Tuesday, January 15, 2008

My 2008 Goal - Attack our mortgage!

This post is from Laine's Letters.

Dear Sisters,
Hi! Yes, the house is really paid off. I received the deed from our bank a few days ago and posted it on the refrigerator with the words, "Paid In Full! Praise God!" It is such a miracle. I know many of you are struggling with tight finances. We have lived with tight finances all of our 24 years of marriage. My husband's take home pay is $29,000 a year with six people living in our household (and a lot of guests ~Smile~), yet for many years it was much less than that. We only live on his income. I know some of you live on even less. In our area of Southern California, our income is considered a low middle income wage. However, I feel so rich.
Over and over again the LORD has taught me so much that I would have never learned had our finances not been tight. And I wouldn't have been able to help other women as well. It has been my pleasure to encourage so many struggling in their finances, because I know that struggle. I also feel that the LORD is teaching my children some valuable lessons as well in all of this. Isn't it interesting that God chose to put His Son into a family with tight finances, too, when He walked on this earth? I find His ways so fascinating.

Now when I find my budget tighter than usual, I think, "No matter how tight it is, all our debts are paid in full!" It is such a good feeling. I was thinking this very thing recently when the LORD let me realize that, "No matter how many struggles in my life, all my sinful debt is paid in full at the cross!" Yes! That is better than financial debt paid off and so very freeing. I'm just in love with my LORD and desire so much to please Him.

"For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the Kingdom of The Son He loves, in Whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins." Colossions 1:13-14

"He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations that was against us: He took it away, nailing it to the cross." Colossions 2:14

I am going to try to share with you in this letter as much help as I can the myriad of ways we saved money on my husband's income to pay off this house in 17 years. I have been a full time homemaker for 22 years out of our 24 years of marriage, so it is just my husband's income that we've primarily lived on. Some women write to me and think I have a job, because I often mention "my job". Well, presently, homemaking is it! Art brings home the money, and I do my best to stretch it and/or multiply it through the myriad of ways that the LORD teaches me. I call it "Home Economics". I'm in the business of stretching my husband's income and making this home cozy, comforting, and clean. It makes for a full time job for me. ~Smile~ I've learned that the more I learn to save, the busier I am at it. That is why Proverbs 31 makes so much sense to me now. That woman is some saver and stretcher in my eyes, which explains why she is so very busy building her home in so many ways.

I am also going to try to explain why we did some of the things we did. Many of them are Biblical reasons, which we learned to take God at His Word and put into practice. Sometimes it was very hard...many times it was very hard. But the LORD is faithful and keeps showing us the way. My motto is, "Pray and Pay, Pray and Pay" , especially on our last debt now paid off - our house.

Presently we are praying to put our sons through college debt free. So far, Quincy, my oldest, has paid for all of his college out of his own pocket. He sold a car the year before to pay for two classes at Bible college in 2003. This semester he worked five weeks as a welder to pay for a full load at Bible college. It was very hard work for him. But as my grandmother says, "Where there's a will, there's a way." And I add, "With God all things are possible, and He'll show us the way!"

I could see in Scripture years ago the value of a trade and being able to fall back on it. I prayed a trade in for each of my sons. Now Quincy used his welding trade to pay for Bible school, as well as keeping up with teaching piano to 15 students. Brady is working three jobs and was able to pay for half of his Bible schooling. Next semester he will pay for all of his schooling and may have to use his welding trade to do that as well. How thankful I am that they both have a trade to fall back on. God is so good!

As Abbie is entering into her teens now, with only a couple of months until her 14th birthday, we were praying about putting her in a cooking assistant program which would have earned her a certificate as a chef's assistant in about two years. But she was too young for the program, so I continue to teach her cooking here at home. She wants to learn the skills of a pastry chef. God's timing and plan in it all. Jesus never fails!

Gabe is taking drum lessons as of last year. He's doing really well. My father was a professional drummer for years, and it seems his grandson has "his beat". It's a noisier practice than piano and guitar, but worth it. I hope the neighbors feel that way as well. ~Smile~

Well, that's a bit of what has been going on in my home. Now here is as much help as I can think of to give you concerning "Home Economics" which we have practiced for years in our home and aided us in paying off our house in 17 years:

1~ Tithe the first of our income - as soon as it comes in. This is the foundation of our money.

"Honor the LORD with your wealth, and with the firstfruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine." Proverbs 3:9-10

We had a hard time with this when we first began tithing, and it was hit or miss whether we tithed or gave. We definitely had a "purse with holes in it" as described in Malachi for those who do not put God first in their finances. We then got serious and gave regularly. God sewed up the holes in our purse. All our kids tithe regularly and have for years. We just don't want them to go through what we did on our finances before we learned to put God first. So we've taught them how to tithe, how to give, how to save, and how to spend their money wisely as they've grown up. It's amazing to see how they handle their money. I am so grateful to God for teaching us first, and now them.

