Thursday, April 28, 2011

30 days of smart money choices...

1) Join Sally Beauty Supply' discount plan for smart savings on beauty products. This gives you a discount on their already low prices for health and beauty items.
2) Cut down on paper towel usage by using old diapers, rags, or the thin weight, lint-free flour sack type towels that you can find at any discount store. Our great-grandmothers kept clean houses before the invention of paper towels. Rags are easy to wash and re-use. Save paper towels for when you really need the instant convenience.
3) Need a quick update for your home, as well as a way to pull mis-matched furniture together? Coat the items with a layer of either white paint or black paint. With family antiques, make sure that painting the furniture will not devalue the item's worth. Otherwise, happy painting!
4) Can't afford an interior designer? Likely, you know someone who is an amateur, but who has a good knack for decorating. Invite her over for a glass of iced tea and ask her for some decorating advice. Of course, her tastes may differ than yours, so be sure to take that into account and stay true to your own style. However, someone with a good eye can usually spot ways you can attractively arrange things that you own and that suit your taste. Such a talented friend can also help when you are deciding between two or three choices of fabric swatches or paint colors.
5) Think of a home magazine that you enjoy and visit that magazine's web site or sign up for their twitters for ideas and inspiration. Most sites offer some how to articles and provide pictures of looks which you might be able to duplicate on a thrift-store budget. Here's my list of some great home and home decorating magazines with sites to enjoy.

Better Homes and Gardens
Traditional Home Magazine
Romantic Homes Magazine
Coastal Living
Southern Lady Magazine
Southern Living
Real Simple Magazine
House Beautiful
Fresh Home Magazine blog
Country Living


Wednesday, April 27, 2011

30 days of Smart Money Choices:

1) If you're faithful with a little, you'll be faithful with a lot. Start with what you have and manage it well. Don't wait for "your ship to come in". Do the best with what you have now.
2) Think about how your parents used money. Think about any life events that affect your attitudes toward money. Think about how are you shaped by these things, for good and for ill. Get rid of any emotional baggage that warps your healthy view of money and your ability to use it wisely.
3) Let money be a tool that you use for good. Don't let it become your master.
4) Realize that you probably need less money and less stuff than you think you do.
5) Allow some room in your budget for "fun spending". Don't create a budget that is so tight that you can't stick to it.


Monday, April 25, 2011

30 days of smart money choices --

1) The smart lady above is making the most of her bounty by preserving her fruits. Freezing and canning can save you money if you have the time for these activities. You do not always have to grow your own fruits, veggies, and meats in order to preserve them. For example, I sometimes buy my favorite kind of apple (very crisp and firm Arkansas Black variety) at a nearby orchard and keep the apples the way the owner recommends. I put several in a zip lock bag with just a bare teaspoonful of water in the bag. (Too much water renders the apples soggy, rather than crisp.) I keep the sacks of apples in the refrigerator crisper. They can last up to a year this way, especially if you check the bags to remove any that are starting to spoil. You can buy extra produce at a farmer's market or even a grocery store that has good quality produce in season. You can then preserve it just as you would as if you had grown it yourself. Of course, growing your own produce will give you lots of summer bounty to store for the rest of the year.
2) Research various ways to preserve herbs. One way is to salt them. Herbs can also easily be grown inside, all year long.
3) Search out recipes for freezer slaw, three bean salads, copper pennies, and for small batches of jellies and pickles that don't need heavy canning or freezing to preserve.

On a completely different train of thought...
4) Save and invest with your convictions in mind. First and foremost, do not compromise your beliefs for the sake of earning money. Secondly, the home is a great venue from which to foster things that help the community at large. Some things you might foster with careful savings, careful investments, careful consumption, gifts to charities, and personal charity are adoption, clean water for people in third world countries, the spreading of the news about Christ, medical aid to people in areas served by charity clinics, food banks, being a good steward of the environment, supporting local businesses, encouraging young entrepreneurs, and the list goes on and on. You may not be able to do everything, but you can do something. The combined effect of individual households using portions of their assets for worthy causes can do a nation much good.
4a) Be ware of dubious investment schemes that play on your desire to do good in a certain area. Make sure any proposed investment -- even ones that claim to promote a good cause -- is sound and that the returns really will be used for the stated goal. Likewise, check out charities before you give. You want your money to actually meet the need about which you are so passionate.
4c) Having said that, set aside some money that you are willing to give, lend, or invest without any guarantee of financial return. That way, you will be able to give that money to a truly worthy venture, regardless of the outcome.

