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Monday, June 30, 2014

Celebrating Two Years Of Marriage

Today the hubby and I celebrate two years of marriage! It's been a crazy roller coaster ride, but all the ups and downs have just added to the thrill.

We went out for a special lunch on Sunday at the beautiful Juniper's Restaurant at The Wildflower Inn. The food was delicious, the view was gorgeous, and the company couldn't have been better.

As I think back over the last two years a few things stand out:

  • We began our journey to debt-free living, and have so far paid off over $25,000 in debt.
  • We got to be on the Katie Couric Show and meet Dave Ramsey and his daughter Rachel Cruze and win $594 in the money booth!
  • We have gone on vacation to Boston, and Old Orchard Beach in Maine.
  • We've had a blast creating three music videos, all of which Jake wrote the lyrics for.
  • We've completed lots of home improvement projects together.
  • We recently came to the decision to sell our great big beautiful home.
  • We are still excited about all that we have to look forward to in our future, including hopefully transforming our imaginary kiddos into real kiddos, adopting some more kiddos, moving closer to our church and Jake's family and growing old together.

If you were to ask Jake (and I just did) he would say that our second year of marriage has been marked by events smaller than our first year, but more significant. Where are first year was a bit of a struggle as two extremely independent people learned how to share their lives, our second year saw us both learning how to relate to each other better while growing emotionally and spiritually. Our first year was tough. Our second year was much improved.

We've made it a tradition to return to the Ivy Chapel in our hometown of Bethlehem, NH, and re-take a photo from our wedding day every year on our anniversary.

Celebrating Two Years Of Marriage Ivy Chapel
Our Wedding Day 2012

Celebrating Two Years of Marriage Ivy Chapel Bethlehem, NH
First Anniversary 2013

Celebrating Two Years Of Marriage Ivy Chapel Bethlehem, NH
Second Anniversary 2014

And Lord willing we will have about 50 more of these photos someday!

Keep pinchin' :-)

Friday, June 27, 2014

A House On The Market Is Like A Tomato Drying In The Sun

Sun-dried tomatoes are exactly what the name implies—tomatoes that have sat in the sun for ten days and had more than 90% of their moisture sucked out. To me, the longer a tomato sits in the sun the more disgusting it becomes. Like a wrinkled old piece of human flesh.


Amazingly though, tomatoes lose none of their nutritional value when sun-dried. Put a human in the sun for ten days and it will lose ALL of its nutritional value, but tomatoes are... I don't know. Immortal or something. They can sit there for days and days, shrinking, getting all wrinkly, and yet still have all the necessary goodness to amount to something.

What's interesting about putting your house on the market is that as soon as the listing hits your house starts drying out, like a tomato in the sun. When the listing first hits the house is a novelty, capturing the curiosity of simple spectators and hooking the interest of serious buyers. The longer it sits there however, soaking up the sun, the less attractive it gets.

Our realtor calls this a "stale listing," a home that has been sitting on the market for so long that it has become unattractive to buyers. The home still has all of its nutritional value—you know, all the good stuff inside—but people judge it based on the fact that the prolonged listing makes it look ugly.

Like a sun-dried tomato.

What constitutes a stale listing seems to depend on the market, but in general it looks like any house that's been listed longer than two months can be considered stale.

Our lovely 2,500-square-foot colonial went on the market two weeks ago this Saturday. We've had four showings so far, but that's all. One interested buyer came to look at the house twice, but we haven't heard anything since.

It's a bit irritating having to be constantly available for showings, especially when you're still living in your house. You've got to keep it cleaner than usual, keep your junk put away, and your underwear off the floor. And if you have a wife who works nights and sleeps during the day than, yeah... it's especially irritating.

Anyway, everyone keeps saying the market is on an upswing and that "this is the time to sell." So here's hoping we can sell our home while it's still juicy, before that sun-dried tomato look starts to take hold.

Keep pinchin' :-)
Our Home from the outside

Our backyard

House for sale - nice spacious upstairs

House for sale - New Hampshire - cozy bedrooms

House for sale - comfortable living area

Thursday, June 26, 2014

A "That's So Easy" Chicken Parmesan Recipe

A Romantic Chicken Parmesan Dinner For The Wife -
How you can do it too!
Dinner for the wifeDinner for the wife

Keep Pinchin' :-)

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Transformation Tuesday

I promised some pictures of the progress we are making on the second floor of our house, but then we found out that our realtor was going to be showing it to some prospective buyers on Saturday. In the mad rush to get our house organized and the inch of debris on the upstairs floor, we got a wee bit busy. In fact, I think between Thursday and Friday we must have spent about 20 hours working on it.

But here are the fruits of our labor!

This is the before photo of the ugly green wallpaper room. Thankfully I was able to pull it off pretty easily, and so this became my fastest transformation to date.

Updating the green wallpaper room.

After peeling off all the wallpaper, prepping the walls with join compound, sanding them down, and painting them grey, this was the outcome. I also spent a fair bit of time on my hands and knees cleaning up old paint drops and spills. Look at that floor shine!

A beautiful grey bedroom.

We didn't get a before picture of what we call the "upstairs living room," but it had the same awful textured walls as the first bedroom I redid.

After lots of scraping, peeling, mudding and sanding—and by that I mean a LOT of scraping, peeling, mudding, sanding—we were finally able to paint it this great color called Surfer. In the picture it looks more blue than it actually is, but I love it! I love it so much it almost made me reconsider selling the house. Then I reminded myself that I can paint a room this color in our next house :-)

Updated upstairs living room in Surfer Blue.

We're still working on the second floor bathroom, and there's a kitchen and dinning room to do as well, but with the interested buyers we have looking at our house right now we may not ever get the chance to get it done.

Happy Transformation Tuesday!

Keep pinchin' :-)

Monday, June 23, 2014

Short-Circuiting Self-Sabotage To Win At Financial Recovery

George Costanza - the ultimate self-sabotager
To me, the hands-down best episodes of the hit sitcom Seinfeld are the ones where Jerry and George get to make a TV sitcom for NBC, and fail in spectacular fashion—though ultimately the failure is not their fault.

True to form, it's the slow-witted George Costanza—who believes that God will never allow him to be successful—and his self-sabotaging antics that nearly ruin their chances at fame. First he tries negotiating with the network for more money, which results in him and Jerry actually getting less. Then he gets involved in a romantic relationship with one of the show's producers, whom he ends up despising, but he's too afraid of losing their sitcom to he breaks up with her. Then he begins irritating the cast members. Then he has that "white discoloration" on his lip that he's convinced is terminal cancer. All of his nervousness over the possibility of success make almost incapable of actually becoming successful. In fact, he is pretty much the quintessential example of a hopeless, self-sabotaging individual.

