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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Less is More - GIVE

Wow.  What a journey we've taken!  Hopefully, you have cleared out some things you can do without, learned some new skills (laundry detergent, anyone?), and made some strides in taming the "gotta have" monster that visits us all.  My prayer is that you have experienced a new level of contentment and even excitement over not having to have more "stuff"!

So, what else do we do with this new approach to life?  Give.  By learning to live with less, you have freed up more that can now be given.  Your time.  Your talents.  And your treasure.  GIVE it away.

Someone once said "it is impossible to outgive God".  I can attest to that as a solid truth.  Luke 6:38 says "GIVE, and it will be given to you, good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, they will pour into your lap.  For by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you in return."

I love what John Wesley, the great preacher of the 1700's, said - "When I have money, I give it away  quickly , lest it find a way into my heart. "

Spend less.  Save.  Give more. Then give some more.  Again.  You will always be glad for what you have given away.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

What is a servant?

Matthew 20:28 says "even as the Son of Man came to serve and not to be served but gave His life as a ransom for many".
 What does it look like to serve instead of being served?  I think we grasp that pretty well.  Most of us Christ-followers "get" it.  And, honestly, I think we do a pretty good number of acts of service.

But I don't think that is sufficient to consider ourselves "servants".

Less is More...for good

We are almost at the end.  We have examined our hearts, learned some new tips, and rid ourselves of alot of excess.  Way to go!!! Take  a moment and celebrate, however you like to celebrate. Personally, I am going to have a cold one.  Tab, that is. 

Now the challenge is to maintain our progress.  Being likeminded with your spouse about living a life of frugality is optimal.  But it will still be hard.  I recommend you ask a friend to hold you accountable.  Someone you can swap frugal ideas with.  Someone like my friend Dianna who thinks this is as fun as I do!  An adventure!  A challenge!  Woohoo!!

Then explain to your kids that this is a new way of life.  You're still going to order water when you eat out.  (If you ever do....)  Gifts will still be kept to a minimum (remember you gotta talk to extended family in July ) You are committed to refrain from replacing the excess you just got rid off.  And to continue to "shed" things consistently.


To quote my friend Tracy "Living lean is living large!"

Good luck!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Less is More - relax!

You have worked hard this month.  Mix up some homemade bath salts and take a loooong hot bath.  Ahhhh, this is therapy for me!


1 cup baking soda
½ cup citric acid or epsom salts
½ cup cornstarch
2 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp. oil (almond, sunflower, coconut, mineral, canola
or baby oil may be used)
2 tsp. water
1-2 tsp. essential or fragrance oil
food coloring (optional)

Mix baking soda, citric acid and cornstarch. Mix the wet ingredients and the borax and slowly add to the dry ingredients, mixing constantly. Mix slowly or it will bubble too much. Pack into mold; let set for a few minutes and then remove from molds. Let dry another 24 hours. In humid climates you may need to dry longer. Use 1-3 per bath. Store in an airtight container. Wrap in cellophane bags for a nice gift.
* The mixture is very crumbly and dry. Mix as well as you can and then pack tightly into molds. If the bath bombs won’t hold their shapes, add one teaspoon oil.
If you want to make Bath Seeds instead don’t pack into molds. Just place in a pretty jar and label. Use 2-4 tablespoons per bath.

I found this recipe on a great site called livingonadime.com   Check it out!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Less is More - Tackle the kids' rooms

You may need to schedule a playdate for your kiddos if they are home while you attempt this.  It might get ugly, otherwise.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Less is More - saving time and money

One of the greatest money AND time saver for me is meal preparation shortcuts. Today's post sort of flows from yesterday's!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Less is More - PLAN

If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.  At money management, that is.  We already established the need for a budget so I hope you are well on your way to success in that area. But there's more to planning that a budget.  Planning ahead for intended expenditures is a great way to make money go further. Here are just a few ideas:

Friday, January 25, 2013

Less is More - but still fun!