"Bring all your tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in Mine House, and prove Me now herewith, saith the LORD of Hosts, if I will not open you the Windows of Heaven and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it." Malachi 3:10

Philippians 4:14-19

2 Corinthians 9:5-14

2~ Give to the poor and those that are in need every month, as well as the spreading of the gospel. I always preach this to my kids. A generous man will be blessed, the Bible says. I help my husband to be a generous man, which he is. One of the ways I help him to give is to be content with the things that I have so that we are able to give.

"Godliness with contentment is great gain."

"Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." Luke 7:38

"She extends her hands to the poor. Yes, she reaches out her hands to the needy." Proverbs 31:20

"He who has pity on the poor lends to the LORD, and He will pay back what he has given." Proverbs 19:17

"There is one who scatters, yet increases more; and there is one who withholds more than is right, but it leads to poverty." Proverbs 11:24

"He who gives to the poor will not lack. But he who hides his eyes will have many curses." Proverbs 28:27

3~ Pay back all our debts. We paid more on the principal every month to get the house loan paid off quicker. This was our last debt. When we had a van payment, we paid it off in a year by paying more each month. My husband and I did not buy each other Christmas presents that year, our gift to each other was the last payment on the van. We find it better now to pay saved cash for a vehicle, which we did on our last vehicle, rather than a loan, if possible.

We also pay our taxes and have the money ready when it is required.

"Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes: if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor. Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law." Romans 13:7-8

"Do unto others as you would have others do unto you."

"The wicked borrows and does not repay. But the righteous shows mercy and gives." Psalm 37:21

So we paid back all of our debts. Many, many times at self sacrifice. I so wanted my husband to have a good name in the community and to be a man of honor and respect. The wife is to do him good all the days of her life and to respect her husband. By self sacrificing, I did my best to help him be free from the bondage of debt and to have a good name in our community. You can't imagine how joyful my husband is at having no debt against his name. He is lighter than a feather! It gives me so much joy to see him so free and at peace. It was worth all the self sacrifice, and I would do it all over again and try even harder.

4~ Save, save, save. Every paycheck I do my best to put a little away. Even if it is only a little, it is a savings. We have a savings account (Freedom Account - which I will explain later), a retirement account where a sum is taken out of my husband's salary each month (you don't miss it when you don't see it), and an emergency account for emergencies. I highly recommend all three.

"There is desirable treasure and oil in the dwelling of the wise, but a foolish man squanders all that he has." Proverbs 21:20

"A good man leaves an inheritance to his children's children." Proverbs 13:22

"He who loves pleasure will be a poor man." Proverbs 31:17

5~ A good budget is a necessity. There are so many good Christian books on budgeting by Larry Burkett and Ron Blue among others. I can tell right where I am in a month just by checking my budget in my purse that I keep on 3X5 cards. I have one card for my monthly budget which looks like this with my figures next to each item:

Freedom Account
Gas & Electric
Drum Lessons
Animals (we have goats, chickens, a cat and a dog)
Art's allowance
Laine's allowance
Gas for vehicles
Vitamins & Herbs

Then I have a Yearly Budget also in my purse on a 3X5 card which looks like this with also my figures next to each month:

January - Boys' college & books & parking

February - Taxes prepared - pay tax man

March- DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles)

April - House taxes due

May - Car Insurance due

June - nothing

July - nothing

August- Homeschool charges due

September - Boys' college and books and parking

October- nothing

November - nothing

December - House insurance due, Dental cleanings

By keeping this yearly budget, I can tell at a glance what is coming up for that month so that I am not taken by surprise.

We have medical insurance with copays, but no dental or eye. We have no sick pay, nor vacation pay. So if we want a vacation, or Art is sick, I must be save in advance or be ready for this.

I also keep in my purse a Bare Bones Budget. This is the budget I would refer to if my husband became ill or hurt for a period of time. As I mentioned, we do not have a paid vacation, nor sick pay, nor dental or eye care. So these are the things I must plan for in advance. Likewise, if my husband became ill or hurt, I would need a barebones budget. So I keep that just in case I ever need to refer to it.

6~ A Freedom Account is something I learned from Mary Hunt years ago. (She is another author I recommend in the area of finances.) I take my yearly expenses and divide that amount by twelve, then I know how much has to go into my Freedom Account each month for these yearly expenses when they crop up. Then I don't go into a panic when a bill arrives that I've forgotten. Rather the bills are all notated on the month they come in and planned for in advance by having the money deposited each month. It takes discipline, but it's so profitable once you've been trained by it.

7~ I do my best to keep our electrical and water bills as low as possible. When we were in an electrical crisis and our bill tripled overnight, we went into a very small, hip high refrigerator with no freezer and shut down our water heater. Some of you might remember that letter. ~Smile~ We had to heat our water to bathe and to wash dishes. It was rough for awhile, but I was able to keep us on our budget.

8~ I keep our telephone bill at $25 a month or lower. (This month it was $17.) The way I've been able to do that is by using a phone card from Costco (at 3 1/2 cents a minute) for long distance calling. I can make a phone card that costs $20 last for about 4-5 months. We call my mother-in-law weekly and a few other calls during the month, but mostly we write letters or e-mail. I estimate we save about $600 a year on the average phone bill.

