Category Archives: Home Management

Aldi compare prices

Aldi 102 – The “Comparing Prices” Post

aldi savings

Comparing prices at Aldi

I finally managed to make a true comparison shop between Aldi and my regional chain supermarket. As I mentioned in my first post about shopping at Aldi, I resisted shopping there for years. There really wasn’t a convenient location, most people raved about the produce prices and at that point, I wasn’t ready to drive 5-10 miles out of my way for produce and honestly, I was intimidated by the cart rental policy and the fact that they don’t take credit cards.

I promised a comparison and here ya go. As much as I’d love to be organized enough to do a weekly shop, I know I’ll be back at the store for milk or bread because I no longer have or want the freezer space to store more than one or two loaves of bread. I like milk to taste fresh so I usually don’t buy more than a gallon at a time. Today, I did a bare basics shop. Afterward, I stopped by the local grocery chain to write down their lowest price on comparable items. Here’s the breakdown:


aldi price comparison

Spreadsheet Comparing Prices at Aldi


I’m not at all surprised by this but I’m glad to finally proof that Aldi’s prices are significantly lower than, ok I’ll say it….Giant Eagle. There, I said it. I noticed a few things.

1) Giant Eagle has been forced to lower prices on some items or advertise lower prices on some items. I noticed that basic groceries (milk, bread, butter and juice) are closer in price than they were a few months ago. (With the exception of milk-we have state-imposed minimum prices, so usually this doesn’t fluctuate from store-to-store.) As we all know, most people will buy other things on impulse once they’re in the store, especially if you have to walk from one end to the other. Likely those other purchases won’t be discounted or competitive.

2) If you are a faithful Walmart shopper, you likely won’t be impressed by Aldi prices. I get that, but ask yourself how often you buy something you don’t need or weren’t planning to buy when you shop at Walmart. I think that company is the king of separating people from their hard-earned cash. There are a lot of things I don’t like about Walmart so I just choose not to shop there. One of the things I love about Aldi is how quickly you can get through the store because of its lay-out.

3) This was a medium shopping trip on a Wednesday. If it had been on Monday, I could expect to make another trip to Aldi and spend another $20 at Aldi or $35 to $40 for comparable items at GE. I don’t know about you but $25-$50 savings per week (and that’s conservative) is huge to my budget.

4) BUT WHAT ABOUT THE FUEL REWARDS AT MY LOCAL GROCERY STORE? Don’t worry, I plan to take a very close look at fuel reward programs. I suspect that most people think they are getting free gas but really are spending hundreds sometimes thousands of dollars more than they would have for groceries or gift cards. I am not convinced that spending $50 more per week on the same groceries makes sense. In our store, for every $50 you spend, you save $.10 per gallon of gas. Even if I get the maximum 30 gallons, that’s a savings of $3 for that extra $50. See, 30 gallons X .10/gallon = $3.00. It simply doesn’t make sense to spend $50 to save $3.00. Sometimes the store gives .20/gallon for every $50. Now we’re talking spending $50 to save $6 in gas. Either way, it doesn’t add up. Like I said, I plan to write a detailed post unwrapping the myth about fuel rewards in the future.

I really regret not buying what’s available at Aldi sooner. I’m hoping that posts like this will encourage others to try Aldi or make the switch completely. I know you won’t be sorry.

So tell me, have you made the switch to Aldi? I plan to review a few of their products that are especially impressive both in taste and in value.






Some More Tips for Selling Used Homeschool Books

Excuse the recycled photo….these colors just make me happy

If you remember, I posted some ideas for selling used homeschool books back in March. Since then I posted a couple of follow-ups with details about my earnings to encourage you to try sell some things you no longer need.

Before I give you some tips, I had a chance to tally up my total earnings for April from selling books on Amazon and Cathswap. The total, ladies and gentlemen is……….$393.15! That’s what I cleared after accounting for the cost of postage. Remember, Amazon reimburses a small portion of your cost of shipping.

Here are some things I’m learning about posting on Cathswap along the way which I thought might help. Cathswap is a moderated yahoo group for buying and selling homeschool books. The materials don’t have to be Catholic but a lot of them are and there is a list restricting certain publishers, authors and titles which are notoriously anti-Catholic.

1. I found that bumping posts up occasionally has paid off.

2. Listing individual titles is more effective than listing a group or lot of books unless you’re selling them as a bundle-all or nothing. There is a limit of 3 posts per day. If you can be patient about selling and can take the few minutes to post each book individually, it’s worth it. You can always copy and paste your older posts to bump them up.

