Debt Payoff Story at Budgeting in The Fun Stuff!

By on February 23, 2017

Howdy, default changers! Today I’m excited to share my first post with Crystal’s blog, Budgeting in The Fun Stuff. Crystal is an inspiring woman who took the courageous leap several years ago to become a full-time entrepreneur through blogging and other side hustles. No longer stuck in a dead-end job, she’s changed her default to design a whole new life, which is awesome! 

My article for today, How I Paid Off $20,000 Of Debt And Quit My Job In 7 Months explores our debt-free journey and how it’s changed our lives for the better. Here’s a snippet for ya:

If you’ve ever tuned in to a Dave Ramsey radio show, you know how often he disparages a normal life. “Normal” to him means putting spontaneous purchases on a credit card, taking out enormous student loans, buying cars you can’t afford, and rationalizing every single stupid financial decision you make day after day.

Let’s put the cards out on the table: I used to be that kind of normal.

Head on over to Budgeting in The Fun Stuff for the full post

Fun stuff for us lately: wildly warm February weather at a local playground

Freelance Baby Steps

By on February 21, 2017

As you know if you’re a repeat reader of Changing Our Default, I’m a former teacher building a new part-time freelance career. It’s by no means an easy endeavor, but I’m having a ton of fun with the process.  

Ah, my idealistic high-school senior scholarship essay! Note the emphasis on writing… I loved it then and now😀


I wrote every day in January (a minimum of 500 words daily), which helped get me more momentum for the blog and my freelance goals. February has been trickier; I know I’ve skipped a few days of writing due to lack of motivation and plain old fatigue.  

I joined a Facebook group called Earn More Writing, led by Holly Porter Johnson. Besides teaching how to make money writing on a freelance basis, she often shares job leads with the group. Finding work is probably the toughest aspect of freelancing, for me, so I appreciate the leads to no end! That’s given me several potential blogs to write for, and I’ve just submitted my first staff writing piece for one of these, a personal finance blog! (This will be my first PAID blogging gig. Score one for Mrs. COD!)

Another win so far in 2017 was the youth devotional magazine that chose four of my meditations for publication in their last round of submissions. These are also paid, so I have now officially earned my first $100 of the new year! Boy, I better watch out come tax time next spring, haha😉. 


Of course, it is not easy fitting in a freelance business in addition to a full-time parenting job. I actually feel as if I had more time available to work on my writing passion when I was still teaching. I could sit at my desk over lunchtime or stay after school, writing or pitching clients. Of course I rarely did so when I had the opportunity. Being out of a paying job has had this strange effect on me, lighting a fire under me to MAKE THIS WRITING LIFE HAPPEN. If I could build this freelance business over the next two years into something substantial… man, that’d be amazing!

Carving out time to write can be a tall order…

At home, Junior and Mini COD are much more demanding bosses than my principal or students ever were, requiring my utmost attention ALL. DAY. LONG. I don’t even get bathroom breaks now. They follow me everywhere.
Some days it is all I can do to keep the kids fed and busy all day, so I flop into bed the moment they’re finally asleep. They don’t really nap, so there goes the brilliant idea of writing while they catch a snooze. Working from my phone or tablet is OK at times, but the boys are little screen gremlins who can sense whenever I have YouTube at my fingertips and will steal my device. The phone is super handy, though; I often tap out first thoughts and drafts on it so I don’t forget ideas. I allow myself some slack once or twice a week by giving them my iPad, so I can work in relative peace for an hour or so. 

Obviously, the bulk of my freelance writing and researching of jobs (and blogging) must take place at night after the boys are asleep. Some nights it takes two hours for Mr. COD and I to get them both to give it up for the day, so we are pretty wiped out afterwards. 

It’s tough, but pushing myself is essential in this game. I have to write during that quiet evening time nearly every day IF I want to accomplish anything. Mr. COD has been busy with job applications lately, so he doesn’t mind keeping it quiet and peaceful. (Who am I kidding? Any parent of toddlers is thrilled to get a whole hour of peace and quiet!) 

