Follow by Email

Search My Blog

Friday, July 31, 2009

FINANCES: Debit/ Credit Cards

The rich rules over the poor,
And the borrower becomes the lender’s slave.
Proverbs 22:7

This topic will be revisited many times on this blog but today just a few thoughts on it today. We found ourselves in mega debt a few years after our first child was born. I had not been working for 2-3 years and our income level had been more than cut in half. We ended up cashing out my 401K but needed to make some drastic changes. After much prayer and counsel from our church elders Bob's job situation changed miraculously and he is still with the same company today. That was 12+ years ago.

We are completely out of debt except for our home which thankfully has kept most of its value in today's market and only use our credit card like a debit card. We both carry the same card and I subtract the amount charged from our checkbook as I use it so there are no huge surprises at the end of the month. He uses the card for gas and some miscellaneous expenses. Anything over $50 or so, we discuss before purchasing. We pay the balance in full each and every month. Interest charges are absolutely outrageous these days.

Looking back, if we had been disciplined enough we should have determined to live on one income when we both worked and saved most of the 2nd income which is what we are able to do today. I only work part-time with two home businesses but we use that money primarily for family fun, Christmas (and other) gifts and enjoy the tax write-offs of having business at home.

If you find yourself in debt, follow these two guidelines from Crown Ministries.

  • Maintain $1,000 in a savings account for emergencies (begin saving for this today). Put any extra from the week into an account so you are prepared for unexpected emergencies--car repair, maintenance, etc. Twenty dollars ($20) a week will get you here in one year.
  • Begin paying off the smallest balance credit card in excess of the minimum payment each month until it is paid off. Once that is paid off, then use the total amount you were paying on the next card and so on until they are all paid off. It may take some time but every little bit you can reduce the principal will help you so much in the long run. The miracle of compound interest works both ways--for your good if you reduce the principal; for the lender's good if you do not.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

FAMILY & FRIENDS: Homeschooling


She opens her mouth in wisdom,

And the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.

Proverbs 31: 26


Today we begin our younger son's 10th grade homeschool year--just one subject though (DATA training class that the State of Florida requires before getting a learner's permit). We gradually add 2 classes a week for the next 3 weeks until we have them all started--seven in all. I've found that it's much better for us to "ease into" school together than dive in headfirst. For those who homeschool, you might be interested in seeing our course schedule for the year:
6.5 credits for his second year of high school.

Geometry and Spanish 2 are taught outside the home by private teachers in group classes. We do all the rest either together or independently and this year will require quite a bit of work. At least 25 community service hours for Bright Futures scholarship requirements need to be worked in (hopefully that will still be available when he graduates), youth group, social time, life skills training...the PLAN test is in October, plus he'll turn 15 that same month and will be getting his learner's permit--so driving practice time needs to be included as well.

My older son will graduate from college at the end of the younger one's junior year of high school. Yes, time does fly by quickly, but I have loved these years of the "ongoing conversation". Planning and organizing are two things I do best, so I think we are ready to begin. Pray for us. :)

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

FAITH: Letting Your Children Grow Up


Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God,
that He may exalt you at the proper time,
casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.
I Peter 5: 5-6

Today was a big day at our house. Our older son announced that he will probably be moving out this weekend to share a house with some other guys at his college. He attends a local state university so it's not like he's moving to Ohio, but a big change for us. Nor was it a huge surprise... I have told him all along that in his junior or senior year it would be good for him to do this before he's on his own after college. He and I have been counting the costs for a week or so now. I helped him with his budget, set him up with Quicken Online to keep track of expenses, even got boxes at Sam's today for him to start packing. The Lord has been preparing me for this day by having him be accepted for a 5-week mission /arts trip with Campus Crusade over the summer. Still, it's a bit of an adjustment (plus I'll miss out daily talks together) and trust in the Lord that we have prepared him well and that the Lord loves him even more than I do. :) That in itself, is a huge comfort. Plus, he'll be back next Friday night for dinner (if not before) when his cousin's wife and kids from St. Louis come to visit us. :) :) :) Baby steps...(for me).




