Meet Kid Entrepreneur, Heather

Kid Entrepreneur Heather

Heather is fairly private and doesn’t like to appear on my blog or Facebook.  She gave permission for this spotlight and even granted a video interview in case it might help another aspiring kid-preneur. 

When you don’t get an allowance and you have wish list too expensive for a birthday or Christmas gift….what’s a tween to do?

Around here we call it work.  When Heather (11) decided she needed an IPod, she asked me what kind of jobs I was hiring for at the moment.  I listed some of the usual: deep scrubbing the kitchen floor, cleaning the laundry room, organizing my office, cutting down overgrown brush.  She passed.

I happily hired other pleasantly motivated children to do those jobs.  They counted their money in front of her, and she thought a little more about her situation.

She came and found me where I was working, and sprawled across my bed.  “Mom, how much do IPods cost?”  We looked them up at the Apple Store & Amazon and compared those prices with buying used from Swappa.  Swappa won out and I assured her while the price still looked high, it was within reach if she learned to work.

I offered again to let her to clean the kitchen floor. This time she took it. Then she asked, “What ELSE can a kid do for money? I mean, besides cleaning?”  We had a good talk about bringing value to the market place by freeing someone else make more money, or by doing something that they can’t or don’t want to do themselves.

Then we brainstormed a list of things that Heather (at 11) could do that might be valuable to someone else.  She picked her favorite thing and we wrote up a business plan.  She decided to offer her services as a mother’s helper: $5 an hour for complete child entertainment while the mother worked somewhere else in the home.  She packed a bag of books and activities and we talked about possible discipline scenarios; cooking options if she was working during meal time; and how to handle multiple children at once.

Then I put a note out on Facebook announcing her skills, experience, rate, and availability. Within 24 hours she was booked for the summer with 4 different clients each requesting weekly or biweekly service.  She had so much business that she had to hire her older sister to fill in for her on occasion.  In a month she saved enough to buy a used IPod and kept working anyway.  It felt good to be useful to an adult, to be meaningful in a child’s life and to earn money doing it.  She came home from work skipping and smiling and energized.

Here’s a rarely seen video interview with Heather.  I apologize in advance that the sound is so terrible.  I was sitting closer to the mic than she was, there were kids playing on the playground behind my house making background noise that was easy to ignore in person, and this was the first day of getting a voice after a bad case of laryngitis.  BUT better imperfect and done, than never done at all.

This is Day 5 of our 31 Day series, Kids and Money

3 Ways to Pay the Kids

Allowance Vs Commissions

Allowance vs Commissions….it doesn’t matter at our house, because either way you look at it, the money comes from the family budget.  When your budget is super tight, that’s not an option.

Just so we’re talking about the same things:

  1.  Allowance is money kids get for living.  They are usually paid by the week or the month and use that to practice money management. Kids with allowances are usually expected to pay for their own entertainment, school lunches and sometimes clothing too.
  2. Commission is an allowance tied to performance. Kids earn their commissions by doing all their chores and having good behavior.  It’s usually a set amount similar to an allowance, but they might not get it all if their performance isn’t up to par.

My kids get neither.  We pay one child $1 a week for trash and another $3 to mow our yard. Occasionally I offer a quarter here and there to do some of the harder chores that are above and beyond their normal job description.  Split that however you like between 6 kids and they don’t have enough money to learn how to manage it well.  If they drop a quarter in the plate at church, it took a lot of work to earn that.

If I have a job that I would have hired an adult to do (because I had the budget for it) and one of my children could do that job, I offer it do them.  I treat it like a job interview and if they act lazy or less than thrilled I don’t hire them and offer it to someone else.  Those types of jobs don’t come up a lot, so our kids have remained relatively broke (though are usually enthusiastic about an opportunity.)

I want my kids to know how to handle money. To know how, they have to practice.  In order to practice, they actually need money.  It either has to come from me, or someone else.

3. We aren’t into begging people to pay our kids for things they wouldn’t normally pay for, so we taught them marketable skills and sent them out to the real world to bring in money apart from our family budget. So far it is working. Its harder on us while none of them are drivers, because we have to taxi them to their work.  The hassle is worth it.

