Sep 182011
 

Yesterday I posted about my insanely busy week. One of the things that I didn’t mention in that post was the weather turned cool on Friday. Thankfully, I knew the weather forecast ahead of time. But I had a problem.

Remember how I mentioned that my son had no fall clothes? We had a field trip scheduled for Friday. An outdoor one.

So, I found myself in a time crunch last week. In addition to everything else, I had to find jeans, a jacket, and sweats for my son before Friday.

So I decided that I would take my other son to his testing appointment and stop into one of the shopping centers nearby. The testing is in a different (unfamiliar) city, so I don’t know my way around very well. So I went driving through the nearby shopping centers only to discover there were no clothing stores!

But guess what I did find?

Goodwill.

I was able to find a pair of jeans in my son’s size, and a jacket and pants set for his cross country meet. They happen to be dark blue too! (I also found myself a pair of jeans.) All for $18.75!

So after just last week sharing my worries about finding affordable clothes for my oldest son, God provided in a real and tangible way.

Obviously I need to buy more clothes, but I love how God gives us these little encouraging things. He is going to provide what we need! I knew it before, but He has increased my faith.

(Just a little side note. I accidentally published last week’s article before I meant to. I really didn’t want to give the impression that this was a serious financial problem for us. I feel that maybe I sounded like we are desperate. We’re certainly not and didn’t want to imply that at all. I just wanted to talk about God’s provision and how we need to be careful about trying to figure out how God is going to provide for us.)

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Sep 102011
 

I had the post all written in my mind. I was going to write about how wonderful children’s consignment sales are. I’ve written about them before, and they have been a key part of our living on one income.

But as the kids grow, the selection at these sales gets thinner. Babies outgrow their clothes so quickly. And everyone has too many baby clothes. So they’re in large supply. There are always plenty of toddler clothes too. But by the time you get to size 10 or so, the selection gets pretty slim.

But there’s a new sale I found. It specializes in big kids clothes. There is no baby stuff. The smallest size is size 6. I had my post all written in my mind about how God provided a big kids’ consignment sale when I needed one. It was going to be a great post.

Unfortunately, the sale wasn’t very good. I only found 1 item for my 13 year old son. So there went that post. More importantly, I’m left wondering how I’m going to make room in the budget for winter clothes for him. (He’s 13 and growing fast. There is nothing that fits from last year.)

But I know my God. He has promised to supply all our needs. And even if I have to buy new clothes for him, God will supply them. There may be other “needs” that are “wants” after all.

I used to scoff at people who told me how much more expensive older kids were. I thought they didn’t know how to shop as well as I did or save money on food. It turns out that the older I get, the less I know. Or more accurately, I realize how little I know and how little I can actually control.

I need to stop trying to figure out how God is going to work things out. His ways are always much better than what I come up with!

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Jul 242011
 

As a frugal homeschool mom, I’m not supposed to use any convenience foods. I should be growing most of my own food, right? Or I could be some sort of extreme couponer and then it would be OK to buy convenience foods since I’d have purchased them for essentially nothing.

I’m afraid that’s not the case here. I try to do most of my cooking from scratch because it is cheaper that way. But I realized something this week.

Even though a convenience food may cost more than the equivalent from scratch, it still may cost less than what you actually end up eating.

Huh?

This is what I mean.

On Sunday a friend gave me a box of instant oatmeal that she wasn’t going to use. I normally don’t buy instant oatmeal because old fashioned oats are cheaper (and better for you to add your own sweetener, but I’m not talking about health benefits here.)

Guess what my kids ate for breakfast several times this week.

Instant oatmeal

Guess about how many times per week I usually make oatmeal.

0.01

Guess what they often eat instead.

Cold cereal

Guess which is more expensive (especially when you consider the price of the milk that my biggest kids drown their cereal in).

The cold cereal!

So here’s my point. By not buying “convenient” instant oatmeal because it was more expensive than old fashioned oats, I have actually been spending more money on breakfast food!

Here’s another example. (Before you read this, promise you won’t think less of me when you read what else I put in my shopping cart.)

