Control What You Can Control

There’s a lot in this life that seems out of my control.  I could easily spend my time in frustration, whining about and bemoaning those things (while making everyone around me miserable)… but instead, I’m trying to take responsibility and ownership of whatever I can control. 

 

  • I can’t control who becomes our next president, but I can vote and encourage others to do the same.
  • I can’t control what time my kids wake up in the morning (oh, how I’ve tried!), but I can get to bed at a decent time so I’m ready to rock and roll when they are (or something like that).
  • I can’t control grocery prices, but I can be more vigilant about my shopping practices and meal preparation to get the best deals and keep our bill as low as possible.
  • I can’t control the weather, but I can rearrange my schedule so we can enjoy every possible minute outside before the nasty cold sets in.   I can also make the most of our time inside with fun projects for the kids.
  • I can’t control the economy (which is too bad for all of us, because let me tell ya…  I have a plan!) but I can react to it appropriately and ride the roller coaster.  “After all, the only way to get hurt on a roller coaster is to jump off.” 😉 (Got that from Dave.)  Check out Dave’s take on the economy.  He is so right on!
  • I can’t control my husband’s teaching income, but I can carefully steward it and stretch it to meet our needs. 
  • I can’t control everything my daughter is learning (the good, the bad, and the ugly) at school, but I can be an advocate for her education.  And… if it’s really an issue, I could homeschool.  There are always options more positive than complaining (or doing nothing).
  • I can’t control our health insurance costs (don’t get me started), but I can do my best to keep my family healthy by preparing nutrient rich foods, exercising with the kids, making sure we all get enough sleep, and keeping germs at bay. 
  • I can’t control how busy we are… oh, wait!  Sure I can!  Ever heard of saying NO?!?  (I know, I know, that doesn’t work in every situation, but we are all gifted with the same 24 hours in a day…)

I can’t fix all, cure all, mend all, be all… so I’ll just control what I can control.  It works for me.

Another thing that works for me?  Small town church cookbooks!  Enter my giveaway to win one!

Living for Giving

Stewardship is not always a popular topic in local churches.  Often it invokes negative images or experiences.  But stewardship is a gift from God, a spiritual discipline and a means of God’s grace.

The above message from Bishop Kenneth L. Cardner was prominent on the back of our church bulletin last weekend.  It is timely as we all prepare for the holiday season (and is timeless, really).

Giving is something that everyone can and should do.  Yes, everyone.  Rich, poor, talented, not-so-talented, young or old.  We all, in any of our broken circumstances, can give.

Based on the stewardship definition of time, talent and treasure, I’ve put together a list of things to get us all in the giving spirit.  This list is certainly not complete, and definitely not just for the holiday season (or for church!)… please help me compile more ideas in the comments!

The Gift of Time

  • Red Cross Bloodmobile (either giving much needed blood or as a volunteer… just the other night I got a phone call.  “We’re hosting the blood mobile on Friday.  Would you like to donate a pie, 5 pounds of cooked potatoes, or $5?”  It wasn’t would you like to donate, but what would you like to donate.  😉  That lady knows how to get her volunteers!  Love it.)
  • Visiting elderly neighbors.  Last week Kate wrote about their homeschool lesson in manners.  I know that all of us have neighbors who would love to be “used” for homework practice!
  • Helping a new mom with chores so she can sit and enjoy the baby.
  • Grab some sacks, take a walk, and pick up some trash.
  • Participate in local nursing home events.  (Is this just a Tiny Town thing?)  Our nursing home offers kid parties at Halloween, Easter, and a carnival in the summer.  Fun for the kids, and a great change of pace for the residents.
  • Update:  Check out Toni’s Coupons for Troups program.  (Thanks, Kate!)

The Gift of Talent

  • Help create costumes or the set for a school or community play.
  • Go Christmas caroling!
  • Heat up your oven and bake… for neighbors, for new parents, for shut-ins, for someone battling a chronic illness, for a family who’s recently experienced a death.  Here’s a list of meals I use to bless others.
  • Direct or perform in a community cantata.
  • Have your kids (or your homeschool group?) make decorations such as place mats for the local nursing home or hospital.  Deliver them together.

