Friday, July 15, 2011

Fun In The Sun At Cedar Point

Our church had it's annual Cedar Point trip for the middle school and high school students. I have attended every year for seven years as a chaperone. This gives me the opportunity to get to know the middle school girls that each year I have had the pleasure of leading in the TURN program at Heritage Christian Church. It also gives me an opportunity to hang out with my own children who are able to participate.

Kelaiah invited Megan, her life long friend to go with us. The girls turned it in to a few days of girl time. In preparation for the big day, Kelaiah and I had gone shopping for fun girls stuff. She got matching t-shirts, flip flops and backpacks, lip gloss, nail polish etc.. On the back of the t-shirts she wrote "Best" on one and "Friend" on the other. Megan came over on Tuesday evening and they did their nails and laid out their clothes as they planned the next day's events.

Later on that night, I took the girls and Nehemiah shopping for snacks and beverage for the bus ride to and from. They were all so excited. This was Nehemiah's first time going to Cedar Point. He really was not interested in the big roller coasters, but his sister convinced him to go. She worked to purchase his ticket and bought him a water bottle and a hat just for the trip. He was excited about the fun to be had with her and his friends.

This was the first time I took a baby with me. Yes, baby Malachi went to Cedar Point. I was not willing to leave my little guy for a whole day, so I packed him up and took him with us. It was a joy to look down at him in the front carrier throughout the day. When the children were all on the rides it was me and my baby gazing into each others eyes as he smiled and cooed at his mama.

Having a big family I have learned to make adjustments as not to miss a single event. Each of the children have looked forward to my participation in this annual event; I did not want to disappoint them. I think it is very important to show them they are more important than my circumstances and well worth the sacrifice. I am grateful to God for his provisions of good health, a willing heart and a wonderful husband. It truly was a fun day in the sun!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Vacation On A Budget

As I shared in my last post I am diligently planning our vacation. I look forward to learning and relaxing together. It is always important for us to stay on a budget even when we take a vacation. When we travel the greatest expense we have is hotel cost. I will use Choice Privilege Points I have accumulated for one of our overnight stays and to earn two additional night stays from this vacation we will stay at a different Choice hotel location, closer to the beach for a couple of days.

The cost of gasoline is another big expense. I have been making wise purchases at Giant Eagle and Kroger to earn fuel points. I have also been taking advantage of the FREE $10 gas cards at CVS. My goal is to have 6 FREE gas cards. We will fill up at Giant Eagle when we leave and we will use the gas cards on the road. These efforts should really help save money.

Feeding our family takes careful planning so we don't break the bank. The kind of room and the amenities of the hotel play an important role in this. We always stay at a hotel that offers FREE breakfast. As long as the children eat waffles and fruit they are happy campers in the mornings. If we don't get a suite hotel, a refrigerator and microwave are a must because I will make most of our dinners. I will make fun things like hearty salsa with refried beans, chicken, corn and mexican cheese that we will eat with tortilla chips, over lettuce or wrap in soft tortillas, make your own sub night and chips, and coney dogs with coney sauce made from home. I will bring groceries from my pantry and my freezer. To transport the food we have a refrigerated cooler that we will pack and plug in while we travel.

I've been buying craft supplies, games and swimming toys. Walter will take care of the movies we will watch while on the road. The activities in Virginia will be very nominal expenses as we get a good discount as a home school family.

Is there anything I have left out? What tips can you give me to save money on this vacation?

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Bowie Summer Vacation 2011

I am in the midst of planning our summer vacation. One of my goals each year is to include a little learning as we relax and have fun together. The learning is based on our curriculum for history and science for the current year. This year in history we are studying the Late Renaissance-Early Modern history era. I am planning a trip to Colonial Williamsburg, Jamestown and Yorktown where we will have the opportunity to experience the culture of life in the 1700's on the eve of the American Revolution. To lead up to this trip we will be reading books and doing online activities as a family. These fun times are what make me appreciate the privilege of home schooling.

