I’m a natural saver. I blame it on my dad. From the age of thirteen (and my first official job), my dad taught me to save. His method for my paycheck savings involved putting 50% in a bank account to be “saved” and the rest I could spend however I wanted. I later figured out the purpose to my “saving” was so he could “borrow” (and not necessarily return) the money for family expenses that he and my mom couldn’t afford (or didn’t budget for). Sometimes that meant 50% of my paycheck went toward groceries, school supplies, or gas for the car. While this is not an example I would encourage parents to follow, it did get me into a habit of saving.
With Dollar Bills Come Great Responsibility
Over the years, I’ve read books and blogs, watched videos, and taught courses on how to save and spend wisely. That by no means makes me an expert, but I have learned a thing or two about making the money that comes in last as long as possible. (I attribute this newfound interest in learning to my husband, who is an excellent teacher of good methods of handling money and all things finance-related.)
Every dollar is important (of great worth), and we have a God-inherent responsibility to be a great steward of each dollar we get.
(Insert song: She works hard for the money!) We work hard for our money, don’t we, friends? Since we work hard to earn it, we need to learn to work hard to save it and spend it.
Today’s post is about spending! It’s a little bit about saving too–frugal ways that allow us to hold onto those dollars so they last a little longer.
Couponing Done Easier
Ok, I’ve tried the whole Extreme Couponing thing. It doesn’t work for me! To those of you who do it well, I commend you! I’m not going to teach you anything extreme. Instead, I’ll show you slow, diligent moderation. If you want extreme, check out some of the Queen C’s (C for Coupons!) online like: Krazy Koupon Lady.
Frugal Couponing: Guidelines I use when couponing
1. Only coupon what you normally buy anyway.
I used to get caught up in all the coupons: “Buy 2, get 1 free.” “Buy 2, save 50 cents.” “Save $ on over-priced items that wouldn’t normally end up in the shopping cart and are a more expensive alternative even with the coupon.”
Don’t fall for these marketing techniques unless it’s:
a) something you need,
b) something you’re buying anyway,
c) something you need that quantity of, or
d) the best alternative, price-quality wise–if there’s a cheaper alternative you and your family can live with “this time,” then save and go for the cheaper alternative.
Side Note about “This Time”: Part of being frugal (and a good steward of resources) is to keep a “this time” attitude. It puts into perspective the short life of each purchase. When comparing brands and prices, think about the life of the product. How long will it last? One week? A month? Will my family survive with (cheaper toilet paper or generic ketchup) for just this month? What about every other month? Can they handle a cheaper, generic brand just this one time? You might argue that the difference in price is only a dollar, or even only few cents.
Remember our goal: to hang onto each dollar a little bit longer. That includes those few cents of savings on each item in the cart. It’s the small things. In order to be more frugal, we have to learn to make small changes now. Small changes now will turn into big changes later. Every penny counts. Don’t spend it “just because you have a coupon.”
2. Use coupon apps.
There are so many money-saving apps out there. Depending on your city, some work better than others. It might take some trial and error to find the apps that work best for you and your region, but if you want to save money, it’s worth the time to figure out.
Personally, I only use apps that give me real cash savings or cash back, not the ones that work on a points system. There are some good points systems, but right now, I focus on real, immediate cash.
My favorite apps are:
- Walmart Savings Catcher – download your receipt after each purchase and watch the real cash grow. Transfer to PayPal or a Walmart gift card. They also have an online version: https://savingscatcher.walmart.com/.
- Kroger and Whole Foods coupon apps–because I don’t have to print anything.
- I check the Krazy Coupon Lady app just for things I’m going to be buying anyway, so I don’t get caught up in the hype of spending gas, printer ink, and time running all over town to get free things or ‘money-maker’ things that I don’t need. Time is worth spending frugally too!
- Ibotta has become another favorite app. I look for items I plan to buy, and then scan the item and receipt for cash back via PayPal or gift cards.
- This app doesn’t usually have many items that I normally buy, but for the little time it takes to scroll through and upload receipts, I still consider Checkout 51 worthwhile.
Even if you average 25-50 cents per shopping trip (like me), that small change quickly adds up. I’m currently at $5, but hey, that’s a free coffee! Who doesn’t like free coffee? With Checkout 51, I can cash out when it reaches $20, in which case, who doesn’t like a free movie? Or one hour of free babysitting? Compliments of a grocery app–yay!
3. Stay on Budget and Just Say No.
Have you noticed we live in an extremely high-consumption society? The rest of the world calls us consumerists and gluttons. Why do we let ourselves get caught up in the hype?