3. In my limited experience, weekends are slow. Wednesdays and Thursdays are pretty active days for buyers. I don’t post books on the board on Fridays because they allow miscellaneous items and small cottage industry promotions on those days. Homeschool books tend to get buried very quickly. Then again, the board is active on Fridays. You may have to test this for yourself. Friday would be a good day to try to sell something that you make.

4. Publishing date and editions affect the value of your materials. Even if you have a book in excellent, like new condition, if there’s a later edition, you might have to slash the price considerably.

5. Shipping any book, CD or DVD media mail is the cheapest option. You can still add tracking for $.90. I usually give the buyer the option of paying extra for that if I’m offering to pay postage via media mail. If the buyer is paying shipping, I give them the option of the which service they want. They usually prefer media mail.

6. I didn’t realize how valuable DVD’s must be. On my very first day of listing, I listed 5 Catholic children’s DVD’s, each about a different saint. These retail for about $15 and I listed them for $5 each. My inbox lit up with interest and I probably could have listed them for at least $8-$10 each. IT was a great lesson and I still consider it a win for me since we got a lot of use out of the videos and I still made a few bucks. My point is, DVD’s hold some value and if you have the time, listing a little higher initially is sometimes worth it. You can always lower your price if the item doesn’t get any hits.

For Amazon sales:

1. If you’re going away or if you just want a break from selling, there is a vacation setting. Don’t forget to reactivate it when you return or are ready to sell again.

2. There is an option to have Amazon fulfill your shipment. I have not explored this since my P.O. is relatively close and I can get out easily. There is a fee but if you have a large volume of books to sell, it may be worth it. These items qualify for Amazon’s free shipping for purchases over $25, an incentive to buyers. Also, they have the added security of Amazon shipping it.

3. One thing I really don’t like about Amazon’s payment policy is that they hold onto your funds and release it twice a month. That seems ok except they don’t release funds earned within 14 days of each settlement date. I understand the reason but it can get frustrating to earn from sales and it trickles into your account.

About Craigslist….

I still haven’t had any luck selling on Craigslist. This might be an option for a “lot” of items bundled together or some things that don’t have much value on Amazon. I’m thinking Craigslisters are looking for deep discounts.

Have you tried selling your used homeschool books yet? Have any tips that I missed? Please share in the comments!

Aldi 101

I was going to title this post “Aldi for Dummies” but didn’t want to risk insulting you or committing trademark infringement. I respect the “Dummies” series immensely.


I admit, it took me a while to hop on the Aldi bandwagon. I’m happy to report that I have since chugged the cool-aid (“Mix-Aid” is the Aldi brand) and I’m a dedicated convert. I easily save hundreds of dollars every month for our most basic groceries (compared to our local grocery chain) and have rarely been disappointed in a product.
Let’s go over some Aldi basics, shall we?
1. If you’re going to buy more than 3 or 4 items, please just “buy” a cart. Buy is in quotation marks because you deposit a quarter to release a cart, do your shopping and you get your quarter back when you return the cart. The idea is that Aldi doesn’t have to pay a person to collect carts in the parking lot and reduces the risk of theft or damage to carts, thus making your groceries cheaper. I’ve been behind a lot of shoppers who fill one or many totes with groceries, unload them onto the belt then try to load their bags again in the cashier’s cart after checkout. This is a hassle for the cashier who is timed and for customers who are spoiled by the fast cashiers.


2. You will likely have one choice of an item in one size. Just be warned, even the family size at Aldi is usually cheaper than the standard size at your local grocery. If you don’t mind the waste or can be creative and use the excess for another meal, have at it.
3. There is no fresh deli, meat counter or bakery but Aldi does carry pre-packaged deli meats, meat and poultry and baked goods. They also carry frozen seafood products.
4. The produce is typically not organic but is high quality and inexpensive compared to any local grocery store. Aside from grapefruit, pineapple, avocado and a few other items, produce is typically not loose or individually packaged. For example, peppers come in a package of 2, zuchini and cucumbers packaged in 3.
5. Aldi does not accept credit cards. Come to think of it, that may be one reason that I was reluctant to try it way back when we used credit cards for everyday purchases then paid off the balance. Aldi does accept debit cards and your state’s grocery assistance program cards.
6. Aldi likely has an alternative for nearly everything you buy. Any of their products are worth a try because they have a great guarantee. They will replace the item AND return your purchase price. I’ve only returned 1 or 2 things (don’t buy frozen chicken patties) but didn’t care for a replacement. I’m guessing I could have asked for another thing of similar value.
7. Based on unit price, I really think Aldi is comparable to a warehouse type store without the need to buy in bulk.

