7 Tips for Shopping Smart

7465637256_d9fe6492a0_zPhoto Credit

Yesterday I took the kids to Kohl’s in search of underwear for my potty-training 2-1/2-year-old.  I looked all around, but the only packages I could find (7 pairs) were marked $18.00, and when I took one to the cashier for a price-check, it rang up for $13.99 (or $2.00 per pair).  One of my children wasn’t feeling well, so I decided to forget the underwear and try another store another day.

After checking Target and Walmart on-line, I decided to go to Walmart for underwear today.  I found a 7-pair package for $9.47, and a 6-pair package for $4.66, for a total of $14.13.  Although there were several other sets and combinations I could have chosen, I ended up spending about $1.09 per pair.

When we were done shopping at Walmart, I headed over to Dollar General, because I’d read on-line that if you spent $6 on Suave products, you would get $2 back.  I chose 8 family-size bottles of Suave Shampoo and Conditioner for $1.50 each.  When I was checking out, the Suave products rang up at $1.75 each.  I pointed out the error, and the cashier double-checked the shelf, then adjusted the price.  I got $4 back from the sale, and ended up paying $8.60 for 8 bottles, or $1.08 per bottle.

Here are 7 things you can learn from my shopping adventures:

  1. Have a written budget.  In our family budget, we have envelopes for clothing and groceries.
  2. Don’t be afraid to walk away if the price isn’t right.
  3. Do a little research on-line to find the best price, and save yourself time.
  4. Follow a deal blog (like Money Saving Mom) for the most up-to-date sales, coupons, giveaways, and freebies.
  5. Shop with a list.  Don’t buy extra stuff you don’t need.
  6. Pay attention at the check-out.  Cashiers and stores occasionally make mistakes.
  7. Don’t sweat the small stuff.  I know I could have saved more money by purchasing different underwear at Walmart, but I chose the ones I liked the best and were easiest to distinguish from my older daughters’ clothing when we’re sorting the laundry.

What tips would you give someone hoping to become a smarter shopper?

Easy Homemade Lemonade

Photo Credit

Naomi has been after me to make some Homemade Lemonade, so this morning I did a Google search and found this recipe on AllRecipes.com.  It received 5 stars, and was indeed a winner.  Try it, it’s delicious!

“Best Lemonade Ever”

Ingredients:

Directions:

  1. In a small saucepan, combine sugar and 1 cup water. Bring to boil and stir to dissolve sugar. Allow to cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate until chilled.
  2. Remove seeds from lemon juice, but leave pulp. In pitcher, stir together chilled syrup, lemon juice and remaining 7 cups water.

I actually cut the recipe in half, because we only had 3/4 cup lemon juice in our freezer.  Although the recipe recommends 4 1/2 hours of preparation, I don’t think it took me nearly that long.  I just boiled the water and sugar mixture, and then took the kids shopping while it chilled.  When I got back, I added the lemon juice and the rest of the water.

Enjoy!

Q & A Wednesday: How Do I Get My Husband On Board With Debt Freedom?

Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park, February 2015

One of the questions that frequently comes up when I talk to wives about debt freedom, is “How do I get my husband on board?”  I am not a marriage counselor by any means, but I have been married for almost 10 years.  From the time Brad and I became aware of what “Debt Freedom” was, until we paid off every debt but our mortgage, took roughly 5 years.  So we have spent half of our marriage working toward debt freedom.  Here are a few things I have learned along the way:

1. As a matter of principle, I would advise anyone to put their marriage before debt-freedom. You may have to go slower in paying off your debt than you like, but having your husband’s cooperation will be better for your long-term future. I have run every major financial decision I have made by Brad first, before going through with it.  Remember, your marriage and your finances will be better if you work with each other, rather than against each other!

2. In the meantime, you can do lots of things to convince him what a good idea it is! 

Each time you “show and tell” your husband how much money you are saving or making, you will be teaching him about debt-freedom.