Tuesday, July 28, 2009

FINANCES: The Electric Bill


And the Lord said, “Who then is the faithful and sensible steward..."
Luke 12:42

I am in a love-hate relationship with our electric company. Just about everyone I know has frustrations with the power bill regularly increasing due to energy costs in our area. This is probably true all over the country. We live in the South and don't have the fuel costs of the North in the winter which is a blessing. Our family survived Hurricanes Charley, Frances and Ivan in 2004 with NO electricity for a total of 11 days so don't get me wrong--I am very grateful to have electricity and am glad we live in a modern age and country where it is readily available to us. But, to save $$ in the family this is one of the largest variable costs that you can affect by doing a few things to reduce this monthly expense:
  • Get a free energy audit by your electric company
  • Work on a few of their suggestions each month i.e. attic insulation as you can
  • Turn down the temperature to 120 on your water heater
  • Use a toaster oven rather than the large oven when you can
  • Reduce the time your pool pump is running to 6-8 hours especially as the weather gets cooler
  • Set your air conditioner thermostat to 78-80 degrees and keep it there
  • Raise the A/C thermostat to 85 when away from home 4 hours or more
  • Run ceiling fans only when someone is in the room
  • Try not to run the washer/dryer every single day
  • Purchase Energy Star appliances
  • Close your blinds before the hottest part of the day arrives
  • If any windows face west toward the setting sun consider shutters or tinting to keep out the heat

These are just a few fairly simple things you can do which I have been implementing lately. We had an issue with our bill this month being exceptionally high but the meter was faulty and the electric company had been estimating it on the low side for 7 months. Ugh! I'll be watching the August bill very closely. It's one of our hottest months in Florida so I'll be sure to set aside extra savings for this as well.


Monday, July 27, 2009

FAMILY & FRIENDS: Reunions

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you,
always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all,
in view of your participation in the gospel
from the first day until now.
Philippians 1: 3-5

I love keeping up with people and reuniting with old friends and extended family. Some people change much and others seem to stay the same. This morning I attended a brunch reunion of friends from 30+ years ago. These were women whom I knew when we were mostly in our 20s and early 30s. Some mentored me when I was younger; others we had shared many life experiences with; still others, our children have come to know each other in college or elsewhere. In our church we have quite a number of women in the younger age category--some are beginning to move away to other parts of the country with their husbands and others are just in changing seasons of life. which is making many of them quite sad. I'd like to encourage them and you, that many of these friendships you have had while in your young adult years will carry over into your older adult years as these have. Good-bye, is not forever most of the time especially in these days of Facebook, internet and air travel. All of us at the reunion today were bonded together through our relationships with Christ, so these are actually eternal. Be encouraged if yours are as well. :)

Sunday, July 26, 2009

FAITH: Sunday morning


Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, 


for He who promised is faithful; 


and let us consider how to  stimulate one another to love and good deeds,  


not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some,  


but encouraging one another


and all the more as you see the day drawing near. 


Hebrews 10: 23-25



Saturday, July 25, 2009

FUN: Saturday fun


There is an appointed time for everything.

And there is a time for every event under heaven—

Ecclesiastes 3: 1


Saturdays are often for fun at our house. Sometimes fun just happens; other times it's more planned. I'm a firm believer in putting a spoonful of sugar in just about everything so that it's more enjoyable to do. And no, I'm not practically perfect in every way. :) My husband and I enjoy yard sale-ing together on Saturday mornings. Sometimes we go out for breakfast and/or coffee; other times like today, we just bring our own. I scan the online newspaper for sales and we head out, usually not far from home, for "the hunt". We look for eBay treasures to resell and sometimes things for us to use as well. We found both this morning--a nice piece of Disney artwork for Bob's office at work ($15.00) and 7 items to resell ($9.59).  The things we bought are in the photo above.   We both love a good bargain, going for a car ride, talking to new people we meet while we're out and just having a weekend jaunt. Being outside in nice weather and getting fresh air is always a plus, too. Today we ran into one of his old childhood friends and had a pleasant visit with him. We had to pick up our younger son from a sleepover and stayed awhile to chat with the family there. Tonight we're having dinner with friends from church which is always fun --talking and eating are always a winning combination. Right now, I'm off to bake brownies for the boys and a cake for a luncheon on Sunday afternoon. I guess I'll literally be putting a spoonful of sugar in this afternoon. :)  Go, have a little fun somewhere yourself today.

Friday, July 24, 2009

FIINANCES: Groceries

Go to the ant, O sluggard, observe her ways and be wise, 

Which, having no chief, officer or ruler, 

Prepares her food in the summer and gathers her provision in the harvest. 