8. Items are stacked and displayed in the boxes in which they are transported, giving a relatively small grocery store a warehouse feel but you get used to this. Actually, I appreciate not being overloaded with brands and colors and product placement. The store is clean and organized.
9. Be warned, the impulse purchases are in the first aisle as you come in the door. (snacks, cookies, baking supplies, bagged lunch convenience foods and some limited-time promotions). It is very tempting to throw a bunch of these in the cart before your cart gets filled because they are considerably cheaper than the local grocery chain. For example, a 10.5 oz. bag of potato chips costs $1.39. These items can quickly turn a $25 shopping essentials trip into a $40-$50 trip.
10. One of my favorite things about shopping at Aldi is how quickly I can get through the store. There are only a few aisles, with fewer choices than a typical grocery store. Once you get to know the layout (which is pretty similar from store-to-store but not always), it takes even less time. Also the cashiers are timed and trained very well. They are fast and pleasant. Even a bigger weekly shop takes less than 30 minutes from beginning to end.

11. Aldi does not accept coupons.

Now that you have the basics, I hope you try Aldi. I have no relationship to the store, whatsoever, it’s just a great way to save money on groceries-especially if you are inept at coupon-shopping like me.
Are you an Aldi shopper? Have any Aldi recipes? Have you ever taken the time to do a full comparison trip? More on Aldi to come. I really want to encourage you to try it.



Our Adventures in Real Estate!

I have alluded to a big investment that Mark and I made in October. We purchased a duplex in our neighborhood and my mom and her roommate are our first tenants!

My mom finally decided last spring to begin the process of downsizing, simplifying and unloading the house where she had lived for the past 30+ years. There are so many elements to this major move that I literally could do a series (“How to Help a Parent Simplify and Move”, “How To Purge 35 Years of Stuff “, “How to Gently Encourage Your Parents That If They Don’t Decide Now Where It’s Going, It’ll Likely End Up in a Dumpster”, “Over My Dead Body, Literally”….and so on) and I may eventually get to that because I think those topics would be useful. For now, though, I’ll just tell you about how things fell into place to purchase a duplex with a first floor apartment for my mom that turns out to be perfect in so many ways.

Her old house is about 3 blocks away and it’s been great having her so close. When she and her roommate committed to leaving it, they looked in our town for something suitable to rent or something low maintenance to buy. The problem with renting is the risk of being booted for a landlord’s cousin or friend and unpredictable rent increases. Single level made sense but there aren’t a lot of them for sale here and they go quickly. They also weren’t enthusiastic about maintaining another house. They both really loved a “house” in a retirement community about 15 minutes away. “House” is in quotes because it’s an upscale trailer park community. Fifteen minutes away doesn’t sound far but when your spoiled by being a few blocks away, it’s huge.

I admit, I was slightly panicked at the thought of her being so far away but it was outweighed considerably by my relief of her finally getting out from under her huge house. It needed a lot of work, it was filled with stuff and frankly, as the only girl in a family of 5 children, I feared having to deal with it after they died. I’m not a worrier by nature but I lost sleep some nights worrying about one of them falling down the steps. That old house had lots of them, inside and out.

In March 2012, they put a deposit down on a pretty nice trailer up in the senior community. It was big, clean and had a beautiful view. It felt like a vacation home but the community seemed lifeless to me. Also, I thought the price was way too high. I just couldn’t picture them there. Another huge factor was a high lease fee for the land which did not include basic maintenance (yard, snow-removal) and this option still left them maintaining the “house”. But again, I was resigned to it. Luckily, they signed a contingent that they would get their deposit back if the house didn’t sell within 3 months. They began the process of decluttering in order to list it. The agent refused to put photos on the internet before a big purge. We got to that and they were able to list it before the 3 month contingent ran out. I think if they would have failed to make a good faith effort to list the house, they would have lost the deposit.

