Thursday, October 10, 2019

NEW Debt-Free College Workbook!

I am SO excited about my brand new e-book!

Debt-Free College Workbook

My oldest son will graduate in May from a four year, private Christian university with absolutely NO DEBT! He will have earned two associates and one bachelor's degree. 

In case you are wondering, NOPE! We didn't pay for his education. The only money he received from me was $4000 over the course of the past five years - enough to pay for books. 

How did he do it? 

He worked in high school, worked on campus, and won major scholarships. I give you all the details in the e-book! 

Inside, you'll find: 

A list of skills your child can work on in high school.

Each one of these skills will help send your child's scholarship application to the top of the pack!

There are FREE Forms throughout the book to help you and your student organize your college and scholarship searches. 

I give you ten important tips on how to find, organize, and apply for scholarships. 

The best part!

 This e-book is absolutely FREE for the next 30 days! 

After that, it goes back into the vault,  where it will become part of a larger, paid product option. 

Here's how you get your copy: 

I've pinned a copy of the front of the e-book right at the top of the blog. Look directly underneath that photo and you'll see a place to enter your e-mail address. When you join my newsletter, you'll get a e-mail within five minutes, with a download link. 

What if you already get my weekly e-mails? No problem!!  Just drop me a line and I'll send you that direct link to download the product for free. 

Remember, in 30 days this offer goes away. So, get your copy today! 

I'd LOVE to have you come back here and leave a comment after you download the e-book and read it. Leave your thoughts in the comments section. 

I'd LOVE to see you over on Facebook! 

Join us on Facebook every Thursday at 2pm (CST) when I go LIVE, sharing helpful tips, ideas, stories, and strategies for: 

Living with a spirit of joy and abundance on a shoestring budget! 

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Do all to the glory of God, 


Monday, October 7, 2019

Tropical Fruit Smoothie

Even though fall is on the way, the past few weeks have been hot. So, the 14 year old sous chef and I wanted to create a new smooth creamy dessert. We'd been working all day with mango, pineapple, and coconut flavors, inventing our new Creamy Coconut Pineapple dressing. So, not only were those flavor combinations fresh in our mind, but we we had leftover ingredients sitting out on the counter.

It was the sous chef who said, "Hey! How about a smoothie!" Yep! He was right! It was the perfect ending to a busy, but productive day.

(Please note: My posts contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of my links, I will receive a small commission at no additional charge to you. Thank you!) 

This recipe works best with a high speed blender. If you don't already own one, I absolutely love my Blendtec and highly recommend it! The blades are designed to move food from top to bottom, not just to crush it at the base. The motor is powerful enough to chop up frozen items easily.

Tropical fruit smoothie is: 

  • Creamy
  • Smooth
  • Cool
  • Sweet
  • Delicious
  • Refreshing

Yield: 6-7 cups

Prep time: 15 minutes if you need to chop the mangos, 5 minutes if the ingredients are ready to go.

Blend time: 1-2 minutes, depending on the speed and power of the blender.


6 frozen bananas
1 cup almond/coconut milk (I use Blue Diamond Unsweetened)
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes (I like Bob's Red Mill)
2 cups diced fresh mango
1 cup diced canned pineapple in juice
1/4 cup pineapple juice (use the juice from the can of pineapple)


Drain the juice from the canned pineapple into a bowl. There should be about a cup of juice. You'll use 1/4 of a cup for this recipe.

Break six frozen bananas into three or four pieces and place in blender.  Add the rest of the ingredients. Blend, using the smoothie function on the blender. If your blender does not have a smoothie button, use high speed for 30 seconds at a time, stopping to use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides and move the liquids and solids around in the blender. You want to avoid stopping the blades and causing damage to the motor. Add more of the pineapple juice if needed to insure continuous blending.

Continue to blend until you have achieved a smooth consistency. It took me about 1 minute with my Blendtec.

Serve cold, garnished with a little extra coconut flakes.

As always, here's a free downloadable PDF of the recipe as my way of saying, "Thanks for being a reader."

If you try it, do let me know how you liked it by leaving your thoughts in the comments section below.

If you enjoyed this post, you may also like: 

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Do all to the glory of God, 


Saturday, September 28, 2019

My Guest Post Over at Change Your Finances And A FREE Webinar!

My friend, Charissa, graciously asked me to write a post over at her blog, Change Your Finances. I'd love it if you'd head on over there now and read my post, "12 Frugal Ways I Cut Costs to the Bone to Pay Off Our Mortgage in 5 Short Years That Anyone Can Do".

That's right! We put the pedal to the metal and fired every penny we could at that 15 year mortgage. We cut every nickels and dimes from every category in our budget.

(My posts contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase or sign up through my link, I will receive a commission at no additional cost to you. Thank you.) 

How About A FREE Masterclass? 

