Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Free and Frugal Things to do in Hot Springs, Ar.




Last night I was looking over my old blog from about ten years ago and an article I wrote on visiting Hot Springs for under $20 a day per person. Coming home yesterday I was thinking of all the things I like to do in my hometown that don't cost much and how I should share with others. So here is my updated list.

When I have people come visit there are many things I share with them that are not on your local websites because there is so much beauty around Hot Springs. Here is my quick list.


  1. The Stueart Pennington Memorial Running of the Tubs, the bath tub races are free and so much fun. This community event was thought up by my late step father and runs every spring or early summer. https://www.facebook.com/RunningoftheTubs/
  2. Hike: Go to the visitors center for maps. Hot Springs has more trails than you could ever imagine for those who tire easy to the adventure seeker. My favorite hike is the trail at Lake Catherine to the falls. There are trails downtown, trails at Lake Catherine, Degray, Ouachita and more.
  3. Go swimming at a local beach. My favorite beach is in Hot Springs Village, Balboa beach,  but you will need to be a guest or get a day pass to go. It's so clean and nice. I feel like I'm in Florida when I am there. 
  4. The Village also has amazing hiking trails. 
  5. Downtown you can walk the Promenade, visit the Fordyce Bath House (My dad gives tours here), walk bathhouse row, visit the park at Arlington Lawn, stick your hands in the Hot Springs, and remember to bring your glass water bottles and jugs. Hot and cold springs abound and the water is free. Go to the visitors center for a map of the springs. 
  6. Take a drive to Hot Springs and West Mountain located in downtown! This is free, beautiful and fun. 
  7. Have a picnic at the Gorge, also part of the National Park and free.
  8. Go swim at one of the many beaches at Lake Ouachita.
  9. It's not free but you have to eat so pick up lunch and beef jerky at "Burls' Country Store" when visiting the beaches at Lake Ouachita.
  10. Visit the local library. Need a cool place to take a bathroom break, rest, check your email, check out our local library. It's fantastic. The kids library is amazing and everyone can enjoy a little quite time. They also offer lots of free events from Blue Grass Music to movie night. 
  11. Tuesdays is $5 movie night and cheap popcorn and cokes at the Cinema 10 in HS. Our movie theaters are not truly that up to date but they do the job and they are clean and friendly. You will need to give your phone and email to get the movie pass. 
  12. Flea market shop. Hot Springs has lots of great flea markets and antique shops. Google and visit for cheap take a ways for home. 
  13. When my kids were little we food packed when we traveled. It would be worth your while to rent a house, condo or hotel with a kitchen. Pack your food or visit our local Health Food Store "Good Earth" and pick up food, salads, soup, and goodies. Eat lunch and dinner at home and get lunch out. Lunch is much cheaper than dinners in Hot Springs. Places that have lunch specials that are good are La Hacienda, Rolando's, Hunan's, Cracker Barrel, and I am sure there are more but these are some good ones. I love Pho Hoang My, it's  great for dinner and very inexpensive. At La Hacienda I would recommend sharing the La Hacienda Nacho's. Cracker Barrel is also pretty good and inexpensive and has something for everyone. 
  14. We have many great city parks as well. My favorite is Energy Park for walking, fishing, and playing on the playground. Hollywood park is amazing too. 
  15. Visit Lake Charlton outside of Hot Springs. It's a cold spring and has waterfalls, picnic areas and ice cold water perfect for a hot southern day. 

Please feel free to ad to this list and thank you for reading! 

Monday, April 30, 2018

My Previous Single Life Retirement Plan

So I was proofing my own blog and had the thought that some people may see my "Retirement Plan' blog and think "Well yeah you are married with two incomes of course you can do it". However, I was on this plan to retire by 55 before I got married. Prior to Jim and I getting married we were both raising teens and or had kids in college living at home. It was tough, really tough. I still had a retirement plan even though my average income with spousal support and child support was less than $45,000 a year and that was with me working two jobs, working about sixty hours a week.

