And we’re back!! It’s that special time of year when the shock of Christmas spending and January’s financial frivolousness hit like a ton of bricks. Andrew and I are “celebrating” our 2nd Annual Frugal February, the designated month for sticking to … Continue reading
Bonus post from Dave Ramsey just in time for the twice-a-month pay day: The new year arrived, goals were set, and financial aspirations were locked as you set out to take advantage of your greatest wealth-building tool: your income. That … Continue reading
Before we tied the knot, Andrew and I were advised that though both spouses should be privy to their joint financial status, one spouse should be the designated money manager. I was the first to call “NOT IT!” I didn’t … Continue reading
I can’t believe that November is in a WEEK. And you know what that means – Thanksgiving, traveling, parties, and Christmas are all just a few calendar blocks away. In our corner of the world, we’re a single-income family which … Continue reading
Every six months or so I declare my Semi-Annual PURGE WEEK. I attack every corner and closet over five days, ridding our home of excess and clutter, my mind of unnecessary sentimentality, and I produce an admirable pile of STUFF. We usually … Continue reading
Andrew and I are in the middle of a rousing game of Don’t $pend a Penny. He got a raise a couple of months ago and since then we’ve been on a [minor] spree, giddy with false financial freedom – … Continue reading
I’m a big fan of “every little bit helps,” especially since Liam and I are the appreciative Bread-Eaters to our beloved Bread-Winner. I found a few ways to cut home/family costs and I’m looking for more, so I thought I’d break from my usual reflections for a little nickel-n-diming. The income we have has been a huge blessing for us and it’s so important to be excellent stewards and managers of God’s gifts.
Take It Back
I read on Dave Ramsey’s website that there is always new, unused merchandise in any given house. With those things fated to collect dust, the money spent goes to waste, BUT not if you return them. Getting a refund or store credit is a great way to put that otherwise trashed cash back in your pocket so you can really put it to work (depending on the situation, you can even return merchandise without a receipt). I thought, great idea! but I don’t have anything like that laying around here. After a little digging, however, I found a couple of rolls of shelf liner, some unopened furniture pads, two picture frames, and unused home decor. All purchased over time from different places, but they were forgotten or unnecessary. Not only did returning these items put about $50 back in our pockets, but it also cleared a bit of clutter from the house as well. If you can’t take it back for one reason or another, Craigslist!
Turn it Off
While I’m home during the day, I try to use as little electricity as possible to keep our monthly bill down. Our house has plenty of windows so keeping the blinds open allows for a delightful abundance of natural light, eliminating our need for lamps and overheads; I also have big weekend plans to put up a laundry line so we can reduce how frequently we use our dryer; and I keep the A/C warmer than what we usually enjoy and turn a ceiling fan on in whichever rooms Liam and I occupy.
On a side note, we just re-insulated the attic and for two days our A/C didn’t kick on even once. Making investments in your home like that can save pennies in the long run.
I’ve mentioned Swag Bucks before, but it bears re-promoting. I use Swag Bucks so I can rack up points to redeem for Amazon gift cards. THEN I use the gift cards to purchase diapers for Liam (and soon Little Boy #2), which already come at 30% off if you’re part of the Amazon Moms program. I once worked the gift cards and the discounts so well that an order for 200 diapers came to 19 cents with free shipping. That was the most satisfying 19 cents I’ve EVER spent. Even without working it that well, I can still get a $45 box of diapers for $15 and I’m all about saving that kind of money. Because I’m not a major contributor to our income, I work Swagbucks pretty diligently so we can have cheap or free Pampers. (Most major diaper companies offer point systems, too, which gets you even more for your dollar.) Forget the diapers, though – put the Swag Bucks toward anything you want! You can get points for searching, playing short videos, taking polls, etc.
