Frugal budget considerations: More ways to spend less

Strawberry shortcake stack

At the beginning of this new year, I re-evaluated our household budget. On paper. It had been too long since we'd done this, and I knew we had added "extras" without truly "counting the cost".

Our van (which was a necessary upgrade from our car!) gets good gas mileage, but it still uses more gas than our car did. This new (and bigger!) house not only comes with an increase in rent but an increase in utilities. And when my sister Bonnie came to visit, we definitely splurged outside our normal budget!

We are blessed to live debt-free (as we have for most of our marriage, praise GOD!), but yet it's not enough to be living within our means if we're not saving for emergencies, an eventual vehicle replacement/repairs, or able to keep our health cared for. After delaying for several years, I had a root canal and crown done this month which cost us MORE than $1K -- with insurance, and spread over 2010/2011 for maximum coverage!

I'm realizing just how important it is that we focus more on saving for expenses like this. Because we CAN. Joshua has steady work with health insurance, and I'm able to earn money from this website (a HUGE thank-you for ordering from Amazon through my links, clicking on my ads, and signing up for SwagBucks!).

We've had times in our marriage where we budgeted as tightly as possible, just to get by. One income, under $10/hr. with a family to support is not easy! We skimped on lots of things, not to "save money" but to stay out of debt!

Our income has increased since those years, and we feel blessed to be able to afford the "extras". Now, the part comes where we have to decide which "extras" we can plan to afford without living paycheck-to-paycheck! :)

Moshe explores the pantry...

Extras we plan for:

Rent (we upgraded from a 2-br. to a 3-br.)
Regular dental care for all of us
Dental care for Joshua (braces and jaw surgery)
Increased medical bills (Joshua was diagnosed with Trigeminal Neuralgia a couple weeks ago)
Healthy food
A visit with my parents/siblings in Ohio

Things we can do to have those "extras":

Continue having 1 vehicle
Continue having only basic phone service (no cell phones or long distance)
Continue having Netflix (no TV, no movies, and no other movie rentals or purchases)
Continue menu planning
Discontinue restaurant/take-out eating (none, vs. the 6-8 times per year for the past couple of years)

Go to Costco every 2 weeks instead of every week
Spend only $420/month on food/household/toiletries*
Continue to keep the heat at 64 or lower
Wash towels and whites in cold water instead of hot (use a few drops of bleach instead)
Take shorter showers (this is a hard one for me!)
Get Ruth potty trained (she's in Pull-Ups)
Go back to cloth diapers for Moshe (used disposables during December)

Take a year-long break from buying stuff (we have so much already!)
Shop around to see if we can get a cheaper car insurance rate
Recycle anything possible
Call trash service and downgrade to smallest, customer-provided can (saving $7/month)
Get landlord to fix dripping faucet in bathroom
Figure out how to pay bills online to save stamps
Continue blogging
Get my recipe e-book finished!!!

I am very grateful that by doing most (hopefully ALL!) of these things, we will not only continue to stay debt-free, but actually be able to afford our "extras"! :)

A note on education:

One of the things I am doing this year is teaching our children piano and violin. My parents paid for many years of quality instruction for me, and so teaching our children is one of the "extra" things that we can afford (since I can do it!). Yehoshua (6) especially shows an interest in pursuing music. We certainly can't give "everything" to our children, but our hope is to do the best we can in ways that we can! :)

My new laundry system:

It's been much too rainy and wet to hang laundry the past few months, so I have been using the dryer. (We do try to re-wear clothes, especially on days when the children don't go outside and get dirty!)

Joshua suggested doing laundry once a week, and I had my doubts at first, but now I am a convert!

One great part is that I now can do a load of towels/washcloths/bibs and a separate load of socks/underwear. (Do I need to tell you how time-consuming it is to fold a load that contains towels, washcloths, dishrags, dish towels, bibs, cleaning rags, and socks and underwear for 6 people???!!)

The other great part is that I seem to be spending less time and doing fewer loads of laundry. Each Monday, I wash:

1 load of Joshua's clothes (w/some of mine)
1-2 load of kids' clothes (w/some of mine)
1 load of towels OR 1 load of socks/underwear (alternate weeks)
1 load of sheets (alternate between kids' and ours)

So this is usually 4-5 loads each week, and the sheets I can hang indoors instead of using the dryer (since they're so thin).

So... those are my latest ramblings on frugality, and how we manage to make ends meet each month. YHWH is so good to supply our needs, and my intent is to maximize the GOOD things and, as much as possible, prepare for future (and present needs). If you have suggestions for my list(s), I'd love to hear! :)

More of my ramblings about frugality

More frugal ideas and posts can be found over at Jessica's blog today! :)

*Does that sound like a lot for a family with 4 young children? I may do a future post about some of the more affordable (but still healthy) foods I've been trying to incorporate into our diet more regularly. Any suggestions for lowering the grocery bill even more while still eating lots of fruits and veggies and whole foods? :)


Have you tried Angel Food ministries? While quite a bit can be processed stuff, they do offer a monthly fresh produce box.

