Friday, July 30, 2010

Frugal Friday: Giving Up the Ghost

Who knew that the blinking 12:00 on the VCR growing up not only tortured Dad but also robbed money out of his wallet?

Did you know when your gadgets and appliances are turned off, they still use electricity? This is called standby energy or phantom energy, and it means that you are paying for electricity you're not actively using, like the light on your doorbell or the clock on any of your appliances.

Though it is estimated that phantom energy only accounts for 5-10% of homeowners electricity use, people are saving a lot more than that in dollars! That little percentage may not sound like much until you realize that's up to 1 month's bill worth every year!

Depending on how many things you have at home with a glowing light/clock/remote/charger, you can reduce your monthly bill by 30-50% a month! Some of my online friends have reported saving $100-$150 a month. In our area, it may be more like $10-$50 a month, again depending on your number of plugged in gadgets.

To combat paying for phantom energy loss, unplug things when not in use. If this is a hassle because of the location of the plug or number of electronics in one place, plug them into power strips that you can easily click on or off.

Here are some things you can unplug when not in use or put on a power strip:
  • microwave (the clocks use more power than the ovens themselves)
  • digital clocks on things (if you don't mind the blinking 12:00)
  • stereo
  • television (Be aware: some cable boxes lose all their data when unplugged)
  • DVD player
  • VHS player
  • lamps
  • box or oscillating fans
  • sewing machine
  • computer
  • computer monitors
  • computer printer
  • external hard drives
  • speakers
  • chargers for digital cameras
  • chargers for cell phones
  • charging power tools
  • adapters with rechargeable battery-powered cordless phones
  • blender
  • toaster oven
  • hairdryer
  • electric toothbrush
  • lighted mirrors
  • decorative lights
  • baby monitor
  • Glade or other plug-in air freshener
  • anything with a glowing light
  • anything with a remote

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Create a Budget: Step 5

The first step to financial health is to create a budget. Here are some mini-bites to begin creating a budget that works and you can live with.

5. First Things First

Sometimes, after we women see our expenses approach or exceed our income, we freak out. We immediately go into Bag Lady Fantasy Land. The stage gets gray and blurry adorned with sad violin music in the background and police sirens wailing in the distance. We picture ourselves wearing dirty, tangled hair and accessorized in a raggedy afghan pushing a grocery cart filled with aluminum cans down a stench-soaked street or perhaps timidly holed up in a cheap apartment wondering how we will be able to live, eat, protect ourselves, and feed our stray cats. I have found that this anxiety dissipates when we put things in perspective and practice better deciphering what is a need and what is a want.

Here are the 6 things that are essential to address in your budget.

1. Tithing
"But seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you." (Matthew 6:33; 3 Nephi 13:33)

2. Savings
"After we have paid our tithing... and other Church obligations, we should set aside money for savings. Church leaders suggest we try to save as much money each month as we pay in tithing—in other words, 10 percent." (Relief Society Courses of Study, 1977–78 [1977], 56–57.)

3. Home & Utilities
Everything that keeps you in a home. Rent or mortgage, lights, heat, etc.

4. Food
Good food to keep your body and mind functioning well but this does not translate into filet mignon, organic everything, and Martinelli's every night. (Martinelli's? We're CLASSY like that!"

5. Basic Clothing
Clothes to dress appropriately for your lifestyle and protect from the elements. This does not equate to shopping every sale in town just because it's "such a good deal!"

6. Transportation
Whatever transportation that is necessary for income and/or schooling, whether it's a car, a bike, a bus pass, or a sturdy pair of walking shoes.

Use a highlighter to mark the things on your print-out that fall into these six categories.

You may have noticed earlier when I showed you my categories that some of them are in green. That's my "highlighting" in Excel the bare minimum essentials in our family. Notice most of the categories in our budget are not essential, even stuff that is truly important (i.e. retirement or emergency preparedness).

. . . . . .

