ReNewed: Debt-Free Living

MURPHY’S LAW (part 2)

Awhile ago, I talked about how Murphy’s Law always gets in our way of building the emergency fund, and how by making some very hard decision based on our commitment to add no new debt, we power through.

I was getting excited for this blog post because I was going to be able to share that our emergency fund gained some ground on the $1500 mark, but before I could even start writing, Murphy’s Law struck again!

Another one of Murphy’s Laws states, “If everything seems to be going well, you have obviously overlooked something.”

A raucous storm accompanied by massive wind gusts and pouring rain plowed through the area last weekend uncovering a vulnerable spot on our roof.

The next morning as I exited my bedroom to grab a cup of coffee and head to work, I was greeted by a drip in my kitchen ceiling. Ugh!

I may have used vulgar language, but I can’t be sure. I’ll leave you thinking I only exclaimed “Ugh!”

It wasn’t the drip in the kitchen itself that took the wind from my sails. The damaged area was quite small, actually. When I saw the puddle of water and then the spot on the ceiling that was making it, I saw my wonderful emergency fund that I was so proud of disappear before my eyes.

I worked so hard at building that fund and now the ceiling was going to rip it from my hands.

Now I’m positive I used vulgar language. Quiet positive.

I called the insurance company to open a claim and was notified that, if there wasn’t extensive damage, we would have to foot the bill as our deductible was $3000.00.

Now I know I used vulgar language. $3000.00!

“Crap! $3000.00! What the heck?!” I screamed in my head.

To the insurance agent, I simply pointed out that it seemed pretty high for a deductible, but to send someone to give me an estimate anyway.

A few days later, the home repair company determined that the roof’s valleys needed to be shored up, a couple of nails poking through another area of the roof needed to be fixed, and the damage to the kitchen ceiling’s taped joints would all come to $1050.


That we can do!

Take that Murphy’s Law!

Thank you Dave Ramsey and the emergency fund! I still have $450 left over!

The takeaways from all of this:

  1. Emergency funds take a lot of the stress out of an emergency. You may not know what you are preparing for, but that doesn’t mean you don’t prepare.
  2. Knowledge is power. Knowing deductibles and adjusting emergency fund to meet those deductibles is a powerful anchor. We are now upping our emergency fund to $3000 until we can afford to lower the deductible and pay a higher premium.
  3. I can’t help notice that we weren’t freaking out about where to find the extra money. It was already there.

I’d love to hear how establishing an emergency fund has helped you.


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ReNewed: Debt-Free Living

Celebrating a Success

As Queen coined it, “Another one bites the dust.” Another credit card bill that is.

For all the difficulties Murphy’s law throws at us, by sticking to our pledge to pay cash and implementing Dave Ramsey’s Debt Snowball tactic, we crushed another credit card and are one step closer to being debt free!

To celebrate, because I’m the kind of girl who needs to celebrate meeting even small goals, I splurged and bought two movies for $5 each and a box of brownie mix. I know you die hards are thinking that is $15 that could have been applied to the next bill, but there is nothing wrong with a little controlled celebration.

Because I can talk myself into and out of almost anything, while I was in college I made “Celebration Rules.”

  • Mid-term: if I had perfect attendance and current with the work, I bought myself a pair of shoes. I was a poor college student, so these were usually found on the sale rack for a couple of dollars.
  • Papers (both mid-term and finals): I’d give myself a reward of a couple cookies or a small bowl of ice cream after finishing 3 or 4 pages. When the entire paper was submitted and turned in, I celebrated by renting a movie and taking a nap.
  • Final grades: If I pulled a 4.0, I splurged on a new outfit to match the shoes I bought at mid-term. If it was less than a A, I only bought half the outfit. Again, everything was found on the clearance rack because I was a poor college student.  If I got anything less than a B, I made myself retake the class.

Movies and brownies for the win!

I get one night to celebrate crushing that credit card bill, and then it’s back to “snowballing” those bills.

According to the debt snowball guidelines, the money we were paying on the credit card is added to our next smallest bill: my husband’s car note. By applying the debt snowball method, his car will be paid off in 9 months. And you know what that means?