I haven't looked into it recently (I heard of them a few years ago, I think). Thanks for the suggestion!

So sorry about your husband's medical condition -- I read the info you linked to. Hopefully there is a way to manage his pain.

Thanks for sharing your creative ideas to afford the extra things in your budget. I'm kind of an Accounting/Money nerd and love calculating stuff like that. It is just so great that God helps us pull out our creativity to find ways to do what is most important to us.

With my husband being self employed one of our "extras" is having enough of an emergency fund in case he is out of work for any reason. Well just recently this has been tested. He has a medical issue where he is expected to not be working until the end of April. We are so very thankful we chose to set aside the funds instead of spending on all the things we would've rather spend them on.

I've been doing laundry once a weeks for years now and I wouldn't have it any other way.

I think 420 is great for a grocery budget that includes non-food items as well.
And even though your kids are young they still eat, a lot, i would bet...I have 4 under the age of five but i estimate that the 3 who eat food eat the equivalent of 2 adults between them. So when i meal plan, I plan for 4 people. Plus there are always meals w/ friends that mean more people or even if you're invited you might want to bring along something extra, make a dessert or something. Personally i Was budgeting 6OO/mo for grocery but got tired of always "going over" and making my husband mad so I upped to to 800 now (plus a new baby (born preemie, my milk dried up, who needs formula/diapers) and I know my budget is not VERY frugal but i buy store brand for most stuff and very little processed stuff. On the other hand I dont make my own bread either. I live in France though and the cost of living is def. higher here!

I think that if it enhances the QUALITY of life then pinching pennies *can* be a good thing...but if it becomes burdensome then maybe it's not really *worth* it. To me, cloth diapers became too much, i just got a dryer this yr. Which was an expense plus the added electricity, but I am so much happier using it! I would like to travel more but if it means pinching and saving and worrying every day to be able to afford only 1 trip/yr. I dont know if it's really worth it.

Just a few developing thoughts of mine on frugality
-jessica s.

Thanks for your thoughts, Jessica! :)

I agree... the key is to maintain a balance and not get upset when we can't do everything in life "perfectly"! Being mindful of conserving heat = good. Not wanting to turn our house to a comfortable temperature when we have guests = stingy! (Hey, that's why I love having people over! It's like I get a free pass to turn up the heat and make a dessert!) :)

Also... time = money! I love my dishwasher, even though I can hand-wash dishes with less water (I have "tricks"). I am not willing to "work myself to the bone" to save a few pennies... and end up worn out and grumpy! :)

I am conflicted about the travel. It's hard for our children to really connect with my parents/family from so far away. But I keep wondering if it's really something we can afford. But, if something were to happen to my parents or siblings before I saw them again, I would wish I had spent the money for a visit! Our plan is to space visits out... we were in Ohio in September 2009, so this year is the "every other year" year...

How do you help foster a relationship between your kids and the grandparents?? :)

Do you use Skype? My brother went overseas in the army and it was so nice to still get to see and talk to him. I'm sure your kids would like visiting your family that way.

lol! I like your perspecitve on having company... :)
For keeping in touch with family, we have a phone/internet plan that is combined and includes unlimited international calling to all land-lines ...we also have a cordless phone that has "speaker-phone" option so the kids sit on the couch and listen while grandma reads them a bedtime story from the other side of the atlantic. My sisters and I are also active on facebook, posting pix and giving updates. This annoys my husband who would rather see a "good old-fashioned phone call" but realisticly...when do you get a solid hour in the day when you're BOTH available (no screaming kids, or hungry mouths to feed) AND when it's the right TIME of day living in different time zones??? you know the answer: Never! :)

soOOOO....we're pretty happy about modern technology!
Every time we head back to see my family it has been a sudden "suprise". As in, 2 months before I was crying and thinking that I would "never" see them again and "suddenly" something opened the door that financially it was possible! " Where there's a will there's a way," right? Usually my husband would get a chunk from work that we "forgot" was comming, or the equivilant of a tax refund, etc. and I would find a good deal on tickets, searching feindishly, and I would scrimp on Two months groceries and throw in the couple hundred we had in savings, and Voila! :)

So every time we go, we are always sad to leave because it seems if we look at the BUDGET it will be 10 yrs before we can make it happen again, and far we've managed every 18mos or so... not bad. Only downside is that every time we go, it wipes out our savings account. So when we bought a new car, we took out a loan, and we rent (which is a lot more typical here) but hey, to me it's "worth" it, i guess. Or i feel like i just don't have a choice... :)

Thanks for sharing all this, Jessica. Praise GOD for His provision in getting to still see your family!! :) :)

My parents don't have internet... and we don't have cell phones. So this means my mom can't see my website, no emailing pictures, no texting, etc... When Bonnie was here, it was actually a lot of fun to be able to have her text my mom, or send my mom a quick picture on her cell phone.

