Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Buying Cars with Cash

It's been a long time since I've written. I have a hundred excellent excuses. You won't get any excuses today, but you will get a lesson the Johnstons have learned the hard way. We recently lost both our cars on the same day.


We were in the midst of a very busy season on top of that, but that's a story for another day. One car broke down on the side of the highway. Radiator went bad and caused the engine to seize. The other car didn't die a complete death but did need a new water pump and took overnight to be fixed. We were without any vehicle for about 48 hours and needed to rent a car temporarily just to get by. I don't know that there has ever been a day that I have been more thankful for our emergency fund. We have a car repair budget, but occasionally the repairs exceed the money in that envelope. With that fund and our emergency fund, a car (or two!) breaking down is just a serious inconvenience.

I've written before about living with one car and our numerous car accidents (one, two, and three!) before. I even touched on our terrible car purchase after car accident number 2. We got great deals on excellent little Honda Accords after accidents one and three, but #2 we felt rushed and purchased a Mazda Protege. We didn't do our research and within a week were replacing belts and other not-so-awesome things. We've put a lot of money into that car over the past 18 months and yesterday we sold it to our repair man. For $450. Minus repairs we net $310. Seriously...

At first I was so angry. We lost several thousand dollars in 18 months because of a car Jarrod and I both hate. I quickly got over my anger because of the incredible lesson we learned through that stupid car. As we are preparing to purchase a new car, I want to share some of the things we learned...

1. Don't rush. It's less expensive to rent a car and purchase the right car than to rush into the wrong purchase because you feel frantic. Look at a lot of cars if you don't know what you want. Test drive cars and check out private sale vehicles to get what you want.

2. Do your research. If you have your eye on a specific type, make, model, or flavor of car, know exactly what it should cost. You can find this information at Kelley Blue Book. When we bought cars after our first and third accident we did research, haggled, and were prepared to walk away if we didn't get the price the car was worth to us.

3. Haggle. When we bought our Honda Accord after our first accident we were in a position to wait. We didn't want to bother with private sales, so we went to a local dealership and asked to see what they had in our price point. The first car they showed us was a late '90s Dodge Neon. Nothing wrong with that, but not what I had in mind. I asked to see a 2003 Honda Accord that was about $2,000 above our budget. I drove it and loved it. We got the price down where we wanted and then walked away. When we came back they honored the price (below Kelley Blue Book!!) and we paid for it with cash. I know the dealership lost money on that deal (and I feel a tiny bit bad about that...) because we stuck to our budget, bargained with them, and walked away when we needed to.

4. Buy used. This goes without saying. Unless you have a high net worth and can afford to take the financial hit on buying new, there's no other way to get a car. I definitely don't want to be the one to take the hit when a new car loses all of it's value! A new car loses the vast majority of it's value in the first 5 years. While someday we may have a car newer than 5 years, we do not have the money to waste right now. Having a new(er) car is paying for luxury, not need. I don't need the newest, fanciest model if the 5 year old model is still fantastic.

5. Pay cash. Hopefully this goes without saying, but paying cash is a must for our family. If I'm angry about losing a few thousand dollars on a car, I'd be SUPER angry about losing several thousand dollars in interest! Paying cash allows us to get a great deal, avoid monthly payments, and stay in control of our money. Cars lose value and I do not want a payment on something that is losing value! Want more information about why we don't have car payments, check out the truth about car payments by Dave Ramsey.

All that said, we have been doing our research, examining our budget, and plan to buy a new-to-us car within the next few weeks. We are disappointed that our car died because we hoped to use the next 6-10 months to save for a newer, bigger car, but that's not in the cards right now. We will not be depleting our emergency fund to get something bigger and better, but will be spending a small amount of money on a reliable vehicle that will get us through until we can save for something better - hopefully by the first part of next year!

