Sunday, April 26, 2009

Spiritual Sundays: Finding Financial Peace

Image from The 11th Hour

I know, it's been awhile since my last Spiritual Sunday! But don't worry, things are still spiritual around here, there's just not always time to get all my deep thoughts down on paper.

This week there is something I wanted to share because it's been on my mind ever since I read it. This may come as a surprise to you, but did you know that the scriptures contain a complete financial plan? I stumbled upon it in my reading in Matthew. It is contained in Matthew chapter 25. Now, I know that there are many ways to interpret scripture, but for me, this chapter, with the parables of the ten virgins and the talents, perfectly set out a course for financial planning.

First, we come to the parable of the ten virgins. In this parable, there are ten virgins who are waiting, lamps lit, for the bridegroom to come. The scripture tells us that:

"...five of them were wise, and five were foolish. They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil in their vessels with their lamps."

The wise virgins, however, came prepared, and when the bridegroom came they were ready and able to enter into the marriage. The foolish virgins were left outside mourning their lack of preparation for the event.

When I read this again recently, I couldn't help but think of financial preparation. How many people there are who are being shut out from joy in their lives because they have lost their income, and were completely unprepared because they failed to secure their financial situation with sufficient savings? This parable shows us that we don't know how or when life's events may happen, whether it be the coming of the Son of God or personal crisis. We must prepare, so that when the storms of life come, we are ready and our lamps are filled so that we can see them through with confidence.

The next parable in this chapter tells of the talents, a story in which a master gives each of his servants a certain amount of money, measured in "talents." He gives the first one five, the next two, and the third one, "to every man according to his several ability..." Upon returning from his journey, the master checks in with these servants to see what they have made of their earnings. The first two servants were able to double their money and earned it back again. The third, however, "went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord's money."

Long story short, the master praised the first two for making more out of what they were given, and he rewarded them with a sort of promotion. The third, however, was reprimanded and his talent was taken away, the master telling him,

"For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath." (v.29)

From this part of the story we learn that just squirreling away our money is not enough. We should work, within reason, to make more of what we are given, both financially and with our material possessions. That includes making smart investment choices, furthering our education to increase our employability, and using our creativity to stretch our dollars. We should be both conscious and grateful for what we have, otherwise, we will lose it.

The third and final part of this chapter, verses 35 through 46, talk about loving and serving our fellow men, as Christ says, "For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink; I was a stranger, and ye took me in." What the Lord is saying here can really be summed up by one verse, verse 40:

"...Verily I say unto you, inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."

This final financial lesson is possibly the most important of all: we cannot expect to succeed when those around us suffer. We must help and lift up our fellow man; we must give of our financial and material means unto others, or we will not prosper.

"Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets." (Matt 22:37-40)

The whole chapter can be broken down into the three basic steps of the Lord's financial plan:

1. Save for a rainy day, and don't live beyond your means
2. Appreciate what you have, and do your best to increase what you've been given by being creative and managing it wisely.
3. Give unto others, and serve your fellow man as if they were Christ Himself.

I am grateful to the Lord for giving us such clear and precise steps to financial security, and I hope and pray that I can follow them. This chapter in Matthew was yet another testament to me that even scriptures written thousands of years ago can still apply to our lives today, and that the word of God is for us, now, to help us with our day-to-day struggles, whether they be spiritual, emotional, or even financial. May we all follow His plan that we might be prepared, make the most of what we are given, and strive to always give unto others.

To learn more about what I believe as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, please visit

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Save Green By Going Green: Part II: Reuse, Recycle!

I know, I know- on Monday I said this would be a three part series, but I decided to combine the reuse-recycle part because 1) I didn't get a chance to blog yesterday and 2) I found it really difficult to separate them into two different topics, because they are so similar! So today I will finish off this Earth Day series with everything I didn't cover last time. :-)

First, let me introduce you to our garden! The photo above is of our backyard garden area. The tree in the foreground is our apple tree, which is awesome to have in the backyard because the kids can have a snack whenever they want it while they're playing outside- they just pluck an apple from the tree! Right behind that are our two garden boxes that my husband built a few weeks ago. They are filled with free mulch from the dump and purchased compost. We're just trying boxes for the first time this year, so we're going to give it a shot and see how it goes.