Part of frugal living is just saying no. No to things we don’t need. Delaying ‘wants’ until we’ve saved up to pay cash for them, which means saying ‘no’ for right now. There is a time to spend. Our culture is REALLY good at it. Admit it, so are you! I definitely am!
First, though, we need to learn to save. Save for future needs, for emergencies, for wants. Save just to save. If you’re wondering why we learn to be frugal, it’s for those reasons just listed.
A Side Note on Saving:
Saving is the foundation to Big Giving. Do you ever wish you had enough money to support a missionary for an entire year or build a hospital in a small village? Do you ever think about what it would be like to fund an entire non-profit event? Or sponsor your kids’ sports team or band trip?
People who give big first had to learn to save big. I recently read that somewhere. They learned to say no to things they didn’t need so that later, they could enjoy (and appreciate) the things they wanted. To learn to save big, start small. Start with small, frugal decisions. Talk it through with your spouse, kids, and friends. Get them on board and excited. They’ll hold you accountable and learn along the way! Who knows? Maybe they’ll do this with you! It’s so much more fun together!
Being frugal doesn’t have to mean turning into a skimpy cheapskate, but if we learn how to be thoughtful and conscientious about our spending–and saving–we will be on a good path to better things in the future.
Have any other easy couponing tips or apps to share?
How many of us grew up with the kitchen etiquette: No dirty butter knives in the jam jar! Use a spoon!
Maybe you are laughing at the absurdity of trying to convince four kids and a husband to follow such etiquette, as you survey a breakfast table laden with glaciers of peanut butter, jelly and Cheerios, lakes of milk, juice, and coffee, and in the distance, slopes of dishes the size of Kilimanjaro threatening eruption… You are grateful to not have one more spoon to wash!
It’s not that it’s a bad rule. The jelly thinks it’s a great rule. But how many of these rules do we hold so tightly to, to the extent of interfering with our joy?
The enemy, often successfully, uses too many things to rob our joy.
It’s time we make a couple of new pacts for Grace’s sake:
NOTHING Blocks Out the Joy of the Lord.
“Neither death nor life, angels nor demons, fears for today nor worries about tomorrow…can separate us from the love of God.” (Romans 8:38, NLT) Since nothing can separate us from God’s love, that in itself should be enough to keep us filled up with His joy!
GRACE Flows Freely Through Me.
“So we praise God for the glorious grace he has freely poured out on us who belong to his dear Son.” (Ephesians 1:6) Extending that grace we’ve accepted from God to those around us will in turn add another drop of joy in our heart.
The list of replaceable things:
- Those fancy dishes from that one fancy store that you secretly use when no one else is home because naturally, no one else can be trusted.
- That cute vase knocked over by a house guest (wasn’t it a garage sale find anyway?)
- The DIY project it took 6 months to complete between sick kids, school projects, birthday cakes, broken things requiring immediate attention and priority repair…
The list of forgivable things:
- An excited voice waking the baby
- Trash day forgotten, again
- Oh, those dishes–is there no one who will automatically rescue the mound without solicitation?!
- Toast crumbs in the butter dish
- Gloppy remnants of butter in the jar of jam
We can choose to focus on “all the things” that irritate us and allow dissension or we can swing our thoughts in the direction of the graceful, compassionate peacemaker and emanate His character.
— BEFORE WE CAN SWING, WE NEED TO CLEAN! —
How can we change the focus of our thoughts?
Stress, worries, annoyances: these all gluttonously consume much-needed valuable space in our precious heart, emotion & memory vaults. Think about how a vault locks it’s valuables tightly inside, so that without a key, code, or thief, there’s no way in or out. Praise God, there’s a key (to the Kingdom, Christ Jesus), and a code (the Word of God), to protect us and to help us stand strong against Satan the thief! Satan wants nothing more than to break into your heart vault, steal your precious joy, deceive you into forgetting you have God’s Grace, and fill your mind with frustration, bitterness, loneliness, and misery. We have to clean out our vaults and seal them with the things of God.
The list of things that can be removed:
- Fretting over mud on the floor
- Nagging to lower the toilet seat
- Harsh disciplining for an accidental spill
- All the other things going through your mind right now
What if we choose to do a clean sweep of the unessential annoyances & worries from within our precious selves, and decide to be un-offend-able (unable to be offended).
Think of the space in our hearts and brains that would be suddenly empty, free, and clear! Like a freshly cleaned out pantry, ready to be restocked. I don’t know about you, but I could use all the extra shelf space I can get–in the pantry and the brain!
