Every few months I feel like we hit a point where we have to step back as a couple and as a family and determine our work life balance. This has more to do with Weston than me on the actual balancing, but on my end I have to determine how I best support Weston.

As I've mentioned before, Weston does graphic design on the side on top of his full-time job. Most of the time this isn't a big deal. A few hours here, a few hours there, and it's a nice little bit of extra money.

We like to make fun of the non-profit sector and the non-competitive pay they offer, but we do get by, just with less spending money and fun. This side gig of Weston's is helping us pay off our student loans faster and some electrical work we had to get done that we were planning on putting off. Also, it's going to be how we save for a newer car for Weston at some point.

Recently he's had a lot more projects to work on and we're having to determine how many hours can he realistically put in and for how long. What does this look like for our family, and what's the best way to use that money? What loses Weston's focus from the little free time he had before, what doesn't get shifted, how do we deal with this?

Because, let's be honest, it's great extra money. It's necessary extra money. We have more fees coming up to be paid soon for the adoption that we don't have sitting in a bank account anywhere.

We've determined he does as much as possible for a season, maybe that's 6 months, maybe it's a year,  maybe it's until our son comes home to us in almost 2 years. It also means we have to be more intentional about rest. Saying no to things to go to bed earlier since he's usually up really late as it is.
Saying no to things so we can have family time.

That's where we are. Mostly exhausted all the time for different reasons. Thankful for the ways God is providing income for our family.

After we applied to the adoption agency and we were accepted, they sent us all the agreement paperwork to sign and send back with our first installment of fees to them. For India: $2800. So, in a matter of a week, we've spent $3000. I sort of thought all the bigger chunks of change would be slower coming, but thankfully we had about $1600 in the adoption fund specifically saved, and then I pulled the rest from our regular savings.

So, my two cents to anyone who is listening: Save a big chunk of change on the front end. It's not quite as slow moving for that as I'd hoped, at least for India through who we are using. (They've been awesome so far, by the way).

Thankfully, the next part can go as fast or slow as we want it to within reason, so we may slow it down a bit to pull in some more money before moving forward again. 
Since we're finally moved into our new house, we are starting the process of adopting internationally. On my other blog I'll be writing more about everything else it entails, but it's a commitment monetarily (to put it mildly), so I'll be writing about that side of it on here.

Soon we need to sit down and go through our budget together. The goal is for all of Weston's regular work and extra graphic design money to go toward our normal monthly expenses. All my SurveyPlanet money will go toward adoption. In the past they've given me a couple of extra jobs for some extra money, and I'm hoping more of those come my way over the next few years.

We will also be applying for any grants we can find, and hopefully do some community fundraising as well. It takes a village. There are even no-interest loans for adoption.

Adoption costs are so overwhelming when you see the breakdown and the total amount. But if you remember 1. It's worth it. 2. It's not all due at the same time. 3. There are so many options for raising money outside of what you make from your normal job, it all seems more doable and far more encouraging.

So for now, if you are the praying type, pray with us as we decide what agency to go with and decide on a country. We've done our research, but now just need to make a decision to move forward.
I am a stay at home mom and Weston works for a Christian non-profit. He loves his job, loves the mission of the organization, doesn't so much love his salary. But that's what you get with non-profits right?

Before he took this job he'd do graphic design jobs on the side to let his creative side come out. It gave him a little bit of joy and a little extra cash. Now he does it mostly for the cash.

I started doing super part time customer support for a website back in October and it's been perfect for our stage of life. Every now and then they offer some extra stuff that needs to be done and they've been at perfect times for us (buying a house and then remodeling this house).

Why our side gigs work:

1. They fit our personalities - I'm introverted and the idea of having to be on the phone with people, or even having to work several hours at a time is exhausting. Weston loves being creative and loves helping people out that usually wouldn't be able to afford to outsource their graphic design. He loves helping smaller churches, organizations, and friends' start ups even if it means he's charging less than he normally would.

2. They fit our schedules - Weston works in the evenings after Fitz is in bed and doesn't always have a project going on. He's learned to split his time well between the graphic design gigs, Fitz, and me and if he needs to, will just stay up extra late to finish a project. I LOVE getting to stay at home with Fitz everyday. I couldn't be tied to a computer all day or even for an hour at a time and try to watch Fitz at the same time. My job allows me to do all of it from my phone and it's about an hour a day of work spread throughout.

3. They're for extra money, not to make ends meet - While Weston isn't making bank at his full time job, it's enough for us to live off of, give off of, and save for a few rainy day categories. Our side gigs let us celebrate our anniversary, save for retirement, add a benevolence category to our budget, and save for a future adoption (which... are so expensive). For us, if they were to make ends meet, they'd be more of a stress than (mentally) helpful. I'd always be looking for how I could make more money, Weston would be worried about not always having a project lined up.

