Sunday, November 7, 2010
At any rate, alcoholism is a sin, too, and I've gotten beyond tipsy a few times in my life. So I'm a sinner, too. I'm a repeat offender in a lot of areas, and nobody tried to subdue my ability to serve in the military. In fact, if I'd turned into an alcoholic while in the military, I would have been provided treatment programs and given special medical attention/counseling.
It's so infuriating to hear people say, "Well, if they (because politicians obviously don't represent their constituents at all, ever, right?) let gays serve openly in military, I'm getting out." Sure you are. The military is one of the most stable, well paying (at any rank, don't believe what anybody says-they just refuse to factor in all of their benefits) jobs available right now. It doesn't take a whole lot of skill to get into the military. Once in, you're taught everything you need to know. You're encouraged to continue your education. You have all sorts of reduced rate products available to you. There are special organizations for any need you can possibly dream of: the Exceptional Family Member Program, the Personal Financial Management Program, spouse support groups, children support groups, etc. And this is just from my knowledge of the Marine Corps. I'm certain the bigger services have even more programs available.
Anyhow, with this issue going to court, I wonder how many people are actually preparing their dissent papers so they can attempt to separate from the service upon Congressional and Supreme Court approval to allow gays to openly serve in the military. I'm guessing maybe 1% of people who feel that way may have even started wondering how to even begin that process. If service members aren't going to go through the hassle of attempting to get out because they oppose the policy, then why is there such a hullabaloo everywhere else? Just let them serve.
Now, I can see where higher level managers might be worried with the logistics of allowing openly gay persons serve in the military. Who are they going to room with? Are they going to be allowed to live out of unit quarters in on- or off-base housing just because of their sexual orientation (this is usually a privilege allowed for more senior servicemembers)? If gay people are allowed to room together, will heterosexual folks be allowed to live together? It could be a logistical nightmare...but if we're saying no to able-bodied people who are willing to serve just because of a logistics problem, well, we've got some serious issues.
And if anyone doubts the ability of a homosexual (particularly in the case of males) to serve well, let's just look at that famous conqueror, Alexander. They called him "The Great" for a reason-he was a military genius, and he loved men as much as I do. Well, I love one man, but you get the idea.
Plus, why is the military getting all hissy on this issue? If the military is so straight-laced, then there should be public outcry against all the strip clubs and bars found within three miles of any military installation. The only area the military is still "conservative" in is that of adultery, and even that is hard to prove.
So I guess my point is, if there is an underwhelming movement for current servicemembers to leave the military upon permission for openly practicing homosexuals to enter it, then let's make it happen. This is the land of the open-minded, isn't it? I mean, if Suzy Q. can sue McDonald's for handing her a hot coffee that she dumps all over herself as she drives away and win the suit, then what gives? We can't pretend we have scrupulous morals when ridiculous lawsuits like that win...or even worse, when legit lawsuits go nowhere because the accused has enough money to tip the scales of justice in their favor. C'mon, let's get real here!
The United States of America was founded on conservative, Christian ideals. The Puritans were all but kicked out of England for being too conservative, for goodness' sake! So sure, we could call this a Christian nation when we were founded. But America is not that anymore. America is a liberal, relativistic nation with no solid foundation for its morals, making us secular. So why are people getting all wrapped up about secular people acting in secular ways?
If Christians want to change the way the nation does stuff, then they need to start acting on their convictions! Christians need to start spreading the Word and loving people the way Jesus did. Because I know Jesus would be the first One to invite Himself over to a rich gay dude's house to show him some truth. Jesus would also the first One to include me in the brood of vipers for adding things to His word. From the beginning, we've been called to love God and love each other as we love Him. That doesn't mean we have to join in the sinning, but it does mean we need to reach out to the sinner and love him or her genuinely. This is a serious case of What Would Jesus Do, and I know the answer: He'd do the radical thing and just love people they way they are and reach out to them, no matter what they have done or are doing. He did it over and over again as a man, and He's still doing it today.
Challenge: This is a hard one. Love like Jesus does.
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
...It's not just older women who leave the big money questions to their husbands. Despite strides in the workforce, traditional roles are still common at home. Women as young as their 20s frequently defer financial decision making to their spouses or even their fathers.
Why do we do this? No idea about you, but here's my reason: I'm lazy. My grandfather and dad taught me all about budgeting, saving, and giving as a kid/teenager, and I managed my finances rather well during college. I gave regularly to my charities of choice, my IRA was funded, and all of my bills were paid on time. As soon as I got married, which just happened to be the day after I graduated from college, I handed the financial keys over to my husband.
Bless him, he tries hard to keep me in the financial loop and involve me in the two-year budget plan he's designed for us. I'm just not super interested. I know where my investments are, our debts are paid off (praise God!!!), and our budget is detailed enough to let me know where I can "borrow" from in case I overspend on the groceries (what SAHM really needs regular dry cleaning?). My husband does everything he can to give me an equal say in the budget. Since I know he tries so diligently to involve me, I repeatedly scourge my brain to come up with different versions of, "Whatever you think is best." I'm sure it frustrates him to no end, but I hope he's comforted in the fact that I really do trust him that much.
In my own defense, I do my best to keep receipts and plug them into Quicken so we can have an accurate picture of where our money is going. And I track certain sections of the budget in my head and on a white board in the kitchen. But still, I'd prefer to leave all financial matters in my husband's hands.