Next week I’m going to interview each one and let them tell you about their businesses (or future plans for one) and all the details.  It’s going to be fun, because you never know what kids are going to say.

Do your kids get an allowance or commission?  How do you teach them money management?

This is day 3 of our series: 31 days of Kids and Money

The Cost of Being House Poor

I want to introduce you to a long time friend, Jennifer Dickson.  She and her husband, Andrew, are risking everything to change the world for YOU.  Their dream for you is to never owe another utility bill and to live in a paid for house so you can spend your income and your time with your family.  With that introduction, I’m going to let her tell you more:

Acre Designs

It was a typical morning last summer when I, pregnant and late to work (where I’d recently been told it would be unlikely for me to reduce my 50+ hour work weeks once baby #2 arrived), backed our 10-year-old car into our 15-year-old car. After working through lunch and spending the customary two hours of family time with our toddler that evening, my husband and I agreed that something had to change. But how could we make a drastic career shift and still pay the mortgage?


A quick survey of most any family budget will reveal that the biggest monthly expense is housing and housing-related costs.  We take it for granted that mortgage debt is a part of life, and that utility costs will always rise. But it hasn’t always been this way!

In the past 50 years the American home has doubled in size, energy consumption and percentage of income.  While families used to spend 17% of their income on housing, we now spend 35% – and that’s at all income levels, and despite a growing number of two-income families.  It seems that as soon as we start to get ahead of housing expenses, we go shopping for a bigger model!


It’s no wonder so many of us can relate to feeling “house poor.” On an individual level this translates to less time, less disposable income and less flexibility to pursue, say, a different career, a new venture, a missionary opportunity or a travel experience. At the national scale we’re drowning under nearly $12 trillion of mortgage debt, with growing numbers of the population priced out of the housing market altogether.

This is what led my husband, an industrial designer and interior architect, and me, an architect, to found Acre Designs.  We are a startup creating NetZero homes – meaning homes with NO energy bills – for the same cost as traditional construction. We are able to build in about half the time of a standard house, using super-insulated panelized walls and roofs that install in a few short days. Acre homes require a fraction of the typical mechanical and electrical systems, and we make up the remainder with a small solar PV system, allowing the homes to produce as much energy as they consume.


Grocery Shrink readers already understand the power of controlling food costs. Imagine the life that opens up when you can control housing costs as well! We think everyone should be able to expect more from their biggest investment, and Acre homes make that possible.

The average homeowner will save $250-300 each month on energy bills. If those savings are applied toward an accelerated mortgage, the savings are astronomical – well over $400,000 over the life of a typical 30-year mortgage! This is a game-changer for most families, and it’s a solution that’s currently unavailable on the market.

To make all of this possible, we’re fixing problems throughout the entire design and construction industry. Currently building in Kansas City, next year we’ll begin to integrate online tools with a network of builders, allowing us to build Acre homes throughout the country.


Step 1 is to build our NetZero prototype, the Axiom House, in Kansas City. We will use it to demonstrate and document Acre’s revolutionary construction processes, sensors to collect data on actual home energy performance, and the budget to prove we can build at an affordable pricepoint. We’re currently crowdfunding on Indiegogo to make the prototype project possible – visit our campaign, donate and share today!  Each backer can choose from several great rewards, and will help us bring this revolutionary solution to market!

Learn more, and back our campaign, at

P.S.  Angela here–These pics show some of their modern versions of homes, but they have all styles including log cabin and more traditional looking homes.

Homemade Pumpkin Bagels Video Tutorial

Homemade Pumpkin Bagels

Tee hee.  This video makes me giggle.  My family doesn’t quite get why it’s so funny, but they enjoy that I enjoy it.  When I watch the replay and Grant (4) dumps the pumpkin on the counter, I roll on the floor laughing and then back it up and watch it again.  Maybe because I was there for the original moment, trying to balance a camera and helping Grant with the cooking at the same time.  How the pumpkin on the counter shocked us both and I got the giggles, which I tried to hold in making weird background noise.  Grant, relieved that I wasn’t upset said, “We better clean that up.”   Which made me giggle all the more.

