Thursday, September 30, 2010

"New Found Money" update #2

(Are you wondering when I will get back to posting about other money topics? Don't you worry! I will get back to writing regular blog entries soon. I am working out a new schedule to harmonize my morphing life as Mommy of Two and will be posting something new next week.)

This "New Found Money" challenge has been quite interesting to me. Just when I think I am running out of things to sell, my eyes wander over to one more thing that has been sitting in a corner unnoticed. It's like my eyes peel off another layer of cover from my surroundings and expose items that I am emotionally ready to let go.

Will I run out of things to sell before this challenge is up? On the one hand, I think it is quite difficult in these United States to not acquire things; stuff is everywhere! On the other hand, I am not a shopper, and I don't own a lot of excess that would be worth much monetarily. I suppose the worst thing that can happen from this challenge is I end up with a clean and uncluttered home!

Week September 23rd - 29th

$7.03 formula coupons (after fees)
$10 publications rolling case
$1.11 diaper coupons (after fees)
$20 baby bottles
$5 picnic basket

Sub-total this week: $43.14
Running total: $197.14

Friday, September 24, 2010

Frugal Friday: Sponge Sanitizing

You know these?
You probably already know they are one of the most germ-laden items in a house by any scientific study you can find on the topic. They're supposed to be replaced every 2 weeks in order to keep the mildew and bacteria growing inside them from spreading throughout your kitchen. That funky smell you notice in your sponge is proof of bacteria gone wild.

Here's how I keep mine sanitized, ODOR-FREE, and usable for 6-12 months.

At night, when I load up the dishwasher, I rinse the sponge out to get most of the soap out.

I throw it in the dishwasher in one of the utensil compartments with a lid.

The next morning when I'm unloading the dishwasher, I throw the still-wet sponge into the microwave for 90 seconds.

WALLAH! Clean, sanitized sponge!

The dishwasher cleans the sponge, the microwave kills the bacteria. Neato, huh?

Just make sure you always:
  • zap a sponge that is WET to avoid starting a fire in the microwave
  • check there is no metal (from say, a steel scrubber) lodged in the sponge
  • microwave sponges no longer than 120 seconds (2 minutes)
  • let the sponge cool a few seconds before taking it out of the microwave
  • carefully take out the sponge as it will be hot!

To further avoid kitchen yuckiness, never use the sponge for wiping counters and tables if it has already been used to scrub greasy messes, sop up juices from raw meat, or clean the inside of the sink. For this reason, I always have three sponges. There is always at least one clean sponge at the ready under my sink.

Now, you won't have to buy kitchen sponges but once, maybe twice, a year!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

"New Found Money" update #1

I'll be updating on the challenge on Thursdays so as not to interfere with Frugal Friday and will label the weeks with the Thursday dates from here on out.

Week September 16th- 22nd
set of goblets $8
Christmas tree $35

In addition, I called Huggies to let them know of a defect in a pack of diapers I had bought. Received 2 coupons, each for a free box of diapers. The $48 I saved will go to retirement.

Sub-total this week: $91
Running total: $154

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

How Much in Fast Offerings?

Last week, I let the students in my financial peace class dissect my personal budget. They came up with really good suggestions, some that I had just implemented and some that I will look further into. One of the items in my budget that gave the students pause was my fast offering. Looking back, I should have blended all of my offering numbers together so they could not decipher how much went for tithes or offerings or humanitarian aid. Dissecting the budget was a last-minute decision on my part before leaving for class and didn't give the items on it much thought.

After a bit of silence in the conference room, one person said, "Your fast offering is too high."

"Really?" I asked.

One by one, the class members chimed in.

"I think so, too."
"Especially compared to your grocery budget."
"I'm not saying you should gyp the Lord, but that's more than 2 meals."

Only one student seemed uncomfortable with his classmates' advice to lower the offering and piped in with "It doesn't really work that way," referring to the two-meal rule. But, then he hushed himself, wanting to stay out of the conversation.

At the end of class, I asked this student for his honest opinion. He was hesitant to offer it. "You should pray about it and do whatever you feel is right."

The nice thing about tithing is that we are straight out given a percentage number, leaving little room for interpretation. This makes budgeting a simple math function. But with fast offering, there is no hard and fast rule. Back home, I wondered if it was time to re-adjust our fast offering.

What is an appropriate amount for fast offerings?