Then, one Saturday in May, I noticed my neighbor who owned and lived in the duplex, was having a yard sale. I walked over and asked why. He’s in the military and was transferred to Georgia and was selling. The building was built in the 40s by the mother of a couple who also lives in the neighborhood who are now in their 90s. The building has a history of conscientious-even OCD-owners and responsible tenants. Mark and I had been interested in buying it when it went on the market in 2001 if his parents would have considered living there. They weren’t so we didn’t look into it further. At the time we were in no position to invest in real estate, with 3 small kids and still in debt with student loans and not much savings but I always regretted not owning the building.

When I found out it was going on the market again I called my mom and asked whether it might appeal to her. I wasn’t sure what Mark would say but I told her I’d love to invest in it. She and her roommate came right over and we asked the owner if we could see it some time. Understandably, he didn’t want us to see it until things were more organized and cleared out. That day, I really felt that if it was meant to be, it would. From that point on, I resisted my urge to pray for what I wanted and instead totally trusted God and the intercession of a few other saints.

Very long story short, my mom’s house sold within 3 weeks of being on the market by a couple who didn’t want to close until September. On our end, the seller accepted our offer in the beginning of September and we were scheduled to close October 11. In spite of every big bank claiming closing within 30 days was impossible, it happened with the expertise of a friend who handles mortgages at a small local bank. My mom arranged to rent her house for a month until we closed (avoiding 2 moves) and we were able to finish painting her apartment the week she moved in at the end of October.

While I fully anticipated loving having my mom close, I didn’t anticipate how utterly convenient it has been owning rental property in my own neighborhood. It’s naive but I just never thought of it. One factor is just learning about the history of the building. My own plumber who also lives in the neighborhood, has been taking care of the building for 40 years. Meeting contractors, getting bids, meeting painters, storing things, cleaning, painting, everything was made easier by the building being a few houses down. If you’re considering investing, I highly recommend buying something close. It makes jumping into the landlord business so much easier. On top of all that it is so great that we can all walk over and pop in. My brothers also visit more because it’s now on the way to my house instead of a turn in the other direction.

A view from the 2nd floor balcony

The place truly is perfect for my mom. It’s all one level since we were able to squeeze a stackable apartment sized laundry unit in the first floor. The rooms are big which allowed her to bring a lot of her furniture. She hosted dessert for Thanksgiving and Christmas and I really think the size of the rooms and the layout accommodates our whole family better than my house. Also, she loves not having the maintenance worry and I actually don’t mind. The best part of all, the 2nd floor tenant is a relative who was also downsizing! I can’t tell you how stressful it was fielding calls from potential tenants. If Joe Schmo lived in the first floor (I loved the original show on Spike), I wouldn’t have cared as much who lived upstairs. But this worked out perfectly for everyone involved.

I’ll save the more fun parts of this story for later….(before and after painting and a new IKEA kitchen!)

So, anyone out there have rental properties? Any nightmares? Anyone else invest in property to accommodate a parent or other relative? Let’s hear it!

More Paleo Thoughts

Chicken salad with an olive oil/lemon dressing. 

Are you as sick of hearing about paleo as I am of thinking about it?

I subscribe to a few RSS feeds, one being I don’t always read it but usually, something they’re writing about catches my eye. I was surprised to get a link to this post today in my inbox. In case you don’t feel like clicking over, basically, Tsh is 10 days into a Whole30 program. I haven’t researched that specifically but it is a plan to go hardcore paleo for 30 days. What’s going on? What is so interesting about paleo to everyone these days?

You probably guessed from my post last week that I’ve fallen off the wagon. I am still watching my sugar intake and try to limit the grains but this weekend, I ate the way I normally eat.

Reading Tsh’s post made me realize that I might have a better shot at this outside of Lent. Unlike Tsh, I did not feel any physical benefits in the 2 weeks that I was pretty hard-core. I still felt weak and achy and stiff. Exercise would probably help that a lot and I’m figuring out what I can do without killing the knees, hips and shoulder.

I’m encouraged to continue to learn more about the science and chemistry of paleo. What I’ve read is convincing, but I’m not able to articulate it myself. Also, I think access to local and fresh produce will be motivating. I have an aversion to out-of-season produce. Maybe it’s physiological but I suspect it’s a result of reading Barbara Kingsolver’s book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. (I need to reread that and add it to my sidebar of favorite books over there on the right).

I’ll likely continue to post about my neurosis concerning this issue. It’s probably boring but it has been a good way for me to process this process. Make sense?

Paleo-Two Weeks In

Poached another photo from Hannah’s archives just for visual interest.