Once we get all that sticky stress, anxiety, nagging, fretting, micro-managing, control-freaking, OCD-ing, perfecting and pet-peeving thrown out, we’ve got SO MUCH EMPTY space to fill!
I guarantee by switching our focus to things of real & lasting importance, it will:
1) put us in a better mood–which leads to people who actually want to be around us! (So they weren’t avoiding me because I forgot to wear deodorant?!)
2) gives us energy–no workout session or green grass drink necessary this time (though I am an advocate of all things healthy!) and
3) makes room in our “pantry-vault” to think about lots of other cool stuff.
The list of things to keep safe:
So, think instead on these things. Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is …
Truth – God IS good, His mercies are everlasting (Psalm 100:5, KJV)
Honor – God looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7); He looks past the person to the position (child of God).
Right – God will always do what is right. Not opinion vs opinion, His justice triumphs over that which is morally wrong (Isaiah 41:10; Deuteronomy 32:4)
Lovely – How lovely is your dwelling place! (Psalm 84); How lovely are the works of His hands – flowers, butterflies, a hug between siblings, a smile.
Commendable – All that Jesus went through for our sake; It is commendable if someone endures the pain of unjust suffering because they are mindful of God (1 Peter 2:19)
Virtuous – He gives wisdom to all who ask; Be strong and courageous; Display modesty and self-control; She who has clean hands and a pure heart will stand in the Lord’s Holy Place (Psalm 24:3)
Praiseworthy – Why am I discouraged? I will put my hope in God…Yet I will praise Him (Psalm 43:5); Though the house is a wreck…yet I will praise Him. Though there’s yet another toddler mess to clean up, I will praise God for this creative child, and praise the creation made with those tiny hands!
The list of things that summarize:
Clean out all the things from within you that are robbing joy and keeping you from receiving and extending grace. Swing your thoughts to the things of real and lasting importance. May God’s grace and the joy of the Lord fill you. May you share the never-ending bounty of grace with all the people in your life.
Today I’m reminded to just slow down.
Maybe it’s the beautiful warm sunshine on my skin. Or perhaps it’s the chill music as I’m exiting Panera after enjoying my favorite spinach artichoke quiche. Maybe it’s because my husband is out rock-climbing with the guys for the first time since his knee injuries, and I’ve got free time.
Whatever the reason, I know the quiet voice of God is saying, “Be still.” So, I put the weight of all my stuff in the car and meandered back to the vacant outdoor patio. Feet up on chair, with only a iced green tea and phone in hand.
Wow. I feel so light! And then I think, “WHY is this not my regular pastime?” Why am I always rushing through parking lots? Getting meals to go? Running through checklists? Always on the go. Go, go, go.
I need to Just.Slow.Down.
Slowing Down with Purpose
Then I realize, it’s not just about slowing down. It’s about slowing down with purpose. Enjoying God’s beauty and bounty. So I watch the tiniest baby bird as it perches on the chair next to mine, inquisitively peering my direction. I share a laugh with a young boy as he captures a picture of our little feathered friend. Two strangers who bond over the magnificence of God’s creation as we watch a little bird’s intrigued expression before taking flight. I watch someone talking animatedly on the phone with a friend. I’m so proud of myself in this moment, for both slowing down and taking time to take in everything and everyone around me.
And as I’m watching people…it hits me.
People-watching used to be an art. A fun way to pass time. Is it just me, or does it seem a little creepy in our modern era? Is it because we are so disconnected with the world around us? Too engrossed in our smartphones and tablets? Our own busyness? Are we so focused on ourselves or our own small circles that we forget to look outward? So on-the-go, we forget this part of slowing down – the being watchful part?
What If We Slowed Down?
What if we slowed our pace, sat outside, watched a bird watching people, listened to traffic and conversations…real people and real conversations, acknowledged strangers passing by, what then? Maybe we would bring back another “lost art.” And maybe, we’d glean–and give–something of value.
If I hadn’t needed to run errands today, I might not have left the house. It might have been a different kind of “slow down” day. I might have spent the day in front of Netflix, playing games on my phone, wishing I had something better to do. And calling it “slow…”
And I would have missed all this meaningful, valuable, slow down, people-watching, bird-watching, God-tugging-on-my-heart fun.
What do you need to do (or not do), to ‘Just Slow Down’ today?
I love the way Isaiah 30:18 reads in the Amplified version:
And therefore the Lord [earnestly] waits [expecting, looking, and longing] to be gracious to you; and therefore He lifts Himself up, that He may have mercy on you and show loving-kindness to you. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed (happy, fortunate, to be envied) are all those who [earnestly] wait for Him, who expect and look and long for Him [for His victory, His favor, His love, His peace, His joy, and His matchless, unbroken companionship]!