I emailed my bishop. (Wow- isn't that a sign of the times?) I gave him the scenario in class and the numbers in my budget. He responded the next day. His advice:
1 Find a way to not divulge fast offerings in future classes.
2 Figure out what our family would pay for two full meals as a minimum, consider a generous amount, and prayerfully determine what the amount should be.
3 Since the law of the fast centers around sacrifice, so does the offering portion of the law, meaning it can often make us feel uncomfortable (i.e. an amount beyond our comfort zone).

He also reminded me that "the need in our ward for fast offerings is great…and that it’s only through the generosity of our ward members that these needs can be met." Immediately, images of the many neighbors who had been laid off came to mind.

Fast offerings enable us to share our blessings with others. A minimum donation is the value of the two meals not eaten while fasting. However, President Spencer W. Kimball asked us to give “much, much more—ten times more where we are in a position to do it.” (In Conference Report, Apr. 1974, p. 184.)

President Marion G. Romney spoke concerning the funding of caring for the needy when he said:
“It has been, and now is, the desire and the objective of the Church to obtain from fast offerings the necessary funds to meet the cash needs of the welfare program. … At the present time we are not meeting this objective. We can, we ought, and we must do better. If we will double our fast offerings, we shall increase our own prosperity, both spiritually and temporally. This the Lord has promised, and this has been the record.” (“Basics of Church Welfare,” talk given to the Priesthood Board, 6 Mar. 1974, p. 10.)
As I pondered on fast offerings, the thought came to mind that the law of tithe is like the Mosaic Law. Fast offering is a practice in the higher law, even, an opportunity to practice the law of consecration. Offerings allow us to adjust our giving as we become better stewards. As our wills align more with that of God's, we allow more ways for our giving to increase and bless many people.

In a 1988 Ensign article titled “Goal Beyond Victory,” President Thomas Monson wrote:
"Are we generous in the payment of our fast offerings? That we should be so was taught by President Joseph F. Smith. He declared that it is incumbent upon every Latter-day Saint to give to his bishop on fast day an amount equivalent to the food that he and his family would consume for the day and, if possible, a liberal donation to be so reserved and donated to the poor. (See Improvement Era, Dec. 1902, p. 148.)"

I discussed these things with my husband, and while he agreed it was time to reassess our offerings, he felt like we weren't too far off in our figures. He suggested we fast about our inquiry and take it to the temple.

Now, it's your turn. How much is right for your household to give in offerings?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

"New Found Money" Challenge

Once a week, I conduct an evening personal finance class for adults. For the last three weeks, we have discussed budgeting and building up an emergency reserve. Tonight, we talked about how to get rid of debt quickly. For all of these topics, I have stressed attracting extra money that is all around us.

In the first week, I challenged the class to sell two of their belongings. I sensed that some people thought they had nothing else to sell. I could easily offer the same excuse since I am not a shopper. Something told me that someone in the room felt they didn't have time to sell things. I certainly could see how someone with my schedule (and even busier) might believe that. I decided to include myself in the challenge. In addition to selling things that week, I decided to continue the challenge for myself for the remainder of the course, which is 9 more weeks.

What if I list for sale a couple things a week, with no rush or Herculean effort? How much can I bring in to add to our retirement contributions? What is possible for others who need to fill an emergency fund or add to their debt snowball? I am curious about the results of calm, consistent baby steps.

Yard sale season is nearly over, so there's that obstacle, but I'm sure there is always a way, rain or snow.

Here is the "New Found Money" Challenge:
  • For 10 weeks, from September 13th until November 20th
  • List something for sale or offer a service every week
  • Minimum of two items or services per week
  • Once a week, update results

Here we go!

Week of September 13th
watch $10
file cabinet $8
quote tile $5

In addition, I participated in a post-partum interview for a study about birth defects and was compensated with $40.

Total this week: $63

Friday, September 3, 2010

Frugal Friday: Lipstick Brush

Short, little tip today.

The bottomless tube of lipstick. Almost.

Not only does a lipstick brush apply your lipstick in more flattering strokes, it makes your lipstick supply last longer. That means saving $4-$15 instead of replacing your favorite lipstick this year. (Maybe even into next year!) And guess what? You also spend less time in the store hovering over little plastic tubes trying to find a replacement lipstick! Double-yey!

I hope you like that color, girl, because you'll be wearing it a long, long time.