3. If you haven’t started yet, begin meal-planning and grocery shopping for your family once a week.  Sit down with your calendar or planner, and think about what your family likes to eat.  We usually do oatmeal or cereal for breakfast, and pb&j sandwiches with fruit and veggies and cheese on the side for lunch.  Once you find some foods your family likes to eat regularly, meal planning becomes more predictable from week to week. I know some people even cook the same dinner meals on certain days, like Spaghetti Mondays or Taco Tuesdays.  If you’re not great at cooking from scratch, you can start by just keeping your house stocked with good food that’s easy to prepare so you’re less likely to eat out in a pinch. You could learn how to make a few simple things in your crock pot (like a roast beef with carrots, potatoes, and onions) or keep fixings on hand for simple salads (spinach, craisins, apples, walnuts, and salad dressing).  Remember, the less you go shopping and eat out, the more you save!

4. You can make saving money a fun pastime for your whole family!  Take advantage of free promotions, on-line giveaways, free community activities, and inexpensive entertainment.  If you make saving money fun, it will not seem as burdensome. 

5. Another idea is that you and your husband can each have a “fun money” allowance each month to spend on whatever you want.  Agree on a fair amount together, and then budget for it.  Then your husband can buy what he wants without it impacting your overall family budget.

It may take a long time, but gradually your husband will become aware that you are making smart financial decisions and begin to trust your good judgement.  I’ve heard that in every marriage there is a saver and a spender.  Your husband may never think exactly like you, so be careful not to make him resent you in your campaign for “Debt Freedom.”  Together you can make a great team!  Opposites attract, so I’m betting your husband balances you out in more ways than one.  If you are the saver and he is the spender, then you will make sure the bills get paid, and he will make sure you remember to have fun along the way.  Finally, remember not to resent him for being who he is, and look for ways to appreciate him as you work together toward debt freedom!

What advice would you give wives who want to get their husbands on board with debt freedom?

 

My Funny Kids

"Cow Appreciation Day" at Chick-Fil-A

“Cow Appreciation Day” at Chick-Fil-A

My kids make me laugh out loud!  It’s not unusual to find me sitting down at the keyboard or searching for a piece of paper to jot down their latest hilarity.  Now without further ado, here is some of their humor to brighten your Monday!

Last night we were at the home of a friend for our small group Bible Study. Naomi, holding up a bowl of oyster crackers, asks, “Mommy, can I have some more manna?”

Oliver climbed into bed and gave me a kiss this morning.
Oliver: Mommy, you stink.
Me: My breath stinks?
Oliver: No. Your body stinks.

Naomi (5): What do you call an acorn with a house in its mouth?
Oliver (3): I don’t know.
Naomi: A tractor!
Oliver: Hahaha!
Naomi: What do you call a banana with a fence in its mouth?
Oliver: I don’t know.
Naomi: Coffee!
Oliver: Hahaha!

Naomi: I couldn’t drink all my hot chocolate because I had a smurf.
Me: A smurf?
Naomi: Yeah, you know, those things we were eating.
Me: OH! A s’more!

Naomi: Mommy, would you like some toast?
Me (suspiciously): What’s on it?
Naomi: Peanut butter, cinnamon, and syrup.

Me: Oliver, you know how to dress yourself. Why do you always bring me your clothes?
Oliver: Because I love you, and you are beautiful, and I want to marry you.
Me: Well…I guess that’s a good enough reason.

(Overheard after bedtime) Naomi: “Oliver, you can marry Mommy, but she is older than you, so when you get older she will die. So you have two choices; You can marry me or marry someone else. You can tell me your decision in the morning.”

Brad: If you want me to read more, you need to get ready for bed on time.
Naomi: Well, sometimes we do and sometimes we don’t.
Brad: Thank you, Captain Obvious.
Naomi: Daddy, I’m not a Captain. A Captain is a Pirate, and I’m not a Pirate. I’m a LADY.