9~ I save a lot of money on food by cooking from scratch and by continuing to try new recipes in my kitchen. My food budget is $100 a week for six including paper products, cleansers, and toiletries. (If I have guests, as has happened in the past few weeks, I use my personal weekly allowance for food as well, which is an extra $20.) My boys eat like my husband, so I had to raise my food budget over the years as they grew. I make a lot of things from scratch including some cleansers (as I've shared with you on the website) and cheese, buttermilk, yogurt, etc. (as I've also shared with you on the website). I make almost all our bread and keep stretching myself in this area to include all types of bread. It's amazing how much you can save in this area alone. I don't buy cereals, rather I made granola each week. We also have muffins, pancakes, scones, waffles, eggs, etc, for breakfast, which are so good and save so much money. Breakfast foods can be very expensive if bought already premade.

I buy the Sunday paper for the food coupons and use these doubled in my area. This helps to stretch my food budget as well. A few weeks ago I had a tight month, so one week I spent $37 on food, and the next I spent $45 on food. I was able to do this by using coupons and my stocked pantry and freezer. I really try to follow this verse:

"In the house of the wise are stores of choice food and oil, but a foolish man devours all that he has." Proverbs 21:20

I use my crock pots and bread machines so much. I also make things ahead and freeze them. I make beans and rice ahead and freeze it. These side dishes are really nice to have on hand when I need them. And I freeze bread ahead for my boys' and my husband's lunches. I just pop a frozen bread in the oven at 350 in the early morning for 30-40 minutes, and it's ready when they get up. I can do this with cookies as well, just freezing the dough ahead.

I like to have my freezer ready with food in it so that I can go "shopping in my freezer". I shop from the weekly specials and either freeze or store for later use. I pray before I shop, while I shop, and then after I shop as to what I will cook. I love shopping with the LORD! ~Smile~ I just popped some beef bought on sale in the freezer this week.

I shop early in the morning at 6:45 a.m. after we clean the church for the marked down meat in my area. I find they are marking it down at 6:30 a.m., and the early bird catches the worm or the reduced meat!

There is a wonderful bakery that marks down all their breads half price at night before they close, so I hit there when I am in town for Gabe's drum lesson. I pop these in the freezer for those times when I can't bake my own bread. I can get a wonderful, large loaf of fresh bread for .72 a loaf sliced. Such a deal!

I keep a large assortment of canned foods in case of an emergency and for regular use. I also keep my dried goods filled and ready to use. So I try to keep these three areas as well managed as I can. I buy a lot of canned goods around the holidays when they are on sale, then I use coupons to bring the prices even lower.

Of course, I love the areas of the stores that mark down cans and things. I save a lot . We also have a couple of stores that are about 45 minutes away, which we visit a few times a year for big savings. It's a lot of fun to make the trek and see what you're going to find. One is a canned food outlet, but they have a lot more there than just canned foods. Yet everything is really discounted. Another is a discounted grocery store.

I shop from many stores and loss leaders, so I shop weekly. This produces the best savings for me. I just shop when I am next to that store during the week, so I don't spend any extra on gas getting there. For example, I am next to certain stores when we clean the church, so I hit those stores on that day. I am near certain stores when Gabe takes drum lessons for 45 minutes, so I hit those stores. I keep a running list in my purse so I know what I am getting where. I also have their ads delivered to my home, so that I know their specials each week. Some weeks I may spend over $100, but the next week I may spend only $65. It depends on what I find for specials. I cook according to what I find. Having numerous recipes helps so much.

If I want to make sauerkraut, I buy the cabbage in March or November, when it is at a very low price for St. Patrick's Day or Thanksgiving. I buy cranberries in November and December to freeze for the year. They keep so good in the freezer. I freeze many fruits in the summer for winter use. I also have learned how to dry fruit or tomatoes, if I have an abundance. Apples are delicious dried, and we go apple picking every September. I try to take advantage of what each season offers.

I try to cook from many countries as I find this helps save money, and it's so delicious and nutritious. I cook from Mexico, Spain, China, Japan, Tunisia, Greece, Italy, Germany, France, among others. I check out cookbooks from the library from these countries and try the recipes. Tonight we are eating from China. It's a lot of fun, and you don't miss eating out as much when you bring the recipes home to your kitchen.

Speaking of eating out, that is something we don't do very often, so it's really special when we do eat out. In fact, my kids always thank their dad a couple of times after we've eaten out. It is really such a treat for all six of us to dine out together. If we do have a date out, my husband and I will share a breakfast together. That is one way we can afford to have a good time on a budget. We use our personal allowance to treat each other. We have a favorite place that doesn't mind us doing this, so we have breakfast there about every two months or so. I really enjoy it.