We did recently do a first-time-ever video chat last week when my parents were at my brother's house! It was very fun. I can now see how video chat really helps a connection... it was *almost* like we were there! Yehoshua even tried to hug the laptop goodnight. :*)

I hear ya about the travel wiping out the savings account. We are BLESSED because when we do go, the only expense will be airfare, because my parents will pick us up and feed us. :D

Hi Tammy....
I don't do texting on my cell phone, and I have friends who don't have what we do is....I write text messages from my computer to their cell phones, and they send text messages to my email address. It's a little bit slower than some of them would like, but it does keep us in communication! Pictures can be sent both ways as well. We also skype with friends who have cell phones. (I have very limited minutes on my cell is basically just for emergencies. So I don't 'just call' people.)

I would also like to put in a good word for old fashioned letters! I loved getting letters when I was growing up. My folks were broke, and we didn't have phone service, so we wrote a letter all during the week...mostly just thoughts and tales of what was happening with us.....and once a week or so, my mom would mail it off. We drew pictures on the back. Both sets of my grandparents would write us back....and often they sent little goodies too! It was so much fun! My mom kept some of the letters that she found when cleaning my grandmother's house after she died.....and it is such a trip down memory lane when we get together and read them at family gatherings....

It's so complicated nowadays.....I can remember when it was different.

hope your family is well and happy!

I followed your link through to see what it is that Joshua was diagnosed with...
That sounds just awful, poor guy :( I hope and pray that he finds answers and relief!

As for the other stuff your list is great. The length seems daunting, but all of it would help. I admit we need to sit down and do this too.

Hi!~ I don't think your budget sounds high at all. I would say that spending the money on healthy nutritious foods will keep your family healthier in the long run. You might be spending more on good foods, but will spend less on doctor bills and such.

Hi, Tammy.
I don't post here often but I read your blog all the time and love it.

I am so sorry to hear that Joshua has this very painful condition. This is just awful and I am praying that this goes away or there is a way to fix it. The body can heal itself if given the opportunity. If this doesn't work, then I hope surgery is the answer. May Joshua find relief soon.

I love your ideas for spending less. I need to do this evaluation too for 2011. There are always ways to cut down.


I was diagnosed with this over two years ago now so I do feel for him...I went though a gammet (?) of prescription medications with various side effects and not much I can say to him is please bear with the various treatment options and don't give up! I can say though that though the process I was also diagnosed and had removed thyroid cancer which I doubt would have been found without the cheek pain so there is alway a purpose.

There's always ways to scrimp a little on the grocery/sundries budget, but I would encourage you not to worry too much. One thing that really resonated with me in Laura's posts last week at Heavenly Homemakers was how important it is spend money on quality, healthy food. Just because you can lower your grocery bill doesn't necessarily mean that you should. I have a slightly smaller family and slightly smaller grocery budget, but I also live in a lower cost area with a longer growing season. Your budget looks good to me! I love reading your blog, and thanks for the rambles on frugality!

Praying for you guys. Moshe is such a cutie! He's gotten so big!

Hi Tammy, I have been following your blog for years :o)
My heart sunk when I read about your husbands disease. My mom had trigeminal Neuralgia. We are from the same area as you. She had a very hard time with it and finding a good Dr. She had to be very proactive in her care as it is a poorly understood disease. Hers was debilitating to the point of not being able to work and eventually (with much effort) getting on Social Security Disability. Anyway, if you need any Dr. names ...let me know.
Your budget is very very good. ( I live in the same area, with 9 children). I also enjoy frugality. Can I encourage you to put your budget before you husband and really listen to what his opinion is. For me, eating out seems frivious, for him, it means time for just the two of us, which is priceless in a large busy family. The $ pales in comparision to the dividends in our marriage. Sometime I can be so restrictive in my budget that I make it into a type of 'law', I really have to work hard to balance my natural inclination to frugality with being spirit led, yielded and trusting in the Lords provision. Not that these are mutually exclusive. Just my thoughts......

Thank you, Amy (and the others who have responded with care and concern for Joshua). I would love any Dr. names or info you have... just email me (tammysrecipes AT gmail DOT com).

Trigeminal Neuralgia is definitely a... life-changing condition. We are thankful that our dentist was so helpful with the diagnosis, as we've read that some people suffer for years before finding out why. The pain was unmanageable for a number of days, but the doctor prescribed a drug that has helped with the pain and allowed Joshua to function well enough to drive and work.