Self-sabotage happens a lot with financial recovery. After a few months of disciplined budgeting and careful spending, some people start to miss the excitement of shopping, swiping credit cards, eating out, or entertainment. So they find themselves wandering the aisles of the mall "just to look," but in actuality they're feeding the growing urges to spend. Or they might start borrowing money from one area, like grocery money, to splurge in another.

Over time these little decisions short-circuit the entire budget, cause the person to get discouraged, and throw in the towel because they "just can't do it."

If you can’t break your addiction to financial excitement, you’re never going to achieve the kind of financial life that gives you peace.

True, spending money is exciting, and, yes, it's true that getting out of debt can be a total bore, but nothing good ever came from lazy behavior. Words like "discipline," "steadfastness," and "structure," are words that successful people are very familiar with. You want to loose weight? Discipline! You want to change your lifestyle? Steadfastness! You want to be rich some day? Get structured!

Here's another word: routine.

When it comes to getting in better physical shape, for example, I've noticed that the people who actually succeed at doing this have established routines. They don't work out every single day because they feel like—although sometimes they may feel like—they just do it.

How should paying off debt and building wealth be any different? How do you create more routine with money, and, most importantly, how do you stay on track when you're feeling bored or resistant.

Here are some ideas:

  • Like Dave Ramsey always says, make a list. Even if the first item on your list says, "Make list," at least it will help you feel like you've accomplished something. Try listing your smallest debts first—credit card, car, house. Make a list of weekly budget-related tasks—Get groceries: $100, Get cleaning supplies: $20. Until you give yourself structure, you won't have any at all.

  • Hold regular budget meetings. For the first year after FPU Dani and I met faithfully every week to go over our budget. Once we felt more confident in the process, we started meeting every couple of weeks. The point is, we meet and go over the budget together on a regular basis because there is no "one size fits all" budget. It has to be revisited every month, or seasonally at least.

  • Dani and I have learned that we make better progress when we have hard and fast goals. We got more work done on the upstairs renovation in three days than we had in a month because we found out the realtor was coming to show our house on the weekend. And, in the past, whenever we have been adamantly focused on paying off a debt we have succeeded more quickly than we anticipated. Having goals works!

  • Having fun is key to staying sane throughout this whole process. So what can you do to have fun that doesn't involve spending money? Dani loves to go to the beach. I like to chill in my hammock and read a book or write on my laptop. During the holidays we like to go look at Christmas lights. Museums. Parks. Parades. There's lots of fun, affordable entertainment to find if you look for it.

It can be hard to shift your mindset from over-spending to something as mundane as list-making and budgeting, but you have to believe that this is what will have the biggest impact on your level of financial peace. The more routine you establish, the better your chances of nipping those self-sabotaging behaviors in the bud.

Keep pinchin' :-)

Friday, June 20, 2014

Our New Music Video Is A Parody... I Mean Satire... Whichever Is Legal

Let It Go: A Penny Pinching Parody

Yeah. We went there.

We even tried to monetize our "Let It Go" parody video, but apparently that's, um... illegal. Even though everyone else in the world seems to be getting away with it.

But are they really?

Even though it seems like all those video parodies on YouTube of the inexplicably popular song "Let It Go," from Disney's Frozen, are generating money, they're actually not... well, at least not for the user.

Legally, you can't monetize satire. Satire is when you take something copyrighted like a song or a movie or a book and rework it to make fun of or critique something else. Our new video, "Let It Go: A Penny Pinching Parody," is technically satire because we're taking an established song and making fun of our penny pinching lifestyle. In fact most of the "Let It Go" videos on YouTube are probably considered more satire.

Parody, on the other hand, is when you take something copyrighted and use it to make fun of the thing itself. You could call a parody "critique," and therefore consider it fair use under copyright law, which allows for the use of copyrighted material "for critique and review." In court, you might be able to get away with an argument for parody, but not so much with satire, especially if you're trying to make money off it. (Wikipedia has a great article explaining all of this in Layman's terms, if you're curious.)

But it's deceptive when you see all these bloody parodies on YouTube with millions of views and advertisements. It looks like the creators of the video are getting rich. But they're not.

Guess who is though.


That's right. Even though a parody video can fall under fair use, YouTube doesn't want to take the chance of getting wrapped up in a law suit, so they forbid the monetization of parodies. However, once a video starts generating a certain number of hits, YouTube automatically begins placing ads on your content. YouTube then delivers a portion of that revenue to its advertising partners, but it keeps a massive chunk. YOU, on the other hand, don't get a cent!

A December 2013 article from Advertising Age indicated that YouTube is expected to record $5.6 billion in gross revenue this year. That's a 51% increase from 2012, and a large part of it has to do with the growing increase of parodies. YouTube has got to be making a planet-sized load of cash off "Let It Go" alone!

Five point six billion dollars.

If you let each word slowly roll off your tongue enough times you can actually hear the sound of your entire body groaning in disgust.

"How can they get away with this?" you ask.

The simple pessimistic answer is: YouTube is owned by Google, which pretty much has more "I do what I wunna" power than the President. If an artist sues them for allowing videos of their copyrighted work on the internet, Google, with its universe encompassing control, will just erase their very existence from the space time space continuum. Ctrl + Alt + Delete.

There's not much an ant can do against a boot.

Anyway, enjoy the video!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

First FPU Reunion Shows Just How Well... Or Bad... We're All Doing

For our first reunion of Financial Peace University graduates, we decided to have a potluck (because we're true Baptists). It's only been about three months, but we've found a reunion is helpful, if not essential, in keeping people motivated to stick to their budgets.

Of a class that averaged about 35 regular attendees, we had about 20 show up for the reunion, which isn't bad considering it's graduation season. But, then again, there WAS food.

We found that the main thing people seem to have in common was bad decision-making over small matters. Whether it's borrowing cash from one envelope to purchase something different, or going out to eat when they shouldn't; it was these kinds of decisions that had piled up, ruined budgets, and made some people discouraged.

