Monday, September 30, 2013

One Year Ago....

It's about to be October and the early days of autumn.  The weather is what I consider ideal - breezy, sunny, with highs in the high 70s and low 80s and very low humidity.  Fall is a time to remember.  I often ponder the "Seasons of Life" when the seasons change.

Right now, I'm remembering this time last year.  It was excruciatingly, painfully emotional.  Within a week, a friend of ours died, I got terrible news about my extended family that resulted in my uncle going to jail, I got correspondence from the final agency in our state that placed adoptions from South Korea and learned we would not be able to adopt from them.  My heart broke, and I ran to our bedroom to cry and kick and scream.  I thought that was the end of any possibility to adopt.  Did I mention that my husband was gone at a conference and that I got strep throat at the end of the week?  Honestly, it was the worst week of my life.

Then, a friend of mine  posted a portion of Matthew 16:24 as his Facebook status: "If anyone would come after Me, let Him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me."  And, well, that ceased any thoughts of anger or hatred towards God.  I was hurt and struggling and felt so spiritually weak, but I knew we were doing the right thing.

How far we have come in a year - from deciding to give domestic adoption a try a few weeks after that terrible week, to returning to international adoption through a completely different plan, to finally deciding on Hong Kong despite our agency's hesitation, to committing to a special needs child, to now - waiting for matching approval that looks like it will come any day now (we got word last week that it is being written, along with some updates on the child we have committed to).

That being said, my message today is:  Don't give up.  Don't think a pursuit or a dream is ended when all doors seem to be shut.  Never doubt that our God is greater and more powerful than all things of this world, and He can use the most desperate and dark of situations to let His glory shine though our lives.

Psalm 71:20 has long been my favorite Scripture:  "Though You have made me see troubles, many and bitter, You will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth You will again bring me up."


Sunday, September 15, 2013

Frugality: Living on One Income

Recently, I came across this article.  It says that having a parent (but this could apply to one spouse if a couple is childless) stay at home while one works will either work really well or it will fail.  He then goes on to say that the stay-at-home parent/spouse must be doing money-saving activities during their time at home in order to make it on one income.  I would say that these activities are simply part of a frugal, financially responsible lifestyle, but maybe that’s just me.

At any rate, we have lived on one income for the majority of our marriage.  For the first three and a half years, I worked while my husband attended (tuition-free) Seminary and studied for hours after class.  After that we moved for his vicarage.  During that time, our rent and utilities were covered by the church, and our health insurance premiums were covered by the Seminary.  I worked part-time at the church preschool.  After tithing and taxes, all of my salary went into our adoption fund. Now, he is a pastor and I work part-time (I worked full-time as school was in session for the past two years).  We have continued to live on his salary while saving all of mine.

With this method, we have saved over $25,000 over the past three years.  Our adoption costs are estimated to add up to about that much, so now we are saving all my salary towards our next car (mine will need to be replaced in the next few years).

Here are “money-saving tips”, or simple frugal practices, that have worked for us over the years:
-Budgeting.  My DH is SO GOOD at this.  He sets a budget and we both stick to it.
-Home haircuts for DH.
-Home haircuts for me, or very minimal salon cuts (by minimal I mean like twice a year trims).  No extras like highlights (I did get them once as a birthday present) on a regular basis.
-Making homemade laundry soap and other homemade cleaning products.
-I make my own deodorant now. 
-I use shampoo/conditioner every second or third day, and alternate with baking soda/vinegar or a homemade dry shampoo mix.
-Asking for new clothes or gift cards to buy new clothes for birthdays and Christmas.
-Minimal vacations, except to see family.
-Not getting alcohol on a regular basis, whether from the store or when out to eat.
-Minimal eating out.
-Making meal plans and grocery lists.
-Buying simple food – we eat lots of chicken and eggs.  I have never bought steak or anything luxurious like that.  I guess it helps that we’re allergic to shellfish.
-Baking things from scratch.
-We generally use our credit card for everything.  This is an easy way for my husband to track our spending and making sure we are staying within our monthly budget.  Plus, we get rewards points, which are a nice bonus!  I know there are mixed opinions out there on credit cards and stewardship, but it works for us because we have literally never had a balance or late payments.  We have always been able to stay on budget using plastic.
-Buying used vehicles (I admit, our parents helped out a bit here) that we could pay cash for.
-Utilizing cheap entertainment – we like watching a movie, going for walks or hikes, and reading books.
-Avoiding a gym membership by getting workout DVDs that can be used over and over again.
-I’ve sewed or crafted lots of Christmas and birthday presents.
-Only going to the doctor if we are seriously ill, i.e. a sliced hand, strep throat, or when DH had a nasty -flu and ended up rather dehydrated and needing IV fluids.

What We Haven’t Done
(Disclaimer:  I include these methods, not to knock them or those who use them, but to help demonstrate that what works for one family doesn't work for everyone.)
-Coupons.  For quite awhile we couldn’t even afford a Sunday paper subscription to cut coupons.  When I was able to get ahold of one, it seemed like I would just buy stuff that was a good deal, and not because we needed it.  I ended up wasting money on things that weren’t good for us, that we didn’t use or didn’t need.  Our grocery bills were lower when we didn’t coupon.
-“Get paid to shop” apps.  I have a couple friends that do eBates or iBotta, etc, but I just haven’t.  Again, it feels like I would spend money to get money back, which isn’t good stewardship. 
-Cut certain extras.  We do have internet (which I consider a necessity as we live six hours away from our closest family and don’t have friends in this area) and cable.  I would love to try dropping the cable, but DH refuses.  As long as we can afford it....
-Government assistance.  We may have qualified at some point, but we sure don’t now.  We would have to be pretty desperate to go down this road.

What frugal tips do you have for saving money?