The relaxing and fun will take place at Virginia Beach. This will be a surprise for our children (hush...don't mention it), one they will really enjoy. Walter introduced them to Alum Creek Beach this summer and they have found that to be a fun adventure, making sand castles and riding the waves (smile). I can only imagine the fun Virginia Beach will be.

It's another long trip for the Bowie's, but we are used to long road trips, it's the only way we've traveled. Though packing is a chore and must be done strategically, there is some fun in planning the road games, hotel activities, and meals. So, the next couple weeks will entail me looking for sales for these things...what fun!

What cool trips do you have planned for the remainder of the summer?

Friday, July 8, 2011

Sowing and Reaping

Parenting is a process of sowing and reaping. It must be done consistently, with patience and zeal from the Father. I look to God as my mentor when it comes to parenting. He has the green thumb necessary for the growth of our children. He exemplifies much character when dealing with me as his child and I desire to parent like Him. Daily it is necessary to cultivate the heart and mind of our children, the soil, so they can receive those seeds that will be planted. This cultivating is done not only by what we say as parents but, I believe more so, by what we do before them. We must show them how to follow Christ.

Communication is the fertilizer; it is essential for the spiritual growth of the child and the growth of a strong relationship between the parents and the child. As my children have gotten older I found that it has been natural for us to talk about life as they experience puberty and young adulthood because I have always taken the time to share with them with the hopes of imparting wisdom and understanding. Along with talking to them, I learned along time ago it is very important to give them an opportunity to speak. I ask my children if they understand what has been said and for their input, validating them as an individual, a child of God. For I am not always right and I am willing to learn and grow with them.

Discipline and instruction are all a part of the weeding process. Children are born foolish and we are chosen by God to lead our children in the way they should go. While the children are young more discipline is necessary to draw them unto our authority and the authority of Christ. Instruction begins to replace discipline as the children grow older and wiser for they will have experienced a few consequences and are in need of more guidance and affirmation to keep them on the straight and narrow path.

The reaping is seen greatly in the rhetoric stage of life, young adulthood and throughout the balance of our children's lives. My prayer is that they will continue to blossom as they apply all that was and is imparted unto them that they might have life abundantly.

Do you see parenting as sowing and reaping? Explain.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Big Savings At Walgreens

Wow, I am so glad I learned how to shop and save at the drugstores! This week I saved big; I purchased $80.41 worth of merchandise at Walgreens for just $17.43. Talk about a savings, that's over 80% savings on items I am sure to use. I purchased Hanes Men's 3pk of Tank T-shirts, 1-Bird feeder, 3-Disney Cars tableware, 1-3pk Athletic Socks, Gillette Shave Gel, Gillette Facial Cleanser, Gillette Fusion Proglide Razor Kit, Coppertone Sunscreen, Crest Mouthwash, Goetz Carmel, 2-2pks Earbud Speakers, 2-Speed Stick Deodorant and 1 Travel Alarm Clock.

Much like their competitor stores, Walgreens have their own system of "money" called Register Rewards that is only good at Walgreens stores. Weekly, Walgreens offers deals that give you back RRs. RRs print out on a machine called a Catalina machine (this machine sits beside the register when you buy your merchandise). Cashiers will hand you your RRs with your receipt at the end of your purchase. Walgreens also takes manufacturer (MFR) coupons and store coupons (SC or Wags coupons). Remember, when using coupons in a transaction, the number of coupons you use must be the same number or less than the number of items you purchase. If you purchase 4 items, you can only use 4 coupons. Keep in mind, Walgreens considers RRs as coupons. When you don't have the number of items you need, find a “filler” item. A filler item is a very cheap item (a $.25 piece of candy) that gives you the same number of items to purchase as coupons needed to use for your purchase to take advantage of your savings. RRs cannot be used for alcohol, tobacco, prescriptions, and some other similar purchases.

