Spending Less, Loving More -- My Journey to Controlling Compulsive Spending

>> Saturday, January 17, 2015

Hello, my name is Jennifer and I'm a compulsive spender/debtor.

It's a big secret that some knew about me. But there are probably more people who don't know that little fact than people who do.....until now. And what may surprise you even more is that I've struggled with this for well over 20+ years. At times the compulsion would lie dormant for awhile, only to erupt with full force and heap destruction through my financial life. It's caused me heartache, stress, insomnia, and much much more. 
Around Thanksgiving, I was asked to be a part of a Launch Team to promote a new book called "Clutter Free" by Kathi Lipp.  I knew I had a problem with clutter....kitchen counters, kitchen table, my desk. I thought by joining this launch team, I'd get some tips on staying organized and keeping up (i.e. - stop being lazy and just put your shit away!). But as I started reading.....it became so, so much more. My eyes were really opened to the fact that clutter is a result of my spending.  Read that again -- CLUTTER IS A RESULT OF MY SPENDING.
As I took inventory of my hot spots - not just the kitchen table and counter, but also the garage, the laundry room, our bedroom - I became more and more convicted.  I knew I had a problem with spending, but for so long, I kept my eyes shut to the true problem and just chalked it up to laziness -- I just didn't want to put anything away.  But the truth was -- I COULDN'T PUT ANYTHING AWAY.
I looked at my dresser drawer that wouldn't close because of so many tshirts.  I looked at my closet and saw numerous tops -- many of the same color, same style and many of the same style, different color.  On a shelf, I saw multiple pairs of jeans.  In the laundry room (which doubles as my craft room), I saw multiple supplies -- because I'd forget what I'd have and buy more.  And let's not even talk about the books I have stacked on shelves, on the floor, in baskets just waiting to be read.
I decided that I really needed to take the bull by the horns and get my financial life back on track. I'm setting a bad example for my daughters - and darn it - it's time I just grew up and stopped acting so damn irresponsibly.

As I was looking for support groups online, I couldn't find one that truly spoke to me, so I thought that I would start one myself. I wanted to create a space where I could share my journey, my successes, and my failures.  I took a breath, gathered my courage, and shared my intention on my personal FB page.  And then I created
my Facebook Page - "Spending Less, Loving More". 


What amazed me the most was how many of my friends commented with love, support and encouragement.  Not one ridiculed me, criticized me, or rejected me -- as I feared.  I also got a lot of "me too!"....confirming that I am not alone with struggling with this addiction.  So many deal with this in silence because it just isn't really considered a "legitimate" addiction.
But we suffer too.  And we need a place to share, which is why I created my FB page.    It is my deepest hope that through my sharing, others who struggle with debt and compulsive spending will find a place to come and share and know that they are not alone.
Please come by, take a look, and share your story if you feel compelled. (It is my hope to eventually have a dedicated blog as well, but for now, I'll write on this page.)
If I only reach one person through my story, then I will be happy.


Acts of Christmas Kindness - Week #1 Summary

>> Tuesday, December 9, 2014

On December 1st, we started our Acts of Christmas Kindness calendar.  I was so excited to get started, and once we got going, the girls would race downstairs to read that day's Bible verse and act for the day.  (You can see the original post and the calendar here.)

Overall, the first week went very well.  Here's a brief summary of our first week!

December 1 - Take bag to Denver Mission:
We've been saving bags for a few weeks now.  We took three bags and one box full of clothes, blankets, toys & stuffed animals.

December 2 - Pay it forward with girls' clothes:
I've been holding on to clothes the girls have outgrown.  I thought I'd get my act together to either sell them myself or take them to a consignment store.  Never happened.  So instead, I put them all into one big bag (along with some games, books & toys) and gave them to a dear friend of ours who has the most adorable little 2 year old girl!

December 3 - Take Toys for Tots:
Over the past 6 months, we started a place in our garage where we'd keep a box for items we would donate to Toys for Tots.  The girls each picked an item to purchase themselves (Nani purchased an "Ever After" book and Nudgie chose an Anna doll).  We put those in our collection along with everything else and dropped them off at a local garage who served as a drop-off.

December 4 - Donate coffee to soldiers overseas:
For awhile, I've been donating coffee to soldiers deployed overseas using Green Beans Coffee's Cup of Joe for a Joe program.  (Click here to go and check out the site!)  It just takes a minute and as little as $2 to donate a hot cup of coffee to a soldier serving overseas.  I've already gotten two "thank you" messages!