Why, though? Am I just washing my hands of the responsibility/burden of making financial decisions? Do I not want to hear any semblance of "I knew we shouldn't have done xyz"? Do I think I don't understand financial jargon? I don't know. Maybe I really am just that lazy. This should be an interesting conversation starter for my husband. I'd LOVE to hear his opinion. That's the great thing about being married-you always get the truth, and it's usually filtered through rose-colored glasses. :) And yes, I adore my husband. He's worth his weight in nuclear-grade plutonium.
Here's another thing that really caught my eye within the same article quoted above:
Studies show that parents have the single most important impact on financial behaviors and knowledge...Few families have frequent conversations about money, and when the topic comes up, they "speak to their daughters differently than their sons."First: Another argument for the importance of having parents who are involved with their kids. Amazing! It makes me glad I'm a SAHM now, though I know there are tons of ladies who do a fab job of working and raising their kids "right." Personally, I know I'm doing a better job mothering as a SAHM than I did when I was working.
We have three daughters, so I guess our financial training isn't going to be too unequal. We've already beaten the idea of saving into their heads. Every coin they find gets placed into our three part bank. The girls like giving to the church the best. The "bank" (savings portion) is second most popular while the spending slot has the least. That's encouraging.
Funny anecdote: I gave our two older girls $1 to spend at a rummage sale. The older one found a pair of princess shoes that she quickly picked up and paid for. The younger one carefully examined everything and talked to me (as best as a 2 y/0 can) about the items she liked. In the end, she decided to keep her $1. A few days later, we were heading to the mall, and I gave the girls another $1. The younger said, "Me have two now!" When my eldest protested the unfairness of the numbers, I had a lovely chance to explain the difference between saving and spending all over again. The point is, despite all the teaching we do, it's our kids' responsibility to put the lesson into action. As parents, we need to make sure we take the time to teach our kids properly.
Second, why in the world would we (parents) talk to our girls differently than we would our boys regarding money??? Most Americans would agree that women are perceived as bigger (that is, more frequent) spenders than men. Wouldn't that make it more of a priority for parents to give their daughters a solid financial foundation?
I'm thankful I had such good financial training as a kid. I understand everything my hubby tries to include me in, and I know I am able to contribute intelligently to financial conversations (should I choose to). How would I feel if I didn't know what was going on, though? It would be a source of constant irritation that would provoke me to one of two courses of action: 1. figure it out (hard to do without a lot of time to invest) or 2. ignore it by letting my husband do everything. It's nice to be able to choose to let my husband everything instead of being forced to do so.
Challenge: Figure out how you feel about finances. If you want to change that feeling, take action to do so. If you're a parent, make sure you provide good lessons (both verbal and by example) to your kids (regardless of gender!) about how to handle money. Check out the budget planning resources from BeatingDebt.org to get you going in the right direction.
-Domestic Goddess out.
Thursday, October 14, 2010
This pair of photos, taken by Sally Davies, shows a standard McDonald's Happy Meal fare. The picture on the left was taken on Day 1 of Ms. Davies' experiment. The picture on the right is Day 180. Wowzah! I can't imagine how that meal is maintaining its good looks, but I need to know because imagine how well preserved I could be, too! Maybe McDonald's should take their secret to the beauty industry...
Just looking at this meal gives me the creeps. Granted, I usually order my kids the chicken nugget and apples meal, but still. I can't even begin to count how many Happy Meals I've eaten in my lifetime. What could that stuff have done to my insides???!!!
Now, I'm not going to blame McDonald's for making me fat. That's my own fault for not using up more calories than I consume...and that's the case for most people who are out of shape, no matter what they tell you. Getting in shape (use more calories than you consume) is as easy in principle as preventing debt is (spend less money than you earn).
But still...maybe whatever McDonald's is using in their "100% USDA-inspected ground beef" patties is not the healthiest thing for me to consume. Ah, organic meat is looking better and better, despite its cost (I bought 3 regular-sized, organic, free-range, etc. chicken breasts for $10.50 at Wegman's vs. 12 really large, mass-produced, "normal" chicken breasts for $8.90 at Sam's).
Maybe it's time for our little clan to finally go vegetarian...I doubt that would work very well. The kids don't eat any vegetables other than baby carrots and the occasional broccoli sprout. It will be a huge experiment, I'm sure. Maybe my consort and I can be the vegetarians and the kids can have organic chicken nuggets. Or maybe I'll be eating my salad or beans or quinoa while everyone else slices into a juicy steak without me. We'll see!
Today's challenge: Think about where your food came from and what you think it should look like in 6 months. If it's not completely decomposed in your mind's eye, then don't eat it! :D
-Domestic Goddess out.
Thursday, October 7, 2010
Thanksgiving is actually my favorite holiday. It has all the togetherness and home cooking of Christmas without as much stress and definitely without the commercial drive to buy everything in sight. In all frankness, I'm not really looking forward to Christmas this year. I'm sick of buying and giving presents to people who don't really want them or need them. Just how many iPod gift certificates does a person want in their lifetime anyway? And how does that make any kind of positive difference in anyone's life? I'm turning more and more into a Scrooge every day.