The perfectionist in me can TOTALLY relate to this. I'm not as bad anymore, but in my younger years if I couldn't do something perfectly I wouldn't do it all. Even today I find that little mistakes here and there can bring me to a place where I conclude that it's just not worth it. But failures can not be an excuse to throw it all out the window, and I think that's what some people subconsciously hope for.

There's a psychological term for this called "self-sabotage." As ridiculous as it sounds, it's exactly what some people do when they KNOW they need to succeed at something, but find too many self-gratifying reasons to postpone their long-term goals. Some of the most common self-sabotaging behaviors are procrastination, self-medication with drugs or alcohol, comfort eating in the face of weight concerns, or in the case of sticking to a financial budget it can be any number of material things—new shoes, restaurants, entertainment.

This is why it's so helpful to work through Dave Ramsey's baby steps with a spouse, friend, or accountability partner. When one person starts to make poor, potentially self-sabotaging decisions, the other can step in and say, "Whoa!"

We were encouraged though to see that many had also experienced a lot of victories. One couple had doubled their savings in the three months since FPU, and there two other couples who had opened savings accounts for the first time in their lives. One man spoke about finding little ways to save by finding a cheaper telephone service provider, while another said he and his wife have been steadily working with their debt snowball and anticipated being debt free in another three or four months.

As for Dani and I, well, we finally have health insurance!

It's a blessing to be a part of such an honest, communicative, and willing group of participants. Knowing that you're not alone in this struggle is sometimes all the encouragement you need.

Keep pinchin' :-)

PS. Check out some of these inspirational clips from people on Dave Ramsey's show doing their triumphant "debt free screams."

Ryan and Micha - Debt Free Scream

Craig and Lisa - Debt Free Scream

Rob and Marisa - Debt Free Scream

Anderson and Kerri - Debt Free Scream

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

A Look Inside Christian Healthcare Ministries... Sarcasm Included!

We took the plunge into healthcare sharing
Howdy world! If you're just tuning in, the wife and I have signed up for a Christian healthcare sharing organization as an alternative to Obamacare. (Click here to read why.) It's been a complicated solution to figure out because, essentially, we have had to learn all of this insurance mumbo-jumbo ourselves.

So we signed up with Christian Healthcare Ministries a couple weeks ago (click here to read about that if you're curious) and yesterday we received our welcome package—or as I've come to call it, "The Book of Forms." The 34-page member brochure introduced us to Dr. Michael D. Jacobson, who has served as medical consultant for CHM since 1995. He's apparently the go-to guy if you've got medical questions.

To contact him, fill out the enclosed form.

We were also made aware of one member's health concerns—a man named Mark, from Ohio, who is trying to get his blood pressure under control. Members can send notes of encouragement and pray for Mark.

To send him a card, fill out the enclosed form.

One thing I forgot to sign up for when I enrolled is the Brother's Keeper program, a separate fund to safeguard members from medical bills exceeding $125,000 caused by catastrophic illness or injuries. It's a quarterly gift of $25—in addition to your monthly portion—as well as an annual $40 administration fee. I'm thinking the wife and I will sign up for this, so I guess... oh! How convenient...

...they've included a form for that, too!

There's a page explaining that if we can sucker anyone else into joining, we'll get one month of membership for free. Any takers? All you have to do is...

...fill out the enclosed form.

There's information on what to do if you need medical care—along with an enclosed form—as well as a list of forms to fill out:

  • The Checklist of Understanding Form
    I understand that my participation is voluntary... I understand the guidelines... I understand the risk... I understand that this is not insurance.... Check. Check. Check. Check.

  • CheckEase Direct Giving Enrollment Form
    To save me the agony of having to write a check every month, I can have my money sent to them automatically.

  • Authorization for Disclosure or Use of Protected Health Information Form
    Uh-huh. Got it.

All kidding and sarcasm aside—actually, scratch that, I won't renege my sarcasm. This whole process is an annoyance. Not that I'm not grateful for ministries like CHM, or Samaritan Ministries, or MediShare, but the convoluted politics that have necessitated this lifestyle change make it a circumstance that I resent. So...

Deep calming breath. Relax. Breeeeeath.

Smiley face :-)

Honestly, CHM's Book of Forms isn't so bad. I'm just clinging to the amusement caused by all the forms as a means of easing my suffering.

The good news is that our total monthly membership fee—for both Dani and I—is less than $300. Under Obamacare, even with assistance, it would cost about that much for just ONE of us.

So, despite all my frustrations and my naturally pessimistic personality, I consider myself blessed to now be a part of a healthcare sharing ministry like CHM. I even look forward to praying for other members like Mark and encouraging them through their difficulties.

"And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near."

—Hebrews 10:25

Keep pinchin' :-)

If you found this information helpful, and choose to use Christian Healthcare Ministries, would you consider signing up under us, as a thank you for all our research? You can use this link to do that Christian Healthcare Ministries.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Homemade Dishwasher Detergent

DIY Dishwasher Soap
Months ago I wanted to try making my own dishwasher detergent because I knew it would be a lot cheaper to make it than it would be to buy it, and... well, I just love DIY projects! So when I ran out of my last bit of store-bought soap last week I decided it was now or never.

I gathered the required ingredients: Borax, Washing Soda, Epsom Salt and Lemon Juice. Fortunately I already had most of the ingredients, which I had bought previously to make my own laundry detergent, or to cook with, except for the Epsom Salt, but I had been meaning to buy that anyway.

I measured out:

—1 Cup Borax
—1 Cup Washing Soda
—1/4 Cup Epsom Salt

into a large bowl and mixed it up really well, making sure there weren't any clumps.

DIY Dishwasher Soap

Then I took 1 cup of the mixture and put it into another bowl and added

—4 Tablespoons of Lemon Juice

and a tad bit more after mixing it together in order to get a sticky, but not sopping wet mixture.

When you add the Lemon Juice it makes it all fizzy, which is fun to watch :-)

DIY Dishwasher Soap

I then placed the mixed-up goop into little silicone baking cups (you can also use ice cube trays, I just didn't have any), which I had lined with plastic wrap to protect.

DIY Dishwasher Soap

I repeated the process with the second cup, making about 22 little cubes of Dishwasher Soap and placed them into the window to dry over night.

DIY Dishwasher Soap

I popped them out the next morning and used my first one. The dishes all came out clean! All in all it probably took me maybe 10 minutes from start to finish, including clean up, but minus all the lovely photos I took for you all.

DIY Dishwasher Soap

Hope you enjoy, and if you are leery of using the Borax you can still make this up, just omit it and either double up on the Washing Soda and Epsom Salt or make less and use less Lemon Juice.

