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How We Are Surviving Through COVID 19

As pretty much everyone in the world knows now, COVID 19 has completely changed our world. We were all set to go on our big joint 40th birthday trip to Greece in the middle of March when all of this hit. Obviously, that didn’t work out for us and we are extremely disappointed, to say the least. But, at least we are home safe with our family and not trapped in another country.

But since all of this has unfolded, it has changed every aspect of our lives, as I am sure it has for you too. So I want to talk about what we have been doing now that our world has turned upside down, both financially and in every other way.

Unemployment

As has happened to most other American’s, we have lost a significant amount of our income. My spouse is a chef, so when all restaurants were mandated to close, his job went along with it. That doesn’t even include me, as a small business owner, but we will get to that in the next section.

Once his restaurant closed, we thought we were stuck. But, due to the wide reaching impact of COVID 19, unemployment insurance was opened up to any and all W2 employees that were affected. My spouse included.

So, we applied for him to begin getting unemployment. Although, this sounds easier than it actually was. So many people were applying that North Carolina’s system kept crashing. It took us 2 days to finally complete his application, with all supporting documentation. And another week and a half for them to approve him.

While it is awesome that he is receiving unemployment benefits now, North Carolina is one of the few states that doesn’t offer a full 26 weeks of unemployment, but only 12 weeks. We are hoping that will be mandated to change due to the circumstances, but only time will tell.

paycheck protection program

As for me, the new CARES Act states I should qualify for unemployment. I did apply for myself also, but the system keeps kicking me out and telling me that I am ineligible. I think they will eventually figure it out, but due to the fact that unemployment has never had to take self-employed or small business owners, they simply don’t have the infrastructure to handle us yet.

So, I spoke to another entrepreneur I know and was informed that I simply had to apply for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to get funding for my business. At first, I didn’t want to apply because I didn’t want to be on the hook for a loan. But, the way this one is structured is that the loan is supposed to be forgiven entirely, as long as you only use it for approved items. Those items include payroll and up to 25% of the loan for utilities to keep the business operational.

I just applied 2 days ago and haven’t heard anything back yet. But since each individual bank has to approve it through their underwriter first, and then it goes to the SBA for their approval, it could take a while. Either way, I am crossing my fingers that one of these avenues pans out for me, because I have lost about 90% of my business currently.

food stamps

Another option that I looked into was food stamps, or the SNAP program. While the parameters are different in every state, we happen to qualify in ours. Even though my spouse and I aren’t married, we share a household and 5 kids, so we fall into a household size of 7. Due to our incomes being decimated, we more than qualify for the food and nutrition assistance program.

And even though I really don’t want to go back on food stamps, I will take whatever help I can get right now. Especially since our family size could potentially get us a little over $1000 for groceries each month while all of this is going on. That would really help take a lot of the financial stress off and comes in under what our normal grocery budget is. Even though I applied a week ago, and my application is still pending, I am crossing my fingers that they will approve us any day now.

homeschooling

While I began homeschooling one child this year, I am now pretty much homeschooling 4 more. Yes, I said 4 more! The 1 child was more of a challenge than I initially thought, but it has been great for him. And great for our relationship too. So, it has been very worth the extra work on my end for both of us.

But, now due to schools being closed until potentially next school year, we have 4 more kids who need some educational guidance. I realize that it is different in every state and county, but ours hasn’t started mandating any sort of virtual instruction yet. And they have been out of school for over 3 weeks now.

So, I have been busy figuring out all of their weaknesses and assigning work to help them improve. Of course, that has been a lot more work for me and my spouse. And certainly some tears and frustration on the kids end. But, it has really helped us see where they are lacking in their education. Therefore, the positive is that this time can only help us help them improve.

home improvement projects

As I am sure a lot of us are doing, we have been tackling a lot of home improvement projects. Most of ours have been talked about for quite some time but kept getting pushed to the back-burner. So, now that we have a whole lot more time on our hands, we are taking advantage.