Some nights I find myself staying up scandalously late (we’re talking 11:30, midnight here) since that’s the only way to get my thoughts flowing and polished. Mr. COD is out long before me, so I can fully concentrate on my work. I cannot expect to make any decent strides in my writing career without sacrificing some other things, namely, sleep! 


While writing is my primary focus, I’m also exploring a few other areas in freelancing. Proofreading is of interest. I met with a friend who is a romance writer to discuss some of the tasks she and her author friends need done. They’ve used beta readers to check up on the story and plotlines, another editor to create a character Bible listing all pertinent traits and connections within their books, plus copy editors and proofreaders. 

Since I enjoy editing and proofreading but have no professional experience, I’m going to offer my services to these friends for free in exchange for the experience and (I hope) positive feedback. If that practice and networking help get me in the door, that’ll be another fun side hustle to pursue!


Giving up sleep, putting in tons of hours that might lead nowhere, slogging it out writing for free or for pennies a word. Why would all of this appeal so much to me? 

Because I LOVE IT. I do. I absolutely love writing. I love the work and the stress of the blank page and the hours of solitude. Writing is what fills my soul. It’s what I’ve always wanted to do. When I’m exhausted from arguing with a three-year-old (hint: grown-ups can’t win those debates) or cooking or tripping over dinosaur toys, I still long to get to my writing. It’s my craft, it’s my passion, it’s me. 

Stay tuned for further updates on my freelancing escapades! If you’re a side-hustler, what’s your field and how’s it going? Let’s cheer each other on in the comments!

Fresh Pasta: The Ultimate Frugal Luxury

By on February 17, 2017


If you have never undertaken the task of making your own fresh pasta, you are missing out on some seriously delicious stuff! It’s incredible how much better the taste and texture of homemade pasta is from the boxed stuff. Now, I’ll admit I don’t take the time to do it very often, but when I do, it’s soooo worth it. I feel like I get a little taste of Italy right in the comfort of my home. (A trip to Bella Italia is on our someday list, but not for quite a few years!) (more…)

Valentine’s Day and Risks

By on February 14, 2017

The COD team hopes that you all have a wonderful Valentine’s Day! Of course, if you’ve been reading this blog, you already know we subscribe to the goal of simple and meaningful for all of our holidays, and Valentine’s Day is no exception. You’re probably wondering why the word “risks” is in the title. Read on to find out!



Free Board Games

By on February 10, 2017

On Christmas, we discovered that Junior COD is now into board games, so more game time is on the docket. Anything that provides a respite from dinosaur toys and television is a parenting win in my book! So this past week, I pulled my Crafty Self out of storage and cobbled together my version of this game he’d played with family over the holidays. Hence, I bring you our Frugal Friday activity of the week: homemade board games!


Uber Frugal Month Is Done!

By on February 7, 2017

Like many of you (I think over 10,000 at last count), Mr. and Mrs. COD joined the Uber Frugal Month Challenge inspired by the Frugalwoods. The purposes of this little experiment: to spend as little as possible and to reset our spending defaults. Let’s look deep into the January 2017 COD expenditures…Can you stand the excitement?!


The biggest reduction we hoped to see was in grocery spending, and we definitely kept that lower than usual. Woohoo! We didn’t quite squeeze by under that $300 mark I was eyeing, but that was a long shot anyway. The mere thought of our Uber Frugal Month was motivation enough to help us exercise restraint in our shopping excursions. (Plus, we have you guys to hold us accountable!) 