Just behind the boxes you can kind of see a leafy plant sticking up- that's actually our grapevine, which I have been convinced every year that we've killed off, yet it keeps coming back and last year it actually produced grapes! This year we're going to nurture it and support it properly and hopefully be able to enjoy its bounty.

That large brown square in the back is our corn "plot." My husband got a little overzealous with the tiller and made something more like a cornfield, but I told him that as long as he takes care of it and does the work, he can grow as much corn as he'd like. I am tempted to buy him a straw hat and overalls, though...

Here are our little seedlings poking up from their minature greenhouse on our kitchen table ($6 at Wal-Mart for the just-add-water peat pots and tray with cover):

The cucumbers are raring to go; the tomatoes are a little more hesitant, but coming; the watermelons are following close behind, and the peas and peppers are still sound asleep. But it's been really fun to watch them grow practically before our very eyes- it seems every time I look, something else has sprung up! And we just started these this past week! We also have a few marigolds starting to help with pest control (natural bug repellants).

Now, on to the topic for the day! Reuse, recycle!

1. Gardening
- Grow a home vegetable garden, and make your own compost with kitchen scraps and other organic waste.
- Save money by using natural fertilizers from your own kitchen rather than purchasing pricey manufactured ones, and growing your own tasty veggies rather than buying them from the store.
- Save the planet by keeping organic waste out of plastic trash bags (where it will take much longer to decompose) and out of landfills
- BONUS: fresh homegrown vegetables are SO much tastier than store-bought, and using compost is less toxic than manufactred chemical fertilizers

2. Home products
- Make your own cleaning products- go here for recipes.
- Save money by mixing simple natural ingredients that cost a fraction of what a manufactured chemical cleaner costs
- Save the planet by reusing spray bottles, rather than continually tossing them and buying new ones, and using non-toxic formulas
- BONUS: non-toxic formulas are healthier for you and your home!

3. Freecycle
- Join a Freecycle group in your community to pass on items that you might otherwise throw away, like old magazines, containers, broken items, etc. One man's trash is another man's treasure!
- Save money by finding great items for FREE!
- Save the planet by keeping items out of landfills and giving them a longer life
- BONUS: You can easily declutter your home and have the joy of blessing someone else with your stuff!

4. Recycle (duh)
- Contact your county to obtain a recycling bin and set up a pickup time, or to find locations where you can drop off your recycling
- Save money by using less trash bags- recyclables go in the recycling bin, which means your garbage bags won't fill up as quickly (every little bit helps!)
- Save the planet by RECYCLING! (you know how that works) ;-)

5. Foaming soap
- Reuse your empty foaming soap pump dispenser and make your own foaming soap solution by adding 1 tablespoon of liquid soap and filling up the rest of the container with warm water. Screw on the lid and shake.
- Save money by not having to buy more soap
- Save the planet by reusing your dispenser and keeping it out of a landfill, and using less liquid soap.
- BONUS: You can enjoy your favorite scented soap, even if it's not usually available in a foam!

6. Get creative
- Save your old containers and other items to "dress up", repurpose old magazines toilet paper tubes, styrofoam, and other clean cardboard and plastic waste for use in kids' art projects.
- Save money by making your own cool artsy stuff, and not having to buy art supplies for the kids.
- Save the planet by keeping the stuff out of landfills.
- BONUS: Creative outlets are great for people of all ages!

Here are a few of my "dressed up" items- first, a time capsule for Princess's first birthday. I used an old #10 can which I cleaned out, spruced up with paper and embellishments, and filled with photos and decorations from her party, plus notes from friends and family. She will have the pleasure of opening it on her 16th birthday.

This is an old board book that I turned into a scrapbook using our family's state fair photos:

First, I sanded down the pages, then I cut decorative paper down to size and adhered it to the pages with spray adhesive:

Here is one of the finished layouts:

Also, check out my post here for a fun idea on what to do with old home decorating magazines!