The reason I leave them in color is so that if ever we should be in a situation where we have to drastically reduce our expenses, I will remember that we are fine as long as we have the items in green. Everything else in black is up for slashing.

Add your highlighted essentials together and then subtract the total from your total income.

NICE! You can breathe now because you can see that you can afford all you NEED. You also see how much you have left for things that are not necessary for survival. Awesome!

So even if your Budget initially sent a message like this:

Now, it says something like this:

Aaahhhh... Breeeeeathe! Give praise to the Lord who provides all we need!
28 And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin;
29 And yet I say unto you, that even Solomon, in all his glory, was not arrayed like one of these.
30 Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, even so will he clothe you, if ye are not of little faith.
(3 Nephi 13)

If you are married, I recommend you take this information back your spouse and give him a BIG KISS for helping provide all of life's necessities for your little family. If you are not currently married, kick your feet up, put your hands up behind your head and say, "Aaahhh... Good job, girl!" Just sit there and enjoy feeling... safe.

For the rest of this step, take a look at the things you have: a home, food, clothes, and a way to get around when you need to go out and gather berries or slay some meat. Smile and be grateful that you are blessed!

The next step will have its own post on Monday. Enjoy Frugal Friday tomorrow and the weekend to reflect on and express gratitude for your many, many blessings!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Create a Budget: Steps 3 & 4

The first step to financial health is to create a budget. Here are some mini-bites to begin creating a budget that works and you can live with.

3. Find Out How Much Things Cost

Take your list and fill next to each item the exact cost of said thing.

At this point, you will find out that your expenses will fall into one of two categories, fixed and variable.

Fixed stay the same or about the same every month.
Rent $725
Car Payment $402
Internet $60.57

Variable, well, vary.

For variable expenses, you can do 1 of 2 things:
1) Write down what you spent for the last 3 months on these and find the average cost. (Add all three numbers together, and divide the total by three. That's your average.)

$540 + $713 + $560 = $1813

$1813 ÷ 3 = $604.33
The average cost is $604.

2) Make an educated guess.
Don't fret on this one because we will adjust these numbers over the next three months to find the magic number for you and your family.
As you fill in numbers, you will also come across items that aren't paid every month, like car registration or Christmas gifts. Take the total cost of your car registration, for example, divide by 12 (months), and write that number down next to "Car Registration." That's how much registration costs you per month. Keep the annual total next to it in parenthesis.

Car registration
$150 ÷ 12 = $12.50

You would write:
Car registration __$12.50__ ($150)

This step takes anywhere from 30-60 minutes. If you spend more than that on this step, choose OPTION 2! The budget is NOT supposed to be perfect. It is this misconception that leads people to get frustrated with budgeting.

4. Add It Up

~ Add up all the expenses to come up with an expense total for the month.
~ At the top of the page, write down the total of your monthly income(s).
~ Subtract the expense total from the income total.
~ What's the total? Is it a negative number or a positive number? What side of zero is it on?

Math only tells you where you are presently; it is not a measure of despair. So, even if your number is in the deep negative, don't worry. This is just a starting point, and it will help measure your progress.

At this point, some women freak out and use this number to "motivate" their spouse to change things or make more money. DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME (or anywhere). Have you ever nagged your husband about something really important and he did nothing about The Important Thing? That's because nagging is the perfect pitch that signals a husband's brain to shut down.

So, take the number on your sheet and say aloud to yourself: "Huh. Good to know!" If you'd like, take the list and numbers you have so far to your husband and say, "This is what I found. I'm going to make some changes to our budget so we can obey the counsel to live within our means. Do you have any suggestions before I go into the other room and start working on this?"

Then, let him suggest only one or two things (do NOT argue about the ones you don't agree with), thank him WITH A SMILE for his input and go on to the next step.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Create a Budget: Steps 1 & 2

The first step to financial health is to create a budget. Here are some mini-bites to begin creating a budget that works and you can live with.