How do you save on cars? Do you have any tips on changing our luck with vehicles? :-) 
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Monday, June 2, 2014

Our Foster Journey - Switching Directions

I'm sorry I haven't written. I know it's been over a month. This was the longest blogging break I've taken since I started blogging several years ago. Life got busy and too many things are happening that I cannot talk about - either because I'm not ready to or because I don't have adequate words. I'm coming back, but it'll be slow! To start, here's an update on our foster care journey! 

It's been a while since we updated you about our foster journey. In fact, I haven't written anything since March when I shared my plans for a gender neutral room! Back in March we were finishing training with our foster agency and awaiting the scheduling of our home study. When we were pushed off (again) I decided to go with my gut and we opted to switch agencies. I'd been feeling like we picked wrong for a while but didn't want to pull the trigger because it would set us back in time. I finally didn't care and convinced Jarrod that it was the right decision. He had the same concerns with our agency and agreed to the switch.

A few months previous I began to get the feeling that our family wasn't done with babies. Getting a baby from the foster care system seemed more and more unlikely - we heard from our previous agency that it would be several (5-7) years. I put this in the front of all of my prayers. Is it a baby you have for us? Where is this baby, God? How will we find her/him? Please keep us open to your leading and keep this baby safe until we have her/him. I even began to pray about getting pregnant again. I never thought this was part of my plan, but felt that our next child would come to our family as a baby. If pregnancy was the only way for a baby, that's what we'd do.

We researched local agencies, asked a million questions, spoke with friends, and questioned what we were to do. At this time time, we also began praying intentionally. My prayers felt scattered and I needed to know Jarrod and I were on the same page We set alarms on our phones to go off at 3pm each day, reminding us to focus on praying for the baby God had intended for us. We spoke with a new, highly recommended, agency and filled out the transfer paperwork in early April.

We continued to wait...

On April 23rd I received notification that our paperwork had been accepted at a new foster agency. We thought it would be a better fit and most of our paperwork and training would transfer. That morning I found out that we still had 25 training hours to complete before we could be considered for our home study. Because we were already through training with our previous agency, this was a huge blow and would likely set us back several months. The training schedule didn't fit well with our chaotic life and we'd have to wait until Jarrod was done with school for the semester before we could even consider beginning training.

Getting licensed is very important to us. Receiving adequate training is equally important, but it was exhausting just thinking about the amount of training necessary. If we continued in this process, that would be 45 training hours just in 6 months! That doesn't include the home study, fire inspection, paper-gathering, health inspection, and other various tasks to get licensed. Receiving that e-mail was an incredible disappointment to me and I wondered how exactly we would get our baby. We'll wait forever if that's what it takes, but these concerns felt more like setbacks than challenges.

We're still preparing, waiting, anticipating, and exploring. This process has forced us to be more intentional and focused. There's no way to wander into this situation and wander out with a child. Through this intentionality, we hope to have a child soon!
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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Serenity Essential Oil

I am not a medical professional. This is simply my own experiences with essential oils. 
Each Wednesday I'm sharing my favorite oils and how I use them. Today I'm going to tell you about Serenity.

The last oil I shared was Elevation and I told you I used it in combination with Balance. I don't want to sound like a broken record, but I use Serenity in conjunction with Balance too. Where Elevation is great for during the day to wake me up and energize me, Serenity is great for night and more calming times.  I rub Serenity on feet every night before going to bed, but I also diffuse it when I need help calming down or rub it between my hands to calm myself down during high stress times during the day. 

I've never slept better than when I started using Balance and Serenity on my feet at night. Even on very stressful nights where I feel like I'll never fall asleep, this combination helps me fall asleep within 15 minutes. It has a similar feeling to a sleep aid - within about 15 minutes of using it and putting my head on the pillow I am completely asleep. When I wake up in the middle of the night to calm Wesley or go to the bathroom, I can immediately fall back to sleep when I've used Serenity. However, unlike a chemical sleep aid, I have zero side effects from Serenity. I wake up feeling refreshed and well rested. When I use a chemical sleep aid I feel drowsy for hours (sometimes all day!).

