few times when she came and asked for an advance on next month’s stipend.  But as the month progressed they all became better at budgeting their money.  We did occasionally help them out for special occasions.  At prom time we told our oldest daughter we would contribute $75 to prom in addition to her monthly stipend.  Everything else had to be covered from money from her stipend or job.  She wanted a more expensive dress, so she put it on lay-away and paid it off over a few months.

Since they all had been working regular jobs for over a year before their 16th birthday they were able to save for cars.  Our plan was to match their savings up to a certain amount for there cars.  Our oldest daughter ended up buying my old car from us, so instead of matching we sold it to her for a reduced price.  The twins had saved way over the maximum we were going to contribute so they were able to get very nice cars when they turned 16.  With cars came responsibilities as a car owner.  Since they had jobs they were expected to pay for their car insurance as well as every other oil change. They needed to be mindful of these extra bills and budget accordingly.  Any bigger issues like tires or mechanical issues were split with us. We wanted them to be used to paying bills and know what responsibilities they would have once they got on their own.

Naomi and Nakoma with the car that Naomi saved for.

By the time the girls were in their last year of school, they were handling their money like adults.  They had learned to budget, to save, and to pay their bills on time. 

We plan to do the same with Rem in a year or two.  Right now he is 12 and is only on commission. Some weeks he does not get all of his chores for the week completed so his pay is cut.  Just like in the real world; if he doesn't work, he doesn't get paid.  He also has to save 10% and give 10%, just like his sisters.  Usually he saves for about half a year and then gives to a charity of his choice. He also, by himself, started an additional savings envelope for hunting and fishing supplies. If he does any work for friends or neighbors, he also has to save and give every time, but then he is free to do what he wants with the other 80%.  In my opinion, saving and giving is one of the most important lessons in teaching your children about money. 

It is getting to be more often that he is asking for $10 here or $20 there, so it may be time to start teaching him a bit more about budgeting.  Since he is younger, we may start out by setting $50- $75 aside each month that can be used for clothes he needs or activities he wants to do. He would have freedom in those areas to choose how he wants to spend the money.  If he wants to buy a new pair of $75 cowboy boots (because yes, they cost at least that much!), he won’t be able to go to basketball games with Chad for that month.  Or, he can save half of it for a couple months and buy the new boots while still going to games. I believe things like this are best learned early, and if we teach them these concepts at a young age they will be better equipped to handle money as adults. Obviously everyone’s financial situation is different, but even a little bit money and freedom to choose how to spend it is good for children. They will make mistakes with it at times, but it is better that they learn now, while they are under your roof, than later when they are on their own.

So that is a little of what we have done with our children. What tips do you have about teaching children about money?

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Recipe - Cream Cheese & Chicken Enchiladas

Today I have another recipe to share.  I created this recipe about 15 years ago before I got in to my whole food way of eating. While it is not 100% clean there are some substitutions you can make to clean it up some.  I will note those at the bottom.  Naomi and Nakoma, our twin girls, were home over the weekend, and this is Nakoma’s favorite meal.

Cream Cheese & Chicken Enchiladas

1 ½ pounds chicken, you can use chicken breast, thighs, or whatever you have on hand.  I often even cook a whole chicken, debone it, and use it for a double batch of enchiladas.
1 onion, chopped
4 oz can green chilis
1 teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon thyme
¼ teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon olive or coconut oil

4 oz cream cheese
½ cup sour cream
¼ cup green onion, chopped
¼ - ½ cup cilantro, chopped
1 cup shredded cheddar, divided
¼ cup green onion tops, chopped

10 flour tortillas
1 large can of enchilada sauce

In oven proof pan with lid, combine chicken, onion, chilies, oil, and sprinkle with spices.  Put lid on the pan and bake at 375 for about ½ hour.  Remove from oven, let cool slightly and shred chicken in the pan with the spices, onion and chilies.  Mix well.

In a separate bowl combine cream cheese, sour cream, green onions, cilantro and ½ cup of cheese.  Mix well. Add chicken mixture to cream cheese mixture and mix until thoroughly combined.  Divide between the 10 tortillas and place in a 9x13 pan.  Cover with enchilada sauce, sprinkle remaining ½ cup cheese and garnish with green onion tops.   Bake at 375 for about 30 minutes.

These are great served with Mexican Rice, chips, and my fresh Pico De Gallo!

Substitutions or Additions:
* Instead of buying a can of green chilies you can use 2 jalapeƱos, minced.
* I have replaced Greek yogurt for the sour cream before and had good results. 
* I have also made my own tortillas using this recipe..
* I have made enchilada sauce before using this recipe.
* I have a friend who also includes a can of black beans into the recipe.
* To make this recipe gluten free, substitute corn tortillas for the flour or look for gluten free tortillas at your local grocery store.

* Unfortunately, since I am still not eating wheat and dairy I was not able to enjoy the enchiladas. Instead, I used the chicken, onion, chili and spice mixture to make a delicious taco filling.  I used corn tortillas and garnished it with my homemade Pico De Gallo. It was good even without cheese!

Saturday, March 1, 2014

30 Wheat/Dairy Free Recap & March Health Goals

The 30 days of no wheat and dairy have come to an end!  It has been a good month and I am so thankful to be feeling better.  Most days this last week and a half I have felt pretty much back to normal, which is wonderful!  I am going to continue this eating plan as much as possible.  I don’t want it to rule my life though, so I will make exceptions for special occasions or when we go to another person’s home.  I may add cheese back into my diet, too, or at least try it and see how my body reacts.  That is what I have missed the most.  I can make due without bread, but not having cheese on top of Mexican food is pretty sad. J

Positives for this month include, the obvious, decline of IBS symptoms, but I've also lost 7 pounds and 2 inches around my tummy and 1 inch around my waist. I had steady weight loss the first few weeks, but the last 10 days I have stayed the same.  It could be from the Strawberry Coconut Milk Ice Cream, or it could be that my body is comfortable at this weight.  While I would like to be 10 pounds lighter, I don't obsess about it and I don't "diet."  I just try to eat healthy foods when I'm hungry, stop when I'm full, and let my body decide what a healthy weight is.  My back has seen improvement this month as well, although I still have bad days, just fewer of them.  Not sure if this is because my diet changed or that I have added regular exercise in, but whatever caused it I am happy.

I now want to take a little time to talk about my health goals for the month of March.  I will no longer be doing the daily health log with my diet and exercise for the day, but I do want to continue to keep accountable, not only to me but to my friends who are interested.  I plan to have a few health posts per month talking about a healthy diet or exercise, and I will continue the recipe posts.  I also want to have a monthly post with goals for the month.  Feel free to join me!  I would love your feedback either through the comment section or by email.

March Health Goals:

  1. Continue my weight circuit 3 times a week.

  1. Do yoga at least 20 minutes, preferably 30-40 minutes, 5 times per week.

  1. Take Koda on a 30 minute walk at least 5 times a week.

  1. Introduce 1 new vegetable into my diet.  This month it's this recipe for Caramelized Brussels Sprouts. (I'll admit, I couldn't wait until March to try them and made them this week.  They were delicious!!)

  1. Continue no wheat and dairy at home.  Exclusions can be made if we go to someone’s house for dinner. May add cheese back into diet this month.

  1. Go on a hike. (Chad has spring break in mid-March, so if the weather is nice this should be doable.)

Do you have monthly health goals?  Please share!  I can always use some inspiration!