Your husband may be playing too much Taylor Swift around the house, if you find yourself absentmindedly singing, “The players gonna play, play, play, and the haters gonna hate, hate, hate.” And your 2-year-old finishes the lyric, “Shake it off! Shake it off!”

I guess I have Oliver to thank for the fact that Evelyn calls a butter knife, a “sword.”

Naomi expressed deep concern today for those poor folks who must work all day and all night at the 24-hour grocery store, and never get to go home.

Naomi: Mommy, I found my two baby teeth in your jewelry box! I’m going to put them under my pillow again so I can get more money from the Tooth Fairy!
Me (annoyed that she found them): No, the Tooth Fairy already gave you money for your teeth. She won’t give you any more money until you lose more teeth.
Naomi (gasping): What if I lost FOUR teeth and I didn’t even know it?!

Naomi: Oliver, that’s not a monkey. It’s a chihuahua.
Me: No, that’s not a chihuahua. It’s a lemur.

Naomi: When we get to heaven, do you think God and Jesus will have a lot to show us and tell us?
Me: Yes, I do. What do you want to see?
Naomi: I want to see all the beds.

Oliver: Daddy, I love you.
Brad: I love you, too.
Oliver: If you love me, you will let me marry Mommy.
Brad: I don’t love you that much.

Naomi (5) and Oliver (4) are having a marital dispute as they prepare for a “road trip” in our living room. Oliver is filling the “RV” with more balloons than the old man in “UP.” Naomi is shouting, “Hon, if you put one more balloon in this RV, then I won’t let you come on this trip!” It might be time for professional counseling.  😉

Oliver: Some people like to eat fruit on their cereal.
Me: I know, but we don’t have any fruit right now.
Oliver: But we have fruit SNACKS!

What funny things have your kids said recently?

Our Financial Goals: Paying Off Debt (July 2015)

Our Financial Goals: Paying Off DebtPhoto Credit

When Brad and I got married in December 2005, we had $70,000 in student loan debt between us.  Then we bought a house with two mortgages for $150,000 and a used truck for $18,000, for a grand total of $238,000 in debt.  We learned about Dave Ramsey‘s methods in early 2010, and began snowballing our debts.  On March 29, 2015 we paid off our last student loan!!!  We are now DEBT FREE with the exception of one mortgage (only $103,000 to go).  In 9 1/2 years of marriage, we have paid off more than $135,000 in debt!  We have learned so much, and been inspired and helped by so many wonderful people.  We weathered a job loss, moved 6 times in 6 years, and added 3 kids.  God has been so gracious in providing for our every need along the way.  If this stay-at-home-mom and her husband in full-time youth ministry can achieve debt freedom, then you can too!

I just want to take a moment to say THANK YOU so much for being a part of my debt freedom community.  We became debt free almost exactly 4 years from the date I started this blog.  Thank you for all of your kind words, encouragement, and accountability through all the ups and downs along the way.  You have been a bright spot for me in a long and (at times) difficult journey, and that has meant so much to me!

Bumpass Hell at Lassen Volcanic National Park, July 2015

Bumpass Hell at Lassen Volcanic National Park, July 2015

Here I Raise My Ebenezer

The Abundant Husband and Wife

Sequoia National Park: General Sherman Tree

“Here I raise my Ebenezer, hither by thy help I’ve come.  And I hope by thy good pleasure, safely to arrive at home.”  Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing, Robert Robinson

Have you ever sung the song above, and wondered “What on earth is an Ebenezer?”  Well, the word Ebenezer means “Stone of Help” in Hebrew.  It comes from 1 Samuel 7:12, “Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen, and called its name Ebenezer, saying, ‘Thus far the Lord has helped us.'”  An Ebenezer is a monument made of stone(s) “to signify the great help that God granted the one raised the stone.” It is a way for people to “acknowledge God’s bountiful blessings and help in their lives.

