Friday, September 11, 2009

The Journey Continues

Well, it looks like I'm back to blogging again. Life has been a whirlwind since my last post and there has not been any time to even think about posting. Now that things have finally started to slow down, I really want to get focused again on sharing our journey as we continue to live through faith.

God has provided so much for us during this current chapter in our lives and continues to do so. Most recently, he has provided a wonderful retreat in our new home that we really only know we have for this year. We don't know what is in store for us after that, but we are watching and waiting to see what He does.

As far as the frugal side goes, I have been feeling this overwhelming need to get our car paid off. I hate debt and this is driving me crazy! (No pun intended) My true hope and prayer is to have it paid off by Christmas; however, to do that would mean coming up with another $1100 per month on top of what we are paying now (by basic math, not factoring out the whole compound interest thing - yuk!).

In Psalms 17:1, David cries out to God "Hear, O Lord, my righteous plea; listen to my cry. Give ear to my prayer - it does not rise from deceitful lips." He continued to cry out to the Lord while hearing nothing. Throughout his turmoil, he continued to live each day through faith. So, I have decided to present my plea to God and see what He does. He may not answer it as I would like, but I know He will answer it with His perfect plan.

As far as this month is concerned, it looks like we will have that extra to put on the car payment. With the way paychecks lined up last month and this month and an extra paycheck next month, we won't have to take a rent check out of the 2 checks for September. So with that and a couple of other things, I think we are on track for making a large payment at the end of September. There are still a couple of weeks left in the month, so we will see what really happens! I know this scenario won't be the same next month, so I will just take it one step at a time and see how God chooses to answer and continue to live through faith...

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Seeing God's Provision

Last week it seemed that we were inundated with one request after another for money. The amount of money we would need kept piling up. I was quickly entering this state of numbness. It was the only way I could keep from just melting into a pile on the floor.

But as the week came to a close, we suddenly were presented with God's provision. The exact (and I mean EXACT) amount that we needed arrived in one day. But the thing that got us the most was not that God DID provide, but that He knew how much we would need and when we would need it. The money we received came from a wedding planned a month ago and happened this past Saturday. A check to be used for whatever we needed was mailed before we even knew we had the need. There was nothing extra, but just enough.

Sometimes it gets a little frustrating that there is never any extra. We make a plan for extra money we know we are getting, but it never fails that a need comes up that it has to be used for instead. But I guess that is a testimony to the song I mentioned in my last post. "Morning by morning your mercies I seek. All I have needed thy hand hath provided. Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me."

God provided the Israelites manna from heaven each and every morning as they wandered through the wilderness. They were only to collect what they needed for that day. Anything left over would rot. The Israelites had to trust God for their provision day by day.

The economy today if very uncertain. Some would want us to put our trust in the government to "rescue" us and to fix the problems. But there is only one in whom we can place all of our trust for all of our needs. That is our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. We may not be able to see how He will provide, but we can always know He is there. He is providing for us. He is loving us. He is carrying us through each day.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Great Is Thy Faithfulness

This morning in Chapel we sang the chorus of a great old hymn, "Great Is Thy Faithfulness". As I sang this chorus, I was reminded of God's faithfulness and His provision for every need. Focus on these words as you lift them up to the Lord today.

Great is thy faithfulness.
Great is thy faithfulness.
Morning by morning your mercies I seek.
All I have needed thy hand hath provided.
Great is thy faithfulness, Lord unto me.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Zero-Based Budgeting

Budgeting has negative connotations, but it can actually be very "freeing". You already know what is coming up and when. Basically, budgeting is just telling your money where it is to go. With zero-based budgeting you are telling every penny of your money where it is going. There are no categories for "miscellaneous" or "what if". There is a category for "savings", which will hopefully be able to handle anything unexpected that comes up. The goal of course is to live within your means and save as much as possible.

The other aspect to budgeting is keeping track of what you are actually spending. One of our problems has been that our budget was based on what we thought we were spending or what we thought we should be spending and not based on reality.

It always seemed like too much work to keep track of receipts and every little penny we would spend. However, I have found a system that I think is an easy and effective tool to aid in that process. PearBudget is an online program that keeps track of your budget and receipts and gives you various reports on your spending/budgeting. (You do not enter any actual account info, just budget stuff.) It is streamlined and not filled with a bunch of stuff I never use like Quicken.

One thing I really like about it is that I can enter receipts or tweak the budget from anywhere. So, when we go out for lunch or stop at the grocery store, I can immediately enter those receipts once I return to work. You can get a 30 day free trial membership at to try it out and see how you like it. After that it is $3/month or $30/year (2 months free).