Couponing is good. Couponing plus discounts is great, but throw in store credit and it’s just brilliant. Several other pharmacies have reward systems, but my store of choice is CVS. Just within the past few months, I’ve saved over $100 using my ExtraCare Card, which doesn’t include the ExtraCare Bucks (store credit) they offer with a few deals. Today I earned $3 in ExtraCare Bucks from an initial purchase, which I then put toward an originally $4 gallon of skim in a separate transaction. Total for that purchase? $1. I will totally take cheap milk. You can work things that way, OR you can take the store credit and put it toward a deal that will earn you even more, which couponers call “rolling.”
Because we lost our car not too long ago, we put the insurance money and my beautiful pickup toward a Honda Odyssey. We are officially a single-vehicle family now and while it’s slightly inconvenient on occasion, it cuts back on gas and insurance costs BIG time; PLUS it requires our lives to be a bit more structured with more communication about Andrew’s and my respective plans for each day. For days when Andrew takes the Odyssey, I have an arrangement with another at-home neighbor in case I need to take a little person (or myself) to the emergency room. AND the fact of the matter is that when I’m at home, I don’t go out and spend money anywhere – gas station, grocery store, Starbucks or Target; which means that we can stretch our dollars across more blocks on the calendar. The whole effort has been great for our family and the pros certainly out-weigh the small inconveniences.
Tell me how you save! Penny pinching can seem like a burden or it can be a thrilling game; it’s pretty satisfying to get things for free or inexpensively. These methods I use are by no means an exhaustive list – even within each approach, there are ways to go deeper and save more.
- Of his own accord, Liam has started picking up bits of grass and leaves from our wood floors and bringing them to me to put in the trash. I can’t help but beam with pride at this. Of course, he thinks that putting things in the trash is a game, but if it actually gets the house clean, who am I to tell him otherwise?? :)
- A HUGE blessing in my life recently is a Bible Study that I joined with my mother-in-law. Just last week I felt spiritually parched and, as I mentioned in my post, I scoured all over the place for something to satisfy my soul. I started reading St. Francis de Sales’s Introduction to the Devout Life and the next day started my Bible Study. It’s such a great group of women and we just finished studying James. If you need a good spiritual slap in the face, James is your book. It’s been SO good to be so abundantly spiritually fed!
- Andrew had TWO days off of work this week and it’s been such a nice bonus in addition to the welcomed rain in our area! With a husband home for a couple of days and [slightly] milder temps, there was plenty of time for fishing, errands, ice cream, and lounging.
- Our Little Man #2 is pretty active! Originally I thought this kid would be more laid-back than his big brother, who is already collected and calm; but if he continues at the bumpin’ and kickin’ rate he has now, I’m in for a busy motherhood :)
Life sure gets busy doesn’t it?
We excitedly moved into very own house a year ago in June and since then, we’ve been waiting with bright, hopeful eyes (maybe it’s just been me) for life to settle down and slip into some state of normalcy. Uhh…yeah right. Owning a home, it seems, involves more financial demand than the monthly note and not just because of the house itself, but living in a home and being a family has a bit of chaos stirred in as well. No doubt that, like most bits of Life Wisdom, I had to learn this one on my own, rather than hearing about it from someone who’s been there or who is there.
Our car was totaled, our 60-year-old tree is falling apart, the plumbing is going haywire, and the washer is broken - on top of the little here-and-there stressors from the daily experience. All of this “Life Happens” stuff has been just a touch overwhelming lately. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen and realized that God has provided for us more than we could have possibly hoped! but in hindsight, I’m astonished at how easily I stooped to discontentment and just being a GRUMP about everything. I’ve always thought of myself as a perky, happy, contented sort of person; and not just happy, but strong in my happiness with little that could shake me. I think what would really help me maintain this peace is if I answered a persistent echoing I’ve been hearing in my soul – Give Me your burdens.
