What? Only one income?

Having children, becoming a caregiver, health concerns, or divorce are scenarios that attribute to a single income household.  How can you survive with limited resources?  Divide your life into two categories….necessary and unnecessary.  List everything that is either necessary or unnecessary to live.  Put monetary values on your necessary items. The total of these items becomes your family budget.  Now you have a starting point for living on one income!  Budgeting household expenses is vital in a limited income household.  Every dollar should have a purpose.  From food, electric, and gas to clothing, coffee, and Chinese takeout…each dollar is budgeted!  You’re reading this article because you’re preparing for the financial struggles of living on one income.  It’s difficult and stressful, but doable.  With the correct strategy and mindset, it can be achieved.

1.)  Learn To Cook

Yes….learn to cook!  Once you choose to live on one income, eating out becomes a luxury and falls into the unnecessary category.  Besides, home cooked meals are more tasty! Shop sale ads from your local grocery stores and make an itemized list.  This helps avoid impulse shopping and keeps you on budget!  Buy off-brand or bulk products when it’s more cost-effective.  Shop weekly instead of daily.  Your bank account will thank you!

2.)  Brown-Bag It

Whichever spouse is earning the income should consider brown-bagging it!  My husband and I save $100 a week using this concept.  One of the perks of home cooking is LEFTOVERS.  They make GREAT next-day lunches!

3.)  No Credit Cards

Credits cards are tempting.  And yes, I do have one for emergencies.  But, credit card debt is not welcome in a single income household.  You’re budgeting on necessities, not debt!  Charge now and pay later is a poor strategy when budgeting household expenses.

4.)  Negotiate Necessary Bills

Car and health insurance, electric and phone bills are necessities.  But, all provider companies are not created equal.  Contact your current providers and negotiate lower bills.  Current provider won’t negotiate? Shop around and find a more reasonable rate.

5.)  Try To Save….a little

Living on a single income tests your creative money management skills.  However, be sure to include an emergency savings fund in your budget.  Life has unexpected twists, so be prepared for those obstacles!

6.)  Have The Right Mindset

Be content with your future lifestyle before attempting a single income life.  Are you convinced that the rewards outweigh the struggles?  Can you give up your daily Starbucks coffee and night on the town to stay home with your children or care for your mother?  Are you willing to overlook that new car for a simple vacation?  You should be convinced of your answers before considering a limited income household.

My husband and I have successfully lived on one income for 11 years.  We live a simple and fulfilled life.  It’s not always easy, but definitely worthwhile!  As you adapt to your new lifestyle, you’ll create and utilize your own strategy for smart budgeting.  Add your money-saving tips by leaving a comment!  Thank you for reading!  Take care!

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How to live on ONE income and still have a life!

Being a full-time caregiver was a very rewarding experience.  With that experience came sacrifice and creative budget management.  My caregiving journey has ended, but those acquired money management skills still resonate in my current lifestyle.  My husband and I currently live on one income.  We’ve had the opportunity to buy a house, travel, and raise two dogs.  How do we do it?  Let me explain!

I used my spare time while caregiving to develop my DIY skills.  Being handy around the house can be very budget friendly.  Since my husband was working, anything that needed to be fixed became my responsibility.  The sink leak that left our kitchen flooded couldn’t wait until the hubby got home from work!  Or, the washing machine hose that flew off and flooded the utility room!  Nope, that couldn’t wait either.  I decided learn handy skills and become a Mrs. Fix-It.  I wasn’t aware my self-taught skills would develop into a HUGE money-saver.  From house painting and floor installation to shutter and deck building….I learned to do them all.  The money we saved on these necessary homeowner projects was a pretty good sum.

When my caregiving duties had ended, my husband and I decided a change in scenery was needed.  Thus began the house hunt!  Buying a home isn’t easy and there are many options on the market.  But, stick to what you can afford!  We looked at beautiful homes, but realistically they were not in our budget.  Our magic number for a monthly mortgage was $1500….including taxes and insurance.  This number narrowed the playing field quite a bit, but nice homes were available on this budget.  We wanted a modest 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom home with a basement on about an acre of land.  It took a few months of looking, but we found a nice home and location.  The catch?  It needed to be painted, new carpet in the basement….cosmetic updates.  My husband and I knew the updates and repairs were easy fixes, so we made an offer and three months later moved in!  We came in under budget on our mortgage….$1420!  Buy what you can afford!

