Monday, August 31, 2015

The #1 Way We Save Money

Cell phones.

What an integral part of our lives, something we turn around to retrieve if we leave at home. But they cost us how much a month??

When I had to get off my lovely $10/line (unlimited calls, no texts, no data) as a part of my parents family plan because I was the oldest and my younger brother needed to be added, I started researching. I couldn't afford to pay much more than I currently was. At the time, I switched to the cheapest plan I could find: $30/month plus tax for 1,000 texts, 1,000 minutes, and 1,000 KB of data.

When I met my now husband he was paying $57/month for 450 minutes (unlimited night and weekend calling), 250 texts (for those outside the network, unlimited in network), no data

Shortly before we married we heard of a startup called Republic Wireless. Their concept was to offer the lowest rates possible by having the users use WiFi for calls, texts, data whenever possible. They weren't open to just anyone at that point, but they were looking for beta testers. My husband and I both joined.

That was almost three years ago.

We haven't looked back.

Since we joined Republic the service has only improved as have their phones.

And we only pay $20/month for TWO phones ($10/each) - unlimited text, calls, and WiFi data (plus local fees and taxes, which are less than $5/month for both phones).

That means we save over $60 every month

I might be a little excited about that. How can you save money on your phone bill?

I'm glad you asked. You did ask, right? Because who doesn't want to save money?

Republic Wireless offers three options for plans:

  • The $5/month basic WiFi only plan
    This plan offers unlimited calls, texts, and data from WiFi, but nothing via cell towers.
  • The $10/month unlimited texts and calls via cell with WiFi only data
    This is the plan we use. You have unlimited calls and texts whether you are using WiFi or cell, and unlimited data use, as long as you are connected to WiFi. If you want data via cell, check out option 3.
  • The $10/month+ unlimited texts and calls via cell with pay-for-what-you-use data WITH cash refund!
    This is just so cool. So like the above plan, you get unlimited calling and data, then for $7.50 you can add a minimum of 0.5 GB data to your plan. The testers for this feature used, on average, only 0.3 GB data, which means they received an average of a $3 refund for the 0.2 GB of unused data.

    A CASH refund. No gimmicks. No rollovers. You purchase what you estimate you need every month in 0.5 GB increments, and Republic refunds you for whatever data you don't use. Basically, the more you use WiFi, the more you save. Awesome!

    The average price per month for this feature after the cash refund is $14.50.

You can buy either the Moto G (our choice) or the Moto X from Republic to use with their phone service. Yes, you have to buy one of these phones from them because what they are doing is unique and requires specific hardware design. With the savings we experienced from switching when we joined their beta testing three years ago, we were compensated for the costs of the phones within a year. 

Another way we benefit from using Republic Wireless? We can actually afford internet! Woohoo! Before we simply didn't have room in our budget for internet, cell phones, and our other necessitates. We pay $15/month for internet service, which allows us to do the $10/month plan from Republic. If you include internet in our "phone bill" category, we pay $35/month, plus tax and local fees. That is still a monthly savings of about $50!

And Republic Wireless is about to roll out seamless transitions from wifi to cell and back. This used to be buggy, but I was just part of a test lab for this new feature and it worked flawlessly. I am so excited about this.

Really, the only "downside" to using Republic is if you are a brand loyalist. If that's you, I really encourage you to give Republic Wireless a try. You get great service and save a ton of money. Did I mention there is no monthly contract? Yeah, it's a month to month service that you don't have to stick with.

We have been with Republic since pretty much their beginning, and we plan to stay. Like a good cheese, Republic Wireless has only gotten better with time.

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Republic Wireless did not underwrite this post. All opinions and experiences and mine. This post does contain affiliate links. This means, at no additional cost to you, I may receive a commission for referring business. Thank you for your support!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

What Does it Mean to be "Set Apart?"

— set apart
:  to reserve to a particular use
:  to make noticeable or outstanding
(merriam webster)

There are many verses one might point to as evidence that, as Christians, we are set apart for God. But what does this really look like? All too often, without insider knowledge, I wouldn't be able to tell you which of my friends were Christians and which didn't believe. On social media, what is talked about and shared is, with few exceptions, the noticeable the same.