We haven’t been going out to spend a lot of money on supplies. That would just hurt our bottom line right now. Instead, we have been doing things such as:

  • weeding
  • blowing hardscapes
  • pressure washing
  • reset our patio and put in polymeric sand (if you don’t know what this stuff is, it’s awesome!)
  • moving random pavers to create another small patio outside my office
  • cutting down trees
  • trimming bushes
  • cleaning out storage shed
  • reorganizing my office so I can actually look out my window and open my door to the outside world
  • going through all of the kids clothes, games, random stuff and downsizing everything
  • building garden boxes

I am sure there is more that I am forgetting, and there will be more in the future. I figure that our house and yard will look and feel the best it ever has once we all come out of this. So why not take advantage of the time we have been given?

exercise

This is a category that I have been slacking on of late due to working too much. And trying to spend more time with the kids. So, even though I normally do a lot of yard work and walk a lot of dogs for one of my businesses, it still isn’t enough for me.

My spouse loves to play disc golf and I love to hike. So, we have a great compromise of playing disc golf together on more challenging courses with more diverse terrain. That way I can get my hiking in and he gets to throw.

And due to COVID 19, we have had the time to go play some much further out courses that we have never been able to get to before. Which has been a lot of fun when we don’t have the kids.

I also love to bike but haven’t really had the time for that either, until recently. My normal bike mileage on the Greenway is somewhere between 35-40 miles when I ride regularly. But, since I just started getting back into it, I am starting back out at 15-20 miles. It shouldn’t take me too long to build back up to my normal mileage. But, it’s disappointing to see how far behind I’ve fallen.

Although, I have loved being able to get back out on my bike, ride hands free and just enjoy the wind and the nature.

covid 19 new world summary

Overall, we are all being severely affected by COVID 19. It has changed the whole landscape of our world. And while the up side is that none of us are sick, this has still been a challenge.

We have been looking into any and all resources that might be able to help us financially during this time to assist with taking some of the stress off. And while we now have kids at home for school, it has been a blessing also because it is has helped us see where they could use more help. The extra time has granted us more time for home and yard projects, as well as more exercise time.

So, while this has been challenging, it has also been a beautiful gift. And ultimately, how we choose to perceive what is going on can have a huge affect on how we come out of this. So we are choosing to try and look at all of this in a positive light. We don’t know what our world will look like when we come out the other side. Cut our goal is to do the best we can with the time we have right now and just be grateful.

How has COVID 19 affected your family and how have you been handling it?

Our Favorite Ways to Save Money at the Movies

Going to the movies is a favorite past time for a lot of us. But, it can get pretty darn expensive if you aren’t careful. This is largely due to the fact that the movie production houses set the movie ticket prices, and not the individual theaters. And the theaters don’t really make anything on the movie ticket prices because of that. So that leaves concessions for them to make a profit, which is why they can be so darn expensive. So, over the years, we’ve found some great hacks to help save money at the movies.

Groupon, Living Social & Fandango

Groupon and Living Social are both sites that offer discounts on a ton of different products, services and experiences. Movie theaters just happen to be one of those potential options. We’ve used both of these sites to help us find some great budget friendly family activities in the past, which was awesome!

Since they don’t always have deals running at your local movie theater it’s best to check both sites regularly.

Another great site/app to check out is Fandango. This is a movie app that helps find the movies you are looking for at your closest theaters. But, as an added bonus, they also offer discounts and specials if you become a member.

With the app you purchase your tickets ahead of time and save money on concessions. The way this currently works is once you purchase $15 in concessions, you will then get a $5 gift card from Fandango. However, this can vary and only be on specific items purchased at concessions. So it’s best to double check ahead of time to see what qualifies.

Matinee & Tuesday Movies

One of my favorite movie theater hacks is to go to a matinee instead. Matinees are always cheaper than the prime movie showings. Going to a matinee instead can really help us save us a lot of money right out of the gate.

This is the current price breakdown from our local Regal theater for ticket prices:

  • Matinee (Noon – 4 pm) Child & Senior – $7.44
  • Matinee (Noon – 4 pm) Adult – $8.14
  • Prime (4 pm – Close) Child & Senior – $7.94
  • Prime (4 pm – Close) Adult – $10.74

And if you want to save even more money, consider going on a Tuesday instead. A lot of theaters offer a special Tuesday price because that is traditionally the slowest day of the week. Most of the time, the ticket prices hover around $5 – $6 per ticket. I don’t know about you, but I am perfectly fine with checking out a Tuesday flick for major savings!