I hope you have enjoyed this very lengthy post on this very special Earth Day, and I encourage you to leave a comment and share your own ideas on how to reduce, reuse, and recycle! Every little bit helps!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Celebrate Earth Day Week! How to Save Green by Going Green Part I: Reduce

I always see these shows on "going green" and half the things they tell you to do make me want to grab ahold of my wallet and hang on for dear life! Luckily, you don't have to buy all the newest and greatest eco-friendly gadgets and products out there in order to save the planet. This week I'll do a series in which I'll share some of my favorite ways to save money by saving the planet. It's all about reduce, reuse, recycle!

For Part I, let's start with Reduce. Naturally, almost everything we consume costs money. Therefore, when we reduce our consumption, we reduce the amount we have to spend on consumables. Here are a few examples of ways to cut back:

1. Grocery Bags
- Purchase reusable cloth bags from your local grocery store (CVS has these for $0.99 this week also- really cute ones!) and take them with you when you shop.
- Save money by taking them to stores like Kroger that give you a discount on your groceries for bringing your own bags.
- Save the planet by keeping plastic bags out of the landfills!
- BONUS- reusable shopping bags are also great to use as everyday totes. I have one that I use as our "library bag", and others that I take with me when I need to haul stuff to church or other outings.
- Don't Forget- if you (like me) forget to bring your own bags, be sure to save your plastic grocery bags and bring them back to the store- most grocery stores have special recycling bins in the front just for plastic grocery bags.

2. Utilities
- Turn off the water, turn down the A/C, turn out the lights! So simple, yet so effective!
- Save money on your monthly utility bills
- Save the planet by using less energy = less pollution from coal-burning energy sources

3. Paper Towels
- Lose the paper towels! Switch over to cloth rags or washcloths for your everyday cleaning, and just toss them in with your laundry for the week. I decided to try this after we used up our last roll of paper towels, and I purchased some antimicrobial wash rags made by Clorox ($4 for a pack of 5). I just use them and re-use them throughout the day, then toss them into the laundry room to get washed with whatever load I'm doing next. Adding bleach to the cycle reactivates the antimicrobials. I haven't missed my paper towels one bit!
- Save money by not spending it on costly paper towels
- Save the planet by keeping even more garbage out of the landfills
- BONUS- I have found that cloths are always more absorbant and hold up far better than any paper towels- even the priciest ones. That means I can get more done with one cloth, saving me time as well as money!

4. Gasoline
- Save gasoline by combining your errands as much as possible.
- Save money by not spending it on gas and reducing mileage and wear and tear on your vehicle, which can lead to costly repairs
- Save the planet by reducing your car's fuel emissions
- BONUS- Save yourself time and hassle by not running all over the place! Combining your trips will help you get more done in less time.

5. Paying Bills
- Use your bank's electronic billpay service to pay your bills
- Save money by not having to buy stamps, and possibly reducing late fees by using automatic withdrawals
- Save the planet by reducing paper waste and reducing gas emissions by mail trucks (small, but every little bit helps!)
- BONUS- This is another time-saver, as well as a sanity-saver because you can easily check online to keep track of which bills you've paid, and a quick click is all it takes to get a payment sent out.

These are just a few "reduce" ideas I've come up with- tomorrow I'll cover the "reuse" part (look for some fun crafty ideas!) and then on Wednesday- Earth Day!- I'll cover recycling. 

Remember, going green can save your green! Do you have any great ideas on how to "reduce" and save money at the same time? Leave a comment and share!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Where Did I Go?

No worries, friends! I am still alive and well! I have just been on a brief sabbatical from my blogging and thrift shopping. Last week I left town for a visit with my mom and stepdad in West Virginia- it was Monkey's spring break so we took a little trip up north to visit Grandma and Grandpa. We had a fabulous time, and I thoroughly enjoyed my vacation! It's so nice to go somewhere where you don't have to be responsible for all the cooking and cleaning, and you have your own mommy to take care of you! We had had a wonderful time.

Princess and Grandpa John- it may look like she's sitting on his lap, but really she's got him wrapped around her little finger...

