Why I Give - The Check is in the Mail

Originally published as a Call To Offering April 2005.

You know those stories that you hear. The ones where somebody really needs some money, and they pray and miraculously a check comes in the mail?

Well that happened to us! Just before Miss Love was born our furnace went out. They fixed it, but we are going to need a new one.

So imagine our excitement when we get an unexpected check in the mail!

The money was from a previous job that reviewed its records and discovered that they had withheld too much tax back in 1995. Imagine, God had answered our prayer before we even asked.

Except the check was for only $17.

So was this an answer to prayer? I mean, Lord a furnace costs a lot of money and this is only $17. What do you do with an answer like that?

I’ll tell you what I did. I cashed it.

Do I stop being faithful to God, just because he didn’t solve my problem the way I wanted?

No, God may not have rubbed his magic genie lamp and fixed all my problems, but He did go one better. He reminded me that we aren’t doing this alone. No matter how much we worry or plan, He is still in control. Knowing that I worship a powerful God is even better than having Him pay all my bills.


#1 Money Saving Tip This Winter

I know, it looked like I was yelling at you, and I am sorry. But seriously. If you want to save money this winter do your best to not get sick. Or you can at least do me the favor of not bringing your kids out if they are sick, so that mine don't get sick.

It may not be a big deal to many families, a drippy nose here, a little cough, cough there. No big deal.

We have what they call a "high risk" child. That little cough, cough can turn into breathing treatments that we have to do twice a day. And at $3 a pop, it's not just Starbucks we are having to cut back on.

This winter we are going to do our best to not get sick. This could be a savings of at least $750. And that is just our out of pocket expenses. Thankfully we have insurance.

So in teaching my kids about money, I have to include little lessons like:

  • washing their hands
  • covering their mouths
  • getting enough sleep
  • eating good food
  • drinking lots of water
  • avoiding sick people
  • not putting things into their mouths

This may be our hardest money saving goal yet.

Do you have any tips for us on how to avoid the bugs?

This has been linked in with We are THAT family.


We Have Arrived...

Minivan? Check

3 kids? Check

Dog? Check

Soccer player? Yes, we know have that one, too. It seems I have arrived. I am officially "A Soccer Mom."

I know this puts me into a whole new category. I am just not quite sure what to expect, now that we are here.

Here are some things I did not expect:
  • I did not expect to be so proud of my kid just standing on the field.
  • I did not expect that I would ever bribe my kid to kick the ball.
  • I did not expect to be scandalized by the snacks the other soccer moms brought.

Apparently the apple slices and home made cookies that we brought were not as cool as the many variations on junk food that Miss Love ended up with after every other soccer game. How was I supposed to know that snacks had changed since I was a kid?

Nobody said anything, of course, and I was glad that we had been first to bring snacks. Who knows what I would have done if I had had a clue. Would I have given in to peer pressure? Would I have bought the expensive, yet cool snacks.

Am I prepared to teach my kids about money even when it means they won't have the cool snacks? Being a soccer mom is a hard job, but someone has got to do it.

And I will admit, I was inwardly ecstatic to see that for our final game we had Home made Cupcakes and all the kids cheered because "they have rainbow sprinkles!"


