Friday, November 17, 2017

Plan Your Retirement Now and Secure Your Future!


Plan Your Retirement Now and Secure Your Future!

This is an unpaid sponsored post. I believe strongly in saving for retirement as social security will not likely be enough to cover your expenses in retirement. Please check out this website and the cool tools they have to help you save for retirement!
As we grow closer to the end of yet another year many begin to take stock of our financial situations. It is tough being pulled in so many directions - children’s college funds, vacation and family outings, home ownership and more. But it’s important not to neglect long-term savings for your retirement years. I didn’t really take retirement savings seriously until I turned 40. Now I feel like I am having to catch up on my contributions to my retirement fund.  

Understanding retirement needs can be confusing sometimes and may feel like an overwhelming and impossible task. That’s why I am sharing these simple tips for helping you get started with easy-to-understand resources at AceYourRetirement.org. Here are seven things to consider to help you maximize your retirement savings.

  1. Minimize debt - but not at the expense of paying into your 401k or other retirement accounts. The less debt-load you have during your retirement, the more you’ll be able to make your retirement dollars stretch.
  2. Don’t rely solely on Social Security - in fact people are often recommended to wait until up to age 70 to collect Social Security to allow benefits to grow more.
  3. Consider whether downsizing your living quarters makes sense once children are grown and out of the house.
  4. Make sure your beneficiary designations are up-to-date and talk to your spouse/partner to make sure everyone is on the same page.
  5. If you’ve been divorced but not remarried you may be eligible to Social Security benefits from your ex-spouse.
  6. Enroll in a retirement savings plan. Even a little bit held out from each paycheck can really add up.
  7. Never contribute less to your 401k account than your employer matches if they offer a matching program. Save more if possible and increase your savings by 1% per year whenever possible.


As we approach a new year it’s important to take stock of your current situation, and make adjustments where needed. Pop over to AceYourRetirement.org and get personalized, simple tips on how to jumpstart your retirement savings. It was so helpful to me to see a couple areas that I could adjust to help improve the financial situation of our family. I need to increase my contributions to my 401K that is offered at my work. I currently contribute 2% and will be increasing it to 3-5% in January. I also need to get my student loans paid off to so I can put that money in savings.
I wasn’t surprised to find out that I was the only one struggling with what to do with our finances. I double-checked to make sure that we were maxing out what my employer will match and we found out we needed to adjust our contributions slightly. Today, many Americans households have virtually no retirement savings. This shortfall is especially critical for people in their late 40s and older, who are only years away from retirement.  Americans know they should be focused on the long-term, with nearly 6 in 10 (58%) preferring to save for retirement over something more short-term, a vacation (40%).  But approximately 2 in 5 households headed by people age 55-64—over 9 million households—have no retirement assets saved at all. Among workers with access to an employer-sponsored retirement plan, more than 7 million don’t participate. 28% of people with access to an employer-sponsored plan do not contribute enough money to reach their company match, meaning they are essentially leaving free money on the table.
Taking steps to take control of your retirement planning could have a positive impact in many areas of your life. More than half of people in their 40s and 50s say that feeling more confident about saving for retirement would help them feel less stressed (54%). And 46% would be happier knowing they are taking care of their family’s future. I know I feel better after working through the AARP website AceYourRetirement.org. We’ve been savvy with our money - paid off car loans ahead of schedule, lived almost debt free for awhile...I know we are capable of achieving large financial goals. But I just wasn’t sure where to start. Now I feel much more confident and you can too.

Where will you start with your retirement planning? What’s your biggest challenge today?

Thanks for reading,
Erica

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Five Prepping Things To Accomplish in November


November is here already. Actually we are already half way into the month because time just flew by! Harvest is just about over with. The gardens are done unless you have cold frames. Everything outside is tucked away, battened down, or cleaned up. November is the month to start focusing on the inside things.

Prepping is a lot of little things that add up to big things. You need to work on the inside of the house as well as the outside of the house. Late fall and winter is a great time to get started on the indoor prepping tasks as well as working on some skills.

Five Prepping Things to Accomplish in November:


1. Practice walking around your house in the dark. While this may not seem important, it really is. When the power goes out, you will need to be able to get around in the dark. If you think someone is in your home, you will need the familiarity and the darkness of your home for your advantage.