When we lived in China from 2007-2009, our director often encouraged us to share the ways in which we had seen God’s help in our lives.  He actually had a real pile of stones in his backyard from all his travels, and each stone had a story.  I preferred writing my stories to share with others.  It is a practice that I continue to this day.  When I am feeling discouraged, I try to remember to raise my Ebenezer.  I hope that you will find inspiration in these five short stories of God’s help from these last 8 months.  If you have never done so, I encourage you to raise your Ebenezer, and remember how God has helped you!

December 4, 2014– Having loved ones on both coasts always makes it difficult to say goodbye. Yesterday, as we walked out of the Sacramento International Airport terminal, the rain stopped, the clouds parted, and a breath-taking double rainbow appeared from one end of the sky to the other. God blessed us with a gorgeous welcome home banner, and the reassurance of his everlasting covenant with us! (Genesis 9:8-17)

On April 28, 2015 I remarked to Brad that I was hoping not to purchase any more groceries during the month of April because we had reached the end of our “Grocery Envelope” for the month. He was hoping for some snack foods at that moment, particularly a bowl of popcorn. On April 29, a friend stopped by the house and unexpectedly handed us two large bags of groceries. We had to laugh when we looked inside and saw two packages of Jiffy Pop Popcorn. God obviously has a sense of humor!

May 19, 2015– Our dryer stopped working more than a month ago. We paid a $50 diagnostic fee to a repairman who told us that it would cost another $150 to repair it. We have been trying to decide whether to repair the dryer, get a new one, or do without it. Tonight some friends were discussing washers and dryers, and one husband asked the group, “Does anyone want a dryer?” I said, “I do!” It had been sitting in their yard for a week. He and his wife brought it over to our house immediately afterward. God is so good.  :)

June 22, 2015– Our city has a population of 65,000 people. We’re so thankful for the young couple who found Brad’s wallet and its contents in the middle of the road, where they’d been run over by traffic, and then returned them to us immediately. Thank God for Good Samaritans!

July 18, 2015– Today we received a bill in the mail for $197.00 from a simple medical examination for Oliver (we hadn’t reached our deductible yet for 2015). In the same mail we also received a check for $152.70 from the State of Maryland Treasurer’s Office. I filled out a form to claim our Unclaimed Property (from our Homeowner’s Insurance Policy in Maryland) a couple months ago. So the bill, and the means to pay it, came in the mail the same day. God’s timing is perfect.  :)

How has God been your “Stone of Help”?  How has He helped you?

A Valentine’s Day Dedication to the Man I Love

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Brad has been in Colorado all this week for what Young Life calls, “Timeline Training.”  It is a week of continuing education classes at the beautiful Cheyenne Mountain Resort.  With Brad out of the house, I often notice the things I take for granted when he is here.  It’s true, absence often does make the heart grow fonder!  Brad is great at showing love for me in many ways:

  • He is usually the first one out of bed in the morning, so for the last several weeks he’s been bringing my coffee to me while I’m still in bed.
  • Being the first one up means he also gets to two-year-old Evelyn first, changing her and dressing her for the day.
  • Brad will often urge me to forget the dishes if there is something he would like me to do, saying he’ll wash them for me instead.  (I’ve been known to put off doing the dishes just so he’ll make this offer!)
  • Brad handles the vast majority of the laundry around our house, which is a lot when you have three messy little ones, and the youngest is still wearing cloth diapers.  He washes, dries, folds, and puts all the clothes away.  He also makes our homemade laundry detergent.  I always forget what a big job this is until he’s gone.  Last year our dryer was down for months, and I completely forgot about it because he never mentioned it.  He dutifully hung the laundry on the line for months without complaining about it.  It wasn’t until he went on a trip that I realized how urgent the need was!
  • Brad always thanks me for preparing meals, and makes sure that the kids thank me as well.
  • Brad recently decided that our family needed a “Day Away” each month, so in January we went to Lake Tahoe, and in February we went to Yosemite National Park.  He has been very helpful in planning and packing for these days, and in keeping costs to a minimum.
  • Brad takes care of most of our lawn and garden chores, keeping our house looking nice on the outside.
  • Brad usually puts the kids to bed on nights when we don’t have guests.  Lately he’s been reading to the kids from the gospel of Mark, and they love how dramatically he tells it.
  • Since we only have one vehicle, and Brad needs it more often than I do for work, he often asks me if there is anything I need him to do or pick up while he’s out.  He also watches the kids for me sometimes, so that I can get out without taking all three kids with me.
  • He occasionally buys me a card, sends me a funny text message, gives me a flower, or brings home a special  treat “just because.”
  • He is quick to compliment my appearance, and remind me that he finds me irresistible (no matter what I happen to look like at that moment).
  • He encourages me to pursue my interests and hobbies, and to build relationships with others.