Tell me about one of your success and how you celebrated.




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Renew:Debt-free Living


In the last installment of this series, I talked about routinely taking stock of one’s finances which is the first step in Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University class.

Routine, routine, routine. It keeps my life from going off the rails and crashing, leaving behind a red, hot ball of firey flames rivaled only by the entrance to hell itself.

The next step in Ramsey’s Financial Peace class is gathering an emergency fund of at least $1000 as quickly as possible.

It sounds simple, but have you ever heard of Murphy’s Law? Hold on to your hat because there’s more than one law – there’s 8 actually – about things going wrong, and we experienced most of them.


Step #1 of Ramsey’s Baby Steps is to save $1000 as soon as possible.  He advises students to cut out extras and sell stuff to raise the money as quickly as possible.

We sold everything that didn’t have deep sentimental value, or we weren’t using.

We consolidated our children’s books into one case and sold the extra bookcase. We purged our daughter’s dressers, putting everything on hangers, and then sold the bedroom set. We also found some miscellaneous things in the attic that we put on the local Facebook swap page.

In addition to selling things, we agreed to cut out extra entertainment such as renting movies, going to movies, eating out, etc. until the emergency fund was in place. We pared down to the bare necessities. I even stopped using my Keurig and started brewing coffee by the pot again (lest you think otherwise, this is a BIG deal).

Within the month, we had raised $500. We were off to a good start, and we were excited.

To complete the emergency fund, we planned to use my income as a community college adjunct to pay off a couple of small doctors’ bills, and whatever was left over, would go into the emergency fund.   In the meantime, we were going to set $25 a week for the next 5 months to make up the rest.

We thought we had a good plan.

But Murphy had other plans.

Stupid Murphy.

Murphy’s Law

Almost immediately after we agreed on a plan to accumulate the emergency fund, the first and most well known of Murphy’s Laws kicked in right away with the second and slightly lesser known law following close behind.

1. If anything can go wrong it will go wrong.

2. If there is a chance of several things going wrong, the one that will cause the most damage will be the one to go wrong.

The list started with the refrigerator dripping water and refusing to cool, and continued with the front and back brakes on my car needing replaced, my molar chipping in half while eating popcorn, the TV in the playroom braking, the garage door rollers beginning to fall off, some of the windows in the house starting to lose their seal with white filmy yuck accumulating in them, and ended with my mind reeling with so on, and so on, and so on.

Well, craptastic! Which one to do we fix first?

The inside of my fridge had turned into the likes of the cavern behind Niagara Falls. At certain times, I could actually hear the water pouring out of the freezer onto the top shelf of the fridge. The poor girl was incontinent! Mopping up the mess was a daily chore. I put small pans in the back to catch the water, but if I didn’t empty them daily, there was always an overflow to clean up.

In the past, we would have run to Lowe’s and bought a new fridge on their “No money down/12 months same as cash” plan. Then we would have used some of the emergency money to replace the brakes.  But we had pledged on the first day of Financial Peace class to not make any new purchases until we had our emergency fund in place and we had saved the money to pay cash.

 Well, craptastic!  Stupid Murphy. Stupid pledge.

Okay, the pledge is actually not stupid. It forced us to either give in or buckle down. We decided to buckle down.

Determined not to break the pledge, we decided to try and nudge the fridge along with minor self-repairs so we could replace the brakes on my car. Having the brakes replaced was the most pressing to us because the safety of the family was at stake.

But what about my tooth? Wasn’t that also the most pressing?

Not exactly. Thanks to my atrocious pre-adolescent oral hygiene, the tooth was completely packed with silver amalgam, so I wasn’t experiencing any pain or sensitivity. Plus I hate the dentist (read about it here), so fixing the tooth was shoved to the back burner until we gathered the emergency fund.

After prodding the fridge along for a little over six months, the old gal gave up the ghost. She just stopped working. Not much we could do but get a new fridge.

