Posts by llanier2600

Are you ready for this?

I have been missing in action for several months now. I had a long list of projects I was working on and planned on writing about them to share but my attention and energy has been diverted. We found out we are expecting another little girl. I was in the middle of building a greenhouse when we got the news so hauling blocks and bricks across the yard had to be put on hold. We’ve been working on a nursery and updating our bathroom instead. Hopefully it will be finished soon. I have used all of my limited energy taking care of Audrey and working on the projects that need to be finished before Taylor comes. And lately nesting… lots of nesting. I haven’t had any time or energy leftover to write about any of the things we’ve been working on. Plus, pregnancy brain is a REAL thing!

Photo below:

Me, 3 weeks pregnant building a greenhouse foundation.

IMG_1642 (1).jpg

So this post is a little different but I hope it helps someone.

We’ve been asked the same question over and over lately. We’ve asked ourselves the same question when it’s just the two of us and we’re honest. “Are we really ready to go from one child to two?” As we breathed our first sigh of relief and enjoyed our first moment of quiet in the whole day at 8:30 last night (by that I mean bedtime.) We remembered how hard it was in the early days when Audrey didn’t sleep. Having the moment of quiet at 8:30 at night will soon become a thing of the past. We know this. We didn’t forget the sleepless nights when we decided to expand our family. I remember the pain of child birth. We walked into it blindly the first time but we made the decision to have another baby knowing how hard it would be.

I know the noise level will double. The mess will double. The laundry will double. I’m not oblivious to any of those things. It is hard work! Bringing home a new baby is scary! I have a greater fear than all of that though. Promise not to tell anyone???

It’s the empty house. When it’s finally quiet. When the laundry is all done. When I can fold the wash cloths perfectly because I don’t have tiny hands wanting to help. When I can go to the bathroom without tripping over the step stool in front of the sink. When the clutter of toys are gone. When I don’t own a snot sucker. When there are no fingerprints on my windows or appliances. When there are no crumbs under the table and chairs. When my makeup and chap-stick don’t disappear. When I can remove all of the child safety latches from my cabinets. When I can ditch the minivan for a cool car. When I don’t hear “Mama” 10,000 times a day. I DREAD it. A quiet, clean house is so much scarier to me than bringing home a new baby!

So the answer to that question is YES! I am ready to meet my new daughter! I’m ready to see Audrey meet her sister for the first time! I’m even ready for those middle of the night feedings and snuggles. This time around I know how quickly those moments fly by. Motherhood is hard but I love it. I want my girls to know I cherish these moments with them and wouldn’t trade them for the world!

 

Budget and Marriage: They lived happily ever after.

If you don’t want to read my sappy Valentine’s day message feel free to skip to the second paragraph. ūüėČ

This one is for Keith, who deserves way more than $25 a paycheck spending money. He never complains. He is happy with a 50 cent Valentine’s Day card and a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. I know I drive him completely crazy when he helps hang pictures on the wall and they have to be perfect. I get mad when he dries his hands on the towels that are “just for looks.” I steal the covers to the point where he had to get his own blanket. I have watched him eat food that was so burnt it looked like charcoal. Yet, he still tells me thank you for every meal I cook. Even grilled cheese. He is still opening my door eight years later. He is, by far, my biggest cheerleader in life. He spoils me in ways money can’t buy. I am absolutely crazy about that man and I couldn’t imagine my life without him!

Now for the real post!

Budget and marriage. Can the two words even be in the same sentence without argument? I think they can. I would go further and say they can compliment each other. Even lift each other up.

I am not a financial expert. Nor a marriage expert (if there is such a person, ha!) In honor of Valentine’s Day I would like to share some of the successes Keith and I have experienced, most of which started out with a failure. We have had our share of arguments but none about money. This is what we have learned.