Prayers are appreciated, as Joshua still does not feel "well" by any means!

Our "eating out" has actually been our whole family, so I am not talking about sacrificing a date night for us. :) We haven't done date nights out since moving to WA, but we regularly have at-home "dates" since the kids go to bed early! :)

It's funny... Joshua grilled burgers tonight for dinner and they were awesome! Joshua was like, "See, this is why we should skip eating out." (He didn't/doesn't know about this post, but when Bonnie was here we had gone to Five Guys Burgers and Fries. Good, but expensive!) Anyway... I guess we just almost always regret having eaten out when we do! :) But I DO understand that it is not something that everyone HAS to cut out of the budget! :)

Amy, in Western Wa again.....
Something that has helped our budget this year.....taking advantage of the state's homeschooling allotment. Trying to homeschool on a shoestring takes ALOT of time and energy. Different cities offer different programs and they all have their own unique restrictions. I cannot buy any religious items, but I can buy art supplies, every kind of game, CD's, science kits and much more. Just a me if you would like more info!

Just a helpful hint- if you throw a clean dry bath towel in the dryer, it reduces drying time. especially helpful for jeans and workclothes!

I always make sure to run dryer load after dryer load, so the dryer stays hot and doesnt use extra energy to heat up again. I dont know how much this helps, but i feel better doing it. I know there are alot of farms in the seattle area that you can buy boxes of produce from, some have programs that you sign up and are delivered to a certain location or your home each week or so to save on produce. However you are at the mercy of whats in season. And I dont think any of them have ripe produce in the winter. I have read alot of your blog, but cannot remember if you can or not. We can, pressure and waterbath and I probably would not have done so much if it were not for my husbands passion for it. I can go days and days without a trip to the store sometimes if $ is tight by opening cans of green beans, using canned tomatoes, etc. Especially if you can grow it or get it cheap in summer when its ripe. I also have focused more on eating with the seasons. We eat alot of squash, sweet potatoes, etc in the winter and fresher things in the summer. I find that purchasing whats ripest in our area is also cheapest (no strawberries, grapes, etc in winter) I miss these things and splurge sometimes, but you save quite a bit this way. Good luck, I have been meaning to pencil out a budget for months and have only one baby as an excuse.
Ps I love cloth diapering too, reading your blog inspired me to finally take the plunge, and we do do huggies if we are out for a day or overnight, but I have finally come to enjoy washing folding and diapering a baby in cloth. Also, reading the studies about a warm disposable diaper against the diaper area of baby boys and the concern for their reprductive health keeps me at it.

I don't have kids yet so for that budget no experince yet. I myself hang my shirts on my shower rod to dry, also works for bras and thin pants.
Do you have a co-op program for veggies and fruits you could join, I hear alot of people say this saves them lots of money and you get diffrent things each week so it doesnt get boring.
Also do you sign up for samples, theres alot of sites you can sign up for to be a tester and they will send you coupons for full-size products to try.
Have you heard of freecycle through yahoo I have gotten soo much great stuff from people that no longer had a need and didnt want to junk it since it still had lots of life. Theres always lots of people giving away baby and kids items. I got baby clothes that looked brand new for a friend.

Sorry to hear about the Trigeminal Neuralgia, I myself suffer from crohn's disease and it's very expensive. I'm unable to work so I get state insurance which covers most thank the lord. But I can tell you if he ever gets a med that his insurance wont cover look it up online they have programs if you can't afford some meds. Also tell him to hang in there when your diagnosed with something that they don't know alot about it gets very frustrating trying to find a treatment that works for you. Good Luck and hang in there.


I think your budget for food is fine. Since you don't go out to eat very much you do want wiggle room in your budget for special meals and treats. Special meals and treats made at home are far cheaper then purchased elsewhere.

When preparing our budget for 2011 I noticed that we had no savings for a "new" vehicle (used it to pay for the birth of our eighth child in Oct. 2010 -a new baby is worth it.)
and since cars don't last for ever I needed to make some adjustments in our budget. My conclusion was that we need to stop making purchases that are not extremely necessary no matter how great a deal it is - even when there is $ in the budget.

Tammy-I will be praying for healing for Joshua. We have seen two miraculous healings in the last 2 weeks and we know that God hears and answers prayer.

I was wondering when you wash diapers?
Are you still using flats and pull on pants?

The only way that we have cut down the cost of our groceries without compromising quality is to shop at more than one store. I don't know if that is an option for you, on a regular basis, but I know it makes a difference for us.

You mentioned that you want to go a year without buying and I think that is such an admirable goal. One thing that I have done that is similar to this goal is to "recycle" my money. If I want to buy something I sell something first to generate funds for the purchase.