I love the Dollar Stores and have found many great deals there. Also Big Lots is another favorite of mine. Although, I haven't been to either place in weeks as I've been trying to save even more by staying out of the stores, so I haven't even been thrift shopping or to any garage sales. It's really amazing how much you can save by staying home. ~Smile~

Presently, I have my mother-in-law and my two nieces with us along with a few guests. I have another guest arriving for a week in a couple of days. My kids and I have made for the past few days: waffles, granola, chicken tortellini soup, spaghetti with meat sauce over fresh angel hair pasta and salad, chili and cactus salad, sloppy joes over homemade rolls with onion slices, tomato slices, and sliced black olives, spaghetti lasagna, pizza, coconut cookies, chocolate cloud cake, two chocolate cakes with chocolate frosting, cinnamon rolls, and bear bread with lemon butter. I wanted to treat my mother-in-law to some comfort food as she's been going through a rough time and has lost a lot of weight. She's been very comforted. ~Smile~

10~ Savings must be like a bill that you pay. It really helps to look at it that way and to get it into another account as soon as possible. It also helps not to use your savings account like a checking account, rather to have it far from you where you don't have easy access to it. Which is why we like it taken out of my husband's pay and put into a 401K.

"After all, children should not have to save up for their parents, but parents for their children." 2 Corinthians 12:14b

"The wise man gives an inheritance to his children's children." Proverbs

11~ An emergency savings is good to have in your house for emergencies. This also should not be touched unless you have to use it. I learned this from a book about the depression. It's so good to have on hand.

12~ I read Christian finance books frequently. The books that I've read which have helped me are "The Coming Economic Earthquake" by Larry Burkett and other books also by him. Books by Ron Blue and Mary Hunt. I also like Countryside Magazine, Tightwad Gazettes 1, 2, and 3. A great website is www.notjustbeans.com. I get a lot of recipes from www.foodnetwork.com, and my uncle tapes me their shows so that I can continue learning. Miserly Moms is another great resource book by Jonni McCoy. I also read the business and home section of our Sunday newspaper (the only day I get the paper), which has lots of tips on saving and building a retirement. I also find older women to be a great resource.

13~ We don't have any cable, so we don't get much reception. But I figure we have saved approximately $6000 in the past 17 years living without cable. This helped pay off our house. Plus, I really don't think we missed anything. My uncle tapes us lots of old shows and movies, which have been so enjoyable.

14~ We also do not have internet access. Whenever we need to use the internet, I use it at the library for free. I keep a running list in my purse of any websites I want to check out. I figure we have saved approximately $2000 in the course of eight years of no internet service, which also was a big help in paying off our house.

15~ I try to keep us as healthy as possible by good food with quality ingredients.

"She is like the merchant ships, she brings her food from afar."

This verse has so much wisdom socked into it. So I study health, nutrition, and herbs as much as I do stretching our finances. It has saved our teeth, since we don't have dental insurance. Thus far, we have had only two cavities between our four children (in their baby teeth) and my husband and I. Their eyes are all good. And we don't see the doctor much, like we used to do when they were babies and I wasn't studying health and nutrition. I am amazed at a woman's saving power in the home. It's such a blessing! Time is money. What we do with our time results in how our money is spent, one way or another. I keep studying Proverbs 31 and praying through the verses to learn and practice all that God would have me to practice in keeping this home. I recognize that in my home keeping -spiritual, emotional, and physical health is going on. It's all so invaluable that you can't put a price tag on it.

I am working on my own health, which has its ups and downs. I am learning so much, and much like financial knowledge, it's the putting it all into practice. I'm very thankful that my health has improved over the years. I'm learning that a lot of my health problems could be due to the many, many mercury dental fillings put in my mouth when I was young. So I am learning how to combat this. Presently, I have been using COQ10 and a homemade mouthwash (recipe on the website) which has helped my gums to come back to their normal color. Yeah! And I've learned that cilantro is an excellent chelator for metal fillings. I love cilantro! So I continue to study and learn, build up my immune system, and to notate it all for my children and grandchildren in my recipe/herbal book. It's such a blessing to help the next generation.

16~ It's so true that if you waste not, you want not. Sometimes I look forward to the leftovers from the main meal. It's become that pleasurable. This week, for example, I made a Chinese meal with rice. I had leftover rice, so the next day I made a rice pudding. The day after that I made a stir fry with the rest of the leftover rice. Both were a big hit. I also feed our chickens with some of our leftovers. I make my own breadcrumbs from leftover bread. I'm always looking for ways to stretch something a little farther. I see that in Christ when He told them to pick up the rest of the bread from His feeding of the five thousand so that none of it would be wasted. I like some of Benjamin Franklin's sayings. He was very frugal. Here is a couple of them:

"Better to go to bed supperless, than to rise in debt."

"Waste not, want not."

17~ I've learned to be very thankful and content. They're both infectious, you know. ~Smile~

"Be content with such things as you have."