Because I suffer from anxiety, I was excited to hear that Serenity could help me calm down without medicine. Serenity mixed evenly with Balance creates a natural liquid Xanax. I usually just do one drop of each on the bottoms of my feet and that helps incredibly. You can also mix the two in a roller ball bottle with a ratio of 1:1 and roll that on your feet, wrists, etc. to help fight anxiety.

If you already have Serenity or are ordering it (you can do that here!) and want to know how you can use it, consider printing this card and storing it with your bottle of Serenity!

If you are looking for more information about Elevation or want to test my skills, check out this website.

If you're interested in reading about other oils, check them out here:
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Friday, April 25, 2014

Texas Bluebonnet Photo Shoot

I decided this year that I was going to take Wesley's photos in a bluebonnet field. There's something beautiful about getting a chaotic toddler to sit on the ground near a busy street in order to capture perfect photos that express only negative memories. And yet, I was convinced I'd do it.

On Good Friday, after Jarrod went up to church, I set off on a walk with Wesley. I saw a field of bluebonnets near a park by our house and thought it would be the perfect backdrop for our photo shoot. The sun was setting so the lighting was perfect. I changed Wesley into a cute outfit (that I got out of the dirty hamper) and we set out for the park.

The park was a lot farther away than I thought. Things in the car seem so much closer than they do on foot with a stroller! We walked for about 40 minutes but Wesley was a champion. When we arrived it was the perfect place to take pictures. We were far enough away from the street and there was a pretty walking trail right next to the bluebonnets.

At first Wesley wouldn't sit down in the flowers. He said he was scared. But then I nabbed this beauty.
After that, the real fun started.
He loved sitting IN his Easter basket. (I made his Easter basket. The tutorial is available here!)
But then he took off running. The path was no where near the street so I allowed him to run off some energy.

 Bye, Mama! 

Right before we needed to leave I asked him to sit down again. I got him to sit so that the setting sun was behind me to capture his beautiful eyes. 

Sorry for the overload of pictures, but I just couldn't decide. I took about 70 pictures and had 15 that I loved enough to edit. I give literally all the credit for any half decent pictures of Wesley to Better Mom Shots. Monica taught me everything I know about capturing good pictures of my sweet boy. I couldn't be happier with how they turned out.  

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Friday, April 18, 2014

Our 2 year old - Update of all things Wesley

Wesley turned 2 in January and has continued to astound us with the incredible things he's learned. His temper tantrums, independence, and strong-willed nature make our life a struggle, but the amazing things make it all worth it.

About a month ago I was wearing a leadership t-shirt. It had a cross on it and Wesley pointed to it and said, "Jesus!" I don't know where he learned that, but I was so proud! Since then we will talk about Jesus and tell him about Jesus. Of course we were doing that before, but now he seems to know what we're talking about. We got a new children's Bible - Spark Story Bible - the best one I have ever seen! We read it to Wesley and tell him about Jesus. He points to pictures of Jesus and says Jesus in the cutest little voice. It's really opened us up to have more conversations with Wesley about what we believe. The other day on our way to church he said, "Jesus is strong!" It was adorable.

Wesley loves to sing. He's always has a love of music, but recently started singing. With passion. I catch him singing his fave - Twinkle, Twinkle - in the backseat on our way home from school. He was too shy to sing in front of people for a while, but it wasn't until recently that he would perform. His favorites are the ABCs, Wheels on the Bus, Twinkle Twinkle, Jingle Bells, and Jesus Loves me.

I'm not sure what is cuter. :-)

I wrote about how Wesley is now potty trained. We still have an accident now and then, usually when he's playing too hard to remember to go potty, but he's doing a great job.We tell him all the time how proud of him we are. It's not perfect - on Sunday he peed on his shoes in the nursery at church. I had to carry him 7 miles to the car in the rain to rush home to get new shoes in time to come back for the end of church and the Easter Egg hunt. Awesome. But he's trying and is 95% potty trained, which is as good as I can expect of just about anyone, right?