Here is what it looked like.

I had a car, one debt, and owed my lawyer enough to buy a nice used car within 18 months of my divorce. I also had a house payment that was more than about 40% of my income. I wanted to keep the house until all my kids had graduated high school.

What was my plan and how did that feed into where I am now.

Year one as a single parent I was flat broke, we purchased nothing and I simply paid my bills monthly praying for money for the next month. I took every job I could and marketed my business as much and as cheaply as I could.

Year two through four: I grew my business and took a big loss on the way. During this time I paid off my car with the profit from my business, paid off my lawyer and paid off that debt. In total it was over $34,000 in four years. I am not actually sure how I did it to be honest, I just put my head down and paid it and every time I had a surplus I paid on debt. During that time I put $100 a month in my IRA, and was very frugal.

Year 5: I sold my car and made about $10,000 total. *I forgot to mention I was able to help two of my kids buy cars for about $2500. With my $10000, I used $5000 to make some repairs to my house and put $5000 down on a new car with a warranty. I do not recommend buying new cars, my situation was this. My job had put me traveling and I needed a car that was reliable and could get through bad weather and made me feel safe. I often found myself driving through rural country so I decided to get a slightly used Outback. When I got to the dealership the used Outbacks were more than a new Crosstrek. I purchased the Crosstrek and put $5000 down, I've paid extra on it for three years and now only owe $11000. It will be paid off soon with the sell of my house and that is my only debt. I haven't regretted it because it has saved me on some dirt roads and creeks in Arkansas and Mississippi and through some storms and slick roads. The peace of mind has been worth it. My payment is also far less than I could afford and it has never hurt. MPG is almost double my previous car and insurance is the same. Effectively it's cost me $150 a month more to drive the newer car. The peace of mind has been worth it. I always new it would be paid off early.

Year 5 through 7: I stayed debt free besides the car, got another contract job. I'm basically killing myself working right now and trying to get to a point where I don't have to do this.

So...the point was "Retirement Single" where I was and where I would be if I was still single.

I would be at this time, seven years in:
1. Have a house for sale with the plan to move into a much smaller and cheaper house. *I had found one I wanted for $94,000 which would have put my payment after the down less than $500 a month with taxes and insurance.
2. I would have paid off my car with the sell of the house.
3. I would probably continue to work as hard as I am now because my focus has shifted to being with my husband.
4. My expenses are more with my husband because we live on a big farm. I would have had 1/2 of that with my son and I. I'm happy with where I am but this would have been the difference.
5. I would have probably been driven by need and worry to be quite frank to continue to work hard and save more and more so that I could still "Choose" my work by 55. My wants, needs and desires have changed since getting married.

If I was single on $40,000 a year it would look like this after the sale of the house.
After taxes $2900 a month.
1. House payment with taxes and insurance: $500
2. No other debt
3. Continue to contribute to an IRA and maybe even more.
4. Build an Emergency Fund up to thee months, six months and then one year.
5. I'd work on paying extra on the house note to pay it off early.
6. Utilities and wife: $300 (I would not have cable only Roku)
7. Health, auto and life insurance. I was getting free insurance when I was single, I imagine it would stay that way, auto is $80 a month and life was about $18 total less than $100.
8. Food $500 (I am obsessive about eating healthy)
9. Gas is covered and phone with my business expenses, actually so is car insurance.

MY total house payment, utilities and food would be about $1300 at the high end.
My car insurance, health insurance, phone, and wifi would actually come out as a tax deduction and off the top.
I would have approx $1600 left to pay on house and save and would probably use a little extra to help my kids and buy things I need or want.

You don't need a lot when you keep your expenses low and get out of debt. Debt is killing Americans. 50% of Americans cannot come up with $400 for an emergency.

If you are struggling look into a Dave Ramsey plan today. Change your mind set. Google Financial Freedom, watch You Tube videos. There are tons of people out there on $30,000 with no debt getting by comfortably. It's all about patience, mindset and being creative.