I lived for three months when I was seventeen in a Moslem household in Tunisia, North Africa without a place to bathe in the house, without a washer and dryer, without a car, without a refrigerator, without a phone, without screens on the windows (flies everywhere), without a flushing toilet or toilet paper, without a dishwasher or even a nice sink. The cooking was done on a little hot plate. The weather was hot, hot, hot. The milk came in a horse drawn cart with flies all around it. If we needed some tomato paste, we bought it in tablespoon increments. Nothing was wasted, because money was scarce. In America we would have considered this family so very poor. But in their country they were middle class. I think about my living conditions there a lot. Especially when I am taking a nice, hot bath. I have so much to be thankful for. So much to be content about. It was the hardest summer of my life. But it was one summer that I learned the most, which has served me well in marriage. My husband says I'm one of the most contented women he knows. I only have to think of my stay in Tunisia, and I am totally content.

"Let your manner of life be without covetousness, and be content with such things as you have, for He has said, 'I will never leave you, nor forsake you.' So that we may boldly say, 'The LORD is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do to me.'"

18~ I often tell my kids, "it's not the amount of money that comes in, rather how it goes out that counts." So many people think that if they have more money, they would be better off. I used to think the same thing early on in our marriage. But it is a falsehood. What does the Bible say?

"When goods increase, they are increased that eat them. And what good is there to the owners thereof, saving the beholding of them with their eyes." Ecclesiastes. 5:11


"Godliness with contentment is great gain."

I have lived in this house with holes in my flooring, carpeting that's ripping up or has holes in it, sinks that are in rough shape, a tub with slight cracks in it, windows that are foggy because the panes are permanently damaged, the same couches for 16 years (and they were used when we bought them), and numerous other things. Our house is hot, hot in the summer and cold, cold in the winter due to poor insulation. But I've learned to live with all of it, and to be so thankful. I keep two rooms warm in the winter with a kerosene heater and a fireplace. A curtain keeps the heat in our kitchen in the winter. It's my "winter look". The fireplace keeps the living room warm. It's so cozy in there. I can keep the house cool in the summer by running our whole house fan early in the morning with all the windows open, then shutting everything up and draping cooling shades over the main windows. The fans do the rest. It's amazing how you learn to work with an old house over the years.

I really enjoy fixing this home up. I love my flooring, holes and all. I have throw rugs all over my ripped up carpet. I have to smile when women come in and "love my throw rugs". Or they kneel down to feel if our flooring is real, because it looks like brick with the holes and all. (The holes look like a torn off brick wall that's slightly aged. Cool, huh!) I tell them my foggy windows are "the rain forest look". And I paint, patch, and design the rest with quilts, tea cups and tea pots, family photos that I took, antiques bought at the thrift shop, doilies, lots of lace, beautiful smelling candles, a fire going in the fireplace, and keeping my home clean and fresh smelling. It doesn't cost a lot to do that. I try to take the load off my husband by making his home as welcoming and comforting as I can on a dime. I tell him and my kids, "We can have fun on a dime!"

I keep covering my couches with different types of coverings. Right now they have quilts and pillows on them. This keeps them pretty and clean. Just by changing the covers, I can change the look of my living room. It's fun. I love to have a winter look and a summer look.

We sleep 7 1/2- 8 hours a day. So I try to have all our beds nice and cozy. Everyone has a feather blanket that we've invested in. They really help one sleep so well. Nice sheets make all the difference in the world. My husband loves our 320 count sheet set that we recently bought at Target for an excellent price. I recently bought 250 count sheets at a store in the mall for my children's beds at 2.29 each. I always try to look for deals at the end of the white sales in January. You can use nice sheets for table cloths and furniture covers, and numerous other things as well. And I love my feather pillow. We sleep so much in our lives, that this is a worthwhile investment so that our sleep is good and we come away refreshed. We also have electric blankets that were given to us, so I put these on before we come to bed. Then we can climb into a warm bed and turn the blanket off. It's a wonderful thing in a cold room, since we have no heat in our bedrooms.

Likewise, we eat three times a day. So this is another area that I try to spend our money wisely. It is for health, comfort, and economy. Not easy, but the LORD shows me the way. I love learning from Him! It's really the simple things that bring so much pleasure.

19~ My husband and I have an allowance each week. This is our own personal money that we can spend any way we desire. We started out with $5 a week early on in our marriage, then it was $10 a week for years, and now it is $20 a week. But if we have a tight week, we revert back to $5 or $10. So we're flexible, if it is necessary. Which it was, for the past few weeks. It really helps to have a personal allowance within our budget, and we have had it our entire married lives. When times are tight, Art might use his for gas or oil, and I might use mine for food. But I often use mine for gifts and such, and he uses his for treats for us and the kids. It's a lot of fun. And I think it's the reason our tight budget has worked for so many years, because we have our own little fun money to look forward to each week. I can stretch mine at a garage sale or at the thrift shop, too. Or I can save it up for three weeks and buy something pretty at the antique store. I've done that in the past, and it was so much fun. Whenever I work on someone's budget, I always give the husband and wife a personal weekly allowance. I think it is the oil that keeps the marriage wheels running smoothly. ~Smile~