A few of my friends who claim Jesus say this is intentional because facebook (etc) isn't the right place to share anything about their faith. That's something to do in person. On some level I understand that. I mean, it's easy to misunderstand someone or come across wrong and not realize it if you can't read body language and hear the tone of voice. But is it an adequate reason? And, to be honest, many who claim that don't actually talk about Jesus or the Bible when they are face to face with people either.

The point is - your life on social media is an extension of your actual life.

If you can't tell a difference as to who is a Christian and who isn't on facebook, where can you?

If we are set apart for God, shouldn't there be a difference in our lives? Something that characterizes us, marks us, makes us different?

This question has been tumbling in the back of my mind for awhile.

When I picked up Leslie Ludy's book The Set Apart Woman, all I really expected was some nice sentiment and a pat on the back for being God's daughter. But you never know, so I read it in spite of my misgivings.

Plus, it had a pretty cover. That's always nice.


Sometimes I like being wrong.

I really appreciated the words offered in this book to help us be intentional about our set apart-ness. Leslie reminds us that our actions overflow from our hearts. That we need to make sure you spend time with God each day. As a busy pregnant mom with two little ones, it's easy to be "too busy" to pray or read the Bible. Leslie makes the point that particularly in those seasons we ought see it as being too busy NOT to pray! 

The problem isn't the busyness of our life, it's when we try to go about our lives on our own strength - like Martha, who was "distracted with much serving" instead of making spending time with Jesus her #1 priority. 

How true is that for many of us?

Recently, I've started being more intentional about how I spend my time, with the key areas being what I do right before bed and the first hour or two after I wake up. This has really helped me be less stressed and has created time where I can grow spiritually again. This has dovetailed beautifully with reading The Set Apart Woman

I highly recommend reading this book. It is directed to women, but that doesn't mean men couldn't benefit from it as well. May we all take steps so that when people look at us, they see Jesus.


Do you also want to have more peace, less stress, and feel more productive each day? Want to make sure you are able to spend quality time with Jesus every day? I found the Make Over Your Mornings ecourse extremely helpful in this regard. 

If you're unsure if you want to invest in this course or not, the first day of this 14 day course is currently available for free, so check it out. Also, if you aren't satisfied with your purchase, your money will be refunded if you let them know within 30 days! This is a win-win-win situation, where there's really only things to gain, and nothing to lose.

Plus, right now through January 8 the MOYM course is on sale for only $9! The price hasn't been this low since launch day!

I received a complimentary ecopy of The Set Apart Woman in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

This post does contain affiliate links. This means that, at no additional cost to you, I may receive commission for referring business. Thank you for your support!

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Monday, August 17, 2015

9 Thoughts that Can Change Your Marriage {Book Review}

My husband and I have been married going-on-three-years. I know, ancient. We have a good great marriage. It's not perfect (neither of us are), but we've grown a lot and worked through things together. We understand each other better now, and we try to make sure we're fighting for each other, not with each other.

Even though we're blessed to be in our relationship and for it to be so strong already, I'm always trying to learn new ways I can better serve my husband. Because I love him. I thoroughly enjoyed Shelia's To Love, To Honor, and To Vacuum (of the website by the same name) so when I had the opportunity to review her newest book Nine Thoughts that can Change Your Marriage, I jumped on it.

What Shelia does in this book is very important. She gives you the tools you need to change your marriage. A change starts with you. Oh, she doesn't ignore the reality that your husband may be at fault, but she shows that by changing how you think in 9 areas, you can make a difference in your marriage regardless of if he changes or not.

It sounds lofty, but here's the lovely part: each thought Shelia makes totally actionable.

Take her first thought, as an example: My husband is my neighbor.

Here are her action steps:

  • How well do you know your husband? Every day for the next two weeks, ask your husband something new about him - and share something about yourself.
  • Show your husband he is your priority. Put on makeup for him, greet him at the door, or kiss him before you kiss anybody else.
  • Tell your husband daily why you love him.
  • Make confession part of your prayer life every day - and apologize whenever you feel an inkling that you have done wrong.
  • Practice random acts of kindness. Choose two to three from pages 28-30 to make into habits.
Now, the books is not just a list of thoughts and action steps. Shelia takes time to talk about each point and really make them applicable, candidly sharing her experiences and how these thoughts and actions helped turn her marriage from one of frustration to one of fun.