Proverbs 6: 6-8

Grocery shopping--one of those tasks that someone in the family must do generally at least once a week.  I actually enjoy grocery shopping and hunting for bargains.  It's one of the few regular variable expenses in a household that you can control by your  choices and preparation beforehand.  I shop in two stores primarily--Sam's Club for bulk items and some perishables and Winn Dixie or Walgreens for most everything else. These three stores are literally 2 minutes from my house. There are other stores (including a Wal-Mart Supercenter) a little farther away, but why waste the time?  

I cut coupons on Sunday or Monday and belong to The Grocery Game which does a lot of the calculating and recordkeeping to determine the best price  in a given store. There is a small fee for this. [Another similar site with no fee is The Coupon Mom.]   I was skeptical at first, but taking advantage of this website has  really helped me save quite a bit of money in the 3 months since I joined.  My whole concept of food shopping has changed.  Of course, if we are completely out of something I will restock it whether it's on sale or not, but generally my guidelines are: 

  1. Keep a running list in a convenient place for everyone to use (whoever used the last of something writes it down here)
  2. Plan rough menus  for the upcoming week (what meats if any you'll use)
  3. Make a shopping list
  4. Sam's Club:  Purchase primarily basic foods in bulk--meats, milk, eggs, some perishables, etc.
  5. Winn Dixie:  Buy ONLY  what is on my shopping list and/or what is the absolute rock bottom price of an item that we would use  (I only take with me the coupons I will need to make sure that I do this).
  6. Visit one or two stores no more than once during the week
By regularly sticking to these guidelines I am always "stocking up" on things on sale at their lowest prices.  Knowing your family's eating habits and their favorite foods is necessary, but so is  thinking ahead for items that will always be purchased (toilet paper, soap, toothpaste, etc.).   I have a pantry in my kitchen and another storage area in the laundry room for surplus which we either consume ourselves or is given away.  This summer there were two food drives--one at my husband's business and one by the post office. We were able to give 4-5 bags of donations to each from the surplus.  It didn't hurt the budget a bit and we were able to give more than  we would have if I had gone out the day before and bought a bunch of groceries.

A little discipline, a little time of planning and you can make a huge difference in what you spend for food for your family.  The extra money is either saved, given or put towards a future expense.

Oh, and what do I personally spend each week for groceries?  My goal is $150 or less for a family of four (with 2 older sons).  Lately I've spent  a total of about  $100-$125 per week at the stores above COMBINED.  I used to easily spend close to $200 per week.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

FAMILY & FRIENDS: Memories


Do not call to mind the former things,or ponder things of the past. Behold, I will do something new, now it will spring forth; Will you not be aware of it?

Isaiah 43: 18-19


Memories light the corners of my mind...I've always liked that old Barbra Streisand song even though it sounds a little sad in parts. I am amazed at how God created the human mind--when I think of how much information, color, voices, pictures and events are stored in just mine alone, multiplied by all the people in the world, well, it's mind-boggling! Of course there are memories that we don't ever want to forget and often, many that we wish we could; some we have a part in making, others that we were unwilling participants.

For those who want to forget or be healed from a hurtful injury, it helps to go back in time in your mind and relive that experience knowing that the Lord is there with you. The solitude in a hurtful incident can make it seem worse even long after the experience ended. I did this myself at the advice of a dear friend long ago to help me forgive someone. The memory is still there but the pain of it, for the most part, is gone.

For those who want to remember everything well in detail and in color, be thankful that God has given you a mind such as this, but continue to move forward. Sometimes we get stuck in a memory and don't want it to end--current events can pass you by if you too long and too frequently in the past. For moms, this tends to be the case as their children get older and independence begins to assert itself which is as it should be. For me, I want to live in the moment with those people I care about and help them to do the same, making new memories and growing together today. Each day we're given is a gift--that's why they call it the present.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

FAITH: Reading Your Bible

Your word I have treasured in my heart,
That I may not sin against You.