The Gift of Treasure (on a budget)

  • Operation Christmas Child boxes (if you’re a bargain hunter, you can fill these boxes cheap!)
  • Angel tree — I’ve seen many variations, but you pick an ornament from a tree and purchase the gift that’s on the ornament (a fun family outing).
  • If it’s not a regular practice in your household, eat an untypically frugal meal once a month (or week) and donate your savings to a favorite charity.
  • If you’re switching to a whole foods diet, give your processed pantry stockpile to a local food bank.
  • Donate gently used baby clothes and toys to a pregnancy crisis center.
  • Last Christmas we made a donation to The Lord’s Diner in honor of my parents, who said they didn’t want anything for Christmas.  😉  They loved that gift.

We should give something, because He gave everything.  And because it gives us an opportunity to serve.  And because it feels so good.

Living for giving… works for me!  Peruse Shannon’s blog for more WFMW!

Frugal Living in a Tiny Town

A warm Finer Things welcome to Money Saving Mom visitors!  For all the rest of you, head on over to Crystal’s awesome money saving blog to check out my latest guest post:  Frugal Living in a Tiny Town.

**Note:  This is not my post office.  It sure is cute, though, and ours isn’t much bigger!

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Simple Finances

Keeping our finances simple is one thing that has given us peace of mind and heart during the nearly ten years that we’ve been married.  Because of the choices that we have made and continue to make on a daily basis, we’re able to continue on course when the financial world around us seems to be in turmoil.

Our simple money management looks like this:

We live below our means, even though our current means qualify us for some state assistance.

  • One of my least favorite sayings is “you spend what you earn.”  So not true.  The very thought of spending my husband’s full paycheck every month is frightening.
  • We lived below our means even when we had two jobs and no children.  That made things much simpler when it came time to transition to one income!
  • We have learned so much about being content with what we are blessed with. 
  • When an unexpected expense comes in (recently it’s been doctor bills) we can write a check.  The money is there.  That doesn’t make paying the bill any more fun, but it sure simplifies matters!
  • Because we live below our means, we are able to give.  Giving brings peace to our lives.

Aside from our 15 year mortgage, which we are working toward paying off early, we have no debt.

  • We are extremely thankful to be nearly debt-free.  If something were to happen to our income, we wouldn’t have the added stress of trying to hang on to things that aren’t yet paid for. 
  • Payments irk me.  I can’t stand the thought of paying interest money for anything.  I would much rather watch interest pay me in our mutual funds (which I am confident will rebound ;-).   If we can’t pay cash (or we just don’t want to!) we don’t buy it. 
  • Having no debt leaves necessary wiggle room in the budget.  Even though it’s hard to watch prices go up on nearly every type of item, we can make the adjustment. 

Who are the Joneses, anyway? 

  •  It’s just a guess, but I picture the Joneses being incredibly stressed out about paying for all the things they’ve collected, watching in horror as their credit card interest accrues… on items they don’t remember needing or purchasing.  Again, just a guess, but who needs that?
  • Another thing with the Joneses.  If they really can pay for all of that stuff, what are they sacrificing?  Their time?  Health?  Relationships?  Defiitely not simple, and definitely not worth it.
  • Again, contentment.  We’re content with our older home (with a nice big yard for the kids to play in and for a garden!)  We’re content with our tv, and our cell phone, and our two older vehicles.  They get us where we’re going safely.   

Keeping our finances simple has been a true blessing to our marriage.  The teamwork that it takes to create and implement our financial goals, and to hold one another accountable when one of us really wants something 😉 , has contributed to our unbreakable bond.  We are so richly blessed.

For more Living Simply Saturdays, visit Keeper of the Home.

Finances Schminances

What a wonder that I do not have to worry about our family finances.  I don’t need to worry about anything, actually.  God says so!  For that I am grateful.

Dismiss all anxiety from your minds.  Present your needs to God in every form of prayer and in petitions full of gratitude.  Then God’s own peace, which is beyond all understanding, will stand guard over your hearts and minds, in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4: 6,7

Instead of stressing over past mistakes and an uncertain financial future on an income that qualifies our daughter for reduced school lunch prices, we can continue doing what we’ve set out to do from the beginning of our marriage (and before when we were single).