This is a great book regardless of if you feel you and your husband are at odds. My husband and I have already worked through some of this in our time together. When I read why and how Shelia recommended going about some of these suggestions, I really felt validated that my husband and I were doing a good job of working together.

But that's not enough.

I want to make sure I don't let things stagnate, and I found this book full of practical suggestions to make sure I'm taking care of my husband and our marriage, which, after my relationship with God, is my top priority ... and the best gift I can give to our children.

Highly recommend.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest opinion.
This post does contain affiliate links. This means that, at no additional cost to you, I may receive compensation for referring business. Thank you for your support!

Monday, August 10, 2015

Outwitting History: The Amazing Adventures of a Man who Rescued a Million Yiddish Books {Book Review}

While "Amazing Adventures" seems to overstate the case, this was a fascinating work about how one man, with some help, pretty much saved Yiddish books from extinction

I love books, and I'm a voracious reader. Just a look at my blog or goodreads or amazon review pages will tell you that. I love old books. It's really hard for me to pass up a pre-copyright volume at a good price. The thought of people discarding books of their heritage because their children are not able to read the language is heartbreaking.

Yet, that is precisely what was happening to books written in Yiddish. 

Yiddish is the product of the Jewish people having no homeland and incorporating Hebrew with the languages of the lands in which they lived. A hybrid language. Some would say an illegitimate language. While the younger generation just didn't know the language in America (their parents and grandparents saw that lack of knowledge as a way for integration to occur), there was a segment of the older population that abhorred Yiddish because it wasn't scholarly. These people actively refused to save Yiddish books, afraid they might corrupt young people. 

Aaron Lansky, the author of Outwitting History, grew up hearing Yiddish, but never learning it. In college he wanted a degree in Jewish studies and decided Yiddish was an important part of that education. It was during this time he realized that Yiddish books were scarce, and growing more rare by the day.

Some of this was because of the Holocaust. Entire groups of people had to abandon everything to flee or be sent to concentration camps. Their books, and indeed everything left behind that wasn't deemed valuable by their captors, was destroyed. When Aaron decided he needed to save Yiddish books from the destruction that was happening because young people weren't learning Yiddish anymore, scholars estimated that only 70,000 Yiddish books existed worldwide.

He recovered that many books in six months. 

Over twenty years after starting this journey, Aaron and the non-profit he founded have saved over 1.5 million Yiddish books, sheet music, and pamphlets including some volumes which were believed to be entirely eradicated. 

Outwitting History is a fascinating look into what went into recovering a significant part of history that was almost lost forever. Aaron's story is truly one of being in the right place at the right time - and taking the appropriate action.

While a basic knowledge of Hebrew or Yiddish is helpful for reading this book, it is not required. Translations are given whenever Yiddish is used, or context gives an explanation. 

If you like history, books, memoirs, Jewish culture, or David vs Goliath stories, this book is for you.

A highly enjoyable read. Definitely recommend.

PS - a nice little bonus? Finding out that Fiddler on the Roof was based off the Yiddish book "Tevye der milkhiker" (Tevye the Dairyman). Half my brain goes "There's a book?! I need to read that." and the other half goes "Of course there's a book. I need to read that." Told you I liked books. *wink*

This post does contain affiliate links. This means that, at no additional cost to you, I may receive a commission for referring business. Thank you for your support!

Friday, August 7, 2015

Make Over Your Mornings {Game Recap}

Here are my immediate take-aways from week two of the Make Over Your Mornings eCourse! To read my thoughts on week one, go here.

Day 8: Create a realistic to-do list
Really good tips here about creating a to-do list you can actually accomplish in one day! No, this isn't about "getting it all done" it's about prioritizing and realistically assessing your season of life and going "all of these are good, but what is best right now?" I've been frustrated too many times by NOT accomplishing what I had laid out, and I think this will help me in the future.