[John 14:3, 27; 2 Cor. 12:9; Heb. 12:2; 1 John 3:16; Rev. 3:5]
Disclosure: This post contains an affiliate link to Tina’s new favorite frugal meal planning tool.
Last month, I shared some favorite grocery apps that can help save money. Served for today’s special is a side dish of Menu Planning! My hubby and I enjoy helping families learn how to budget, live within their means, save, and be good stewards of the resources God has given them. We are often asked for ideas on how to save money while getting out of debt. My hope is that these tips will be helpful for your family as well, in any stage of life. Today, I’ll share easy meal planning ideas to help save time, money, and sanity!
Meal Planning is a big deal. It’s time-consuming and if we don’t plan well, it can be more expensive than it should be.
(If you missed Part 1 about ways to save money on groceries, here it is.)
Hanging on to our hard-earned dollar bills a little longer means not only finding ways to cut back on grocery spending, but also having a plan for that spending. Here are a few helpful ideas for frugal meal planning:
Create Your Own Frugal Meal Planning Menu Planner
If you’re crafty and have the time to make it, a Hanging Menu Planner is the way to go. Here are some options:
Cork Board Menu:
If you’re like our friend Tia, you might get one made for you! Our friend Kayla made this cute board for Tia’s birthday. She bought a half cork/half dry-erase board at Walmart and decorated it. Tia can hang her eMeals recipe print-outs (more on eMeals below) and write notes for her kids on the other side. Tia says the best part is her kids no longer ask, “Mom, what’s for dinner!?” I love it!
I love the one from Megan at The Homes I Have Made (http://thehomesihavemade.com/magnetic-menu-board-2/). She sells customizable templates for $6, so you just have to gather the supplies, print, and create. I’m working on creating mine!
Pinterest has an overwhelming supply of ideas and options, so just pick one you like and go with it.
Use a Frugal Meal Planning Menu Program
If you’re not so crafty or don’t have time to create, there are another gazillion time-saver menu planning ideas out there. I’ve tested several subscription and non-subscription online, downloadable, and app-based programs. Here are my favorites:
Pinterest “Weekly Meals” Locked Board:
I have a locked Pinterest board that I call “Weekly Meals.” This is the cheapest plan (free), but I do have to make my own grocery list and decide which day to make which meal. First, I pin a recipe to one of my other boards (faves, sides, sweets, etc) and then re-pin the recipes I want to make in the current week to the locked board. (This was not my original idea, I learned it from another blogger. Kudos to her, because it’s one of my favorite options!)
eMeals (My Highest Recommendation!):
Do you want to save money, time, eat well, and not waste food? Or maybe you don’t know how to cook? Then eMeals is for you! It’s by far my favorite of all the online planners. When my husband and I were getting out of debt, we actually saved $200/month on groceries by using eMeals! That’s just for two of us–we’ve heard of families saving a whole lot more than that. They have a wide variety of plans for different diets (classic, gluten-free, diabetic, vegetarian, paleo, budget friendly, simple gourmet, etc). They plan the meals and shopping around sales at your local grocery store. When they have you buy an ingredient for one meal, that ingredient will be used up in another meal, so it limits waste. (Is there anything in your fridge right now that you bought for one recipe, and haven’t used it since? Then you really need to check this out!)
Even paying $5/month for a one year subscription, which includes a free phone app, we still saved $200, and I no longer stressed about what to cook or how to cook it. Back to our friends, Kayla and Tia. They both started using eMeals for their families this month. Neither of them had previous experience with cooking much more than frozen pizza, but with this plan, they can cook! Shopping is made easy with a categorized grocery list; recipes are simple and easy to follow. You can occasionally find a Groupon to reduce the cost even further. Here’s one for a 6-month subscription: https://www.groupon.com/deals/emeals-12-little-rock. I can’t say enough about it! Here’s the link to eMeals website – there are free sample menus you can print & try it out! http://emeals.com/
I can save my pinned Pinterest recipes, edit and rate them, as well as any recipe I add via online or hard copy. The menu planner is stellar and the grocery list is superb. These guys have really thought of everything. Their pricing is reasonable too. Oh, and if your friends use it too, you can share any recipes you’ve uploaded or keep them in your secret recipes box. SO fun! My goal is to use Plan to Eat with my new Magnetic Menu Board to complement each other!
Combining money-saving apps with a meal plan, is a sure way to hang on to those God-given dollar bills a little longer. Next time: Hanging on to Dollar Bills by Yard Sale-ing & Yard Selling!