Charissa wants so help you get unexpected expenses under control. So, she's having a FREE Master Class on Tuesday, October 1st. She'll share three secrets to ensuring that you can handle any unexpected expense. Sign up to attend through my special affiliate link for Under the Median readers. You can sign up by clicking here. Remember, there's absolutely no cost for the Master Class and you'll gain valuable insight in how to better prepare for a rainy day.

Need personalized help? Join Charissa's Inner Circle

Charissa will help you craft a personalized plan to help you attack and eliminate debt. Her Money Builders Inner Circle has openings and is accepting new members. The Inner Circle only opens to new members twice a year. So, now is the time to act! In fact, I sometimes show up for one of Charissa's weekly live mentoring classes and share tips, strategies, and encouragement. These are private classes reserved for Inner Circle members.

Remember, there's no better time than now to get a handle on your finances and master your debt! 

If you enjoyed this post, you may also like: 

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Get my FREE 16-page e-book, filled with 21 tips and strategies for lowering your utility bills! Just enter your e-mail address in the "follow by e-mail" link found on the right side of the blog just under my profile. 

Do all to the glory of God, 


Monday, September 23, 2019

7 Tasty, Unique Ways to Prepare Summer Squash

The zucchini and yellow summer crops are still producing in abundance! If you garden, you may be overwhelmed with them. If you shop farmers markets, you'll find these seasonal delights to be very reasonably priced. Either way, now is the time to pack as much of that seasonal goodness into our tummies and freezers as we can!

The first thing that comes to my mind with zucchini is baking bread. Now, there's nothing as delicious or tempting as a fresh loaf of zucchini quick bread. But, you can do so much more with this amazing summer vegetable! So, today, I'm going to give you SEVEN ways to use it and avoid wasting a single morsel.

(Note: My blog posts contain affiliate links. When you make a purchase through one of my links, I will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. Thank you.) 

1. Middle Eastern Stuffed squash

The sauce thickens as it cooks. 

Generally made with koosa squash, this traditional Middle Eastern dish can also be prepared by stuffing small green or yellow summer squash. I made it with a mixture of yellow squash and koosa squash.

The recipe calls for raw rice. I used some leftover cooked rice and packed it really well in the squash shells. I had no problem at all with the rice mixture leaking into the tomato sauce mixture as it cooked. I also added some garam masala to the rice mixture. This traditional Middle Eastern spice mixture is one of my favorite. You'll find it cheapest at your favorite locally owned Middle Eastern store. Amazon also sells an inexpensive version. The spicy, flavorful tomato sauce paired well with the firmer texture of the rice filling.

Cooking in the pan, almost submerged in the tangy sauce.

You can see that the squash is lying down in the pan, while the recipe calls for cooking them more upright in the pan. Because I used leftover cooked rice, the mixture was very firmly in the cavities and I had no problem at all with the rice mixture falling out of the squash. This recipe got two thumbs up from my family!

2. Creamy Yellow Squash Soup

Remember, my goal to to not waste a morsel of the produce. So, I used the interior of the zucchini that I had scraped out for the stuffed squash, and made this creamy yellow squash soup. I did add about a half of a large yellow squash that I had in the fridge, since the texture of the interior of the squash is quite different than that of the fleshier outer inch of the vegetable. The finished soup was creamy smooth and quite delicious. I'm guessing that it would be good served cold, but I liked it hot. I added a few drops of hot sauce before serving. Franks is my favorite because it contains no food coloring and it's very reasonably priced.

Remember, we eat with our eyes. I love the way the red looks on top of the pale yellow soup. Leave the pretty red drops of hot sauce on the top, garnish with fresh dill or another herb before serving.

3. Zucchini chips

I generally make these with gluten free almond flour for the coating. If you are watching your fat intake, then you can substitute Bob's Red Mill 1-to-1 GF flour for an alternative gluten free choice. If you dip the veggies slices first in aquafaba, then it creates a thicker batter coating. You can either slice the zucchini for chips or create pickle spear shaped wedges. My boys prefer the pickle shaped wedges to the thinner chips. I like them both.

4.  Zucchini "mac and cheese"

I created this recipe to showcase my friend, Faith's amazing homemade hummus. Her recipe is hands-down the best hummus I have ever tasted. I simply thinned it, added a few more ingredients and created a cheesy, yellow, vegan sauce to be served atop a bed of cooked spiralized or grated fresh zucchini. My boys beg me to make large batches of this recipe.

5.  Oven Roasted Vegetables

Tammy, over at Nutmeg Notebook is a genius when it comes to creating tasty, flavorful recipes which use no sugar, oil, or salt. This is one, great example. I roasted two large summer squash, a pound of Brussels sprouts, and nearly a head of organic cauliflower.

To keep it interesting, I flavored each vegetable with different spices.