Still another set of ideas:
5) This is the season for spring cleaning, at least in the Northern Hemisphere. Before you throw things away, decide if they can be sold. For example, many people -- myself included -- have sold books on (Be sure to account for the cost of mailing your item to a buyer in your asking price. does give a shipping allowance, but it might not be enough for a heavy book.) Other sites to check for selling things are Sell.Com, Half.Com, E-Bay,, and Craig's List. While some people with a good eye for what sells buy old things and re-sell them to such sites, it's best to start by simply selling something you already have and would like to get rid of. That way, you are not risking anything. If it sells, you've earned a little extra pocket cash. If it doesn't -- no biggie. You can always toss it or give it away later.
6) Take care of any obvious water leaks in your house, such as a drippy faucet or water damage on a first floor ceiling that might indicate a problem with an upstairs air conditioner/heating unit . Also check for hidden leaks. One way to to this is to turn off all of the fixtures and appliances in your house that use water. Look at your water meter. If the flow indicator is still spinning, you have a leak that needs to be fixed. Repairing water leaks can save you a lot of money.
7) We all know that using an ATM that doesn't belong to your bank costs extra. If you plan ahead, you can perform any transactions you need to at your bank or at one of your bank's ATMs. However, even the savviest planners among us can get caught needing a little cash in a pinch. If you are not near one of your own bank's ATM's, buy a small item at a grocery store or drug store and ask for cash back. Most places limit the amount of cash you can get in this way. However, the limit is usually high enough to meet any sudden need.


Friday, April 22, 2011

Calling all gardeners -- Need the 411

A couple of years ago, I brought home some prairie rose seeds from Texas. The picture on the seed packet was a very pronounced pink. It is only this year that this plant has grown very large and has started to bloom. Is this my prairie rose? The blossom looks a little bit like a Cherokee rose. It also looks a little bit like a blackberry blossom.

You can't tell it from the photo, but this part of the bush is supported on a makeshift trellis against a brick wall. The bush wants to grow out sideways, sending out long canes and runners.

There is a white variety of prairie rose that grows up north, I think, but I wasn't expecting that from the seed packet. Whatever it is, it's lovely. However, I'd love to be able to identify it.

It is growing near cultivated (not wild) roses. Is that a problem?

Let me know what y'all think.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

30 Days of Smart Money Choices --

Sow your seed in the morning and do not be idle in the evening, for you do not know whether morning or evening sowing will succeed, or whether both of them alike will be good. Ecclesiastes 11:6

1) To quote a popular proverb, "Don't put all of your eggs in one basket." Diversify yo
ur investments. Have a good investment plan which does not depend on just one type of investment to succeed. A mutual fund can provide some diversity for you simply by the fact that it manages a wide portfolio of stocks. Even so, your personal investment strategy needs a little diversity, as well.
2) Have a good grasp of the overall picture of your life. Have a unifying purpose for your endeavors. For the Christian, it could be to seek God and His kingdom first and to follow Jesus. As Jesus told Martha, it's not good to fret and stew over many things. Only one thing is needed. Working toward a over-arching goal gives meaning
to everything we do. Yet, under that umbrella of a unifying purpose, we will need to accomplish work in many sub-areas. For example, the keeper at home must not only organize meals, but see to it that her family is clothed as well. Be able to allot time and finances to complete your work. Do not work hard in the morning and slack off as the day goes on. Do not pour all of your time into your favorite activities and fail to succeed at other responsibilities. In this sense, you not only diversify your financial investments, but your time investments, as well.
3) When investing and making other financial decisions, watch out for these attitudes that can sabotage you: fear (as opposed to reasoned and prayerful prudence), greed, envy, making rash decisions, believing unreasonable claims, placing too much se
curity in temporal things, and a lack of trust in God's provision. Cultivate trust, generosity, prayerful and reasoned prudence, and the knowledge that God can provide no matter what happens to your personal finances or to the overall economy.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Smart Money Choices --