This week I started my shopping trip off with two $5 RRs that I didn't spend from last week. I chose items from the sales ad that would give me additional RRs. As always, I browsed through the items on the clearance shelves to use them as my "filler" items. I also used manufacturers coupons on my purchases. RRs are meant to be used on your "next" purchase so separated my purchases into four transactions and as you see my savings was "BIG". I teach this in my Coupons 102 class. If you're interested in learning more you can register for my class by contacting me.

Did you save big on your coupon purchases this week?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Friends and Fellowship

Having multiple children has encouraged me to be creative with how to give my children as well as myself opportunities for fellowship with friends in the summer. I am not one to taxi my children around town or farm them out to others, so our home has become the gathering place at least one day, each week in the summer. Usually on Tuesdays, we have "Friends Day", a time when each of our children can invite one friend to come hangout, eat burgers and hot dogs and swim. This is an instant party when you have as many children as we do. It is a blast for everyone! It gives Walter and I an opportunity to engage with our children and get to know their friends.

Last night we had a family join us for a bit of fun and fellowship. We enjoyed hanging out and talking, while the children enjoyed one another. They played in the pool until about ten o'clock, finally with the volleyball net down and the big splash contest over they retired from the water for a bite to eat and a few minutes of Xbox Kinnect. I praise God for His many blessing...our health, a home and a heart of hospitality!

What do you do with your children for fun at your home?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Grocery Savings Can Equal Gas Savings

There are a lot of offers for saving money on groceries, some of which offer you savings on gasoline as well. The most recent offer I have found is at CVS. Yes, even the drugstores are getting in on the competition. Now it is very common to find groceries in the drugstores. Unlike the grocery stores of the past that would generally offer to fill prescriptions and would be stocked with basic over the counter medicinal needs and few hygiene products, you can find a variety pantry and refrigerated items available as well. With these products available it makes it easy for CVS to get in the game and draw us in to purchase items and save big.

To shop at CVS and save on gas you will need to spend $30 on specially marked items and they will present you with a $10 gift card to a local gas station. The cards may vary by store. Each week the specially marked items change, so it is important to check the sales ad weekly. I received one of these gas cards a couple of weeks ago and used my gift card immediately. I find the purchases are not always beneficial to our family; last week most of the items for this offer were snacks, foods we don't normally eat so I did not attempt to qualify for the free gas card. This week though, the items are just what I will need, so I look forward to taking advantage of the deal at least once this week.

The key to any of these offers is not to fall into the trap of purchasing just to take advantage of an offer. Remember the goal is to save money, so be mindful to compare your grocery store ads and your drugstore ads for greater savings. Move items around for shopping list to shopping list considering the purchase price and the items needed to qualify for an offer to get the most bang for your buck.

Have you taken advantage of any of the gas savings offers?

Saturday, July 2, 2011

You Can Make Money On Your Drugstore Purchases

I have been using coupons for years. It's one of the many things I learned from my grandma. It wasn't until a few years ago that I learned how to use the drugstore rewards programs and what a difference it has made in my savings in each week! CVS has a great rewards program. There is a true strategy to getting items you use everyday for incredibly low prices. I have even made money!

The CVS reward program is called the Extra Care Plan. Anyone can sign up for an Extra Care Card. Sign up in the store or online. With EVERY your purchase you’ll want to present your CVS card (or phone number attached to the card) to the cashier. Each quarter, the amount you spend in the store is totaled giving you back Extra Care Bucks. In addition, some of the store’s sales do not apply to your purchase unless you card is scanned. I was one of those people who had the card, utilize the sales, but did not know how to use the actual ECB rewards. While on vacation one year I met a lady at a park and she schooled me on how to take advantage of the theses rewards.