At that time, the emergency fund almost had the required $1000. The 12 months same as cash idea was very tempting. We could get a fantastic fridge if it wasn’t for that pledge. We talked it over, each of us playing devil’s advocate to the other until we landed on the solution.

Sticking to the pledge, we went to Lowe’s with $500 in hand and bought a small fridge that would get us by for two years until we were debt free and had saved the money for the fridge of our dreams. At that point in time, we can either sell the $500 fridge or retire it to the laundry room to hold water bottles and such.

The Lowe’s attendant was flabbergasted that we not only refused to finance, but we also had the cash in hand. When I asked him if something was wrong, he remarked, “No. It’s just people don’t usually pay with cash.”

That’s when I remembered Ramsey’s mantra: Live like no one else, so one day you can live like no one else.

After that purchase, I started approaching our purchases with stricter boundaries between needs and wants.

a. We haven’t replaced the upstairs television. We have to share the one in the living room. Gasp!

b. My molar still isn’t fixed. It still doesn’t hurt, but it is next on the “fix-it list”.

c. My husband contacted a garage door company and they sold him new rollers for little to nothing. He Googled how to replace them himself.

d. We had one of the windows on the front of the house re-sealed and decided to install new windows when – you got it – after we are debt free.

Most of the emergencies we call emergencies are really not emergencies. They are just real life we didn’t plan for. We knew we were going to have to replace the fridge at some point; we just didn’t plan for it. Brakes need replacing, too. We just didn’t plan for it.

Now we not only have an emergency fund deposit each paycheck, but we have a home/auto replacement account as well. That’s a topic for a later post.

How difficult has it been to grow your emergency fund?

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Monday Morning Coffee and a Quote

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Writing Challenge Day 16: My thoughts on education


I am the mother. I am my children’s life-long teacher.

When I decided to have children, I made their education a top priority.

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Challenge Day 4: My Dream Job

When I was in college, I wanted to be an English Literature professor living and teaching somewhere in Europe. I pictured myself living in a small flat with a dog, walking to and from campus. My doggie would sit in my office on his doggy pillow while I inspired young minds to question, search, think, and find their voice. On my way back to my flat, I would stop at the grocer and pick up supper, or maybe stop and a small out of the way café’ and enjoy a small meal while I read a book before going home.  I’d write intriguing novels on the side, and do book reading and promotional tours in my spare time. I know how far fetched the last part is now. Teachers do not have spare time. Ever.

When I was in high school, I used to pretend to be a lounge singer, acoustic of course.  On nights that my parents would be gone, I would go into my dad’s office (we called it his playroom because it was a bedroom converted into an office/recording studio) and grab one of Dad’s acoustic guitars. He had this elaborate stereo system and had the sound system wired throughout the house.

We were never allowed to go in there.

We were never allowed to touch anything.

That’s why I had to wait until they were gone.

I would grab one of the cushioned barstools, a microphone, microphone stand, and one of his acoustic guitars, and set up stage in the middle of the living room facing the east wall where all 28 grand- and great-grandchildren’s pictures hung. They were my audience.

I popped one of my cassettes into his stereo and turned up the speakers in every room of the house. Then I turned up the stereo, pushed play, propped my butt on the bar stool with guitar at the ready, and waited for the music to start thundering through the house so I could entertain my captive audience.

I pretended to play songs from America, Nazareth, Loverboy, Taylor Dane, and I’d throw in some Oak Ridge Boys or Willy just to make it eclectic.

I was good.

The applause was deafening.

The crowd loved me. They really, really loved me.

After my set, I’d thank the crowd for coming out and to remember to tip the wait staff.  I would put everything back into Dad’s playroom, pulled the door shut, sat on the couch, and acted like I watched t.v. all night.

Little did they know.

I guess being a lounge singer is really my “dream” job. I can’t play the guitar, and I can’t sing.


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Challenge Day 3: Favorite Quote



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2013 in review

So here it is, 2014.  I remember celebrating the New Year in 1985 and thinking, “Wow, it feels like 1982.” I was a senior in high school in ’85 and finally felt like I could make it in high school.

It takes me a little longer than most to build confidence, but I get there eventually.