Why I Give - Being a Tightwad

Okay, it is time for me to confess. I am really a tightwad. When it comes to money, I am not generous. I am more than willing to share my house, my time, my food or my ideas, but when it comes to money, I want to know where it is going.
So we have this budget. At first, it was just so we could keep track of where our money was going. Then we saw things that we should probably change, so the budget helped keep us on track. Now, with less income, our budget has become crucial.
To some, our budget may seem restrictive, or ridiculous. But we have taken the money that we have and split it up between the things that we spend money on. This allows us to make sure we have 10% set aside for tithe, and then we do an additional 5% for offering. We set aside money for groceries, entertainment, cash, and yes, Hubby even has his own hobby fund.
If you knew how many speakers we had in our basement, you would understand.
I don’t mind telling you that our budget is in good shape. I keep an eye on it. Even though our spending trends fluctuate, we are still on track with our spending goals.
We write a check once a month for our tithe and offering. Several weeks ago I noticed that on those other weeks, after the call to offering, Hubby was taking cash out of his wallet to put in the plate. Well, I only take out so much cash every month, so I asked him about it. Should we change our budget to reflect this difference in giving?
He said no, he hasn’t run out of cash yet, so he didn’t think it was that big of a deal.
Finally it hits me.
This is how it is supposed to be.
There is the regular money that we set aside for tithe and offering, and then there is the money that we give to God, just because we can. I am so glad, that when God blesses us, he doesn’t just stop with the things we need or expect. He is so generous, that he gives to us just because He can.


Stocking Up - Mayo

This last spring during artichoke season we had a crisis. We had the most delicious artichokes, the Four Cheese Rice a Roni, and the kids in bed early. Only to discover we had run out of Mayonnaise. Artichokes must have mayo. But no worries, we have the best neighbors ever. So we called them and they said, "No problem, we have plenty."
But they didn't.
They had miracle whip.
It's not the same thing.
So hubby says, "We are going to have to get some real mayonnaise." He hops up and runs down to the store (he could have literally run to the store, we live that close, but in an emergency situation, I do believe he took the car).
The rest of the evening was spent without incident. But in the spirit of Scarlett O'Hara I vowed right there to never go without real Mayonnaise again.
It was with this thought in mind that I got quite excited about the sale on Mayo this week at Meijer. It was nearly 50% off. So I stocked up. I bought 10 of them. Which for us would last us clear through next years artichoke season.
When I got home, it seems there had been an earlier sale that I had forgotten about. I already had a stock pile of Mayonnaise.
Ummm....note to self, we don't need any more mayonnaise.
Now I like to teach my kids that stockpiling is a way of saving money, you know, buying when things are on sale. But I am afraid my lesson may have backfired this time. I think the lesson for me today was, "you aren't saving money if you don't need it."

This has been linke dup with Things I love Thursday at the DiaperDiaries.


Job vs. Chore - The Master Bedroom

Generally the Master Bedroom is off limits to many kids. My kids occasionally take naps on our bed when we need to spread out a bit. Right now the three of them share a room, so it's nice to have a quiet place if necessary. But most of the time Mommy and Daddy's room is left alone.

Which means most of the responsibilities fall on us, too. This makes for a great opportunity for kids to earn some extra money. Jobs in the Master Bedroom aren't usually time or skill intensive. Here are some ideas:

  • Changing the sheets on the bed

  • sweeping/vacuuming the floor

  • dusting

  • putting clean laundry away

  • emptying the trash

  • washing the windows

Look to see if any of these jobs fit the skill level of any of your kids. When they are looking for some extra money you may want to refer to this list and give them a job first, rather than just giving them the money.

Now there are chores that I did not add to this list, such as:
  • making bed
  • picking up dirty laundry

Call me a snob, but I believe that there are some jobs people should do for themselves regardless of how much money they have. I hope to teach my kids that there is no such thing as too rich to make their own bed or put their own dirty clothes in the hamper.

Do you have any jobs like that?


So We Got a Cell Phone...

Now, just last week I was ranting about how much I hate cell phones. So it would seem quite a switch that i am already loving having one. Here is what happened after HOURS of research:
  • Hubby got a cell phone - quite a nice one, too. Kind of like a cheapo version of a blackberry I think, that has WIFI calling.
  • Hubby signed up for At&t Go Phone which is like $10 a month.
  • We canceled our long distance - this was the cause of the whole problem in the first place. How can they charge so much? Ridiculous!
  • We couldn't cancel all phone service - that's how we get our Internet, since we aren't cable subscribers.
  • We discovered WFRN's Phone Friend - they have a $10 plan and the minutes get rolled over, and the service is way better. I thought they had a referral program, but I couldn't find it anywhere.
  • Our Wifi phone has free calling anywhere there is free Internet: our house!, the library, many airports, coffee shops, etc.
  • I can log onto Google Calendar from anywhere! - We just figured out google calendar, and we set up one account for our whole family, so I can update info, and my Hubby can see it on his calendar at work, our calendar at home, or my phone.
  • This may revolutionize my grocery shopping. - No, I can't just call home like my mom does and ask the poor sucker that answers the phone what we have in the fridge. I mean, I can make a list on our computer, and have it show up on my phone!

