Monday, July 25, 2011

Save for the Expected Unexpected

When the U.S. economy tanked, a lot of people were left in emergency situations: lay-offs, foreclosures, bankruptcy. Immediately, the finger-pointing began. Blame the administration, blame the lenders, blame "the economy".

Most of the situations I have seen could easily occur during good economic times as well as bad. How so?  Most people do not save for emergencies. They are naive to think that everything not only will turn out OK, but it will always be OK, so they do not set aside money for the times that we have been promised will come.

Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin advised:
"Remember the lesson of Joseph of Egypt. During times of prosperity, save up for a day of want.

"Too often, people assume that they probably never will be injured, get sick, lose their jobs, or see their investments evaporate. To make matters worse, often people make purchases today based upon optimistic predictions of what they hope will happen tomorrow.

"The wise understand the importance of saving today for a rainy day tomorrow."
We are guaranteed that there will be rainy days during our mortal existence. Sometimes, we will see the storm clouds coming, and other times, a flood will flash without warning. It is our responsibility to be prepared; let us not blame other factors for keeping us from preparing.

"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

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Scripture Sunday - Doctrine & Covenants 58:28

For the power is in them, 
wherein they are agents unto themselves. 
And inasmuch as men do good 
they shall in nowise lose their reward.

Doctrine & Covenants 58:28

Friday, July 22, 2011

Frugal Friday: Request a Sample

Last February, one of the "deal" websites I track posted a letter from a reader who mentioned that when she and her husband ran out of shampoo and conditioner a year earlier, she decided that they would use ONLY samples and freebies until they ran out. What do you know? A year later, they were still going strong!

Now, I know that will not be the case for everyone, but requesting samples from manufacturers is a great way to save a little bit of money! Additional bonuses are:
  • You get to try some products you many never have heard of or would purchase without experiencing first.
  • Samples often come with coupons.
  • These trial products are often the perfect size for carry-on air-travel.
  • Sometimes, the samples companies send out are full-size!

Some of the more recent FULL SIZE "samples" I have received.

The types of samples available for free in this country range everywhere from personal care products to cleaners to diapers to health devices, office supplies, food, software and pretty much everything under the capitalist sun!

Because there are so many samples available, some women fall into the "freebie search" trap. They spend hours looking for free samples and request every sample they come across just because it is free. Only request samples for which you will use and only spend a small amount of time requesting them. Otherwise, you will lose perspective on your money plan, which encompasses so many other facets.

Have you ever requested samples? What have been some of your favorites?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

What Could the People of God Do?

Satan is a tricky fellow. He knows we have a Kingdom to build up in preparation for the return of our Christ, so he distracts us. A shiny thing here, a cool toy there, and he shackles our minds awake at night, worrying about how we will pay for it all!

This is something I know for sure: It is much easier to focus on doing God's work when our financial houses are in order. When we're worrying about how to pay for food to eat or for gasoline to get to work or wondering how we will pay this month's mortgage or rent, our prayers tend to be in supplication instead of in offering ourselves to His service. I see it often, and perhaps you do too, friends or relatives talking about how there isn't enough money for this or that or frantically looking for ways to increase in income. (Hello, I've been there!)

What could God's people do if they were unshackled from debt?

  • They could give more in offerings: temple funds, ward and general mission funds, humanitarian aid, perpetual education fund, etc.
  • They could prepare for missions: for their kids, for their parents, or for themselves.
  • They could spend less time working and spend it in happiness with their own families.
  • They could nurture and heal their marriages.
  • They could further their education.
  • They could serve each other and their communities more, in time and in donations.
  • They could afford special treatments and services for their family members in crisis.
  • They could increase feelings of safety in their children and in their spouse.
  • They could sleep.
  • They could free up mental energies and create more solutions for their homes, their congregations, and their communities.
  • They could regain hope.

God loves freedom and desires it for us. Because of this love for freedom, he sent us his Only Begotten to be sent as a lamb to the slaughterhouse so he could FREE us from death and so he could FREE us from sin, and so he could FREE us from pain. In God-like manner, let us FREE ourselves from debt.

Our duty is to prepare this world for the return of our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. We are called to build the Kingdom of God on earth. What does that mean to you? What is your part of the work?

Monday, July 18, 2011

Too Broke to Budget?

I cannot count how many times I or my husband have heard, "But we don't have any money to budget!" Is that possible? My husband cannot bear the excuse no longer and has begun responding with, "Even MORE reason you need a plan!"

There is a misconception that budgets are only for people who have enough money to meet all their obligations. That simply is not true. Everyone needs a money plan. If one dollar enters a household, there must be a written plan as to what to do with it.