1) Don't buy a brand new car. The greatest depreciation on a car occurs in the first year. You can get very good deals by buying a one-year-old car. Some people buy a car and decide after a year that it's not the one for them. Others trade up every year, though this is not as common as it once was. Some buy a car and decide a year later that they can't or don't want to make the payments. These things means that there is often a selection of one-year-old cars for you to choose from. If you go this route, be sure the car is in good condition and was not returned because of an accident or design flaws. Also, do your research and determine what type of car you want fist. Then, look for a one-year-old in that make and model. Don't settle for something you don't want. If you buy a car when it is one year old, it should last you many years.
2) If you have a pet, investigate whether pet insurance is worth your while. Factors to consider are how much you would personally spend to keep a pet alive. Some owners would do everything possible; others would draw the line at certain expensive features. We have not found it worth having pet insurance yet. However, dear friends of ours do carry pet insurance, as they earn the cost back on the amount they must spend every year to have their dog's teeth taken care of. One thing to consider. As soon as enough people who use medical services in a particular field buy insurance, providers begin to assume that everyone has insurance. They begin to charge accordingly. This drives prices up. So, consider the overall picture when deciding whether to buy pet insurance or not.
3) The start up costs on a brand new garden may eat up any savings you would earn by growing your own veggies. However, if you plan well, you can save money in the long run. Consider your time. Do you want to spend the time it takes to compost, grow plants from seeds, save seeds, or do other things that will make your garden efforts most cost-effective? If you enjoy it, it's a great way to save.
4) If you can't do a huge garden, consider tub gardening. There are many varieties of tomatoes, carrots, squash, and other veggies which can be grown in containers on patios or decks. A strawberry jar is a nice way to grow some fruit if you are willing to wait for the harvest and can protect the strawberry plants during winter. Container gardening can produce a lot of veggies for not much cost or labor. Again, the profit for container gardening goes up in the second year, as you don't have to buy containers.
5) If you live in an urban or suburban area, investigate a shared garden, a community garden, or some other type of co-operative garden scheme. This can save you money and time when compared to both buying all of your food or doing a garden all by yourself.
6) If you don't know much about gardening or even if you do but you want to hone your gardening skills, consult one of your area's master gardeners. You can find one through your County Extension office. They can help you not only with gardening in general, but also how to get the most out of your local soil and local climate.
7) No matter where you live, you are probably within a reasonable driving distance of an orchard or pick your own farm. Investigate buying foods from orchards, pick your own sites, and other local farms.

Happy Home Keeping!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Thirty Days of Smart Money Choices -- Day VII

Stretch your gasoline dollars...

Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life. 1 Timothy 6:17-19

I just paid $50.00 to fill a mid-size car (about 12 gallons). So, that prompted me to come home and do some research about how to save money on gasoline.

As we already talked about, driving the speed limit will help you get more miles per gallon of gas. For most cars, the gasoline efficiency goes down if you exceed speeds of about 55 to 60 mph. Part of this has to do with the extra aerodynamic drag on your car, or, in other words, the increased drag from the air that your car experiences when you drive at faster speeds.

Also, most of us have figured out by now that it's a good thing to map your travels so that you can do several errands on one route. This is much better than either making several separate trips to do errands or else back-tracking when doing multiple errands. Think through how many stops you need to make and try to do them in a gas-efficient way.

Here are more tips:

1) Don't forget to utilize your accumulated grocery store points. Today, I lost out by not entering my points correctly. I was not at a Kroger station, but at another brand station which does accept Kroger points. I was trying to use my card, but misread the directions and did not receive my credit. Next time, I will know how to input my Kroger info. Using gas points from Kroger or other grocery stores will help you save some money per gallon, which can add up when gas is so costly. Publix will sometimes run deals in which you can get free gas cards for every $25.00 spent.
2) Empty any heavy items that you've been lugging around in your car that are heavy and not necessary to carry.
3) Keep your tires properly inflated. This not only helps with gas mileage, but increases safety, as well. Don't over inflate your tires, though. The risk of accident, injury, and death far outweighs any increase in gas mileage.
4) Know which grade fuel is recommended for your car. If you do not need a medium or high grade fuel, select the lowest grade option. Buying a higher grade fuel will not necessarily give you higher mpg. By the same token, buying the lowest grade will not guarantee that you save money. Find out what works for your car. We generally buy the lower grade fuel as that is fine for our cars.
5) Are you sitting in a traffic jam? Waiting to drive onto a ferry? Waiting for someone to get in the car? Avoid idling your car for more than one minute. After one minute, it is cheaper to turn your car off and to restart it when you are ready to move than it is to keep it idling. Again, you have to keep safety in mind. If you are in a situation in which you must move your car quickly, say when a long red traffic light changes to green, keep your car running.
6) From time to time, assess your car's gas mileage and performance. A drop in fuel efficiency could be due to a fixable problem. If you notice such a drop, take your car to a trusted mechanic for help.
7) Did you know that it is actually more economical to run your air conditioner at a low level than to drive with your windows down? When your windows are open, there is more air drag on your car, which means the car has to perform harder and burn more fuel to overcome the resistance. Of course, who can resist driving with your windows down on a beautiful spring day! But, if you choose to do so, make sure you're not doing it simply for economic reasons.
8) Accelerate gently and brake gradually. When you do accelerate, try to do it slowly and over the longest possible distance. (Keep safety in mind, of course. You do need to keep up with traffic into which you are merging.)
9) Fill up when you are near the spot in your area that has the lowest gas prices. This spot may change from day to day and week to week. But, if you are out and notice lower gas prices, stop and get at least a few gallons of gas. Sometimes, on trips, you can also time your breaks and gas stops to take advantage of lower gas prices. This is especially true if you are about to cross into one state with lower or higher prices and gas taxes than the one you are currently in.
10) Think carefully about applying hypermiling tips, no matter how tempting they may be. Hypermilers are people who are devoted to getting the most possible mileage out of each gallon of gas. While some of the methods they use are safe and economical, other methods that many hypermilers try are both dangerous and illegal in many states. For example, some hypermilers will try in order to tailgate to take advantage of the draft pulling from the front car. This tip might be ok on a race track. For real life driving, however, it is likely to cause an accident and is higly dangerous for the occupants of both cars. Trying to save a few cents at the risk of safety is not only foolish, but could cost way more in terms of suffering, grief, and money than sticking to safer methods of stretching gas dollars.