Ok, we bought a house!  But, we’re not spending ALL of our time here, right?  The hubby wanted a travel via travel trailer and explore some of the states during his vacation time.  It wasn’t in our budget for a brand new one, but used RV’s can be a very affordable option. We found a travel trailer for sale by a private owner about 30 miles from our home.  The seller was the 2nd owner and it was very well-kept.  Again it wasn’t new, but we bought it for $4000!  We have explored 10 states so far!  Staying nightly in your travel trailer is approximately one-quarter to one-third the cost of staying in a hotel.  Huge savings!  While not lavish vacations, we enjoy the exploration.

I mentioned we currently have two pups.  We had three, but unfortunately one passed away 6 months ago.  I miss him dearly!  How do you save money with these wide-eye lushes?  PET INSURANCE!  Yes, pets become sick and need medical assistance just like humans.  We invested in health insurance and were very pleased with the results.  When my oldest pup was diagnosed with cancer the vet bills were excessive.  They totaled approximately $4000-$5000 in just a few months.  It may not seem like a lot to some, but it was to us.  However, with our insurance we were reimbursed 90% after the $250 deductible was met.  Yes, pet insurance is a good investment!

Most people are very aware of their household expenses budget, so I don’t like to dwell on the topic.  But, if you want to save a little more cash try buying off-brand products, making your own cleaning detergents, baking some homemade dog biscuits, growing your own produce in the warmer months, eating in instead of out, or set a holiday budget for gift buying.  My husband was astonished that we could actually own a home and have a life on only one income.  We’re not rich and famous, but we’re happy!  Living on one income is definitely doable, so do it!  Let me know other ways to successfully live on one income by leaving a comment!  Thank you for reading!

Farmhouse rustic on the CHEAP!

For the last few years, farmhouse rustic/distressed furniture has been the desired trend.  Buying furniture pieces with this desired finish can be quite costly.  So, how can you get the same look for less?  I put my creativity to work and this is how I successfully gave my furniture pieces a farmhouse rustic look on the cheap!

When you think farmhouse rustic or distressed, you think chippy peeling paint and a tattered appearance.  Your desired finish should look old, worn, and weathered.  It’s easy to achieve this look even if you’re not artistic….I’m certainly not an artist!  For years I was a stay-at-home caregiver living on only one income.  I didn’t have the luxury of spending hundreds or thousands of dollars on a distressed piece of furniture.  Using my lack of funds as inspiration, I decided to test my DIY skills to achieve my shabby furniture goal!

1.)  Choosing A Project Piece

Trying to decide what type of furniture to distress is an important question.  Too big of a project….you may lose interest; too small of a project….it may require too many details.  As for me, when chosing my starter piece, I chose a functional piece of furniture that would serve a purpose in my home.  Unlike some, I don’t have a huge house.  Therefore, whatever furniture I decide to makeover needs to serve some purpose….storage, accent table, end table, ect.

2.)  Where To Find It?

Once you figure out the piece, GO FIND IT!  I visit thrift stores, yard sales, free classifieds online….you never know what you may stumble across.  Remember, the least amount of investment possible is preferred.  I set my limit at $10-$20!  Try to find a project that doesn’t involve a lot of fixing….missing legs, missing half of a tabletop!  Make a smart purchase!

3.)  Supplies

Now that you have project piece, what do you do with it?  Go to a local store and pick up some cheap primer (latex), paint (latex), brushes, sandpaper (160 grit and fine grit), and polyurethane (water-based).  These five basic supplies are all you need to successfully finish many distressed furniture pieces.  I prefer to use latex or water-based primers, paints, and sealers.  They are SO much easier to clean-up and you can wash and reuse your brushes!

4.)  The Process

Clean your project piece with a damp rag and remove any dirt.  Now, lightly sand your piece with any grit sandpaper just to rough up the surface.  This will allow your primer to adhere better.  After sanding, wipe down the piece again and remove any dust.

Ready to primer!?  Using any type of paintbrush, apply the primer to the piece.  Let the brush strokes show!  I prefer using only one coat of primer.  This allows for easier sanding and a better finish.  Let the primer dry for 24 hours.

It’s primed, so LET’S PAINT!  Again, apply your favorite paint right over the primer.  Go crazy here!  Paint in all directions!  Show a lot of brush strokes!  These techniques add to the distressed look of your piece.  After you finish applying the paint, allow it to dry 24 hours.  At this point, it’s entirely up to you if you want additional coats of paint.  I usually apply two coats, but it’s all individual preference.