When I started blogging in September 2011, I was far from confident that I could generate any type of following, but I did.  I have my 2013 New Year’s resolution – to be better – and family, friends and some awesome fellow bloggers to thank for that.

Was I better in all things? No, not at all, but I made progress in many areas:

  • Health – getting a better grip on my hypothyroidism and Hoshimoto’s decease.  With diet, exercise, and a vitamin regimen of athletic champions I am feeling tremendously better. 😉
  • Driving – I almost made it all year without getting a speeding ticket. Blast you Perry, GA!  Even with that one ticket, I still finished 2013 better than 2012. One more year doing “better” and I’m no longer considered high risk. Whew!
  • Parenting – I took a huge step into the completely uncomfortable and decided to homeschool F and Z this year.  I am not saying in the least that homeschooling makes me a better mother, because I don’t believe that it does; however, it has provided the time needed to uncover deeper causes of some troubling issues.  I am confident that with the information gained I can be a better parent.  I’m just not convinced the discovery is weighty enough to balance the intellectual and emotional scarring they’ve experienced by having me as their teacher.   Only time will tell.
  • WalMart – I didn’t step foot into a WalMart store for all of 2013, and I am a much better person for it! Not to mention my pocketbook is much happier, too.
  • Work – Continuing to tutor homeschooled students in various levels of high school English, I’ve also taken an adjunt English instructor position with an area community college.  I’m not sure how I’m going to juggle all of it, but I’m pretty sure Adderall will be a key player.
  • Financial – In July, I started listening to David Ramsey’s Financial Freedom seminars through Gateway and reading his blog.  I have my budget, my cash, and my plan.  One small credit card paid off, car to be paid off by March, and the first of two big credit cards to be paid by the end of 2014.  You may not understand the magnitude of this step in the better direction. It’s *hands spread shoulder-width apart, fingers spread and bent as if to catch a basketball, and with a deep voice say…* BETTER!

I didn’t do so hot with my reading list or my writing, but I’m not going to allow those two perceived failures to squelch the contentment I feel.  Something has to give, right? Seriously, if I had to choose between spending countless hours completing my book list or spending countless hours discovering what is troubling my child, I am obviously going to spend those hours on my child. Although, it would have been a lot less painful reading the books.   😉

On the lighter side of things, “the stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for” me, and I’m quite happy with it.  My blog stats are better than last years (largely in part to gaining new readers, so thank you new readers of my blog for making my year successful), so I’m feeling good, my friends.  Feeling good, indeed.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,400 times in 2013. If it were a cable car, it would take about 40 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report. It’s worth a look. I especially liked the map of the world. I can’t believe people in India read my writing!

So what’s my resolution for 2014?  Is it a cop out to keep the same resolution – to be better?

As I said last year, “I don’t have to beat myself up by not making big enough strides […], because in reality, the goal [to become the best person I can be] is unattainable; however, I can be better. And if I don’t consult the devilish stick that measures me against other people and stick to one simple question – Am I better than I was? – then I can do it.”

I like being better.

How about you?  What is your 2014 resolution?

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Homeschool: How We Did It (part 1)

School is officially out for summer break, and I can now resume blogging.

You may ask yourself, “Didn’t the kids go to school leaving me with more time on my hands?”

No and no.

They didn’t leave for school. They stayed home for school, leaving me with less time on my hands than I had anticipated.

That’s right. After two years of badgering, my Effy got her way and we decided to homeschool last year.

When I presented the idea to my husband, his only request was that we find somewhere other than the kitchen table and living room to hold class. He was privately thinking that we would transform the upstairs play area into a classroom while the kids and I had a totally different idea.

Effy and had been camping in Z’s room for most of the summer, so last July, the kids and I started transforming Effy’s bedroom into a classroom.

This is what we did:

We cleaned it out.


We cleaned it up.


We prepped it for painting.


We painted…

and painted...

and painted…


and painted…

and painted some more.

Then we filled it with classroomy stuff.

We used Effy's old bookshelves and bought a card table and chairs from Target.