Keep pinchin' :-)

Monday, June 16, 2014

"Just Find Something About Everything To Be Glad About"

The title of this post is part of a quote from Eleanor H. Porter's Pollyanna, a book that I loved reading as a kid, with a movie adaptation that actually isn't too bad—as far as movie adaptations go.

This past weekend in Littleton, NH, it was Pollyanna Day, which is held every year in June to celebrate one of the world's most beloved optimists, Pollyanna, and her creator, Eleanor H. Porter (1868 – 1920), who was an early resident of Littleton. I always thought this would be a fun event to take my kids to some day, but seeing as they are still imaginary at this point I had to invite my little friend, K. (When you don't have your own kids, just borrow one!)

We decided to dress up for this occasion, so I put on one of my mom's Gunne Sax dresses—which I thought made me resemble Rapunzel from Tangled, post haircut—and K put on one of her princess dresses which she was proud to point out had more sparkles than mine did.

Dressed as Rapunzel
Me in my Rapunzel dress.

The first stop on the tour was to see Pollyanna in all her glory in front of the Littleton Library. The bronze statue of Pollyanna, often called "New Hampshire's Most Welcoming Attraction," isn't too far from where the author actually lived.

“... there is something about everything that you can be glad about, if you keep hunting long enough to find it.”

Pollyanna Statue in front of the Littleton Library
K in front of the Pollyanna statue,
Littleton, NH.

Typically Pollyanna Day has some history about the author—by appointment—at the Littleton Historical Society, a guided walking tour of Pollyanna related locations, and... well, not much else. I was a little disappointed that there wasn't more for kids. There was a ribbon cutting for the new Pollyanna archway, along with the presentation of the Pollyanna Signature Award, which is given every year to a local resident for spreading optimism and gladness throughout the community in an outstanding way.


But a four year old doesn't care.

Pollyanna Gateway Littleton, NH
Dedication of the new Pollyanna Gateway.

We did get these cool yellow and blue stickers though :-)

Celebrating Pollyanna Day 2014
Stickers are awesome!

The only thing that topped our stickers was our picnic lunch near the covered walking bridge in Littleton. Seriously, if you ever get over this way, you've got to check it out. It's next to Main Street, opposite the movie theater, behind the little shops and stores. It's beautiful!

Littleton Covered Walking Bridge
The princess at her picnic.

For dessert we walked up to the Three French Sisters Bakery for some yummy chocolate chip and M&M cookies. We of course had to sit in the awesome pink chairs to eat!

Three French Sisters Bakery

K loved the statue of Pollyanna so much she decided we must go see it again, so we checked in to see if the bronze lady was still throwing caution to the wind and she was!

“... if God took the trouble to tell us eight hundred times to be glad and rejoice, He must want us to do it—SOME.” —Pollyanna

Pollyanna outside Littleton Library
The bronze Pollyanna statue
in front of the Littleton library.

On our way back to the car K decided she needed a photo with this church that is in downtown Littleton.

Umm, ok.
Church on Main St. Littleton NH

And while we were there we had to take a photo in front of our favorite movie theater, the Jax Jr.

Jax Jr. Theater Littleton NH

All in all we had fun, even if we didn't feel like we participated in much of the Pollyanna Day activities. For a four year old, dressing up like Rapunzel, having a picnic, taking pictures and buying cookies is THE BEST DAY EVER!

Keep pinchin' :-)

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Remembering Gifts and Blessings From God

This past week I started reading One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are, by Ann Voskamp. It's a really great book, and because it is written differently than most books today it makes you have to focus on what you are reading and really pay attention.

So far it is has talked about Ann's life, what happened to make her who she is, and what began her journey to name 1,000 gifts from God. I think I am going to go on this journey, to acknowledge all the gifts I receive from God, and while I want to wait until I finish the book to officially start I was reminded of one HUGE gift tonight.

After dinner the hubby and I were discussing what we had to do. His list, as usual, was WAY longer than mine, and so I offered to mow the lawn. I've only used our riding lawn mower a couple of times, and had to re-read the instructions just to get it started.

1,000 Gifts from God
As I was driving like a mad woman all over our lawn—and quite enjoying myself—I was reminded what a chore mowing the lawn was the first summer we were in our home. We have close to an acre of lawn to mow—around the house, garage, and chicken coups, around the garden, the utility pole, a few rocks and trees—and the first year we did it all by hand. Yup, all we had was a little 18-inch Lawnboy, a VERY old one. It took us anywhere from three to five hours to mow the lawn depending on our energy level, how high the grass was, and how well the mower wanted to work.

Then the next summer we were given the gift of our riding lawn mower, which you can about read here. Instead of taking me three or five hours, I was able to mow it all in about an hour and fifteen minutes.

Not only has our awesome John Deere riding lawn mower been a wonderful gift but it has also given us the gift of saving time and energy. It's nice to be able to enjoy the outdoors without completely exhausting yourself, too!

I know I said I wanted to finish Ann's book before I started counting God's gifts, but, oh well... looks like I've started already!

Keep pinchin' :-)

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Three Signs That Money (Or Lack Thereof) Has Become An Idol

In case you're new to our blog, here's what the wife and I are currently wrapped up in: selling our house. Yup, that's right—what we once thought was going to be our forever home is soon to be on the market.
3 Signs That Money Has Become An Idol

Recently we were reevaluating our life priorities and realized that our house was holding us back. When we considered how important family is to us, how important our church is and the ways we want to serve God, we realized that it was time to downsize and find something cheaper.

Shortly after we published the blog post discussing some of the reasons why we were selling, a pastor friend emailed me an encouraging note. He said ever since Dani and I began doing the whole Financial Peace University thing his prayer for us has been that we wouldn't make "getting out of debt" an idol. I suppose that was always a danger. I mean, if money can become an idol for people who like to spend it, why couldn't it also become an idol for those who don't have it?

And I'm not talking about the usual concerns and struggles about making ends meet, nor do I think that making a concentrated effort to get out of debt is wrong. The Bible is rife with helpful advice on improving one's financial situation, and it also strongly warns about the dangers of debt. So, by all means, if you're in debt, get out!

When you make something an idol you basically make it more important than anything else in your life. That includes your faith, your relationships, your grades, your future... everything! And idols, if left unchecked, will eventually RUIN your life because they're RUNNING your life!