Be safe! Be thrifty! Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Thirty Days of Smart Money Choices...

What areas fall under the umbrella of family finance? This is a question each family must answer in order to manage their money well. Here are some reminders to consider when making your list:

1) Giving to church, charities, your personal ministry or charity to others
2) Preparing tax forms and keeping tax records; understanding how the tax code applies to your particular situation; hiring tax help or obtaining free tax help if you need to.
3) Selecting appropriate investments
4) Finances involving the purchasing, furnishing, and upkeep of a home; finances regarding building a home or re-modeling a home if your family chooses to do so; weighing the financial pros and cons of renting versus buying.
5) Buying the right kinds and right amounts of insurance
6) Stretching a food budget -- Weighing cost of food items, health of food items, time to prepare, etc. Making menu and shopping lists that meet your family's needs for nourishing and comforting foods, yet do not exceed your budget.
7) Handling a clothing budget; making sure all members of family are adequately clothed; making sure that you have appropriate clothing for lifestyle, climate, and season.
8) Setting up a retirement plan; maintaining your retirement plan; Reviewing it, updating it from time to time.
9) Wills, living wills,
10) Sending children to college or otherwise preparing for them to receive career training.
11) Teaching children how to handle money; setting allowances
12) Purchasing, maintaining a car and fuel -- weighing out pros and cons of owning cars if you live in a huge metropolitan area with lots of public transportation; parking costs; toll road costs; public transporation costs
13) If you work outside the home: work wardrobe, childcare costs, lunch costs, etc.
14) If you operate a home business -- all of the finances, taxes, licenses, profit, promotional costs, cost of doing business related to your enterprise.
15) Forming relationships with trusted bank, lawyer, CPA, any other financial institution or professional as needed; choosing advisors wisely
16) Educating yourself enough about economics at a national level in order to vote wisely and according to your personal convictions.
17) Determining if you want to further your education.
18) Educating yourself in order to be a wise consumer.
19) Debt reduction
20) Making sure family is united in financial goals and priorities.
21) Understanding what financial aid, government programs, student loans, lunch programs, etc. are in place if your family needs financial assistance. Weighing pros and cons of assistance. Having a plan to pay off any loans and to get to point where can function without assistance.
22) Setting up files, online banking, automatic bill payment, automatic check deposit, etc. Having a financial center of your home where you keep track of computer records and paper work, too.

If you're like me, you may not enjoy taking care of paperwork and the nitty-gritty details of financial matters. Still, it's a needed function for a family. The best thing to do is for a couple to determine their goals and priorities, to come up with a plan, and to create procedures that make it easier to carry out this plan.

Happy Home Keeping!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Thirty Days of Wise Money Choices -- Day V

There are plenty of ways to get ahead. The first is so basic I'm almost embarrassed to say it: spend less than you earn. ~Paul Clitheroe

1) Remember that the home/farm/small family business/estate was the first arena of economy in history. The Greek word oikonomos from which we get the English word "economy" meant a household steward or a manager of the home. It also meant someone who is a guardian of the home and who makes the allotments of goods necessary to run the home. It is used of men and women in the Bible. It is the word used in Titus 2 to say that older women need to teach younger women how to be good managers or keepers of their homes.

This is what the Free Dictionary has to say about the history of the word economy and its relation to oikonomos:
Word History: Managing an economy has at least an etymological justification. The word economy can be traced back to the Greek word oikonomos, "one who manages a household," derived from oikos, "house," and nemein, "to manage." From oikonomos was derived oikonomi, which had not only the sense "management of a household or family" but also senses such as "thrift," "direction," "administration," "arrangement," and "public revenue of a state." The first recorded sense of our word economy, found in a work possibly composed in 1440, is "the management of economic affairs," in this case, of a monastery. Economy is later recorded in other senses shared by oikonomi in Greek, including "thrift" and "administration." What is probably our most frequently used current sense, "the economic system of a country or an area," seems not to have developed until the 19th or 20th century. (Bold emphasis mine)
If you manage or help to manage the finances in your household, you are a home economist. That doesn't mean that those of us who are managers of our homes have to have degrees in economics. It does mean, however, that we do well to take the use of our money, time, family health, and other resources seriously. Because societies are made up of smaller units, such as the home, what goes on in our homes affects the larger society. It has been said in many senses that, "As goes the home, so goes the country