  • THE SQUASH: I chose a basic no-salt seasoning for the squash. I like Kirkland brand no-salt seasoning. You can purchase it at COSTCO. If you don't have a membership, no worries. I order it from Amazon for a very reasonable price and free shipping. This seasoning mix contains a nice amount of fresh cracked black pepper, while you also taste notes of the citrus peel. If you use it, I would add it first, then taste test your dish to see if you even need to add any other spices. Often I find that this spice alone is sufficient. 
  • THE CAULIFLOWER: I used a liberal sprinkling of smoked paprika and a touch of cayenne pepper on the cauliflower. I thought it would mimic the flavors of buffalo wings. It did!
  • THE BRUSSELS SPROUTS: Garlic powder, onion flakes, and a liberal drizzle of California Balsamic's Sweet Heat blend anointed the top of the sprouts. I began roasting Brussels sprouts a few years ago with a couple of tablespoons of balsamic vinegar mixed with them. Try it! You'll never go back to plain Brussels sprouts again! My sister recently brought me a bottle of Napa Valley Naturals Grand Reserve balsamic. It is aged in oak barrels and is so thick that it pours like a syrup. Amazingly sweet and flavorful, you could even use it to top strawberries! 

On a side note, I found the cauliflower marked down to just $1.00 at my favorite ethnic market. To read all about why I recommend shopping at ethnic markets when you are trying to lower your food bills, read, "6 Reasons You Should Be Shopping at Ethnic Stores."

6.  Zucchini Casserole

Credit where credit is due. My 15 year old sous chef son designed and wrote this recipe last year when we had a glut of zucchini on the counter. It's very tasty and easy to make.  Lasagna-like layers are sandwiched between a rich tomato sauce and topped with a sprinkling of nutritional yeast.

7.  Freeze it!

Flash freezing works best for zucchini slices. If they are unusually large circles, I cut them in half before freezing. I give you step-by-step instructions for flash freezing in "Putting Food By For Winter: Freezing".  You can also spiralize or shred it and freeze it in smaller freezer bags for later use.

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Do all to the glory of God, 


Wednesday, September 18, 2019

8 Reasons You Should Buy A Small Home

My husband and I bought our first home in 1992. It had taken us four years to find a suitable house. We began the process by finding out how much the bank would loan us. We looked at this number in astonishment. We - SERIOUSLY - would never loan us that amount of money. If we had followed conventional wisdom and purchased the largest home we could for the maximum allowable amount of money, the results would have been astronomical!

We would have been "house poor". Our house payment would have been such a high percentage of our take home pay, buying things like groceries and toilet paper would have been challenging.

Instead, we mentally and emotionally cut the amount the bank would loan us by 35%. Then reality set in. Our income was so low and our price range so meager that I cried the first time I looked at the numbers on paper. Seriously!

Four years later, after saving a 20% downpayment, we finally scored a 1930, two-bedroom bungalow. We were deliriously happy. It had been built by a local contractor for his daughter and son-in-law as a wedding gift. We were the second owners and the house was in original condition.


Although the house had "good bones", every single room needed an overhaul.  Yet, all my husband and I could see was "POTENTIAL" spelled out in great, big, giant letters across the vistas of our minds.

We set to work to remodel one room at a time as we saved up enough to pay cash for each project. Simultaneously, we paid every additional penny we could find toward the principle of the loan in order to annihilate that mortgage as quickly as humanly possible.

Ultimately, we paid off the mortgage five years later. That's when I proposed a great big, nearly impossible goal - to pay cash for our larger, "forever home".

We were able to leverage the fact that we were completely debt free, stayed in that tiny home, filled it with four sons, saved the equivalent of our monthly mortgage payments, and 12 years later, purchased our current home with cash.

Our average yearly income during those dozen years? $35,000!

I will never regret using the "two-step plan" for buying our dream home. 

  • Yes, it took us nearly 20 years to move up in size and location. 
  • Yes, it was hard. 
  • Yes, we had to live in a small space.
  • Yes, it was nearly impossible to not compare our lives to that of our friends.
  • But, YES, it was worth it! 

Here are 8 Reasons you should consider a starter home.

1. Smaller downpayment

Conventional wisdom, handed down from our grandparents, tells us that a minimum of 20% downpayment is the most prudent way to purchase a home. Even in this day and age, that's sound advice. For an added advantage, we decided to shoot for a 15 year mortgage.

When we began house hunting, we discovered that the price difference between a two bedroom and a three bedroom home was upwards of $25,000 - and that was 25 years ago! It's even more than that now!

2. Smaller mortgage

It clearly follows that if you buy a less expensive home, your mortgage payments will follow suit and be smaller. In fact, often a smaller mortgage means that you can afford to choose a 15 year mortgage instead of a longer, 30 year term. Living in less space often means owning that space a whole lot quicker!