I am still looking into ways that I can enter the price of food from different stores, that will tell me where the cheapest place to buy a certain item might be. Or if something is on sale, is it really a good stock-up-for-winter sale, or just a so-so buy-an-extra-to-have-on-hand-for-company-kind of sale. So if any of you know of anything like that let me know. I would hate to invest unneeded time on excel.

So now I have to admit that I love my new phone. Thanks Babe, I love you.

I just have to promise to not become one of those people. You know the ones. The cell phone talkers...

This has been linked in to Things I love Thursday at the Diaper Diaries


Why I give? - Our Mortgage

This is part of a series originally published in November 2004. The timeline reflects our circumstances of that time.

Well, it’s been two years now since we’ve been trying to have a baby. For some reason, still unexplained, there were problems. This created quite a physical and emotional roller coaster for me. Through different doctors, tests, medications, weird side effects, and prayers, it wasn’t just the silence that was frustrating. Month after month, all we seemed to hear was No, No, No. Until just as suddenly, this spring, after 18 months, God said yes.

Then we had to figure out how we could make this work. Hubby and I were both committed to me staying home when we had children, so we had to look closely at our finances. Luckily, God had been working in our lives in a different way this whole time.

We had been very good at putting half our income toward paying off our house each month. Because we were careful with our spending, and committed to our goal, we were able to make our last payment on our house this summer.

Now that we are down to one salary, it is just enough to cover our basic monthly expenses because we don’t have a mortgage or any other debt to worry about. Looking back to where we were two years ago, I can see that we couldn’t have done that. Financially, we were still a long way from being in a position where I could stay home.

From the outside it looks like we were really smart. It looks as if we waited to have children. It looks as if we had this whole thing all planned out. Well before you give us any credit, let me remind you, this was not our plan. We were praying for something else entirely, and we weren’t very patient about it. This was God’s plan. He’s the one that had everything worked out.

Now when I look at our bills and wonder if we can do it, I get a little kick in the ribs reminding me that God has it all worked out.

This post has been linkedin with Thankful Thursdays

Job vs. Chore - in the Bedroom

I believe that kids are responsible for the upkeep of their own rooms, so most of the things will be considered chores. Many things I currently do for my kids, but as they get older they will take over these responsibilities.

  • changing their sheets

  • making their beds

  • putting away dirty clothes

  • putting away clean clothes

  • putting away books and toys

  • dusting

  • dusting the floor

  • setting out clean clothes

These are the things that I would (and may have already) pay for:

  • changing a siblings sheets - right now the boys aren't old enough to do it themselves, so Miss Love is helping me, by taking off old sheets. We are still working on getting the new ones on.

  • Putting siblings clothes away - see note above.

  • removing spider webs - this is usually just a once in a while job

  • cleaning window

  • mopping the floor - I like to really clean the wood floors with water once or twice a year

I think it is okay for kids to pay each other to do things, or essentially trade chores, but we haven't had the opportunity to try out this theory.

Job vs. Chore

There seems to be some confusion out there about what constitutes a job, and versus a chore, and why should we give money to kids for jobs that they should be doing anyway. I want to clarify my position on when kids should be paid for their jobs.

A Chore is something you do:

  • because you are part of this family (or live in this house)

  • even if you don't want to

  • because you eat

  • because you wear clothes

  • because you sleep

  • because you want to do fun stuff

A job is something you do:

  • when your chores are done

  • when you need money

  • that someone else is willing to pay you to do

Obviously this definition is subjective, and can be defined in different ways by different people.