After we made quite a mess but got most of the stuff in the bowl, I said “What should we do now?”  I thought Grant would say, “Let’s clean up!”  but he said “SMILE.”  Which made me giggle all over again.

This boy is the joy of my days.  The sleepless nights, messes, tantrums, and battles are all worth it.  I had the option to spend this year in a classroom blessing other people’s children, while I earned money that my family needed.  I would have had to let someone else be with Grant during the day, and I just couldn’t.  It’s his last full year at home and I fought for my chance to be the one to clean up his messes and talk him down from the ledge of toddler insanity. It was selfish and selfless at the same time.  He needs me as much as I need him and there’s something priceless about that.

For those who prefer a written recipe here you go:

pumpkin bagels 009

Pumpkin Bagels

  • 2/3 cup warm water
  • 1/2 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 Tablespoon active dry yeast

Put all ingredients in the order listed in your bread machine.  Set for the dough cycle.  When the cycle is ended, divide the dough into 10 balls.  Poke your finger through the center and make a large hole.  Let the bagels rise for an hour or until doubled. Pour 8 cups of water into a stock pot, boil bagels for 1 1/2 minutes, turning once.  Remove to a dish towel to drain.  Place bagels on a greased baking sheet.  Brush with egg white and sprinkle with a little sugar.  Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes or until golden on the top.  Cool on a wire rack.

Back from Paradise

Last week, Darren and I went to Paradise Island, Bahamas with a trip we earned working with my MomCeo team and paid for by Melaleuca.  We had a gorgeous room with a lush view and $480 in room credit to buy whatever we wanted.  Food at the Atlantis resort can be very expensive ($50-$100 a plate.)  We knew this because Dave Ramsey brought us here 10 years ago with the Total Money Makeover Contest (has it been that long already?!!!) We arrived with a plan.

To help stretch our room credit and minimize our personal expenses, we packed protein powder and granola bars for breakfast.  For lunch we ate poolside with our room credit (which was only $15 a plate) and then walked over the bridge to Nassau Island

bridge to paradise islandto buy inexpensive authentic Bahamian dinners at the Fish Fry Shacks.

fish fry shack nassau

conch fritters

Famous Conch Fritters

chef hair net

Our Fish Fry Chef and his amazing hair net

By the end of the week we had saved so much money we had enough room credit to pay for an extra night in the hotel plus buy a couple of EXPENSIVE workout shirts with the Atlantis logo.
snorkel starfish nassau

On Thursday we took a bus to Nassau to go snorkeling.  One of our guides spotted a starfish from the top deck, dove in to grab it and handed it to us for a photo op.  Snorkeling in the clear Bahama water is my favorite.  One of our dive stops had a shipwreck that we could swim to and check out.  The last one, they baited nurse sharks to come and swim beneath us so we could observe them closely. So cool. (Nurse sharks don’t eat people, but they might nibble on your feet if you don’t have on flippers.  Feet kind of look like fish to a nurse shark..but are not tasty.)

blown glass sculpture atlantis

A lit hand blown glass sculpture in the hotel.

glass sculpture

A hand blown glass light fixture.  It was gold glitter glass…pictures do not do it justice.

Atlantis royal towers

The famous Royal towers.  We stayed in the west wing on the first floor. The fist floor rooms are handicap accessible and much larger than normal rooms.  They have walk out sitting areas in green space and wet zone bathroom areas with zero entry showers.  (Sorry I didn’t take a lot of pictures, just enjoyed life outside the view finder.)atlantis fountain

One of the fountains near the entrance to the recreation area.atlantis 3

One of the many conservation areas for marine life.
Ebenezer Methodist church

Most of our friends left on Sunday.  We saved $200 by staying an extra day and not flying on the weekend.  We used our room credit for the extra night and walked into town to experience the Bahamian culture and worship with the folks in the Ebenezer Methodist Church.
Grant missed me

When we got home Grant was glued to my side. He snuggled beside me as I caught up on work and took part in a team conference call, then fell asleep in bliss that we were all home and together again.Me and Sue bootcamp on the beach

Meeting team member, Sue, for the first time on bootcamp on the beach.  Bootcamp A.  Run a 1/4th mile B. 30 pushups C. 30 sit-ups D. 30 squats REPEAT 4 times with a final finisher of 30 burpees.  I’m sweaty in this photo but better off than Sue, because I modified EVERYTHING and only did 3 rounds and no burpees. Sue did EVERYTHING and is such a rock star.  I have 2 years left to make a full recovery from Subclinical Adrenal Failure–so I’m being careful. I never want to end up in that bad way again.