Soft drinks are expensive. Many people save money by never buying soda. It makes sense. I’ve “quit” buying Dr. Pepper for this very reason on many different occasions.

Do you know what happens?

After about a week, I start walking slowly past vending machines and digging for loose change. When I go to the gas station, I suddenly find myself inside purchasing an ice cold Dr. Pepper for $1.59. I’ve even been know to stop at convenience stores when I didn’t need gas! That’s way more expensive than just having Dr. Pepper at home. And then there is not a temptation for me to purchase them for even higher prices when I’m out.

My friend Debra at Footprints in the Butter has mentioned that when you’re trying to live on an extremely low food budget, you need to allow yourself to purchase that one item that helps you to not feel deprived. For her I think it is coffee creamer. For me, it’s Dr. Pepper.

What convenience foods do you buy? What one food keeps you from feeling deprived?

This post is a part of The Christian Home Issue 25, posted weekly at The Legacy of Home.

Jul 112011
 

It seems that the Amish lifestyle is a hot topic these days. In our fast-paced, modern society, we miss what the Amish have: family, community, and simplicity. But although there is a trend towards people simplifying their lives, I don’t think many people are becoming Amish. However, the basic frugal principles that the Amish follow can be adopted by anyone. In Money Secrets of the Amish, Lorilee Craker outlines these principles and shows how they can be applied.

The tips shared in this book are not new or extraordinary. They’re just old-fashioned common sense. They include ideas such as avoiding debt, waiting to buy things, reducing spending on gifts, and bartering. But the book doesn’t read like a finance book. Lorilee shares stories of real Amish families. For example, she tells of one family who saved $400,000 for a down payment on a farm while raising 14 children!

The book isn’t just about how frugal the Amish are. Along with interesting descriptions of the Amish lifestyle are Lorilee’s own stories. Her stories are of how unfrugal she was, and how spending time with the Amish while preparing to write this book, showed her how much she was taking for granted and how many things she could do without. She writes from her heart and isn’t afraid to laugh at herself. For someone who has been already been seeking ways to live more frugally, this book probably won’t have many new ideas. Even so, I found this an enjoyable book to read and an encouragement to persevere.

I review for BookSneeze®Disclosure: I received a copy of Money Secrets of the Amish to review from Book Sneeze. I was not compensated for the review. All opinions expressed are my own. This post contains affiliate links.

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Jun 192011
 

One of the budgeting methods that my husband and I have found helpful over the years is to look everything we purchase through the lens of the monthly payment. The goal is to minimize the amount of money that has to be spent ever month, leaving more room to save for special or unexpected expenses.

I am not talking about making the minimum payment on your credit card! Those should be paid in full every month, if you even use credit cards. If you do have any credit card debt, getting that paid off should be a priority.

What I am talking about are those expenses that occur each month, some are the same amount, some vary a bit–

1. Car payments – We minimize these by paying cash for our cars. That’s not an easy task, but one key is to plan on keeping your vehicles for a long time. We are currently driving a 1992 Honda Accord and a 1996 Chrysler Town & Country. When we had to replace the transmission in the mini-van we considered not spending that money on such an old vehicle. But when we did the math, paying to fix that vehicle was still less expensive than replacing it.

2. Electricity – Are you following all the recommended energy reduction tips from your electric company? How old are your appliances? Are you running an old refrigerator or freezer in the garage that you don’t really have full? Older appliances cost a lot more to run, you could try unplugging it for a month or 2 and see how much it’s costing you. What about heating and cooling. When we’ve need to replace appliances and a heat pump, we pay a little more up front, in order to pay less on electricity each month.

3. Water – Our water and sewer rates are high. Saving water may not be as financially helpful for others, but it is big for us. We make sure to not let any toilets have a slow leak. We don’t wash our cars at home. (I could about say we don’t wash our cars.) We try to follow the other standard tips for saving water as well – no running the water while you’re brushing teeth or washing hands, run full loads of laundry (not a problem with that!), etc.