I’d love to hear how you do meal planning!
“I’ve got a fire in my eyes.” “Feeling solid…got my feet on the ground.” “I’m awake…alive.” “You ignite the Fire.” (Listen here: Fire in My Eyes by Fireflight)
Remember the phrase, spoken as a warning or accusation, often accompanied by narrowed eyes and pointing finger, “You’re playing with fire!” and “Don’t play with fire!”
I say, it depends on the fire.
There were definitely times in my past when I needed to heed that warning. The times right before I made poor decisions. Dating the wrong kind of guy. Flirting with rebellion. Saying something I shouldn’t.
What if we changed our thinking? From a negatively infused fire, to the positively infused Fire.
With some of us, there’s nothing anyone can say–once our mind is made up, we are going to do what we are going to do! But what if the influences we surrounded ourselves with gave us a different kind of spurring on. Instead of “Stop playing with fire,” what if people said, “Get the Fire in your eyes!”
Matthew 6:22 (NIV) says, “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light.”
I Samuel 16:7 (ESV) says, “For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”
Too often, we focus on the outward appearance of a situation. We don’t look or speak into the heart of a person often enough.
Psalm 101 really kicks me in the butt–that guy has some serious fire. The Psalmist talks about the things that are opposite of integrity – and how he will ‘stand against’, ‘destroy’ not let them ‘cling’ to him. Despite his shortcomings, he made a decision to not set his sights on anything that is worthless (verse 3).
If we used Psalm 101 as a guide for our hearts, maybe it would change how we encourage people. To ignite them towards finding the one and only thing that can spark enough passion in their spirit to keep them focused on the things of real importance. Eternal things. A heart that’s in the right place with God leads to wise actions.
Whether in a situation of uncertainty or acting out of plain defiance, the circumstance does not dictate the action. The heart, the spirit does. When our heart is consumed by our holy Father’s all-consuming fire, our behaviors and actions reflect it. We think with an eternal perspective. We step out of our selfish, tainted perceptions and process circumstances with a conviction that is more than just our own.
We have a undistinguishable Fire in our eyes.
What does that mean? What can having the Fire in our eyes do?
- It gives us courage.
- It gives us passion.
- It gives us fuel.
- It gives us strength.
- It gives us wisdom.
- It gives us direction.
- It gives us purpose.
It seeks to shine the light on truth. It seeks to extinguish lies, selfish ambition, and twisted misconceptions–all the things put in play by Satan, the Devourer.
With the fire of Christ fueling our soul and spirit and lighting up our eyes, there’s no stopping us! Enemies of Heaven, beware! “For our God is a consuming fire.” (Hebrews 12:29). Where there is light, darkness cannot hide (1 John 1: 5-10, John 1:5, 8:12, 12:46, Jeremiah 23:24, Matthew 10:26, Mark 4:22).
How to get the Fire:
1. The first action is to believe.
Believe the words of the Bible, accept Christ as Savior, give Him authority over you, and invite the Holy Spirit into your life. (If this is where you are, any of the gals from this blog are standing by to help you through this exciting transition! Contact us!)
2. Ask God for some Fire!
“O Lord my God; light up my eyes.” (Psalm 13:3) “Keep on asking, and you will receive.” (Luke 11:9)
3. Read about the Fire. Listen to encouraging words that spark its flames.
“The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord. All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the spirit. Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.” (Proverbs 16:1-3)
What to do with the Fire:
1. Watch and see what God will do.
“Wait on the Lord…” (Psalm 27:14) “But as for me, I will watch expectantly for the LORD.” (Micah 7:7)
2. Be Obedient (Acts 5:29, 1 Peter 1:14).
When you sense a nudge (and it lines up with the words of the Bible), act on it. “For it is not you who speak, but it is the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you.” (Matthew 10:20). “You know him [the Holy Spirit] because He abides with you, and will be in you.” (John 14:17) So “speak the truth in love,” (Ephesians 4:15), and be full of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).
3. Find your own bible scriptures.
Search the Scriptures for those that ignite that deep, fiery passion inside you, so that come what may, you are equipped to meet any uncertainty.
The verses that put the Fire in my eyes:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.” (Luke 4:18)
“Whoever believes in Me will also do the works that I am doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father” (John 14:12)
and He will send the fire of the Holy Spirit
(John 14:26, Acts 1:1-5, Acts 2:2-4).
I can do anything the Lord gives me strength to do!
I pray this over you:
“…that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.” (Ephesians 1:15-23)
Do you want to re-stoke the ‘Fire in our eyes’ together?