That being said, I still want to get something for my kids and my husband. I like buying them stuff because I get to see them enjoy (or at least use) their gifts. Isn't that the point anyway? How can we truly enjoy giving when we have no idea how the gift impacts the person?
This year, I want everyone who feels compelled to buy me something to go to AdventConspiracy.org and donate money to Living Water International instead. Wouldn't it be cool to be part of fixing a global problem? As many serious global issues as there are, this is one that is rather easy to mend. And I don't have to know the people to know how they're impacted. I've hiked around for days and had to carry all my own water on me. Having water fresh and close by is such a blessing. I am always so glad to be able to turn on the tap and drink my daily 3L of water. I'm sure the people receiving the "gift" from the LWI folks will be much more grateful than I ever could be.
Something Christmas-related that did crack me up was this article from MSNBC. Call me mean, but check this out:
Such basics will likely resonate with consumers like Muna Abdushukui, 29, who lost her job working in a gift shop two months ago, and has had a hard time finding work.
Abdushukui, who was at the Mall of America in Minneapolis recently with her 3-year-old daughter, said she's just sticking to the necessities.
"I'm buying food," she said.
If she's only "buying food", then why was she at the MALL OF AMERICA???!!! Does that seem strange to anybody else? If you're trying to lose weight, you stay away from buffets. If you're trying to save money, you stay away from malls-especially one like that. I'm sorry, but it's just funny. I'm find zero humor in her difficulty finding work, so please don't think I'm horridly unfeeling and mean. It's just the journalist's choice to include that location with that quote is unintentionally hilarious to me.
Aside from that strange humor, the article has good news for all you folks still planning on celebrating a typical over-the-top American-style Christmas. Apparently, we haven't spent enough in stores this year, so they're going to seduce us into parting with our money by offering their stuff at great prices...read: a SALE. I used to be such a sucker for that word. Now it usually only works in the grocery store. Buyer beware! Do your research before buying anything on sale, especially if it's from a chain store. Trust me, they are going to make their money somewhere, so stick to your guns and buy only the bargain you've validated!
Here's a good Christmas challenge: Review your gift list and see how many people you can trim from it. If you don't really want to give the person a gift out of love or out of desire to fulfill one of their needs, then why are you giving it to them? If you must give them the gift due to familial standing or something like that, then give a donation in their name instead. That way, you can help a cause you truly believe in vice giving the person something you bought at the last minute. Just a thought.
-Domestic Goddess out.
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Actually, I think it's good that the economy recovers slowly. It'll give us more time to think about what happened and how we got there. It cheers me to see articles titled "Save with scratch-and-dent food", "Jackson-area residents revert to traditional ways to save money", and "Are you misplacing hundreds of dollars?". The more our population strives to stretch pennies in one area, the more individuals can free some up for important items like savings accounts, emergency accounts, and IRAs (all of which are usually considered "frivolous" in times of economic hardship).
When we realize our personal buying on credit has turned our debt-based economy into a bi-partisan mess, we can clean up our spending, start saving, and get educated on the politicians who want to represent us. So many of us vote for the here and now solutions without bothering to consider what impact they'll have on tomorrow. Let's force our politicians to offer us viable solutions that have a realistic look at tomorrow by only voting for those who are socially and environmentally responsible for today and tomorrow.
Additionally, let's get educated on where exactly all of our stuff comes from and what impact that has on us as Americans and as Earth-dwellers. For example, do you have any idea how your jumbo-sized chicken breast got to your table or why tons of inner-aisle grocery products have corn-based ingredients? How does our constant need for meat and sugar affect our economy, environment, and health? Watch Food, Inc. to get a few of these answers. Check out ShopResponsibly.org to see what you can do to be a more responsible shopper.
Finally, let's all live cheaply. What's wrong with frugality becoming a lifestyle instead of emergency habit? Proverbs 13: 7 says "One man pretends to be rich, yet has nothing; another pretends to be poor, yet has great wealth." I'd rather be the person pretending to be poor instead of actually being poor. Forgive me if that sounds callous, but it's true. There are very few people in this world who would chose to struggle financially.
Here are some cheap living ideas:
- Planting an herb, vegetable, and/or fruit garden in your backyard is one of the greenest things you can do that will pay for itself.
- Reuse or upcycle your stuff.
- Buy used stuff (especially cars-just do your research first).
- Be your own personal dishwasher.
- Line dry your clothing.
- Walk, run, or cycle in your neighborhood and buy some (used) weights to make your own at-home gym.
- Start a co-op for things you need: baby-sitting, meals, cleaning, etc. You'd be amazed what people will do to avoid paying for something they'd be doing for themselves anyway.
Take the challenge: Find one thing you're willing to change in order to be more frugal and/or greener. Once that becomes a habit, find something else. Slow and steady makes for lasting change. Think about how your actions today impact tomorrow. That's change we can all believe in! ;)
-Domestic Goddess out.
Saturday, September 18, 2010
Sure, I love getting gifts as much as any other Average Jane does. Who doesn't like unwrapping the surprise that may lay within? But in all honesty, once you watch Advent Conspiracy's video, you kind of have to reevaluate the whole idea of excessive giving at Christmas, regardless of your spiritual beliefs. Although Advent Conspiracy is a religious-based organization, it's easy to see the AC team is working to do great things for humanity in general.