1. List All Expenses

When my husband and I were newlyweds, we decided to create a budget. We'd start the month as serious as beans to stick to a budget. (Just how serious do beans get? Serious.) Halfway through the month, the budget would fail and we'd give up for a time.

I figured out the main reason the budget was not working for us was because as the month went on, we'd find that we had forgotten to include haircuts, for example. Another time, we forgot about oil changes. Whenever we hit these snags, we didn't know how to adjust our plan and ended up using credit cards to cover them. (In future blog posts, you'll find out how to adjust for unexpected expenses.)
First step, list all your expenses! Do not bother writing down how much each costs right now.

You can go about this in one of 3 ways to jog your memory:

1) List all expenses that occur in the categories of weekly (i.e. gasoline), monthly (i.e. rent), quarterly (i.e. haircut) , and yearly (i.e. car registration) expenses.

2) List expenses by categories, such as "House" (mortgage/rent, insurance, maintenance, property taxes, HOA, etc), "Car" (registration, gasoline, maintenance), "Kids" (clothing, school lunch, school fees), "Holidays" (Christmas, birthdays, anniversary, Thanksgiving travel), etc.

3) Go through your checkbook and debit card transaction history to jog your memory.

I prefer option #2 because it chunks everything in a logical grouping which triggers my memory for other related expenses. When I thought of "Pet," I remembered not just our dog's food, but also his grooming, vaccinations, and occasional boarding. Also, categorizing is the way I will suggest you organize your final budget draft.
Afterward, I quickly scrolled through 3 months of my online bank account history to see if I had forgotten about any other items. For example, I found that my husband had been buying lunch for his entire office. It turned out that for the weekly office meeting, the responsibility of providing lunch was rotated through the team members, leaving my husband to buy lunch every couple months. That was not even an expense I had been aware of! Funny how husbands will forget to pass on important information.

  • Make that list!
  • Compare it to the last 3 months of bank activity.
  • If you are married, have your spouse add anything you may have missed.

This step should take about 15 minutes.

2. Organize your Categories

Organize your list into categories in a computer document. I prefer Excel because the budget will change a lot in the first three months and paper makes it a hassle to erase-write-erase-rewrite. But if you prefer paper and pencil, do it! Throw perfection out the window when creating a budget and just do it!

Here are some sample clips from my own budget as to how I have arranged categories.


On occasion, I change a few of the things included in some categories. For example, last year, I deleted the "Pet" category when we sold our dog. Also, even though the above have been our categories for a few years, I may move our life insurance lines to their own category and the Isagenix line (nutritional supplements) to "Household" with groceries. The point is don't stress too much if you are unsure where to list something because your budget will change (it should) and especially in the next three months.

The reason I suggest categories is so you can later see how much you are spending total on "Fun", or "Pets", or "Car Maintenance."

  • Arrange in categories.

This should take 5-10 minutes.


As a memory jogger, here are some categories. You do not have to use these and some of these expenses may fall under different categories for you. For some, gym membership may fall under "Health." For others, gym may fall under "Memberships" along with Netflix or hobby clubs.

  • house (escrow, maintenance, mortgage, rent)
  • discretionary (kids allowance, personal money, haircuts)
  • savings (emergency fund, retirement contributions, college fund, car fund)
  • car (payment, insurance, gasoline)
  • health (medical co-pays, life insurance, nutritional supplements, gym membership)
  • toiletries car registration insurance
  • pet (grooming, food, boarding, vaccinations, exams)
  • fun (dining out, entertainment, vacations, holidays)
  • kids (clothes, school fees, allowance)
  • household (toiletries, groceries, preparedness, utilities)
  • communication (internet, cell phone, land line, webhosting)
  • help/services (landscaping, babysitting, housekeeping)
  • office (stamps, printer supplies, paper, shipping labels)
  • miscellaneous (things that are a rare occurrence, passport, speeding ticket)

Monday, July 26, 2010

Time to Budge!