Finally we can sand!  Using your coarse grit sandpaper, start sanding your piece until you get your desired look. Don’t worry about messing up, it’s only paint!  You may want to wear a dust mask when sanding….it can get a little messy!

Everything is sanded down and you have your rustic look. Let’s preserve it for years to come!  I prefer a water-based polyurethane.  Some people prefer other sealers, but again it’s personal preference.  For me….whatever is on sale or the cheapest!  Remove any dust from your piece and brush on your sealer.  This is the only time I recommend trying to reserve your craziness and take it easy on the brush strokes.  Try to be consistent and go one way with your strokes.  It gives a more finished appearance.  After applying your topcoat allow it to dry at least 24 hours.  At this point, I prefer to gently sand the entire piece with fine grit sandpaper, wipe down, and apply a second topcoat.  This ensures a nice appearance and better preservation.

All done!  Now step back and admire your farmhouse rustic furniture piece.  Let’s not forget, you completed this project on the cheap!  Using my secrets to achieving that shabby look, get creative and showcase your DIY skills on more projects!  Let me see those finished projects by commenting below.  Do you have tips to add?  Comment below. Talk to you soon!

Tips on being a caregiver AND keeping your sanity!

By now most of you know my story….30-something woman, B.S. degree in Chemistry, full-time caregiver for 11 years.  How did I manage to successfully care for my grandmother and keep my sanity during the entire process?  It wasn’t easy.  I applied the same trial and error mentality I had used in my Chemistry courses to create a caregiving strategy.  The following day-to-day tips will help you create a balance between your caregiving duties and personal life.  Everyone needs balance!

1.)  Create a Routine

Although each day as a caregiver has unexpected twists, try to create a routine that’s beneficial to you and your loved-one.  An environment becomes less stressful when those involved know what to expect.  Feed meals and give medications at specified times each day.  Try following an effective sleep schedule.  A customized sleep schedule is vital in avoiding caregiver stress and burnout!

2.)  Make Time for Fun Activities

My grandmother was house-bound, so we spent A LOT of time inside the same four walls.  Planning fun activities enabled us to laugh and be active while being limited to the home.  Those activities included baking cookies, watching her favorite television shows, dancing or rolling (she was in a wheelchair) around to her favorite music, going outside in the warmer months to plant flowers and mulch the flower beds.  These little things kept her happy and me sane!

3.)  Remember Yourself

When caring for an ailing loved-one, it’s easy to forget yourself.  Your most important concern is the well-being of your patient.  But, try to dedicate some time to your own personal life.  An unhealthy caregiver is not beneficial to themselves or the patient.  Allow 30 minutes of YOU-TIME a day.  These 30 minutes may be available early in the morning, before your loved-one wakes or during your patient’s afternoon nap.  Whenever you can sneak a little time for yourself, DO IT!

4.)  Be Happy

Caregiving is a stressful situation and if given the opportunity your loved-one nor you would choose this life path.  Whatever the circumstance, your loved-one is dependent upon you for their well-being.  Never make them feel like a burden.  No matter how stressful the situation or lifestyle becomes, try to keep a smiling face.  It provides your loved-one with security and reassurance.

5.)  Ask For Help

Don’t be afraid to ask for help!  Short-term breaks can alleviate a lot of stress.  If given the opportunity, ask someone to relieve you from your caregiving duties.  Take an extended lunch break or arrange a date night with the hubby.  It sounds small, but those few hours will make the coming days SO much easier.

Caregiving is a stressful but rewarding experience.  As a caregiver you have the ability to create an amazing bond with your patient.  I’m so glad I chose to be my grandmother’s caregiver!  We created an unbreakable bond filled with happy memories.  GOOD LUCK!

Caregiver stress….YES it’s real!

You have a B.S. in Chemistry….what do you know about caregiver stress?  A lot more than you think.  If you’ve had the time to read my others posts, you realize I’m a CHEM enthusiast.  Five grueling years of mathematics and chemistry courses to garner my degree and academic distinction amongst peers.

It was at the beginning of these five years that my caregiving journey began. My grandmother had a stroke when I first entered college….I was 18 years old.  The stroke left her with right-side paralysis and speaking difficulties.  My family and I were faced with a decision….who will care for her?  My older brother was working full-time and my younger brother was still in high school.  Then there was me….the college bound Jersey girl with big Chemistry dreams.  Who says the middle child isn’t the best child?  Faced with the dilemma of nursing home or homecare, I spent many days in a daze thinking about the future.  What’s more important, the happiness of my grandmother or my career path? Hands down….the happiness of my grandmother.  So, in 2004 my grandmother and I embarked on a memorable 11 year journey.