For those of you who may not be familiar, ECBs are found at the bottom of your receipt when you buy a weekly item that has an ECB reward. ECBs are CVS’s version of “monopoly money.” The “money” is only good at CVS locations. You do not want to throw this “money” out because it is spent at CVS like money. You can also “roll” your ECBs using ECBS to buy your next purchase of items that will grant you more ECBS. When you do this you are spending pennies out of your pocked but “recycling” CVS’s money. They carry an expiration date so it is very important to pay close attention to your ECBs. I can't tell you how many times I paid for just my taxes and received ECB's on that same transaction, making money on my purchase.

If you are interested in learning how to save or maybe even make money on your drugstore purchases plan to attend my Coupon 102 class this month.

What do shop for at CVS and how much do you usually save?

Friday, July 1, 2011

Home School...Planning For The Days To Come

July is the month in which I plan for the current school year. We usually take a vacation over the Fourth of July, and I take that time to reflect and refer to God for insight, wisdom and direction for our home school plans. I consider the success and failures of the previous year as well as the needs and desires for the current year. God has always given me much grace each summer blessing me with renewed faith and a fresh perspective that motivates me and gives me confidence to move forward. This year our vacation is delayed until the end of the month, but I will start today with prayer, casting my cares upon the Lord.

I am seeking God with anticipation. We have come through a big transition in our family, starting a full time business, being pregnant and having our tenth child in the past year. God's grace and mercy has carried us and I have gleaned much wisdom from the Lord. I have a glimpse of what God is doing with our family in this season and it excites me to know we are in His will. Though I don't have the full plan, I have peace and confidence in Him, so I will continue to seek him daily for His plan to prevail.

Technically, our school year began with a Summer quarter of Learning Enrichment. We indulge twice weekly in arithmetic and grammar lessons. I am teaching seven of our children ranging from eleventh grade to kindergarten. I use the Trivium and we are on the third year which is the year for Chemistry and Modern History. I hope to engage in few more field trips this summer relating to our areas of study.

Looking ahead to Fall quarter, as I gather material for each child's level of learning I must be prayerful as to how to teach them. Each child is different and they learn differently as well. I want to encourage them to grow in character even more than I do in academics. I need the Lord to reveal to me how to lead each one unto Him. I am also seeking God regarding our daily schedule as it will relate to education and work. We anticipate having at least one more of our sons join my husband in our family business this year, so the schedule is an important factor to be considered.

Home schooling is a part of our lifestyle. We recognize our call to home school as not just the act of educating our children in academics, but as an opportunity to walk in the responsibility of training our children and preparing them for life. What a privilege! This is sure to be a busy month of prayer and preparation and I am delighted to engage with God in this endeavor.

When and how do you prepare for the next school year?

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Online Coupon Codes Save Me Money

Recently, I shared that I purchased six pairs of shoes for $113. I was able to shop and save by shopping online, using coupon codes. Many well known stores like Kohls, Target, Barnes and Noble... have a place within their shopping cart for a "coupon code" that will give you a discount, a percent or dollar amount off your purchase. You can find these online coupon codes listed on sites on the internet such as Retailmenot and Dealigg. These sites offer a current list of coupons codes available to shop online at hundreds of stores.

To make the most of your online shopping venture it is important to know what you are looking for and stay focused on finding that item. Look first at the stores you would normally shop at in person. When I am looking for shoes I do not take the time to browse the other categories. Have a price point in mind and use the shopping menu which will allow you to view things at certain price i.e. lowest price to highest price or up to $20, up to $30 and so on. If at all possible take advantage of free shipping. As a matter of fact, if the store is offering free shipping if you spend a minimum $50 and the cost of the purchase is $4o and the shipping cost is $6.99, I would continue shopping, seeking clearance items first, to see if I could find an item for $10 to bring my total to $50 for free shipping. I would rather spend my money on an item instead of on shipping.

I prefer to shop online, especially if I can use coupons in addition to current sales and have my purchase shipped for free. Some stores will even allow you to use more than one coupon code per purchase. This is a great way to shop, it saves time and money, it even saves gas. Follow me on Twitter @fruitofherhand to keep up on the latest deals and discounts.