Another realization I have come to is that our budget will be changing from month to month. It is not, and doesn't have to be, the same each month. For instance, our income in January was different than it will be in February because Brian didn't teach in January. Our income in March is going to be different than February because Brian will be off work for 2 weeks without pay (annual England trip). But each month we will be doing our best to make sure what is going out will not be more than what is coming budgeting.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Yet, I will rejoice in the Lord

There is a little book tucked away in the Old Testament that doesn't get much attention. And yet, it holds a little gem that God led me to several years ago.

"Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior." Habakkuk 3:17-18

This is Habakkuk's personal statement of faith. Despite what problems or disasters come, he would still rejoice in the Lord.

This has been a tough week for many of us and we can take an example from Habakkuk. No, most of us do not have fig trees and olive crops to worry about. Maybe your "fig tree" is the ice storm that has knocked out your electricity, sick kids, overwhelming work responsibilities, or finances. Rewrite his statement of faith in your own words. Make your own statement of faith and see if it helps you rejoice in the Lord.


Monday, January 26, 2009

Mail Slot Question

My parents have a mail slot in the front door of their apartment and wanted to know how to keep the cold air from coming through. Unfortunately, short of taking it out and boarding it up , it appears there is not much you can do to make these energy efficient. There are newer mail slots that can be used but they cost anywhere from $50 to $100. In an apartment that just isn't an option. I did find one thing that may be an option. This is a magnetic seal that covers the inside of the slot and only costs around $20. This is the company's website, but other it may be sold other places as well.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Saving Time vs. Money

With our busy lives, sometimes our time becomes more expensive than the money we could save doing something the "cheaper" way. It can become a real balancing act between convenience and cost.

I have discovered one item that has become my new best friend at dinner time...Green Giant Valley Fresh Steamers! I pull the bag out of freezer, stand the bag up on a plate, and cook it in the microwave for 7 minutes. Open the bag & season if needed. DONE! And they taste great. We have tried the corn, green beans, and broccoli.

It is so easy and best of all no pot to wash! I can put them in the microwave and forget about them while I'm working on something else. They are a little more expensive than a can of vegetables, but I have bought mine on sale and I used coupons. My plan is to stock up when they are on sale to keep some on hand.

What are some items that have proven to be worth your time even though they have cost more at the store?

Monday, January 19, 2009

Tip: Staying Warm and Keeping the Cost Down

Here are a few tips from our local utility company for staying warm and keeping the cost down.
  1. Open drapes, blinds, and curtains during the day to allow the sunlight to warm the house. Close at night to prevent the chill from the cold windows.
  2. Adjust your thermostat down 2 degrees in the winter.
  3. Weatherize your home - caulk & weather strip doors & windows that may leak air.
  4. Add blankets to your bed.
  5. Add in insulation if needed to your attic, exterior & basement walls or crawl spaces. Check for gaps around ducts & pipes that go from inside to outside the home.
  6. Keep fireplace doors & dampers closed when not in use.
  7. Wear socks and/or shoes.
  8. Lower you thermostat to 55-65 degrees at night or while away for long periods of time.
We currently keep our heat around 65 since we are gone most of the day. One thing we have discovered with our heat pump is that it actually runs more efficient if we keep it at one temperature all day verses changing it for day time & night time. Unfortunately, we learned it the expensive way.

Even though we are in a rental, Brian added weather stripping and a door sweep to our front doors. It has made a huge difference in the amount of air coming through. Weather stripping is a very inexpensive thing to do, but it can make a big impact. For those of you in apartments or rentals, I would suggest either asking that it be done by your landlord or just go ahead and do it yourself. Your are not devaluing or defacing the property by adding it or replacing worn out strips.

If you have other tips, be sure to comment using the button at the end of each post.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Tip: Saving on Groceries

Groceries is one of the hardest areas for me to cut expenses. I'm not very knowledgeable in the kitchen. I do pretty good with a recipe, but it's very hard for me to just come up with something on my own. So my biggest issue is coming up with a menu. Without a menu, I spend a lot more money at the store.

Here are a few things that we are doing to save on the grocery budget:
1. Plan a menu, including lunch and snack options.
2. Create a shopping list from the menu and stick to it - no impulse buys.
3. Use coupons and price matching at Walmart. For one month I kept track of how much I saved with coupons and price matching. Each week I saved between $7 - $15 dollars. Unfortunately, I didn't spend less, I just bought more stuff. My goal would be to but that money saved into a pot to use for something else.
4. Plan more meatless meals. I am planning at least one meal per week using dried beans or peas that I will cook on the weekends.
5. Use what's on hand. You can't spend money if you don't go to the store.
6. Stay out of Walmart! :-) Even though the cost of individual items are little more at our local store, I buy less when I go there. If I go into Walmart for just a couple of things, I'm going to spend twice as much as I intended to. So, I'll go to Walmart for a main shopping trip. If I need something before my next main shopping trip, I will go to IGA or Dollar General.