I am so thankful for Brad, and I am so proud of him and all that he does.  With every year, he is a better man than the year before.  He is thoughtful and creative, consistent and helpful, funny and loyal.  He loves God, and loves others so well.  I am so blessed to married to a man like him.

Now, it’s your turn!  Who loves you well in your life?  What do they do to show you that they love you?  Who do you love?  How do you show them that you love them?  I hope you each have a lovely Valentine’s Day, and take the time to show someone that you love them today.

Love,

Jessie

“We love because he first loved us.”  1 John 4:19

Our Financial Goals: Paying Off Debt (February 2015)

Our Financial Goals: Paying Off DebtPhoto Credit

Today I met a frugal friend at the park for a play date.  When I came home, I put the kids down for a nap, and then decided to update “The Abundant Wife” for the first time since last June.  I believe the last post before that was in April.

I’m sorry I haven’t written in so long, and left without any explanation.  Frankly, I didn’t know what to say.  We were on reduced salary for almost half of last year.  We weren’t making any progress on our debts.  My frustration with our financial situation was hard on our marriage, and I needed to stop talking about money.  Period.

So I quit.  Lucky for you, I couldn’t figure out how to delete this confounded blog.  😉  I’m somewhat tech savvy, but I couldn’t figure it out.  In the meantime, I focused more on being a “wife,” and less on being “abundant.”  The break has been great for our marriage, and I’m happy to say we’re doing better than ever.

I also began homeschooling our oldest daughter for the first time.  This was a huge jump for me, as someone who did not grow up around homeschooling.  It’s been a difficult transition, but also a good one.  After 6 months, Naomi and I are finally starting to develop some routines that are working for us.

Lately I’ve been getting the itch to write again.  So here I am at my husband’s roll-top desk, sitting cross-legged in a creaky wooden swivel chair, tapping away on my laptop.  My kids are watching Disney shorts on the iPad (a Christmas gift from Grandma) in the next room.

Our finances are looking the best they have in years, causing me to cross my fingers lest some major expense set us back again.  As of today, we owe

  • $1,185 on our last Student Loan (4.5% Interest Rate), and
  • $103,979 on our Mortgage (4.125% Interest Rate),

for a Grand Total of $105,164 in debt.  We have paid off almost $133,000 in 9 years of marriage!  Wahoo!

I cannot tell you how relieved I am to be close to paying off our last loan.  If all goes according to plan (which it almost never does) we will be debt-free in the next 2-3 months!

If you are still following me, thank you for sticking around.  It’s been almost 4 years since I started this blog, and it’s been full of stops and starts.  It’s hard to believe I’ve published 475 posts about living abundantly on less.  Thanks for hanging in there, and cheering us on.