  • My parents taught me to “save ’till it hurts.”  I always have, so it is second nature.  For that I am grateful.
  • The first three years of our marriage, when we both had excellent-paying teaching jobs, we lived below our means.  For that I am grateful. 
  • When we shopped for our first home, we both laughed out loud when the bank wanted to loan us $200,000+ for a rather large, new home.  We went for the cozy, 1,200 square foot, circa 1965 model.  For that I am grateful. 
  • Knowing while we were engaged (and even while we dated!) that we both wanted me to stay home and raise any children that God saw fit to give us, we tried to live on one income from the beginning.  Oh, how much easier the actual transition was 5 years later when our daughter was finally born!  For that I am grateful. 
  • When God called us to Tiny Town, with it’s teeny-tiny salary, I only panicked momentarily.  (Does a whole weekend of intermittent hysterical bawling qualify as momentarily?)  Then I let God do his thing.  He proved his faithfulness by getting a really good price for our former home (in less than 24 hours on the market!) and gave us a bigger home in Tiny Town for about 1/2 of our selling price.  For that I am grateful!
  • Even on our small salary, because of the way we live and manage our money, we are able to give.  It feels so good to bless others.  For that I am grateful. 

While our country is in turmoil over bad financial choices and greedy behaviors, we can rest in the promise of our God.  He has taught us well, and thank goodness we have listened, um, most of the time!  (because we don’t always…) And praise be to God that even if we lose it all, all is not lost.  For our hope does not rest on any amount of money, but in the One who never fails. 

For more Gratituesday, visit Heavenly Homemakers.

Best Bulk Buy

Although I gave up my membership recently, I’ve enjoyed my fair share of years wandering the aisles of SAM’S club in search of great bulk deals (and yummy sample snacks along the way!)  I still have access to bulk buying — thanks to “friends in high places” — but with grocery store sales and coupons, I could almost give it up.  Almost.

There is one item that I will never, ever purchase except in bulk.  Yeast.

The above two pound package of vacuum-sealed yeast (yes, two pounds) cost $4.16.  For two pounds!

 

This little 4 oz. jar of yeast costs $3.92 at Wal Mart.  It would take eight of these jars to equal two pounds.  That’s $31.36 for the same thing I purchased for $4.16!  Oh, it gets better… (By the way, I use my bread machine all the time and never use “bread machine” yeast.  The regular stuff works fine for me.)

 

 

 

How about these cute expensive little strips of yeast?  A total of 3/4 OUNCES of yeast for $1.12.  Yikes!  To get two pounds I would have to spend $47.04!  I don’t think so!

 

Moral of the math:  If you do any baking at all… buy your yeast in bulk.  Don’t have a bulk store membership?  Find a friend who does!  Can’t use all that yeast before it expires?  (The stuff I bought last week expires in June of 2010.)  Share it with a friend or two!  You’ll all benefit.

Speaking of benefiting… I’m giving away one of my one-pound packages of vacuum-sealed yeast!  Want some?  Leave a comment telling me a little about your yeast baking experience or routine.  What do you bake?  How often do you bake it?  I’ll randomly draw a winner Sunday night September 28.

Good luck and happy baking!

For more Frugal Friday, visit Biblical Womanhood.

One TV, One Channel

We have one TV in our home.  With our highly technical rabbit ears, we receive one semi-clear channel.  That works for us.

  • We have children.  They provide lots of free entertainment.
  • We have children.  We don’t choose to have time for TV.
  • We have children.  We don’t want to be tempted to use the TV as a sitter.
  • We have children.  (Have I mentioned that already?)  I can control what and how much they watch by using videos.
  • We can check out movies at our local library for free if we want a TV fix.
  • Anything we need to watch (weather, breaking news, CSI  😉 ) can be found on our one channel or on the Internet.  We visit friends (and take lots of food!) when we want to see a big game that’s not on “our” channel.
  • We have saved massive amounts of money during our 10 year marriage by not paying for TV.  Even at $30 per month (I know this can vary from $12 to around $100) each month for 10 years… that’s $3,600.  Doesn’t sound like a lot to you?  Put that money in a mutual fund for a few years averaging 12% returns and you might change your tube-watching tune!

Although it would have been nice to veg out in front of the Olympics, or spend Sundays planted in front of endless football games… oh, wait a minute.  I forgot about the children!  Let me try again…

Although it would have been nice to pop in to see the beginning of a few Olympic events, only to miss the photo finish because of a dirty diaper or screaming from the other room or a sibling fight or the desperate cry for a glass of milk… (ahhh, that’s more like it.  That sounds like home!)

We have one TV.  It has one channel.  Works for me!

Slow Down!

This month my electric company was kind enough to give me more than a sour taste in my mouth from our latest bill.  On the back of the statement, they supplied free hints for saving money at the pump.  I had seen this information before, written in percentages, but when I saw the actual money lingo I took note. 

Observe the Speed Limit  Each 5 mph you drive over 60 mph becomes the equivalent of spending an extra 30 cents per gallon for gas.