To be honest, I spend an inordinate part of my day talking to myself about why a committed paleo lifestyle will absolutely NOT work for me. But, for the most part, I’m hanging in there. At this point, it’s as much an exercise in awareness (about the things we eat) as anything.

Here’s what I’m finding so far:

1. I really don’t like meat that much.
2. There’s only so many ways you can eat beef-especially ground beef.
3. I like vegetables and I’d like to keep it that way. I’m actually eating fewer veggies 2 weeks in because frankly, I’m satiated.
4. I’ve never been a huge fan of salads in the winter-except occasionally.
5. I feel about the same. My rosacea did not miraculously disappear-it’s pretty much following it’s usual course.
6. I’m not willing to invest in or manage a large portion of grass-fed beef. I like not having a seperate freezer.
7. If I retrained my tastebuds to love more wild game (cleaner meats), I don’t have access to it (though Mark said he would be willing to start hunting) but…see #6 above.
8. I suspect that, overall, our family could benefit from a real paleo diet, (clean and organic everything, high in fat and low in simple carbs). I really don’t have it in me to fight that battle. Believe me, it would be a BATTLE!
9. Not sure how much longer I’ll keep at it. I will continue to abstain from part of the forbidden elements during lent. I’m running out of food options because I’m really not enjoying all the meat and I don’t think processed, packaged meats fits the bill.
10. I really think when my experiment ends, I’ll complain less about what to have for dinner-for a while anyway.
11. I feel lucky NOT to have to battle with allergies, autoimmune disorders and other types of food sensitivities. I will revisit allowing vegetable oil in various forms, high fructose corn syrup and chemicals into the pantry.
12. These 14 days, my mother-in-law’s mantra has repeated in my head…”Everything in moderation”. She lived to be almost 82 and she was pretty fit and active most of that time. Good advice.
13. I don’t feel like a failure. Rather, this is playing out as I anticipated. Maybe that’s why the sight of a bagel or a plate of pasta isn’t driving me crazy. I’ve known all along I would likely enjoy these foods again, but I guess I’ll try to enjoy them in moderation.
14. This makes me admire Kelly as much as ever. I’ve always appreciated her thoughtful and committed approach to all things family. Whether it be moving, budgeting, activities, whatever. And let’s be honest, when you’re a mother, nearly everything you do affects the whole family. I love how she’s made this change and stuck to it.

In Case You Were Wondering….about my Paleo experiment…

No, not about “Momentum on Monday”. I’m regrouping after our little weekend trip to see my aunt. It was great, I’m so glad we went and it was so nice to have everyone home together for President’s Day. So, here are some thoughts about flinging myself into paleo madness.I haven’t given up. I’m not craving things (surprisingly) BUT I am spending more time than I’d prefer-especially during lent-thinking about food. This paleo thing takes lots of planning and preparation. I do think the money that we spend on cereal, snacks and the very few convenience foods we end up buying could definitely go toward a quarter of a grass-fed beef. The problem with that notion is that I’m not inclined or prepared to impose my little experiment on the whole family. It is just not practical or realistic for us, at least right now. Also, there’s something about buying and storing more than 100 pounds of animal that turns me off. I simply don’t want the responsibility.

That grass-fed and wild animal thing is huge. My reading tells me this….fats from grass-fed and wild meats are great for you, fats from industrialized beef aren’t. Oh, and chicken, not so good. Whatever Omega6 is, chicken’s got a lot of it and it isn’t a good thing.

I am majorly humbling myself here to show you my rosacea the day before I started this paleo thing. This doesn’t even show a bad flare-up but it’s about the state of it most days. How I envy clear, smooth skin. Damn, I’m getting OLD!

As I suspected when I decided to try this to see if my aches, pains and rosacea would improve, I’ll likely end up just limiting grains, dairy and sugar overall in my diet rather than eliminating them completely. I don’t think I suffer adverse reactions to those things (that I know of).

For now, I’m doing my best to stick to it. Not sure I’ll be getting through the 6 weeks. Eggs and/or meat everyday for breakfast is not appealing, I really don’t want to get sick of salads and I don’t have enough beef recipes in my repertoire to get us through. I don’t think eating less pasta, bread and sugar will hurt me, though.

I’ll keep you posted.

Kelly any input you have is much appreciated. I am marveling at how you made such a big switch but then again, your boys never struck me as complainers and always seem enthusiastic about new adventures (even in food). Maybe that made things easier.