#1 Spend Fair

When we began budgeting together a few months after getting married, we added a category to our budget called “personal spending money.” We had no idea how precious this would become to us over time! No matter how much money we each earn, we have always been allotted equal amounts of spending money. There were times when my paycheck was bigger and there were times when Keith made more, now I don’t have a pay check at all but we have always maintained equal spending money. This money can be used to buy anything special we want that is not in the budget. I’m currently using mine to build a greenhouse and he has his eye on a nice flashlight. There is no accountability to our spending money. I don’t count his and he doesn’t count mine. We both know it has to be something we¬†really,¬†really¬†want in order to spend our precious money on it. Having personal spending money also gives us the funds to buy each other gifts for special occasions. Without this category, it might feel awkward to buy each other birthday, Christmas or Valentine’s day gifts out of the joint checking account.

I have really struggled with transitioning to being a stay at home mom. One way that Keith shows me that what I do at home is important is by maintaining equal spending money. He has never once suggested that he should get to spend more money because he earns it. What could really be a sore spot in our marriage has instead become something that shows love and value to each other. We started out getting $50 spending money out of our biweekly paychecks. When we went to one income, we cut back to $25 each. The fact that Keith was willing to cut his spending money in half to allow me to stay home with our daughter made me feel so loved and valued.

#2 Redefine the word DATE

When we were dating, Keith mostly paid for everything. We used his gas to go places, he paid for our meals, and he purchased tickets to events we went to. I enjoyed those times but I didn’t give the cost much thought. I didn’t feel¬†the money leaving his wallet each time we went out. Once we combined our bank accounts, I¬†felt it! Everyone talks about how important it is to continue to have a date night, especially after having kids. I agree, but we have changed our definition of the word date.

Keith planned a really special date the second time we went out. At first I was really creeped out. He took me star gazing in a field. He had a really elaborate plan that involved pints of ice cream, moon pies and milky way bars. He won my dog over with a bag of treats the first day. It took me a little longer. The whole story is for another post completely… anyway… This week, I had a coupon for a pint of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. I picked it up for $1.25 and hid it in the back of the freezer. I decided to do a remix of the date after Audrey went to bed Friday night. I slipped out the back door with a sleeping bag, ice cream, 2 spoons and the video baby monitor. We ate ice cream on a sleeping bag under the stars in our own backyard and talked about our day. You know what? That’s a date! It doesn’t have to require paying a babysitter or spending $50 on dinner and a movie! Becoming creative in our ideas of dates is actually romantic! We now have a mutual respect for¬†our¬†money so when one of us takes the time to plan a date that works well within our budget it is a reminder that our relationship is important in this moment and that we also have respect for our financial future together.

#3 Saving for Retirement 

No, saving for retirement doesn’t exactly sound romantic. Hear me out though. Isn’t there something sweet about a white haired couple walking hand in hand? Making the effort to save for our future reminds us that we married for life. Keith and I like to talk about our plans for when we can retire and spend our days together. We may be on the road in an RV traveling to AKC agility events with our dogs (we just learned there was such a thing this weekend… again another post), eating breakfast at Hardees every morning, or just sitting on the porch waiting on our grand babies to come for a visit. Dreaming about our retirement days helps remind us that we both want the same thing. We are a team working toward the same goal! However we decide to spend our retirement days, I don’t want to spend them worrying about money!

Do you have any other tips for budget and marriage?

Our Farmhouse Story

Since much of what I talk about has to do with remodeling projects at our home, I think it would be good for everyone to know how we ended up living in our 80 year old farmhouse.

We lived on one third of an acre when we got married. Yes that’s 0.33 or 1/3 of an acre. The house was a good deal in a decent neighborhood. Not too far from our jobs, families, or church. It was fairly low maintenance but we didn’t¬†love¬†it. I honestly didn’t know you could love a house. Our plan had always been to stay in the house at least a couple of years to avoid capital gains taxes, then sell to buy the next one. Before having Audrey, we thought we would like to live on the lake. Our priorities shifted and we wanted to have land and animals for her to grow up with.

photo above: our old house

We must have looked at 50 houses during the time we lived there trying to find the one that was right for us. The thing that always bothered us was the idea of going back into debt. We didn’t want to feel that weight again even if it was just while we waited for our house to sell. It seemed even less likely that we could move once I had quit my job at the bank. We were still adjusting to living on one income. We couldn’t possibly add a house payment.