I hope that helps or sparks your imagination in some way to help your budget.

Kim in Cali

Hi Kim! :)

I was diapers whenever I have a full load. I do 2-3 loads of diapers each week. No set days... it just seems to depend. :)

I do still use prefolds and Dappi nylon pull-on diaper covers. I also have some Thirsties covers, and a handful of other brands of covers (and a few wool soakers!) that were gifts or made by a friend. And, I was given 3 used Bum Genius diapers last summer! Very handy! :) But the majority remains prefolds. :)

Thanks for the tips!

I'm sure I could do better about selling things... I usually just give things away! We have a garage now and could do a garage sale, but we're totally NOT in a high-traffic location (tons of dead-end streets all around us :P) so I'm not sure that would work very well! :)

I think your grocery budget is great! I try to spend no more than $500 a month for food/non food for a family of 4 (I have 2 teenage boys who eat a lot sometimes) and 4 cats. It's usually less than that, but that is my top dollar. It also depends on your location. Food here seems to be a little more expensive than towns around us. We have considered shopping for a couple of weeks or a month and going out of town, but haven't taken that step yet.

I am so sorry to hear of Joshua's diagnosis of this dreadful disease! He will certainly be in my prayers. We are just (re) beginning our budget - cash for everything. I am hoping to literally understand better where every dollar goes. We're not spend crazy in the least, but in these times we need to be more aware, saving - and frugal. Thank you so for your blog, your talents you share -- and all the pictures of your dear children -- they are just blossoming! SO excited for the violin playing - hope we get to *hear some recitals* ;-)

God be with you!

I've been reading your blog (and making some of your recipes) for a few years but I rarely comment.

We too have tried to live a frugal life. We own our home and have our children enrolled in a Christian school. We are also a single income family with 5 children. Your family is making some good choices. Staying home with your children, homeschooling and living frugally are good things.

I find for myself though that being frugal takes time. Much more time than living 'un-frugally' if you know what I mean. As mentioned, you used disposable diapers during December. I'll assume that's because it was a busy time for you. It helps me to decide beforehand which frugalities I will forgo when I am too busy. Because I know that I can't do it all, all the time. For me it's baking bread and cloth diapers. If it gets too busy I buy bread and use disposables. Because I've decided beforehand that's what I'll do, I do not feel guilty if I need to forgo those frugalities. It is good to be as frugal as you can, but not at the expense of the mom's sanity (not sure if that's the right word for it, but the saying is true, "If momma isn't happy, nobody's happy.")

Be thankful you live in the USA where food is much less expensive than in Canada. I could never feed my family of 7 (kids are 10, 8, 6, 3 and 21 months) on $420 per month.


So I was just thinking, have you checked into prices for a prepaid cell phone? It might be cheaper to have a prepaid cell phone for emergencies, and for all other calls use gmail, skype, or something similar.

The other idea is to open the blinds on your windows during the day time when the sun is shining. I'm not sure how much heat you can get from the sun shining in, but it might be worth checking into.


Hello Tammy,

I'm sorry to hear about Joshua. I followed your link about the condition and it sounds horrible!

As for saving money, does your local library have movie rentals? I canceled my Netflix subscription a few years ago and instead check out movies from our local library. It doesn't cost anything and they also have new releases available the day they are released on DVD, plus many great family movies.

We also use, which is a pretty much cable on demand via the Internet. We watch it directly on the computer or hook our laptop to the TV whenever we want to watch a show. Hulu is free as well, unless if you get Hulu Plus, which is 7.99 a month.

Another thing that I do is use coupons for products that I use. My local grocery store and Target allow their store coupons to be stacked with a manufacture's coupon on a single item, which often makes the item very cheap or even free.


Thank you, Nicki! :)

Our library does have movie rentals, but we actually don't usually watch movies, but documentaries and educational stuff. I'm not sure how much of that the library carries... but Netflix is definitely convenient with the instant streaming! :)

With 4 little ones and Joshua using the van to go to work, my transportation option during the day would be the bus (expensive and difficult to do often!) and our evenings are set aside for family time/dinner/devotions (and the occasional dentist appointment, doctor's appointment, etc. that has to occur on a weekday!). We do grocery shopping on the weekend, but I never feel like fitting in a trip to the library! Maybe some day when we have more readers in the house!! :)

My computer (laptop) won't run Hulu very well :P We've tried with Joshua's Netbook and it was super laggy/choppy and froze... but I don't think there is anything on Hulu that we really *have* to see... :)

We like the History channel, Discovery channel, National Geographic (although their slant tends to be very evolution-oriented, even moreso than others), and I can't remember what else... the kids have learned a lot (and I have too!) from watching the science stuff... they are fascinated with scuba diving and sharks! haha :)

Jessica already mentioned what I was going to say. Do you read HeavenlyHomemakers at all? She just did a series on food budgeting and I agree, its important to spend money on good healthy food! Don't feel bad about your budgeting for it!