December 5 - Pay it forward with girls' books:
Originally, today we were going to tape popcorn to the Redbox kiosks, but I shuffled some things around since, today, I was seeing the person who would benefit from today's act.  Anyway, Nudgie is doing very well with her reading and I had a box of books, again, just sitting around waiting for me to either sell or consign.  My friend's little girl is in Kindergarten and is learning to read, so a lot of these books would be very helpful to her....as well as her little boy who is in preschool.  We just love sharing books, so this was a very easy act for us today!

December 6 - Distribute candy canes with St. Nicholas prayer:
Today was the Feast Day of St. Nicholas.  I really wanted us to do something connected to this very special Saint.  So, after some google searching and Pinterest-ing, I found this amazing St. Nicholas Day Blessing of the Candy Canes (which you can download here).  I bought a box of candy canes, taped the blessing to them.  The girls and I said a little prayer over them and then went off to the base.  We distributed half to people we'd see and the other half we placed on random windshields.

Day 7 - Tape popcorn to Redbox kiosks: Today we were able to get out and tape our popcorn to Redbox kiosks.  Again, thanks to Pinterest and Google, I found this cute little RAK printable on Simply Living For HimWe printed them out and taped them to microwave popcorn, which we taped to the Redbox kiosk in our local Safeway.

So, there it is!  Our first week of Christmas Kindness!  I will say, that in the first week, I have noticed some small blessings coming back our way as well!  Our whole intention in doing this is not to see what we can get in return.  One friend asked me, "aren't you worried about what someone might say or just throw it away?".....and my answer is "No".  I cannot control how people respond to our kindness.....but we can still put our kindness out there.....regardless of anyone's reaction.  Our hope is to spread light & love.



Acts of Christmas Kindness Countdown

>> Sunday, November 30, 2014

You may remember that a few days ago I wrote a post about making our Christmas a little simpler and focus more on giving back.  If you missed it, you can find it here.  As Thanksgiving came, I became more and more excited to get started with our Acts of Christmas Kindness.

Yesterday, I finally pulled out our Countdown Calendar and started getting everything ready so that we can start on December 1st.  I LOVE this countdown calendar!  I collect Nativities and fell in love with this one a few years ago at JoAnn Fabric. 

I actually waited in line on Black Friday just so I could get it for 75% off.  And while I scored big time with this, I often fell short and missed the mark with what it's true function should be.  I tried to do the Jesse Tree with the girls, but either they just weren't interested or we'd forget days and then try to cram it all in the week of Christmas. 

So this year, I decided to use the countdown calendar and incorporate our Acts of Christmas Kindness.  We sat down as a family and came up with ideas that would work for us and our resources.  (You can click on the image to enlarge it to see what we're doing!)

I also wanted to make sure that we had some sort of Bible verse to go along with each day.  I Googled and Pinterested until I found these at The Happy Home Fairy -- which I thought was perfect for us!  (You can find the original post and link to download these here)

I cut each of the Bible verses out and then on the back, taped the Act of Kindess we'll be doing for that day.

I'm so excited to get started with our family!! 

Do you use a calendar?  Do you read Bible verses or stories?  Do you do acts of kindness?  How do YOU countdown to Christmas?


Having "Giving" Christmas Instead Of A "Getting" Christmas

>> Tuesday, November 25, 2014

For awhile now, I've been feeling the pull to make our Christmas more simple, less about the materialism and more about the meaning.  But when you have a soon-to-be Tween and a 6-year old obsessed with Frozen, I began to doubt that it could even be possible.

As a parent, I'm guilty of spoiling my daughters.  Giving in to the impulse buys, fulfilling their Christmas wish lists at the expense of our bank account, wanting them to have the perfect Christmas with lots and lots of wrapped gifts under the tree.

What I've finally realized is that what usually happens is that 90% of the time, most of those gifts go unopened for days, weeks, often months at a time.  And even then, they usually end up in the "Gift Cabinet".....ready to be recycled for a last minute birthday gift or even donated to Toys for Tots the following year.

Realizing this triggered my own Christmas memory.  I honestly cannot remember sitting down to write a Christmas list.  (Maybe my mom or daddy can correct me here).  But I DO remember for about 2 Christmases, I begged and begged for Monopoly.  I told Santa, I told my Bubbe, I told my aunts and uncles, and I told my parents over and over.  But for two Christmases.....no Monopoly.  Until that one magical Christmas, Santa brought me the beloved Monopoly game.  (Picture me opening it a'la Ralphie on Christmas morning!)  I was thrilled.....I was ecstatic.....I promised Santa I would be the best behaved little girl ever.