One morning in January when Keith got up to go to work at 5:00 a.m. I couldn’t go back to sleep. I did something I did quite often which was search for foreclosures on zillow.com. This time I noticed a house saved in my favorites that I didn’t remember ever saving. The funny thing was, I hadn’t saved¬†any¬†houses. It was the only house in my favorites. It was a smaller house in rough shape on almost four acres of land, with over 100 acres of farmland surrounding it. I decided to look up the house on the county website to find out what the deal was with it. It had just been sold at the foreclosure auction at the courthouse to an investment company. I googled the investment company. A little sentence on their website intrigued me. It said ”¬†Unless you just¬†want¬†to take it off our hands before the work begins, when we’re done, all you’ll have to do is unpack.” I would much rather do the work myself on a house than have an investor pick out everything paint color and piece of flooring that is going in my house. Also, the price would have doubled if it had been move in ready. I decided to email the investor. She responded that they couldn’t sell the house right now because they were renting it to the previous owner until they could find a place to go. I had never heard of this happening. She also said they only sold houses before the work was finished if it was a cash sale. I put that idea in the back of my mind and we kept looking at other houses.

Keith and I kept praying that God would show us what to do. The more we prayed and talked, the more we felt like God wanted us to trust Him and just put our house up for sale. If our house sold quickly and we needed to rent for a couple of months until we found something we could. This would also free us up to pay cash for the next house. My home is my nest, so this was very scary for me especially with a one year old.

We worked until we got our house ready to put on the market. Our real estate agent sent a photographer out to take pictures on April 21, 2017. It took him a few days to get the pictures to our realtor so the house didn’t go up for sale with an mls# until April 27th at 11:00 a.m. This is where I know God stepped in and took over our situation. Two hours later on the same day our house went on the market, the investor who had purchased the white farmhouse I had emailed about in January called me. The renter had moved out and they were willing to show us the house. We met with the investors at 6:00 p.m. that night. They showed us the house. They asked what our money situation was since the house needed some major repairs (roof and windows) that a bank wouldn’t loan money on. We had saved my entire paycheck for almost a year while we were practicing living on one income before I quit work but we still only had $25,000 to put down. They were willing to take what we had and let us pay the rest when our other house sold! This is so unheard of in the real estate business. We told them we liked the house but would like to pray about it and let them know our decision in the morning.They left us in the house and told us to lock up when we were finished looking at anything we wanted to see. As the couple drove away I stood in the living room of our farmhouse crying, in awe of what had just happened. We had not only found our home but God had also answered our prayer about not taking out another mortgage.

 

photo above: our farmhouse before we did ANY work to it

The next day, we had 3 offers on our old house. One was even over the asking price. We signed the contract to sell our old house on the same day we signed the contract to buy our farmhouse. Since we were buying our new house without a bank, the sellers let us start moving our stuff in before we even closed with the attorney. Keith had already taken a week off of work so that we could go to the beach. We cancelled the beach trip and spent the week getting one room ready to live in at the farmhouse. We painted and put down new flooring in our bedroom. Audrey slept in the room with us with a window unit air conditioner until we could have our new HVAC system installed after we had the check from the sale of our old house. It was a rough couple of weeks but we could see God’s hand working in our lives. When it seemed impossible to buy a house without a mortgage, God did the impossible. When word got out about how quickly our house sold, I had people asking me to help them sell theirs or find another house. The truth is, the house did sell in one day on the market but it took months of Keith and I praying and seeking God’s will to lead up to selling it. It didn’t really all happen in one day.

I know people thought we were crazy when they saw the house before we did any work on it. Some probably still think we are crazy but we love living here. I love refinishing old pieces of furniture I dug out of the barn out back. I love how quiet it is when I walk through the woods. I love that we have fig and pecan trees, muscadine vines and wild blackberries growing. I love seeing turkeys, deer and other wild life in the back yard. I love discovering old things like the cellar we found in the woods or an old watering can under the house.  I love knowing that God had a plan for us the whole time we were trying to figure things out and make it work on our own.