Yes! Love her posts!! :)

We live far from family and friends. Our new laptop came with a camera, which enables us to have our 4 year old skype with family and friends. We also don't have house phones, but have cell phones (the free variety) with verizon coverage, which many of our close friends and family have as well. This means that our daughter can call her aunts and grandparents at no additional charge. This has been a life-saver for a child who was traumatized by the move.

I highly recommend learning how to use your online bill pay. It will save you so much in time, stamps and checks. I save 5- 10 dollars a month in stamps and think I write less than 10 checks a year. Spending a few hours to get all all figured pout I am positive you will love it !


Hi Tammy,

I have been a reader here for about six months and am so grateful for your blog! I have been cooking a lot of your recipes for my family and they LOVE everything! My eight year old will often ask, "Mom, is this from that lady's blog?" My older two love your sweet and sour chicken... it is a frequent request!

I read this post a couple of days ago, and was very concerned to read about your husband's diagnosis. I read the link you posted and will be praying for him!

My question is related to what Joshua is dealing with. I have been dealing with some issues with my mouth and having head aches as well. It got so bad that this morning I talked with my dentist about it. He is aware of the problems and x-rays have shown that the teeth in question are fine.

I was stunned when he mentioned Trigeminal neuralgia as I had just read your post and knew what he was talking about! What lead you to discover that Joshua has this? I will be going in to see our dentist on Monday and I believe he will be sending me to a specialist.

I'm glad the Lord directed me to your blog and am trusting Him with all of this! I will keep you all in my prayers.

In Christ,
Trish H.

Hi Trish,

I will be praying that you have a good appointment tomorrow and that you don't have TN!

Joshua's pain began as (what he thought was) a toothache or abscessed tooth/teeth. The pain radiated up his face/head and got unbearable during eating/chewing or talking. He tried various toothache remedies and got in to see the dentist asap (it happened over Christmas weekend, so he was actually in pain, sometimes very severe, for 3+ days before he was able to see the dentist). He was taking Tylenol and Motrin during these days, but they weren't really helping at all.

The dentist took lots of xrays and couldn't find anything. They prescribed an antibiotic in case there was infection they couldn't see, as Joshua was obviously in huge amounts of pain. (The antibiotic didn't seem to help, btw.)

The following day, strangely enough, we had dental cleanings already scheduled, so Joshua went in for his cleaning. The pain was so intense on that (left) side of his face that the hygienist couldn't do a full cleaning there. She considered numbing the area to do the cleaning, but after discussing all the symptoms Joshua had been having, told him she didn't want to irritate that area any more and that he should see his doctor and she also wrote down the specific nerve and teeth affected (the trigeminal nerve goes directly to certain teeth) to talk to his doctor about it.

So the next day, Joshua saw his doctor, still in much pain. They did head xrays and some other stuff (it was like a 3-hour appointment!), scheduled an MRI, and prescribed a drug that can help with Trigeminal Neuralgia pain. Within a couple hours of taking that drug, the pain started to subside. (This is another "pointer" to indicate that the pain is indeed TN, as that drug wouldn't help pain from infection or a toothache, etc.)

Joshua did have an MRI, which was to look for tumors, aneurysms, MS, and I'm not sure what else. TN is very uncommon in young males and so there was a concern that the onset of TN could be a symptom of MS, but praise YHWH, the MRI showed no signs of MS!

Currently, Joshua is on medication and has appointments to see an ENT doctor and a neurosurgeon. We are still praying for healing!! :)

Be encouraged! There are ways to treat the pain, and sometimes the pain will go into remission for days, weeks, months, or even years! There are lots of TN blogs/articles out there... Joshua has done TONS of reading on it now and is grateful that his pain is not nearly as horrible as some (and only on one side).

I hope all these details are helpful... and that you have a calm and peaceful heart as you see the dentist/doctor! :)

...your reply helps a lot. What I am experiencing mirrors exactly what Joshua experienced. I am on pain killers which are helping a little and have also been put on an antibiotic which has not helped as of yet.

My pain is the same, begins in a specific tooth and radiates up the side of my face. Since I am on pain killers it isn't unbearable all the time but there are moments I have to sit down it hurts so bad!!

I have spent the last couple of days sitting in my favorite chair a lot and reading through the Psalms and in Philippians 4 ( anxious for nothing...). I can say with all my heart that I am calm and at peace.

What a blessing to be able to share this with you!! As I move forward through the next few days, I will continue to keep you and your husband in my prayers. God is so good... he comforted me through you and your husband. I am so glad I found your blog so many weeks ago...

