Random Thoughts on New Heaters

Last night, just as Joshua was getting ready to read aloud to the family by the fire, he got a call from his brother. (It’s a long story, but his brother rents a house from us. He and his wife take great care of it and the “rent” covers the mortgage so it’s been good for both of us in this real estate market!)

What his brother (and we!) hoped was an easy repair to the heating unit turns out to not be so easy. The repairman said the whole unit would have to be replaced… at a price tag of three to five thousand dollars!

I wish I could say that the first thing that passed through my mind was what a blessing this didn’t happen while we were in law school! 

It wasn’t.

Instead I thought why did this happen just as we were starting to get some good traction with financial goals AND right before Christmas?! There goes the money for the nice presents I wanted to get the kids! 

After we put the kids in bed, Joshua and I sat by the fire and talked. I am so blessed to be married to a man who is much more level-headed when it comes to finances.

He pointed out what a blessing it was that we didn’t have to come up with money to replace the heater when we were in law school. He encouraged me to put it in perspective, to choose gratitude, and to not overreact. [i.e. The kids will still have Christmas presents!]

Is there ever a really great time for a major “unexpected” expense? Broken heaters, broken vehicles, and major repairs are part of life. If they happen to be among the biggest trials we’re facing at the moment, we are very blessed!

I pray that next time I am faced with an unexpected expense my first thought is one of gratitude to God for providing so well for us in the past, and trust that He will always continue to provide!

Feminine Adventures

Jenn and I would love to have you join us for our weekly Thrifty Thursday Link Up! Posts about living frugally, thrifty tips and tricks, money-saving DIY projects and gardening, frugal recipes, and encouraging posts on financial stewardship are all welcome. Link up to either of our blogs–your post will be displayed in both places.

We’d be very grateful if you’d share only thrifty-themed posts. (Read full guidelines here.) Grab the button or give us a text link back, so others can join in on the fun!

We’re now sharing some of our favorites each week over on our Thrifty Thursday Pinterest board!



The Three Purposes of Money

Sometimes when we focus on being thrifty, it’s easy to get so caught up on the nitty-gritty aspects of managing our homes that we lose sight of the purposes of money: provision, generosity, and enjoyment.

At least it is for me. Stepping back and looking at the purposes of money helps me to put my job as the manager of our home in the proper perspective.

As Christians, we're not supposed to be scrooges or profligates. Understanding the three purposes of money helps us wisely use it.

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The Three Purposes of Money

Provision

Work is a good thing. One of the primary purposes of work (and a paycheck!) is so men can provide for their families. God said that if a man doesn’t work to provide for his own house, he’s “worse than an infidel.”

What about us stay-at-home moms? As homemakers, it’s our job to manage the household wisely and sometimes, like the Proverbs 31 woman, to actively contribute financially.

Though we’re not supposed to “lay up treasures on earth” it’s pretty clear that providing for the family is not just limited to today’s pressing needs. Proverbs 13:22 says “A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children.” We’re supposed to think multi-generationally, even about money.

Generosity

In the Bible it talks quite a bit about “tithes and offerings.” A tithe is the ten percent God laid down in the Old Testament for His people to give, not because He needs our money, but because all we have comes from Him and giving back a portion of what He gives us acknowledges that fact. The offering was gifts beyond the tithe that God’s people willingly and freely gave.

Christians have differing views on whether we still “have to” tithe. We personally still believe it’s a command, but either way, it’s abundantly clear that Christians are called to be generous. To give to the work of the Church, to support the poor and needy, and to care for the sick and widowed.

(I often wonder if the Federal Government would be so active if Christians faithfully gave and Churches faithfully cared for the poor and widowed.)

Enjoyment

A while back we were doing a study on money. When our pastor asked what the purposes of money were, “enjoyment” did not pop into my head. I tend to be rather tight-fisted when it comes to spending money for pleasure. Thankfully, Joshua is much better in this area and reminds me that God has “given us richly all things to enjoy.” God wants His people to enjoy His goodness and bounty to us with gratitude, because He is a good God and a generous Father.