Late Run Theaters

Another great movie theater hack is heading to late run theaters instead. These theaters specifically gear their showings towards later run movies. This means they don’t show newly released movies as soon as they come out. So, you’ll have to wait a few weeks until the movie is out of the first run theater. But, by doing so, you can save some major money on the movie ticket price.

Most of the time, these ticket prices can be as low as $1 – $2 per showing!

Theater Website

Most major movie theaters have their own website and loyalty club you can join. Usually, when you sign up to become a loyalty member, you some sort of discount right away.

Most of the time this discount is:

  • a percentage off a movie ticket
  • concessions rewards
  • free small popcorn
  • free drink

No matter what, I am perfectly fine with free bonuses. So adding this to your arsenal can only help you save even more money at the movies.

Summer Movie Programs

Most theaters have some sort of summer theater program that is geared towards children. The program only runs for a certain amount of weeks and usually has showings during the day only.

During the summer, the kids can get pretty bored, so this is something I have been utilizing for years now. After all, I am all about how to have a great time on a budget!

Usually these summer movies usually run anywhere from $1 – $2.50 per ticket. So, if you are willing to go during the day, and watch some more kid friendly movies, this might be a great option to save money at the movies this summer.

Specialty Discounts

Most theaters also offer some sort of specialty discount. These discounts are geared towards people who fall into the following categories:

  • AAA Members
  • Children
  • Government Employees
  • Military
  • Seniors
  • Students
  • Teachers

Not every theater offers all of these discounts. Therefore, it is best to ask if you happen to fall into one of these categories.

Divvy Up the Snacks

Since concessions are usually the most expensive part of the movie going experience, this is where you should try to save the most money. This works really well if you’ve got a group, or children with you. Some of the best tips we have learned are:

  • Ask for water cups and fill them up at the water fountain
  • Buy the large popcorn and split it up between all of you
  • Buy the large candy and divide equally

The best way to split up the snacks is to bring paper bags, or something like it, with you. Since theaters charge for the trays and extra cups, you don’t want to add those into your concessions cost.

Either way, purchasing the large, refillable, options, you will end up saving you the most money. Just performing these simple concessions hacks can really help you save money at the movies!

Save Money at the Movies

Overall, there are so many ways to help you save money at the movies. Some of our favorite options are:

  • Groupon, Living Social & Fandango
  • Matinees and Tuesday Movies
  • Late Run Theaters
  • Theater Website
  • Summer Movie Programs
  • Specialty Discounts
  • Divvy Up the Snacks

No matter which options you choose, combining some of these options can really help you save a ton of money. After all, we want to enjoy our movie going experience, but we don’t want it to break the bank at the same time.

What are some of the best hacks you’ve found to help you save money at the movies?

4 of the Best Ways to Get Clothes on a Budget

As a fairly frugal family, we are always looking for ways to cut costs. This is especially true when it comes to clothes. After all, having 5 growing children can really get expensive in the clothing genre! But, over the years, we have found some great ways to procure clothes on a budget. And whether you have children or not, these tips can really come in handy to save you some money.

Poshmark

A friend of mine turned me onto Poshmark not too long ago. I had never heard of them before, but have fallen in love! This service is for buying and selling name brand clothes, shoes and accessories.

Ultimately, I don’t have a whole lot of name brand items. But, since we are always cleaning things out, I figured what the heck. Setting up your closet (if you want to sell anything) is pretty quick and painless. You have the option to share your closet on all of your social media accounts also, if you so choose. This can increase your sales opportunities.

Poshmark takes 20% of whatever you sell your items for. So this is something to keep in mind. But, you can keep the money you make in your Poshmark account to use for items you want to purchase. The seller does not pay shipping, the purchaser does.

And negotiation is allowed on Poshmark, which is pretty cool!

I have sold a few items on Poshmark so far. I was then able to use the money in my account to purchase new clothes for us. The grand total I have spent so far is $.59. Now that is what I call clothes on a budget!

consignment stores

Consignment stores are another one of my favorite places to shop for clothes on a budget. Not only do I love to donate to them, but shopping at them is pretty awesome also. Granted, there can be a lot of things that don’t appeal to you at all. Or the clothes and shoes can be extremely outdated. But, I have found quite a few diamonds in the rough at consignment stores.

