Category Archives: Finances

Beyond Coupon Clipping: 10 Ways to Make the Most of Your Dollar

This entry is part 2 of 2 in the series Life on a Budget

“She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard…. She sees that her trading is profitable…She makes linen garments and sells them.”  Proverbs 31: 16,18a,24a

By: Jennifer Mullen

There she is again.  That ever intimidating yet fascinating “Proverbs 31 Woman”.  She must have been busy purchasing land, planting fields and making garments on top of cooking, cleaning, parenting and being a wonderful wife.  If you look in the mirror you would see that you are a lot like her!  Aside from being a mom, wife, cook, maid, taxi driver, Sunday school teacher, etc, you are constantly looking for ways to bring in extra income into your home to pay bills or save up for something special.

There are many ways that my husband and I have had to be creative about bringing in income or cutting cost in order to make ends meet.  It can be kind of fun as long as you are focusing all the blessings that you have and not lamenting all the things that you don’t have.  When I told my husband that I was going to be writing on this subject, he said to be sure and emphasize that we are not giving financial advice.  We do not follow most conventional rules about finances, but we do trust in God to bless our efforts to be good stewards of what He has given us.   He also said that it is important, as with all things that deal with finances, that you have work as a team and be on the same page about what your family goals are financially.

So here is a list of things that my husband and I have done to be industrious like my mentor, the “Proverbs 31 Woman”.

10 Ways to Make the Most of Your Dollar

1. Don’t buy it!  This is my husband’s rule.  Usually if it is a want, it really doesn’t improve our quality of life to buy it.  I am not always as strong as him though, so the rest of the tips are mine.

2. LivingSocial:  There are many variations of this site available such as: groupon, supersaver, and dealpiggy.  We have cut our eating out budget by waiting for specials from these various sites to come along.  Usually you pay half price for eating out.  For example, you pay $10 for a $20 voucher.  Since we have been dieting, we have cut our eating out budget even further by splitting meals.  Sites like these not only have deals for restaurants but also for local attractions, massages, speciality shoppes, kid’s classes such as dance, and vacations.  My husband and I purchased a three-day two-night weekend vacation off of LivingSocial that we have booked for our anniversary weekend.  We have been waiting almost a year for this trip since we purchased the deal, and we have been saving up extra money to use while on the trip (see #3).  The key is to only buy the vouchers for products and services that you would buy anyway and wait until an appropriate occasion to redeem it.  It’s not saving money otherwise.

3. Put Your Degree/Skill Set to Work: I am a certified teacher so I am able to tutor a few hours a week at a rate of $25 to $30 an hour.  My husband comes home from work to watch the kids, and I run to the next neighborhood to work with my student.  Doing this, I currently make $240 a month by working two hours a week.  My husband is a computer guy so he fixes computers and builds websites to bring in extra income on top of his full-time job.  It is a blessing to have marketable skills.  Sometimes I take a side job that I don’t particularly enjoy to save up for a special item or trip. Right now I work two mornings a month in our MOPS nursery to help fund the LivingSocial vacation my husband and I are going on that was mentioned in tip number two.   Changing diapers is definitely in my skill set, but not always the funnest.

4. Barter Services:  My husband has done computer work for free babysitting, free products, and free electrician help.  When we were buying our car, he was even able to negotiate a better interest rate by adjusting something on the local dealership’s network that made life easier for our salesman.  He loved us after that and went out of his way to help us. Just because money doesn’t change hands, doesn’t mean that you haven’t saved/made money.

5. Network with Friends: If we have friends that own local businesses, we buy from them.  We have gotten really good deals from our friends, and in turn they have gotten really good word of mouth advertising!

6. Make Money By Doing What You Love:   In tip number three,  I talked about using my skill set of changing diapers to make a little extra money, but I don’t LOVE it.  I have been inspired by my friends who have turned their hobbies into a money-making venture.  Melissa loves to scrapbook so she became a Creative Memories Consultant.   Gretchen is about to participate in her first craft fair.  I have a friend who made her love of photography into a very successful business called Sweet Portrayal.  Another one of my friends turned her hobby of knitting into a super cute business called sweetPea Shoppe .  Being creative can pay if you are smart about it!

7. Medical Bills: Just because you get confirmation that insurance has been filed and you get a bill doesn’t mean that you are done.  NEVER pay your medical bills until you KNOW that the insurance has paid what they are supposed to.  I have caught mistakes many times.  Sometimes if the insurance doesn’t pay what I think they should, I can get the doctor’s office to re-submit it under a different code and they will pay more.  Also, if you have a large medical bill, you can sometimes negotiate a deal to decrease the amount of your payment if you can pay a lump sum in cash instead of making small payments over the course of a year or two.

8: Consignment/Garage Sale/ Resale/Thrift Stores: I have a circuit of stores I visit periodically.  Sometimes I find things.  Sometimes I don’t.  When I do, I am happy I made the effort.  Recently, I pieced together my son’s Easter outfit between three stores in one day.  I found some tweed pants and a button-down shirt each originally from The Children’s Place, a sweater vest, and brown leather shoes.  The whole outfit cost $12.00!  Sure beats the prices I have seen on the racks this Spring in the retail stores!  On Gretchen’s personal blog, she has a neat post about shopping at Goodwill.  I would have never known that she got her clothes from there.  She is always super fashionable!

9: Cash Back on Credit Cards:  This is a Dave Ramsey NO-NO, and I do not recommend it if you have problems with overspending on credit cards.  My husband and I have been doing this for about five years and found it to be very beneficial.  We put EVERYTHING on our credit card and pay it off each month.  If we can’t afford it (if we don’t have the cash in our bank account) we don’t buy it.  We treat every purchase as if it is coming out of or bank account.  The 1.5% interest that we make with our cash back rewards becomes our Christmas budget.  We do not budget any money all year for Christmas.  Whatever we get in cash back is it.