Tell us how you used online coupon codes and saved big.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

To Love God Is To Obey Him

It is unfortunate that christian marriages end in divorce just as often as non-christian marriages. God ordained marriage. It is a covenant made unto Him as well as your spouse. Some people make this promise with very little commitment. When things get difficult or ugly and require long suffering, sacrifice, selflessness and forgiveness too often do people give up and give in to the destruction of the adversary. Satan seeks to kill, steal and destroy, especially marriages.

When making a covenant in marriage, we are committing to the union of one flesh, " And they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh. Mark 10:8, KJV. To deny this covenant is to deny one's self. Love is what draws two people together and when that spousal love fails it's the love of God that must prevail. When Walter and I had a difficult season in our marriage, I called on the Lord. I shared my frustrations, my disappointment and pain. My heavenly father lead me back to the Word, "If ye love me, keep my commandments." John 14:15, KJV.

God is my first love and to love him is obey Him. Man's chief end is to glorify God and enjoy. My heart belongs to Jesus. I live to do His will, "...let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth." 1John 3:18, KJV. In the midst of my storm my love for God is what kept me. Even when I felt I had the right to be angry, vengeful, hurt or sad, it was God's love and forgiveness that lead me unto love and forgiveness for my husband. I know the Word but He called me to be a doer of the Word, to obey Him.

Many people feel that to forgive, to press on and love their spouse who does not seem to love them back would be wrong. But this is exactly what God would have us to do, to trust Him and the plan He has for us and to obey even when we are right or when injustice is our cross to bear. My love for God caused me to surrender to His will..."What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder." Mark 10:9, KJV, and His way..."Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore." Ps 16:11, KJV. I humbled myself and faithfully submitted myself to God and to my husband. God's way brings peace and reconciliation, hope and joy.

Do you love God enough to obey, to submit yourself to Him and to your husband?

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

How To Use E-Coupons

Electronic Coupons or E-coupons are a new item in the coupon world. These are coupons that are downloaded to your customer loyalty card and then redeemed at the time of purchase. You now have the choice of saving money without clipping coupons. To get started you must first get a customer loyalty card from the cashier or service desk of your grocery store. This is the card you present each time you shop to receive discounts and specials. If your grocery store offers e-coupons you can find them on the stores website. Before you browse the coupons it is important for you to register and log into your account. You can then select the e-coupons you are interested in. Note the expiration date and the quantity of the items necessary to receive the discount.

Another way to find e-coupons is to visit e-coupon websites such as Cellfire, Shortcuts and Proctor and Gamble. These companies have contracts with a variety of grocery stores; when you register you will need to select your grocery store and enter the number on your customer loyalty card to redeem e-coupons.

Currently e-coupons do not double, thus you will not receive the drastic savings you may be used to if you clip coupons and receive double the face value of the coupon, but they are good to have when you are purchasing two items and you only have one paper coupon. When you are at the grocery store it may be difficult to remember what items you have e-coupons downloaded for so, when you make your shopping list mark the items with e-coupons with (e-c) in the left hand margin. E-coupons are great for items that don't normally offer coupons in the paper form. I have found to get the best use out of my e-coupons it is a good practice to make my shopping list online and then to browse e-coupons after I have made my list so that I can add them for the items I do not have paper coupons for.

Do you use e-coupons? If so, where and how?

Saturday, June 25, 2011

I Just Don't Have Time For Coupons

I have been addressed at the check out counter many times by people who see the end result of my savings when I hand the cashier my coupons and the balance is about half the cost of my initial bill and they say things like, "I just don't have time for coupons". I gently respond and tell them, I just don't have time to work. I have a full time job, I am a wife and mother and I find it a privilege to be at home, available to keep a home for my husband and to train our children. Money is a necessity, but I don't have to have an income, I can contribute my time and my wisdom to what my husband provides for our home and that gives us an increase, not in what earn but in what we save.