Love and Light,
C

Sunday, April 29, 2018

My Five Year Retirement Plan

Today I told someone I wanted to retire in five years. That's the first time I have said it out loud. Actually for many years I knew I wanted to retire by fifty five and I feel like I am on my way to doing that, but I've been on this track for seven years now. Now don't get me wrong retirement for me does not mean not working it means not having to work and choosing my work. By nature I am a creative entrepreneurial type person. Since I was a teenager I've been working as a contractor or doing my own business. Early on at the age of 15 I was doing contract modeling jobs  and bartering hair cuts and color for pictures in those hair magazines. In my early twenties I started a pet sitting, plant watering, check the mail business and then went on to have an essential oil blending company before it was cool back in the early nineties. I served over fourteen stores with that little business making bath salts and oils in my kitchen.
As my kids became toddlers I had to let that go and cleaned houses, something I had done off and on since I was fourteen. Until I sat down to write this I didn't really realize that I've pretty much always had a side gig, or what we used to call a second job! At thirty I started teaching yoga as a contractor, at thirty seven I opened a yoga school (back in 2008) and today, ten years later,  I still own that business. During all of this I was often an employee for long stretches of time (part time usually) and always had my own business. I ceased being an employee in 2012. For the past six years I've been solely self employed. Why am I giving you all this information? Because my point is that there is always a way to make extra money. Look around at what people need and match your talents with that or simply find something you don't mind doing or you are good at and do it on the side. The hard part is being self motivated when you don't feel like working. If this is you then you might need to actually find a second job for a while as an employee. Making money usually happens more so when you are not the employee but the owner.

So my five year plan is actually a plan I've had since I was forty and I'm now 47, so it's more like a 12 year plan. At age forty, broke, divorced and the mother of four surly teens I decided "I am going to retire at 55" or at least I will be able to choose the work I do and when I do it.

Before I go any further I would like you to know that I started this plan when I was making less than $17,000 a year, and my now husband wasn't making much more. We both were going through divorces and job changes. I paid off all my debts prior to marriage (except my home) with less than $40,000 a year in income.

The plan is simple.
1. Pay off all debts including the house.
2. Have plenty saved and live off some of the interest and side work as I choose.
3. Now that I am married my timeline has gotten smaller, my husband retires in five years and we will live mostly on his retirement which should be around $3000 a month. Not much for some people I know but let me tell you how that will work here in a few...stay with me.
4. Upgrade to two newer cars with low mileage within the next five years that will last a good long time.

1. Now we will have the car and tractor paid off by this fall when we sell my house in town.
Our income varies greatly but we have been working hard and have both grown our businesses at a good rate and based on the past three years we should be able to pay the farm off in 2 to 4 years. We borrowed only what we needed and paid for cash as we built it as much as we could, therefor we have a lot of equity right now. We also got it to bank satisfaction and closed the loan. We could have borrowed more but we chose to pay for finishing the farm as we worked and had cash. So six months after we moved in we just got a driveway! Next is staining the outside, then hopefully landscaping, we will pay cash.

2. We should be able to save one years income within the next two years (I have a good start on it) and still pay off everything.  We live on about 1/2 our income the rest goes to savings and debt.

3. I have a decent IRA and Jim has retirement and Social Security. I put about $1200 to $1500 a year in my IRA (my focus is more on debt freedom than the IRA).