Ways we limited the grocery expenses this month:

  • A hallmark of the frugal mindset: shopping in our fridge, freezer, and pantry before heading to the market. We roasted a big ol’ turkey to use in soup and other meals. We finally ate a few of those canned vegetables that have been lying around forever. We cooked one of three (three!) rotisserie chickens we also had frozen. FYI, brining chicken in simple water, salt, and garlic rub for a few hours, then grilling it? OMG, perfection! We kept snacking on it long after dinner was over because it was oh so good. 
  • Keeping track of each trip to Aldi or elsewhere, plus having a running total as the month went along. This was a bit tricky, as I like to be in control, but Mr. COD went a couple of times to pick up items I’d forgotten or neglected to buy. 
  • Checking on what we already had before each shopping trip and writing a list down. This helped limit spur-of-the-moment buys; I knew we could get by without stocking up on every single thing. 
  • Eating quite a bit of soup, eggs, and vegetarian meals. We can eat for pretty cheap if we bulk up soups with beans instead of meat.


We’ve continued with our adjusted default house temp of 65 (down from 70-71 a month earlier). I know some frugal folks keep it way lower, but that’ s where we landed without feeling like we’re living in the tundra. The newest bill hasn’t arrived yet, but we know we saved something by lowering the thermostat. I can tell I’ve changed my default because when at my parents’ or anywhere else, it seems really warm. Mr. COD and I are now used to wearing multiple layers in the house, too.


  • Groceries $356.43. Totally stoked about this! We’ve been more in the $500/month range, so it’s a fantastically low number. Let’s keep that uber frugal train rollin’!
  • Dining out: $135.30. This is abnormally high for us, which is ironic during an Uber Frugal Month.  Sigh. We finally had enough of these 3-month droughts between date nights. Time to connect with each other, without kids, is vital. We’ll spend a bit to make it happen. Add in a couple of times out with old friends, and that’s how this total came to be. Not bad when combined with our lower grocery bill!
  • Babysitter for one date night: $36. See above. But at least our first date of the month was when the in-laws could watch Junior and Mini COD! For free😁. Yay for grandmas and grandpas!
  • Gas for vehicles: $89.39. This is one of those expenses that are hard to break down by month. (I know we also filled up on December 31st, but that number isn’t included here.)
  • Household items: $457.32. This is a bit high, as it includes a bunch for paint for some touch-up work and items needed for redoing our floors (DIY house beautification in case of rental or sale this summer). Also included: thrilling things like toilet paper, cat food and litter, etc.
  • Gifts: $31.93. This included $8.93 for takeout lunch for a friend of mine. In addition, we picked up a few birthday presents in advance for Mini COD (turning two in February) and a DVD for car rides. The resale place had decent prices, so for $23 we got two board games, a large toy truck, and the movie. We don’t expect to spend any more on his birthday, as I’ll make his cake myself and we won’t have a big party
  • Miscellaneous: $16.99 for WeeSprout Double Zipper Reusable Food Pouch – 6 Pack – 5 fl ozreusable baby food pouches, $38 for my ticket to an upcoming women’s Christian conference, $28.02 for a jewelry purchase to benefit an organization that helps refugees.
  • Ultra Miscellaneous: $550. New laptop. Grrr. So remember that computer screen Mr COD had to replace a month ago? Yeah… It’s still not working. The motherboard might be replaceable, but that’ll take time to learn. He has to have a reliable computer for doing work-related tasks  at home (and completing job applications), so it was pretty much a necessary expense. Quite the un-frugal bummer!
  • I’m only documenting expenses that could possibly be limited or frugalized somehow. Things like our mortgage and internet use, I’ve left out as they aren’t things we’re changing anytime soon. 

a favorite cheap date activity: walking around the university campus (where Mr. COD earned his doctorate)




The psychology of this mission was fascinating to me. It was awesome to increase our frugal mindset. I felt like we had been living so frugally the past few months that now would have been the time to let go a bit. But the pressure/encouragement of Mrs. Frugalwoods’ daily emails kicked up my motivation. It helped me to avoid Dunkin’ Donuts when I really was dying for an excuse to take the kids out. It helped me decide to bring my own coffee to the library for some “me” time one evening. It prevented a bunch of little shopping trips that inevitably lead to buying more than planned. 