I think Dani and I have done well at not making our whole penny pinching thing an idol, but I definitely saw signs that we occasionally teetered toward the edge of making it one.

Here are three indicators that you might be making your financial woes too big of a concern in your life.

#1 Money Woes Are ALWAYS On Your Mind

Is your debt the first thing on your mind when you wake up? Does it keep you from falling asleep? Earning more, saving more, spending less, getting out of debt... thoughts along those lines that never go away are a good indicator that you're putting too much mental focus on the issue.

Along with its plethora of useful advice on money matters, the Bible also has some good advice for controlling our thoughts. It tells us to take every thought captive, to submit our thoughts to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5) so that by casting our burdens on him we won't be so obsessed with the fears and worries of this life.

#2 Your Loved Ones Are Increasingly Frustrated With Your Money Talk
You may have to ask some loved ones for their opinions on this, but if you're conversations with other people are riddled with the subject of money you may just be a little to focused on it. A certain amount of money talk is healthy and necessary, but the subject shouldn't come up every day.

#3 Are These Types Of Thoughts Familiar To You?
“If I can just get out of debt, I’ll be happy.”

“Once we have a fully-funded emergency savings, I’ll relax.”

“When I finally get that raise, everything will be perfect.”

"If I had a better job we wouldn't be so strapped for cash."

"If she'd just stop spending money we could pay off more debt."

"Why does everything he has to buy cost so much?"

“If I only have [fill in the blank]…”

This is called "destination thinking," because you're always looking toward a place you can't reach because of circumstances. This type of thinking is like poison. As soon as you start saying, "If only..." you'll just find yourself wondering more often, "If only..." ... "If only..." ...

Here's the reality: if your joy is dependent on reaching your financial goals you'll never have anything but disappointment. New goals are born every day... every minute, even. Whether it's financial goals, physical goals, education goals, or career goals, there will always be a new goal in your life the moment another goal is achieved.

Just check out Solomon’s experience with this subject in the book of Ecclesiastes. If this wealthy, powerful king couldn’t find satisfaction through money, no one can. Ask God to help you find true contentment in Him. Nothing else will fully satisfy.

Financial idolatry is real, and it is alive and well in America today. But recognizing it in our lives is half the battle, as well as the first step toward rooting it out.

Keep pinchin' :-)

Monday, June 9, 2014

Softball, Fireworks, the Hospital... Ahhh, Life!

I am cheap, so I LOVE finding things to do for free!

This past week the hubby and I have been super busy remodeling the upstairs, taking care of the yard and garden, and finishing up some work. So at the end of such a long busy week I needed something fun to look forward to.

My sister at her softball game
My youngest sister had her first softball playoff game. They are the #1 seeded team and played the #8, however the two teams had not played each other in season. It was a pretty exciting game, which ended up going into an 8th inning. My sister's team won by a suicide squeeze... or at least I think that's what they called it.

Immediately after the game my sister was rushed to the hospital for some symptoms unrelated to softball—chest pains, rapid heartbeat. We were all supposed to go see some fireworks together, but with the unexpected ER trip neither Jake or I were sure what we were going to do. We went to my parents' house to wait.

While there we barbecued some chicken and made dinner for everyone in the hopes that they would return soon, and they did—just as the chicken was coming off the grill in fact. My sister was ok. The doctors didn't know why she was experiencing such symptoms, but they had run her through a battery of tests and found nothing seriously wrong. According to my dad she's back to being "semi-normal."

Free fireworks in Warren, NH
After dinner we drove to Warren, NH—minus my sister who decided to chill—and watched one of the most awesome fireworks displays I've ever seen. Apparently this happens every June in Warren; four different companies come to practice setting off their fireworks and try out new ones. It was a great show! What we usually see during a five minute grand finale at a typical fireworks show they did for thirty minutes! It was so bright at times I almost wished I had sunglasses.

I guess the point is: there's almost always something fun and free to enjoy if you look around. And you never know what you'll find—could be the most amazing fireworks display ever! Could be a trip to the ER. Preferably the former.

Are there any great free activities in your area that you have recently participated in or are planning to soon? Tell us all about it in the comments below!

Keep pinchin' :-)

Friday, June 6, 2014

Grandma's House Is The Place To Be

Pay a visit to Clan Grant in northern New England some day and this is what you'll find: a cluster of cars parked throughout the yard, a large front porch dotted with people in conversations ranging from Star Wars to some distant relative's kidney failure, little kids decorating the driveway with sidewalk chalk, a ball game on the TV in the living room, and food... lots and lots of food.

Grandma's house, 1996
The Grant family gathered around grandma and grandpa's house, 1996.

This is a typical Sunday at Grandma's house, a large farmhouse, with some Victorian vibes (or a Victorian house with farmhouse vibes... whatever), in the middle of town on a quiet street. Grandma's house has always been the hub of activity for the Grants, a "watering hole" of sorts, where there's always free food, Internet, and a game of cards going on.

I learned to jump my bike off a ramp in Grandma's driveway back before it was paved. My cousins and I tore paths through the lilac bushes and surrounding banks playing GI Joe. I was raised just as much there as I was at home.

And today nothing has changed. Well, I'm no longer jumping my bike off ramps in the driveway, but Grandma's house is still like Mission Control for our family. Except today it's my cousin's children and my little nephews who tear up the landscape with games of tag and hopscotch and water guns and... whatever else kids are into these days.

For the members of Clan Grant, this is the quintessential American dream. We wouldn't do life any other way. We're a tight family. We love being together, especially if there are burgers and dogs on the barbecue and soda in the fridge—and yes, up here in New England, it's soda. Not pop.

This is part of the reason Danielle and I want to be closer to family. We were both raised in very similar New England families where mom and dad taught their kids proper manners and grandma's house was always a place full of generous helpings of love and cookies.

Danielle can recall a time when she was a kid and her mother wasn't home when she got a hair brush knotted up in her hair. Being only about a mile from her Nana's house she hopped on her bike and peddled down the road, tangled brush bouncing around on her head—which today would probably be considered fashionable—where grandma helped her get the hair brush free.

Both of us can recall countless other times where we would walk or ride bikes to grandma and grandpa's house for help, sweet treats, cable TV, and a little extra attention. In fact, when I think about the reasons we go to our grandparents' houses today I think to myself, "Nothing's changed!"