Cheap or free entertainment ideas:

1.  Local library - story time, books and movies AND - 4 free passes to the Atlanta Zoo if you watch a 22 minutes DVD at your local branch!!!
2.  Board games - sharpen minds and help the wallet - we love "apples to apples" and "catchphrase"
3.  Don't fall prey to the myth that you must entertain your children.  Interact with them but you should not entertain them.  Help them make a list of things they can do when they are bored and then refer them to it.  Or to the chore chart.  That works magic in my house when kids "don't have anything to do."
4.  Visit local thrift store and give each child $3 to spend however they want. Aren't I generous???
5.  Blanket forts
6.  Neighborhood bike rides
7.  Picnics at the park
8.  Visit a local nursing home and deliver cookies.
9.  In the summertime, fill a bucket with water, arm your kids with paintbrushes and let them "paint" the shed or the fence or the house!
10.  Write a thank you note to your area's policeman and deliver it in person.  With a plate of cookies.
11. Look online for DIY recipes for bubble solution or playdoh or fingerpaint.  And go for it!
12.  My personal motto for numerous situations is "On bad days, bake brownies."
13.  Look at the stars.  It is a fun activity for us to stretch out in our open field, volleyballs under our heads for cushion, and look at the stars. 
14.  Make ice cream in a baggie.  Check online for a recipe.  EASY doesn't even begin to describe it!
15.  A nap would be my personal favorite but I have YET to have a child agree with me.  Hmmm, I think my two oldest would now, though!!  College and Motherhood have a way of making naps sound like fun.
16,  Playing outside in the rain.  Gotta get money's worth out of those rain boots!
17.  Video scavenger hunt.  This is a blast with a large group of folks.  We did it for one of the kids' birthdays and still talk about how fun it was!

What suggestions do you have?

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Less is More - just don't do it

This is the "anti-Nike" idea - just don't do it.  Some things you think you have to, that is.  I don't do Christmas cards every year.  And, the first "off"year was hard.  I wanted to send a letter to everyone on my list explaining that I wasn't doing cards that year!  But I managed to survive.  And not one person on my list went into prolonged and irretriveable depression.  Not one.

What else can you "just not do" and survive?  A gift for every person your child comes in contact with?  Redecorate your dining room every two years?  Cable TV?(I hear curses from many sources!) Preschool?  Private school???? Season tickets to something? Gym membership? Dance lessons for your two year old? A home in that "certain" neighborhood?  A car for your 16 year old?

I'd like to hear some of the things you have "anti-Nike'd".  Might inspire me to cut it out, too!!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Soul-diers - the war for our souls (I Peter 2:11 and James1:21)

I believe that the Enemy of our souls would like to lull us into thinking that, once we are "saved"/"born again"/"receive Christ", that the battle is over.  He does a great job at his masterful deception and many of us live blindly unaware of the war against our souls.  Now don't hear what I am NOT saying -- once we enter into a personal relationship with Christ, that is permanent.  Nothing or no one can undo what Jesus did in adopting us as His own.  The eternal security of the believer (the true believer) is confidently complete.

But that's not what I am talking about.  I am talking about the attack on our souls - our minds, emotions and wills - that often leaves us depressed, frustrated, powerless, and perplexed.  We know that we are supposed to be joyful and peaceful and live a life of consistent triumph over sin.  And yet, as we look in the mirror, we often see little difference in our life and that of the NONbeliever.  We don't know why that is so but we resolve to try a little harder, do a little better, and hope that next week and next month and next year will be a little better.

Less is More - money management for kids


Teaching wise money management to our kids.  We all want to do that.  So how do we explain so many UNwise folks when it comes to money?  Personal bankruptcies are unimaginably high (1 out of every 175 Americans will file for bankruptcy at some point in their lives).  Personal savings rate is 1/3 of what it was 30 years ago (4% of personal income as opposed to 12%).  Even though personal disposable has increased. 

How can we help our kids avoid financial stress, or quite possibly disaster?  I am sure we can't solve the nation's problem but maybe we can make a difference in the future of our own children.  Here are some suggestions:

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Less is More - gifts

This is a tough one.  But it's less about being tough on the recipients and more about the giver.  Most of us love to give gifts to those we love!  That's a good thing, to be sure.  But maybe we place too much emphasis on it.  Maybe we are expecting gifts to bring happiness - to others and to ourselves.  Maybe we can find some ways to unplug the "gift machine"without turning into a 21st century Scrooge.