OK, let's break from this mamby pamby grocery stuff. Let's talk money management!

Do you keep running out of money each month? Do you have car payments? Furniture payments? Payments for your payments? Do you keep putting stuff on the credit card hoping some money will come really soon to wipe the balance away? Are you wondering how much longer you will be able to keep your house? Is saving money for your kids' college education or for your retirement a pipe dream? What would happen if you or your husband were laid off? If your car broke down, how would you pay for it to be fixed? If you are married, do you fight with your spouse about money or avoid the topic altogether? Is how you manage the money you encounter in alignment with what you understand of the Lord's counsel?

If the answer to any of these questions makes you feel fear, worry or guilt, then you are like most people in the industrialized world. The latest statistics from the Federal Reserve indicate that the total amount of consumer debt in the United States stands at nearly $2.5 trillion dollars, which breaks down to an average of $8,000 of debt per man, woman and child currently living in this country. (And you know it's not the kids running up those bills!)

Many Latter-day Saints have been caught in the debt trap though we have been counseled to be of the world but not in its maniacal current. Jesus prayed, as recorded in John 17:
14 I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.
15 I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.
16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.
So, here is how we stay out of the financial mess that this world is in. From years of study, I have learned a bazillion things about personal finance. And all those years have yielded this fact every single time:

Cash flow planning, spending plan, money strategy, budget, whatever you want to call it, this is where you start. There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it. This is where you start to pay off debt, or grow a savings account, or plan for retirement. Yet, this is the most dreaded and avoided step. How do I know? The $2.5 trillion dollars of consumer debt did not occur with a budget in place. I see people sidestep the budget creation and think they will be able to slay debt or save money or maintain wealth long-term. Maybe by lucky accident the numbers will just align with the stars. It will not occur by prayer alone. Faith must be present, and faith is presented by our actions, by doing that which we can do.

All true faith must be based upon correct knowledge or it cannot produce the desired results. Faith in Jesus Christ is the first principle of the gospel and is more than belief, since true faith always moves its possessor to some kind of physical and mental action; it carries an assurance of the fulfillment of the things hoped for. ("Faith", Bible Dictionary)

A budget is a NECESSITY! There is a reason why every successful business and the Church have budget plans. It is NECESSARY to success! Maybe you aren't trying to please shareholders. Maybe you just want to have enough money each month without relying on credit cards and loans. Maybe you are itching to become free from debt, or save up money for your golden years or set aside a little assistance for your children's education. Or save up for a house or pay off the one you have. A budget is NECESSARY towards these ends. (Did I already say NECESSARY?)

A budget is a plan on paper that directs your money where to go, a map for your money. If your budget could sing, it would be singing this song.

Whether you fall below the poverty line or are a member of the world's 1% who are megawealthy, you need a budget. Your budget will look different than mine and different than that of your friends and neighbors, but you must have one nonetheless as the first step to becoming a good steward of your financial blessings. The budget is like creating your savings and freedom from debt in the spirit before they are created in the physical.

For I, the Lord God, created all things, of which I have spoken, spiritually, before they were naturally upon the face of the earth. (Moses 3:5)

Now, girl, warm up your Excel and stretch those typing fingers because for the next week, I will show you the details on how I created a budget for my family that has flexed with us for years (from our time as a couple without kids to the present day with kids) and allowed us to create a large safety account and get out (and stay out) of debt during that entire time.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Frugal Friday: Family Portraits

The last photo you have of your family together is when you set up the camera in the living room. It would have worked out too if the dog hadn't run off and got its leash snagged on the tripod, tipping it over right when the timer clicked. The result isn't too bad. It looks great if you tilt your head sharply to the right and regard the gasps on the adults' faces as whimsical.