I bought my first foreclosure when I was 24 years old and we are living in our third foreclosure. It seems like we have lived in a construction zone our entire marriage. I could give readers all kinds of advice on the subject of buying, remodeling and selling houses but my number one piece of advice is to pray and trust God.

photo above: our house now

DIY Painted Playset

I know I had other toys when I was a little girl but only a few stand out to me. One of them being a swing set. It’s one of those things I knew I wanted my daughter to have as she grows up too.

We had just moved into our house and her birthday was coming up in a couple of months so we decided it was time to add a play set to the yard. I started to look around online and the price of those things shocked me! We wanted it to be made well and be big enough to last her at least 8-10 years. One of the ones I had my eye on cost about $1400! Man, that’s just a lot of money. I did the calculations on how much it would cost to build one. Wood is pretty expensive too. Then, you have to pay for the slide, swings and accessories. Still too much. I turned to my friend, Craigslist. I found a few that were cheap but they were falling apart. Finally one day my search turned up this one for $200.

It was only missing one of the swings. The bottom of the legs had some rot but other than that the structure was good. We had to disassemble it to get it home anyway so replacing a few pieces while we had it apart was no biggie. We ended up spending about $80 on replacing all eight of the 4×4 posts.

After replacing the legs, we pressure washed it and it was ready to paint! I decided to go with dark gray for the roof and any part of the play set that my daughter’s feet would be climbing on. I went to the paint store and picked up some samples and let her pick out the colors. She still didn’t know what it was for since the play set was in pieces. It kind of looked like we were building a deck. ūüôā She chose her favorite color, yellow, and a turquoise color. We used 2 gallons of yellow paint, a gallon of gray and 4 cans of spray paint. We spray painted the steel beam, the “rocks” on the climbing wall, the swing and trapeze bar. The only thing I didn’t paint was the slide. Our total paint cost was a little over $100 with a grand total of less than $400. I’ll take that $1000 savings! Her aunt and uncle added a disk swing and a ship’s wheel for her birthday!

I love how it turned out! She loves playing on it!

Have you tried painting any outdoor toys to make them look new again?

DIY Goat Feeder for FREE!

 

Our first goats, Sparkles and Gravely, just turned 6 months old. We are new to this whole goat thing so it really surprised us just how much they could eat! We were first surprised by how much milk a baby goat could drink. We bottle fed them and they follow us around like puppies! Then we were surprised by how quickly two little dwarf nanny goats could eat ALL the grass in their fence. We used an entire 330 ft roll of fence so I thought that was a pretty large area for two little girls to eat. Our purpose for buying the goats was to help keep the grass cut at our farmhouse so when they ran out of grass in the fence we put them in a kennel in whatever area of grass that needed to be “cut.” They do an excellent job! It looks just like we cut it with the lawn mower when they are finished! BUT It only takes a day for them to clear out a 10 by 20 area. We have had some pretty cold days this winter so getting up every morning and moving a dog kennel by myself got old very quickly! I would go out, move the kennel, carry the goats across the yard to the kennel and Keith would put them back in their fence at night. I’m sure this would have been a sight to see. It lasted until early January and they had eaten all the grass in our backyard.

Alas, Keith saw the farmer next door putting bales of hay in his barn and we bit the bullet and had him deliver a round bale.

Turns out, the goats who eat everything will not eat hay off of the ground! We also needed something to keep the hay dry and hold enough to last a few days. The previous owner of our house left a bunch of large trash cans. I chose one that had a lid that would snap on. It also has handles that came in handy for hanging the feeder on a fence post. If I couldn’t hang it up, our girls WOULD knock it over.

First, I cleaned out the inside really good. Then, I used a razor blade to cut a hole on each side just large enough for the girls to stick their head in. I filled it with hay and hung it on the fence. They started eating right away!

There was a problem though. As they ate, the hay didn’t continue to fall down into the bottom of the feeder. It was too fluffy and needed some weight on top of it to help it move down. I found a disk out by the barn that was heavy and fit perfectly inside the feeder.

It weighs enough and pushes the hay down for the girls to continue to eat until the feeder is empty. When I look into the hole and see the disk, I know its time to refill!

If you don’t have an old disk laying around, anything heavy will do. I just happened to find this one. I also happened to have the trash can. You could probably use any kind of large storage container or tote as well. If you find something else that works, I’d love to hear about it!

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