Here are ideas to consider for extended family Christmas gift-giving.  When you propose the idea, time it for July....not December.  Just sayin....

1.  draw names
2.  limit giving to children under 21
3. "goofy gift" - the one with the biggest markdown wins!
4.  yankee swap or white elephant
5.  family gift
6.  service project together  - which is a gift to others instead of one another
7.  the gift of time and labor - one year I gave my Dad "homemade cookies of the month" for a year!

Here are some ideas for your own family-
1.  Limit of 3 gifts (like the Wise Men brought to Jesus).  I really wish I had started this when mine were little.  If it's a tradition, it's a lot of fun.  I am the one that has a hard time limiting the amount of gifts  - the problem is NOT that my kids clamor for more!  So my suggestion is to restrain yourself from the beginning and then you won't have gift-giving withdrawal tremors.
2.  Celebrate like they do in Ethiopia. My friend Amy says that no gifts are given to celebrate Christmas here.  Just food and fellowship.  Oh, YES!
3.  My friend Kimberly tells her kids they get "Something to wear, something to read, something you want and something you need"  Again, I wish I had started early with this one.  For me.

Ideas for bday gifts for friends -
1.  Have a "gift box" where you stockpile gift options that you find on sale.  When it's time for the party, let your child "shop" from your "store".  Prevents overspending at the last minute!
2.  Give gift cards to bookstores or for ice cream
3.  Learn how to make things such as decorative Tshirts or pillowcases or personalized towels
4.  Set the trend of "no gift" bday parties!!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Less is More - re-gift...with a twist

The idea of "re-gifting" is sure to bring a chuckle.  Maybe even a snicker or two.  There are sure to be opinions on both sides of the issue...and certainly some stories!  Stories that are funny or not, depending which side you are on!

Well, this idea for "less is more" puts a twist on re-gifting.  So, if you turn up your nose at the idea, give me a sentence to explain...

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Less is More - save on dinner

For those of us whose love language is food, it is a challenge to not see every meal as an expression of our affection for our family.  We gotta get over it. We really don't have to create an extravagantly expensive feast for dinner each night.  Rethink it as "love means not wasting the grocery money".

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Less is More -Put it off

Just wanted to check back in out your debt reduction plan.  If you have debt, you really need a plan to get out.  Seriously.  Let me know how you're doing.

Here's today's tip for you - procastinate.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Less is more - Eating healthy

I just might dedicate this post to my sweet friend Caroline, the healthiest person I know!  You are rubbing off on me, sweet Caroline -   I am not ready to give up Tab but sometimes I do eat healthy!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Less is More - Saving $ on the babies

According to the USDA, the average cost to raise a child to age 18 is a staggering $250,000.  (Do the math-- I have a million dollars to my name!! WOW!)  I cannot personally substantiate that figure but I can personally tell you that we don't have to spend alot of what we think we do.  Here are some ideas for saving on the babies....

1.  Borrow.  Babies need stuff in stages so maybe while you need the crib, your friend needs the potty chair.  Borrow among your friends.
2.  Buy used.  Except for car seats, you can find everything you need at substantially reduced prices at yard sales or consignment stores.  Trust me, your child will not be emotionally damaged if they use a high chair that once belonged to someone else.  (But if you insist on overpaying for things, you all might suffer some emotional distress!!)
3. Cloth diapers.  Seriously.  The ones available now are light years beyond the ones I used 16 years ago.  You can save about a bazillion bucks doing this.
4. Clothes.  Resist the urge to meet your own self-esteem issues by dressing your child in expensive outfits that they outgrow in 3 weeks.  They just need a few "public" items in their wardrobe and the rest can be simple and inexpensive.  Yard sales and hand-me-downs are your BFF.  Repeat after me...
5.  Swings, etc.  Not worth the expense.  They will outgrow it too soon to make it worth it.  But if you can't help yourself, at least buy used or borrow.
6.  Baby food - Grind up cooked veggies, fruits, oatmeal, etc.  Spoon into ice cube trays to freeze and then pop one out to heat up in microwave when it's time to eat.
7.  Ask grandparents to give practical things for gifts.  (You have to specify.  We really do want to help but often we don't know what you want/need and we want to please you.  I promise)
8. Limit the amount of toys.  I repeat, limit the amount of toys.  A dozen stuffed animals is overkill.  So is a 10 gallon bucket of things that need batteries.