2) Women have always been a vital part of the small household/farm/family business economy. In many cases, this economic role in the household or the estate gave women greater power than they had through other arenas, in which their contributions might not have been recognized. It's important that we, as women, do not devalue the importance of a woman managing her home and family well. When we do so, we send a message that we, as women, don't care about this important part of women's history. It also sends a message that we, as women, don't think much of the role women can play in today's society by managing their household economies well. No, this doesn't have to be the only role that a woman fulfills. We do have more opportunities available to us today, as do men who are no longer bound to follow their fathers' occupations and station in life. Yet, if a woman doesn't fulfill this important role in life, who will?

Of course, a wife will work in tandem with her husband to manage her household, and she may also be training children to handle money and other resources wisely. Even so, her personal contributions to the household economy are important.

3) A good rule of thumb to remember is the Biblical statement that, "And the borrower becomes the lender's slave." This idea is not found in the Bible alone. Many people have noted this. Here are just a few examples of sayings related to the pain of debt. Some are meant to be tongue in cheek, but all have the bite of truth about them:

“When you get in debt you become a slave.”-Andrew Jackson

He looks the whole world in the face for he owes not any man. ~Henry Wadsworth

The only man who sticks closer to you in adversity than a friend is a creditor. ~Author Unknown

Who goeth a borrowing Goeth a sorrowing. ~Thomas Tusser

When a man debt, someone else has the advantage. ~Bill Balance

Wouldst thou shut up the avenues of ill, Pay every debt as if God wrote the bill.
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Before borrowing money from a friend, decide which you need most. ~American Proverb

Debt is the worst poverty. ~Thomas Fuller

It is the debtor that is ruined by hard times.” -Rutherford B. Hayes

Lying rides upon debt’s back.”-Benjamin Franklin

Buy what thou hast no Need of and ere long thou shalt sell thy Necessaries.”
-Benjamin Franklin

“This would be a much better world if more married couples were as deeply in love as they are in debt.” -Earl Wilson

Nations and individuals have been brought down by debt. Our nation's debt is now over $14 trillion dollars, according to some sources. We have a hard time wrapping our minds around the concept of one trillion, much less 14 trillion. One way to think of this is that a trillion seconds is 31,688 years. If we paid off our national debt at the rate of one dollar per second, it would take us over 14 times 31,688 years to pay it off. Where were you 31,688 years ago? Where will you be in 31, 688 years? It's staggering to think of, isn't it?

As citizens, most of us don't have much power to do anything about our national debt, other than to pray, pay our taxes even though that won't be enough to cure our problem, vote well, and express our opinions in a calm way and through civil means.

We can, however, do something about our personal little units of economy. We can do our best to live debt free. We can be wise in our consumption, rather than to be spend-thrift. We can give generously to others who are in need. We can support local businesses or local farms with our trade, if we are convinced this is a good idea. We can help our nation build tangible and intangible sources of capital by always conducting any trade we do with integrity, by coming up with new and enterprising ideas, by raising children who will be productive and moral citizens, by valuing spiritual wealth over physical wealth, and by living according to sound money principles. Since a nation's greatest resources are its people, raising happy and productive children in the home is a major source of supporting a nation's future happiness. As we mentioned, as the home goes, so goes the nation.

4) Along with this, we can remember that individuals who build capital inject needed financial opportunities and funds for investment into the larger economy, helping it to be healthier. This was especially true in agrarian societies and pre-capitalist societies and works in capitalist societies as well. It's harder to grow an economy that is heavily socialist or communist. These more closed systems are more dependent on the the re-cycling and re-distributing of the same amount of capital that the economy started with.

However, in whatever type of economy we should live, there is often a way to make a difference. Since the home is a small economy unto itself, a woman at home can nurture economic growth by the methods listed in number 3.

Bottom line, though, we cannot always control what type of larger economy we find ourselves in. Families have survived during horrible economic times and under despotic regimes and during times of war and famine. Audrey Hepburn's family, for example, survived by making flour out of ground tulip bulbs in German occupied Holland. My great-grandmother raised a family for several years with both Confederate and Union troops plundering the countryside around her and with her husband away at war.

Of course, we'd rather live during easier times, but, we need not spend our time worrying over our economic freedom, any wealth that we have, and what might happen to us. Instead, we should resolve to always do our best to manage our homes as best we can in whatever circumstances life presents. Again, it's helpful to remember that the only true and lasting wealth is treasure in heaven. We need not fear what is happening on a larger scale if we do the best we can to be good stewards (oikonomos) of what we do have in hand.