Love,

Jessie

And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”  Hebrews 12: 1-3

What I’ve Been Up To For The Last 6 Weeks & How My Goals Are Changing

Come Fly With Us!  www.razoo.com/story/Flight-Yl2014-Yuba-Sutter-Now-Boarding

I looked at the calendar today, and realized that it has been 6 weeks since I last posted to my blog!  I could blame the fact that I substitute-taught for several days in March and April, or the fact that Brad went on a mission trip to Mexico for Spring Break, or even that my computer was so tortuously slow that I began to avoid it completely.

But really, the thing that has been taking up most of my free time is I have been finding ways to help my husband with his youth ministry responsibilities.  And honestly, I’m loving it.  It’s been great for me, great for my husband, great for our marriage, great for our kids, and great for our ministry.  It turns out that I make a pretty good administrative assistant.

I’ve often noted that the things I learn here at The Abundant Wife help me in other areas of my life.  Well, it turns out that these things are helpful to my husband as well.  I created a Twitter account for him, and updated his calendar, photographs, website, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and YouTube accounts.  I’ve created Facebook events, Excel documents, researched fundraisers, written recommendations, and helped him create and mail a newsletter.  I’ve sent e-mails, Facebook messages, made phone calls, written thank you notes, and run errands for him.

One of the biggest things that I have done for my husband, is I have made his goals, my goals.  Instead of focusing on the $4599.79 left until we are debt-free, I have been focusing on raising the $13,000 he needs to complete his annual budget.  Instead of substitute-teaching, I began asking what I could do to help him with his job.  Instead of worrying over our loss of income, I got involved in raising the difference.

As of right now, one of the primary ways we are raising the funds we need is through a fundraising website called Razoo.  I have been responsible for creating this fundraiser, and our entire ministry committee has been inviting their friends and family to donate.  I have never asked any of you to support our ministry on this website before, but today I would like you to consider giving to our campaignWe hope to raise the entire $13,000 by June 30, 3 weeks from now.  So far we have raised almost $4,000!  Each donation is tax deductible, and allows us to continue sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ with the high school students in our area schools.

If you can’t give to our campaign, you can also help us by sharing this post, pinning the image above, sharing the Razoo link, and finally, most importantly, praying for us.

Thank you for reading, and thank you for considering our campaign.  Thank you for putting up with my long breaks from blogging, and thank you for being the world’s best readers.  I couldn’t ask for more!

Jessica

 

 

Our Financial Goals: Paying Off Debt (April 2014)

Our Financial Goals: Paying Off DebtPhoto Credit

This past week, our tax refunds arrived!  I waited a few days for the money to be confirmed by our bank, and then sent all of it to Sallie Mae.  After almost 8 1/2 years of marriage, it is so satisfying to see the end of our student loans in sight!  We began our marriage with $238,000 in debt ($70,000 in 3 student loans, $150,000 in 2 mortgages, and an $18,000 used truck).

As of today, we owe:

  • $4627.85 to Sallie Mae (4.5% Interest Rate)
  • $105,632.03 to Wells Fargo (4.125% Interest Rate)

for a Grand Total of $110, 259.88 in debt. 

So we have paid off $127,740.12 in 8 1/2 years!

Despite all of our success, I have been discouraged by our debt these past few weeks.  I have been weighed down by self-pity and impatience.  I am so tired of spending our present to pay for our past.  After 8 1/2 years of marriage, I want to be DONE with this debt!  Inwardly I stomp by feet and shake my fist angrily, like a small child saying, “I want it NOW!”

Recently however, our family has also been touched by grief of all kinds.  Cancer.  Divorce.  Drugs.  Abuse.  Poverty.  Death.  It can be so hard to spend years struggling to overcome debt.  Yet it is also important to remember to keep our struggle in perspective.  Debt is (often) a struggle of our own making, and one that can (usually) be overcome.  Others are not so lucky.

Today I challenge you to celebrate how far you’ve come in your debt pay-off journey.  Then stop to look at the people around you.  What struggles are they facing, and what battles are they fighting?  Pause to pray for these people, and then see if there isn’t some way you can help to lighten their load.

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