If you're not the religious type, watch Annie Leonard's "The Story of Stuff" video. Reducing Christmas giving would have a huge impact on the state of the health of our Earth. Plus, once you realize how big companies are playing us for our money, you may not want to buy as much any more.
As for me, I'm not going to completely give up gifts. I'm resolving to be a responsible gift-giver this Christmas. Check out this great idea from BeatingDebt.org called "Debt Free Christmas." You have the opportunity to volunteer for the organization by committing to celebrating the season without incurring any debt and then doing one of the following: organizing a personal debt education rally; placing educational signs around your workplace, housing area, school, etc.; providing convincing reasons to stay away from debt (e.g., via a blog); or giving up some of your gifts for charity.
I've decided to commit to staying debt free this season, and I'm going to blog about staying away from debt and ask people to donate to charities instead of giving me gifts. You may be surprised, though. Even though I asked for donations in my name instead of gifts last year, I still got gifts. Lots of them. It was a little discouraging, but I did get two family members to donate instead of buy me stuff. As time passes, I'm sure people will get used to not giving me things. It'll just take some time to break certain people (like my parents) of the habit. :)
And if someone does decide they absolutely have to buy me something, I'm going to ask for new underwear. Goodness knows, we can always put a new pair of those to good use!
-Domestic Goddess out.
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
Our first meeting and weigh in was this morning. As I stepped onto the scale, I went to that happy place that detaches my brain from the number flashing back at me...and that’s when I realized: there are other areas of my life that need some serious tweaking.
Although our family is debt-free (THANK GOD!!!), we still do our very best to be responsible consumers and to shop responsibly. If I’m a responsible shopper, why am I using my debit card almost every day of the week? Even though I’m pretty strict about not shopping on Sunday (to promote a day of rest and to give companies less profit, which is the only reason they’re open on Sundays), every other day of the week produces a gross amount of receipts.
I (finally) took over as the primary Quicken data input person early last month. As a result, I became all too well aware of how often I pull out my debit card. I produce at least thirteen receipts on my own in just one week! Ack! And that’s despite knowing exactly what my budgetary constraints are!!!
So, I’m going on a new type of diet. I’m going to dedicate two days a week as “no spending days.” Sunday is already taken care of, so I have to plan carefully on what the other day should be. I’m thinking Thursday is the other. I’m also aiming to “only “have twelve receipts: two gas receipts, three grocery receipts (we spread it out over three stores to maximize the cheapness), one medical receipt, and six miscellaneous.So far this week (read: today, Monday), I’ve already produced five receipts: one gasoline, one medical, one out to eat, and one class-related (I’m taking a cake decorating class and had to get some supplies), and one auto (annual inspection) We’ll see how this goes!
I figure this: if I’m controlling the amount of times I go out to buy something, I’m doing lots of good. First, it helps me stay in our family’s budget. Second, it reduces the amount of driving I do, which leads to all sorts of good things: less wear and tear on the car, less gasoline used, less nasties emitted into the atmosphere, less road rage (almost always a by-product of driving in the Northern Virginia area), and more time to actually hang out with the kids or do homemaker stuff. Third, it forces me to really think about whether I need something. Stopping to think about a purchase is an excellent way of staying within my financial diet.
Therefore, this little experiment (I’ll try it for a month) should do my family, the environment, and me lots of good. I’ll do my best to remember to update! Please support me or challenge yourself to do something similar!
-Domestic Goddess out.
Monday, September 13, 2010
Then I remembered I needed to update some beneficiary information in my bank account, so I logged in, adjusted the information, and voila! It was done. As I explored my bank's website, I got curious about other banks, so I started doing bank searches to do a little side-by-side comparison. WOW.
Banking with the nation's "name brand banks" is an expensive venture! I couldn't believe how many fees some of these banks charge. It's ridiculous, and yet, I see lots of people whip out these banks' credit cards when I'm out shopping for groceries. Seriously, if you want to ease up on your wallet, find a small, local bank or credit union that offers all the bells and whistles of a big bank (e.g., great online services) without all the fees (start-up fees, checking fees, online bill paying fees, ATM fees).
Be smart and be willing to search around a little. My bank offers very low-interest rates on its credit cards (we have a debit card but use it as credit so we can collect the cash-back rewards), and it refunds us up to ten ATM transactions per month. Talk about customer support! It also offers free (albeit boring and uncool) checks and the ability to deposit checks by scanning and with a smartphone app.
Do your homework-it usually pays off in the end. Use your savings (and some discipline) to finally top off your emergency fund or to pay off outstanding debt. Make good use of that money you were losing previously. For good ideas on how to use your money well, check out BeatingDebt.org's Run Route. You'll be glad to get on the road to financial wellness!
-Domestic Goddess out.
Thursday, September 9, 2010
I’ve been researching “things to do” for our family of five (three kids aged 3 and under), and the more I look for places to go in Northern Virginia, the more I realize that what my kids really want to do it play with other kids. When I look for adult-only activities, I realize all I really want is to enjoy my friends and husband.