2. Stock up on baking supplies. November and December is a good time to get your baking supplies stockpile built up. Brown sugar, sugar, flour, cake mixes, frosting, and chocolate chips are all at their best prices right now. Keep your eye out for the loss leaders on the front pages of your grocery advertisements and get stocked up.

3. Get the inside of your house ready for winter. Put plastic on the inside of the windows. Get extra blankets and quilts on the beds. Put 100% cotton or flannel sheets on the beds to make them warmer. Have your supplies ready to go and tested in case of power outages, blizzards, and ice storms.

4. Time to get your prepper reading started. I know some of you read all year round, but some people really like to get their reading done over the winter. I know I do because I am too tired to read much over the summer. Whether you decide to read fiction or nonfiction, pick up some good books to get your knowledge level raised a little more. The more you know, the more you can do. Some books I recommend are:

Prepper's Long-Term Survival Guide by Jim Cobb
The Prepper's Pocket Guide: 101 Easy Things You Can Do to Ready Your Home for a Disaster by Bernie Carr
Prepper Supplies Checklist: A Simple Guide to Emergency Preparedness by Nettie David
Prepper's Total Grid Failure Handbook by Alan and Arlene Fiebig

5. Make certain everyone has good, warm winter clothing. I know how it is. Kids grow fast. Gloves and hats disappear. A boot has a hole in it. Socks aren't warm enough or thick enough. Make sure everyone's winter needs are covered and their items are in good repair. Add some more sweaters and sweatshirts to the list too to keep everyone warm and cozy without having to turn up the thermostat!


Also check out:
Five Prepping Things to Accomplish in October
Five Prepping Things to Accomplish in September
Five Prepping Things to Accomplish in August

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Friday, November 10, 2017

What happens when it is all gone tomorrow?


In your lifetime, something will probably happen to you that will make you wonder what you are going to do next. You could lose your job. You could be in a car accident and not be able to work or pay bills. You could have a tornado or hurricane wipe out your home and everything you have worked for. You could get divorced and be left with nothing. A loved one could be taken from you and you have to figure out life without them.

So much can happen that begs me to think about this. I have been through at least two of those scenarios. I have had to ask myself "What happens when it is all gone tomorrow?"

The worst thing about this question and these scenarios is that you have very little to no warning. You rarely get to pick when something bad and life-changing gets to happen to you. Very few people know they have cancer before they are diagnosed. Many people have shown up to work only to find the doors locked and find out they are unemployed. The weather service is pretty accurate, but you may only have days to a week to find out how devastating a storm can be. Bad things will happen that will completely change your life tomorrow.

We can prepare for just about anything. We can have supplies built up, plans in place, emergency funds and savings on hand, and another place to go to. We can take care of ourselves physically, mentally, and spiritually. We can draw up wills and living trusts to take care of our loved ones. We have insurance for health, vehicles, and life to take care of any contingencies. By our very natures, we like to plan ahead to be prepared for any event that could alter our lives.

But we can't prepare for everything. Something may happen that will wipe away everything we have worked, prepared for, and lived for. In all seriousness, that is the most devastating thing to have to go through. You don't know where to start or how to start building your life again. You don't know where to go. You don't know what the next step is. You are in shock. Disbelief and fear will take over.

You have to move on. That will be tough to do for a lot of people, but you have to. There are things you can do, however, to help you process this major life change and start to create a new life for you.

1. It will take some time to process what happened. Your mind will need time to process, recover, and make a plan. Give yourself that time, but don't dwell on the negative for too long. You probably have other people relying on you and you need to get on with things for their sake.

2. While these are bad circumstances, you need to stay positive and hope for the best while being realistic. You probably have others depending on you to take care of them and they need your best. Being bitter and angry will not serve you in any way and it will not make the circumstances any better.

3. Take care of the basics. If you are a prepper or survivalist, you know you need shelter, water, and food first and foremost if you are in this kind of situation. You need to find shelter, water, and food to stay alive. Next you need to stay warm if you are in that kind of climate. You need to take care of the basics so those depending on you will be taken care of and you will feel better too.