When you live without overspending, it affects your mentality every day. I fancy myself a fairly frugal gal, but this past month I managed to push myself a bit more than usual. Practicing a frugal mindset enables us to put our frugality on autopilot, where saving money is actually easy and spending unnecessarily is super painful!


  • No haircut. I haven’t gone anywhere for one since last March, so I’m totally breaking all the salon rules. It’s beginning to bug me slightly, but I held off at least for this month and saved that money. (I don’t have any appointment set for anytime soon, either.)
  • No little “treats” like a cafe bagel for me and the kids to brighten up weekday mornings. (We make muffins at home all the time anyway.)
  • No Redbox rentals. Not that we do that very often anyway, but we stuck with our plentiful entertainment options like Netflix and Amazon Prime shows, plus have started checking out movies from the library! Frugal win!
  • Plenty of free fun for the munchkins. We visited the library, went on walks, and even hung out at the pet store a few times. Our public library even shows free movies about once a month or so, but we haven’t had a chance to partake in one yet!
  • Junior and Mini COD on a recent excursion to the park


  • When a friend came into town for dinner, we took our whole family out instead of inviting him over to our home. (Face palm!) Not only was it more expensive to eat out, but our kids also aren’t exactly at a great age for sitting quietly in a restaurant. One of us had to take Mini COD outside to walk around for most of dinner. At home, we can cook, and the kids can run around the house all they want, so we should have just asked our friend to come over! 

Need some uber frugal motivation? Check out the Frugalwoods’ tips for making frugality your default mindset!

How’s your frugal mindset these days? If you did the Uber Frugal Month, what did you learn from the experience? Was it harder/easier than expected?


January Daily Goals: How Did Mrs. COD Do?

By on February 1, 2017

The first month of 2017 is behind us, so it’s time for a little rundown of the January daily goals. As I mentioned, I decided not to make a resolution for the new year and instead created five daily goals just for the first month. Here’s how Mrs. COD fared in the January 2017 Daily Goals Challenge!

We’re off and running in 2017! 


Me Time That Won’t Cost A Dime

By on January 28, 2017

Me time may sound selfish or impossible for you, but everyone needs a little “me time” once in awhile (or every day). That’s time you set aside to do something purely for YOU! It helps you recharge, contemplate, question, discover. I have to be more deliberate in seeking out this me time since becoming a SAHM; it’s just hard to catch a break from kids.  (more…)

Breaking Mental Barriers to Change

By on January 25, 2017

Mental barriers to change: a huge deterrent in the journey to change our default. We all desire to make lasting, valuable change in our lives, but we so often fall short. What hold us back, all too often, are the mental barriers we create for ourselves. Our mindset is one of the most powerful tools at our disposal, yet we ignore it and keep thinking the same ways we always have. We have control over our thoughts; why don’t we manage them in more beneficial ways? 


Frugal Birthdays for Kids: Guest Post on Picky Pinchers!

By on January 19, 2017

Hello there! Today I’m guest posting over at Picky Pinchers! I’ve been a big fan of the Picky Pinchers blog for a while now, so I’m super excited to share some frugal birthday tips with their readers! 

Our baby turns two exactly one month from today. As I pause to reflect on how crazy that is (how does the time go by so slowly and yet so fast?), I’m also starting to think about celebrating his birthday. We’ve kept our kiddos’ birthdays really simple thus far, usually with casual cookouts with family. No plans to change that default anytime soon!

I’m sharing a few great frugal birthday ideas in my guest post today. This blog has been such a blast for me so far (almost a year old for this baby), and I’m pumped to do my first-ever guest post for another blog! Head on over to Picky Pinchers here to check it out and share your own penny-pinching birthday tips! 

*Here are a few of my favorite recent Picky Pinchers posts:

Save Money With Kindness

5 Ways to Live With Intention

Our Money Lessons From 2016

Happy reading, everybody!