Day 9: Set up your morning routine
Now everything is coming together - up till now Crystal had given us pieces of the puzzle ... now we get to start putting it together! 

Day 10: What are lies you are telling yourself?
This is actually an easy day for me, because this is something I've actually been working through recently. I found there were two areas I was beating myself up in.

1) Not being in shape. OK so I'm not terribly OUT of shape, but I could definitely use some trimming up. I was 5-10 pounds over my "normal" weight when I married. We had a honeymoon baby, 18 months later we added a son, 13 months after his birth we're expecting another. In between these pregnancies there was 10 pounds I didn't lose over my previous weight. 

Growing up I always heard that breastfeeding just makes that baby fat melt away. I don't doubt this is true for some people, but I think it depends on who you are. For me, I think the OPPOSITE is true. I think my body goes "you're breastfeeding! MUST HOARD FAT ... just in case"

As I started thinking about this I realized something - old books and such talk about a "matronly figure" (matron = mother). This always indicated curves or a little plumpness, softness, etc. For HUNDREDS of years, this was considered normal enough it got a term. This whole we're-super-skinny-and-moms things is a relatively new development. If you can pull that off I applaud you, I've largely come to terms with the fact that I'm not unhealthy, and it's ok that I'm not as thin as I once was.

Some days are easier than others. I remind myself though - I don't have this extra weight because I'm not eating right. I DO eat healthy, and while I don't exercise the way I used to, I definitely stay active with little ones around. 

2) I can do it all. By this I meant - I can keep my house in clean and in order (with a 2 year old and 6 mo old) during some disruptive home renovations and cook all my meals from scratch (knowing exactly what was the BEST deals of the week and using those to maximize our money). 

While I do struggle with food from time to time (since we moved last August I haven't gotten back into a good routine for baking our bread) I've never had a problem going "oh that frozen pizza is on a really good sale. Between what it would cost and my time it's the better deal this week" I'm all for making things myself, but eating something already prepped from time to time isn't going to kill us. 

My big struggle is really keeping everything clean. I always feel like I'm running two or three steps behind. Many times I feel frustrated because I JUST cleaned something only for it to get messed up or soiled again. When I ask myself how women of years gone by did it, I realized 5 things.

  1. Standards of cleanliness were different. You dusted, you swept, but disinfecting? sanitizing? Even if you knew about those things, the tools weren't available for home use. Unfortunately, this fact doesn't help us much.
  2. Bathrooms (if they existed) were generally outside. And were probably never cleaned. Double edged sword. I love my indoor bathroom, but cleaning it is seriously one of my least favorite chores.
  3. Meals were simpler. The need to be a gourmet-home chef didn't exist. You ate what was available ... and you probably didn't have a whole cabinet filled with herbs and spices from around the world to incorporate.
  4. Having help wasn't uncommon. Having a maid or family member who lived with you but helped take care of chores or the children was pretty common. 
  5. They had fewer things to care for. Their children didn't have a room or two with toys. They had a doll, a stuffed animal, maybe a top and some marbles, a baseball bat and glove, a few books if you were fortunate. We and our family and friends want our children to have the best of everything. This is good, but it can also be overwhelming. 

I've had to realize that I CAN'T do it all. I need help. Not everyone is blessed to have family they love and trust close by like I am. Sometimes I've just had to ask my mom if she can watch my kids so I can dedicate a day to really cleaning the house. Some things I just cannot do with the children around. She doesn't mind at all. And I bet you have friends who would love to help too - maybe take turns swapping children so you can both get a day to clean/shop/breathe! 

Day 11: Think about how you can incorporate nutrition and exercise.We eat fairly healthy at our house, so getting the right nutrition isn't of huge concern for me. Since we moved almost a year ago, though, having something already made for breakfast to simplify the mornings just hasn't happened. What spare time we have has been spent with family, or on renovating our house. We haven't come up with a good routine where I can have breakfast already ready to grab, like I used to do. Part of the problem is the layout of our kitchen - it just isn't conducive to bulk preparation. I'm hoping once we get our table and chairs painted and in the dining area this will provide the needed work space so I can get back into this really necessary habit. 