4. Take the next step. When your mind is under stress, you may not know what to do next. You will feel numb. Write down everything you need to do and what needs to be taken care of. Write down even the smallest things to do that you think you will remember. You are under stress so you may not remember those things. Pick one thing on that list and do that thing.

5. Prioritize what you need to do. What is the most important thing that needs to get done? If you have the basics covered, you need to pick the next thing to get done. Whether it is making legal or medical decisions, applying for unemployment benefits, shutting off services to save money, finding another job, calling insurance, or finding a new home, you need to get those things done. Figure out what is most important and do it.

6. Accept the kindness of others. There are people who will want to help you if they know you are in need. Please accept their help whether it is a place to stay, a meal, a shoulder to cry on, good advice, or a voice of reason. Sometimes the price of the help can be high so you need to decide that, but do not turn down help if you can use it. The help offered will make the burden lighter.

7. Do not make any "snap" decisions unless it is an emergency. In times like this, snap decisions can lead to regret. You may be under stress, but you need to use reason and common sense to make the next decision. You have yourself to consider as well as probably family to consider. If you are struggling to make a decision, ask your family and friends for their advice and knowledge. However, because I believe in this, do not ignore your gut reaction. If you know, deep down, what you should do and you know that is not from paranoia or fear, go with your gut and do it.

8. Seek information and good advice. As I said in #7, you should make informed decisions. You are in a situation that may seem like life or death or you may not have a lot of options, but you need to be informed. What are your options? What is the best treatment? What can I do to support my family? Where would be the best place to move to? These are all questions (and there are definitely more) that deserve well-researched, well-informed answers.

9. Don't be afraid of other people and their reactions. You have to do what is best for you and your family. You may make people sad or angry about your decisions and/or your plan of action. They may try to make you feel guilty or feel stupid about the decisions you make. Don't let these people have that power. It is one thing to feel like you need to take care of your parents (or something similar), but it is another thing if people make you feel like you can't leave or you have to accept your circumstances. You have to take care of you and make the best decisions for you and your family.

These ideas and things to do are not a complete plan. These are things you can do to start moving on with your life when it seems like hope is lost and/or you have lost everything. Taking the next step and moving on with your life may seem like the hardest thing to do, but for your sake you have to do it.

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Sunday, November 5, 2017

Sunday Thoughts - November 5

Happy Sunday Everyone!

Let's see if I can keep this post more upbeat than last week's post. It shouldn't be hard since I feel like I am in a better place today.

People have this idea that preppers and homesteaders are tough and resilient people that have their lives together. I can testify otherwise. Life is messy and throws a lot of curve balls.

The weather is one of those curve balls. Winter is showing up early this year. We have been spoiled the last few years with nice weather in October and November. This year we are scrambling to get outside projects finished. The temps have not been bad enough to freeze the ground, just bad enough to make working outside unpleasant.

And daylight savings time? Bah. You have to love the fact that the government controls when our clocks should turn back and skip ahead. I would like my hour or two back of sunlight when I get home to get more stuff done. I don't need sunlight to go to work and my kids don't need it to go to school!

Today I got the garden cleaned up somewhat. I would still like to do more, but I have a feeling Rob will be needing my help to get outside projects done this week. We shall see what happens. I took up the stakes and string that I used to trellis the tomatoes this year. I pulled up more plants that I keep throwing into one long row.

Last week, when the kids cleaned out the chicken coop, they dumped the bedding in the garden. Doing this the last few years has been tremendous boost to my garden. I need to spread it out a little better, but I will be a believer in having this as a part of my garden.

I planted 44 bulbs of garlic today and staked off that area so it doesn't get accidentally tilled next spring. I wish there was more I could plant this time of year for the next year, but being in this zone and in Iowa doesn't leave much for planting in late fall.

And no, the potatoes are still not dug up. Can you tell what my least favorite harvest task is?

The boat got put away this week too. I'm a little sad about that because I really like boating. I find it very relaxing!

This week is sort of busy. Dane has 7th grade basketball practice this week. Paige has an honor choir performance on Monday and a cross country banquet on Thursday. She is also finally getting her wisdom teeth out on Wednesday. For those people who don't believe getting wisdom teeth is necessary, her surgery is. Her bottom two wisdom teeth are impacted and bone on bone making chewing and life a little difficult for her right now.