Thank you Tammy!

Hi Tammy! I just want to quickly share what happened to me. I thought I had TN about 6 years ago. The pain was on the left side of my face. I had the MRI and went to several doctors, I actually was scheduled to have a root canal when the doctor called in a teacher from the dental school (it was at a medical college) to look at me. The teacher started pressing "trigger points" in my left shoulder trapezius muscle which would, in turn, shoot pain to my face. It was incredible that my pain was coming from a knotted up muscle in my shoulder! I went to physical therapy for about a month where they just worked on my shoulder muscles and the pain went away after a week. My prayers are with you!

Hi Tammy,

In my area, we can get movies at the library for free. Does the library in your area offer movies as well as books? We can get new releases as well as movies that have been around for awhile.

Prayers for your family!!

I too am sorry to hear of Joshua's pain.

A couple of tips that helped me was don't run the washer along with showers or dishwasher or any other water activity as it will increase your water bill.

As far as potty training I found that using cloth diapers and plastic pants at night make the child REALLY uncomfortable, prompting them to get out of bed to potty instead of sleeping through. Would probably work during the day as well, but I was finishing training my niece who was ok during the day and only lazy at night.

Poor Joshua, my prayers are with you all in his healing.

I had been doing laundry one day a week and with the birth of my second found that the final stage (putting away) never got done some weeks because it was overwhelming. Your kids are older, so they probably take care of more than my two year old (he puts away his own clothes, even if they end up unfolded in his drawers), but my new method may help anyway.

I now have a day each for darks, whites, colds, sheets and towels. I don't have a laundry room to keep a sorting basket, so instead I sort on Monday, start one load, put another load into our hamper and one into my son's. A final load remains in the second laundry basket until Tuesday. And there us a hamper in our bathroom for all towels and dishtowels. Each morning I check the tops of the hampers that need to be sorted and start a load. Reds don't need to be done each week and sometimes I'll add warm wash clothes to the colds to prevent two loads, so I'm not always doing so many days of laundry. It does prevent me from having to fold mismatched articles (underwear and towels is my least favorite) and still keeps us from running half loads.

Just my two cents. I ways get so much from your posts. I'm glad to see writing them helps you out too and you'll be continuing!

You mentioned the fact that you were beginning to teach your oldest to play the piano. I have been trying to decide if I can do that as well. I am certainly not a good piano player, but I thought it might be worth saving the money to teach the first year or two myself. Do you think I could do a good enough job to see if there is interest on my daughter's part and pass her off to someone who knows what they are doing :)? OR, would it be wiser to start with a much more skilled teacher than me? If you think I can pull it off, are there any beginner books you would recommend?

Thank you so much for your other frugal reminders as well!


Hi Jenna!

I really couldn't say since I don't know you, etc... :) My mom has never had piano lessons and can't play piano, but she would help my younger sisters practice each day (I was their teacher, as I am 10 years older than they are) and did a great job!

I am using the Alfred's Basic piano series for Yehoshua. It is pretty easy and self-explanatory I think, so I do think there is a good possibility of a novice pianist being able to help a child through the first book or so. But... you would have to make sure you were being really careful (counting, notes, etc.)! I have felt the pain of a teacher who wasn't qualified to teach me and taught me many things that needed re-learned, so I am really a big stickler about having a good teacher (and a good instrument)! :)

Ideally, I think a skilled teacher is essential. BUT, I do understand not being able to afford it, in which case I think it's not necessarily "all or nothing". I am not an expert violinist, and I am not sure how far I will be able to take Yehoshua in violin, but I can't use that as an excuse to not teach him for at least as much as I can! (To give you an idea, I took private violin lessons for 6 years and participated in a college-community orchestra.)

Also, do you know anyone who is a good piano teacher? I have taught students who couldn't pay a lot, and even traded piano lessons for chores with one student who couldn't pay but wanted to learn. :) Maybe you could find someone to barter with! :)

Thank you, your answer helps a lot. I took 5 years of lessons as a child, revisited it briefly in college and haven't done anything but play once in a while since then. I was going to buy the Alfred's book, so I am glad to see that you recommend that as well. I do know several people who teach piano and may be able to find a bartering situation. My family is much like yours - my oldest is 7, then 5, 3, 2, and baby #5 due in 10 weeks. Needless to say, packing everyone up and getting them to a piano lesson is a challenge in itself :)! But, we do really want our children to have this skill.

For now, I need to wait on my husband's answer, I think he is leaning towards hiring someone, but bartering might make that more feasible.

Thanks again!