These are not any ingenious ideas. Hopefully, they will help us keep our grocery budget to a reasonable level. As I figure out specific things that help us cut our grocery budget, I will share them with you. If you have ideas, please post them in the under "comments".

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Tip: Saving on Cable/Internet

We just saved $15 per month on our cable/internet package!

In our area, Windstream is offering a special to new customers which would be about $20 less (give or take with taxes) than what we have now. We really didn't want to go through the hassle of changing companies, especially since it would mean a new phone number (we currently have Vonage). So, Brian called Time Warner and told them that we needed to go with our biggest savings, but really didn't want to switch. We ended up with a $15 per month cut beginning in February. Now, the cut is only good for 6 months, but then Brian will call again and see if we can keep the same rate.

So be sure to check your package and compare to what else is available in your area. We had specific reasons for not wanting to actually switch companies, but it may not matter to you. Don't be afraid to call your current company and ask for a reduction or switch companies all together.

Could this be the cause of your high water bills?

Jennifer and Jim kept getting huge water bills. They knew beyond a doubt that the bills weren't representative of their actual usage, and no matter how they tried to conserve, the high bills continued. Although they could see nothing wrong, they had everything checked for leaks or problems: the water meter, outdoor pipes, indoor pipes, underground pipes, faucets, toilets, washer, ice maker, etc., all to no avail.

One day Jim was sick and stayed home in bed, but kept hearing water running downstairs. He finally got out of his sick bed to investigate, and stumbled onto the cause of the bills. Apparently this was happening all day long when they were not a t home. Knowing that few would believe
him, he taped a segment of the 'problem' for posterity: Click on the link


Sunday, January 11, 2009

Be Thankful

"Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts...And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, give thanks to God the Father through him." Colossians 3:15-17

In Sunday School we are studying the book of Colossians. Today as we looked at Chapter 3, one think stood out to me. "Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts...And be thankful." It is so easy to worry over things in life. It's really seems easier to worry than to just hand it over to God. If we hand it over to God, we are no longer in control.

But once we do hand our burdens over, we can experience the peace of Christ. Even though our circumstances may not have changed, we can look at them in a different way and be thankful. We don't have to be thankful for our circumstances, but we can be thankful that God is there to walk us through them, thankful that we don't have to go it alone, thankful for the lessons that we may learn.

Turning things over to God and being thankful despite our circumstances if part of living our lives through faith. It takes faith to let go and let God take control. I pray that this week we will step out in faith, experience that peace of Christ, and remember to praise God in the midst of our circumstances with gratitude in our hearts.


Friday, January 9, 2009

Living Through Faith

"...let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith...Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful." Hebrews 10:22,23

"Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." Hebrews 11:1

Hebrews 11 is known as the "Hall of Faith". There are over 30 verses telling us the stories of "heroes of faith" who lived before God gave us the gift of His son, Jesus Christ. These men and women lived by their faith and are examples to us on how to live a faithful and obedient life to God. Their lives were not easy or perfect, and neither are ours.

In today's economy, it is becoming harder for everyone to make ends meet. When I look at the stack of bills versus the money coming in, the two do not add up evenly. No matter how I move things around, there is still more going out than coming in. It is especially during these times that we must continue to live our lives obedient to God, trusting in Him, and putting our faith in the promises He has made. He has not promised that our paths will be easy, but He has promised to be there along the way. He will provide for our needs, just as He clothes the grass of the field. (Luke 12:27-31)

Although we have the promise of His presence and His provision, that doesn't mean that we are to sit back, do whatever we feel like, and just expect Him to take care of things. We have to take ownership of our actions and responsibility for the resources that God has provided.

It is for this reason that I have felt the call to start this blog. There are so many of us in the same boat. Our salaries or work hours are being cut, while our expenses are remaining the same (or going up). Somehow our family, and maybe your's, is going to have to go beyond a bare bones budget. The plan for this site is to share information and ideas that will help us all try to cut expenses and live within our diminishing means, while learning to live through faith in the One that provides.

It is my prayer that through this endeavor, we will each not only learn ways to meet some of our practical needs, but most importantly to grow stronger in our faith and more dependent on our Lord.

Living Through Faith,