Saturday, April 09, 2011

Thirty Days of Wise Money Choices...
Day IV

1) Drive the speed limit! On this side of heaven, good is not always immediately rewarded nor does misbehavior always catch up with someone. However, this is one time you can count on the fact that being a law-abiding citizen has its rewards. Obviously, sticking to the legal speed is safer and is less likely to result in expensive speeding tickets. However, it also saves you in terms of fuel economy. The miles you can get from a gallon of gas drop dramatically as you increase over usual speed limits. The more fuel efficient your car is in general, the more likely it is to eat more gas per mile at higher speeds. The MSN article I linked to suggested that since time=money, there might be times when pushing the speed limit is a good choice if it will help you get there faster. That is the only thing in the article that I disagree with. The risks of being stopped by a state trooper on the open road or having an accident in town or out of town outweigh any possible gains by going over the speed limit. Speeding to get somewhere on time also contributes to physical and emotional stress, which can be costly to health. You're better off adjusting your departure time to arrive on time.

2) Saving money can be equal to earning money. The wise home keeper looks for and stops hidden money leaks. For example, a money leak that needs to be on my radar is my habit of still cooking and buying for a full house, even though I now have an empty nest. The "science experiments" turning green in my fridge are a waste of valuable resources. Hidden money leaks can take many forms, including a literal water leak that needs fixing or a habit of leaving lights on in an empty room.

Another leak might be a habit of buying something every day, even though if you thought about it, you might decide that you don't want or need it badly enough to justify the extra cost. For example, some people find great enjoyment in going to Starbuck's every day. For those who truly do enjoy it, that's a wonderful little luxury. However, others mindlessly buy Starbuck's every day without truly enjoying the Starbuck's experience. In that case, it's better to either make coffees or lattes at home or to choose a less expensive coffee option, such as Micky D's Starbuck imitations. You can save a lot by correcting mindless little habits that drain money from your wallet.

3) Be wise when it comes to stocking your pantry. It's helpful to have 3 months to one year's worth of non-perishable staples, medicine that won't go out of date, toiletries, paper goods or anything else that you can buy on sale or with a coupon and store. Most families do not need to acquire more than a one-year supply. Some will decide that they do not need even that amount.

The purposes of storing ahead are 1) to make use of sales and coupons by buying extra items when they are at low prices and working them into your inventory. 2) Having stock on hand for emergencies, such as a layoff or a weather event or to use while the highest wage earner makes a career change. 3) Being able to replace a used item quickly. For example, if you use mayonnaise, it's handy to have one jar open and one on hand. When the first jar runs out, you open the second and buy a third. This makes it easy to keep your pantry inventory up to date.

Buying and trying to store too many things only complicates matters. You will forget what you have on hand. You will spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to store it. You are putting a lot of funds into very perishable items that could be destroyed by a weather event or simply by sitting so long the items are no longer usable. You are also holding on to items that could be donated to those in need.

Every little step that we can take to use money wisely blesses our families!


Friday, April 08, 2011

Study suggests that food grown with pesticides has more vitamins than food grown organically.

I blogged about not assuming that organic produce is necessarily healthier for you. My point was that if you have a tight budget, you should determine which organic produce is worth any extra cost and which is not. For example, the thick, inedible skins of avocados provide a natural barrier against pesticides, and it is not worth it to pay more for organically grown avocados. Peaches, with their ultra-thin skins are another story. The flesh of the peach does absorb pesticides, and, not only that, people do eat the skins, which often have been dusted with pesticides. Thus, it might be worth paying more to obtain organically grown peaches

Here's an article I found this morning, though, that surprises me. It suggests that produce grown with pesticides actually contains more vitamins than food grown organically!

I don't know why this suggestion completely surprised me when I first saw the headline of the article. My father spent his whole career in the agricultural chemical business, and, in some respects, I am my father's daughter. I do understand that the use of synthetic fertilizers and some pesticides has increased agricultural production, thus providing many more people with affordable and plentiful food. In the U. S., diseases of malnutrition were once common in areas with poor and over-worked soils. To some extent, the development of agricultural chemical solutions has eliminated poor soils, pests that used to wipe out some crops, and the like.

However, I also yearn for fruits and vegetables grown in soil that has been naturally supplemented and renewed, as well as food grown with only naturally produced and non-toxic pesticides. (Naturally produced and non-toxic are not one in the same.) I also know that just as pesticides have solved some health problems, they have created others. I am not a fan of some "scientific" approaches to agriculture. I am concerned about how some additives are interacting with the hormones of both the men and the women of all ages who consume them. So, I do tend to give "organic" foods the benefit of the doubt. I instinctively think of them as being healthier, even though I know that this is not always the case.

So, now, we have another variable to weigh: extra vitamins/pesticides. Of course, I think we shouldn't determine anything based on one study that is picked up in the media. So, the jury is still out as far as I'm concerned.