4.  We should be able to save enough to buy two newer cars within five years.

I'm not going to give all the figures here but suffice it to say that Jim and I make less than $85,000 a year with two incomes. I drive a three year old Subaru and he drives a 14 year old Ford.
We live within our means and don't spend a lot of money.
It's really simple, we just don't spend. We always ask ourselves "Is this a need or a want?". Sometimes we allow ourselves a want but we keep our goal in mind.
We rarely buy new clothes, jewelry, or much of anything else.
Most of our money goes to taking care of our farm and our animals and food. Some goes to medical expenses as needed.
We have a gym membership and use if often, it's only $45 a month for both of us.
We have satellite T.V. and I hope to convince him to do an antenna and ROKU once our contract is up, at that our satellite is only $60 a month.
We often choose our spending around tax deductions since we own businesses. If we need to travel we try to make it around something we can do for business so we can take a deduction.
We also pay for many of our expenses out of our deductions like a large part of miles we drive (by combining trips with work trips). Need to go to Office Depot for work, get personal stuff done there too.


So by the time Jim is 65 and I am 53 we should be debt free and have a good savings with a couple of years of income in the bank plus and IRA and retirement.
He will get approx $3000 a month.
Interest on the savings will sit there and accrue we shouldn't need it.
I'll likely go to part time and still earn about $1500 a month (I am a contractor so I can pick and choose but I'll be pickier) If I need off I'll take off. My book sales (I am an author of one published book at this time and several others in the works) should generate some income and I'm working now on passive income with online material (building a store with my many years of materials from my work). This will allow me to still contribute to Social Security.


Income when we turn 65/ 53: Cowboy and Me = $4500

Utilities (Electric, Propane, Water) $175
Wifi and TV = 170 (We live in the country wifi is ridiculous)
Health Insurance = $675 *Hoping I can get cheaper when Jim goes on Medicare.
Homeowners Insurance and Taxes = $200 a month (we will pay yearly)
Car insurance = $150 a month (we pay twice a year)
Total = $1370

We also currently have
House cleaner = $200 per month (I may do this myself)
Food at home =$600  I hope to grow more and can and freeze
Fun and Food out = $200 (I am not sure we spend this much now)
Gas $300 (should be even less if we are not working)
Total = $1300

Total is $2670 a month for everything.
If we want clothes or anything else this shouldn't be a problem. I like to figure out ways to save money.
This will leave us with a surplus of $1730 a month (We will likely save so that I can eventually not need to make an income by age 59.5 when I can draw off my IRA).
Saving money is like a sport/ hobby to me. I get a thrill out of finding ways to do things frugally. It's especially exciting to me to get something of high quality at a thrift store or save for it and buy it on sale. I know it's geeky but being free of debt is pretty cool.

In the event something happened to one of us we would have the option of selling part of our 40 acre farm and having a much smaller home (Right now we are at about 1700 sq feet).
With a surplus of $1730 a month this should allow us to save enough to replace appliances, repair cars and make repairs on the house. When I turn 62 If we need it I can draw off my SS and IRA.
I will continue to put money into my IRA for as long as we have extra money. My hope is to max it out over the five years so that when I turn 59.5 I can draw off of it and that should give me an extra $1500 a month or so.


I would like to add here some ways I save money and intend to save more money.

1. Go to the library instead of buying more books.
2. Cook from scratch at home.
3. Be happy with less stuff.
4. Buy quality and make it last.
5. Clean up and reuse what I already have (like fixing a pair of shoes or painting a lawn chair).
6. Buying a good clean used car with very low miles when we upgrade.
7. Taking care of what we own.
8. Keeping things clean.
9. Utilize deals like gift cards, coupons, and discounts (when you are in a hurry you often don't do this).
10. Grow more of our own food.

Hope my plan helps some of you all. I would like to add that we would like to do some travel, though we live on a beautiful farm and truthfully don't like leaving to often. If we travel we will save and pay cash and most likely we will travel about two weeks at a time three to four times a year.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Tons of Money Saving Tips

So it's about six weeks into my Resourcefulness Challenge and I can see it in our bank account and I also feel happier. My creativity is growing at a massive rate. Things shift when you impose limitations, limitations can be an amazing tool to help you grow. 

Here's much of what has happened over the past few weeks.
There are tips here to help you save money, make money and build wealth, be financially free from debt and enjoy your life more. 

What would life be like if you didn't have to worry so much about money?
Here is how we do it. 