I played that game maybe twice. 

You see my point?

But I digress. 

This fall has been a challenge for us financially.  We've had a few unexpected expenses which has made us tighten the belt a little more and rethink Christmas just a bit.  Could we really give our daughters a Christmas to remember without breaking the bank?

I recently met a friend for coffee and we had this very conversation.  We both talked and agreed that maybe, just maybe, God makes things a little tight around the holidays so that we can turn our focus to what truly matters -- the REAL gift -- Jesus Christ.

This year, this has been on my mind more than ever.  Especially when I sat down with the girls to ask them what they thought Christmas was about.  When they answered Santa and presents, I realized with a sinking heart that I have failed them as a mother.  I neglected teaching them the most important reason for Christmas.  My heart just broke.....but then made me more determined than ever to show them that a simple Christmas isn't all that bad.

We are a family of Santa believers, so I am not eliminating Santa from our family.....I can't do it.  The Christmas child inside of me would have a tantrum lasting until next Christmas.  But I believe that we CAN put a spin on Santa -- teaching the girls that he isn't just about bringing you everything on your list.  So, the first thing we're doing away with is the miles-long Christmas list.  I searched Pinterest, did Google searches and found a few Santa letters I liked.....but one thing was missing......thinking of others.  So I created my own.

Here, we are asking the girls to think about kind/nice things they've done throughout the year....whether it's helping a classmate or helping mommy/daddy/sissy.  We are also limiting them to list something they want, something they need, something to wear, and something to read.  But my extra addition, was encouraging them to think about others and think of a gift that we could purchase and donate.  Not sure how all this is going to go over with Nani, but I can only hope!

Instead of doing an Advent Calendar (because I can never remember to do the activities!), we'll be doing 25 Days of Kindness.  We sat down as a family and came up with ideas to show kindness and think of others.  We came up with some good ideas and I can't wait to get started!  (Stay tuned for future blog posts as I document some of our RAKs!)

I've thought about this a lot and prayed over it.  My Marine is in total agreement with me and even said that we can never talk too much about giving back to others.  My only prayer now is that the girls will understand and take this all with an open heart.

How do YOU keep the meaning of Christmas in your family?


2014 Kiddie Christmas Card Exchange

>> Saturday, October 25, 2014

Happy Fall everyone!

This will be the fourth year for the Kiddie Christmas Card Exchange! It's something that my kids now look forward too and have already asked when they can start making their cards! And so......we're back!

Here's how it works! The concept is very simple!

  1. Simply respond in the comments section that you'd like to participate and please be sure to include an email address where you can be contacted. OR you can email me directly at kiddiexmascards@yahoo.com and include your children's names, ages, and address.
  2. For every name on the list, a card will be sent. (For example....if I get six children to sign up, the list will go out to all six children and they will send a card to each child on the list.) (Make sense?) You may also combine family members. If you have two children, ONE card will be sent to both -- unless you specifically indicate that each child would like to receive/send their OWN cards.
  3. The cards do NOT have to be hand-made. It would also be nice to include a little letter telling about themselves and where they're from.
  4. Deadline for participating will be Friday, November 21st.The list will be emailed to everyone on Monday, November 24th. Deadline for mailing cards will be Friday, December 8th.
So let's get those Christmas cards rolling!!

If you have any questions, please feel free to email me at kiddiexmascards@yahoo.com.


Mommy Magic.....Does It Ever End and Do You WANT It To End?

>> Wednesday, October 15, 2014

I pulled up my blog this morning and realized that I haven't written anything since July.  The ease and convenience of Facebook and Instagram has slowly stolen my joy for writing......and sometimes I wonder, should I continue?

But then I get a thought or an idea that is just way too long to post on Facebook and then I turn back to my trusty old blog......waiting patiently on the sidelines for me to come back and breathe life into it again.

Today's thoughts were born from Nudgie recently losing her first front tooth.  She's been waiting and waiting so patiently for that tooth to come out.  And sure enough, while eating her apple slices at dinner the other night, she lost the tooth.......and then promptly swallowed it.

She was devastated.

She came to show me....and then told me, with tear-stained cheeks, that she swallowed it and that the Tooth Fairy won't come because she didn't have her tooth.  I hugged her close and promised her that the Tooth Fairy would still come.