Psalm 119: 11

Blogs certainly provide  interesting reading material in our current culture.  I see that I have 2 followers, yet 69 views to my profile today.  I know that I follow other blogs privately rather than publicly, so I'll assume that more than two people are reading this. :)

What do I say about reading the Bible?  Just one thing--do it.  Every single day for as long as you live.  Whether you read five verses or five chapters, just do it.  If you are a mom with little children, open your Bible to a passage and lay it out where you will see it each day.  That could be near your changing table (in which case, you'll read it a LOT), in your kitchen or where you drink your coffee.  If you were rushed to get to work, use one of your breaks or part of your lunch hour  to read a section or two.   Or read it at night in lieu of a TV program or  before going to bed.  If you are at home all day, you can figure out when it is best for you to read. Or, if you're online a lot, there are many Bibles accessible there for free.

I prefer reading in the mornings  usually sometime before 9 a.m.  I have read through the entire Bible many times but I prefer to use a One Year Bible for this purpose.  With a Bible like this, there is a specific reading for each of the 365 days in the year:  an Old Testament passage, a New Testament passage, some Psalms and few verses from Proverbs. Usually  takes about 20 minutes.   I've done this with a chronological Bible as well but finding a specific passage is a little more difficult.

My study Bible is separate --I'll cover studying the Bible another time.  

I'm not reading the Bible as a history book although there certainly is a lot of history nor am I reading it for literature although that genre of reading material is there as well.  I am specifically seeking wisdom for this specific day of my life, for my family, for my ministries, for our future...Yes, I do believe that the Word of God is absolutely true and that God speaks directly to my heart.  Just Him and me spending time  together, giving me my daily bread.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

FINANCES: Monthly Bills

“Therefore if you have not been faithful in the use of unrighteous wealth,
who will entrust the true riches to you?"
Luke 16:11

Every family divides up various responsibilies to keep a household running well. I was in finance prior to having children, so stewardship of the money in our household is generally left up to me. When my husband is paid each week, 10% comes off the top for a church tithe (more if another need arises). After that, another specific amount that I have pre-selected goes into savings, sometimes more, after the bills are paid. Next I review all the bills which I have clipped together. When a large bill is received, i.e. electric bill or the mortgage, I evenly divide that bill into however many weeks are left in the month, usually four. Index cards are prepared for the regular expenses with these divisions already notated on them. If we paid our mortgage with one week's salary we wouldn't eat that week. By doing this our cash flow remains about the same for each week of the month. It takes a little longer to balance the checkbook by doing this, but the peace of mind this practice has brought me more than makes up for it. I have recommended this to lots of moms who write the checks in the family so they're not short in any given week.

You may wonder about this practice of tithing. Some people teach it as a command; others disregard it as irrelevant altogether for "this day and age". Granted, it was required in the Old Testament, so for today I regard it as a guideline for me to gauge my trust and dependence on God, not as a requirement of the law from which we are free. Yes, there have been weeks when it was very difficult for me to write the check for our church, but over and over, through all these years (even the very lean ones) God has been so faithful when I/we have done so. There have actually been times when the checkbook was down to the last $10 (after I had written the church tithe) and $9 was all that we needed.

One of my favorite financial resources  is Crown Financial Ministries.  I download their podcasts and listen to them when I walk in the mornings or when I'm at the YMCA. Very insightful and helpful to anyone who is struggling in this economy or who just wants to maximize what God has given them. Above all, do not be afraid... if you are in debt, take one step at a time. There IS an answer and a freedom that comes from using your money as God intended.

FAMILY & FRIENDS: Planning for the School Year


So teach us to number our days,
That we may present to You a heart of wisdom.
Psalm 90: 12

I need to organize this blog just like I try to organize everything else I do on a regular basis. It helps me from getting crazy. The topic schedule for this blog generally will be...
  • Monday & Thursday: Family
  • Tuesday & Friday: Finances
  • Wednesday & Sunday: Faith
  • Saturday: Fun
This is the entry for Monday, July 20.

This week I am finalizing the plans for my younger son's 10th grade year. We homeschool and the county requires 170-180 days of attendance per school year. I like to build in week-long fall and spring breaks, several weeks off in December and 1-2 days off on the other months. We both need a break from each other although with 2 classes outside the home three days a week, that will take care of itself more this year. I've already done some of the preliminary work of choosing the courses and purchasing all the books and supplies needed. Seeing the next 9 months (of his life and my life) already mapped out on a calendar makes me realize how short our time together really is. In one glance, it's already Christmas and I can visualize next summer's vacation!