I understand that cutting coupons can be a chore at first, but the benefits are worth keeping this a part of my lifestyle and weekly routine. One of my many tasks as administrator of our home is to manage the finances. This appears on my weekly to do list three or four days a week and cutting coupons is one of the items covered as part of that task. I also visit a handful of coupon blog sites each week to stay current on the grocery store and drug store ads and to print coupons. Here is a glance a my weekly schedule:

Sunday-Scan the Sunday sales ads and plan any purchases to be made this week, clip and file coupons, make drugstore shopping list

Monday-Host a coupon class and gathering (this is to add to our income), start grocery shopping lists

Tuesday-Enter household receipts in the computer

Wednesday-Read blogs and print coupons, shop at the drugstores

Thursday-Enter household receipts in the computer and pay household bills

Friday-Read blogs and print coupons

Saturday-Shop at the grocery stores

Having these tasks scheduled have kept me organized and current on the deals which allows me to save money in all aspects of spending money.

Do you manage the finances in your home, if so, how?

Friday, June 24, 2011

Virtue Family Fun Camp Is Not Just For Kids

About 14 years ago God laid it upon my heart to invite women to my home for dessert, a message and sweet fellowship. This was the beginning of the ministry Virtue. I opened my home for this occasion once a month for probably 3 years. Then the Lord lead me to have a bible study for women and their children at my home once a week. As a home school mom of multiple children this was feasible and enjoyable for our whole family. Even my husband enjoyed having the families attend each Monday. As time went on and we were blessed with more children the Lord lead me in a different direction and that was to have a family fun camp which would include a bible study or a book study for the moms, prayer and fellowship for 9 weeks in the summer.

This is my fifth year for Virtue Family Fun Camp and I am always excited to see what God will do each year. For the children camp includes a book assignment and book review, a craft and an outdoor activity each week and for the moms this year we are doing a book discussion and review on Hinds' Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurnard our prayer focus is "Home Sweet Home".

My children and I look forward to Virtue each week. It gives us an opportunity to have sweet fellowship with other families. We are able to reconnect and learn and grow together for a season. Each week we encourage one another. I really enjoy having lunch together and doing crafts with our children, together. It reminds me of a village of women doing life together. I also enjoy the book discussions and prayer. There is just something about being vulnerable with my sisters in Christ that inspires me to stay the course. Sometimes we are fortunate enough to meet a new family at the park and invite them join us.

What family activities are doing this summer to reconnect with your friends and make new ones?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Building A Stockpile For Your Family

It's a good idea to buy extra items when they are on sale, especially staples, those items you use on a regular bases. To build a grocery stockpile you should make a list of dry goods (rice, pasta, flour) frozen foods (frozen vegetables and meats) and canned goods (vegetables, beans, tomato)e sauce and paste) . Consider the recipes you frequently use as well as your weekly meal planner. You should also add paper products (toilet paper, napkins, paper towel) and toiletries (tooth paste, lotion, deodorant) to your stockpile list. Refer to this list when you scan the grocery sales ads to make your weekly shopping list so you can be sure to make your purchases when the items are marked down. For greater savings, look for a coupon for the items that you find on sale and when it is feasible buy more than one of the same item especially if you have multiple coupons.

Before you start shopping to build a stockpile it would be wise to make room for your items in your pantry by clearing a couple of shelves. Your basement is a good place to add cabinets or shelves for extra storage. You can even use your garage just be mindful of the frequent change in temperature. To stay organized you should arrange your shelves like the grocers do. Arrange cans and boxes in nice neat rows so you can see what you have at a glance. Put things in storage containers when necessary.

To keep your stockpile you should set a restock limit. Our limit is one; when you leave one on the shelf that item is to be added to the shopping list, not when you open the last one because with a our large family you could use that one item your are taking quickly. When you put new items on the shelf, store them in the back of the current item to make sure you use the item that will expire soon first. When you make your shopping list, check your pantry so you can add the items that have reached their restock limit as you find that they are on sale.