As I said earlier, I was 18 years old when my caregiving journey began and my grandmother was 73.  How was I going to convince this, up until now, extremely independent woman that I was capable of caring for her during her time of need?  My grandmother’s thoughts were written all over her face….I’m going to be dependent on this teenage girl, who barely knows how to drive or cook?  Yes.

There we were, two women separated by decades, expected to get along and balance life.  Easier said than done.  Although I chose to care for my grandmother, I didn’t want to delay my education.  So, I decided to balance caregiving and college.  It was difficult, but doable!  Besides, the life skills I was learning through my Chemistry course work were coming in pretty handy at home.  My grandmother’s recovery was slow, but steady.  She never recovered from the paralysis, but was successful in overcoming her eating and speech difficulties.

Fast forward 5 years….2009.  I just graduated college with my degree in Chemistry and WHAM, grandmom had another stroke!  Not again.  This stroke left her completely dependent on me.  Because of the seriousness of her condition, I wouldn’t be able to work and I WASN’T putting her into a healthcare facility.  I became my grandmother’s 24-hour caregiver.  From feeding tubes to tracheostomies….we covered it all!  I should have majored in healthcare!

From 2009 until her death in 2015, I cared full-time for my grandmother.  It was during these 5-6 years I suffered from caregiver stress.  When you say you’re a caregiver, people jump to the conclusion that you don’t work, stay at home, eat bon-bon’s, and watch television all day.  These people couldn’t be more wrong!  Caregiving is a full-time job with a lot of overtime.  You sleep when the patient sleeps.  Caregivers are at the mercy of the patient’s schedule.  Adapting to this schedule is difficult and can’t be achieved overnight.  Realistically, you may never adapt to the schedule….you just go with the flow.  That flow involves many sleepless nights and hours of direct contact healthcare.  No sleep and hours of helping the patient causes mental and physical exhaustion.  There’s no break from these relentless hours and no one to relieve you from your duties.  It’s just you and your patient….just me and grandmom!

Days turned into nights and nights into days, but one thing stayed constant, my devotion to my grandmother.  Just when I thought I could no longer deal with the stress of caregiving, there she was smiling and nodding, letting me know how grateful she was for my presence.

Don’t let caregiver stress deter you from caring for your loved-one.  Caregiving is HARD, but with proper knowledge and resources you can avoid stress and burnout.  Thank you for reading and take care!

Why EVERYONE should take at least one Chemistry course!

Yes, I know Chemistry can be an intimidating subject.  And, why would anyone take a Chemistry course unless it was required to graduate high school or a prerequisite to a given major?  The skills acquired through a Chemistry course are not just mathematical.  Chemistry introduces you to many life skills that will make you a more efficient and intellectual individual.  I know this sounds far-fetched, but continue reading!

1.)  Critical Thinking

Chemistry can and will make you think on your toes!  Anyone who has participated in a Chemistry lab knows experiments require a lot of spontaneous critical thinking.  A flask gets knocked over and your product goes down the sink drain or the product you produced somehow evaporated overnight.  Yes, it happens!  A chaotic laboratory experience enables you to think outside of the box and find an alternative method for arriving at a desired solution.  Apply these same critical thinking skills to an eventful or chaotic lifestyle and suddenly, life just became a little easier.

2.)  Time Management

With all of the content contained within a single Chemistry course, how can you possibly absorb all of the information and be ready for an exam all within 3-4 weeks?  As your class progresses, you will learn to successfully prioritize your workload and take advantage of each and every waking moment.  Time management is an extremely useful skill that can be applied to a wide variety of lifestyles and careers.  After just one Chemistry course, you will find that any given day will be planned down to the minute!  Who doesn’t want that kind of organization?

3.)  Chemists or Scientific Chefs?

If you can do Chemistry, you can cook….if you can cook, you can do Chemistry!  Truer words were never spoken!  Anyone who has ever taken a Chemistry lab course can recognize that an experimental procedure is nothing more than a chemical recipe.  Chemistry will grow your recipe reading and measuring skills.  I always refer to my mother as a domestic chemist!