Did you know that in the Old Testament God commands His people to keep a feast in which they set aside money to spend “for whatever you desire—oxen or sheep or wine or strong drink, whatever your appetite craves. And you shall eat there before the LORD your God and rejoice, you and your household.”  Deut. 14:26

This doesn’t mean charging a new boat to a credit card. It can be as simple as enjoying an ice cream date together or extravagant as a trip to lovely London.

It's easy to fall into the ditch of being to scrooge-like or profligate with our money. Understanding the three purposes of money helps us wisely steward it.

The Christian Purposes of Money

The purpose of thriftiness is not to hang on to every last penny with a clenched fist. God has called us to be wise stewards of the gifts He has given us as we provide faithfully, give generously, and enjoy His goodness to us.

Laundry Ramblings (and a Very Helpful Tip)

“I believe you should live each day as if it is your last, which is why I don’t have any clean laundry, because, come on, who wants to wash clothes on the last day of their life?” Anonymous

The laundry pile (not that you couldn’t have guessed!) 

That quote made me laugh.

I’m sure it will pop into my head next time I’m overwhelmed by a pile of laundry. But, in stream-of-consciousness style, hopefully this quote will follow it, “If I knew the world would perish tomorrow, I would still plant my apple tree  do the laundry today.” (Martin Luther)

Why? Because the work God has given us is good. Even sweeping floors and planting a garden are ways to serve Him. And, thankfully, so is doing the laundry.

But see that pile up there? Since moving I just couldn’t seem to tame the laundry monster. I mean, the kids had clean clothes to wear, but we’d often dash to clear the clothes off the couch moments before Joshua came home for dinner. Sometimes, we didn’t get to it, so I’d spend the first twenty minutes after the kids went to bed folding laundry.

It made the old saying “a mother’s work is never done” seem all too true.

Once again, Will looks like he’s up to something mischievous. What’s he up to this time? Folding washcloths. 

Then a dear friend shared this tip from Large Family Logistics with me: get the laundry done early, preferably before noon.

It has been so helpful!

Finishing the day’s laundry is now part of our lunch routine.

Do you know what that means? No more laundry pile staring at me all afternoon. No more racing to put laundry away in the evening. No more folding laundry after the kids are tucked in bed.

What a difference this little tip has made! (Thanks, Brooke!)

Do little tips like that ever make a huge difference in your day? 

[Full disclosure: links to products in this post are my referral links.]

Linked up at Mama MomentsBetter Mom MondayTeach Me Tuesdays, & Encourage One Another

Homemade Pumpkin Purée and Pumpkin Seeds

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Though I gladly eat pumpkin all year round, I was excited to see fresh pumpkins in the store again.

Not only are pumpkins loaded with nutrition, it’s so easy to make fresh pumpkin purée (and pumpkin seeds!) yourself. Plus, it’s a fun project for little ones to help with.

We past our first fresh pumpkins out shopping recently and Rose begged for me to get one so she could make pumpkin seeds. I obliged.

In order to make good pumpkin puree, select healthy-looking pumpkins and wash the outside thoroughly.

Cut the pumpkin into thick slices and remove all the seeds and string.

Place the pumpkin slices in a large pot. Add a couple cups of water (I like my puree thick, so I don’t completely cover them), bring to a boil and then simmer for 30-60 minutes, stirring occasionally. If the pumpkin starts to stick to the pan, add more water. Once the pumpkin is soft, remove from heat.

Cool slightly and then scoop the soft flesh into a blender. Blend thoroughly.

Now you have fresh pumpkin puree to use in your favorite recipe. Place extra into freezer bags for use all year long.

While the pumpkin cooked and cooled, let your five-year-old remove every last seed from the strings, rinse the pumpkin seeds, and pat dry.