20~ We saved a lot of money and time by allowing our kids to be involved in mostly music and church. My older son teaches piano, so this has paid many of his bills. His piano lessons were a wonderful investment. Both of our boys use their musical talent to lead worship each week at our church for the junior high and high school kids. So Brady's guitar lessons were a wonderful investment as well. We were careful about letting them get too overinvolved in anything. It saved our family life and our finances. We still eat together most evenings! Since our income is so tight, we have to pray and carefully consider what we can allow them to do. We don't pay them allowances, rather they work for their money. When they were young growing up, we gave them jobs instead of paying someone else, and we paid them for those jobs. Such as washing the cars, weeding a whole area (we live on 2 1/2 acres, so there is a lot of weeding), painting, repairing, oh, numerous things to help my husband. So they learned how to work young. Then as they grew up, they paid for their own church camps by working for others outside our home. With that experience under their belts, they began working to buy their own car, insurance, registration, gas, and maintenance for the car. Now my older boys are buying their own clothes, shoes, and schooling as well. It helps them to learn how to work as they grow up.

21~ One of my best saving money secrets is to just stay home. The more you are in the stores, the more tempted you are to spend. So you save on gas, time, and money when you just stay home. I try to shop with a list in hand. That way I stick to the list and buy what I really need. But I sure save a lot when I just stay home more than I go into the stores.

22~ As I mentioned before, I use my allowance for gift buying. I keep a gift box. It is really a small cupboard under my bookcase filled with all kinds of gifts that I find at great prices. Then when I need a gift, I go shopping there first. I try to keep a $3 and under gift allowance on each gift. It's great at Christmas time or when someone is in the hospital., because I already have my gifts bought, so I "shop" there first. I find buying gifts in advance all year so helpful in keeping on my budget. It's always better economics to be prepared, than to have to run out and just buy something. And birthday dates never change, they are always the same, so we know when those gifts need to be given. A surprise gift is always ready if you have a gift box. If I do buy cards, I buy them at the Dollar Store for .50 a piece.

I needed three gifts recently. I bought a yard of black fleece on sale and cut out four scarves. I cut the edges into a short fringe. Each scarf cost $2 a piece. Everyone of my friends really liked the gift. I liked them, too, so I kept one for myself.

23~ My husband and I have never been able to afford going out on dates, or going away alone for the weekend. Our time together has always been our morning coffee chat every day. Art told me that one morning, "Others have dates, Laine, but we have our morning coffee together." And since we could not afford going away for the weekend, I made our bedroom as romantic as possible. I decorated it in a Victorian style with an old 1940's quilt of roses hanging over our white iron bed. I have an old make-up table in one corner with a cushy chair, a tea cart with lots of tea things in another corner, and a tea table with two chairs set up in still another corner. Our carpet I found at an estate sale for $50, it is a beautiful, old carpet of roses and flowers. It's a very peaceful room.

My husband never had his own room growing up, he slept in the living room on two cushions pulled out from the couch. So it has been my pleasure to make this room a mini-retreat for him each day.

24~ I nursed all of our children for a year each. This was a big savings since we have four children, yet it was not easy for me. But I had to do it, for we simply could not afford formula. I only had one side that worked, so the doctor told me to nurse on that one side. I was up every two to three hours with all of my children, because I only had one side to give them. I nursed all my children until they were a year old. I bled, I prayed, I cracked, I prayed, I cried, I prayed, I was exhausted, I prayed, and I had numerous breast infections with each one of them. I prayed and prayed for God's help and strength. He did indeed help me, because I wanted to give up over and over again. I look back now and see His incredible Hand in every situation and know His strength got me through.

Gabe was in the critical care ward for a week with pneumonia at three weeks of age, so I pumped that I might be ready to nurse him when he came out. I really can't tell you how much I prayed and cried those first few weeks when each of my children were born, because nursing was never easy for me. Yet I would do it all over again. Back then, I didn't even know how good it was for the baby and for me. So God used tight finances to teach me so much. That is why I can look on illness and health problems differently...He is teaching me so much during this time about herbs, nutrition, exercise, etc.

"Discipline is never pleasant at the time, but so profitable to those who have been trained by it."

This is my personal testimony about nursing. I know some of you have other experiences. I am only sharing my own testimony and how the LORD brought me through. The savings on my children's health and our own personal finances were wonderful, so I share it here, because it is valuable.

25~ We try to keep things running with good maintenance. My husband changes the oil in the cars regularly. I keep the vacuum filters clean with regular maintenance. Likewise the dryer lint vent, and other machines we use. It pays to keep them up, so that you won't have to buy another one due to poor maintenance. My husband always tries to fix things himself, especially our cars. He'll get a book and figure it out, get on the phone and talk to other men, then tackle the task himself. I am usually in the house praying for him. He changed a timing belt once, saving us a lot of money, but it was not easy. I was sure praying for him and reminding him how much money he was saving us.

26~ Many times we must wait on the LORD for something and pray. We have waited on the LORD many times during a crisis. He is always faithful. He always shows us the way. It's amazing how one can remember His faithfulness during a crisis, so that it brings about more trust of His faithfulness in the next crisis. Or He will remind me of His faithfulness in past times when I am hard hit, which stills and quiets my soul.