Exercise is harder for me. I mean, I have two kids who keep me on the move, but the one on the way means I can't start a new exercise program ... and it wouldn't even be good for my body at this point. We don't have a fence yet for our yard so we can't just go outside and run around. I do try and go on walks, but the process of loading and unloading the children from the double stroller is discouraging. Plus, I don't enjoy walking by myself (aka without another adult). When I'm visiting my parents we try and walk, or I try and go to friends' pools if I have an invitation, but I don't have something regular in place. The best I do is stretch, which is better than nothing, but not ideal. As I wrote about last week, I totally get the benefit of exercise, but this is a season where its hard to incorporate it.

Day 12: Eliminate Decision Fatigue
Even though I mentioned for Day 11 that I have issues with not having breakfast already prepared, this wasn't a decision fatigue issue. I was content with my saucer of cottage cheese and wheat germ. But, being pregnant, this isn't enough to kick start my day, and I haven't found a good, easy replacement yet that doesn't require bulk preparation. There's no way I'm going through the mess of making a batch of muffins without making a triple batch. If I have time to make one batch, it only adds marginal time to make two more. 

One of Crystal's suggestions is having a minimalist wardrobe. I don't embrace minimalism, but I have simplified my wardrobe over time. If it doesn't fit right, if I don't wear it, and if I don't really like the way it looks on me? I don't keep it (with some exceptions for transition pieces for pregnancy and postpartum). 

Chores, however, are something we really struggle with. We get the kitchen clean and sweep pretty much everyday, but we'll forget to vacuum. Or I'll suddenly realize that somehow cleaning our bathroom fell through the cracks. 

Before I was married, I had a system in place for doing my chores regularly, but with moving 3x in two years and adding 2 children with another on the way in the mix, and doing home renovations, it's been challenging, at best, to figure out something that really works for us. 

Day 13: Does Your Routine Need to be Tweaked?

Reality check: I haven't even created my routine yet. I know, I was supposed to do that several days ago, but with preparing to go out of town and being gone for several days, it just didn't happen. My goal is to finally sit down and talk with my husband before this weekend about what we can do. 

Day 14: Celebrate!

Crystal provides encouragement for sticking with the new routine and practical tips for reevaluation.

As I shared in Day 13, I haven't created my morning routine yet. BUT we have started implementing our before bed routine, and waking up and having those things already taken care of an cleaned is really empowering. Here are some benefits I'm already reaping:

  • I feel I can actually get something accomplished during the day, instead of feeling like I can't catch up.
  •  Also, while I don't have a morning routine in place, I have started charting out a week at a time listing what's for supper, if anything is happening that day (Are we going somewhere? Do I need to run an errand? Do we have company?) so I can be in the right frame of mind.
  • I list one thing I want to accomplish that day (eg, vacuum the house, mop the living room, prep the vegetables). I know. Ambitious, right? But at this point in life being pregnant with two little ones, anything more than that is overwhelming. Crystal talked about setting realistic goals, accomplishing one thing a day is realistic, and slowly makes progress. 
  • While we were out of town this past weekend, our baby slept until 8:30 every day. At home he had been waking up between 6:30-7:30! I thought about what the difference was, and it was that he had gone to bed later! My husband and I try to get to bed by 10, but usually it's at least 11. I just hadn't been getting enough sleep. Since we got back home, we've been putting him down later at night, and he's been sleeping later in the mornings! This means I get more sleep - sometimes I even wake up on my own! That's a lovely feeling. It's amazing how a simple little change like adjusting a bedtime affects my mood first thing. 

So while I haven't perfectly followed the tasks for each day and haven't truly made over my mornings yet, I'm already seeing benefit from what I have been able to implement. And honestly, I'm thinking I'll probably go through this course a second time, starting next week. I've had time to really put some thought in to this, so hopefully it'll be easier for me to make things actionable this time around. Have you tried to make over your mornings yet? What benefits have you seen?

Right now - through January 9 - you can grab this course for only $9! The price hasn't been this low since launch day!

This post does contain affiliate links. This means, at no additional cost to you, I may receive commission for referring business. Thank you for your support!