Tips for choosing a side gig:

1. Have friends and family looking for you - My sister actually found the job I have now. She sent me a text with the information and the rest is history! She knew I couldn't be strapped to my computer or answer phone calls, and that I didn't want something that took a ton of my time.
Weston and my family and our friends are always looking for possible projects for him. In fact, when we moved to Tyler, a friend who Weston had done work for previously came up and offered him a lot of work that lasted through March. It's even developed into more work with the rest of that company.

2. Pick something that actually makes sense - If tedious tasks drive you nuts, don't do surveys for money. If the idea of having strangers in your car terrifies you (like me!), don't drive for Uber or Lyft. Are you really good at grammar and always finding mistakes in stuff you read? Maybe try to get into editing. If you have a knack for making things, try selling it on Facebook or Etsy.

3. Don't expect to make a ton of money immediately - It takes time to build up any business, even if it's just a small side business. Unless you're doing something that is a consistent $___/week/month, whatever, it'll take a little bit of time to build up an inventory, or get your name out there for whatever you're doing.

4. Don't be afraid to try a few different things  - It's okay to fail and decide that whatever you chose isn't for you. Give it a good try though, and if it's still not working out, try something else.


I've always wanted to try the different meal delivery services you see floating around, but when we count on leftovers and our meals to not be $10 a serving, or even $5 a serving, I couldn't ever swing it.

Weston's sister sent us a free 3 meal box and I opted to pay $10 for a fourth meal. We've been eating vegan at home for the past 6 months, but decided to do the classic plan instead of the vegetarian for this.

Pros:
- Oh my gosh, having everything measured out for you in a little box for the meal? That's amazing. I never realized how much time it took to measure things.
- The produce was top notch. Even the avocado we had was perfect.
- None of the recipes took longer than about 30 minutes to cook.
- There was never an insane amount of ingredients.
- The variety of meat dishes: we had shrimp, pork, Italian sausage, and a non-meat meal.
- They said they were for two people, but we always had a third serving leftover.

Cons:
- Even though I didn't pay that much for it, the cost overall. I know you're paying the amazing convenience, but at $10 a serving, I'd rather go out to eat where I don't have to cook or clean.
- We only loved one of the meals from the four.
- The recipes overall seemed kind of blah. Not much seasoning. I think within that pro of there weren't a lot of ingredients, you lost the variety of flavor.

My overall opinion?
I wouldn't do it again. If someone bought it for me, heck ya we'd take it! But I like grocery shopping, I like saving money, and I like finding recipes. I can make better food than these were. And, I'd really like a vegan option. Vegetarian and vegan are far from the same thing.

If you have no time to grocery shop, and can swing $10/serving, you will love HelloFresh. It truly is fresh, great ingredients. Nothing too complicated.
We closed on our house this past Friday. We know going in that we'd need to do some stuff to it before we moved in (read: floors).

The whole house was carpet other than bathrooms and kitchen. The bathrooms have newer tile that we're keeping and the kitchen is also newer. Is any of it our first choice? No, but beggars can't be choosers.

Now for the rest of the floors - all the carpet - it was old. It was dirty. You could see all the paths of where they continually walked. We're doing laminate wood in the living areas and carpet in the bedrooms.

If you've never paid for flooring, it can get expensive. We're trying to cut costs where we can and this ended up with us pulling up all the carpet ourselves. That's surprisingly easy. My sister took Fitz Saturday and Weston and I went to town. He worked mainly on all the tack board while I pulled up carpet. We got both living rooms and the dining room done in about 4.5 hours. Weston has been and will be working every evening for the next two weeks finishing pulling up the carpet in the bedrooms and painting all the areas before they put the new floors down.

That's another thing. Hiring professional painters is insanely expensive. So, we're doing that ourselves as well. Having Fitz means I can't be that much of a help. It's dirty, he wants to crawl everywhere, and so it really means Weston is doing pretty much everything himself.

Pulling out the carpet and disposing of it ourselves using the city's free bulk trash day is saving us about $600 when it's all said and done. Weston is also doing all the quarter round himself to save some money. Painting ourselves is saving us an easy $10,000. Yes. That much.

It's a lot of work, but it's also giving us more pride of ownership. And, well, we don't have the money to have it all professionally done anyway. :)
We're pending on a house here which means we've lost all our joy to the home loan process and searching for the best insurance rates. I've spent more time on the phone than I would care to do in 5 years in the past 3 weeks.

It also means I've been looking at our budget to fit in a higher rent/mortgage than what we're currently paying, an increased utilities and water bill, and home maintenance.

If you google how much you should budget for home maintenance you'll see the 1% rule. Expect your yearly maintenance to be 1% of the cost of the house. Obviously, a lot of things can change this rule. We got our last house for a steal and spent 2-3% on home maintenance. I think this house will be closer to that 1% rule.

It is helpful to save monthly for this category. You may not use any of it for a few months, or just a bit of it to replace some lightbulbs or something. But then a plumbing problem may come and you'll be happy you've saved for it. The call fee is enough to make you want to punch someone before you even add in the work.

Have you found that the 1% rule holds true for you? If not, what do you budget?
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