If money is tight and you want a good-looking family sitting, try these ideas.
There are often beginning photography business owners or student photographers who will do sessions for $50 or less. Some of them will trade for goods. Some of them will do sessions for FREE to build up their portfolios.

local universities and colleges
Advertise on campus looking for a student who is majoring in photography, visual communications, or art and wants to practice what they are learning.

right where you are
With the flooding of digital cameras and photoshopping programs, chances are pretty high that there are 1 to 15 people in your neighborhood who do photography as a hobby and are pretty good at it, too. If you don't find someone there, they're at your work office.

Who knows? You may find your new family photographer for life or years later discover that your student photographer was a budding Ansel Adams!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Experiment Update #2

Well, 12 days have passed since I challenged myself, and I still have 9 days to go. Here is my tally from the past week. There were three different trips to the store.

Trip to the store 1
apples $2.77
bananas $1.19
onions $0.76 (hated spending my money on these as they were in terrible condition)
bread $2.50
with tax $7.44
Left: $6.30

Trip to the store 2
2 creamed corn 1.34
with tax 1.38
Left: $4.92

Trip to the store 3
broccoli $0.60
green leaf lettuce $1.78
4 tomatoes $.72 (looking back, I should gotten only 2 or 3)
with tax $4.36 (I was only able to get these at this price due to price-matching, which seemed to annoy my cashier.)

Left in the envelope:

It's safe to say that my shopping days are nearly over.

I've learned a few things so far in this experiment.

1. While I may not be able to feed my family on $21 a month, I can feed them well on a lot less than I have been IF I apply consistent effort and creativity. (I will post the list of what we ate when our food supply is finished.)

2. I am fine eating almost anything as long as I have fresh fruits and vegetables every day. Seeing my supply of these dwindle makes me feel really uncomfortable.

3. My husband really does not mind if we repeat meals. (Phew!)

4. A good storage of extra food makes eating feel like we're NOT living on food storage.

Will I make it the rest of the month without having to pull money from our 'gasoline' envelope? I think we can last another 5-7 days. I'm hoping for 9 days. The biggest question mark is in the fruit arena. That may be what causes me to end the experiment early. Either I will want a fruit or my toddler will have a breakdown without her daily banana.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Frugal Friday: Homemade Yogurt

No fancy equipment. Just you, a towel, a crockpot, milk, and a little yogurt.

Mindlessly using up our grocery money for the month was the final motivation I needed to learn how to make yogurt at home. I have always wanted to do it but felt intimidated. This recipe is the least intimidating way to enter the world of yogurt-making!

I found the original recipe here. The recipe below is my edit without all the chit-chat and with my own notes.


Homemade Yogurt in a Crock Pot
  • 4-quart crockpot or larger
  • 8 cups (half-gallon) of whole milk (pasteurized and homogenized is fine, but do NOT use ultra-pasteurized)
  • 1/2 cup store-bought natural, live/active culture plain yogurt (to use as a starter. Once you have made your own, you can use that as a starter.)
  • thick bath towel

Make your yogurt on a day when you are home for the most part.
Plug in your crockpot and turn to low.
Add an entire half gallon of milk.
Cover and cook on low for 2-1/2 hours.

Unplug your crockpot.
Leave the cover on, and let it sit for 3 hours.

When 3 hours have passed, scoop out 2 cups of the warmish milk and put it in a bowl.
Whisk in 1/2 cup of store-bought live/active culture yogurt.
Dump the bowl contents back into the crockpot.
Stir to combine.
Put the lid back on your crockpot.
Keep it unplugged, and wrap a heavy bath towel all the way around the crock for insulation.
Go to bed, or let the crockpot sit for 8 hours.

In the morning, the yogurt will have thickened--- it's not as thick as store-bought yogurt, but has the consistency of low-fat plain yogurt.

Chill in a plastic container in the refrigerator.
Your fresh yogurt will last 7-10 days.
Save 1/2 cup as a starter to make a new batch.