There are a few consignment stores near us that are notorious for having a lot of donations with the tags still ON! These are my favorite finds because we get brand new clothes at severely discounted prices. How can you go wrong with that?

Some of our favorite consignment stores to hit up are:

Depending upon which consignment store you go to, the prices will vary. But, prices at Goodwill are the same no matter which one you frequent in your area. For us, that means the kids clothes start at $3.19 each and ours start at $3.89 each. We love this!

Just keep in mind that whenever you are consignment shopping you will also be hunting. So you have to be okay with scouring through a lot of different clothing items to find what you are seeking. If you aren’t a fan of this, then don’t worry because there are plenty of other options for you.

end of season

One of the best times to shop for clothes is the end of a season. I realize this can be difficult with growing children though. Since you have to predict how much they will grow, it is always a guessing game.

However, if you are willing to play the game, you can save some serious money. Take right now, for example. Most stores are moving into the heavy winter clothes and are trying to offload the lighter fall attire. This is the time to search for, and stock up on, things such as:

  • Capri pants
  • 3/4 length shirts
  • Lighter leggings
  • Lightweight long sleeve shirts
  • Long skirts
  • Lightweight jackets

Since we have been searching for new pants for some of the kids in the past few weeks, we have run across some great deals. I’ve been able to pick up pants for some of the kids for as low as $2.50 each. I also came across some Capri athletic pants for myself for $4.98. I don’t know about you, but those prices really make me smile!

emails and coupons

Last but not least are email lists and coupons. Even though I greatly detest all of the emails inundating my inbox, I love some of the deals I run across.

Usually, when you sign up to get a newsletter, you will also get a welcome email with discounts of some sort. I hold onto those puppies like gold!

A lot of the email lists, and/or associated store apps, will have coupons also. You have to read the fine print because some of them can’t be combined with any other offer. But I have run across quite a few that can be combined. And that is where you start really racking up the savings!

One of my favorite tricks is to sign up for a new email list and use the coupon(s) in the clearance section. I have been able to get a lot of clothes for next to nothing this way. And that really helps keep our clothes budget low.

Clothes on a budget

Overall, there are quite a few different ways you can find clothes on a budget. And sometimes, they might even be new clothes with the tags still on!

Some of the best ways we have found to restock our wardrobes on the cheap are:

  • Poshmark
  • Consignment stores scouring
  • Shopping at the end of each season
  • Getting onto email lists for deals and coupons

Therefore, getting creative and playing the game are the best ways to get clothes on a budget for the whole family.

What are some of the best ways you have found to get clothes on a budget?

Have You Considered Buying Family Gifts for Christmas?

With the holidays quickly approaching, it is time to start thinking about gifts. At least, that is what is on our children’s minds right now. From our perspective, trying to figure out the best way to approach Christmas gifts for the kids without killing our wallet is always a fun game. So, we are considering buying only a family gift this year instead of individual gifts. Here is our thought process and how we hope it might help us save some money on the holidays.

Costs

This may not be the most cost effective way for every family to approach Christmas gift giving. But for us, as a family of 7, the holidays can get pretty darn expensive. My spouse and I don’t usually get each other anything, which helps reduce our costs. But, if we did decide to swap gifts, that would just increase the overall cost of Christmas in our house.

The usual average that we spend per child is $40 – $50, which equates to approximately $200 – $250. This doesn’t include anything for us, but if we did, that would tack on another $80 – $100. This being said, what we spend is still a whole lot less than what the average American spends on Christmas gifts.

These studies show a few different figures for holiday gift giving. The majority of us plan to spend more than $1000 on gifts, or somewhere around $885 per person. That is insane!

For us, on the path to financial independence (FI), that is just not something we can justify. But, for those of you who do spend that much on Christmas gifts, then the family gift could really save you some serious cash.

Family Gift Options

In order to save some of our hard earned money, the option of just one family gift we can all enjoy sounds appealing. It also means less boxes, wrapping paper, tape and bows. After all, those cost money too!

