From the Heart · Frugal Living

April Showers of Discontentment

I love Spring. Just like I love Fall, Christmas, and Valentines Day…and Summer…and every other season and holiday.  The problem with the changing seasons is the change in needs/wants. It seems that I have been showered with want after want this Spring. “Mom, we need a bigger trampoline.” “Mom, can you buy me cooler shirts?” (I think my 6 year old was referring to shirts that better regulate his body temperature on warmer days.) “We should really get some new patio chairs so that our guests don’t fall through the unraveling seats…” (Okay maybe that is a legitimate concern.) “Maybe we should update our bikes?” “The front door really needs a Spring wreath.” “The kids need sunglasses, sandals, shorts, swim gear, bubbles, play sand, outdoor toys, swimming lessons, etc….”

Between the requests of my children and my own brain, I’m soaked! Our budget doesn’t suddenly get bigger once every 3 months when the seasons change, but somehow we need to account for all of these THINGS. Right? Well, part of the goal with this blog is to share ideas and lessons that I’ve learned (usually the hard way) in hopes that others can feel empowered to make decisions and use their creativity to step out of the shower of discontentment.  I challenge you to embrace the new seasons with hope and enjoyment. You don’t have to say no to everything! Here are a few things I’ve tried to keep in mind this Spring, especially as I look ahead to another transition…Summer.

Clothing:

  • Easter outfits are fun. Yep, SO fun. If you can swing it, do it. BUT they are not necessary. I had to swallow that truth a few years ago. We simply had no room to buy super cute outfits for one morning, especially when I really wanted to be able to buy a few things for Easter baskets too. So my daughter wore a gray sweater dress (it was rainy and 55 degrees) and instead of a red bow that she wore for Christmas, she wore a pink one! The boys wore the same shirts they always wear but I pulled out a tie that I had bought Toby years earlier when we had money. He has worn that same tie every Easter for the last 4 years. 🙂 That experience has changed how I look at Easter/ Christmas outfits every year. If I buy anything special for the holidays, for the kids or myself, I usually buy second-hand (because, seriously, those pancake breakfasts and candy canes get all over the outfits within minutes of walking through the church doors anyway) or I buy off season. I feel like it is a no-brainer to say that whatever you choose to buy should be versatile: girls’ dresses should be able to be worn with other things for other occasions, boys’ dress shirts or pants shouldn’t be so snazzy that they won’t be worn again.
  • Here’s my process for acquiring summer clothes for the kids:
    1. Pull out last year’s summer clothes and have a fashion show. This reminds me what size they were and how many items are realistic to have on hand. Usually, I find a whole pile of clothes that still fit! WARNING: 3 year old girls will also be reminded of how much they love skirts and flip-flops and will inquire about wearing them every day until summer begins.
    2. I make a list of summer clothes needs for each child. Then I pray that the Lord will help us come by those items. For us in Minnesota, it doesn’t actually get warm enough to need shorts, sandals, and tank tops every day until mid-June. I start this process in March/April so that I can spread out the costs and practice patience for sale prices.
    3. I use a majority of venues to acquire the clothing: hand me downs, Grandmas who want to know what the kids need, rummage sales, and then I fill in the cracks with The Children’s Place. I’ve heard rumors that this store will be closing some of it’s stores but as long as they keep their online sales open, I’m a happy camper. Let me explain why I shop online at this store. A basic toddler T-shirt at Target goes on sale for $4. When my oldest was a toddler, that is all I bought. Soon, I realized that the tees were stretching in weird places and not lasting as long as I’d like (they have improved them since so I now occasionally buy from Target). The tees at The Children’s Place range from $2.37-$4.37 a piece during their clearance events or 60% events (they do this every few months) and shipping is ALWAYS free. For a little extra, I can buy my oldest his favorite “cooler” shirts that are moisture-wicking and sporty. Athletic shorts and leggings are usually cheaper than Target sale prices during these clearance events too. I have never been dissatisfied with the quality and we USE and WASH our clothing A LOT. Their flip-flops with elastic straps are $1.98 and last all summer. Best part? I don’t have to go to the actual store. Win!
  • I don’t know about all of you mom’s out there, but my body has been a different size every summer for the last 6 years. This makes buying summer clothes almost a necessity every year. I follow the same path for myself as I do for the kids, but I don’t utilize grandmas or The Children’s Place. 🙂 Instead, I try to think about the pieces I think I will wear the most and practice patience. I say “no” to other things that I normally buy myself (flavored coffee!) so that I can put aside a little money for a few nice summer wardrobe pieces. The other day, I splurged and bought a pair of coral pink capris that I LOVE. I told my friend that I wanted to wear them every day and she suggested every other day. Ok fine. Who would know besides my fashionista 3 year old (who also loves my pink pants)?