These are just a few suggestions.  Children need far less than we think.  The real issue is in the heart of the parent.

I think I probably offended 60% of readers today......

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Less is More - eat in

Now, mind you, I like to eat out as much as anybody.  Or I used to.  Then I figured out how much we could save by eating in.  A whopping amount.

Some of the items in our budgets are set (mortgage, tithe, to some degree- utilities).  But the "food line" is one place we can make some changes that add up in a big way.  One of the things that can have the greatest impact if to use up what we have instead of discarding leftovers or little bits of whatever and making something completely new.

Instead of eating out for breakfast or instead of prepackaged sweet rolls, try this suggestion by Amy Dacyczyn of The Tightwad Gazette.  Don't be intimidated by the long descriptions - it is way less complicated than it looks.  Especially once you try it and get the hang of it. And if you consider that these muffins cost less than a dime apiece (as opposed to the $4 box of cereal or $6 box of donuts), you won't look at the last 1/2 cup of oatmeal in the same way again!!

Create-your-own-muffin-recipe

This process uses whatever pantry ingredients, or leftovers, that you already have on hand.  Brilliant!  Combine the dry ingredients, then mix in the wet ingredients.  Then spoon into greased muffin tin and bake for approx 20 minutes at 375 or 400.  Just long enough to take a shower and get dressed before feeding the masses!

Here are the ingredients you need:
Grains - use 2-2 1/2 cups grain (white flour, whole wheat flour, leftover oatmeal or rice or the dregs of the cereal box).  If using cooked grains, decrease liquid to 1/2 cup
Milk - 1 cup.  Buttermilk or sour milk or use the last swig of fruit juice as part of this 1 cup
Fat - 1/4 cup oil or 4 tbs butter.  Even substitute applesauce or peanut butter for part of this - whatever jar you need to polish off before tossing
Egg - 1 egg
Sweetener - anywhere between 2 tbs and 3/4 cup sugar.  If using honey or molasses instead, use up to 1/2 cup and decrease milk to 3/4 cup
Baking powder - 2 tsp  (If using buttermilk or sour milk, decrease to 1 tsp and add 1/2 tsp baking soda)
Salt - 1/2 tsp optional
Dry additions - nuts, sunflower seeds, coconut, raisins, etc.
Wet additions - blueberries, chopped apples, mashed banana, cooked pumpkin or sweet potato puree, cooked carrots, even a spoonful or two of jam! - whatever you need to get rid of
Spices - optional - things that complement the additions


Here is the summary:
2- 2 1/2 cups grains
1 cup milk
up to 1/4 cup fat
1 egg
up to 3/4 cup sweetener
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
up to 1 1/2 cups additions

Mix it up and bake it for about 20 minutes. 

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Less is More - books and websites

There are at least a gazillion resources available to help us live MORE with LESS.  When I first began my own quest, the internet was embryonic.  So I relied on books and friends.  My favorite source was a set of books by Amy Dacyczyn.  She authored a monthly newsletter called The Tightwad Gazette and these books are the compilation of several years of those.  They are fabulous!! She has a facebook page and a blog but I think the books are the best resource.

Check them out or search for some other websites that help you with ideas.  And then share 2 or 3 with me, please.  I am always looking for new ways to do more with less!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Less is More - saving in little ways

You may feel that you are at the edge of your own personal fiscal cliff.  And, probably, you can't do alot to immediately and significantly increase your income.  So the focus needs to turn to how we can control the "outgo".There are lots of little things we can do that, individually, don't amount to much.  But collectively, they can make a big difference. We just have to convince ourselves that all these things will matter! If we do 5 things that save us $10/month each, that's $600 per year.  It's so tempting to think, oh that's just $10.  Think of it as compounding savings instead. Here are some household tips to spending less:

1.  Wash in cold water.  Your clothes will still come out clean and your power bill will be cut significantly.
2.  Make your own laundry detergent.  Pinterest is full of recipes to make your own laundry detergent.  And dryer sheets.  And cleaners. This month, I have done all three and am so excited.  I made a year's worth of laundry detergent for less than $15.  Dryer sheets for less than $3. TRY ONE this week and let me know about it!
3.  Wear sweaters.  Turn your thermostat down (try 2 degrees less than you are currently used to) and wear an extra sweater! At night, turn that thermostat waaaaaaay down.  Then snuggle really close to your hubby....
4.  Switch to online billpay and save a stamp!
5.  Use 1/2 a paper towel and dryer sheet instead of a whole one.
6.  Cut out cable.  (I realize that can cause marital distress in some households so I do advise conferring with your spouse before doing this one!)
7.  Change filters in HAC units to keep them running efficiently.
8.Take shorter showers!
9.  Only run the dishwasher when it's full.
10.  Don't pay someone else to do what you can do (maid service, oil changes, etc.)
11. If you MUST eat out, order water instead of a soft drink and have your kids do the same. And not just when you eat out, drink water at home, too!!
12.  See how long you can stretch out that bottle of shampoo.  Mark the date you open it on the bottle with a sharpie.  Then add the date you finish and see if you can beat it next time!
13.  Put off replacing things as long as possible.  (OK, don't be unsafe -- if your cardiologist tells you to get a new pacemaker, do it now!)  But otherwise, see if you can make do a bit longer with those boots.  Or that coffeemaker.  Or that sofa....
14.  Train your kids to turn lights off when they leave a room.  And not to waste things. 
15.  Use cloth napkins instead of paper.  Seriously.
16.  Swap services with a friend.  Maybe she can cut your hair and you can babysit her kids for free.  Whatever.
17.  Repurpose and reuse. Paul just built a new deck with the boards from the old one!
18.  Discover new ways to do things cheaper -- I wanted a way to hang my scarves.  Decided, of course, against the pricey options for sale at the boutique and found a frugal idea online.  I bought shower curtain rings and slipped them on a wood hanger.  Presto!  20  scarves neatly hanging in my closet!  easy to access and even looks pretty, too!
19.  Cook at home.  And use your freezer to store those great deals you stock up on.  AND THEN, use what's in your freezer!!! Also, don't fall into the trap of thinking that you have to prepare expensive gourmet dishes.  There are plenty of healthy, low cost, tasty recipes out there.  Oh, and when you have friends over, know the difference between "entertaining" and "showing hospitality".  Entertaining is bound to be more expensive....because the focus is on receiving praise.  Showing hospitality focuses on ministering to others and meeting their needs.  Much less pricey!
20.  Hang out with homeschool Moms.  That's where most of my tips come from.  This group seems to always know how to do things for less!!!

What are some things you do at your house to cut costs?

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Sharing

Don't buy, borrow.  And share .  It's a mindset.  You don't have to purchase everything you need.


Here are some things that are great for borrowing and sharing among friends:

1.  Maternity clothes
2.  Lots of baby items that are only used for a season
3.  Tools that you don't need frequently such as a pressure washer or a chain saw
4.  Special occasion dresses
5.  Serving pieces such as a punch bowl or silver service
6.  XL suitcases or luggage carriers
7.  Vacation homes!!


And, always, always, always, return items in better condition than you received them!

Gotta close with this thought from my friend Christine.  She said that the mentality of the world is to accumulate more and more and more in order to achieve happiness.  She is training her children in the opposite view - the way to happiness is to give and give and give.  Her idea is to "shed something" every day.  Some days it will be something tangible, material.  Other days, it might be a wrong attitude, a grudge, an emotion or a mindset that is weighing you down.  I think that is fabulous.
We can "shed" the stuff that needs to go and "share" something our friends need...especially smiles and encouraging words. 
I think I have the greatest group of friends in the universe. They make the most wonderful contributions to my life!

Your mission today -- "shed" something and "share" something. 

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Less is More - buying used

BUY USED.  No real explanation needed.

We buy used cars and save a bundle. We regularly visit craiglist and half.com .   We shop at consignment stores and we love hand-me-downs. And we sell our stuff, too. It's just not that hard.

 Right now, we are looking for a sofa....just sayin.....