Don't get me wrong, I do live one day at a time and try to make the most of each day, but working so often with a linear calendar puts it all into perspective. I did a timeline of my life in a women's Bible study one time which is a good exercise for anyone to do. The major moments, life changes, important dates... they are but a blip in a timeline that has a definite beginning and an end. At 53, of course, more than half of my life has already passed. I need to pursue living abundantly in the time that remains.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

FAITH: Hearts of Wisdom


She opens her mouth in wisdom,

And the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.

Proverbs 31: 26


Everyone needs wisdom and sometimes moms at home need an extra helping. So many questions can run through a mom's head in any given day...

  • How do I manage my time?
  • How do I discipline each child (usually differently depending on their temperaments)?
  • How can I be a good steward of our finances?
  • What do I cook tonight that's healthy and that everyone will enjoy?
  • How can I encourage my husband and children?
  • How can I be a good influence on my neighbor?

Thankfully, we don't have to fret over the answers. I find that after I have spent some time reading and studying the Word of God with prayer, no matter how busy I know my day will be, the answer presents itself. From something as simple as how much to spend for groceries to major decisions like which insurance company to use, the Lord is faithful to direct me if I seek Him first and ask for guidance. It's encouraging to me to see Him faithful and always ready to answer when called upon in the myriad of everyday choices at home. When the checkbook balance is getting low and I find exactly what we need within the budget range, I can almost hear Him remind me of His provision for the birds of the air (Matthew 6:26) and how much more He cares for me.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

FINANCES: Why eBay?





Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men.
Colossians 3:23
We are definitely a Mac (Macintosh) family. It's the only type of computer everyone uses although we did have a brief spell with a PC for a few months that was gifted to us. When we bought our first one several years ago, while my husband would be at work, it used to sit all day with only some word processing and photos on it. As much as computers cost that was driving me crazy so I started thinking about how I could use it to make money. I decided to learn how to sell on eBay and Amazon.com as well. The summer I turned 50 I read several library books about the subject (I'm a big reader) and practiced with things we had around the house that we weren't using or didn't need anymore. In 2008 I opened an eBay store and it's been going pretty well ever since. An hour or two a day, several times a week keeps it running. It's fun to wake up in the morning and see I made a few sales overnight while I was sleeping. I sometimes teach others how easy it is but there's definitely a learning curve. Everyone has to have their own system and strategy. I am thankful to have this source of income that we generally use for family activities (eating out, movies), birthday, graduation and wedding gifts, mission trip donations, etc. Plus, combined with teaching piano, it's a great tax write-off for much of our housing expenses. Try it, you'll really enjoy it.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

FAMILY & FRIENDS: Cherished Friends


A man of too many friends comes to ruin,
But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.
Proverbs 18:24

Today our family is spending the day at the beach with long-term friends whom we have known prior to our marriage and whose children have grown up with ours from babyhood. We've spent vacations together and although we live in different states, we try to keep in touch via phone, email, Facebook...whatever means we can. There's something about picking up where you left off that is so comforting and warm. I don't know that the saying "distance makes the hearts grow fonder" is necessarily true but long-term memories certainly make dear ones even dearer. Our conversations always move inwards and are rarely superficial, even among the children. Someone gave me a card once that I have always remembered: The very name of a friend can warm the heart, as mine is warmed when I hear yours. I don't know who said that but I have those deep feelings about several special people who have blessed my life. I hope that you have someone in yours that "sticks closer than a brother". To have even a handful of them is one of God's greatest gifts to us.

My First Blog Ever

A dear "old" friend of mine just started a blog which has motivated me to put a thought down as well. I have had a title for months but no posts, so here I go. I imagine that this will be a blog of things that interest me--my Christian walk as a mother of two sons, my love of music as a pianist and teacher, all things financial related (budgeting, saving money, trends) and my part-time business of internet sales.

The name Mrs. T. comes from one of my former piano students who refers to me that way as do many of my sons' friends. I like it since my last name is rather long.

I am in the stage of life of beginning to let go of my sons now that they're getting older (one just turned 20; one is almost 15) and am grateful for the many years of closeness that we have had together. One book that particularly has changed my way of thinking how to raise sons has been Wild at Heart as well as The Way of the Wild Heart (which I liked even better). Wish they'd been written and I'd read them earlier on. Boys grow into men (and mine are well on their way) which is the way it should be, but moms have to let them be men which I am in the process of learning.
There was an error in this gadget