The cheapest “thing to do” is simply to invite people over. Sure, we have to go out and find friends first (we are recent transplants to the area) at the park, church, or my eldest’s preschool, but once we get past the “I’m just making sure you and your kids aren’t really annoying or psycho” stage, the easiest thing is just to go over to each other’s house. It’s great for me because I don’t have to worry about paying an entrance fee or for food and, domestic goddess that I am, it motivates me to actually deep-clean the house. It’s a win-win situation for everyone! Going over to friends’ houses or having them come over is probably a lot better for the environment, too. No need to pay for or use extra carbon-footprint increasing stuff like restaurant A/C and bathrooms. If you’re having take-out, the delivery guy won’t always drive a hybrid, but you can make your own meal/snack if you want to get greener.
This translates just as easily for us adults. I love celebrating birthdays. I love making a big to-do about things and making people the super-center of attention. Last week, for my husband’s birthday, I invited a couple of friends over. We ordered an awesome mix of Asian foods, and I made my husband’s favorite dessert. Between us all, we had four kids and no worries about a tantrum or potty/diaper incident in a restaurant. We were able to drink wine without getting evil glares from people without kids. It was great. The only part I pseudo-missed was getting dressed up, and that’s really over-rated when you’ve got a [cute] baby who should have been named Slimer.
Girls’ nights out at home just got popular, too. Check out http://www.thursdaynightdinner.org/. The ladies who came up with this site are all about getting together in the comfort of someone’s home. Book clubs are another popular at-home/have fun venture. Guys have been getting together for sports and cards forever, it seems, so maybe they can be credited with being the greener sex. Who cares? Just figure out something fun to do, invite some people over, and have at it!
Why go through all the trouble of buying a McMansion, or at least a home that you’re happy to live in if you’re not going to: a.) use it or b.) show it off. We’re surrounded by stuff that we don’t use or even really need for anything but decor. If you’ve got it, put it to some use! Let your friends see your eclectic collection of Star Wars stuff (junk, my family calls it, but I love it!) or your collection of crosses from around the globe. Pull out that espresso machine you swore would take Starbucks’ place three years ago and learn how to make capuccinos for a fraction of the cafe price. Throw a monthly crafting party so you can learn a new skill or get caught up on stuff you started before your kids were born (like my middle child’s baby book). Watch a great flick on your awesome, ginormous TV with its wall-shaking sound system with $4/box (not $4/bag) popcorn and not-allowed-in-the-theater wine. You liked it enough to spend your hard-earned money on it, so use it! (That being said, please don’t run off and buy something new to entertain your friends with-be creative and use something you already have, or ask someone if you guys can use their thing.)
As adults, we spend lots of money on toys we think will help us kick back or give us some self-perceived status. However, we rarely or never use them! Why the waste? We have lots of people who we consider friends but who we only see a few times outside of work/school/what have you. Get to know someone better! Reach out! In a land where very few of us live close to our blood relations, we have to seize every opportunity to make a “friend who loves at all times” (Prov 17:17). Take the challenge-find ways to play at home with people besides your family.
-Domestic Goddess out.
Sunday, August 29, 2010
...That married couples with a working wife saw income grow by 1.12 percent per year above inflation, on average, between 1983 and 2008...families where the wife stayed home actually saw their annual incomes decrease by 0.22 percent each year on average, when including the impact of inflation.
Sure, it makes sense that people with two breadwinners make more money. Anyone who can do simple math could tell you that. But let's ask some more poignant questions:
1. The difference in annual incomes between duo-working parents and one is only 0.9%. Remember, that equals only $9 out of $1,000. What advantages are there to making 0.9% less than the "normal" American family when it comes to family-rearing?
2. What is the difference in the family debt-to-income and savings-to-income rations between the two family types?
First, the fellow stay-at-home moms who have left the work field to raise their children and tend their families are MUCH more content and fulfilled. I can say from personal experience that I certainly am as well. Being a stay-at-home mom isn't a walk in the park. It's downright hard sometimes. I hate cleaning and playing Martha Stewart. Sometimes, I'm just not creative enough for my little inquiring minds. I run out of energy and patience (usually in that order). But, at the end of the day, I know I'm doing what I've been called to do: step back away from the world for a (long) while and focus on the small unit that builds our society.
I take joy in being the first one to see my kids overcome a struggle and learn how to problem-solve. It gladdened my heart when my little girl waited patiently for a Secret Service agent to finish his impromptu talk while on the White House tour so she could tell him, "Jesus is alive. Jesus loves you. Thank you, sir." Knowing I contributed to her education and development makes me want to burst when she (and the other two) do or say things like that.
Second, most couples who have a stay-at-home parent usually do their financial homework before "taking the plunge." After factoring child care expenses into the family budget, it's usually cheaper for the family to have a parent at home. It certainly is for us. When I was working, daily child care for two kids ate up 25% of my income. I was fortunate to have a great-paying job, but there are so many people who don't. Since we knew we wanted me to stay at home after my commitment to the military was completed, we saved and practiced good, old-fashioned financial discipline so that we had paid off all our debts and had a decent savings account before I entered the stay-at-home mom ranks. Our planning and willingness to be disciplined allowed us to take the 0.22% decrease in our annual income without really missing anything we were accustomed to before, and I praise God He gave us the Bible to learn how to use our money properly.