Even a family receiving welfare and unemployment benefits needs to create a written budget for those benefits.
  • How much is going toward mortgage and rent? 
  • How much is going to gasoline? 
  • How much can be sent to the electric company?
  • Of the food stamps, how much will we spend per week? 
  • How much DOES it cost to feed our family?

The most important result of budgeting, even when funds are poverty-low, is that a habit of money accountability begins to be set in place, and that is a habit that sets a person up for success when cash flow increases, even by just a little bit.

There is no valid excuse to avoid counting blessings, no matter how few they appear to be. God enlarges the talent of those whom He can trust with a little.

"And he said unto him, Well, thou good servant: because thou hast been faithful in a very little, have thou authority over ten cities."

Friday, July 15, 2011

Frugal Friday: Reuse the Bridesmaid Dress

When my little sister was married nearly 8 years ago, she decided to go with a colorful and casual wedding involving Gerbera daisies and flip-flops. Sounded like a great idea. Then, I found out the bridesmaid dresses were to match the flowers: yellow and orange. I'm sure by now you know that most people look great in yellow and in orange. Hmph.

I was assigned yellow.

Despite what any blissfully naive bride tells you, you will not get to wear your bridesmaid dress again and again. It will go with nothing, if it even "went" in the first place.

While it is rarely a frugal thing to buy the bridesmaid dress, you can soften the blow and create a "bonus" from the purchase:
  • Depending on the style of dress, come October, dress up as a princess or Cruella Deville or a fairy or Jackie O. Bonus: Halloween costume!
  • Cut the top part off. Bam! New skirt! Pair up with kicky boots and a fitted denim top.
  • Cut the bottom part off. Bonus: new top! Wear with jeans and under a blazer or bolero.
  • Donate it to the Princess Project or Donate My Dress . Bonus: Tax write-off!
  • Stretch a large piece of the skirt and paint a masterpiece with fabric paint. Then, frame it. Bonus: one-of-a-kind art!

If you're more inclined, make a table runner, a tablecover for an accent table, a sash, a Christmas tree skirt, a purse, pillow covers, or a little girl's dress.

Or you could go simple, and do what I did:

Bonus: Curtains for the new laundry room!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Scripture Sunday - Proverbs 20:4

The sluggard will not plow 
by reason of the cold;
therefore shall he beg in harvest, 
and have nothing.

Proverbs 20:4

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Putting It Out There

This week, something was bugging my brain. OK, something has been bugging it for a couple months. I probably could have figured it out sooner, but I kept filling my time with things to do instead of being still enough to let thoughts rise to the surface. But this week is when my brain could not hold out anymore.

I was quietly sweeping the kitchen floor, not so much to sweep it but to give my body some thoughtless repetitive motion. While I swept, my brain whirred. It whirred. It whirred. And then it stopped whirring. A lone thought rose.

"I want to pay the house off in 4 years."

"Four years???" I countered. The thought floated up again.

"I want to pay the house off in 4 years."

And it felt completely true. So, there it is. 

My husband and I have been free from debt, excluding the mortgage, for nearly 8 years. It has been WONDERFUL to owe no one. Well, almost no one. This is where the mortgage comes in.

I desire to be COMPLETELY free from bondage. Debt is bondage. Yes, a mortgage has a value attached to it, but it is still debt. I don't like debt. I like being free from contracts.

Eight years ago, my husband and I were under more debt than we thought we could ever get out of. But there came a day when we got so sick of it all that we prayed, and we committed each other, and we sacrificed everything possible to pay that debt off! Cell phone, internet, cars, everything! We thought it would take us 3 years to pay it all off (and that seemed like such a long time then), but we proved our commitment and the Lord accepted our sacrifice, and that debt was gone in 10 months!

I want to pay the house off in 4 years and be completely free from bondage. I do not know how we will do it, but I know it can be done. And I know, with the Lord, we can do it.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Frugal Friday: Set Your Electric Bill to "Equal"

Whew! It's summer, and it's HOT! We're quickly approaching that time of the season when we have been putting off turning on the air conditioner but cannot hold out much longer, even if it means facing that pesky accompanying electric bill.

This a great time of the year to call up your electric or utilities company and have them set your account to "Equal Pay". This is a program in which the company providing your electricity (in some cities, this bill includes water, sewer, and trash fees) looks at your usage for the past year and arrives at an estimate of how much electricity you will be using in the coming year. They then take this estimate and divide it by 12 months to come up with your new "fixed" monthly charge.

The great thing about this is that you will no longer have to guess each month how much to budget for electricity. And the perk of doing this in the summer (or the season in which you use the most electricity) is that you will see your bill go down immediately to a lower amount than you usually pay in a summer without equal payments!

Keep in mind, you will still want to be mindful of your electricity use. If you use more than what the company estimates for you, they will ask you to pay the difference the next time they are scheduled to estimate your use for the following year. On the converse, if you use less than what they estimated you would, they will credit your account accordingly.