Place in a large pan, toss very lightly with oil/butter and your seasoning of choice. (I just used sea salt.) Bake at 350 for about 30-45 minutes, stirring regularly until the seeds are golden brown.

Store the seeds “for winter.” Though my children are highly attached to the idea of preserving food for winter, “winter” usually lasts all of three days around here.

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 Feminine Adventures

Now it’s your turn! Jenn and I would love to have you join us for our weekly Thrifty Thursday Blog Hop! Posts about living frugally, thrifty tips and tricks, money-saving DIY projects and gardening, frugal recipes, and encouraging posts on financial stewardship are all welcome. Link up to either of our blogs–your post will be displayed in both places.We’d be very grateful if you’d share only thrifty-themed posts. (Read full guidelines here.)


17 Craigslist Dos and Don’ts

Thanks to woefully overestimating the size of the U-haul pods (which meant selling several pieces of furniture at the very last minute) and moving from a tiny home to an average-sized one, we “needed” lots of furniture after our move.

In the last month I’ve spent hours scouring Craigslist for great deals on furniture.

I’ve found some great deals and some not so great deals, and learned a few Craigslist tricks along the way. (Besides the obvious be safe and don’t accept sketchy sob stories or payment schemes.)

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17 Craigslist Dos and Don’ts

  1. Buyers- don’t jump into rash purchases, just because the deal seems too good to pass up.
  2. Buyers- find creative ways to do without until the right deal comes along.
  3. Buyers- ask pertinent questions (smoke, pets, etc.) before going out of your way to see an item.
  4. Buyers-  don’t be too trusting. Check to make sure the appliance works or the couch doesn’t smell like smoke, even if the seller vouches for them.
  5. Buyers- bring a copy of the advertisement with you so you can make sure you’re getting exactly what is advertised for the price listed.
  6. Buyers- don’t be afraid to back out and say “no thanks” if the item is not as expected.
  7. Buyers- attempt negotiation if the price seems too high.
  8. Buyers- make sure you have the right amount of cash with you.
  9. Sellers- always, always, always take a picture. Make sure that picture is as good and clear as possible.
  10. Sellers- be upfront about defects. Nothing is quite so irksome as driving to look at an item and then being told “Oh, I forgot to mention the house was vandalized and the washing machine still has splotches of graffiti on it!” (Yep, true story.)
  11. Sellers- if you want to broaden your market for large items considerably, advertise a delivery option for an added fee.
  12. Sellers- take a few minutes to check into the “market” value and don’t way under, or over, price your item.
  13. Sellers- if you get a sob story, kick your spam-alert wheels into high gear.
  14. Sellers- if you have multiple interested buyers, let the potential buyers know and don’t tolerate unnecessary hemming and hawing from the first in line.
  15. Sellers- bring a copy of the advertisement with you in case there’s disagreement about price, accessories, etc.
  16. Sellers- carry change.
  17. Sellers- once your item has sold, remove the ad. Right away. Please!

Have you bought or sold on Craigslist? Do you have any tips (or funny stories) to add?

Linked up at Thriving Thursdays 

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Feminine Adventures

Now it’s your turn! Jenn and I would love to have you join us for our weekly Thrifty Thursday Blog Hop! Posts about living frugally, thrifty tips and tricks, money-saving DIY projects and gardening, frugal recipes, and encouraging posts on financial stewardship are all welcome. Link up to either of our blogs–your post will be displayed in both places.We’d be very grateful if you’d share only thrifty-themed posts. (Read full guidelines here.)



When We’re Not So Thrifty

I was so blessed by all the sweet comments on my picture recap of our trip to England!

Especially since I was kind of afraid to write about it. Yep. Silly me was afraid my dear readers would think, I thought Anna was thrifty. She hosts Thrifty Thursday after all! A trip to England is not thrifty. 

That’s true. Staying home is much more thrifty than going on a vacation. (Though Joshua did find good deals on tickets and amazing deals on lodging!)