One of my in-laws works a "basic" job and makes just above minimum wage. By the time she takes childcare out of her paycheck, she has just enough to pay for the health insurance offered by her company and have $50 left over. She works hard and spends about nine hours a day away from her kids so she can have $50 and a very basic, meager health insurance plan. It's devastating to her, but what can she do? She and her husband didn't plan before having kids, so they're stuck with the duo-working parents system.
Even people who didn't plan ahead do manage the stay-at-home stuff pretty well. Another family member had serious debts but preferred to have mom stay at home with the kids to save the family in child care costs. They did some frugal living by using coupons, shopping sales, accepting hand-me-downs, etc., and though they still have quite a lot of debt to pay off and not a whole lot in savings, they're "making it." Their debt ratio is lower now than when they were both working, and their savings ratio is higher.
I guess my point is: people who decide to have a stay-at-home parent find ways to make their finances work. There are tons of websites and blogs run by stay-at-homes to support and give tips. There are lots of Christian financial resources that help people learn how to view and use their money properly. Where there's a will, there's a way, but it's easier to get there when you have the proper tools.
Check out BeatingDebt.org for some great free/minimal cost financial resources to help you prove that the price of -0.22% annual income is well worth the loss.
-Domestic Goddess out.
Wednesday, March 31, 2010
And yet as I've grown up, I've really begun to understand how time works. One second will always be just one second. One minute will always be sixty seconds, and so forth. Time is a constant. Sometimes, it's an asset, and sometimes, it's a liability.
Furthermore, I've come to a real epiphany on time: it does not work the same way for God as it does for us. Since He created it, He can bend its rules as He sees fit! Our job is simple: bring our needs to God, and He'll respond with His solution. In most of my circumstances, waiting for the solution has been much more difficult than realizing I had a need. Why? I want to do the work. I want to be the clever one who thought of a solution to her problem. Where's the glory due to God in that?
When we wait for God to act or answer our questions, sometimes it really does seem like forever. Realize this though: sometimes, He's just waiting for one of His other kids to be obedient and be the blessing we need them to be. We are just as responsible for the way we use our time as we are the way we use our bodies, money, belongings, etc. When we don't have an issue that needs heavenly intervention, we need to be most "in tune" with God to make sure we are doing everything we can to help others out. Just because we're doing well doesn't mean that our neighbors are!
I urge you (and myself) to be especially aware of all the opportunities we have to be a blessing. Sometimes, it just needs to be a smile and wave at the neighborhood kid who looks a little down after school. Other times, it'll be acting on a conviction that came as a result of prayer and communion with God.
The point is, we need to be using our time to enjoy God, as John Piper encourages us to, and to fulfill our commission of spreading the Gospel. This can be done through full-fledged, "legit" ministries, like being a full-time missionary, or by being a godly role model for our at-home family and church family. God calls us to serve exactly where we are. We don't have to be like Paul to be doing our godly job! Use your time well!
-Domestic Goddess out.
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
For anyone who is considering taking the plunge and becoming a F/T SAHM, be encouraged. I thought I'd go crazy and find a job within two months of F/T mommy duty. I was wrong. I love being at home with my kids. Sure, they drive me a little batty sometimes, and they really test the expanses of my imagination/creativity, but it's all for our own good.
I love being here for their firsts and seconds and thirds as well as for their not-so-polished times. We're all learning and growing from each other, and I think we're really developing as a family because of it.
If you're a fellow SAHM, thanks for the inspiration. If you're thinking about becoming one, give it a try. You can always find another job and daycare later.
And let's all remember: all moms, whether we're working or with the kids, are to be praised. Nobody knows better than us how much we love our offspring or how much we are willing to do for them. Keep on keeping on, and when things get hard, just remember: God is a parent, too, and He still loves us! :)
-Domestic Goddess out.
Eco-friendly washable suede and certified organic cotton toddler shoe. The suede is from an eco-certified tannery (BLC/ISO 14001) and organic cotton comes from non-genetically modified seeds and is grown without the use of pesticides and herbicides.'Soft and fuzzy certified organic cotton fleec...
Sizing: Feels true to size
Width: Feels true to width
Pros: Breathable, Comfortable, Stylish
Cons: Fades Quickly
Best Uses: Running, Casual Wear, Walking
Describe Yourself: Comfort-oriented, Practical
Love these shoes. They are perfect for everything, and I am so excited that they're better for the environment than the average kids' shoe.
My daughter wears these shoes everywhere, from the park to the zoo to church. They are very durable, and I love that they're washable.
My only gripe is that the material faded out immediately after the first washing. In the long run, though, the fading makes the shoe look kind of "vintage", and we get lots of compliments on them.
I bought these shoes a little large, but now that my daughter is the actual shoe size, they still fit perfectly. Thanks, Simple, for making a great shoe and running such a responsible company!
Monday, February 15, 2010
Another thing that really irked me recently is my neighbors' inability to pay for their homes. Of course, you really don't get mad about something until it happens to you, and I learned this the HARD way regarding the "declining housing market." My husband and I are getting ready to move and started gathering statistics on our local market. Imagine how unpleasantly surprised we were to find that our home, purchased just two years ago, appraised at $20,000 LESS than what we paid for it. How did this happen? Almost every home that has sold in our neighborhood over the past 15 months has been a foreclosure or a short sale. Thanks to irresponsible (referring mostly to the foreclosure) people, all of our equity has pretty much vanish. This made me VERY angry-unapproachable, in a silent rage type of angry. (And yes, I do honestly think people who have been foreclosed are irresponsible.) Ugh.