"You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee, because he trusts in Thee."

27~ I am learning that organization saves time and money. Which is why I am organizing this house,and have been for many years. I didn't get into this unorganized problem overnight, so it's taking me awhile to get things in order. I am still working on the kitchen. It's the only room I still can't clean fast enough, so I know it's not quite right yet. The better this room runs, the more time and money I can save. It's really so valuable. This week I cleared everything off the counters. It's so roomy!

28~ "Use it up", or "wear it out", or "make do." This is definitely how we live. Which is how we save. And if you keep it clean, it's really not that expensive, because you don't have to buy another. My grandmother used to say it doesn't cost much to keep things clean. She was right.

29~ I've cut our hair for twenty years. Incredible savings here. I would estimate about a $2400 savings or more here, so that really helped us pay off our house. Plus I saved on gas getting to the hairdressers, and time spent there. I learned from a book from the library, and from asking hairdressers (friends and family) questions. I still cut all my children's hair, as well as my own.

30~ We've never paid for a babysitter. I know that's hard to believe, but we never have. We've either swapped babysitting, had my folks babysit for special occasions, or we didn't go. We just couldn't afford babysitters and a night out on our tight budget. Our nights out were very modestly priced when we did go, which was rare, as I've mentioned before.

31~ We buy our clothes at thrift shops or garage sales, or on sale at the stores. We've never spent a lot on clothes.

32~ I've been the family photographer for years. I took photography in college. So our living room is adorned with shots of our kids as they grew up. In 24 years of marriage, we've only had our family picture taken professionally three times. Two of those times was by our church for the church directory, so we received a free 8 X 10 each time. I learned early on that I could save money by taking my own shots of my kids and having them enlarged. I then framed the shots from frames bought at the thrift shop.

33~ We have used a credit card most of our married life, but we have never paid an interest charge on anything we've charged. We pay it off as soon as it comes in. So we charge only what we can afford. Then a sale is really a sale, no interest charges. We've never charged furniture. Rather we buy it used or use items given to us.

34~ My wedding ring has been broken for three years now (diamond fell out). But I'd rather see the house paid off, so I've been waiting patiently. On Valentine's Day, Art bought me an old fashioned silver ring to put in place of my wedding ring until we can afford to fix it. There have been so many things like that. Our CD player has been broken for over a year. Our television was broken, so we used this little one in its place. The kids' friends used to laugh when they saw it. But we had a goal to pay off our house, so we kept working with what we had.

35~ Last year the dentist told me that Abbie had a problematic tooth which wouldn't come out without going to an orthopedic surgeon. As I mentioned before, we don't have dental insurance. So Art told Abbie he would give her $10 if she got that tooth out. I prayed and prayed, while she pried and poked at that tooth all summer. Finally, at the end of the summer, she got the tooth out! I'll never forget how excited we were. Now she has to have orthodontist work, but we have been praying and saving.

36~ We wash our own cars. Or we hire our kids to wash our cars giving them some spending money for a good job done.

37~ I love to learn, so I am always learning whenever the opportunity. I have attended many classes on different subjects over the years to help me be better at my job. Some were free or near free, but so helpful. Like my photography class. I took it at night when I had two children and was pregnant with my third.

The foodnetwork shows that my uncle tapes for me are like mini cooking classes. I just feel so blessed to learn from these incredible chefs and cooking teachers. After we get done watching a program, we all head out to the kitchen to whip something up! It just puts you in the mood. ~Smile~

38~ I learned to plant or transplant flowers or plants. This helps in saving money in the garden. I love ivy, geranium, lavender, and rosemary for my area. They are great growers without a lot of water. I am constantly reading up on gardening, for it's an area I would like to improve on.

39~ We have built up a family library. I love good books. I have so many wonderful books. Many of them I bought at the thrift shop. I've always got my nose in a good book. So do my children. I've taught them for years that they can learn anything if they've got a good book to learn from. And that you're never too old to learn, rather you'll be learning all your life. I never think I've got something down, rather I keep trying to learn and improve on what I do already know.

40~ I've learned to spend according to what comes in, not what is projected. That would be like counting your chickens before they were hatched. Not good financing.

41~ Don't compare yourself. I've found this can be costly. So I just stay in my budget with my man. It's cheaper and so much more peaceful. ~Smile~ So our vacations have been "work vacations" for the past five years. We work all week with a group from our church getting a Christian camp ready for the summer campers in the mountains. It's a lot of work, but my children have so many wonderful memories from our "work vacations". We just have to save for Art to be off that week, pay for our gas to get there, and pay a small fee for our cabin.

42~ I remember when we needed a washer, for ours had finally bit the dust. I asked the LORD if anyone had a washer they didn't need just hanging around. One of my friends called that evening and told me about this washer she had on her porch that she was getting rid of. I'm still using that washer. ~Smile~

43~ We needed firewood for the winter. I pray about it in the summer. I asked the LORD to bring it in. He did! Art picked some of it up, and some of it was delivered right to our home. Totally free of charge. We used that wood all this past winter. When I would use it, I'd think of the faithfulness of God.