4. Internet service, cable, phone, and cell phones – I’ve lumped all these together because very often your best deals are found with bundling. The first thing to consider is if you need a service at all. Many people no longer have land lines. We found that we are still paying way less money for our pay-as-you-go cell phones and our cable phone line. But we don’t use our cell phones much. If you do and you have reliable service at home, it might make more sense to not have a land line. What about cable TV or satellite TV? Many people consider that a necessity, but is it really? We do have cable TV currently because of the bundle deal we signed up for at the first of the year. We have our phone, internet, and cable all tied together. The cable is not costing anything more than it would cost for just internet and phone. Will we keep it when the price is raised? Absolutely not (and we made sure we could cancel at any time before we signed up.) Be very careful when signing up for deals on these services. These are areas where you can easily get locked into a contract requiring you to keep a service even if you realize you don’t need it.

I have found this way of thinking about our budget has helped us save for bigger purchases that we need or want to make, and helped us to stay out of debt. I hope it helps you.

This post is a part of The Christian Home, posted weekly at The Legacy of Home.

 

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Jun 122011
 

That is the question…

Coupons are one of first things that come to mind as a way to save money. But do they really save you that much money?

My answer is…

It depends.

In today’s bad economic climate, it’s suddenly cool to be frugal. And couponing is big! There are numerous blogs and websites that will teach you how to save money using coupons. You can even print out coupons from various coupon sites.

But there are some things people should think about before diving in to the coupon craze.

Look at the grocery items that you currently buy. If you buy mostly store-brand items, are particular about which brands you buy, or don’t buy many convenience foods, you might not be a good candidate for couponing.

Be sure to evaluate the costs of coupons. If you don’t already buy a newspaper, you need to consider the added expense of that. Don’t forget the price of ink and paper for printing web-based coupons. What about the cost of gas? If you are not close to several different grocery stores, the extra driving can definitely negate any savings.

Not only are there financial costs for using coupons, there is another big cost to consider. That is your time. Cutting out coupons takes time. Filing them takes time. Then there’s the time spent matching store sales to coupons. And that’s all before you even start shopping! It takes longer to do the shopping because you have find the right items and make sure you’re purchasing the correct size, variety, etc. And you’ll need to shop at multiple stores every week to get all the best deals. There might be other ways that you can spend the same amount of time and actually make more money than you save by using coupons.

Using coupons can also encourage you to buy products you wouldn’t normally buy. After all, it’s a good deal, right? But what if you find out that your child likes Toasty Crunchy cereal more than any other cereal? Then you’re likely to buy it again. You’ll probably wait until you have a coupon again, at least at first… (This is actually a true story, but you need to substitute sweet potato fries for Toasty Crunchy cereal and substitute me for your child!)

OK, I’ve made it sound like coupons are practically evil. I actually don’t think that at all. I do cut out coupons from the paper. (We’re actually one of the dozen or so people left in the world that have a newspaper subscription.) I even get a spare set from my mother-in-law. (They’re another of those dozen people.) But I still do my main grocery shopping once per month. I glance through the weekly grocery ads to check the sales.  I use the coupons for products that I would normally buy. (except for the sweet potato fries…)

My point is this. Coupons are not likely to be the miraculous end to your financial struggles. If you’re interested in extreme couponing, be sure to evaluate your costs versus what you’re saving. And don’t let coupons suck you in to spending more money than you used to.

Be sure to read the rest of this week’s edition of The Christian Home at The Legacy of Home.

 

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Jun 042011
 

In my last two columns for The Christian Home, I’ve talked about the lust of the flesh and its relation to our food budgets, and the lust of the eyes and how to avoid buying by not looking. This week I’d like to discuss the third part of I John 2:16 — the pride of life.

It’s not hard to see how pride can cause us to overspend. Everyone has heard the phrase “keeping up with the Joneses”, and I think most of us would admit to getting caught in the comparison game before. It’s hard to drive the oldest vehicle in the parking lot. It’s nice to have nice clothes. It’s hard to say no to a group activity for your children because you can’t afford it.