As a big picture thinker, I look at my family and see the ripple effects throughout the generations. Good family breeds good people. Good people make good leaders. And good leaders guide our country. The decline of America today isn't solely the fault of corrupt politicians, it's largely the fault of a broken family system rife with ever-increasing divorce rates and parents who've lost sight of a Godly vision for their families.

I know I'm not going to raise perfect kids, but by God I sure am going to try. There's an old saying that goes: "It takes a village to raise a child." Though there is some truth in that saying, there aren't many villages in today's world that I would want assisting me in raising my kids.

But I do I want as many Grants, Belyeas, and Elliots as I can find!

Keep pinchin' :-)

Thursday, June 5, 2014

A Brush With Bambi - Fully Illustrated!

I never saw the deer coming. All I heard was the sound it made as it connected with 75mph of moving steel. I saw an explosion of hair tufts and dirt and its mangled body being tossed up over the hood of the tow truck that hit it, but that was all. It was over in about two seconds.

A Brush With Bambi - Fully Illustrated
Me in my Mr. Miyagi car minding
my own business.
A Brush with Bambi - Fully Illustrated
The "Dwayne The Rock Johnson" of
tow trucks coming up behind me.

It was Monday morning, June 2, 2014. I was on my way to work when I saw the tow truck coming up behind me. It was a thick beast of a truck, kind of like what Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson might look like if he were a Transformer. The truck was moving pretty fast, too—but, then again, I'm on this whole "how much gas can I save?!" kick so I was only doing about 58mph in a 65mph zone. Still, The Rock truck must've been doing 70 or 75.

The Rock moved into the left lane to pass me. I had plenty of time to see if a deer was coming before the truck obscured my view of the roadside, so when that animal came bounding up onto the highway it must've been bookin' it, otherwise I'm pretty sure I would've seen it. When the two connected The Rock jolted from bumper to bumper. The truck slowed and I pulled ahead of it, glancing back to see if the driver was ok. The truck wasn't even dented, and a moment later it sped back up and went on its way.

Bambi was dead on impact. At least I hope she was. In my 32 years of living in New England I've had more close encounters with roadside deer than any other animal. They are creatures of darkness, more dangerous to man's highway travels than any other force of nature.

A Brush With Bambi - Fully Illustrated
Bambi always looks innocent until
she's leaping in front of your car.
A Brush With Bambi - Fully Illustrated
"The Rock" truck turns Bambi into an
aerial acrobat at 75mph.

So, first, a confession. I'm embarrassed to admit that it took a couple minutes for it to even occur to me that at the speed that deer was moving it would've crossed into my lane and right into my windshield had that tow truck not been there. That tow truck came at just the right time. Chances are my little Suzuki would not have fared as well as The Rock—my CX4 is more akin to Mr. Miyagi from The Karate Kid; it's a tough little nut, but it's no match for 125 pounds of charging animal.

It got me thinking of how many other times God chooses to protect me and I don't even know it. How many times does a car problem or a delay at work or an ignored alarm clock keep me from harm? How many things does God do behind the scenes to protect me?

I think I almost take it for granted, because—ok, second confession—I didn't even think to thank the Lord for his protection until later that afternoon. When I finally did I felt ashamed and humbled, but extremely grateful for His grace.

I know He doesn't always choose to protect us, but many times He does. Do we take it for granted?

Keep pinchin' :-)

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

A Look At The Three Big Christian Healthcare Sharing Options

We have received more feedback on this blog post than any other. Over 20,000 views and hundreds of comments, emails, questions, and shares. We are still using our Christian healthcare sharing alternative for our insurance and we love it! As far as we know everything in the following article is still accurate and relevant.

Ok, quick recap.

Like most Americans, Danielle and I disagree with many of the aspects of Obamacare, but unlike most Americans we're not just going to accept it, especially since it so very blatantly goes against our beliefs. It is also astronomically expensive. So we have been on the hunt for an alternative solution to healthcare for the last few months and have been researching several Christian sharing ministries, namely: Medi-Share, Samaritan Ministries, and Christian Healthcare Ministries. I think all three have different strengths that will satisfy the needs of their individual members, but let me break down what we've found as briefly and simply as possible.

Just because there are parts of these programs that didn't appeal to us doesn't mean they're not the right fit for you. Danielle and I are both healthy, young, and on the verge of starting a family, so those factors weighed heavily on our decision. We encourage you to get some literature from each sharing organization and even call them to ask questions to find out which one is right for you.

This is the big one. This is the one we keep hearing about on our local Christian radio station, but just because they advertise doesn't mean they're the best (yes, I'm thinking of you, GEICO!) Anyway, Medi-Share has been around since 1993 and has an excellent track record of providing for its members' needs. They say that in the last 16 years every eligible need has been covered—eligible being the key word here.

One example given by a Medi-Share representative was the story of a member who was injured in a car accident and required a lot of medical work, but since the person was intoxicated at the time of the accident the expense was not covered. It's easy to think that they should give the guy a break, but at the same time Medi-Share's whole point is that by living a more biblical lifestyle you will be healthier and have fewer medical needs, which is understandable, because...

"Too many rules is legalistic, but too much grace is enabling."
—Rachel Cruze, Financial Peace University

  • They negotiate your medical bills for you, working directly with your doctor
  • More lenient on preexisting conditions
  • If you meet certain health criteria you can get a reduction in your monthly share
  • They will help fund up to two adoptions per household with an amount determined by your Annual Household Portion (how much you pay every year for coverage)
  • Great plan if you like a more "hands off" approach when dealing with medical bills

  • They can be picky about who you use for a doctor, preferring you use one of their "in-network" doctors, or that you ask your doctor to join their network
  • Expensive. Medi-Share functions a lot like a high deductible insurance plan where you pay a certain amount called the "Annual Yearly Portion" FIRST before they'll kick-in any extra
  • Their criteria pertaining to adoption seems very strict and suited for the more expensive plans
  • You have to be accepted into the program. Not everyone gets accepted.

Click here for more details about how Medi-Share works. And if you're curious, you can read their guidelines or check out their "Share Calculator" to see what your Annual Household Portion would be.

If you decide to use Medi-Share, and appreciate all the research we've provided in this post, please use this referral link: Thank you!

From the get-go we really liked the look of Samaritan Ministries' healthcare options. Again, their track record is good and a lot of people say more good things about them than not. We even have friends who use it and recommended it to us highly.