Sounds like you will be a very busy mama, and that reminded me of another good reason to pay a piano teacher and go to lessons: accountability! You'd have that set-in-stone lesson time each week, and it'd be more motivating for your child to practice regularly in preparation. (And you, too, since if you're paying for something you tend to take it more seriously!) :)

laundry and blinds Tips

My husband wants me to run his clothes in the Dryer for 5 or 10 min ONLY then shake out wrinkles and finish drying on hangers. This helps soften clothes and makes them last longer too. He still wears a t-shirt that says 1996 on the front. :)

Have you heard of "reversing" window blinds? - Turning the slats "up" in the winter so warm air doesn't escape as easily to the window - and turning them "down " in the summer so the warmer air CAN go up to the window more easier.


I'm so glad to hear the MRI's didn't indicate MS. Did Joshua also have a spinal tap to completely rule out MS? I don't mean to concern you but it took about four years for me to get an MS diagnosis with all kinds of weird neurological things going on and a spinal tap finally gave me a positive diagnosis. While I wish my disease on no one and pray Joshua does not have it, having chronic pain and no reason for it can be almost more frustrating than being diagnosed and being able to progress with treatment to halt progression. I had a neurologist tell me there was nothing neurologically wrong with me in 2001 and 4 years later (a year after my spinal tap diagnosis) I had an MRI that indicated absolute MS (the doctor said my spine was "lit up like a Christmas tree"). However, at the time that neurologist saw me in 2001, I had symptoms but my spine and brain showed no lesions what so ever. My spinal tap in 2004 (after being referred to a wonderful neurologist by my frustrated family physician) indicated a high white blood cell count which ultimately led to my diagnosis.

I am happy to say that current MRI's show healed lesions and my MS is the least of my health concerns at this time which is wonderful. The treatments they have are very effective.

Chronic pain is just awful; I have it from time to time and it's very difficult for the children and spouse to deal with let alone me. I'm really glad the meds are helping him. I will continue to pray that he overcomes and does not have MS or any other serious disease.


Sydney, thanks for your comment. No, Joshua has not had a spinal tap. The next step (they said) was to see a neurologist. Our insurance company (Group Health Cooperative) has long wait times to see specialists... the soonest a neurosurgeon could see Joshua is mid-March! I mentioned your comment to Joshua and he said he had already thought of that (he knows a lot more about the medical field than I do!) but doesn't want me to worry. At this point, we are just praying and waiting! :)

Thanks again for sharing. I am glad to hear that your MS is manageable. The first few days of pain were so horrible for Joshua... it really made us stop and think how blessed we are (to normally NOT have such pain!) and how suddenly normal daily life can just come to a halt...

Sounds to me like you are doing such a wonderful job! :-)
One of the things that saves for us is doing a large, once-a-month grocery trip. We separate meat and prepare fruit and veggies, freezing everything flat in gallon freezer bags. Although, keep in mind that we don't have young children. Some things work for some and not so well, depending on the stages of your life. As long as you do the best you can with what works for you, that's all that matters. Take care.

Would love to hear more posts on how you homeschool, what you use, how long your day is, etc.

Wow! You are an amazing steward of your resources! Wish members of congress had 1/10 your wisdom and frugality! :-) Thank you for your blog!

I've had trigeminal pain for years & doc kept pooh-poohing it. It can be very debilitating and annoying. For me, I use a childssoft cotton sock stuffed with rice & tied with a string or rubber band. Nuke it til I can barely touch it & apply to ear & side of face. Ahhhhh....I still cannot ever chew on that side of my head. My doc has no idea what is causing mine, as my tonsils on left side only also get huge and my white cell count goes up. He thinks it might have something to do with recurrent Epstein-Barr. Hope all is well & his episodes are few & far between. There also seems to be some connection to migraines...people with migraines get TNP more often. .

I wrote another comment but realized I wasn't logged in and it seems to have disappeared. Sorry about that.

Our budgeting goals are very similar to yours in a way. We've been a one car family for 2.5 years and really like it. Once in awhile we rent one but even so it's much cheaper than owning another vehicle. I'm a freelance musician and decided not to teach any more after this semester so we have to prepare for the income drop. It's "just" grocery money but combined with saving for home improvements we'll need to make within the next few years it's time for some serious belt tightening. That's never fun but we're so blessed I can't feel too bad about it.

I'm sorry to hear about Joshua's condition. My husband had epilepsy surgery(ies) in spring 2010. He had a tumor in 2000 and we thought the seizure condition was under control but the meds stopped working in 2009. This is partly why we only have one car. He didn't drive for a year and a half during which time we had our second child. Anyway, after the epilepsy surgery he developed a life threatening infection and had to have the infected piece of skull removed. Then an additional surgery to put in a plastic skull plate. He spent more than 50 days in the hospital that year. During this year our younger son spent 6 months waking up 4 to 12 times a night. We joke that if we didn't go insane then we never will. :) I wish Joshua and your family the best during this time of figuring out your New Normal.

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