There are things that I believe that a kids should be responsible for, as soon as they are mentally and physically capable of doing it. But there are some responsibilities that I have taken on in my own quest to provide a nice home for our family. If one of my kids wants to learn how to do that task, to take it off my hands, I would gladly pay them. The only reason I don't pay someone to do them now, is that I am cheap, and I know how much house cleaners cost. Besides, I don't think they would come to my house just to vacuum rice from under my table.

So this is the first in a series about chores and jobs. I will look at each room of the house, and give examples of what would be considered a chore vs. a job. Realize that I am not an expert, I just play one on the Internet.

This is linked in with We Are THAT Family for Works for me Wednesday.


A Conversation

A conversation about Budgets with Miss Love

"Do you know what I am doing, babe?"


"I am checking our budget."

"What for?"

"I am checking to see that we don't run out of money."

"And to see what we are buying?"

"That's right"

"And to make sure we aren't buying naughty things"

"What do you mean?"

"Sometimes people buy naughty things that they don't need, and then they don't have enough money."

Wise beyond her years, that one is.

Looking for Extra Money? - Selling on EBay Part 4 - Stuff that Kids can Sell

It is amazing what you can find for sale on eBay. Which means the reverse is also true: It is amazing what you can sell on eBay!

Help your kids think out of the box and together you can sell many things on eBay. Remember, that you must be of a certain age to have an account on eBay. However, working as a team, you and your kid can learn a lot about money by selling a few items that you may already have.

There are many people who make selling on eBay a business. This usually involves making or buying items on the cheap and then selling them for a profit.

Other people sell on eBay merely as a hobby, or as an occasional means to get some cash. This usually involves finding items from around your house and then selling them rather than storing, yard selling, or merely giving them away.

Here are some ideas of things you may already have that you can sell:

  • outgrown clothes

  • out grown shoes

  • out grown coats

  • Toys

  • books

  • DVDs

  • CDs

  • Collections

  • Costumes

  • Backpacks/bags

  • Games

  • Computer Games

  • New Stuffed Animals

  • Baby Gear: Diapers, bottles, cups, blankets, etc.

  • Coupons

  • Gift Cards

  • Knick Knacks

If you find that you have a lot of low value items, you can group them together into "lots." This saves you time in listing, and it creates a better value for your customers. Here are some good examples of "lots" that may not sell very well by themselves, but do great in a group:

  • Used clothes

  • small books

  • used movies

  • small toys

  • art/craft supplies

  • seeds

  • coupons

  • Learning Kits

You, of course, will have to look around and see what you have available to sell, and then compare it with what is selling. Just because nobody else is selling it, doesn't mean nobody wants. That may make it more valuable.

Why I give - The Summons

This is part of the Why I Give series, originally published as A Call to Offering. This post is from May 2004.

I got something in the mail the other day, that I have been waiting for for awhile. Years actually. Yes, I finally got my first jury summons in the mail. Of course, I still have to be chosen, but I honestly can’t wait to go for a variety of reasons.

I am really interested in the legal process, I’ve seen it on TV, but I’ve never been in a real courtroom before. Another reason is that I recognize that my community has asked me to serve, and I am excited to be able to answer that call.

In a similar way your church has summoned you to serve. It may be with time, prayer, or money. Recently I have noticed that many have really taken up the call with their money. At our church, which is quite small compared to many, their is sometimes a record of recent giving. Now I tend to watch these numbers as closely as I watch gas prices and I have noticed some things. A few months back, our giving was way down. Ten thousand dollars down. Each month we were giving less than our budget called for.

However I think that God has been working here in this church. Many had been praying about where to give money, and how much to give. Look at the effects that prayers have had. For the past several weeks our weekly giving has exceeded what was budgeted for. We are actually getting ourselves out of debt. Way to go.

Jesus talks about this in his parable of the talents in Matthew 25 “Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.”

You have been summoned.