Optional flavoring
In our house, we eat plain yogurt, but you can sweeten yours.
  • You can add honey or stevia for sweetening.
  • Blend in batches with your favorite fruit (mango, strawberry, blueberry, etc.) to the serving you will be eaten right then. If you do it to your entire batch, the yogurt will become runnier from the liquid in the fruit. When you blend in the fruit, bubbles will form and might bother you.They aren't a big deal, and will settle eventually.

For thicker yogurt:
My first batch turned out tasting like yogurt but runny like a yogurt drink, so that's how we used it. My crockpot either didn't heat high enough or our air conditioner was on too high. I'm leaning toward the latter. :grin: Here are a couple suggestions if you want a thicker yogurt. (Which I do!)

  • To thicken the best, add one packet of unflavored gelatin to the mix right after stirring in the yogurt with active cultures. (This variation might also help keep a thicker yogurt if you decide to mix fruit into your entire finished batch.)
  • Mix a couple tablespoons of non-fat milk powder right after stirring in the yogurt with active cultures.

For Greek-style yogurt:
I'm not much interested in this technique since it cuts down on the monetary savings, but I know a lot of you out there love Greek-style.
  • Line a colander with a coffee liner or cheesecloth and let the liquid drip out of your plain yogurt. The remaining yogurt will be as thick as sour cream, but you will end up with about half the volume you started with.

Future experimenting
I will be trying yogurt-making using straight probiotics instead of a yogurt starter to see if that will work as well. Probiotics by the bottle are way cheaper and they don't come with the pectin store-bought yogurt contains.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Experiment Update #1

Not gonna lie. After announcing my experiment, my thoughts were all over the place.

Immediately after:
"Should be doable. It's basically $1 a day."

3 hours later:
"Hmm. I'll have to figure out some new meals with dried beans."

7 hours later:
"We are going to die."

A fortunate turn, and one I had forgotten about, was that I paid for a Bountiful Basket the Monday prior. I pick it up on Saturday, which gives me a good base of vegetables to get through the next week and a half. The slight down side is that most of the veggies this week are cruciferous, which doesn't lend itself to a big variety when throwing it in lettuce. Also, I find that we are out of creamy salad dressing. Usually, not a big deal, but if we are going to eat as much salad as I think we are, it will be nice to have some variety in dressings. I write "Ranch" on my food storage shopping list for next month.

I survey my basket and announce via Facebook my desire to trade some of my extras. Friends mostly just want to GIVE me their offerings, but I decide to only accept trades (kind of a sub-experiment in my mind). I give my neighbor Trevor four ears of corn for a bottle of Ranch dressing and give another neighbor Jackie one of the bunches of white asparagus for about a cup of pecans. I had hoped to get a chicken breast or two, but my other offerings of baby carrots and Brussels sprouts were apparently not THAT enticing.

I turn my attention to protein. In my kitchen, I have some whey protein shakes, 3 chicken breasts, a handful of waxed blocks of cheese, peanut butter, half a tub of yogurt and a few bags of dried beans.

I decide I need chicken and yogurt. A 3lb chicken is typically less than $3 and has yielded us in the past enough meat for several meals. The yogurt has me worried. At $1.60-$2 per tub, I decide it is time to learn how to make yogurt at home. I find this recipe and am relieved to find I have enough yogurt left in the fridge to use as a starter. With a list in hand, off to the store I go!

First trip to the store yields:
1 gallon of milk $1.78 (enough to make two large batches of yogurt)
4oz can of green chiles $0.56 (for a recipe using leftover chicken)
5lb baking hen $4.93 (it is the smallest hen available today)
dozen large eggs $0.66 (to make treats and breakfasts instead of buying them)

With tax, the total comes to $8.17.

Left in the envelope:

Onward and upward!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Blessing Your Efforts

It was 2003. We were in more debt than we had ever been in. We had underpaid our federal taxes and were stuck with a huge tax bill, we had a car loan, we used credit cards for covering shortfalls, and we had bought a timeshare. Holy stupid! The weight of it all became heavier as time went on.