Type A, Type B – I’m not sure where I fall with either personality, but I do know that I like projects. I’m detail-oriented and I enjoy managing and being a real go-getter. What goes hand-in-hand with all of this is that I get stuck in the rut of “I Can Do It Myself.” So stuck in fact, that it doesn’t even occur to me to ask help from anyone, even God. Especially God. But over the past couple of months, I’ve heard 3 or 4 different people each mention that after submitting their anxieties to Christ, life was happier and easier; though the burden may still have been present, knowing that it was in God’s hands was enough to make them stop worrying. God doesn’t just accept our burdens, He wants to take them from us; He wants us to entrust Him with every bit of joy and anxiety in life. After being beckoned so persistently by God in this way, I feel that I’ve finally heeded His plea for my soul. A soul who entrusts all to God is lighter and at peace, even with the world spinning and crumbling. Where have I been??
On a very related note, I’ve had the song “Everything” by Lifehouse in my head lately and I remembered seeing a skit set to it on YouTube. I found it online the other day and watched it just for kicks, but I was blown away at how profoundly it addressed the on-goings of my heart.
Though the trials in the skit are certainly not my own, the point is that life, sin, and temptations can consume me; but I CAN submit all to God – hopes, anxieties, troubles – and He absolutely wants them. While putting all of myself in His hands, I will be at peace. “Come to me all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28) Give Me your burdens. Dearest Jesus, why did it take me so long?
Have no anxiety at all, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving
make your requests known to God. And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding
will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4: 6-7)
Just ONE WEEK until we find out what Baby #2 is! When people ask me what we’re having I say, “It’s a girl, but we find out at the end of May.” I was 100% certain with Liam that he was a boy and as soon as we learned we were expecting this baby, I exclaimed with the same confidence, “It’s a girl!!” Of course, we’ll see how good my Mother’s Intuition is a week from now :) Aside from a couple of instances of indulgent eating, I’ve felt fantastic this trimester. Movin’ right along with just about 5 months left!
God has not just smiled upon us, He’s grinning ear to ear in our direction: We got a Honda Odyssey!! Though I’ve been calling it the Honda Fantasy :) After a poignant trade-in of my Ford Pride & Pickup for 7 years, I proudly cruise the concrete in our own Swagger Wagon and I love it. So much space and room for plenty more little ones and all of their accessories. Road trips will be a BREEZE in this thing!
I took Andrew out on a surprise date the other night and arranged for Liam’s Aunt Mikki to stay at the house after he went down. Andrew didn’t suspect a THING and we had a great time getting ice cream and walking around downtown. We were pretty beat after our excursions to Yankee Candle and Bass Pro, so we watched The King’s Speech (fantastic) when we got home. Andrew asked me back when we were engaged if I expressed my love for him the way I hoped it would be expressed to me. Since then, I’ve tried to act on this challenge: surprises, little notes, and happy greetings for him when he comes home from work or anywhere else. SO fun :)
My favorite bit of wisdom I’ve heard regarding income and being a housewife came from my sister: “Just as it is his role to bring in income, so it is my role to make living as inexpensive as possible.”
I was tossing and turning - wide awake much later than the usual bedtime. And I was trying to hit the sack early, too. Nothing was troubling me really; I just kept thinking of tasks for the next day, certain that I would forget each one. It shouldn’t have happened, but I tip-toed away from the warmth of my sleeping husband and down comforter to write a to-do list, the heaviest item at the bottom: ”Revamp budget.”
God has blessed us by allowing me to be a housewife/stay-at-home-mom, which means we’re a mostly-single-income family. Andrew is our bold & fearless bread-winner, and there are few efforts I manage here and there to bring something to the table, like being a columnist for the Catholic Connection, an amateur coupon-clipper, and paid chorister. While these little bits are blessings and they certainly add up, none of them have the steady rhythm and long-term job security that Andrew’s position has; and I guess they’re not really supposed to, either. If I signed up for steady and long-term, I might as well go back to the office.
The original intent, however, for all the extra pennies earned was Savings. Before Andrew and I tied the knot, my morality professor advised, “Learn to live on only Andrew’s salary and then when you have children and stay at home, you’ll be used to having just that income. It won’t be a financial crisis.” Rock solid advice and we took it to the bank. Yet lately we’ve grown comfortable with the extra monthly contributions, not saving as much as originally planned. Feeling like victims of our budget rather than taskmasters, we are re-addressing everything and, especially this month, tightening the cinch. Every last nickel is a blessing from God and it’s important to be excellent stewards of His gifts. We don’t want to take our extra income for granted or end up stunned in the event that it stops; so in light of this, we are “celebrating” Frugal February.