Friday, January 11, 2013

Saving on groceries

Cutting costs is like cutting calories - a little bit here and a little bit there will add up.  Just be faithful and make those cuts, even if it doesn't seem like much.  You will develop a mindset that becomes focused on reducing unnecessary costs, finding ways to save and repurpose and even, do without. 

These are just a few ideas to get you started on cost-cutting in the area of your grocery budget.  (You DO have a budget for groceries, don't you???)  What other suggestions do you have?


Tips:

1.  Stock up when it's on sale. 
2.  Shop stores that match prices. Use the sale flyers to see what's on sale and then stock up!
3.  The pantry principle - plan menus based on what's in your pantry rather than running to the store to get what you need. Trips to the grocery store are to replenish what's been depleted...when the price is right.
4.  Be alert to deals in the store.  Take advantage of markdowns - buy meat that is about to expire and then freeze it.
5.  Reuse plastic bags!!!!!!!!
6.  If a recipe calls for 1 lb. ground beef, use 3/4.  You won't be able to tell the difference.
7.  How do you know if it's a good deal?  In her newsletter, The Tightwad Gazette, Amy Dacyzyn suggests making a price book.  Make a list of the items you commonly purchase for your family.  Over a few grocery trips or perusals of the sale flyers, note in your price book what a good price is for that item.  Take the price book with you and don't purchase those items unless they are at or below your best price.
8.  Don't buy convenience foods.  Make your own.  Seriously.
9.  Drink water.  And refill water bottles instead of purchasing them.
10. Use your crock pot.  It turns less tender - and less expensive -- cuts of beef into delicious meals.  Saves time and keeps you from resorting to UNfrugal fast food, too!
11.  Use your freezer.  Not only to stock up on sale items but especially to prepare meals in advance.  If you are always prepared, you can serve others more easily, avoid the "what's for dinner" frenzy, and prevent expensive trips through the drive-through.
12.  Serve oatmeal for breakfast instead of more expensive cold cereal.  Don't whine to me that your kids don't like oatmeal.
13.  When bananas get too mushy for a snack, swirl them in a blender with milk and peanut butter and serve "monkey milk" as breakfast.
14.  Make friends with the butcher at your grocery store.  Might provide some inside information about what's about to be on sale or let you have first pick of what's about to expire.
15.  Lots of folks make use of coupons.  I have gotten a lot of help from a website called "Southern Savers."  Give it a try.
16.  Wal Mart matches advertised prices  Saves me from going to 4 different stores.  And, if you live in the Athens GA area, the eastside WM matches the Publix BOGO free...at the WM price.
17.  Don't throw food away.  Eat leftovers (we call it "CORD" at our house -- "Clean out refrigerator day") or be creative in repurposing -- smoothies, fried apples, soup, casseroles, muffins, etc.

Here's a great resource for you - Eating Healthy for $50 a Week" by Rhonda Barfield. And The TIghtwad Gazette by Amy Dacyzyn. 

What are some of your frugal grocery tips?  I am always looking for more!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Less debt

Yep, we need to address the "D" word.  Debt.  You need to get out of it.  You WANT to get out of it.  But how?  The same way you eat an elephant...one bite at a time.

First, you need to know how much you have.  Debt, that is. That is an uncomfortable step to take but it is vital.  Crown Financial ministries has great counselors that will help you personally.  Or you can utilize their website - tremendous resources are available to help you climb that DEBT mountain...and conquer it.  But first you gotta know how big that mountain is. 

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Sure steps

1 Samuel 2:9a tells us that "He will guard the steps of His saints".  What does that mean for us?

About a milllion things, I think.  Here are a few:

Press the linens

You've been through your closet.  And the den.  Today, go through your linen closet (or wherever you stash your sheets and towels and blankets....and tablecloths and sleeping bags and rags....) Keep no more than 3 sets of sheets per bed, a reasonable number of towels, blankets, and tablecloths and give the rest to an area homeless shelter. 

You'll still have enough to build an indoor fort with your kiddos!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The envelope(s), please...