I know. I live in a fairly affluent area. There are a lot of homeschoolers I know who do quite well financially on their single incomes (or they sure seem to!). It’s tough when your peer group is going on field trips that cost $10 per kid and you’ve got more kids and less money. It’s hard to skip going to ladies’ outings at restaurants because you know you’ll be tempted to overspend because everyone else is buying a meal. It’s embarrassing to be different. (Or maybe I’m the only one who sometimes feels like I’m back in middle school??)

There are several solutions to these issues. At the root of the problem is my pride. So solution number 1 is to get over it. Of course that’s easier said than done. But we need to recognize that God is sovereign. Other people make more money than we do. God is in control of that too. We are still extremely blessed. Instead of playing the comparison game with those who have more, we should remember those who have less. Think about how most of the people in the world live. We are rich! So incredibly rich! We have no reason to feel sorry for ourselves. Being embarrassed by not having all the things that others do is being ungrateful for what we do have and how God has richly provided for us.

It is also helpful to evaluate our activities. If spending time with a certain group always makes you notice your lack of things, than maybe you shouldn’t spend so much time with them. If you know you’re going to be tempted to buy stuff you can’t afford while shopping with friends, then maybe you just shouldn’t go. You can also try being proactive. If the field trip coordinator always plans too expensive field trips, maybe you should offer to help. Then plan some field trips that are more affordable. There are probably others who are wishing the same thing you are.

I can’t neglect one other area of financial pride. It’s the reverse of what I’ve been describing. It’s possible to be proud of our lack of riches. Have you ever bragged about how little you’ve paid for something? I don’t think that is necessarily prideful to share your excitement about a great deal, but I’ve known people who could talk of little else. Or what about immediately judging people as snobbish because they have a big house or an expensive car? I’ve caught myself in such reverse snobbery before.

It’s really no surprise that the Bible warns —

For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil…I Timothy 6:10 (NASB®)

 

 

Read the rest of The Christian Home – Issue 18 at The Legacy of Home.

 

 

 

May 282011
 

In last week’s issue of The Christian Home, I talked about I John 2:16

For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. I John 2:16

and its parallels to Genesis 3:6.

And when the woman saw that the tree [was] good for food, and that it [was] pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make [one] wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. — Genesis 3:6

I specifically discussed the lust of the flesh and its relation to food.

This week I want to talk about the lust of the eyes. Once again, I’m not talking lust in the more typical way. Lust is a desire for something that we do not have. People can lust for power, fame, or things.

Contentment stands in opposition to the lust for things. If we’re content, we’re satisfied with what we have rather than desiring something more or different.

We can rob ourselves of contentment just by going shopping.

How many times have you seen something in the store that you hadn’t even thought about needing until you saw it? I know it has happened to me. It can also negatively impact your finances. Whether you are an impulse shopper or not, seeing new things can give you the desire to buy them. You either find a way to buy it within your budget or you live without it and wish you could buy it. The lust of the eyes can rob you of your money, your contentment, or both!

How can we avoid these pitfalls?

Know yourself. Your weaknesses may be entirely different from mine. Your biggest weakness could be clothing, home decor, technology, books, or even office supplies!

Avoid shopping at places you don’t need to be. Just as an alcoholic shouldn’t hang around in a bars, I personally shouldn’t make stops at office supply stores just to browse! And if I need to be in an office supply store, I should stick to my list while I’m there.

Make a list and stick to it. It’s certainly not new advice, but it’s worth repeating. Avoid impulse purchases!

This used to be easier before the web. Now, you don’t have to leave your house to be inundated with images of beautiful things that you don’t have, but think you need. Your e-mail inbox is filled with weekly specials from all your favorite stores. There are so many beautiful home decorating blogs with wonderful and even frugal ideas. But even those can cause you to start to desire things that you don’t need, causing  you to spend money that would have been better saved or spent on something else.