Not Spending Money can seem like a drag or it can be a game. On a related note, I’m a big believer in “every little bit helps” so if I can avoid spending $2 here or 50¢ there, our efforts toward Not Spending tend to snowball and it’s thrilling. For example:
- Coffee: Andrew and I are fancy-coffee-drinkers. We like it done-up and delicious like Starbucks – flavors, whipped cream, topped with caramel. But instead of paying $7 for a couple tall decaf cappuccinos, we put a pot on at home and then add some caramel topping and whipped cream from the store. Add a deck of cards to the scene and we’re all set.
- Coupons & Swag Bucks: I’m new to the whole coupon scene, but I know there’s an art to it worth pursuing. Stacking manufacturers’ coupons with store coupons (Target’s big into this) will save a BIG percentage on your grocery bill, especially if you combine it with weekly deals. Don’t throw those coupons out with the Sunday paper! Swag Bucks, too, are a recent thrill for me. It’s a website to earn points that add up to things like Target, Amazon, or Starbucks gift cards, electronics, movies, downloads, etc. You earn points by using the website as a search engine, answering a daily poll, entering codes, and other ways, too. Right now I’m shooting for Target and/or Amazon gift cards and really enjoying watching my points steadily stack up. Check it out/sign up at my referral link.
*The hyperlinks for Swag Bucks didn’t work in my original post,
so you can copy/paste the URL into your browser:
- Electricity: While small appliances like lamps and hair dryers don’t draw electricity when OFF, many larger appliances like TVs do. Unplugging your entertainment system each night and plugging it back in when in use can positively affect your electricity bill. Additionally, I try avoid turning on lights in the house during the day since every room has a window and natural light floods the house!
- Baby Stuff: Diapers. Liam will need them for a while longer and cloth diapers don’t work well with his super-sensitive skin. I use Amazon Mom and get 30% off (and free 2-day shipping) plus Parents Magazine often has 20% off coupon codes. Combine that with an Amazon gift card earned from Swagbucks, and you’ve got yourself a deal. Just yesterday I bought a box of 176 diapers for 44¢ total.
Instead of foolishly feeling subject to the Almighty Dollar, you should be its delegator. Dave Ramsey points out that money isn’t inherently good or bad; it does what YOU tell it to do. And I intend to put it to work.
- Andrew and I are hooked on Farkle – an addictive game involving 6 dice. We played all Sunday morning over coffee and breakfast and as soon as one game was done, we started a new score sheet. What a great time! You can get it at the store OR you can scrounge up 6 dice from any other board games floating around the house and then search for the rules/point values online.
- Liam is sharp as a tack! I taught him this trick to help him get down from standing. It’s hilarious and darling.
After going a few years without reading it, I picked up The Rule of St. Benedict again last week. I remembered that it has an entire chapter on humility and because I’ve felt so drawn to that particular virtue lately, I wanted to dive in for more. Chapter 7 of The Rule is on humility. Chapter 5, however, begins “The first step of humility is unhesitating obedience…” How perfect! In considering how to practice all of the steps of humility, especially in application to marriage, I wondered how to begin. Like humility, practicing holy obedience to God and spouse is more easily said than done.
Everyone understands obedience in a parent/child sense: “Katie, please clean your room.” “But WHY?” “Because I said so.”
And I would say that most understand what obedience to God is: “Thy will be done” and “I am the handmaid of the Lord, be it done unto me according to thy word.”