Love and Light,
Courtney

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Have Money Trouble? Start Here.

Do you struggle to make ends meet?
Do you feel like you will never get ahead?
There are basics for anyone to follow and you can empower yourself.
Let me show you how here.

Video Part 1

The basics are :

1. Make a list of everything you make each month and all your bills and expenses: Include rent, mortgage, insurance, food, gas, pet care, utilities, absolutely everything. This is the first and most important step. 2 columns 1 for each.
2. Assess Needs Vs Wants: Food, Shelter, basic clothing, medicine, enough gas to get to work those are needs. Beyond that not much is a need. Be real with yourself. I once had to find homes for two of my dogs because I could not afford them after a divorce. It was hard but had to be done. Get rid of all expenses that are not needs. Cut off cable, etc...
3. Tell your money where to go.  That's all a budget is. In column one put down all your expenses on the left side, then make four or five columns for each week of the month, or two if you get paid twice a month. Under each column at the top put down your total income for that pay period, underneath list the bills that have to be paid. Subtract the bills from the income and what is left over is the money you have for food/gas/ savings/fun.
4. Time to Create an Emergency Fund Fast: Sell stuff , use you tax return, do what you have to do to get $1000 in the bank for Emergencies only. Needing tires is a planned expense not an emergency.
Once you have one you don't have emergencies because the money is there. Leave it alone unless there is an emergency like your car breaks down or you need to go to the emergency room.
5. Sell Stuff to pay bills: If you are strapped then start looking at what you have and sell what you don't need. Have you looked at Swap Shop online lately? I swear people will buy anything. Clothes, coffee pots, juicers, etc... get some money fast to help you get ahead. I sale my clothes at the resale shop and use the credit to buy things I need. Meet people at the Police Station Parking lot and have someone with you for safety if possible.
6. Get another job. There has been little time in my life when I did not have two jobs. Look at your schedule and get out there and work nights or weekends. If you already work nights and weekends find some time and work extra until you get ahead. It can be done.
7. Meal plan. This is a huge savings. If you make a pot of chili one week you can eat four or five meals off of that. Get stuff for sandwiches. There is a 300% markup on food. Eating at home saves a ton. Also make food from scratch. If you don't know how start with breakfast foods, sandwiches, and basics like spaghetti and tacos. Then check out a library book and learn to do some basic cooking. Eat leftovers and pack your meals and snacks. Avoiding going out to eat as much as possible.
8. If you need something check out Goodwill or a Resale Shop. Don't go just to go but if you need a coffee maker and you are broke chances are Goodwill has one for under $10 vs $30 at Walmart. Be smart.
9. Do not use pay here places for appliances or cars. This is what keeps poor people poor.
The cost of a used washer and drier is anywhere from $100 to $300, a new one is three times that. Going to a Rent a place, will cost you as much as 5 to 10 x the value of the item. If you have  a washer and drier on monthly at $25 for two years by the time you pay that off you have paid $2400 for something that would have cost you $600. Ridiculous. I once sold a van and I regretted it. I saw one at a tote the note place but I had cash. The cost of that van was 3 x the value because that's how they trap poor people. As soon as you get a tax return that's the time to find a car for sale by an individual and buy it.

Video 2, when to look for another job

Video 3: Save over $600 a month, want to know how, words on meal planning and shopping for things cheap.


Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Why I am so Obsessed with Resourcefulness

You hear a lot these days about "story telling" and let me tell you I am about some stories. I love stories. I love to hear about people and their stories and I like to know people's "Why".  Why do you do what you do. If you don't know your why it's really hard to be successful in what you are doing and meet your goals.
Why do I write this blog on resourcefulness and why I have written blogs, taught classes, hosted and created large events on the subject, started groups, created book clubs and written hundreds of entries on the subject when I don't have to do it.
Here is "MY WHY?".