The most significant thing to impact our family budget has been to change to cash only lifestyle.  Once a month, Paul and I get the month's cash supply.  Although we still write checks for mortgage, utilities and charitable contributions, and we put gas on the credit card, cash is what we use for nearly everything else.  (Debit card for online purchases, car repairs and certain other agreed upon expenses).   We divide the cash into categories (groceries, gifts, clothes, eating out, etc) and that drives our behavior. It's the old "envelope method".  If there is no cash left in a certain category, we can choose to "borrow" it from another category or wait until next month.I often set up "temporary" envelopes to save for things like a sofa or a special birthday gift for one of the children.  But we can't spend what's not there.  When we made this change, it showed us how much "impulse" and/or unnecessary expenditures we were making.  At the same time, it freed us up!  I didn't feel guilty about eating out anymore because there was cash allocated for that purpose!

It's also a great way to teach your children the concept of budgeting, delayed gratification, and the cold hard truth that $$$$ doesn't grow on trees.  At least none of the trees in our yard!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Less is More - More B word

For years, Paul and I couldn't have money discussions without stress.  Candidly, most of the fault lay with me.  I tend to feel better when there is more money left than month.  And when the savings account could see us through a long line of disasters.  And if the next 25 years are carefullly planned out so as to avoid any said disasters.  Anybody know what I mean??? Obviously, our reality never matched my fantasy security so I tended to be stressed when we needed to discuss finances.  Somehow we made it through and learned alot.  The silver lining to my stressed-out state was that I was always primed to learn more ways to cut costs! 

The tip for today's theme is a website called crown.org They have free downloads that are literal step by step instructions on how to set up a budget, establish savings goals (and what those goals should be!) and put yourself on sound financial ground. This organization, and Dave Ramsey's teaching, have been paramount in teaching Paul and me how to manage our money. How to spend less, save more, give more...and minimize stress.

Today, go to Crown's website.  And Dave Ramsey's, if you like.  Browse around a bit and then download the financial map. 

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Less is More - the B word

You may have another B word in mind when you approach today's Less is More project but the Word for today is BUDGET. 

Call it a spending plan if you prefer.  But you need one.  If you don't have one, you don't know what you are spending so you cannot possibly spend less.  So today you need to address this topic.

Here are some thoughts - if you already have a budget, take 30 seconds and pat yourself on the back.  Good job!  Your mission today, then, is to tweak it.  Improve it.  See how you are doing with it. 

If you don't have one, you can take a stab at it but you might need some data first.  So, put your best guess on paper but then, beginning today, write down everything you spend for 1 month.  Everything means everything.  The stop at Starbucks.  The contribution to the soccer coach's gift.  The movie money you gave to your son.  Everything.  Now, don't panic.  This is not to guilt you into hoarding your cash under your mattress - you just need to know where your money is going before you can develop a plan.  Once you have your data at the end of 30 days, you will sort it into categories to see how close you came to reality when you took a stab at  the B word.

Throughout this month, we will share ideas on how to reduce spending in various areas.  For now, though, you just need the plan.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Less is More - bday parties with no gifts

 A few years ago, my beautiful and brilliant friend Kimberly introduced me to a novel idea for birthday parties.  She invited Betsy to a party for her son and requested that we not bring a gift for the birthday boy but instead to bring a book or game for an acquaintance of their family that was hospitalized.  Her idea must have caught on because we have since received a few more similar invitations for birthday celebrations.  One girl asked her guests to bring whatever amount of money they desired to put towards a donation for the earthquake victims in Haiti.  Other birthday honorees gave books for the library or items for Samaritan's Purse shoebox gifts or a church building program.  My son liked the concept so much that,in lieu of birthday gifts, he  collected money to buy a cow for a family in Africa through Compassion International. 

So, this year as you gear up to celebrate your child's special day, give them the opportunity to follow the example of Christ.  Give to others.

Bonus - less clutter in your home! :)

Friday, January 4, 2013

Closet update!

Just cleared out the clothes that were still hanging backwards from last year's closet experience -- thought I'd share what I bagged up - 6 pairs of pants, 4 dresses, and 25 shirts/sweaters.  Gulp.  Although a couple of pieces tried to cling to my hands (saying things like "Paul loves this shirt!"  Your _____ bought this for you!!"  "This was the deal of the season!!"), I didn't cave in.  OK, except for 1 skirt.  I forgot I had it and will now wear it.  Confession!  But if it's still hanging backwards next year.....