With Medi-Share, your monthly share is sent directly to the organization and then they sort through all the claims and make the payments. With Samaritan's Ministries, however, you pay your monthly share directly to the individual in need. That's right, every month Samaritan's Ministries sends you a name and address of another member and your monthly portion is sent directly to them. Yes, it feels weird, but members claim it's a very exciting way to handle medical expenses because you know where your money is going, you get to pray for and encourage the people you're helping, and you get their help in return.

Samaritan's Ministries has a $250,000 limit, meaning they'll only pay your medical costs up to that amount. They have a program called "Save to Share" to help with larger medical expenses, but that requires another payment in addition to your monthly share. It's your responsibility to set this money aside every year so that if another member ever has a claim more than $250,000 you may be called upon to help pay that burden.

  • Simple. No nonsense approach. No red tape.
  • Low yearly rates
  • Christians caring for Christians. You send your monthly share directly to fellow believers in need.
  • Low deductibles
  • You can go to any doctor without them having to join the ministry's network or be "approved"

  • Samaritan Ministries can assist members with "patient advocacy services" to negotiate lower rates and improve the relationship between the member and the provider.

  • Because we are getting ready to start having kids, child wellness is a big concern for us, especially in the first few months after they're born when they're going to the doctor often. I spoke to a Samaritan Ministries representative about this and, I'm sad to say, they have no post-natal care options. Regular wellness visits, vaccinations, anything "routine" is not covered.

  • Publishable maternity needs include bills for prenatal care, delivery, postnatal care, miscarriage, and congenital conditions. Well checks and vaccinations are not publishable.

  • You have to pay your medical bills 100% out of pocket and Samaritan's Ministries reimburses you for the amount. Not a great deal if you're just starting out and don't have a lot of liquid cash.

  • Apparently you have two choices when paying for your medical services: you can either pay up front, or negotiate with your hospital to have your bills paid through Samaritan's sharing organization. If you pay up front you will get reimbursed, but that also leaves no room for Samaritan Ministries to help you negotiate down the cost of your hospital bills. Once the bills are paid, the process is closed. So it's best to just explain to your hospital that your bills will be paid through Samaritan Ministries, submit your bills to the organization, and pay your hospital as the members' checks come in, usually in 30-to-60 days.
  • Here is a very comprehensive list of positives and negatives, but the negatives are more concerns than anything. This is still a very positive review of the program.

Honestly, we found very few negatives with this option. Samaritan Ministries seems to be a great program, just not right for us at this time in our lives.

This program is very different from the first two and it's the one that Danielle and I have decided suits us the best. We like it because it offers a variety of membership levels that you can choose from depending on how much coverage you want. You can even choose different levels for different family members, which is a huge perk considering I'm a healthy 32-year-old dude who won't likely need any serious medical care for a while, and Danielle is a healthy 27-year-old dudette who is likely to become pregnant. So, yeah, she needs more coverage than me.

Amanda, at, talks about how she and her family saved $600 a month, $7,000 a year, on health insurance by switching to Christian Healthcare Ministries. Click here to read her article.

We recently learned that there is a $125,000 cap for auto accidents. CHM expects that your auto insurance company will cover whatever damages you incur in the event of an accident—which means you are responsible for having the most coverage your auto insurance will provide—but if once that insurance is used up, CHM will step in to cover the rest up to $125,000.

What if the damages are immense—say, two million dollars? Here is the response from CHM representative Jason Spencer.

"Yes, that is correct. We would only share up to $125,000. Two million in bills, so you know, is very difficult to incur. The most we have ever had is a little over one million in bills, and that was over several years for a cancer patient. Between the hospital's write-offs and other sources (maybe even court winnings), there is no way you would ever be stuck with almost a million out of pocket. No insurance company would ever cover that, either, to be clear."

  • They have a good post-natal care program covering the routine visits of the child for the first three months.
  • I was told two different things from two different representatives, but the second actually referred to their guidelines, so that's the one I'm going with. He said that any non-routine medical bills your baby incurs in the first three months are eligible for sharing. Normal immunization shots and wellness visits are not.
  • Different levels of coverage make this a highly flexible option, and those coverage levels can be changed whenever you want.
  • Very affordable
  • One person is considered one unit. So a family of two means you have to purchase two units, and the same with a family of three. But any families larger than three—be it five, ten or even twenty—are still considered THREE units.
  • Has a separate program called Brothers Keeper to help with extremely large medical bills. This seems very similar to Samaritan Ministries' "Save to Share" program.
  • They also have a Reduction Department that aims to help you negotiate with your doctor to get the lowest possible prices on your healthcare.
  • They are the oldest of the "big three," having been around since 1984.

  • I can't say we found many cons with this program. It suits our needs perfectly. But, like with any of these sharing ministries, you have to take a step of faith to get involved with one, which is kinda scary.

  • If you are a Medicaid or Medicare member, Christian Healthcare will act as a secondary insurance provider. In other words they won't publish your need unless you've already been turned down by your primary insurance provider, if you even have one.

  • Their processing department is very slow. Needs are usually processed in about three months, but we experienced a wait of about five months with some of the medical bills from our son's birth in June. When I asked CHM why it was taking so long I was told that due to the overwhelming amount of people signing up since Obamacare was enacted, CHM has been inundated with needs. In one respect this is a good thing because it means the ministry is growing, which means more people helping other people, but for those that don't have a lot of liquid cash it could mean waiting a while for CHM to send a check to cover your medical expenses.

So, that's that. Stay tuned, because I'm sure we'll be blogging more soon about our experiences with healthcare sharing ministries!

Keep pinchin' :-)

If you found this information to be helpful, and choose to use Christian Healthcare Ministries, would you consider signing up under us, as a thank you for all our research? You can use this link to do that Christian Healthcare Ministries. Thanks!

The Horrendous Healthcare Hunt Begins!
April 11, 2014

The Horrendous Healthcare Hunt, Part 2: The Why
May 27, 2014

Life Without Obamacare Is Beautiful... But Complicated
June 3, 2014

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Life Without Obamacare Is Beautiful... But Complicated

Navigating the complex maze of healthcare sharing
I'm just going to come right out and warn you: if you're planning on hunting down your own health insurance you're going to have to learn to navigate some pretty complicated waters.

For the past few months Danielle and I have been investigating Christian healthcare sharing solutions, and it's proven to be a complex task trying to figure it all out. The whole learning curve has been... not fun. In fact, it's the very antithesis of fun. It's un-fun.