However, there are much more important things than saving every last penny all the time. Sometimes it’s so easy for me to get caught up in the nitty-gritty things, like using a fold-top sandwich bag costs 1/3 of a zippered one, that I forget the big picture.

Thriftiness has many facets, but one of them is choosing our own dreams (whether it’s music lessons for the kids, a paid-off house, a vacation, etc.), rather than letting Mrs. Jones tell us how to spend our money. And then not be able to afford the things that really matter to us.

The point of thriftiness is not to be miserly. It’s to manage our resources so we can afford the things that are important to our family.

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Feminine Adventures

(Grab code for the button from the sidebar)
 And now, Jenn and I would love to have you join us for our weekly Thrifty Thursday Blog Hop!Posts about living frugally, thrifty tips and tricks, money-saving DIY projects and gardening, frugal recipes, and encouraging posts on financial stewardship are all welcome. Link up to either of our blogs–your post will be displayed in both places.We’d be very grateful if you’d share only thrifty-themed posts. (Read full guidelines here.)



Vanilla Depression Cake Recipe

Have you ever “needed” to make a cake and found yourself in a bind because you’re missing eggs, butter, and/or milk? If so, this Depression-Era vanilla cake recipe is for you!

All of these ingredients were hard to come by during the Great Depression, so savvy cooks made do with what they had and came up with this delicious cake base.

Maybe it’s inconsistent to make whole wheat tortillas and eat homemade yogurt sweetened with raw honey…and then turn around and make a white cake (with white flour and white sugar.) This recipe won’t win me any healthy mom brownie-points.

Part of a homemaker’s job though is to find the balance of health, taste and cost that works in her kitchen.

Need cake, but don't have eggs, milk, or butter? This Great Depression inspired cake saves the day!

Depression cupcakes with fresh strawberry frosting

Rose turned five last week and requested white cupcakes with strawberry frosting.

I thought I had all the ingredients for birthday cupcakes, but when the time came to make them, I realized the eggs were used up for quiche and we were almost out of butter. Whoops!

There wasn’t time to run to the store. I searched for an egg-free, butter-free white cake recipe, but couldn’t find one.

Then I remembered this chocolate depression cake, named because it uses no eggs, milk, or butter—all of which were hard to come by during the depression.

I tweaked the recipe and this eggless, butterless white cake turned out surprisingly well.

Vanilla Depression Cake Recipe

Makes one 9×9 pan or 12-18 cupcakes

Ingredients

  •  1 2/3 cups flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tsp vinegar
  • 1 tsp vanilla or almond flavoring
  • 6 T oil
  • 1/2 cup yogurt, optional (It really increases the moistness and flavor of the cake! See how to make your own yogurt here. It’s a huge money saver!)

Instructions

  1. Mix together dry ingredients
  2. Combine wet ingredients and add to dry. Mix well.
  3. Pour into a 9×9 pan (or 12-18 lined muffin tins.)
  4. Bake at 350 for 30 (or around 12-15 minutes for the cupcakes) or until a toothpick inserted near the middle comes out clean.
  5. Top with icing of your choice, if desired. (I added frozen strawberries to homemade buttercream frosting.)

Need cake, but don't have eggs, milk, or butter? Let this Great-Depression inspired recipe come to the rescue!

Enjoy Vanilla Depression Cake

So there. I’ve completely ruined any delusions you had of me as a super healthy mom. Oh well. My daughter loved the cupcakes!

If you need cake in a hurry and don’t have eggs, milk, or butter, let this vanilla depression cake save the day.

When Your Income Increases, Stay Put

“When your income increases, stay put,” many a financial advisor has said. It sounds so easy.

It isn’t.

Especially if you’ve been scrimping and saving for years to make ends-meet. When your income finally increases, the temptation to increase your spending right along with it is very strong.

Don’t do it.

Stay put. Continue to make sacrifices. Wait a little longer.