The temperature is going to rise but your bill doesn't have to. Sign up for equal payments with your utilities company!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Cash in my Pocket

I love pulling cash out of the bank and putting it in my pocket or purse! I feel so well taken care of and wealthy, for in my purse I have physical proof that, yes, I do have money.

Have you ever said "I don't have any money"? I suggest a woman start by always carrying a dollar bill with her. When tempted to say, "I don't have any money," pull out that dollar from your purse and say, "Oh- Yes I do! I have money!"

I love paying for groceries and haircuts in cash. I don't ever have to wonder if I am going over budget because I can see my budget- right there! Holding my money and watching it being spent in person has given me a bigger education in money than most any book.

It's the beginning of the month, have you filled your cash envelopes for groceries and eating out?

Monday, July 4, 2011

Land of Free

About nine years ago, some of my extended family came to visit from Venezuela, from where I am originally. On one particular night after sight-seeing, we stopped at a Wendy's for a fast dinner. My cousins were eating their meals when the oldest one said something about his fries being cold. I told him to take the fries up to the counter and get a new batch. He gave me a weird look.

"Will they give me new ones?" he asked in Spanish. I explained to him that they would indeed take the cold fries and replace them with a new, hot order even though he had already taken a couple bites. He was skeptical but went to the counter anyway. He came back with a hot order of french fries and a look of amazement.

Later on, a younger cousin finished his soda but said he wanted another. I told him to go up and get a refill. He laughed my "joke" off. I explained to him that refills were free. My family being characterized as jokers, he thought I was pulling a prank on him. I practically had to pull him out of his chair to go get a refill. When he came back with a full cup, his eyes were big as he whispered to his brother in Spanish, "Look!"

His brother replied, "They gave it to you? For free??" This younger cousin commenced to show his full cup off to his parents (my aunt and uncle).

Maybe you are not aware that in other countries, if you get a bad meal and you don't like it, you are out of luck. You get terrible service? Who cares; you're the one inconveniencing the waiter. You want another drink? Pull out your wallet. We take so much for granted here, and we're unaware of just how much we get for free.

On top of freedom to worship the God of our choosing, the freedom to publicly express opinions, and the freedom to venture into our own economic future, we get free stuff!

We Americans have a blessed life indeed.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Frugal Friday: Coupons Fool the Eye

** I am not a Coupon Queen
** I do not know how to get $100 worth of stuff for 15cents.
** I am a woman who happens to use coupons.

There are a lot of things to watch for if you are new to using coupons, one being to not be fooled by the photo on the coupon.

Sometimes, a manufacturer will release a coupon that can be used for any of their brand of products, but they will put a photo of one of their pricier products on the coupon so the consumer gets programmed (fooled) to buy the one in the photo. This happens a lot! Often times, the consumer misses an opportunity for a really great deal or a free product.

Just a small sampling of examples I've noticed in my own shopping:

KY Jelly had a "$3 off" coupon.
Photo on coupon featured a product priced for around $15.
Not pictured was the KY Jelly 2oz size priced at $2.62.
Apply coupon.
Free product (plus 38¢ in cash returned to you, depending on the store).

Reach Floss had a "$1 off" coupon.
Pictured was a toothbrush and a floss, each priced for around $2.
Not pictured was the Reach Floss priced at 97¢.
Apply coupon.
Free product (plus 3cents overage).

Colgate had a couple of coupons for "75¢ off".
Pictured was Colgate Total priced over $3.
Not pictured was the 3.5oz basic Colgate priced at $1.
Apply coupon. Toothpaste for 25¢.

Reynold's had a "$1 off" coupon.
Pictured was their new No-Stick foil. That's what they want me to buy.
Not pictured was the regular Reynold's Foil at $1.52.
Apply coupon. Quality foil for cheaper than you can buy at the dollar store!

Cache Valley put out a coupon for "one free product".
Pictured was almost a dozen of their products.
Not pictured was the 5-lb slab of cheddar I was eyeing for waxing.
Apply coupon. Free $15 cheese! The cashier fought me on this one, but I knew the purchase was allowed and let her call a supervisor over who confirmed what I had stated.

M&Ms put out a coupon "$1off two" Valentine's products.
Pictured were about half a dozen of their holiday offerings.
Not pictured was their holiday treats priced at $1.
Apply coupon. Visiting teaching tokens for 50¢.

These photos sometimes even fool cashiers. I've heard so many times "this is not the product pictured on the coupon." And then I have to point out the text stating "good on any (brand) product".

Remember, READ the coupon, don't let the photo fool you into using the coupon for something more expensive or into not using it at all because you think it's for a product you do not normally use.