But all that drives me back to my Bible. Thankfully, it makes lots and lots of things very clear. Here are the two basic truths that are pulling me through: 1. There will always be foolish people, and 2. At some (or mostly likely, several!) points in my life, I will be one of them! Here is the basic truth that completely delivers me: God loves me anyway. He reminds me to seek His will and act in love.
That means I need to have a forgiving heart and a willingness to try to help people prevent their own mistakes. For the magazine, that means I need to write to the editor and let him know I had serious issues with an advertisement so clearly against Christian principles in his Christian magazines. For my neighbors, well, I need to ask for forgiveness from God on their behalf, as I didn't tell them anything. I also need to make sure I talk to my friends who are thinking about buying homes or anything else on credit. I can help them analyze their incomes and show them whether the purchase is an ideal one. While my works will NOT save me, I know acting in love is the best way to reach out to people.
-Domestic Goddess out.
How many of us have long forgotten our 2010 resolutions from January 1st? Why? Were we unwilling to say "no" to the television time in order to say "yes" to increase our family time or even personal time (reading, hobby, exercising, etc.)? We let ourselves make excuses so easily. How about changing your financial status? Did you decide to make and keep a budget but refuse to use your credit card responsibly?
So many "yes" changes in our lives require a huge willingness to say "no" somewhere else. Look at it this way: if you didn't want to be better than you are now, you wouldn't be trying to make the change in the first place.
I encourage you to reevaluate your 2010 resolutions. Examine why you have or haven't made enough progress. What are you doing right? What do you need to do better? Try to improve yourself by 1% every day.
Just remember, by saying "yes" to some change in your life, you are also saying "no" to something else. Keep your eyes on your goal and know it's attainable. Constantly remind yourself of what you want to achieve and think of ways to get yourself there. You can do it!
-Domestic Goddess out.
Sunday, January 24, 2010
The thing I liked about this is how the dad forced his teenager to do two things concerning money: think (evaluate) and save. When we step back and truly evaluate an item before purchasing it, we make better decisions. A couple of lessons I've learned...the hard way:
1. Cowboy boots. I got it in my head that I wanted cowboy boots. Don't know why. Finally got them after three months of thinking about them. Do I wear them? Rarely. They weren't a good buy, and I had no idea why I wanted them or what I'd wear them with. I'm going to hang on to them until my feet return to non-pregnant size. If they're not on my feet over six times between May and August, they're getting sent to the local Goodwill!
2. A Smart Phone. Gosh, I've been wanting one of these for ages. However, I haven't needed one. My phone does one thing, and it does it well: it allows me to make phone calls. That's about it. I can receive texts, but I rarely accept them because it charges more to my account. Things are going to change, though. I'm going through real estate training right now. Once I become a full-fledged agent, I'm going to NEED one of these phones (according to everyone I've asked-and I've asked at least 30 of my classmates already listing and selling). My endless research on CNET and Consumer Reports will be brought to fruition! :) I'm sure I'll enjoy my new phone (won't get it until April) greatly and that it'll be very useful in my new (part-time only!) job.
So, evaluation is one of the greater parts of valor in shopping. If you decide you can't live without the newest widget, fine. But be sure you deconflict your purchase with what you already have or what your money is already allotted for (i.e., credit card bills, insurance, utilities, loan payments, etc.)! There's nothing wrong with wanting something new. Just make it work with what you have.
Which brings me to my second point: SAVE your money for the things you want. Why buy on credit and make interest payments on top of the face-value price (unless you can pay off your card at the end of the cycle-if so, bravo!)? Start a "Got to Have My Smart Phone" fund within your bank accounts and funnel yourself money every paycheck. The money will add up fairly quickly, and you'll appreciate your purchase that much more.
If you have kids begging you for a huge purchase (i.e., their own cell phone and new plan for themselves), tell them sure, as long as they pay for half of the phone purchase and half of the monthly bill. This gives them input and more important, responsibility, in the matter. Think of how many ways you can damage your phone. Now think of how many ways your teenager can damage a phone. Isn't his/her responsibility in the matter just a bonus for the both of you?
Saving and exercising personal discipline over your finances takes a lot of mental strength, but I know you can do it! Instant gratification is just that: here now, gone tomorrow. Think about how much more you'll enjoy your stuff if you've determined you actually want it and how you can use it and if you've saved your money to acquire it. Happy evaluating and saving!
-Domestic Goddess out.
Monday, January 18, 2010
Thinking about it, though, I do think we (especially those who profess to be Christians) are called to be green. Again and again, I realize we are merely stewards, not owners, of everything we think is ours. To be a steward is to be a caretaker. Think of Lord of the Rings: Return of the King. Denethor, the dude who goes crazy in the midst of battle, and his family were charged with maintaining the kingdom of Gondor in the king's absence...even though Gondor had been without a king for hundreds of years. That's our job with Earth. Check it out: Gen 2:15 Then the LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it. (NKJV, emphasis added)
Additionally, it's just as important to take care of our bodies as it is to take care of Earth: 1 Cor 3:16-17 Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are (NKJV).