And, ya know what, my closet is still mighty full.  I heard about a lady that pared her wardrobe down to seven pieces.  Maybe it's seven pieces of each thing.  Or maybe it's seven pieces total.  Either way, I am a looooooooong way from that.  But as long as we're making progress, right?

Less is more - from the root

Warning.  This post is heavy.  If you signed up for this blog looking for some fun little tips, today's reading will disappoint you.  Actually, it might make you angry.  But I have to write it.  Because if we don't know WHY we have too much stuff then we will make some progress only to find ourselves right back where we started.  Or worse.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Less is More - Declutter

If you have a perfectly organized and clutter-free home, this post does not apply to you.  So fee free to skip it.  And message me privately -- I need your expertise!

For the rest of us, this idea can be applied repeatedly. In numerous places.  On an ongoing basis.  Should  be.

One of the greatest steps towards living with less is to recognize where you have excess.  And then to get rid of it.  (and then not to replace it....but that's another post....) 

Go into your den (or living room or family room or whatever name you call the place with the couch and TV).  Take two plastic grocery bags with you.  Find at least 15 things that you can give away or throw away.  (Giveaways in one bag, throwaways in the other).  You can even count individual pieces of paper  (this time!).  Get rid of it.  Put the throwaway bag in the trash.  Duh.  Put the giveaway bag in your car and promise me you will take it to Goodwill or somewhere out of your home.  Transferring stuff from one child's room to the other does not qualify as cleaning up.  That is transferring.  'Nuff said.

This will take you less than 10 minutes and I hope you enjoyed yourself because I plan to repeat this activity a few more times. 

Less clutter means more sanity!  I promise!!!

One final note.  And sort of a preview for tomorrow's post.  I think that learning to spend less has more to do with our "want to" than our "know how".  More than ever before, the resources for knowing ways to cut costs are available to us literally at the tip of our fingers.  If we really want to spend less, we can.  Just a little motivation to finish the task for today.  And the remainder of this month.  And the rest of your life....

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

No refunds, no exchanges - James 1:17

Have you ever received a gift that you didn't want?  Of course you have - we all have.  We have all stood in those eternally long lines on December 26...to return the gift that didn't fit or didn't work or just wasn't right.  Sometimes gift-givers just don't get it right.  So we coach up our kids to respond graciously.  "Even if you get 5 of the exact same things, say 'thank you'.  And know we can take it back tomorrow!". 

Have you ever received  a gift from God that you didn't want?  At the risk of sounding blasphemous, I surely have.  And, if you are willing to be honest, I'll bet you have, too.  Something - or someone - that wasn't what you wanted.  A situation or answer that was not what you had hoped for, asked for, prayed long and hard for. 

Since God doesn't have a "returns" policy on His gifts, what are we to do? 

My story, more or less

My story is like alot of other folks, maybe even yours.  But since you have tuned in to Living Letters, I get to share mine with you. 

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Less is More -

Less is more.  Less clothes means more closet space!  Having a closet that is not crammed or crowded is quite frankly a great idea.  Being able to find that certain shirt...and find that it isn't wrinkled from being jammed between other things...makes for a pleasant start to the day.  Even just looking at an organized display of clothes sends pleasurable signals to the brain!

Here's the first step to getting there - today, January 1, take 10 minutes and turn all your clothes hangers backwards.  Yes, that's right.  Turn them around to the "wrong way".  Then, as you wear that item and replace it in your closet (whether or not you clean it before replacing is up to you!), turn it back "right".  At the end of 2013, check out all the clothes you didn't wear this year.  The hangers will tell the tale.  Then toss them out of your closet. Immediately.  (Letting them "hang around" won't help your closet! You've lived a year without needing those items so you can let them go.  Less is more!)

Tomorrow, I'll share my story.  My quest of a life full of more because of less.  What started me on the journey to begin with.  And, remember, I will not be posting links to the January blog on FB daily.  Less is more :)

In the process of turning the hangers around, feel free to get rid of anything before the end of the year.  Ask youself if you really really really need 11 black shirts....