There is no way I could begin to tell you all the reasons I am so passionate about this but I'll try with a list of 5. My main "Why" Is I would like other people to be happy! Being of service makes me happy and when you can figure things out on your own you are happier and feel more confident. I think this may be my mission in life to share the gift of being resourceful.

1.  Being Resourceful helps you make friends: Being a child raised by grandparents and divorced parents I became very adaptable. I was also an only child until I got a bonus sister at 21. I learned to resourcefully entertain myself with whomever was available, be it senior citizens, my dads fishing buddies, or whatever stray animal would let me drag it around. I would talk to anyone, go fishing with a my dad and his buddies, or hang out with a cat in barn. This has made me learn to get along with all kinds of people.

2. Being Resourceful helps you learn new things:I read to learn things. You can learn so many things from books and online. Reading on my own has probably taught me more than I learned in all my years of school. I've taught myself to cook, clean, raise children, handle money, and learned a ton about my craft. Nowadays I love to watch tutorials and learn from videos as well.

3. Being Resourceful give you confidence: I can go to my closet right now and find something to wear for almost any occasion no money required, and I don't have a ton of stuff.  I can figure out something to take to a potluck most likely without having to even go to the store (I can make bean dip out of a bag of dried beans) because I know how to cook.

4. Being Resourceful helps you find keep a roof over your head. Though I have a great career now I know that no matter what happens I can very likely find a job and chances are I could find a place to live and a way to survive. Why because I am not afraid to ask people if they have a job, know of a job, have work I can do, a place to stay, etc..... I have no problem asking questions and you need to know what and how to ask those questions. I know that my connections in life are important. I've cleaned houses, watched peoples pets, taken care of babies and children, answered phones, kept books and done all kinds of things because I needed a job. No job is beneath me. I would do what I had to do to eat and care for my family.

5. Being resourceful builds self esteem as you learn how to do things in clever and new ways and to make things work with little resources. When my kids were little we were on a government subsidy called WIC, a food voucher program. My ex and I were both in college and we were struggling with three kids. I learned how to cook every possible thing with what they provided. I made it my mission to feed my kids well with that food and we did. We did not have health insurance for some time and I took my kids to the Health Dept for shots and check ups and I also went there for my care. Humiliated? No because I knew it wasn't forever and I was not to proud to take care of my kids. Eventually we wouldn't need it but I did what I had to do to get out of poverty. You do what you have to do to care for your family and you hold your head high. Doing all of this made me realize I have the grit to do what has to be done even when it's hard and that makes me proud. And I never, never took it for granted. I was thankful to be able to find what I need. I always dressed my kids in clean clothes and kept what we had clean even though it may not have been new or the best we always looked kept and never did I allow us to look pitiful no matter if I only had a $1 in my account.


My kids are grown now and three of them are out of the house. They have watched me their whole lives food pack, budget, and take care of them even when things were tight. Now I don't have to do that as much, it's more of a choice now but my kids have those skills and that is so important to me. The other day Cole told me he needed two pair of jeans, one for work and one for daily wear. He said "I realized that at work I really didn't need anything fancy, just something without holes so I went through all my old jeans and found some that I could get by with and save the $70 cost of a new pair of Levi's." My heart was so proud. I knew I had done a good job.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Resourcefulness Challenge: Groceries, Insurance, and Letting Kids Figure it Out.

This week I have had a lot going on and have noticed many areas where I was resourceful.
For ideas here you can watch the video on saving on groceries or when you don't feel like that shopping trip, finding health coverage (not boring I promise and quick), to letting your kids figure things out to encourage resourcefulness in them, or good old ingenuity.
One area I forgot to talk about was my son's glasses.
My son broke his glasses for the 2nd time in a month, we have another pair ordered.
Due to his high prescription there is no way to get a quick pair of glasses. Our eye doctor's glasses person, not sure what you call this, was able to not once but twice find glasses in the donation box to pop his lenses into to get us through. Now that is resourceful. I am so grateful to Debbie at Rose Eye Clinic.

Love and Light,
Courtney