This has been linked in at Beautiful Calling.


Looking For Extra Money? - Selling on EBay Part 3 - Is it Worth the Energy?

After you have considered the potential time and money invested in selling an item on eBay, you still have to ask yourself

Is it worth the energy?

You may have the perfect item but things still might not go as you plan. Consider these ideas before you invest the energy:

A. What if it doesn't sell? - Are you ready to re list, and invest the listing fee again?

B. What if it sells for less than you were hoping?

C. Do you have enough positive feedback to be a trustworthy seller?

D. Can you afford to refund the money back if something unfortunate happens during shipping?

E. Do you have the patience to deal with many emails from potential buyers?

Selling on eBay can be a great way to make extra money. Many people have work at home jobs based on eBay selling.

I strongly recommend anyone who is considering selling on eBay to at least buy something first. That way you can be familiar with the process. You will know from your experience what to do to make buyers more confident in the sale, and hopefully comeback for more!

Selling eBay can also be a great practice for teaching kids about money. From the safety of your home, your kids can learn about customer service, investment vs. reward, and value.

Looking For Extra Money? - Selling on eBay Part 2 - Is it Worth the Money?

Investors every where will tell you that you need money to make money. So you have to ask yourself, how much money am I willing to invest, in order to make money selling on eBay?

Is it worth the money?

Similar to the time issue, you need to be aware of the costs involved in selling on eBay:

A. Listing fees- eBay charges a basic fee for listing, plus more for any extras

B. Final Value Fee - eBay also charges a small percentage of what your item sells for after the auction closes.

C. Paypal - by far the easiest way to receive money, there is often a charge to the seller from paypal

D. Packaging Costs- If you have to buy boxes or packing materials you should subtract that from your profit to get a true feel for the costs

E. Shipping costs- Yes, the buyer pays for this but you still have to get it there, and many buyers may decide that it costs more to ship something than the item is worth.

F. Insurance costs- The buyer usually pays for this, too, but if something goes wrong during shipping, they will look to you to solve the problem. Many times this may require you to refund the money which equals a loss of item, plus a loss in listing fee.

EBay sends out a monthly invoice that is charged to a credit card (maybe they can do bank direct, too). You have to register this information up front, which may be why they require you to be of a certain age. It is possible that you won't have to put out any money up front, because your sale may cover the costs, but be aware, in case they don't.

EBay has also added a selling bonus. The first five items listed every month are free. you only pay a final value fee if your item sells. This definitely reduces the risk of losing money if your item does not sell.

Looking For extra Money? - Selling on Ebay Part 1 - Is it Worth Your Time?

A common place for people to turn when looking for extra cash, selling on eBay could solve some cash flow problems. Now, you have to be of a certain age to sell on eBay, but this could be a great place for you to help your kids get some extra cash.

If you have not yet sold anything on eBay, but want to, here are some things to consider before you jump in:

Is it worth your time?

This is a big one, because it takes time. There are many steps to selling, that can make the whole process cumbersome:

A. Preparing your item for sale - washing, gathering, etc.

B. Taking good pictures - pictures are super important

C. Downloading pictures onto computer

D. Researching potential value of your item (really you should do this first)

E. Describing your item -check it over completely for ANY possible flaws

F. Listing Your item - decide starting value, shipping, payment options

G. Packing - over pack items especially breakables

H. Check messages often - good communication is crucial in keeping positive feedback

I. Shipping

Each of these steps may take only a few minutes, but all added up, you may decide that it is not worth your time. I personally don't like to list items that I don't think will sell for less than $10. I only have so many free moments in the day, that it seems a shame to spend them all on eBay.

However, if I have several lower dollar items that are similar, I can do many of the steps at the same time- taking pictures, down loading, researching, describing, etc. eBay makes it simple for you to use one listing as a template to sell other things, so this can make it a snap if you plan to sell many of the same things.

Feeling Rich - #1 We Actually Have a Budget

And yes, we look at it and compare our spending.