A few of the options we are considering are:

ASTC Membership

This membership has a passport program that lets you use it at museums all over the United States, and in a very select few other countries. If you have a membership near you, then you can get into all of the other museums listed on the passport program for FREE. On top of that, once you buy the annual family membership, you get into that museum for free whenever you want too.

They also send out special events and discounts specifically for ASTC members that you wouldn’t otherwise get.

The membership can range in price depending upon where you live and which museum happens to be closest to you. For us, we have 3 in our immediate area to choose from. They range between $85 – $140 for the annual membership and cover all 7 of us. We purchased one last year to Marbles and go there quite often now. Since each visit to the museum would cost us $5 per person, no matter what, we make our money back in less than 4 visits. And this doesn’t include all of the other museums we have been able to use our membership at to get into for free. I really love this option!

Trusted Housesitters Mini-Vacation

We have used Trusted Housesitters for two trips now and it has saved us a ton of money. If we can find something close enough to us that might only be for a long weekend, then this may be the way to go. Since we get to stay for free when we travel through Trusted Housesitters, the only things we would have to pay for are the extras. We always pack food when we travel, so that cuts down on the costs. Ultimately, this option would still probably be the most expensive though. My best estimate on costs would be somewhere between $200 – $300.

Ping Pong Table

Getting a ping pong table for downstairs is something we have been considering for a while now. It is something fun that we could all end up partaking in, and can be done when the weather isn’t as nice.

I have been leaning towards one that converts into a pool table also, so that it would be multi-function. I have found quite a few used options that range from $75 – $200. Therefore, this might be one of the top runners also.

Family excitement

Ultimately, whatever we get the kids for Christmas, they almost immediately forget about. The toys end up on the floor, or broken. The video games get old and then they are bored. They just don’t have the staying power. And, it really divides our family since they are all off doing separate things.

We continually try to find ways to unite us and keep our communication at a high level for more family unity. So the idea of getting one big family gift instead of a bunch of smaller individual ones appeals to us on all levels.

Plus, if the gift is something we can all do together, or enjoy together, then it creates more overall family excitement. Since the holidays are supposed to be a time to celebrate family and those you love, this idea just makes more obvious sense to us.

takeaway

Overall, it appears that it will cost us less money to buy one family gift for us to enjoy versus individual gifts for everybody. Plus, the family gift will be something we can all enjoy together to create more unity in our family, as opposed to separate us. Since we are always searching for ways to save ourselves more money and create more family cohesion, this seems like a win-win to us.

Have you considered buying a family gift instead of individual Christmas gifts? If so, what was your thought process behind the decision?

How Much Does Having a Child Cost and How To Cut Costs

Deciding to have a child is a very big, life altering decision. It not only affects your everyday life but your finances too.

The average amount that it costs to raise a child annually varies from between $12,000 – 13,000, and it goes up each year with inflation.

But, there are more expenses incurred in the 1st year of having a child. How much does it cost for that 1st year and how can you cut costs?

CHILD BIRTH

The most expensive part of having a baby is the actual birth process. The costs completely depend on:

  1. Vaginal birth or c-section
  2. Insured or not
  3. How much your insurance covers
  4. Which state you live in

While these are a lot of different variables, here are the average costs in each category:

  • Vaginal birth with insurance –  $4,900 – $10,700
  • Vaginal birth WITHOUT insurance – $9,015 – $19,800
  • C-Section with insurance – $7,500 – $15,000
  • C-Section WITHOUT insurance – $12,600 – $28,500

Total range of just giving birth – $4,900 – $28,500

This is a pretty wide spread and should give you a whole lot to think about right out of the gate.

HOUSING

Buying a home can have a pretty large price tag, especially for things that you might not have even thought about. First and foremost is the down payment. This can vary depending on which type of loan you qualify for, but the average amount required for a down payment is 10%.  However, most banks prefer you to put down at least 20% in order to forgo the mandatory PMI. Just something to keep in mind before you decide to purchase a home.

While there may be more up front costs buying a home, it could still potentially cost you less overall. Owning usually gives you more space for the same amount, or less money as renting a smaller place. Plus, you get the equity if you own and you don’t if you rent.

As an added bonus, once your house is paid off, it will then be considered an asset. One that could potentially help you as you get older and start thinking about retirement.