10. Enjoy the Free Stuff: Entertainment can be expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. We have fun in everything we do!  A few weeks ago while we were out on a Saturday morning running errands, we decided to stop at the local historical museum.  We spent a few hours touring the museum and walking around downtown while completing a scavenger hunt provided by the museum.  Our kids loved it!  Last week I had to go to the City Hall to buy a permit to have a garage sale.  Because we live in a rural area, the City Hall, Animal Shelter, Police Station, and Fire Station are all in the same complex.  We decided to take an impromptu field trip to tour each.  My kids got to pet the puppies at the animal shelter and got to climb all inside a fire truck.  Real firemen gave my kids fire hats.  You would have thought that they were at Disneyland!!!  Set the bar low.  If they get to the point that they expect extravagant activities, you will constantly be trying to top each one.  Remember, when they are young everything is a new experience.  It doesn’t have to be grand and novel to you to be grand and novel to them.  Have fun seeing the world through their eyes!

There are many more tips that I could share, but I want to hear from you.  I am sure that you have some great ideas that I haven’t thought.  If so, please share!!!

Related article: The Cost of Staying at Home

The Cost of Staying at Home

This entry is part 1 of 2 in the series Life on a Budget

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” Matthew 6:25-26

By: Jennifer Mullen

Being a stay-at-home mom is not for everyone. Actually, a recent study found that working moms are happier than stay-at-home moms and part-time workers are the most happy. For me, staying-at-home was a calling. An act of obedience. God had somethings to work out in me. God has used this time in my life to teach me so much about His provision and His purpose for my life. I believe, for me personally, if I had tried to work while having preschoolers, I would have lost sight of where my “daily bread” was coming from and our family goals. On paper, it would have never worked, but God loves to work with the impossibilities! God has blessed our steps of obedience in trusting Him to provide for our family financially.

There are many examples in the bible of how God provided for His people that I can in turn testify to the same working of the LORD in my life. Here are three:

The Widow’s Olive Oil (Kings 4:1-7):

The story: This story is about a widow who after the death of her husband found herself in debt, therefore her sons were to be sold into slavery. The woman went to the prophet Elisha to seek help. Elisha told her to gather as many jars as she could and to take the only small jar of oil that she had and fill all of the jars! She was able to sell the oil to pay down her debt.

The application: My husband and I had a goal to save as much money as we could before we had our children so that we could live off of one income until I had to go back to work. Before I turned in my letter of resignation, we figured that we had about one and half to two years of savings. My heart ached because I knew that I wanted to be home, but it didn’t look like it was going to work. In January of 2010, we had a two-year old and wanted more children but our money was running out. We were nearing the two-year mark and it appeared that our money was going to run out in October of that year. Shortly after that, we found out that we were expecting baby number two in October of that year! We decided to cut back on some more of our discretionary spending and trust that the LORD would provide. Each time we re-evaluate our situation and put a timeframe on our current provision, the LORD has extended that provision through raises, gifts, side jobs, unexpected tax refunds, etc. Just as the LORD kept pouring oil out of a small container for the Hebrew widow, he has been providing for our needs from our small bank account.

The Manna (Exodus 16):

The Story: I have addressed the idea of manna and God’s provision in the past. In that post, I talked about the importance of “gathering”. On Wednesday, I will have some practical ideas on how to “gather”. Another important concept to realize is that if the Israelites gathered more manna than they needed, it would spoil.

The Application: One thing I have learned, like the manna of the Old Testament, when we (my family) have taken more than we need, the provision has spoiled. Nice cars get dings. Fancy cellphones get lost. All the excess foods turns into fat! 🙂 Extra hours of work turn into a bigger strain on our family unit than it is worth. We strive to live within our means. That is not to say that we do not splurge from time to time, but we have learned to be good stewards of what we have been given.

The Clothes of the Israelites (Deuteronomy 8:4):

The Story: In Deuteronomy chapter 8, Moses reminds the Israelites of God’s faithfulness. I want to highlight verse four which says: “Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell during these forty years.” While the Israelites were wandering in the wilderness for 40 years, they were unable to provide for themselves. God not only provided quail and manna for them, He supernaturally made their clothes and shoes last.

The Application: A woman could go broke trying to dress a girl now-days. With all the frilly bows and tutus, it is hard not to get caught up in a fashion frenzy! While I do enjoy the fun of it all, it is nearly impossible on our budget to have a wardrobe of the latest collections for my children. However, my children have NEVER wanted for clothes. I can not tell you how blessed we have been by hand-me-downs! Out of the blue, I have had practical strangers that I have met in MOPS offer to give me all of the clothes their children have outgrown. I have also learned the joy of paying-it-forward. It warms my heart to see the children of my friends running around in some of my favorite outfits! With the majority of my kids wardrobes coming from hand-me-downs, consignment shops, and gifts, I am able to buy some special pieces to make it their own.

The LORD has taught me by giving up my career at this time, that He is the one who holds our fortunes and our futures. He has proven Himself faithful time and time again. Everything that we receive be it income, gifts, unexpected breaks in bills…we receive it from the LORD. We acknowledge that everything we have is from the LORD and that “the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away’.” (Job 1:21) When the time is right, I may return to my career and when I do I will take these lessons with me. So if you ask me, the cost of staying-at-home produces eternal benefits. I have not given up security; I have gained it!

***If you are trying to make the decision to stay-at-home or not, seek the LORD. If you get confirmation from Him that is what He wants from you, trust that He will be faithful! Check back Wednesday, for some ways to make your dollar stretch while on a budget.