Having a budget doesn't really matter if you never look at it, its not adjusted regularly, or it doesn't match your lifestyle. Here are some basic ways to make budgeting work for you.

Make It Easy. We like to use Quicken software for managing our budget. It is easy to set up, easy to download credit card transactions, and easy to make adjustments. If it is not easy to do, you know you aren't going to stick with it. So start easy, you can always make your budget more complicated later.

Start Right Now. The great thing about a budget is that you can begin immediately. Don't wait for debts to get paid off, the new year, or life to get easier. As you start tracking your spending, you will see patterns. The more information you have, the better.

Make it Flexible. As you notice patterns, it is okay to change your budget. If it doesn't fit your life, you know you won't stick to it.

Review it Regularly. It is good to watch for categories that are out of whack. Sometimes it will have too much money allocated, and sometimes it may not have enough. Know this before it is too late.

Build in a Cushion. Allow for spending to fluctuate each month. Add a small percentage more to each category to allow for any extras. At the end of the year, you can always use that surplus to buy something special or give it away.

Prepare for Long Term Savings Categories. Putting a little bit in a category, like new car, each month will let you afford things before you need them. This way you can track how much you have saved up for an item.

Have some Blow Money. This comes from Dave Ramsey. Everybody needs to have a bit of cash that they can just spend as frivolously as they want. You don't have to track it and you don't have to defend it. You don't even have to spend it.

Miscellaneous Category. This is great for those times when you need something that really doesn't fit into any other category. Like an umbrella. You don't really need an umbrella category, but its not food, or clothes or gas.

Combine Categories. We buy diapers, shampoo, and Dog food at the grocery story. It seems silly for those to have their own category, so we just lump them together in a single grocery category.

Separate Categories. We knew we could cut some money by not eating out, but we wanted to know how much. So we put eating out into the entertainment category instead of a food category. Now we know how much is left for when date night comes along.

Your Budget means Freedom. When you are trying to save money, it is easy to get into a rut of being a tightwad. But having a budget means saying yes to buying what you need and even want, saying no to what you can't afford, and knowing the difference.

Having a budget has meant peace of mind for our family. We have a zero balance budget, which means we write down how much our income is, and subtract all of our expenses until we get to zero. Using a computer program helps us play with the numbers easily so that we can add or subtract here or there to make it work. Because we have a budget, we can prove that it is possible. We know how much we can spend on each thing, and we DON"T HAVE TO WORRY!

Not having to worry about money is the number one thing that makes us feel rich. You don't have to make a lot of money to know that you have enough.

Your kids will learn about how budgeting works by seeing that the family has one and follows it.


Why I Give - Coat Pockets...

This is the first in a series of Why I Give. Originally published as a call to offering. Some of these posts date back as far as 2004, but I thought they would be interesting to revisit. This is from October 2009.

There are so many reasons to love the fall. The changing colors, autumn harvest, fresh baked apple pie, and, of course, breaking out the winter coats.

What? You ask. Why would anyone love to get their winter coat out?

Well, it’s not the coat exactly. It’s the surprises.

Let me show you. This week in my coat pockets I found:
  • some Hot chocolate flavored chap stick,
  • an old grocery list,
  • a baby pacifier,
  • a coupon,
  • a book of matches,
  • a pair of gloves,
  • my library card,
  • a plastic spoon,
  • a pen, and
  • $5.

    What’s even more amazing, is that I didn’t even pray to find any of this. It was just there. Before I even asked.

    I know that God blesses us in so many ways that I don’t even notice. I don’t want to wait all year wondering if I am receiving blessings. I want every day to feel like that first cool day of fall. When I reach into my pocket and find something special. I want to notice all the ways that I am blessed every single day.

    And I want to be able to share those blessings.

    Please think of all the little or big ways that you have been blessed, just this week.

    This has also been linked up to Things I Love Thursdays at the Diaper Diaries, and Tune- up Tuesdays @ Beautiful Calling.