4.)  Patience

The faced-paced world of today has forgotten the unsung life skill of patience.  Sometimes a final product cannot be seen or produced in a matter of minutes, hours, or days.  By taking CHEM 101, you will have the opportunity to spend HOURS….watching for the formation of a precipitate.  Yes, you will definitely develop patience!

Even if Chemistry isn’t a requirement for graduating high school or pursing your college major, challenge yourself and give it a try.  By reading my other posts, you’re well aware of how to successfully pass the course.  So, go ahead and sign up for a CHEM class and learn the mentioned life skills embedded in the course.  It will make you a more well-rounded person.  Not to mention, your math skills will be on point!

As always, thank you for sticking around and reading the entire post.  Hopefully, I’ve persuaded you to enroll in a CHEM course.  Let me know the life skills you’ve learned from Chemistry by leaving a comment!  GOOD LUCK!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stoichi-what!?

Stoichiometry.  It has brought many General Chemistry students to tears.  Like so many students, I struggled with this concept when it was first introduced to me in my sophomore year of high school.  Through my learning experiences, I will hopefully help you understand the method behind the madness of this somewhat complex word.  Simply put, stoichiometry is a concept in Chemistry that describes the amounts of substances, either reactants or products, in a given reaction.   It’s based on the Law of Conservation of Mass….mass is neither created nor destroyed.  Using stoichiometry you can determine the amount of product produced during a chemical reaction using a coefficient ratio of reactant to product.  It sounds complicated, right?  It can be, but if you have read my other posts and have mastered balancing chemical equations, then you will easily see the direct correlation between balancing equations and stoichiometry.  In order to be successful at stoichiometry, you must have an average understanding of the fundamentals of balancing chemical equations.  So, if you have supreme confidence in your balancing capabilities, let’s get started with my tips on understanding STOICHIOMETRY!

1.)  Know the Terminology

If you’re going to succeed with the mathematical calculations involved in stoichiometry, make it a point to familiarize yourself with basic terminology and various phrases used to describe a chemical reaction.  Know chemical equation, mass of reactants, mass of products, molecular weight, molar mass, formula, mole, Avagadro’s number, coefficient, standard unit (mg, g, kg, ect.), conversion factor, yield, molecule, element, and atom. By understanding these terms you will optimize your knowledge of stoichiometric calculations.  Know the terminology the lecturer is using and stoichiometry will be more enjoyable.

2.)  Know Your Algebra Rules

ALGEBRA!  I had that years….I mean decades ago.  Who needs Algebra?  Every single General Chemistry student.  Algebra rules are the core of stoichiometric calculations.  Know the rules of exponentials, cross-canceling, cross-multiplying, parentheses, scientific notation, and most importantly significant figures.  This tip is fairly straight forward….familiarize and remind yourself of the forgotten Algebra rules.  Understanding, performing, and applying the mentioned mathematical operations will make stoichiometry a breeze!

3.)  Stay Organized

Performing any calculations requires a logical thought process.  But, when doing stoichiometry it is extremely important to keep your calculations organized in a step-by-step format.  Stoichiometric calculations usually require several step before arriving at a solution.  Write down each individual step in the calculation.  If 2+2=4 is a step, write it down.  Do not do multiple steps in your head and expect to remember them later.  Calculations, especially those involving chemical equations, can get very complex.  Staying organized and allowing yourself to see the visual logic of a given calculation will enable you to recognize any mistakes before arriving at an incorrect solution.  Take the extra couple minutes and go the extra mile….write down every step.

4.)  Units, Units, Units

UNITS.  DO NOT forget your units when trying to complete a stoichiometric calculation!  Forgetting units while solving a given equation will result in many hours of mind-boggling wrong answers.  Remembering units and staying organized compliment each other in stoichiometry.  A written step-by-step thought process allows you to include units for each and every number (where applicable) in a calculation.  This simple tip will make your entire Chemistry career SO MUCH easier.  One final word….UNITS!

Are you ready to tackle stoichiometry?  Follow my tried and true tips and stoichiometry will become easier as your General Chemistry course progresses.  Preparation and organization are vital in any Chemistry course, but are especially evident in stoichiometry.  

Try the given tips mentioned in this post….they worked for me!  If you have time, read my other posts covering the basics of a General Chemistry course.  Did you find this post helpful?  Let me know by leaving a comment.  Keep me updated on your Chemistry success.  Check back often because I’m always trying to simplify General Chemistry.  Thank you and take care!  GOOD LUCK!