May 24, 2011

On Finances: Me & The Coupon Craze

The rising costs of living, the lack of growth in M’s job industry, and a long list of much wanted (and a few needed) home improvement projects have M and I looking for ways to “tighten our belts” and spend less.

A quick look at our family budget reveals that we are spending $75.00 to $100.00 a week on groceries. As a family of 3, the grocery budget seemed extremely high, and so I began looking for ways to cut the costs.

Turning to my trusty friend Google, I soon found a plethora of sites promoting “Couponing” as the way to reduce the grocery budget.
Moreover, Facebook was swamped with everyone sharing their great deals – people are buying 5, 6, even 10 newspapers just for the coupons. The deals looked great, so I dug deeper.

My research reveled that there are deals to be had by couponing. But many of the deals were for items that M and I don’t like, don’t use, or simply don’t want in our home. I thought couponing would not work for me – until M suggested that I “use what you can and forget the rest.”

I took his advice to heart, channeled my inner nerd, and created a coupon plan that works for me. I began by creating a list of all the items that are staples in our home – from the food we eat, to our toiletries. This list was put into an Excel spreadsheet where I added
columns to record the cost of each item at the 4 main stores in our hometown. To get the non-sale price for each item, I went to the stores with pen and paper in hand and wrote out the prices. (Yes, I got weird looks but I was okay with it). Once I had all of the data
input, I could then run a few formulas to calculate if the sale price of the item was really a good deal.

Next, I divided our grocery budget into 3 categories: Items for weekly menu, Staples, and Stockpile. For example, our menu this week includes steak fajitas, smothered chicken, and turkey burgers. A quick check of my fridge and pantry reveled that I need steak and chicken breasts to complete my weekly menu, so those items were put on my shopping list. Next, I saw that we were nearly out of milk, yogurt, romaine lettuce, and
cheese – items that we consider staples in our home – so those were added to the list. I then sat down with my sales papers, and the trusty Excel spreadsheet, to figure out which stores would give me the best deals. I quickly saw that ribeye steaks were on sale for $1.99 a pound and chicken breasts were on sale for $1.69 a pound. I roughly allocated a
third of our current grocery budget for the menu items, so I had $25.00 to purchase the meat. I spent $13.00 on steak (6.5 pounds) and $11 on chicken (6.5 pounds). Next, my food staples cost me $22.00. Assuming I was willing to spend the entire budgeted $75.00 – I was left with $29.00 to spend. My local grocery store had pork tenderloin on sale for
$2.50 a pound, so I purchased 5 pounds to put in my freezer. In total, I spent $58.00.

While the savings was not as tremendous as it could have been, I did save money. More importantly, I only purchased things I know I needed and would use. I am hoping that over time more of my budget can be devoted to stockpiling rather than purchasing to cook weekly meals.

So that’s how I am “couponing”? Do you coupon? If so, do you have any tips/tricks for? What about general budget cutting ideas?

May 18, 2011

Purposeful Quiet Times


I have done something scandalous recently – okay maybe not scandalous, but something that is counterintuitive to my Christian faith.  Want to know what I’ve done?

I gave up my daily quiet time for nearly a week

(Cue shocked gasps, tongue clucking from my Granny, and narrowed eyed looks from some Christians)

But I had a good reason. Recently, my daily quiet time had taken on the feeling of just another item on my to-do list. The routine was wake up, brush teeth, read Bible, pray, move on to the rest of my morning ritual. 

If something happened that caused me to miss that quiet time – think teething toddler – I felt guilty. I thought God was going to be angry with me if I didn’t read a passage.  Then while reading Crazy Love by Francis Chan – it clicked.

I need to be spending time with God because I longed for His presence. Not because I wanted to check it off my to do list, not because I wanted to earn brownie points.

So for several days, I purposely skipped my morning quiet time. And lo and behold, I found myself longing to read the Word, to spend time taking my prayers to the throne of my Heavenly Father. Just as I long to connect with my friends who live around the world, I found myself longing to spend time with my Heavenly Father.

I have once again resumed my daily quiet times. But now, I know that it doesn’t have to happen in a set time, place or way. Just as I talk to my friends at various times, in various forms, I am spending time with God – thru prayer, Bible Study, listening to worship music, and sometimes quietly sitting in my darkened living room – learning to “Be Still and know He is God.”

Moreover, I know that my motivations for those quiet times are pure - born of a hear that seeks the Savior.

May 05, 2011

14 Months


Dear Joycie,

Today you turn 14 months old. Can we take just a moment to grasp the fact that you are over a year old – we say it all the time but you are growing up so fast!

It has been a busy month for you. It began with a week long trip to Orlando. While Mama was in seminars and lectures, you led the life of leisure with Nana Nancy and Papa Babo back at the hotel. You loved playing in the pool, riding the elevator, and jumping on the bed. During one the rare moments of free time, you had dinner with Goofy and Pluto – and were in awe of them. Daddy and I plan on taking you back to Orlando later this year for a family vacation.

IMAG0041You continue to expand the types of table food that you eat. You seem to get really frustrated if we try to feed you – you want to do it yourself. We are allowing you to feed yourself anything as long as it does not require a spoon.  Your tastebuds are very sophisticated – and if you don’t like it – you’ll shake your head no or promptly spit it out.

Along with the trip to Orlando, you enjoyed your 2nd Easter.  Last year, you were too little to understand what Easter was – sleeping thru most of it. But this year, you woke up early for the Sunrise Service at church and were so quiet as you watched Papa Mike preach.


After sunrise service, you put on your pretty Easter dress and we went to church. After that, we had a huge Easter dinner at Aunt Lane’s.  You were so wore out that you slept thru lunch and the Egg hunt. But you had already hunted eggs at your school and at church. 

In terms of your growth here are your stats:

- 31 inches long, 22 pounds

- Wearing size 12 months shorts/bottoms and 18 months tops. (You are long and lean)

- Still in size 3 diapers and probably will be for a bit longer.

- Your feet have grown and you are now wearing size 4 shoes.


Joycie, you have a huge zeal for life. From the time you wake up in the morning till you go to bed, you are full of laughter, smiles, and lots of energy. Each day you teach us something new, make us laughter, and of course marvel at how something so awesome belongs to us.

We love you so much!

~Mama & Daddy