 As we were getting ready for bed, Nudgie showed me the letter she wrote to the Tooth Fairy.....she named her "Toothatina" (from the Pinkalicious books).  She rolled it up and put it in her Tooth Fairy pillow and whispered, "I hope she comes" before falling asleep.

The night went on.....the girls were sleeping and I was finishing up some chores before going to bed.  When I got upstairs, I remembered that I had to put money in the pillow and trudged back downstairs, digging through my wallet hoping I had a couple ones.

At that moment, it was an inconvenience.  Just one more thing I had to do.

Then I remembered Nudgie's letter......and I couldn't let it pass with just a couple bucks shoved in a pillow.  It was dark, I was tired, but I turned my laptop back on, searched for "Tooth Fairy" on Google, and wrote a reply that was worthy of Toothatina.

I rolled it up, tied it with a pink ribbon and nestled it in the pillow next to the $2 I dug out of my wallet.....and THEN I went to bed.

The next morning, the smile on her face and the excitement in her voice as she read Toothatina's letter just reinforced that I made the right choice.  A few extra moments from me made her entire day.

That night, when I peeked in on Nudgie before I went to bed, I saw her sleeping.....Toothatina's letter clutched in her tiny fist.  I immediately teared up......emotional sap that I am!  I lay in bed for awhile thinking......how much longer do I have?  How much longer can I keep the magic going before they both go, "Mooooommmmm.....enough!"......before I put out my last Easter basket, until we read our last story together, until I've used up the last of my Mommy Magic.  But laying there, I decided that I will keep going.......I will keep going until they tell me to stop.  And even if they tell me to stop, I will still keep going.

I will keep leaving letters from Toothatina
I will keep leaving little surprises from The Back to School Fairy.....even into the college days
I will keep doing Last Day of School surprises and First Day of Summer Vacation treats
I will keep the Christmas magic going with Chippy the Elf
I will keep doing Birthday Surprises and random "Just Because" surprises

And, God-willing, I will continue doing it even when I have grandchildren........

You are NEVER too old for Mommy Magic......


The Night Mommy Ran Away

>> Saturday, July 19, 2014

Well, not quite.....but I seriously wanted to.

I love my family.....I love my kids and my husband.....and I love being a mom.  But sometimes.....just sometimes.....I'd like to have ONE day where I'm not taken for granted.

Overall, I'd like to think I've done a good job of keeping everything running smoothly.  When you're a military family, you do the best you can.  I will give My Marine credit though.....because when he is home, he helps out.....he'll grill, he'll clean, he'll do laundry without me asking, and he'll do so much more.  After many years, I've finally learned that it's ok to let him help and that, just because I stay home, it doesn't mean that he's criticizing me or thinking that I'm not "doing my job" when he does chip in to help.

But I DO expect our girls to do their part.  They have assigned chores for each day and I expect those chore to be done.  I'm not a mean taskmaster....but I give them what they can handle......dusting, vacuuming, keeping their rooms clean, and cleaning the bathrooms.  Yep -- my 6 and 10 year old girls clean the bathrooms now.  My 10 year old has been doing her own laundry for a year now.

But yet there is still a disconnect.....a time where I feel like all I do is nag and remind and pick up and wipe up and throw away and the list goes on and on.  I was starting to feel taken for granted.

And on Thursday I was pushed me to my breaking point.  I had one too many:

*  Snack wrappers to pick up and throw away
*  Dirty dishes to put in the sink
*  Toys to pick up
*  Laundry baskets to fold
*  Fights to break up

And then came dinner time when I discovered that we were totally out of dog food and toilet paper...(the two things the girls are responsible for letting me know when we're running low.)  And silly Mommy didn't use her magic powers of premonition to keep that mental grocery list rolling in her head.

I felt my blood pressure rising and knew that I was close to a breaking point.  I grabbed my car keys, my purse, a book and went downstairs to tell My Marine that I was leaving.  He was startled and stunned and I just told him that I needed to leave or I was going to lose it.  The girls were like "Mommy are you going somewhere....Mommy where are you going."  I didn't even answer them.....I just left.

I pulled out of the driveway, put all the windows down, opened the sunroof and turned my iPod on to my "Mad Music"......the music group, Disturbed......and turned the volume up to 20.  As I let the music seep into my soul, I didn't care who around me could hear it.  At traffic lights, I would simply just sit and take deep breaths.

I drove to Barnes and Noble.  I ordered a venti green tea frappacino with extra whipped cream.  I sat in a back section of the store, in comfy chairs surrounded by a 40-yr. old man reading comic books and laughing out loud, a 60-yr. old grandma reading books on space and aliens, and a 70+ year old man reading cookbooks.