I don't recall exactly what or when it happened, but David and I finally snapped. We were SICK of debt. We decided to kill it once and for all! We added up our debt balances and came up with a plan. It looked like it would take 2-3 years to pay it off. That seemed like an eternity to us in our young marriage. We got on our knees. We needed to because we were weak. We had tried things our way and ended up in this mess. We needed the strength to stick with our plan for however many years were necessary. We needed a blessing on what we knew was a righteous endeavor.

In the Book of Mormon, the Lord asked Nephi to build a ship. You will remember that Nephi had no clue how to do that. Was the Lord not aware of this? He could have said, "Oops, that's right. Let me ask someone else." Why did he ask Nephi?

The Lord gave the young man an opportunity to prove his commitment to the Lord and to grow his faith. Nephi had a desire to obey, and he put this desire on the altar. The same scenario is presented to each of us today.

Nephi recorded:
"And it came to pass that I, Nephi, said unto my father: I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them." (1 Nephi 3:7)

Latter-day prophet President Gordon B. Hinckley warned families to “pay off debt as quickly as you can, and free yourselves from bondage.” With a faith like that of Nephi, David and I kneeled before the Lord to ask for a way to obey the commandment to avoid debt. We had done a terrible job of avoiding it, but we knew the Lord desired us to be free from its bondage nonetheless.

As a sacrifice, we put as much as we could on the altar. We stopped eating out. We committed to charge not one penny more to our credit cards. We cut down our expenses. We cut off high-speed internet and went back to dial-up service. We sold some belongings on eBay. We sold the timeshare for half the price we had paid for it. We canceled our cell phone. We went down to one car.

What part of that list made your throat feel tight? Did you gasp? We felt the same way, but we also wanted out of slavery and felt in our hearts that we needed to prove to God that we really meant it. We would do anything for His blessing in this desire. We worked hard and kept reminding each other that shedding debt would feel so very good! When I felt weak, David reminded me of our goal. When he felt weak, I reminded him.

And blessed we were! Our efforts were doubled, tripled, quadrupled! Unexpected money came in and we directed that toward our worthy goal. We paid off that debt, not in 2-3 years, but in 10 months! The Lord be blessed because it wasn't us.

About three years ago, the First Presidency of the Church came out with the pamphlet "Family Finances". Here is the opening message.
Dear Brothers and Sisters:

Latter-day Saints have been counseled for many years to prepare for adversity by having a little money set aside. Doing so adds immeasurably to security and well-being. Every family has a responsibility to provide for its own needs to the extent possible.

We encourage you wherever you may live in the world to prepare for adversity by looking to the condition of your finances. We urge you to be modest in your expenditures; discipline yourselves in your purchases to avoid debt. Pay off debt as quickly as you can, and free yourselves from this bondage. Save a little money regularly to gradually build a financial reserve.

If you have paid your debts and have a financial reserve, even though it be small, you and your family will feel more secure and enjoy greater peace in your hearts.

May the Lord bless you in your family financial efforts.

The First Presidency

Note the last sentence: "May the Lord bless you in your family financial efforts."

My testimony is that the Lord will bless you in your financial journey if you will prove to him your allegiance to keeping his commandments. You surely will be blessed when you put your key of commitment and sacrifice into the lock of His promise. The windows of Heaven will be opened and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it. (Malachi 3:10; 3 Nephi 24:10)

Friday, July 9, 2010

Frugal Friday: Oops

For the last 3 months, I've been suffering from a condition brought on by pregnancy and giving birth. I had a severe case of Notfeelinglikecookingitis. My husband was experiencing sympathy pains. Fortunately, we had a little extra money to cover the expenses of treatment.

But July was our first month getting back in routine and making the most of each dollar. We had our budget meeting, set the numbers, pulled out the cash. It was a perfect plan.

I went to the store and blew it all to smithereens.