The pay-off is worth it.

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One year ago, Joshua graduated from law school and started a year-long clerkship with a federal judge. The pay was about average for a family of [almost] five, but it was quite the increase from our law school days!

For three years of law school we had lived in a tiny 650-square-foot duplex. Our third child was due soon. We were highly tempted to move to a bigger house (one that had more than three feet of counter space!)

The more we thought and prayed about it though, the less wise it seemed.

Despite our best efforts (and many tears on my part), my husband graduated law school with student loans. Our savings account could use some attention. His car desperately needed to be replaced.

We decided to stay put another year. The bigger kitchen could wait.

Though it was hard, the sacrifice was definitely worth it.

Not only did our rent (and utilities) remain very low, staying in our little duplex added fuel to our desire to pay off the loans and get established on a better financial footing.

Less than one year after graduation, we sent in the last payment on his student loans. The car fund has grown to the point where we are looking at new-to-us cars. And of course, our savings account thanks us for the sacrifices.

Wherever you are on your financial journey, making sacrifices today is well worth the rewards tomorrow.

Whether your income increases by $50 or $500, stay put. It is worth it!

Why I Make Homemade Tortillas

One of Money Saving Mom’s most popular posts is titled “Why I Don’t Make My Homemade Tortillas.” Since she posted it almost two years ago (um, that’s like half a century in blogging-time, right?), I’ve thought about this article many times, because I make my own tortillas

In her post, Crystal shares a compelling reason why she doesn’t make her own homemade tortillas:

  • Time is valuable. If you do an activity just to save money, you need to be certain it’s really saving enough money to be worthwhile.

Your time is valuable. We’ve only got one life to live. We only have 24 hours in a day. We can scurry from one money-saving activity to the next and wear ourselves out in an effort to save 50¢ here and 7¢ there.

In some rare instances, it really is necessary to squeeze every last penny just to make ends-meet. For most of us though, we get to choose our sacrifices so we can choose our splurges. I line-dry many of our clothes, but keep our house a tad cooler than absolutely necessary. I gladly drive an old, paid-for van, but love my high-speed internet.

Life is made up of choices, and when it comes to the kitchen, it’s no different.

For example, one of the many ways that Crystal keeps her grocery budget low is by couponing. I have tried couponing. And failed. After repeated efforts (and many, many hours of frustration) I found that I could usually get the desired item cheaper at Aldi or from a local, convenient farmer’s market than I could matching a coupon and sale.

Shopping with three small children isn’t fast. I’d much rather grocery shop once a month (plus fill in from the market) than go to even two stores a week to catch the few sales that were really worth it in my area.

Not couponing frees up time to make even more of our foods from scratch (like tortillas or sandwich bread.)

Still, it would hardly be worthwhile to make my tortillas from scratch just to save 50¢ a package, if I was making them just to save money. They take about 5-10 minutes to make and my time is worth more than $3-6 an hour!

But, I don’t make tortillas just to save money.

  • I make homemade tortillas because they’re healthier.
  • I make homemade tortillas because my kids love them.
  • I make homemade tortillas because I love them.
  • I make homemade tortillas because I think they’re fun to make
  • ….and my children think they’re fun to make with me.

As an added benefit, making your own saves a few dollars a month.

Feeding a growing family healthy foods on a budget is a balancing act. I can’t pursue every last penny-pinching idea, but making my own tortillas is one of the many ways I shave a few dollars off our grocery budget, while enjoying time with my children and creating a more healthy end-product.

So that’s why I make my own. Want to give homemade tortillas a try? Here’s the whole wheat tortilla recipe that I use.

What about you? Do you do some money-saving activities mainly just because you like to? Have you ever made your own tortillas? 

Linked up at Titus 2sdays,Teach Me Tuesdays, Cornerstone Confessions, Consider the Lillies, Encourage One AnotherHomemaking LinkupWomen Living Well & Works for Me