I stayed for almost 2 hours.

When I finally did get home, I talked to My Marine and told him that he HAD to talk to the girls again about them helping out.  We're facing two weeks of training, followed shortly by 4 weeks of school for him.  I NEED them to help me out.

They're at an age now where they have to understand that while they THINK I do it all.....I CAN NOT do it all.

Oh, and I know that this is a battle as old as time......and that I will probably be in this place again and again and again......and we'll be having these talks again and again and again.......

And Mommy will probably run away again and again and again.......

But maybe....just maybe.....Mommy needs to go on strike.

Have you gone on strike?  How have you dealt with feeling of being taken for granted?  How have you gotten your family to recognize that they, too, need to help out around the house?


"Frozen" Themed 6th Birthday Party - The Cake

>> Monday, July 14, 2014

Nudgie's 6th birthday is this month......and she really wanted a "Frozen" themed birthday.  I knew it would be hard to try to find anything Frozen-related since it's still so very popular, but who was I to deny my baby her birthday wish!  (I'll admit, too, that I started researching and planning for this party about 4 months ago!)

It was time to put my pre-children career of event planning back to use!

First up was the cake.  I've made most of my girls' birthday cakes in the past....but I also know my limitations.  For this birthday, I turned to my awesome friend Robin who has her own cake business and makes the best cakes EVER!  Unfortunately for me, she was going to be out of town during the big event and wouldn't be able to make the cake for me.

That left me with one option -- make it myself.

I researched.....I Googled.....I "pinned"........

I found a few cakes that I liked and thought that I could attempt to make.  I took those cakes and came up with my own idea.

Now in the past, my cake ideas often look fabulous in my head, but sometimes ended up lost in translation.  I was afraid that would be the case with this cake too.  I met my friend, Robin, for coffee one morning and talked to her about my ideas.  She gave me some tips & tricks to try and sent me on my merry way with a "call me if you have questions or problems".

So, I dove in.

The cake required (2) 13x9 cakes and (2) 6-inch rounds.  The party was on a Sunday, so I baked the cakes on Tuesday and put them in the freezer.  (A tip from Robin that I will use for ALL future cakes!)  I used a standard boxed white cake mix -- but I wanted to add a little flair, so I measured out about a cup of batter, added some blue food coloring and swirled the batter back in.  The cakes turned out great.  Step 1 - DONE!

Next up - I decided to make some fondant snowflakes to add around the cake.  I was nervous about this part since I've made fondant to cover cakes, but I've never made fondant decorations before.  I used this recipe from All Recipes and it turned out GREAT!  I recently purchased a Kitchen Aid mixer at a garage sale and used that to mix the fondant.  (I HIGHLY recommend using a KA if you have one.....it eliminates all the stickiness and cuts down on the kneading time!)  I used snowflake cookie cutters that I purchased at a garage sale for .50.  I made three large ones and put them on popsicle sticks and then made some medium and small ones too.  I used edible pearl dust to give them a slight blue shimmer, and mixed blue sprinkles into the white fondant.  I was pretty happy with how they turned out -- and then hardened very nicely over a 2.5 day period!

And finally - came the moment of truth -- decoration day!

I used a standard buttercream recipe and kept the icing white.  I used a small cheese spreader to "flip" the icing so that it looked like snow caps.  I used the fondant snowflakes all around the edges and the bigger ones added some "height" and provided a nice backdrop for Elsa.  (I purchased the figures about 2 months ago and they doubled as part of Nudgie's birthday gift too!)  I purchased some rock candy at a local candy store and crushed it up a little more to sprinkle on and around the cake to look like ice.  (I was going to make my own, but just ran out of time.  I had no idea that it was such a lengthy process!)  Top it off with some of Elsa's friends and viola -- it was done!

Was it wrong that I teared up a little over this cake?  I'm so incredibly happy with how it turned out!  We even gave Nudgie a sneak peek of the cake -- and her reaction alone made me tear up all over again!

Finally, birthday party day arrived......and as we lit the candles, I realized that I would have to cut up this beautiful piece of work.

But by the end of the night, this was all that remained......so I'd say it was a pretty good cake!

And last night.....Nani informed me that she wants a dragon themed cake for her birthday in December.  I guess I'd better get to Googling!


What I'm Reading Now

Might As Well Laugh About It Now
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Plum Spooky
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Through the Grinder
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