What do you think? I'd love to hear.


Thursday, April 07, 2011

Smart Money Choices -- Day 3

This is not a game, ... Debt has become a part of who we are. It's become that spoiled child in the grocery store with their lip stuck out: 'I want it. I want it. I deserve it because I breathe air.' And, well, that's an uphill climb in our culture right now, to go against that and say, 'Hey, let's be grownups here. Let's be mature, learn to delay pleasure, save up and pay for things.'” Dave Ramsey

1) Keep up with financial paperwork and computer work. Money can be lost simply by not returning forms when necessary, hanging on to out-dated coupons, missing notices that are buried in a stack of mail, etc. Set aside times to do any financial paperwork or computer work that you need to to.
2) Health is a resource, just as time and money are. In grocery shopping, you might be faced between the choice of a healthier item and a cheaper item. Often, preparing something entirely from scratch is both the cheapest and the healthiest option, though it is not guaranteed to always be the cheapest. Likewise, a pricier item -- even one that is labeled as being healthy -- is not always the truly healthiest choice. You will know how to choose more healthful foods by reading labels and by doing a little homework. For example, I compared two brands of a frozen item on my last grocery store trip. By paying just a little more, I was able to obtain a product that was significantly lower in fat. The most budget friendly and the healthiest option would have been for me to prepare my own version of the item, which I do at times. However, I specifically needed something that could be prepared quickly, so I chose to buy a frozen brand this time around.
3) Organic foods can be healthier, but they can also be costly if you do not do your homework. If you are interested in organic food, investigate these 17 ways for buying organic foods on the cheap. Also, know which foods are worth buying organic and which are not. For example, if your goal is to avoid pesticides, you are generally safe buying any avocado, whether grown conventionally or by an organic grower. The thick peeling, which is not eaten, prevents pesticides from reaching the edible parts. Likewise, bananas and pineapples do not need to be organic to be safe. Broccoli does not have a thick skin; however, even conventional growers do not need to use as many pesticides in growing broccoli. You are generally safe with any broccoli, provided that you wash it well. Likewise, onions have few pests and are not usually grown with pesticides. You do not need to choose organic onions. Peaches, on the other hand, not only have thin, edible skins which allow pesticides to cross the barrier, they are prey to many pests and are often given lots of pesticides by conventional growers. Investigating pesticide free or low pesticide methods of growing peaches are worth any extra time and money for those who have an interest in organic produce. If you live in peach country, you will likely find organic growers and peach orchards who will sell you peaches directly. Remember, just because something is labeled as being organic does not mean that it was actually grown by superior methods or that it is actually healthier for you. Choose wisely.
4) It can seem daunting to prepare healthy foods on a tight budget and with a busy life. However, you can do it. Don't be overwhelmed by trying to do it all at once. Make small, incremental changes in your budget, your cooking, and your lifestyle, and you will find out what is the best way for your family to use all three resources: time, money, and health.
5) Re-thinking your usage of cable TV is a great way to save money. Do you really need as many channels as you think you do? Many shows can be found on Hulu or other free options. Buying only a basic cable package or investigating other options than cable can save you a lot of money in your budget.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

30 days of smart money choices -- Day 2

1.) Remember that time is a resource, just as money is. You might save money by choosing a time consuming option -- such as sewing all of your own curtains or visiting 3 different stores in a week to get the best deals. If you don't have the time, that might not be the best way for you to save money right then. If you do have the time, it could be a great choice. Weigh time and money together.
2. ) Understand that your time budget and your money budget changes throughout life and that your time/money balance changes. For example, the woman with a middle schooler, pre-schooler, toddler, and infant in the home will have different time and money needs than a woman who is newlywed with no children, a single woman, or a married woman whose children have left home.
3. ) Some people are naturally gifted at managing finances; others are not. Even if it doesn't come naturally to you, learn and to the best you can. Others can help you so that you don't have to re-invent the wheel. For example, I have a friend who is excellent at couponing. Sometimes, I will go grocery shopping with her. She will tell me about certain deals. Likewise, there are many blogs that are written by people who will tell you what deals are hot in your area.
4) You don't have to have an MBA to balance a household budget and to make wise investments. Get advice from people who do have money skills, but always think through the advice for yourself. Even if you hire a money professional in some capacity, make sure that you
have at least a minimal understanding of the choices they are making with your money or the advice they are giving you.
5). Take care of equipment, cars, clothing, appliances -- Learn how to take care of things. Read suggested maintenance schedules, for example. Taking care of the things you have will prolong their life and keep you from having to buy more.
6). Learn how to choose things of good quality. Buy the best quality your budget allows. Don't worry if you have a small budget and can't afford top quality. Just do the best you can. Sometimes, a cheaper purchase can end up costing you more in the long run. For example, some clothing will last longer and wear better than cheaper versions will.
7) Be in unity with your spouse. Set priorities together. Have a set amount of money each of you can spend on your own. Have an agreement to talk to each other about any possible expenditures over that set threshold. Make sure that you both know how to get hold of important financial documents if there is an emergency. Even if you don't like handling financial matters and your husband handles most of them, be acquainted enough with what's going on that you could take over for him if you should need to.


Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Unplanned vintage home keeping:

Yesterday, our area had an all-day storm that was briefly violent. Many area trees went down, and we lost the electricity to our house.

I had planned several hours of house cleaning, which I really needed to get done. So, lacking use of the lights, dishwasher, garbage disposal, washing machine, dryer, and vacuum cleaner, I wondered for a few seconds just what to do. It dawned on me that my great-grandmothers started their married lives without any of these things. In fact, it's said that at my maternal great-grandmother's wedding, the first coal oil lamp in their county was used, and people were afraid to go near it for fear it would cause a fire.

I decided that during yesterday's power outage (which lasted until the middle of the night) was a good time to become a vintage home keeper. So, I did my best to clean without modern inventions. I did manage to get several things done. However, the bright sunlight of today shows that some things will need a little re-doing today.

Last night, we ate sandwiches and chips, and we tried our best not to open the refrigerator too many times. Later on, we read books and played cards by candle- and flash-light. We went to bed early.

How about you? Were you affected by yesterday's storm, which reached well across the Southeast? What did you do during the storm?


Monday, April 04, 2011

Thirty Days of Smart Money Choices -- Day I:

(I'm beginning with the assumption that if you are a follower of Jesus, your spouse and you have already decided what you will give in your heart and that you take this money off the top of your gross income.)

1) Try to live on one income, even if you currently have dual incomes and both of those incomes come from outside the home (not from a home business). Sometimes, a wife will move in and out of work outside the home over the course of her married life. Perhaps, as a newlywed who has not yet had a child, she will work a 9 to 5 job. Perhaps, if her husband cannot work for a season, she will work, instead. Perhaps, she will take a part-time, temporary job in order to earn a little extra. Perhaps, she will stick her toe into the work-force waters from time to time just to keep her skills up.

If you and your husband become dependent on two incomes, it's harder to manage if you decide to become a full time keeper of your home. It's also harder to manage if one spouse loses their source of income for some reason -- such as the economy or poor health. However, if you give a certain amount of your second income, use your second income for an occasional big-ticket item, and save and invest the bulk of your second income, your savings may help you to realize your goal of being a full-time keeper at home. Your savings and investments may also help if your husband is laid off for a time or when you both reach retirement.

I realize that this is not always possible, but doing your best toward this goal can go a long way toward helping you be financially secure.

2) If you want to be a full time keeper at home, be content to sacrifice toward that goal. For example, you might live in a smaller home, drive an older car, be more frugal with your clothing budget, etc. From my point of view, it's worth it. Keeping up with the Jones' as they used to say is not as important as keeping up with your family!

3) In order to be a full time keeper at home, if that is your goal, you may want to consider home business, work at home jobs, etc. These can bring in the supplemental income you might need in order for you to be home and to take care of your family. Also, they can help you to develop and maintain certain skills or passions. Two caveats: a) You can become so busy with a home business that you end up being neglectful of your family and your household, which are the very things you are staying home for in the first place. Sometimes, a home or family business can be even more consuming than an outside job. If you are wise, though, you can manage a home business without it taking over too much of your time. b) Avoid work at home scams. Make sure that any work you do take on from the home is legitimate.


30 days of gratitude in the home -- day 30

Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth. Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. Know that the LORD is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.

Psalm 100

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Thirty Days of Gratitude in the Home -- Day 29

Most of us have times when our daily chores in the home don't seem very inviting. Yet, if you've ever been sidelined by illness or otherwise prevented from working in your home, you probably wished that you could be up and doing. Without becoming workaholics or perfectionists, we can be thankful for our labors. Here are some great quotes to remind us of how satisfying our work can be.

Let us realize that the privilege to work is a gift, that power to work is blessings, that love of work is success. David O McKay .

Every job is a self-portrait of the person who does it. Autograph your work with excellence. Unknown.

But all duty well done, has its restful peace of heart -- when the tasks are finished and laid down. Conscience whispers, "You were faithful today. You did all that was given to you to do; you did not shirk nor skimp." J. R. Miller

The thought that we have done our duty for another day and have pleased God ought to be like soothing balm to our sore and tired feet at the end of the day. Our Master's commendation takes the sting out of any suffering endured in doing work for him. When we know that Christ in heaven has noticed our toil and has approved it, accepting it as holy service to himself, we are ready to toil another day. J. R. Miller.