Thirty cents per gallon.  For EACH 5 mph over 60!  (I tend to drive about 73 on the interstate.)  That is significant!  What could you save on a whole tank of gas?  When I did some brief research to confirm the statement (trying to decide if I really did need to slow down) I found similar information on  this govenrnment site…

While each vehicle reaches its optimal fuel economy at a different speed (or range of speeds), gas mileage usually decreases rapidly at speeds above 60 mph.

You can assume that each 5 mph you drive over 60 mph is like paying an additional $0.26 per gallon for gas.

Observing the speed limit is also safer.

So my two information sources are pretty much in agreement.  I’m going to give it a try.  Do we really save that much time driving 5 mph faster, anyway?  For an hour long trip… five minutes, maybe?  If I slow down I could save at least $1.00 in that hour, and more if we slow down on the interstate.  Hmmm… save $1.00+ or save 5 minutes?  I’m going to try to save some $$$ on our next trip. 

Anyone else want to slow down and enjoy the ride?  And the savings?

Check out more Frugal Friday over at Biblical Womanhood.   

Baby Wipes

I’m a pretty frugal person.  We’ve taken lots of steps to live happily on less so that I can be home raising our children.  We don’t do cable.  We rarely eat out.  We don’t have any debt aside from our mortgage.  We utilize our library and fresh free produce and Manager’s Specials.  I’ve even stalked the local grocery stocker and asked for a discountSo why, I ask you, had I never thought to make my own baby wipes?

Even though I’d seen the baby wipes idea on a few other blogs, it took several reads to turn the lightbulb on.  Finally, after reading Joy’s suggestion, I gave it a try.

I won’t go into how to make them; Joy does a nice job of that.  But I will tell you what they cost (for me).

Here’s the breakdown.

1 roll = 88 sheets x 2 (because I cut the roll in 1/2) = 176 sheets

Official "wipes tearer"

176 sheets = 80 cents (withOUT a coupon because my 5 year old daughter, who was in charge of holding coupons, somehow couldn’t think what she did with the coupons at checkout time… never mind that I had THREE MORE of the SAME COUPON with me in my organizer… didn’t even think of that, grrrr)

1 T. baby oil and 1 T. baby shampoo = didn’t take the time to figure it, but it has to be PENNIES, right???

176 wipes fill TWO + (but not quite three) of my store-bought wipes tubs.

So one full tub of wipes cost me maybe 43 cents, without the darn coupon!  Pretty good deal for those of us unfortunate enough to live more than four hours from the nearest CVS, huh?

Thanks, JoyWhy didn’t I try that sooner?

Check out more Frugal Friday at Biblical Womanhood.

*** Update:  I should have let you know that I’ve already tried them out on many a varied 😉 messy situation, and they work wonderfully.  They smell great, too.  Like giving baby a bath with each new diaper!

It’s Not a Bargain if You Don’t Need It

I love a good bargain. When I enter a store, any store, I delight in discovering all things CLEARANCE.

Before we moved to Tiny Town, I was a bargain shopper extraordinaire. I’d hit all the sales. Frequently. I did lots of shopping, but spent very little money (on each individual item). And I had lots of stuff to show for it. Some of it useful. Some of it even needed. But a lot of it… just clearanced stuff.

I’d order an item on clearance, and when it arrived… it might not be exactly what I’d hoped for, or it wouldn’t fit just right, or *gasp* it looked better on the model than on me. But I wouldn’t send it back, because paying for shipping would be more than my refund! So my stuff collection grew.

Things are different now. More children. Less time. Bigger house. Tiny town. Fewer stores. Fewer bargains. Less shopping…

…simpler life… in some ways. Definitely in shopping ways. I’m working hard to rid my home of useless clutter, even if it was a bargain. (And even if it was given to us!) I don’t need 15 pairs of shoes, even if I purchased each of them for under $10. It adds up! I want the simple pleasure of knowing that the items we have were purchased for a good deal and for a good purpose. I desire a purpose for my purchase!

I still have my “gift stash” (of course!) in the basement that I absolutely couldn’t be without. I still pounce on any men’s size 14 shoes that I see for under $30, because size 14 shoe bargains don’t come along every day (or every year) and size 14 shoes are very much needed by an important man in my home. I’m still drawn to the clearance racks and shelves, and I still purchase what we need from them.

My frugal tip this week: while the bargain still beckons… it’s just not a bargain if you don’t need it.

Visit Biblical Womanhood for more Frugal Friday!