The buy vs. rent decision is a very personal one. So if you aren’t sure which one is the best for your family, then check out this rent vs. buy calculator. Hopefully, it will help you on your path to cutting costs.

FOOD

Food costs can be one of the biggest parts of a monthly budget. While you may not think it will directly affect you immediately, it certainly can. Because with a new baby is in the house, the food costs will go up.

The 3 major things affecting this are:

  1. Breastfeeding
  2. Formula
  3. Solid Food

1. BREASTFEEDING

Breastfeeding usually requires an extra 500 calories per day, just to account for the extra energy needed to produce the milk. A an average of 20% more than you were eating before, you should add an extra 20% into your food budget just for you.

If the average grocery bill for 2 is around $500, then that translates to approximately $250 per person. With the mother requiring 20% more food though, that will be an extra $50 which = $600 per year in increased food costs.

2. FORMULA

Formula feeding can vary with regard to costs depending on how much your child eats and which type of formula you use. But the average costs to formula feed are between $1,138 – $1,188 per year.

3. BABY FOOD

Baby food runs close to $1 per jar. Most babies eat anywhere from 2 – 5 jars a day, depending on their age. That means you could be spending an extra $2 -$5 a day.

That is an extra $60 – $150 per month and $720 – $1,800 per year! A great option to cut costs here is to buy a blender and make your own baby food.

CHILD CARE

Child care can be one of the biggest expenses, aside from the actual birth.

The average a married couple spends 10% of their budget on child care expenses alone. But if you happen to be a single parent, it’s even worse. The number now goes up to 36% of your budget.

This means the average cost of one child, under the age of 1, can be anywhere from $10,000 $20,000. This may be a good reason to think about staying home and working on side hustles instead, as an alternative option.

TRANSPORTATION

A lot of families decide that they want to upgrade to a minivan or an SUV when they begin to think about having a child.

But, switching from a sedan to an SUV or a minivan can cost you up to 50% more. But that doesn’t even include the increased car insurance costs associated with switching to an SUV or a minivan. So keeping your older car, especially if it is paid off, can really help you cut costs.

HEALTHCARE

Adding a child to your healthcare plan will certainly increase your costs. So much so that the range can be anywhere from $250 – $400 extra per month or $3,000 – $4,800 more per year.

This doesn’t even include the higher deductible you will have due to the increased family size. Checking around for cheaper payments with a higher deductible, that covers preventative care visits, may be a good way to help cut costs.

CLOTHING & MISC

Babies require a lot of clothes because they grow so fast and they like to have accidents. The average cost for baby clothes runs around $60 per month, but this depends on your state and income level. However, this doesn’t include other things you need for them such as:

  • Bedding
  • Blankets
  • Books
  • Hairbrush
  • Haircuts
  • OTC medicine
  • Stuffed animals
  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste

If you add an extra $40 into your monthly budget, this should help cover these extraneous expenses. This makes the total for this category an extra $100 per month or $1,200 per year.

overall costs

Let’s recap the added cost breakdown:

  • Child birth = $4,900 – $28,500
  • Housing = Variable
  • Food = $1,320 – $2,988
  • Child care = $10,000 – $20,000
  • Transportation = Variable
  • Healthcare = $3,000 – $4,800
  • Clothing & Misc = $1,200

That is a grand total (on average) of $20,420 – $57,488!

Even though having a child could potentially cost you this much, it doesn’t necessarily have to. Proper planning and forethought are key to helping you cut costs when you have a child.

How much do your children cost you extra a year? Where have you found to cut costs?

What are Some Great Budget Friendly DIY Home Improvement Projects?

It would be great if our home could stay in the state it was in when it was originally built. Then we would never have to spend time or money on home repairs. But, as we all know, that is a pipe dream. Things get older and start to fall apart, or become severely dated with time. One of the best ways to combat major home repairs, and major costs, is to incorporate smaller DIY home improvement projects on a regular basis.

I have found this is one of the most budget friendly ways to keep our home up to date and in good working order. So I’m going to show you some of the best, and easiest, DIY home improvement projects that you we have incorporated to potentially increase the property value. And they can all be done within a small budget. Read more