The Devil is in the Details (or in the temptations)

This is just torture….just wanted to post a pretty photo of food. Feel free to pin my pretty bread.

So, I pretty much committed to trying a paleo thing during Lent. Admittedly, this was not thoroughly researched, planned or thought through. (I have read about it but felt that I could do that for years before committing. I was ready to go for it. I knew with Luke also committing, Ash Wednesday and Fridays during Lent would present a particular challenge. In spite of the sacrificial season and the ideal 6 week time-frame, we were challenged by our traditional food habits, the need for energy on the fly and our very predictable and boring pantry. Plantains, papayas, avacados, coconut milk and oil and something called kimche (which I’m still not sure I want to look into) are a mystery to this family.

I’m learning that grass-fed and wild (as in elk, moose, bison, gazelle or deer-I guess) are the real acceptable fatty meats. If you’re eating industrial beef, lean is safer. Chicken and pork are to be eaten in moderation. Fish is ok as long as it is wild caught in the Pacific. Alrighty, then.

Valentine’s Day presented a small challenge. Lenten sacrifices are usually outweighed by charity in my view. For example, a few years ago, our family was invited for the day to visit another family who does not abstain on Fridays. When the mom served chicken for dinner, it would have been uncharitable to mention our practice. Similarly, when Grandma Jane showed up on the back porch with snickerdoodles and valentine cards for each of the kids with the slightest hint of melancholy, NO WAY would we have mentioned that the kids were abstaining. So they inhaled those cookies!

Today, I was feeling a little nostalgic. Valentines Day has traditionally been a big celebration at home for me and the kids or with other homeschooling families. Because it landed on the day after lent began, we didn’t really plan anything. I couldn’t resist to buy the kids a box of mini donuts.

Tomorrow, we head to my aunt’s house on the border of PA and MD. She has a wonderful group of dear friends (lifelong friends) but is terribly sad after the death of my aunt (her youngest sister) this summer and the serious illness of another of her siblings. She is hurting and lonely. A visit to her always means extreme indulgence. Except for the abstaining from meat and even though she’d fully understand, this family will have to indulge her need to shower them with treats. For my part, I can resist the treats but it will be very difficult to plan paleo meals there since she doesn’t have a stove-especially on Friday.

I know it sounds like I’m rationalizing, I’m willing to pay for it in purgatory.

You might have thought at the beginning of this post that I’ve given up. Not so. I’ve resisted the pasta on Wednesday, snickerdoodles, sugar in my coffee and noodles with the beef stew I made last night. I’ll probably have pizza tonight, though and try my best to stick to the plan. Honestly, I don’t have the energy to plan or police the plan for anyone else while we’re away. We’ll resume our efforts when we return.


Craigslist Learning Curve

Still trying to balance my desire to purge with the desire to get some value out of the some of the stuff we have accumulated and just aren’t using. I learned a lesson yesterday….I posted an ad on Craigslist to sell 2 medicine balls (out of 4 that we have). I listed them early in January. I got the first hit just yesterday and someone offered $40 and was ready with an exclamation point to pick them up. This was after one back- and-forth email exchange indicating that they were still available. [FYI, when the word “balls” is in the listing title, you’re opening a can of spam worms. In which case, I use an alternate-hopefully anonymous gmail account in order to minimize spam and grossness.]The person was so enthusiastic about his/her desire to pick them up immediately that I figured they really wanted them. I countered with $50 even though I would have been perfectly happy with $40. Forty dollars is a good bit of cash for something that is truly cluttering up the basement. I’ll humble myself and reply again that I’ll still take the $40. Likely the person will guess that I’ll take even less and I’ll sell them for $35.***

This is partly about reaching my goal and partly about minimizing clutter which is a constant pursuit. I’ll let you know how things turn out.

***[Edited to add: I emailed the woman back to say that I’d accept her offer. I truly expected a big virtual middle finger or a lower offer but she happily responded that she’d take them.]

What I Would Have Told Me

Even though I mostly write about random goings-on in my life, I don’t often write about super personal things here. I guess I feel vulnerable. That’s as simply as I can put it. I think a lot about things I wish I’d known or done differently when I was younger. I would have told me some things-especially when I first got married.As required by our Diocese, Mark and I participated in pre-cana classes. Ours were a series of 4 weekly classes on topics like finances, family relationships, family planning, faith and other intimate things you don’t necessarily want to hear from a priest OR a couple in their 70’s-yikes! I looked forward to those classes, and they sparked some conversations which, up to that point, Mark and I hadn’t had. Unfortunately, I have to admit, after attending them, Mark and I pretty much winged it from there. We dealt with issues as they arose with very little planning, preparation or discussion about the future.I find myself thinking “I wish I would have known about this when we were first starting out” or “Why didn’t we talk about this before we got married?” or “Why didn’t anyone tell me this?”I’ll write about one today and others in the future. I don’t think there are many things I would have done drastically different but there are a few that feel pretty critical.