I don't have a lot planned for the week. Just get done what I can outside and be a helper to Rob. I want to list more things for sale on Facebook and eBay this week. I am trying to branch out a bit and sell some things that I wouldn't normally consider. I sold two things on Facebook Marketplace this last week that were listed five months ago! I couldn't believe it!

I also wrote a post about 20 Ideas for Raising Kids Frugally. There are a lot of tips and tricks that worked for me. Check it out!

Paladin Press will closing their doors on November 29, 2017. They are an excellent source of survival and preparedness books. Many of their books are marked down 65% and more. I placed an order for four books last week. I encourage you to check them out! (Not an affiliate, just a fan!)

What have you done this last week? What are your plans for the upcoming week?

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Thursday, November 2, 2017

20 Ideas For Raising Kids Frugally


Kids can be so expensive. There is the expected expenses of clothing and feeding them. Then there are the unexpected expenses of injuries, wisdom teeth, illnesses, and notes from school saying they owe money for this or that. Either way, kids costs money.

I am here to tell you that after raising two kids to adulthood and two kids on their way to adulthood, that kids do not have to be expensive at all. In fact, you can raise kids rather frugally. Most of these tactics are not one-time savings ideas, but are everyday savings ideas. Whether you are a prepper, homesteader, or average suburban family, these ideas are all for you.

I want to preface this list by saying if you are serious about raising your kids frugally, then you need to put yourself into a frugal mindset. Being frugal is not a one-time thing. Being frugal is saving and not spending money everyday and every minute of the day. Being frugal is in the decisions you make and what you are willing to do to have to spend any more money that you have to.

20 Ideas For Raising Kids Frugally

1. Teach your kids to make do with what they have instead having to have something new.

2. Encourage your kids' creativity in what they can do with what they have. Have them play dress-up and use their imaginations. Let them build forts in the living room. Let them draw on scratch paper. All of this costs you very little or nothing and the kids are much better for it.

3. Accept hand me down clothes, toys, and any baby goods you can. Free is good!

4. Learn to go to the thrift and consignment shops first for clothes and baby goods before going to a regular store.

5. Look on eBay and Craigslist for used goods and presents that your kids need.

6. Teach your kids the difference between needs and wants. They might need regular training on this especially when they are preteens and teenagers.

7. Before shopping for back to school goods, look at what they had the year before and reuse the backpacks and supplies that can be reused.

8. Scour garage sales for what they need and for presents. I have found so many brand new things at garage sales and spent so little for presents.

9. Teach them when they are little that leftovers are a good thing! They should know that leftover food should be ate the next day or two so that food is not wasted.

10. Pack their school lunches instead of buying hot lunches from school. It is cheaper and a whole lot healthier for them to take their own lunches. If you have a kids with food allergies or intolerances, taking your own food is so much cheaper and you don't have to battle with the school.

11. Limit gift giving. We only do 4-5 presents for Christmas and birthdays. Easter is a small gift basket. Holidays are no excuse for going overboard on presents and busting your budget. By keeping the expectations of the holidays reasonable, you are keeping their expectations reasonable too.

12. If you have multiple children, keep all the decent hand me down clothes for the next kid. Even if you have three girls and one boy, a lot of the tee shirts, sweatshirts, and gym shorts could be passed down girl to boy and vice versa. If you have baby clothes, keep them as neutral as possible to pass down also.

13. Learn to mend clothes and repair shoes and toys. Fixing things is a lot cheaper than buying new.

14. Say no to a lot of activities that your kids can be in. One or two activities is not a bad thing, but sports and dance classes can really rack up the dollars. Kids exploring their passions and figuring out what they want to be interested in should not be discouraged, but being in several things at once is very costly financially and mentally.

15. Eating out should be a treat. Kids should not be eating out or being taken through the drive through several times a week. Eating at home is so much cheaper and healthier.

16. Say no to your kids. Kids do not have to have everything their little hearts desire. In fact, teaching them limits now will only benefit you and them later. If you can't handle their temper tantrums and sad faces, you need to understand that this is a part of parenting and deal with it.