What do you do to keep your family stockpile current and organized?

Train Up A Child

"Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it" Prov 22:6 KJV. This is our golden rule. We take it serious, the responsibility to train our children. We are to train them from day one, while they are young, ready and eager to learn. Our baby is almost six months old, everyday when he rises he beams with excitement as he engages on the floor, crawling, exploring with such curiosity. He is already learning about temptation and authority as we instruct him not to chew on cords or put things in his mouth. To train them is to give them wisdom and understanding; keep them from sin and the consequences thereof.

This training is initiated with purpose, diligently with a goal in mind, "...when he is old, he will not depart from it." Instruction and discipline are key in this training. I liken it unto the "basic" training one would receive as a solider; train them for the future, the purpose in which they are to fulfill. Our children range in age from twenty years old to six months old and we find that the training of children is the same as the children get older. We must keep the same goal in mind even as they go through the rhetoric stage of life, trying that which we have imparted unto them.

We are still blessed to have the opportunity to impart wisdom unto our twenty year old. We find that though he is older, he too is still learning and growing. In this season the training initiated is that of guidance, reproof and encouragement. I find it important to open the door for conversation and to take the time to listen while praying unto the Lord. When training our older children that which we impart is done firmly, yet gently with that same hope of impressing the goodness of the Lord upon them as we had when they were younger.

We recognize even with this golden rule our children may depart from the way in which they were trained. But that will not discourage us from staying the course, from seeking the Lord daily on their behalf and training each of our children with commitment and purpose. Whatever their choice in life, Walter and I will rest in God knowing that we have planted seeds of life and we will trust Him to give the increase.

What differences do you find in training your children as they get older?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Extreme Couponing...Stay the Course

I know extreme couponing is the latest craze, but don't be distracted by all the hype. There are a lot of people jumping on the opportunity to save money on items they will never use. Stay the course, we are in this for the long hall, remember; using coupons is just one of the many things we can do to save money. Wise shopping is a lifestyle, not a hobby or a phase. I learned along time ago, the more money I save, the more money I have, because obtaining more money is not always promised.

You must train yourself to look for a deal, spontaneous shopping will ruin your budget, even when it's for a few items at the grocery store. It is a good practice to ask what do I what do I need. This holds true in the kitchen, in the closet and in the home. We usually don't have a need, we simply have a want and if we are creative we can satisfy our desire without breaking the bank.

If you plan your purchases and take advantage of the discounts being offered, you can save a lot of money. You can actually eliminate or replace an income simply by changing your mindset and shopping on purpose. Just think if you had an income of $1800 per month, that's $600 per week and you chose to become a stay at home mom. Well, you would immediately eliminate the need for 70% of your weekly income by eliminating a few regular, weekly expenses i.e. the need for childcare-$300, gasoline-$75 and lunch-$45 not to mention the other minor expenses that making money incurs. The remaining 30% or $180 can be money saved by shopping wisely. This is how we've been able to live on one income.

This weekend I noticed it was time to purchase a few pairs of shoes because several of our children had a need for athletic shoes and dress shoes. Now, this could have been some big spending since we had at least three children in need. The first thing I did was check my email for the latest sales from the retailers (Kohls, JCPenny's, and Payless) that sent me notifications of their deals for the week. I also checked out Target's sales ad on line. Then, I visited Dealigg and RetailMeNot to check out the current online coupon codes. Next, I called in the children so they could choose which shoes they wanted. To make this simple I always define my search with lowest priced first and we scan the ones we can afford without making the others an option. My children are pretty simple when it comes clothes and shoes, so the shopping was quick and painless. In the midst of all of this I realized there were two more children that needed shoes, so I gave them a few choices as well. My final purchases were made at Target, Kohls and Payless for a total cost of just $113 for six pairs of shoes! I even saved on gas by shopping online. Though this process took time, it was time and money well spent.