I haven’t felt so healthy and energetic in a long time.  We got plenty of rest, tons of exercise, never missed my vitamins, and all the food I ate was full of the freshest yummies veggies, fruits, and fish.  This was the first time in 5 years that Darren and I had a few days together without the kids.  There were times I missed them fiercely, like when we saw the sawfish with his chainsaw looking snoz, and when we were racing down one of the 8 super fun water slides on the resort–that I knew the kids would have LOVED.  Thank goodness for Facetime and free wifi.

Anyhoo, so that’s why the blog has been quiet, and won’t be any longer.  I have a few things I can’t wait to share in September and in October I’m taking part in the 31 day challenge.  The theme here will be 31 days of Kids and Money.  You’ll want to
subscribe in the side bar now, so you don’t miss a post.

31 days of kids and money green

Coming in October!

Why We Wait

why I wait

How long are you willing to wait to save a few bucks? I’ve been asking myself that lately.  I was ready to paint the boys’ bedroom in July, before school started.  Except my home repair envelope was empty.  I hosted a garage sale in August and earned enough money to buy paint if it’s on sale.

That sale is supposed to happen this Labor Day Weekend.  By waiting I’ll save around $40.  Waiting also means I could either move the boys out of their room until I leisurely finish it;  This would displace them while they are trying to get good sleep and be organized for going to school,  OR I could push myself and paint their room and put it back together over the 3 day weekend.

The pushing sounded like a good plan a month ago, before I knew how much other fun we’d have opportunities for this weekend.  It’s going to be a blast of family experiences with some little pockets of time for painting smooshed in.  I’ll need to be efficient.

I’m still feeling optimistic though. I took the popcorn ceiling removal, skim coating and ceiling painting off the schedule this time.  I decided I could do that part later.  Maybe NEXT summer so they aren’t disrupted during the school year.


I’m optimistic because I’m thinking about all the ways I can bribe my teenagers to help with the painting. My first plan is try the Tom Sawyer method and to make it so much fun that they can’t stay away.  If that doesn’t work, I’m going to try candy…and then money.  If all that fails I’ll remind them of the hours of labor it took to bring them into the world.  That should do it.

Living debt free can be hard. Sometimes we wait for things or do without.  We make hard decisions about what we can and can’t do.  Sometimes we face criticism of friends and family.  It’s hardest when we see other people enjoying the immediate gratification of debt, while we wait. Since we aren’t there for their private moments when the consequences of debt are felt, it’s hard to remember they still exist.

It’s impossible to rightly judge another person’s choices unless we are there, loving their family as much as they do and knowing every detail of their income and expenses.  We can’t really know what we would do in their shoes without being in them.

Recently I had to make a tough financial decision that made some friends close to me question my faith. The decision was painful, but the criticism was more painful.  They thought I should move ahead  and commit to something that I couldn’t pay and trust that the money would come.  Since the money wasn’t there, we chose to live within our means.

As hard as waiting and doing without can be, living with debt is WORSE.  It’s a panic that is there all the time.  An awful feeling that becomes so familiar you don’t realize it’s there until it’s gone. We choose freedom.

That’s why we wait.

House Updates and Clip-on Lenses for an iphone

Last week I started back to school with teacher meetings.  I usually only teach 1 hour a day, but the week of teacher meetings I’m at school quite a bit more.  I don’t mind.  The staff is fun to be with and they fix us breakfast :)  Really yummy breakfast.

I had big plans for blog posts last week…but I underestimated the amount of stuff I had to do in the amount of time I had to do it.  You know how it goes I’m sure.  We finished the week with a family gathering at our house.  Perhaps this is a good time to note that I am now 39. I love that we have a big family on my husband’s side.  Just his parents, his sisters and their kids (plus us) is 29 people!  My house has been a dirty disaster for months and I was excited for the motivation to clean it up.