Mark brought no debt to our marriage. I, on the other hand, dragged about $65,000 in student loans (undergrad and law school) and about $3,500 in credit card debt. Yes, I was one of those idiots who signed up for a credit card on the first day of college, got a free plastic cup and went shopping. I was so clueless about money and it’s taken nearly my entire adult life to see debt for what it really is….a huge burden!

It sounds weird but I would have done almost anything to avoid living with debt for as long as we did. I think it would have even been worth living with Mark’s parents-which would have thrilled them- for 18 months to 2 years in order to knock out that debt. Instead, we rented an apartment that we could afford on paper-according to our income-and began repaying my student loans. I remember the day I realized just how much I’d be paying monthly and for how long (20 years) and I literally was sobbing over the dishes when Mark walked in the door that night.

I kind of remember Mark paying for my credit card debt right away or maybe using some of our wedding money for that purpose. We no longer carried a balance but we continued to use a credit card for all of our purchases and paid the balance every month. I’m sure we were trying to earn airline miles or cash back or both with 2 cards. This practice tricked me into thinking we were financially secure and responsible. I believe Dave Ramsey who says doing this leads to over-spending. According to his figures, people who use credit cards for every day purchases and pay the balance every month spend an average of 18% more than they would have if they used cash. I know that was true in our case, except the figure was probably more like 20-25% more.

For my part, I’m certain I spent more on groceries, clothes, gifts, household items and entertainment, when we used credit cards. At one point, we got another credit card thinking our expenditures would come due at different times of the month so we could break up that balance. The problem is, I know we spent twice as much. It was crazy.

I have to admit that I felt entitled to lead a lifestyle of free-spending. I worked hard for my law degree. In my mind, lawyers lived a certain way. Luckily, neither of us have ever been extremely extravagant spenders-even if we haven’t planned our spending very well. I think this and the fact that we didn’t have a huge mortgage allowed me to quit my big firm job when I was pregnant with Hannah to work 2 days a week for a sole practitioner. I eventually stopped working after Kate was born.

I think I heard about Dave Ramsey in 2002. I checked out “Total Money Makeover” from the library. I thought it was so great that I bought a copy (I figured Mark would be more likely to read it if he could do so leisurely). Ramsey’s plan and principles made sense. Mark didn’t read the book but was agreeable to attacking our debt and was open to hearing about what I had read. Looking back, I would have urged Mark to read the book also so that we could plan together-rather than me telling him what each move should be.

Dave Ramsey was the first financial person I’d ever heard who advocated attacking the smallest debts first then applying those payments to the next smallest and so on. He calls it the debt snowball. (Most tell you to attack the biggest balance first or the card with the highest interest rate). The magic in Ramsey’s plan is the progress and momentum. With the other methods, it can get pretty hopeless when you don’t see much progress. I think we started knocking out those separate student loans early in 2003 and paid the last one off in 2005. That doesn’t sound great but considering they weren’t scheduled to be paid in full until 2013, it was significant.

We also began using a debit card or cash for purchases and quit using a credit card. We managed to pay off our car loans back then. We made the mistake of borrowing money for subsequent car purchases but quickly paid off those loans.

There are lots of other elements to Dave Ramsey’s steps and lots of bloggers go into detail about them and how they’ve applied them in their own lives. Tsh Oxenreider over at Simplemom has a series of inspirational posts.

Honestly, my 24 year-old self did not respond so thoughtfully when Mark’s parents casually suggested moving in with them to save money. I didn’t fly off the handle or anything but I’m sure I laughed and made it clear that I had no intentions of considering it. I admit that ONLY reading Dave Ramsey could have convinced me that it would be a good idea. Since Dave Ramsey didn’t write books back then, I don’t harbor a lot of regret, but if I knew then what I know now, I would have tried and just worked like a mad woman to pay down the loans.

If you haven’t heard Dave Ramsey or read his books, I highly recommend them. His approach is practical and when applied properly, very effective in achieving financial independence and total freedom.