Home

  • Am I the only one that likes to decorate based on the seasons changing? Didn’t think so. Just because I like to keep things simple, doesn’t mean I don’t like changing up my decor. The only problem is that everything costs money and takes up space.
    • Use what you have…and Pinterest.  A little idea can blossom into a manageable crafting evening with the help of this lovely tool.
      • Last summer, at a rummage sale, I bought a blank twiggy wreath for $1. My husband was thrilled. The twiggy thing sat in our trunk for a month. Some scraggly twigs remained in the trunk until Fall when I finally vacuumed. Then it moved to the basement where it sat collecting dust until this glorious Spring when I finally remembered, “Oh yeah, I was going to use that to make a Pinteresty twiggy Spring wreath.” I challenged myself to use only materials that I already have on hand-not IMG_0578even a trip to the dollar store for fake flowers. The end result, I could not be happier with. My materials: left over ribbon from past crafts, coffee filters, the kids’ crayola markers, scrap paper, and a glue gun. Add in a quick Pinterest tutorial on how to make coffee filter flowers…and BAM! (P.S. You can also make your own twiggy wreath from twigs in your own yard if you look it up on Pinterest. I made my own Fall wreath with backyard twigs, acorns, and pinecones.)
      • Get inspired and really think about whether you could make something on your own before having to spend a dime.
  • Use other people’s talents. My mother-in-law is beautiful inside and out and sheIMG_0688 even makes beautiful things. We share crafting love and when she told me that she was taking lettering classes, I asked her to make something for our home. (See photo.) It has quickly become one of my favorite pieces. Thanks, Mom! 🙂
  • THRIFT STORES and RUMMAGE SALES! I usually find my treasures here that provide blank slates for other things.
  • Don’t spend full price for anything…you know this. The best stores I’ve found where you can find beautiful things for cheap are Hobby Lobby (when 50% off), Real Deals on Home Decor (google it to find one near you!), Home Goods, Aldi, Gordman’s (not all of these are closing), and Target (especially on clearance end caps and the One Spot as you first enter the store).

Yard

  • There is so much that this world tells us is necessary to have in or on our yards in the summer. Some have to do with the health of our grass, insect deterrence, or weed killing, but so many wants have to do with entertainment. I want to be outdoors all summer. I love the sun (and the shade) and the fresh air, but I’m guilty of wanting it all…the patio, citronella candles, bonfire, grill, patio table and chairs, the sandbox, large trampoline, yard games, a pool…the list goes on for miles! Now that I have a garden, I want so much more! Yikes. The reality is: we can’t and shouldn’t have all of that stuff right now. So now what? This Spring, I decided to flip my thinking from what I can’t do to what I can. I can open camping chairs for my guests instead of new patio chairs. I can afford play sand for a large tupperware container. I can get seeds for the seed sharing program from the public library and can afford the rest. I can research and make my own bug repelling candles. I can use my teacher skills and basic supplies to create yard games. I can turn on the sprinkler and let the kids shiver in there for 30 seconds. All of a sudden, my summer is looking up!

Vacations

  • I’ve experienced the depressing look-ahead to the summer (or Spring break) knowing that there isn’t money for a family vacation. It can be especially hard when it seems that everyone around you is planning theirs or posting perfect get-away pics on FaceBook! I encourage you to choose talking about it over whining about it. Spending time together as a family or couple is so unifying and revitalizing to the soul. Here are a few things we have tried in our “scrape-the-bottom-of-the-barrel” days to feel closer and to get-away:
    • Take a Sunday drive (or walk) and talk. Talk about future hopes and dreams, talk about happy memories, talk about funny things the kids have been doing, talk about current events, talk about personal devotional life and struggles… whatever you can think of that steers clear of stress and the mundane.
    • Book a cheap weeknight hotel not far away to escape with the kids and go swimming. We don’t have cable or a pool (and we usually don’t eat a hot breakfast-lazy mom!) but a hotel has it all. We feel treated for one night and we get time to laugh and play. Who cares if it is just down the road from your house? It is still special and creates memories.
    • Take a day trip to free or nearly free landmarks or festivals. Summer is full of weird festivals and events for the family. You should be able to find something within a few hours that you can drive to and from on a Saturday. Statue of Paul Bunyan…why not? Blueberry festival…yum!
    • Pitch a tent in the backyard. I guarantee your children will be thrilled with popcorn, a flashlight, and their favorite books in a tent- no matter the location of the tent! My favorite part is being able to walk into the house to use my own bathroom and coffee pot.
  • Now, if you have a little extra spending money set aside for a vacation, here are a few things to consider when planning:
    • What events do you already have to attend that you can build into the vacation? (wedding, baptism, reunion, etc.)
    • Remember the age of your kids. Don’t bring them to Mt. Rushmore if they refuse to walk long distances and are too big for a stroller. Do bring them to Storybook Land if they adore giant statues of fairy tale characters.
    • Think realistically about food options. If your kids eat mostly snacks and fruit, you are not going to find those things on every menu and will end up wasting a lot of money. Pack a cooler and spend money on ice, fruit, and snacks and get To-Go orders for the grown-ups (kids can always nibble on that too).

 

Obviously, I’m not a very seasoned mother. My oldest is 6 and although I may seem like I have all the knowledge concerning child development and management due to my degree, I still feel inadequate at each new stage. What I’m learning now is that 6 year olds have expectations that form outside of our family bubble and they too can feel a deeper level of discontentment that goes beyond wanting Lucky Charms for breakfast instead of oatmeal. They also compare clothing, vacations, yard toys, and entertainment.

Forming their hearts to be content really starts with mom and dad. I’ve been so aware of this lately. If I think aloud and say, “We could really use new sand toys.” My son hears: “These toys are bad and unworthy of play. Next time we are at the store we WILL buy new ones.” Then the tantrum ensues in the Wal-Mart aisle when new sand toys are viewed. “But MAW-UM, you SAID that we can buy new sand toys. Ours are BUH-ORING!” (True story. This has happened in several situations because I can’t keep my mouth shut.)

Isn’t this true for adults too? If my husband mentions that something is kind of broken or faded, I get a little excited at the possibility off replacing it. My planning and couponing mind gets all revved up and energized to “find a good deal.” Our words and attitudes about stuff can be so powerful to those around us!

So here is what I leave you with. It is what I am still learning and telling myself constantly. Don’t feel sorry for yourself and don’t apologize for not having better. Own what you own and set goals for what you’d like in the future. Recognize that all you have is from the Lord and take care of it. Be patient. Focus your energy on using what you already have, beautifying and caring for it, and encourage your family to do the same (with a positive attitude- not begrudgingly).

Now, if you will excuse me…I’m going to go make something out of the leftovers in the fridge for dinner…because…Friday.

 

 

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