I only yelled a couple of times.  I find it helps if I say, “I’m trying not to freak out, but I’m worried about… ” The kids are great about seeing me as human and pitching in to help before I get completely overwhelmed.  If I am getting overwhelmed, I just say “I am getting overwhelmed.”  Everyone can relate to feelings like that.  It’s so much better than screaming and storming around like a 2 year old which still happens except less.

Sometimes I hand the kids something and tell them to hang it in the closet and when I walk by the room I see it in the middle of the floor instead, like they stood in the doorway and threw it in. Please tell me stuff like that happens in every house.  We are working on it.  If I were going to be completely honest, I’d have to admit I still stand in the doorway and throw stuff into my office.


My mom got me a really cool gift for my birthday.  I see they have a magnetic version too.

These little lenses clip onto a phone camera and make the pictures a lot better. My favorite is the wide angle lens.  It allows me to take pictures that are much closer to what I see with my eyes.  The macro lens is cool too.  It allows the camera to focus really close up and get amazing details–like fingerprints on your own finger.

Here’s a shot of the boy’s bedroom without the lens


And with the wide angle lens.  This was a low light situation which is why it’s a bit blurry.


And while I’m being completely random, here’s the inspiration photo for their new bedroom.  We are buying paint on labor day weekend when it’s on sale  :). I’m excited and overwhelmed with the to do list at the same time. The window on the left is a mirror.  It’s the only thing I haven’t purchased yet for the room….I hope it’s not crazy expensive.

Brandon and Grant's Room Gray rugby stripe

I’m not pushing myself to get done quickly.  The goal is to have the room painted and the boys sleeping in there again over the holiday weekend so their school routine isn’t disrupted.  Then I’ll piece the rest of the stuff together as it happens.

The other side of the room will be a saw horse table lego station with toy towers on either side.  I built the towers this week.  I’m not a great builder, but with a few tips from my husband they came out pretty good. I forgot to stain the book shelf…I’ll do it later. The slide out bins are from Ikea’s Trofast line.


While we were building stuff, we put some more touches in the girl’s bathroom.

If you’ll remember the before:

Girl's bathroom before

Here’s where we are now.  When I get more things finished I’ll do a detailed post on just this room. The shower curtain is lowering back down as soon as I can bribe my husband to move it.  I thought I would love it high, but I really don’t.


Here’s a close-up of the towel hooks.  I used the chop saw all by myself after I saw my husband do it once.  I bragged to him how I did it all by myself.  He responded with, “You WHAT!??? I would have liked to have been there for your first time.”  I guess those things can be dangerous.


The hook on the left came with the house.  It used to be green and I rub and buffed it gold.  The other 3 are from Hobby lobby.  They were rusty some kind of metal and I gave them the gold treatment too.  I’m afraid the gold wax will rub off onto the towels.  I’ll let you know how it goes before I can recommend it.

Here’s proof that I’m a sawing monkey.  The compound sliding mitre saw is my new favorite toy.


A lot of things on my Honey-Do list have been transferred to my own list now that I have some skills.




How to Prep Ahead for an Easy Week

How to prep ahead for an easy week

We went camping this spring to visit my sister-in-law and her family in Colorado.  To save money, we cooked our own food at the tent site on a portable propane stove.  It was the EASIEST week of cooking that I’ve ever had, even though I was away from home, living in a tent, and water was a hike away.

It was easy, because before we left, I spent 2 hours prepping all our meals.  I premixed pancake batter into a gallon bag and froze it.  Mixed up casseroles, combined meat with herbs and spices, all ready to dump and reheat.

I figured out some things that didn’t work so well, like putting dry pasta into liquid and freezing it (mush city.) But most of the meals were fantastic.  I thought to myself, why not prep like this every week?  2 hours of work is worth a calm and organized week. Right?

Once you have your meal plan and shopping list, generating a prep ahead guide just takes a few minutes.