17. Say no to a lot of the school expenses. Fundraisers, t-shirts, doodahs, and whatnots get to be very expensive very fast. I don't blame the schools for trying to raise money because the budgets are so tight. I don't have a problem with my own kids trying to raise their money for trips. However, I am very discerning about which fundraisers we buy from and what school things we buy. If my kids want to spend their own money on those things, they can.

18. Limit electronics and cellphones. Your kids do not need to be on their electronics all the time especially at an young age. Cellphones should not be given to anyone under 13 years of age except in certain cases. All these things cost money for the plans, the electricity, and the time wasted on them. Trust me, we have made many mistakes in this category and I am just telling you what I have learned. Limit the electronics and kids will find out they have other interests and hobbies.

19. Limit their toys and clothes. Again, this is another category that I have made many mistakes in. More clothes and more toys is expensive and not just to your pocketbook, but your time. Also, kids learn to be discontented when they have a lot of things because they expect more. If they have a few toys, enough clothes for a week or two, and you tell them no to more, they will learn to be happy with what they have.

20. Say yes to free classes and free experiences. A lot of things for kids are offered for free and you should be on the lookout for that. Your extension office, schools, local conservation groups, churches, and so many more groups offer all sorts of free things that you can take advantage of for your kids.

There are so many more ways to save money while raising kids. These are the lessons that I learned and am still learning. These are the tips that helped me. While I had help from grandparents, I still have to do what I could to save money so I could make ends meet. I bet a lot of you are in the same situation.

What are your favorite ways to raise you kids frugally?

Thanks for reading,
Erica

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Sunday Thoughts - October 29

Happy Sunday everyone!

To start, I apologize for missing last week. While I realize this weekly post is not everyone's cup of tea, it serves as a place for me to get my thoughts straight. It also helps me keep track of what I have done and not done. Let's put more emphasis on what is not done because that is how I am feeling.

Actually, let's back up a little more. I struggle to stay focused on the best of days. If I didn't know better, I would probably have the adult version of ADD. However, I am not going to pursue finding out because I already know I have a problem. I survive off of to-do lists and mini self-challenges. I keep a never-ending to-do list in a journal that I carry in my purse. I also write down anything and everything I want and need to remember. Hopefully, I remember to write it down. I also heavily use my Google calendar on my phone to remember appointments and anything that I have to do that day that I don't trust myself to remember.

Yes, I have a problem. I feel sorry for anyone who has to live with me!

Now, add anxiety and stress to my already struggling focus and I am toast. I have barely gotten anything done this last week. If I had any commitments to anyone, I remembered to do those. So I remembered to pick the last of my green tomatoes and green peppers and gave them to a friend. Rob and I sold a lot of eggs last week and I remembered to get those to the right people. I remembered to make food for the week today. We have a loaf of fresh bread for sandwiches, baked oatmeal muffins, egg muffins, and granola bars for breakfasts and lunches this week.

On a whim, I decided to steam my farm fresh eggs instead of boiling them to make hard boiled eggs. They turned out great and they peel so much easier!

We will take the victories where we can!

I need to finish putting the garden to rest and get the garlic planted. The weather has been wet and rainy with the appearance of snow. We did get our first frost. I am hoping to get a warm up in November so I can finish. I still need to dig potatoes too. The strawberries have been mulched by the pine needles nearby, but I want to get more pine needles on them. The weather was nice for a few days this last week, but I was busy at work with harvest and pretty dang tired by the time I got home.

I realize that was just an excuse. I have been feeling guilty for not getting more done at home. I admire the people who can get so much done in a day. Every time I sit down for a rest, I feel like I should be doing more. I hate feeling convicted about an area of my life, but it is better to have this happening now. If something happens where I have to be working harder, I don't want to be dealing with these feeling then.

Other than that, I have been trying to figure out ways to make more money. Yes, I know I should be content with what I make already. However, I have medical bills, dental bills, and an upcoming wisdom teeth surgery (Paige) to pay for. Nevermind, I still need to put tires on the van and replace the front tie rods. Also nevermind, Christmas and a birthday (Paige) is coming up too! Ugh. I am not good about being behind on my bills. It makes me cranky and think about money all the time. It really, really stresses me out.