But what about in marriage? When it comes to this context, I think the comprehension and mastery are not as common. Unfortunately, the secular understanding of obedience is dominated by the parent/child perspective. Try stirring this into your marriage and it’ll add such animosity and bitterness that you risk ruining the pot. Practicing true, holy obedience however, will add sweetness to your relationship and serenity to both your soul and your spouse’s. Holy obedience is dying to yourself – sacrificing the love of your own will for the love of your spouse. It’s certainly a tough way to express love, but when you do, no one can doubt it. Love gives. Love focuses on others and seeks their good, while sin focuses inward, often at the expense of others.
There is a feminist response to the idea of obeying one’s husband and it’s that a woman will become a doormat – a slave to her slacker husband who sits on the couch mumbling for another cold one. “Women nowadays are much too strong in mind and spirit to stoop to such a level. This isn’t the 1950s.” This sort of perspective is focused on oneself. Anyone more concerned with serving him/herself is bound to be disgusted by the idea making sacrifices for a spouse. “My husband’s a grown man. Let him make his own dinner.”
The Picture of Obedience: Obedience in marriage is service with an added twist of someone else’s wants and needs. If I want to check my Facebook and hang out online for while, but Andrew asks for help grading his tests or putting together music for a jam session at a coffee shop, I should assist him out of obedience. I love him more than my own will and know that in serving and obeying him, I invest myself in my vocation and in God.
But why practice obedience? Not only will this kind of humility bless your home, but in practicing it, you imitate the humility of Christ in a huge way! A Christian, by definition, is someone who subscribes to and imitates the actions of Christ. Jesus lived to do the will of the Father and sought to please the Father in everything he did. As Christian married people, we’re called to have this same enthusiasm and devotion toward honoring God through honoring spouse. Vocation.
When there is holy obedience in marriage, there’s no opportunity for a husband to walk all over his wife. When a woman’s obedience is grounded in love of God and her spouse, and a husband’s decisions are in union with the will of God, peace will wash over your home. The children in this house will respect their parents and themselves, too. What a blessing to your family!
A person might respond, “Sure – this’ll work. In a perfect world! My spouse isn’t the type to appreciate obedience” and therein lies the challenge: in order for all of this to work, a shift in mindset is necessary: you have to go all the way back to your wedding day. Holy obedience fits perfectly naturally in marriage. In fact, it’s already built-in to the marriage vows: “I will love you and honor you all the days of my life.” And not only this, but it makes sense with why you married your spouse in the first place – didn’t you get married to THIS person because you were crazy about him/her? Take up every opportunity to demonstrate this! Marriage is not about one person or the other, it’s not even about two people, but rather three. “Where a lone man may be overcome, two together can resist. A three-ply cord is not easily broken.” (Eccl. 4:12).
So! How to carry it out:
- Pray and be willing to try it. A stubborn refusal to grow in virtue will yield ZERO good in any relationship.
- Seek opportunities to practice obedience cheerfully because “God loves a cheerful giver”: “…obedience, however, will be acceptable to God and agreeable to men only if compliance with what is commanded is… free from any grumbling or any reaction of unwillingness” (The Rule 5:14). What good is an offer of service is there isn’t any love behind it?
- Practicing obedience in this way is liberating, rather than enslaving. To serve others is to serve Christ. To serve Christ is certain joy.
I appreciate any other insight into this. I’m trying to learn and practice all of this myself!
- A great feature of WordPress is that I can write a post, then schedule it to be published at a certain time (do other sites have this too?). This post is scheduled for release at 8 am, Monday the 25th. By then, I’ll be a half hour into my surgery. Please pray that God blesses and guides the hands of my surgeon and the rest of my doctors.
- Because of my surgery, all my extended family in the area are helping with Liam and my mom is even flying in from Omaha this coming Saturday. I can’t wait. I’m blessed with such a generous family!
- Our electric bill was a whopping $30 cheaper this month than last! I relish in omitting the thermostat. While living frugally can be a chore or a depressing burden, it can be a great game. How many ways can I avoid using electricity for the sake of bringing our bill down? It’s like playing Don’t Spend a Penny.
- I started reading Jane Eyre for the first time. Just reading the first few pages was like taking a deep, refreshing breath. This is exactly the sort of book I’ve been seeking to read under our down comforter before bed.