3. Less expensive to heat, cool, and maintain

When it comes to heating and cooling bills, it makes sense that you can maintain a comfortable temperature inside your home for less money. In fact, even if you are cooling your home in the spring and fall using whole house fans, ceiling fans, or window fans, you can achieve comfort in less time when your home is smaller.

We replaced the roof on our first home - twice! After owning it just a couple of months it became clear that a new roof was in order. We bought 20 year shingles and thought we were done. Nope! The shingles suffered from a defect. Eight years later, they were cracking, peeling, and literally disintegrating. We did receive a prorated settlement from the manufacturer. But, the balance to, once again, replace the roof was several thousand dollars. The only comfort we received in the entire process was that if our roof's square footage had been larger, it would have cost us significantly more money.

New home owners don't often think of the cost savings they will achieve in terms of maintenance. Yes, a washer or dryer costs the same no matter what your home's square footage. However, when it comes to big ticket items like furnaces, air conditioners, roofs, and siding, smaller homes win the money race hands down!

4. Lower taxes

Our first lot measured 62 feet by 62 feet. That's it! the house took up much of the space. We had a small front yard and about four feet of back yard. The "up" side was that our yearly tax bill never exceeded $1500 for the nearly two decades that we owned the house. When we moved, our taxes more than doubled.

5. Easier to pay off early

Paying off the mortgage early is like giving yourself a big, fat raise!  In our case, we paid 20% down and chose a 15 year mortgage. Then, I set to work saving every penny I could get my hands on! By prepaying the principle, we were able to eliminate the entire mortgage in just five years. If your money is tight, don't despair!

By paying just one additional payment per year, you can pay off your mortgage several years early, saving thousands of dollars in interest. If you choose to do this, be sure to send in a separate check, marked principle only and then double check as soon at the check clears to be certain that they did not apply the money toward interest or future payments.

Here's where you just can't beat a smaller home. When your payments are already manageable, it's easier to add a little extra every month and get that debt eliminated. I will admit that we were a little haphazard and unorthodox in or prepayment schedule. Basically, whenever I had scrimped, saved, and squirreled away a few, extra thousand dollars, we sent in a check marked "principle only." It worked, but it would probably have been a smoother process if I had been more deliberate in tracking our progress and done it on a regular schedule.

6. If your fortunes reverse, it's easier to keep your home

My husband was laid off several years after we bought our home. We sort of knew that the handwriting was on the wall, so to speak. So, it didn't come as a complete surprise. When his boss called him into the office one of the first things he asked my husband was, "Will you be okay, financially?" Larry replied, "Yes, sir. Our home is completely paid for and we have a very adequate emergency fund."

Even if we had not been debt free, because of how small our mortgage was, our emergency fund would have carried us (mortgage and all) for several months. When you choose to live beneath your means, when disaster strikes, you can more easily come up with solutions for bridging financial gaps.

7. As your needs change, you can often redefine spaces

Bedroom space often becomes a problem for small home owners as their family expands. When looking at a smaller space, you can often create a third bedroom by finishing an attic, insulating a porch, or converting a family room.

We had four sons in a two bedroom home. So, we needed to come up with creative ideas and solutions for sleeping accommodations. Our first home had a walk up attic, which could have been finished into another bedroom. It would have taken several thousand dollars to raise the roof a couple of feet and add dormers, but it certainly could have been done. We chose not to do it. When we simply could not fit a fourth bed into the boys' 11 X 11 foot bedroom, our oldest sons headed to the basement and we gave up our family room, making it into a third bedroom.

8.  Paying for your next home is SO much easier when you have your first home paid for!

After you've paid off a home, honestly, you don't want to do anything but heave great sighs of relief and then spend the next several months sitting on your front porch and glorying in the fact that you really own it. For months, it seemed surreal to not owe anyone a single dime. 

However, being the crazy financial guru that I am, and being pregnant and adding three more sons to our tiny home after eliminating that mortgage, I began to dream of having more space. That's when I came up with my great big, nearly impossible goal to pay cash for our second home. 

It took us twelve years and a whole lot of sacrifice to save the difference between the sale price of our first home and the purchasing price of our second home. I will never forget the feeling of handing over that check, walking out of that house closing, and knowing that we would never have to make a single payment on our home - ever! 

If you enjoyed this post, you may also like: 

Gazelle Intensity: Saving for Home #2
Cash is King: Buy House #2
Paying for Our Home with Nickels and Dimes
Four Ways to Slash Your Budget
Ten More Ways to Slash Your Budget

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Get my FREE 16-page e-book, filled with 21 tips and strategies for lowering your utility bills! Just enter your e-mail address in the "follow by e-mail" link found on the right side of the blog just under my profile. 

Do all to the glory of God,