Since I am not willing to practice the world's oldest profession, I have been trying to find things to sell and to flip. I have been cleaning a house for a friend once a month. I am working on taking pictures of my kids' discarded things to sell. I have been playing on Swagbucks again to earn points for Amazon cards. We have been selling eggs. Basically, however I can make a dollar, I will be trying. I can always get part-time job, but I still need to be a mama too.

So this has been me in a nutshell this last two weeks. I know a lot more has been going on, but this is what has been on my mind. I am not perfect, I will never be perfect, but I strive every day to do my best.

What have you been up to lately? What is on your mind?

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Thursday, October 19, 2017

Coming To My House When SHTF Happens? We Need To Talk...


We occasionally have people say that they are coming to my house when stuff hits the fan. While that may sound like a good idea, we may have different ideas about what a good idea is.

When people tell us are coming to our place, I pause a bit. Some people get a quick "sure" and some people just get a laugh. If you get a laugh, we more than likely don't want you to come here. We have our reasons. Most people are not capable of working hard or doing what they are told. Some people crack under pressure instead of just getting things done. We have family and close friends to think about first.

If you are planning to come here and you think we might be okay with that, you need to keep reading. We have criteria for you staying here. We will make exceptions for the elderly and disabled, but usually they want to be more of a help than able bodied people do.

1. Be prepared to work. If SHTF does happen, life will not be easier for you or me. The animals will still need to be tended and possibly even more food will need to be grown for them. The already good-sized garden will need to be bigger and will still need to be tended and weeded. Depending on the circumstances, there will be a lot of work to do inside and outside the house. You will be expected to contribute and work for your supper just like the rest of us.

2. Please bring your own living quarters. If you have a camper that can be heated, you will need to bring it. Have a generator? Bring that too. We have limited space and I have a feeling you will be happier with your own space. Now would be a good time to make sure you can live long term in your camper. I would also make sure you can survive in your camper without electricity too.

3. Bring your food storage with you. In your mind, I may have a lot of food storage. In my mind, I will never have enough. If you are planning to come here, you better pack all the food you can safely bring in your vehicle and your camper. I don't care if it is perishable or not because you will need all the food you can bring. This food is for your benefit so bring it. With that line of thought, bring your portable water too. You will also probably need that too.

4. You will be coming to OUR place. While I regularly seek out other's opinions and wisdom, I (we) will be calling most of the shots. This is OUR place and I (we) will ask for the respect that we deserve. You are coming here and you will be here because of my permission. Don't like it? Too bad.

5. If you have skills, you will be using them. I believe in having people use their talents in the best way possible. I also believe in learning new skills and you will be teaching other people your skills. Either way, your skills will be a benefit to the group.

6. You might not be welcome. We might turn you away. I don't do other people's drama very well. I have no desire to live in commune like conditions. I have family and close friends to think about first. I don't have that much room. You get it.

Trust me, I understand desperation and I understand having no other place to go. Life throws curve balls like that sometimes. However, if you aren't planning ahead and/or do not have a plan in place about where to go if stuff does hit the fan, I might not feel that bad for you.

7. If you are bringing your kids, they need to understand that they will be contributors too. Kids as young as 3 can be put to work doing simple tasks. Start training them now to do simple things. Also, your teenagers' attitudes will not be welcomed. Start teaching them now to do what they are told. I understand that mistakes might be made and sometimes teenagers do not understand time tables, but they will be doing what they are told to do.

8. A good attitude will go a long ways for you to being able to stay here. We are not work all the time people, but we are not play all the time people either. I know some tasks will not be what you want to do, but I do things all the time I don't want to do. That doesn't mean I get to be grumpy about that. I also understand that if you are coming here, something traumatic has happened and you might not be a good mindset. However, you are responsible for your attitude, your emotions, and your reactions. I will only put up with a bad attitude for so long...

These may seem pretty harsh, but that is the way it is. We are preparing for worse case scenarios and can't afford to think that something might not be as bad as it could be. I know more people means more work, more food, and more planning. I can't really afford to be relaxed about preparing for the worse case or for more people.

Thanks for reading,
Erica


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