When I got back, I felt rested and rejuvenated, and I felt so good and had so much energy that I really dug in my heels and started getting my house out of the "early pregnancy doldrums". This week I've been working on a new routine that's allowing me to prioritize my housework responsibilities and whip our home back into shape. So far that's been my main focus, so blogging has had to wait.

My plan is to settle into this new routine, and to add my blogging and my deals shopping back in as I feel more in control. So far, so good, and I am excited for springtime and new beginnings!

Have you had your spring break yet? I've missed y'all! Leave a comment and say hello!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Loving Your Local Library

Image from

There have been times in my life when I've been an avid library user and other times when I have lacked the library love! But ever since I've been a stay-at-home mom on a budget, I have really come to appreciate the vast array of services offered by my local county library system. Here are just a few of the perks I've come to love, and if you're on a "library hiatus" then I would recommend checking with your local library to see how many of these services they offer...

1. Online catalog and request service- This is the BEST for those of us who are time-crunched! Whenever I hear of a good book or I find an author I really like, I can just hop on the internet in my free time and see if the item I'm looking for is in the county system. Then, if it's there, I can request it with a click, and regardless of the library where it's located, I can name my preferred library for a pick-up location. The library calls me when it's in, and all I have to do is pop in, grab it off the hold shelf, check out and I'm done. No more dragging kids through the stacks to find what I want! (not quite as fun as perusing the shelves, but decidedly faster)

2. Online account services- I love that I can see what I have checked out online and renew items when I'm not going to have a chance to take them back to the library before they're due. It has definitely saved me a late fine or two!

3. Story Time- My kids love to go to the library for the weekly story times and other programs offered by the library. My local library offers different times for different age groups, and it has helped my kids develop their "sitting and listening" skills from a very early age. The childrens' librarians know them by name and are always happy to see them, which makes the library experience even more fun and special for my kids.

4. Unlimited books!!- Often with life on a budget one of the biggest struggles is constantly having to tell your children 'no.' I love taking my kids to the library because I can tell them 'yes!' My book limit is usually determined only by how many books they can carry and the number of books I think I can safely keep track of (cars and bedrooms seem to swallow books around here).

5. Multimedia Choices- It's easy to forget that a library is not just about books- these days, your local library can be your free movie rental store! Many libraries carry recent releases, and as long as you get them back in a week, they're as free as they come. 
I also love to stop by the library before a long car trip to choose a good book on cd- I'm leaving on a trip next week and I got The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe to listen to on the way to my destination. Trust me, it makes 6 hours in a car a LOT more bearable!
The library is another great place to get some fun kids' dvds. Each week my kids and I pick out a dvd (or two or three...) to watch. We've been able to enjoy a lot of shows that we aren't able to normally watch on tv.
One of my other favorite non-book choices to check out at the library are the wide selection of magazines. I especially enjoy the home decorating and craft magazines, because I can get some great inspiration from looking through them.

6. Fun contests and reading programs- Last summer my kids and I enrolled in the summer reading programs at our local library and we all won books! They also had fun mini-prizes that the kids could pick out each week from a "treasure box", which was a fun added bonus to our weekly library trips and it encouraged us to read together.

These are just a few perks for a library cardholder, but they are just the benefits I've appreciated most- the library experience is different for everyone, and everyone can find something to love about the library. 

A few more tips:
- We've found that it helps to have a set library day every week. That way our book selection stays fresh and we're more likely to stay on top of returns and avoid late fees.
- Don't be afraid to contact the library to request materials that don't appear in their system. Libraries are paid for with your tax dollars- they answer to you, and they need your input to serve you better!
- Get to know your librarians. They are great resources for recommendations and information about library programs.
- If you have family members who don't come to the library with you on a regular basis (like Dad or an older child in school), pick up something for them while you're there- it's like a little treat to let them know you're thinking of them. I used to go to the library while my son was in preschool so I'd pick up a few books for them and leave them on his seat in the car. He loved the surprise!

Are you a library lover? Leave a comment and let me know what you love about your local library!
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