How have you stayed the course of shopping wisely for your family?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Quality Time On A Dime

As I mentioned yesterday, a few weeks ago it was laid on my heart to spend more time with my husband each weekend this summer. It was our normal practice to get dressed up and go out once a month for dinner and a movie. Well, for us once a month is just not often enough right now, so we will be having a simple date each week. We need uninterrupted time alone, time to talk, laugh, take a walk or maybe even make out at the park :). This will be a double blessing, we will spend more time together and less money. Our monthly date usually cost about $50 and I have budgeted our weekly dates at $10 each week, that's $40 a month . Even with this budget I want to be creative and give my husband a choice of where we will go and what will do.

I have printed or clipped coupons for:
Dine In
Bucca di Beppo $10 off any purchase of $20 or more
The Spaghetti Warehouse Buy One Get One FREE Lasagne or Spaghetti
Fridays $5 off purchase of $15 or more
Max and Erma's FREE Chips and Guacamole
Steak and Shake Various Meal Deals and Buy One Free Milk Shake

Take Out (and Picnic)
Quiznos Sub or Salad Buy One Get One FREE

So far we have gone to Steak and Shake $10 (purchased two meals using coupons and a tip), Smoothie King $4.99 ((Buy one get one free smoothie) and Barnes and Noble Cafe $4.29 (Buy one get one free smoothie). We have enjoyed our quiet times together at the restaurant, in the car and walking through the mall. It's truly not about where we go, what we do or the money we spend, it's all about having time alone with my husband, my friend.

How do you and your spouse spend quality time on a dime?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

He's Not Just My Husband...He's My Friend

One of the joys of being married to Walter is that he is my friend. Talking, watching television (even sports) or simply spending time in our office together have always been things we've enjoyed doing together. Actually, it really hasn't been about the activity, so much as being in each others presence. There are couples who do not spend time together and if they do they really don't enjoy it. God blessed us with this gift of friendship and it is something I know we can't take for granted.

God is the core of our relationship. We started this relationship with Him; through prayer we knew we were soul mates and by prayer we have maintained our bond of marriage and our friendship. As with most couples and friends, we don't always agree and we have had many bouts of frustration and disappointments, but because we are committed to God and committed to each other we have come through some rough times. Commitment, prayer and obedience have been the things that have kept us.

About twelve years ago we started having a lunch date once a week. Initially, we would get a babysitter for the children and we would go have lunch and spend time together. When the babysitter and going out were no longer feasible, we stayed home and brought our lunch in and we'd have lunch and a movie in the "love nest" (our bedroom). So many times during our lunch date the presence of the Lord has been so evident to me. We still have our weekly lunch date. This commitment alone has helped us to come together as one, it enables us to be consistent about just the two of us sharing time, space and meal together.

I must say there have been seasons of drought in our relationship, times when life has been more difficult and we became distant from one another. Because we've had a fruitful relationship, a drought does not go unnoticed, in fact it is very apparent. During these times, God has been quick to convict me and draw me unto Him. He speaks to my heart calling me unto obedience. He makes it clear to me that I must trust and obey Him.

I love my husband, my friend and when we are lacking, I am lacking. I don't seem to stand against the daily toils of life as well when we are not on one accord. I have learned to listen to God in prayer for Walter is His child and He knows how to care for him and how to correct him. When I am obedient and faithful, I feel a peace even in the midst of a drought and a calm in the midst of our storms. God has his way of bringing us to a place of reflection and repentance and that is good soil for pulling weeds and planting new seeds.

This is a season of planting for us. God has called me to appreciate my "Mr. Steady" for who he is and to cultivate our relationship by pursuing him. I have asked him to go out with me each weekend this summer, not for an official date like dinner and a movie but for a time of "courting" if you will. We've gone for a meal and sat in the car and talked and joked and we've gone for a beverage and taken a walk around the mall holding hands. I am so grateful for this gift of friendship. God knows exactly what we need, for He wants us to like one each other as well as love each other.

What do you and your spouse do to cultivate your relationship?