Scroll through your ingredient list and action steps in your recipes.  Highlight anything that could be done ahead.  Here are some suggestions:

1.  Cook Rice

2.  Boil pasta (Bag and refrigerate)

3. Peel and Chop veggies (except potatoes or sweet potatoes which turn dark.)

4. Cook and chop chicken

5. Brown hamburger or similar

6. Combine dry ingredients for quick breads or yeast breads. (pizza dough, muffins, pancakes, cornbread etc.)

7. Marinate Meats

8. Combine crock pot dishes into baggies, ready to dump and heat.

9. Boil Eggs

10. Fry bacon

Remember, not everything that can be done ahead HAS to be done ahead.  Focus on the tasks that would have needed to be done on your busiest days.  And tasks, like batch cooking rice, that cover more than one day.   As you get used to the prep ahead sessions, you can add more tasks a bit at a time to prevent overwhelm.

Step 1 to a meal plan you’ll actually follow

Step 1 to a meal plan you'll actually follow

Drumroll please……Here are the survey results!


If you don’t meal plan, you are in the majority.  I didn’t for years either.


When I lived in the country and could only get out to shop once a month, I planned by the month.  Now that I’m back in the city, planning for the week is much easier.  Most of the comments said it was too overwhelming to think about more than one week at a time.  I hear that!


The majority of readers struggle with ideas and then actually following a plan.  I’m no different!  I spend a lot of hours each week searching for new, cost effective, and family friendly ideas–because that’s my job.  It’s still hard to find the time to put a meal together at the end of a busy work day.  I’m always searching and testing to find new ways to simplify this without sacrificing health or budget.


This was the most skipped question.  I think that means the majority of readers are looking for traditional foods with a healthy edge.  Most readers are concerned with fitness and weight management and look for lower carb, higher protein options.  We are no different at our house, yet with 6 growing kids and a skinny husband it’s a challenge to juggle my needs with theirs.

STEP ONE to a meal plan you will actually follow:

Get a blank calendar and make note of the days that you are CRAZY.  If this is the day you need a crock pot meal put a yellow highlighter over the square and if you need something as easy as pancakes (Yes, for dinner) then highlight it pink (too busy in the mornings to do crock pot.)  Leave normal days plain.

I use the calendar program from Microsoft Publisher to meal plan, but you can use a Dollar Tree printed calendar (with puppies or cupcakes) if you prefer.


Then search Pinterest or Yummly (or the recipe section of this site) for the types of recipes you need for your special days and write the titles on your calendar in pencil.

Even though I plan one week at a time, I still record my plans in a month calendar.  That way I can easily see what we had recently and flip back for ideas.

Later this week, I’ll show you how to take the organization a step further so you can easily see what can be prepped ahead in a couple of hours on the weekend.

AND several of you left comments on the survey that will be fun to look at more closely too.

P.S.  Here’s a short video if you want to see details about how I do it. 

When a Meal Plan is Important

When you need a meal plan

When I was a young wife, I didn’t meal plan.  I didn’t WANT to meal plan.  I have a crazy talent of opening the fridge taking out a few bits of that and a smackerel of this and pulling it into a delicious meal.  Some people do cross-words to stretch their mind, I prefer to cook from little bits of nothing.   Doing this saved us THOUSANDS in food costs over the years.  I had little waste, tons of variety, and usually it was yummy.  I shopped for the things that were the best value and most nutritious and made stuff with what I could find.

Fast forward a few years (err 15….) throw in 6 kids, 4 schools, 3 jobs, and all the trappings — my mind is mush.  On more than one occasion I’ve opened my fridge, seen the little bits of nothing and crawled into bed with a bowl of cereal leaving the family to figure it out.

I’m not proud of it.  I’m just admitting it happened. 

When life is so busy that I can’t remember your middle name, it’s time to have a meal plan.  With a meal plan you I a shopping list that allows me to shop once for the whole week.  With a couple of prep hours on the weekend that the rest of the week is doable.

Today was the first day of school for 3 of my kids, plus I hosted a garage sale for 14 families and was running all day.   It was an ideal “hide in bed with cereal” day, but instead we had slow cooked stew and biscuits at 5.  The difference was a plan and ingredients on hand that I could just dump in the crock pot in a couple of minutes.

If you are struggling with getting dinner together or life is crazy busy, I’d like to give you some support.  Will you answer 6 questions for me?