But here at Penny Pinching Prose we're all about enduring un-fun to serve you better *wink*

If you've read our blog for any amount of time you probably know just how much the wife and I dislike Obamacare. I don't know, maybe it has something to do with how much we like freedom, how much we value what our veterans fought and died for, and just how much we appreciate all the hell our forefathers went through to establish a country free from tyranny. What can I say—we're Americans.

So, anyway, we're going to spend some of this week blogging about what we've learned about Christian healthcare alternatives. What are they, exactly? Are they reliable? Is it a good idea to get involved in one?

The first thing you need to understand about share ministries is that they are NOT insurance. Though some of them function almost exactly like an insurance company, there is one major difference: insurance companies offer legally binding contracts in which they agree to pay your medical bills, whereas share ministries rely on members SHARING their income to meet the medical expenses of other members. There is no guarantee that your bills will be paid when you're with a share ministry. It requires an element of trust in God's provision.

A gamble? Perhaps. Except that God has an excellent track record of caring for His people THROUGH His people. On top of that the three major share ministries available in America today also have excellent track records of continuous coverage of their members' medical expenses.

How is it that these organizations can allow people to opt-out of some of Obamacare's unfavorable demands—like subsidizing abortions—yet still meet the requirements of the healthcare law? Well, basically it's because our First Amendment rights are still being upheld... albeit to a very small degree. It's the result of Congressmen Tom Perriello, a Virginia Democrat, and Senators Max Baucus, a Montana Democrat, and Charles Grasslet, a Republican from Iowa. They fought to add the exemption to the law. It's the same principle that allowed for the Amish to be exempted from the individual mandate—with the crucial difference being that it's a lot more practical to join a share ministry than it is to become Amish. Although that would be cool.

The exemption requires qualifying health-sharing ministries to have been in operation before Dec. 31, 1999, which gives something of a monopoly to the three qualifying organizations—Medi-Share, Samaritan Ministries, and Christian Healthcare Ministries.

They all work pretty much the same way: to join you agree to pay a certain "share" every month, which  is similar to the premium you would pay with an insurance company, except your money goes into a giant fund from which other members receive money for their medical expenses. At Medi-Share, for example, the funds are distributed by the organization, but at Samaritan Ministries the individual members handle the money, so when you need a medical expense covered you'll get checks from several different people instead of the organization.

I know. It sounds weird.

So say you break your arm. You go to the doctor and tell them that you're a "self-pay" patient. You work out a billing schedule or pay up front. After receiving care, you notify the share ministry of your medical bill which is looked at to determine if it meets their guidelines for sharing and then they reimburse you directly. In some cases they'll pay up front.

Unfortunately, all three main share ministries treat regular doctor visits—like vaccinations, prescriptions for chronic illness, and check-ups—as something you need to budget for in addition to the share amount you pay every month. Their policies vary slightly, but they all seem to take the same position on this to one degree or another.

Still, even with the monthly share amount and budgeting for regular doctor visits, members pay significantly less than they would with Obamacare—i.e., through an insurance provider at work—especially if you're in the middle class tax bracket.

Well, it depends on who you talk to really. Some people say share ministries are great because of their biblical-based alternative to Obamacare. Others say they are unreliable, that payouts for your medical bills are dependent on other people, which means there is no guarantee that you'll get financial assistance in the event of a medical crisis.

If you're a normal human being with any level of financial responsibility that might make you say, "Umm, yikes!"

Historically I've never met an insurance company that was reliable either. Time and time again I've been screwed by insurance companies that are busting at the seams with dollar bills yet unwilling to let go of a single one of them. So, personally, I don't mind not wasting another second on insurance companies.

Ultimately, Danielle and I like the faith-aspect of share ministries and how it forces us to be more aware of how God should be at the center of our healthcare decisions. We like that we get to use our money to help other Christians, that we can pray for them and encourage them through their medical trials. We like not paying an arm and a leg for insurance that goes against our beliefs as Christians, our rights as Americans, and supports things that are clearly against God's Word.

Tomorrow we're going to talk in more detail about the pros and cons of the three major share ministries, so stay tuned!

And in the meantime...

Keep pinchin' :-)

Monday, June 2, 2014

A Little Sweat Equity Can Go A Long Way

Jake and I are getting ready to put our house on the market. Turns out our "forever home" isn't as "forever" as we thought it might be. It's a long story. You can read about it out here...

and here if you're curious about the whys behind our pursuit of a drastic life change.

So in preparation for our realtor who was coming over to look at the house, I went upstairs to do some cleaning. Jake has been doing a little cosmetic work up there and the floors needed a good sweeping. Upon entering what we fondly refer to as the "rain room"—named such because the previous occupants had textured the walls with a thick white putty that made it look like angular rain—I noticed that Jake had done a little scraping to see if it was possible to get the texture off.

So I peeled off a little bit more. And then some more. Aaaaand then some more. And then my interest in sweeping the floors vanished and the rain room became my White Whale. I was now Ahab, determined to conquer it at all costs.

The textured walls of the "rain room."

The wallpaper came off with a little elbow grease, hot water, and a... scraper... big fat knife thingy. (I don't know what that tool is called.)

Peeling off the wallpaper.

All wallpaper successfully removed!

Yay, the wallpaper was off! I felt so proud of myself!

There were lots of little holes in the wall that needed filling. Marks left over from the trim molding. Screw anchors stuck in the sheet rock. A massive mess at my feet. Puttying that needed to be done. Taping. Sanding. More puttying and taping. Painting. Cleaning...

What had I gotten myself into?!

Regardless of the overwhelming nature of my little DIY kick, I was determined to get it done. Weigh anchor and set sail!

I did discover one interesting thing about myself after sanding down all the joint compound, and that's what my hair will look like in 40 years or so.

Dani in 40+ years


The mess before the beauty

Most of our upstairs is covered in beautiful hardwood floors, so, out of curiosity, I peeked under the rain room's ugly carpet to find more gorgeous hardwood flooring. Why anyone would have wanted to cover this up is beyond me.

So long, carpet! To the plank with ye!

After spending a good portion of three days working on this room I feel like the outcome was definitely worth it. No longer does it have thick, textured walls that look like a tsunami, but instead a classy room that will hopefully entice potential home buyers or vacationers looking for a place to rent.

Sweat equity is the best way to increase the value of your home, or at least help turn it into a place that you're proud of.

And I don't think my DIY kick is over just yet. So now it's onto the "weird old-fashioned light switch" room.

Keep workin' :-)