For the above picture: we used already-owned bookshelves to hold “library books” and to provide easy access to pencil and marker boxes, games and easy-access art supplies. Already-owned plastic drawers that were once used for baby supplies are now used to turn in assignments and hold art and teacher supplies. An old footstool for reading is used for 1 of 2 reading corners. I bought a card table and three folding chairs and two “milk crates” from Target.

And we filled it some more:

and filled it...

For the above picture: a smaller already-owned bookshelf holds teachers manuals, CDs, files, and masters. The desk and the clock were moved from the upstairs playroom to house the computer (which wasn’t back from its trip to the spa, a.k.a. maintenance, when the picture was taken) and to help us tell time, respectfully. The trash can was purchased from Target.  Flag was purchased from Lowes.

And then we filled it a little more:

The Word Wall and Reading Tree. Both purchased from The Knowledge Tree.

The Word Wall and Reading Tree were both purchased from and laminated by The Knowledge Tree.

Hung pre-owned Weekly Work Schedule and whiteboard.  Both purchased from either Office Max or Office Depot about three year ago.

I hung the pre-owned Weekly Work Schedule and whiteboard (both are self-adhesive, peel-and-stick products, that are completely removable without damage to the wall) I purchased from Office Depot about three years ago; however, similar products may be purchased at At A Glance.

Here is a close-up of the Weekly Work Schedule. I labeled each day with the lesson number (L4, L5, L6, etc) and divided the day in half to accommodate each kid’s lessons.

Close-up of the Weekly Work Schedule after it was affixed to the wall


And after I filled it in with the first weeks work.

And after I filled it in with the second weeks work.

 And then we gave our school a name.wpid-imag1614.jpg

I was planning to blog my experiences; however, I was so busy with preparing lessons, correcting, and getting used to the new lifestyle of being a homeschooling family (and the homeschooling lifestyle is a real thing, especially if you’re going to do it right), I just did not have the time.

Here I am.  All three of us made it through, and I can honestly say that only the first six months were torturous and then we hit our stride.

All’s well that ends well. Right?

I hope so, because we are doing it again next year.


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Spring Break: Pigeon Forge

Last year I packed up the kids and headed to Kentucky for Spring Break. This year, I was going to take them to Nashville to continue the search for my great-great grandfather, but my husband had a better idea.

We rented a cabin in the Smokey Mountains. It was cold and rainy, but even in less than perfect conditions the Smokey Mountains were spectacular.

The soundtrack to Les Misérables played as we drove up winding, narrow yet nicely paved mountain roads to Clingmans Dome, the highest point of the Smokey Mountains, in hopes of seeing three states: West Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina.

This is what we saw:


We were a little less than thrilled with the view.  After watching the cloud move around us for a few minutes, G wanted to leave the dome, but I noticed that the view had changed to this:


The cloud had thinned enough that we could make out another mountain top in the distance, so I made G wait to see what would happen.

In a matter of seconds, the view had changed to this:


And to this just a couple of seconds later:


And then we saw this!!


In a total of three minutes, the clouds had opened upon this spectacular view, and I broke out in Fantine’s “So different now than what it seemed!”  G’s eyes snapped on me, “No, Mom. Just… No.”  I can see her point, but in my defense, at that moment, that particular line, taken completely out of context, worked.

It stayed clear for about five minutes, long enough for the lovely young couple standing next to us to have G snap a gazillion pictures of them with their pre-toddler,  and then the clouds gathered themselves together to keep it all from us once again.

That evening, I had this wonderful view:


It took me all of ten minutes to fall asleep.  It snowed for the next two days, blanketing the mountain in a thin layer of snow.  I don’t know if a bad experience can be had in the Smokey Mountains.

I have thought a lot about those eight minutes quite a bit in the week that has followed. What a very real illustration of how circumstances can change given time. Had G and I given up and exited Clingmans Dome mere seconds before, we would have missed a breathtakingly surreal moment.  Sometimes things in our lives do not seem to be what we expected. We know it’s there. We just can’t see it. Given a little time, the clouds clear and something beautiful happens. We just have to be willing to wait for it.

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