Wesley counts. The first time I noticed it was about 6-7 months ago. I figured it was time for him to learn to count and while I was taking his shoes off I said, "One..." His response? "TWO!!!" I guess he learned to count at school! Since then counting has become a huge part of our lives. We count all the time. Wesley typically counts like this, "One Two Three Seven Nine Ten Twelve One Three!" Exactly.

I know there are different opinions about correcting the silly little things kids say, but I'm all for keeping it cute as long as possible. No one will go to college saying "Chickmonk" or "up slide down". (I won't say who I know that has said those things...) Wesley's first word like that is "Gasket ball." He can say his Bs, but he doesn't at the beginning of basket. It's adorable and I'll never correct him. Someday he will start saying Basketball and I might shed a little tear.

There's our update. He's opinionated, stubborn, moved 100 miles/hour during every waking moment, and is the most wonderful thing that has ever happened to me.
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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Elevation Essential Oil

I am not a medical professional. This is simply my own experiences with essential oils. 
Each Wednesday I'm sharing my favorite oils and how I use them. Today I'm going to tell you about Elevation.

I use Elevation mostly in combination with Balance. I rub it on my feet every morning to combat anxiety, stress, and depression. It wakes me up and really takes the edge off my anxiety. I notice a remarkable different when I use Elevation on my feet as opposed to when I don't. In fact, I've started carrying some with me all the time because sometimes I forget in the chaos of the morning and need to add it once I get to work. 

I've also grabbed Elevation during the mid-morning slump to refocus myself and help me wake up. I don't know if you have this problem, but the days where I'm in the office 10:30am comes and I struggle to focus. I jump around from my e-mail to one of the 19 website tabs open, run to the copier, and work on reports. I don't stay on a specific task for more than about 5 minutes. Balance helps with this when it's because of hyperactivity in my brain, but Elevation helps when it's because I'm tired. When my body and brain are tired, it's easy to get bored, even when I'm doing interesting things. A few drops of Elevation rubbed between my palms makes focusing at work much easier. It wakes me up, helps me to focus, and get my job done.

If you suffer from generalized anxiety, depression, or just regular irritability and boredom, I encourage you to check out Elevation. I am not a doctor and cannot claim that it will work for you, but it's worked for me and I've seen it work for others.

If you already have Elevation or are ordering it (you can do that here!) and want to know how you can use it, consider printing this card and storing it with your bottle of Balance!

If you are looking for more information about Elevation or want to test my skills, check out this website.

If you're interested in reading about other oils, check them out here:
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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Carry On, Warrior - Giveaway!

Last week I share my story about battling anxiety. Today I'm giving you a chance to win your own copy of a hugely influential book - Carry On, Warrior. If you aren't familiar with Glennon, you need to stop everything and head over to Momastery right now.

Carry On, Warrior has been out in hardcover for a while. I read it in about 3 days. It was amazing. I cried. I read a lot of it out loud to my (very supportive and forgiving) husband. I was moved to do hard things. I quote it at least once a week, rarely giving credit where it is due. (Sorry, Glennon!)

Last week the book came out in soft cover. Seriously, how amazing is that? I adore soft cover books. They are easier to toss in my purse. They are cheaper. They are less pretentious than their hard-cover counterparts. They are just better. Right?

If you haven't read Carry On, Warrior, now is your chance. I'm giving away one soft cover copy of the new book.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
This essay and I are part of the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project — To learn more and join us, CLICK HERE! And to learn about the New York Times Bestselling Memoir Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, just released in paperback, CLICK HERE!

This giveaway will run from 4/15-22. I was provided a copy of this book to use for the giveaway. I was not compensated in any other way.
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