44~ We couldn't afford private, Christian school for our kids, so I homeschooled all of them. I've been doing it for the past 14 years, having graduated two of our children. This was a big savings here, and I'd do it all over again in a heartbeat. No, not for the savings either. But it sure did help us to pay off our house. I always had the kids helping us pay off the house. Quincy kept bees and a big garden. Brady kept the chickens and goats. Now the roles are switched, and Abbie keeps the goats, while Gabe takes care of the chickens and fruit trees. Gabe wants to make a garden with his dad this summer. I love to keep my kids motivated in helping their dad financially by all their work around here. It makes us such a good team.

45~ Every little bit does count. Say for example, you learn as I did that you can use half as much clothing detergent and just set your washer cycle to agitate a little longer. Not more water, just more agitation to get the clothes cleaner. Or you can soak your clothes overnight in the washer, then start the load the next morning with half as much detergent than you usually use. Now say you usually spend $12 a month on clothing detergent. This is about $144 a year, or $2448 for 17 years. So, if you save half of that by cutting down your detergent to half your normal use, while still getting your clothes clean, you've saved $72 a year or $1224 in 17 years. These are the kinds of savings I would practice to pay off our home in 17 years. I was always multiplying things by 12 for the entire year's use. All those little savings do add up.

46~ Pray, pray, pray. I pray beforehand, during, and after. I pray before I go shopping, while I'm in the store, at the cash register, and on my way home. I pray when every check comes in that the LORD will give me wisdom to use it for His will. I just need the LORD's help so much in giving, saving, and spending. It's a training going on in my home that affects us, my children, and grandchildren. The LORD is able to do above all that we ask or think. Paying off our last debt, our home, in our 40's is one of those incredible answers to prayer.

47~ We don't change cars very often. We keep our cars for a long time. We just keep up the maintenance on them. Presently I drive a 1986 Honda. I just love it.

48~ We do not withdraw money without the other's knowledge. So I don't have to worry about an ATM withdrawal that my husband made without my knowing, thereby putting our account into jeopardy if I was to write a check thinking that money was in there. We work together as a team. We also do not make any singular purchases over $50 without the other's prior knowledge and consent. This has served us well. So I've never had a check bounce.

49~ Our children get one big birthday party during their growing up. Otherwise, it is a family birthday party. This saves so much money and stress. Plus that one party is a lot of fun, since we only do it once in their childhood. Quincy had his at 18, Brady had his at 16, and I think Abbie is shooting for hers at 16 as well. Gabe is still up in the air about his. We really enjoy our family parties and make a big deal about the cake. They will spend days choosing their cake, especially when they were young. Although Abbie is studying my cookbooks presently for her upcoming birthday. Our children love to buy presents for each other. I take them to the thrift shops and other inexpensive stores to shop for their siblings. My boys have their own incomes, so they really enjoy shopping for their siblings. I think we've always enjoyed our family parties. As I said before, I think the good things in life can be so simple and pleasurable.

50~ I just thank the LORD for all I have. I am so blessed. I have a husband who works hard to take care of us. I have four children who work with me to bless their dad. We have running water, even hot running water. So many servants: a washer, a dryer, a vacuum, a toaster, a blender, a microwave, a telephone, a computer, a stove, an oven, a refrigerator with a freezer in it, a car, and an indoor toilet. I am so thankful!

I hope this letter on Home Economics is of some help to you. I tried to think of as many things as I could that we have saved on over the years to help pay off this house. Every little bit does count. I'm just so thankful to the LORD for all that He has done, and all that He is going to do.

I feel our country's economy is sailing on thin ice, which is why I wanted to write a letter to you all on finances. Our country is heavily in debt, our states are in debt, and most families are also deeply in debt. It's dangerous living. I know so many in our country have never had to live by tight means, but that could definitely change. Even overnight, as it did so many years ago during the depression. How I pray that it won't happen, but I'd rather we are trained and prepared just in case it could. Proverbs 31 is filled with training. I pray through each verse and ask God to walk me through.

"She girds her loins with strength and strengtheneth her arms."

She perseveres and keeps growing.

"Strength and honor are her clothing, and she shall rejoice in time to come."

She doesn't compare herself with others, rather she lives for others.

"She is not afraid of the snow for her household, for all her household are clothed with scarlet."

She is not worried about tough times, because she's been diligent in good times.

"She looks well to the ways of her household, and eats not the bread of idleness."

Her home is her heart, and her hands bless her home.

The LORD knows what is coming and what training I need. Abbie was mentioning to me the other day how easy it is for her to cook and bake now. She is thirteen years old. Yet I remember when it was not so easy for her. I told her that she's been daily trained, but something new we're learning is never easy when we first learn it. We have to daily persevere and keep trying. I am persevering and learning with you all, by the incredible grace of God.

"Discipline is not pleasant at the moment, but so profitable to those who have been trained by it."

God bless you. May the LORD direct and guide you as you seek to serve Him as His faithful stewards.


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