Ever heard of the old "trash in, trash out" theory? Well, that's not completely true. Sure, some of our trash ends up in the toilet, but our bodies actually absorb a lot of the junk we put into it. We very happily poison our bodies on a regular basis! What could be worse for the environment? Sick people need to use a lot of artifice to get them better. To quote my doctor friend, "Our bodies were designed to be healthy." Shoving nasty stuff (like margarine, pills, anything processed, etc.) will take its toll on us eventually.
I'm actually going through a purification (which is a combined cleanse and detoxification program) right now. It's a 21 day program in which I primarily eat vegetables and fruit. My grocery bill is much higher right now than it's been in a long very long time. However, I feel fantastic! I get fuller on much less food, have much less food angst (if you're a former/struggling fattie, you know exactly what I'm talking about), and am reveling in the tastes that are exploding from the foods I'm eating. It's great. I can only imagine what my health would be like if I continued with this. To me, it's much better to invest in my health now and enjoy the benefits instead of steadily eating myself into a person who's been fighting with sickness her entire life. Plus, it's good incentive to get rid of the old black thumb and get a garden going! :)
All in all, being green is good for everyone and everything around us. It's very fashionable right now, but more importantly, it's godly. Keeping the Earth and our bodies in good repair definitely makes "green"liness closer to godliness than cleanliness does!
-Domestic Goddess out.
Right now, my husband and I are studying the book of Hosea. Two verses (NKJV) really jumped out at me:
And Ephraim said, 'Surely I have become rich, I have found wealth for myself;
In all my labors they shall find in me no iniquity that is sin.'
When they had pasture, they were filled;
They were filled and their heart was exalted;
Therefore, they forgot Me.
That made me question how much I really want to be "wealthy" when I finally "grow up"! Look at what devastating results Israel experienced when they became wealthy. Is that really what I want for me, my husband, and our kids?
In addition, my husband is reading The Gospel According to Judas, which referred to the following pair of verses (NKJV):
Lu. 6:20, 24
"Blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of God...but woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation."
Again, where is the true reward in wealth? Is it something we should strive toward? So many people work so very hard to pay off their bills so they can finally save money. To what end? Most of them want to be rich when they retire.
Is that bad? I won't say. All I can say is that it seems many people meet bad endings when they do finally become rich. These verses show us just how devastating wealth can be: it blinds us to the outpouring of love and blessings God has given us that allow us to be rich. If there's something worse than knowing God and turning your back on Him, I can't think of it right now!
Again, I come to this truth "the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows" (1 Tim. 6:10).
What's my point? I urge you, strive for more than being rich! We are so much more than what we wear, drive, own, or use. Wealth, is, when the end comes, just something we leave behind. Strive to be the man or woman God calls you to be. Work diligently to fulfill His purpose for all of us: to enjoy Him in all His goodness and love for us and to go make disciples of all peoples.
If God decides we're to end up wealthy, so be it. But let it be a by-product of His grace, not the fulfillment of your life's work. Use the principles He gives us in the Bible to use the money He gives us in the wisest way possible. For financial help, check out a Bible-based assistance program like BeatingDebt.org.
-Domestic Goddess out.
Saturday, January 16, 2010
Imagine our thankfulness for God's provision and foresight when we felt called to go on a mini-trip this December! Our pastor preached a moving sermon one Sunday morning that made our spirits stir so much, we immediately began making preparations to go somewhere, anywhere when we got home.
God provided us a way to go to Costa Rica to fulfill our hearts' desires for doing work for Him. We stayed with a missionary couple and helped do some work on their church. We even had the opportunity to go out and about and have a great time exploring.
We are so thankful to God for allowing us to plan and save for this wonderful trip. We had a wonderful time getting to know people and doing some "work" (that was more fun than actual hard work).
My husband reminded me of part of Joseph's story. Pharaoh had a dream that revealed Egypt would go through seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine. In the times of plenty, Joseph set up a "savings plan" for the country that allowed them to store up enough food for the years of famine. Not only did Egypt have enough for its own people, she had enough to sell to her hungry neighbors. Despite the famine, Egypt managed to prosper.
This story sort of reflects on our family and how we were able to go on this trip. We saved money while I was still working. When we got the call to go now that I'm unemployed, we were able to because we trusted God and saved our money instead of buying things we wanted but didn't need. We prospered because we were blessed by the wonderful people we met and the natural beauty of the country we visited.
So many times, we (especially Americans) are called to serve God, but we feel like we can't because we can't afford His calling. What are you doing today to prepare for serving God? Are you giving to God faithfully? Are you saving money in a "God's Calling" fund? Are you disciplining yourself and refusing to give into the blatant consumerism that is so rampant in our country-that is, are you buying things that you want, not need before giving to God? Putting yourself before God is bad business!
God calls us to be faithful and trust Him in all our decisions, especially the hard personal and financial ones. He promises to provide everything we need. This doesn't necessarily mean we'll have easy, prosperous, wealthy, or even healthy lives. This simply means He will fulfill our every need. He uses use as He sees fit, and sometimes, what He has in store is greater than we can imagine. I urge you to trust God and put your life (and money) in His hands. I promise, He will surprise you with how He decides to bless you!
If you are interested in learning about how to manage your money in a Bible-based manner, check out BeatingDebt.org. It is a non-profit Christian financial ministry that has oodles of information and resources available on its website.