It’s such a balancing act. We have to buy things. We need clothes and furniture and office supplies. And we should be wise stewards of the money God provides us. So while we should be seeking to get the best price on things when we need to buy them, we have to be very careful not to be sucked into buying things or just wanting things as a result of all our “comparison shopping”.

Here’s what I’m doing to battle the lust of the eyes.

  • Asking God to show me where I am weak and to give me strength to avoid those tempting areas.
  • Asking Him for guidance on my purchases.
  • Praying that He will give me contentment.

What are you biggest shopping temptations?

Read the rest of The Christian Home Issue 17.

May 212011
 

For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. I John 2:16

Many years ago I heard a sermon that pointed out that the three things listed as being “in the world” in I John 2:16 —

  • The lust of flesh
  • The lust of eyes
  • The pride of life

are parallel with the way that Eve was tempted in the garden.

And when the woman saw that the tree [was] good for food, and that it [was] pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make [one] wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. — Genesis 3:6


The tree was good for food ==== The lust of the flesh

It was pleasant to the eyes ====The lust of the eyes

To be desired to make one wise ===The pride of life

 

You may be wondering how this is related to finances.

When we hear lust of the flesh, our minds tend to think of sexual lust. But Eve lusted after the fruit. Is it possible that our desire for food can cause us to overspend?

Obviously it is not sinful to eat. God created us to eat. He created us with taste buds so that we can enjoy our food. He created food that tastes good. But I think that many of us have trained our palettes to desire more and richer food than we need. (I think a look at the obesity statistics will back me up!)

One could also argue that excessive consumption of convenience foods and restaurant meals are a reflection of the lust of the flesh as well.

I don’t feel like cooking.

I’d rather relax and not spend time preparing a meal.

That is feeding our flesh. It feels good to go out and not have to do any cooking or clean up.

I want to be pampered!

I deserve to be pampered!

After a while, eating out can become an expectation rather than a treat.

So back to finances.

Take a look at your spending on food.

Do you eat out more than you should?

Do you buy more expensive food than you need?

It is entirely possible that a close look at your food buying habits could actually cause you to spend more. Fresh fruit and vegetables are expensive! My point isn’t as much about saving money as it is thinking and praying about whether we are spending the money that God provides us in a way that honors Him.

And just a disclaimer here. These thoughts are somewhat new to me. I would not like to display the contents of my refrigerator and pantry. I have some junk foods that I really like. I’m also not saying that to be truly spiritual you must eat in a certain way. But there are some things that I have considered “needs” that are really just “wants”. Recognizing them as wants instills a more grateful attitude when I have them, and may help me to sacrifice them to benefit our budget.

Is there something that is a staple in your house that you don’t really need?

This post is written for the Finances column at The Christian Home – Issue 16 on-line magazine hosted by The Legacy of Home.

 

 

May 142011
 

I recently agreed to write a weekly column for The Christian Home. Mrs. White at The Legacy of Home started the carnival a few months ago. When she asked for volunteers for dedicated columnists, I hesitated. Did I really need one more thing to add to my list of responsibilities? Honestly, I’m struggling to keep up. But as I think over my priorities, blogging is still high on my list. So a weekly column helps me to actually do what I want to do anyway.

I sent a list of 3 or 4 possible columns for The Christian Home that I felt qualified to write. Then Mrs. White informed me she had selected me to write the column on Finances. First, I felt privileged to have been selected. Then the doubts began to set in.

I’m going to be writing on finances?

But I’m not a financial expert!

I don’t create meals for my family on less that $1.

I don’t find designer fashions at thrift stores for pennies.

I don’t buy $300 worth of groceries for $0.75 after coupons.

 

What do I know about finances?

I know that dealing with money is an important part of Christian living and that the Bible speaks about money in many passages of scripture.

I’ve seen God work in our finances many times.

My family has lived on one relatively small income for 13 years.

My prayer is that this column will be an encouragement to other Christian mothers, and that God will use it to His glory. I’m excited to see where this project will take me.

Please share any specific financial topics you’d like to see here. I’m always open to suggestions!

Please read this week’s edition The Christian Home.