Apparently, human behavior has not yet caught up to the written plan. It is July 9, and we have left in our grocery envelope to carry us for the next 3 weeks:



Someone forgot to rein in her, er, their spending at the store last week. Darn me! I mean, them!

What to do, what to do, what to do?

Okie dokey.

Unexpected experiment! I'm going to see how far I can make $21.91 last this month in feeding our family of 4.

hew 15
36 And he took the seven loaves and the fishes, and gave thanks, and brake them, and gave to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude.
37 And they did all eat, and were filled: and they took up of the broken meat that was left seven baskets full.
38 And they that did eat were four thousand men, beside women and children.

Loaves and fishes, right?
I don't have four thousand people to feed for one day, just four people, albeit for 21 days.

I will use what I have in the house and do my best to stretch the $21 when I need to purchase something at the store. I do have a vegetable garden, but it has not yet produced anything. Perhaps, I will make a midnight tour of my neighbors' gardens and see if there is any food to be found. (I kid.) (Maybe.)

OK, run-down of "The Rules":

1. Stretch the food we already have in our fridge, pantry, and storage.
2. When I purchase food, post here what I bought.
3. Maybe, as time goes on, post the meals we are eating or, at least, forcing down our throats.
4. No stealing. (Probably.)

Let this be a lesson to you all, lest ye think I've perfected money matters. No matter where you are in this ride, you've always got to maintain your good habits!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Frugal Friday: Speak Up

Sometimes it will be my tip. Sometimes, it will be from someone else. Sometimes, it will be a specific project, and other times, it will be a practice or idea. But Friday will host a post on frugality to help your dollars stretch!

Speak Up!

There are lots of deals out there that can only be claimed by SPEAKING UP!

Have you noticed a lot of products have a phone number printed on the label asking you to call with questions or comments? I had never given it much thought until about 7 years ago. I was cleaning out my medicine cabinet when I found a bag of Halls cough drops. I couldn't remember when I bought it, and at the time, Halls did not print expiration dates on the bag, only codes.

I called the phone number listed on the bag, and the company rep deciphered the code to let me know how old my batch was. (It was still good.) As a thank you for calling, they mailed me two $1 off coupons for future purchases. Back then, the cough drops were priced for less than a dollar, so I ended up with two free bags!
Because of my long hair, I often experience a clogged bathroom sink. I typically buy Drano to unclog it, but one time, I decided to go for the cheaper Liquid Plumr. I applied it a couple times to my sink to no avail. I had my husband pick up a bottle of Drano on his way home from work. Drano cleared my sink in one application. I called the company just to tell them how much I appreciated them making an effective product. They thanked me for calling and sent me a coupon for a free bottle.
I buy Kleenex with Lotion by the 3-pack. There was one winter when I noticed that whenever I pulled out a tissue, it ripped as it came out of the box. On top of that, the 2 layers of tissue would separate. I called and told the manufacturer that they "may want to be aware of a defect." They thanked me for letting them know and then sent me two coupons for $1.50 off a 3-pack.

At another time, I was on the Orowheat website attempting to print a 45-cent coupon for a loaf of bread, but every time I submitted my information, I was re-directed to a dead page. My husband tried on different computers and encountered the same problem. I clicked on "contact us" and emailed the company stating that I wanted to print out their coupons but that I was unable to and wondered if there was some other way to get them. The following week, I found in my mailbox 4 coupons for $1 off a loaf of bread.

These are just some of the types of discounts I have received by speaking up. Does this happen to me every time I have spoken up? No. But it has happened MOST times. Is this something you can do?

I don't advocate making a career out of calling companies for the sole purpose of receiving free merchandise. I find such a practice unethical and an unwise use of time. I am inviting you to call a company when you appreciate their product or when there is truly a flaw in one. This creates a win-win situation in which manufacturers receive valuable feedback on their wares and you help keep the products you like in production and/or receive valuable discounts on things you already use!