Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Advent 2010

Two years ago when my children were 2, 3, 5 and 6 years old, their Dad was deployed through Christmas,  I purchased an Advent wreath. It was made of different sized boxes. I stuffed each box with a goody or a note for a goody. You can use this same concept with anything that you have 25 of at home, like paper cone trees on the table, 25 mismatched socks, or 25 brown paper bags. Below you will find my gift list for this year’s 25 days of Christmas. Each of the gifts is typically limited to $1.00 per child, since there are four, including the outfits they will receive on Day 1 and Day 12. I purchased those at Belk in February for 98 cents as I have the last couple of years. I budget and buy all year for Christmas so I am able to find really neat gifts for $1.00 or less. 
1: Check the foot of Mom and Dad’s bed. (a new Christmas outfit or shirt for each) (put note in calendar)
2: Afterschool trip to Sonic for a half price slush (place 4 $1.00 bills with note in calender)
3: Cadoozles pencils. They're mechanical and have cool colors and decorations. Look for them at office max. The kids got 2 each.
4:  Note for Movie Night @ home with popcorn and Pepsi (soft drinks are treats @ our house)
5: Trip to the Air Base and watch Daddy’s plane take off (note)
6: New Board game (I’ll have to check my stash) (note, game on table)
7: Choose gifts to purchase for Samaritan’s Purse (money budgeted in Christmas gift budget)
8: Note of encouragement for youngest 3, eat lunch with Mattie @ school
9: Super Glow Wands, sword, stars. Dollar Tree after Halloween
10: ICEE from Weigels
11: Cookie baking with friends to take to Nursing Home
12: New Sunday dresses and suit (for church Christmas program) 
13: Lunch with Maggie, notes of encouragement for other 3
14: Drop, Ring and Run gifts @ Neighbors (dollar tree hand towel, pot holder, etc)
15: Lunch with Mattie  and note of encouragement for other 3
16: New Pj’s for Pj day at school (bought @ consignment)
17: Trip To Air Base to pick Daddy up. 
18: Veggie Tale’s movie (free with Pre-buy of Sweet Pea Beauty)
19: Coloring Book/Word Search Book
20: Christmas shopping with Daddy for Mommy (yes more than $4 but time with Daddy is priceless)
21: Grammy's 3 day Christmas Adventure with the cousins
 22: No gift today, still at Grammy's
23: Ride and look at Christmas Lights
24: New Christmas book 
25: Baby Jesus is here and placed in the Nativity set and Daddy reads the Christmas Story
Think about your children and let your ideals come from them and their interest. 

We also use a book with a devotion for each day of Advent. Some families read a little bit of the Christmas story each day until Jesus arrives.
Merry Christmas,
Michelle 

PS. Since I'm late on publishing I will tell you school was out today, the 8th. So I couldn't eat lunch with Mattie. Instead each child spent 15 minutes with me alone doing what that wanted to do with no interruptions from anyone else. Of course they loved it and Mommy did too. Michael doesn't have a special lunch day because I worked in his room the 2 days before Thanksgiving and ate lunch with him both days.

For more ideals check out my post from last year about the 25 days of Christmas.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Dear Dave,

Back in January I wrote a letter about our journey to becoming debt free. I've read it at the Leadership Team Meeting one month for Building a Better Future but never published it. When I sent it in to Dave Ramsey the events team asked for a photo of our family and permission to quote from it at live events.
Below you find my letter to Dave, for safety sake I've removed names because I am becoming a little more paranoid for the kids safety online. But I wanted to share it with you. We will be starting another Financial Peace University Class in August. Contact me if you need info. Hope you enjoy!



January 18, 2010

Dear Dave,
This letter has been many years in the making. I grew up in a “tight” family. As a child we lived on the envelope system, only ate at McDonalds if we had a coupon and always took our own cheese for our burgers. Mom never taught me to use the envelope system but she did teach me not to buy if you didn’t have the cash. We used credit cards and paid them off each month.

My husband’s family was just the opposite. His father owns a construction company and they live from house to house often using draws on the business for living expenses.

When we married in April 1998 our financial knowledge, or lack of, collided. We financed furniture for our first home which my husband spent five months building. Then we financed our first computer. Both payments were no interest if paid on time and paid off in a certain number of months. We had the money to buy both with cash and didn’t. We needed to establish our credit right? Stupid we know now. We both were working, spending, and living paycheck to paycheck with not much to show for it.

Five years later we had sold the first house, built a second, had a one year old and pregnant with a second child. The war in Iraq started and my husband was deployed. When Turkey closed its borders to our military personnel, his unit was sent to England to wait with most of the other units. Fortunately, he was home in six weeks. During those six weeks away, he had a lot of time to read, listen to the radio, surf the Internet and think.

We both knew that God had called me to stay at home with our children. My husband was full time with the Air National Guard with a big desire to finish college and take over the family construction business. When he returned home he wanted nothing more than to use a budget. We had tried in the past but always gave up. This time though we knew it would be different.

In June of 2003 we decided to take a huge step, our families thought we were crazy of course. My husband had learned about you and Crown Financial Ministries. We started the Crown 13 week Small Group Study on our own. It took us five and a half weeks. At the same time we were reading and studying your books. We did both because we wanted a Bible study that we could do together that gave us the Biblical reasoning behind what we were doing. But we also knew that we needed to apply your principals to really stick to it.

Fortunately the only debt we had was our mortgage. I was a public school music teacher and hated the thoughts of having to return to work in the fall. Our second child was born in October and then I returned to school after Christmas. I think it was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. I knew that it wouldn’t be much longer and I would be home full time.

We learned to live on his paycheck and save mine. Every three months we would pay a chunk on the principal of the house and reamortorize. Our mortgage began to shrink and I could see my next career a little clearer.

Our oldest child was three years old and our second was 17 months old when our only son was born. He was born into a debt free family, with a stay at home mom and a dad who at the age of 31 had returned to college while working fulltime. It’s took him six years but he will graduate from Carson-Newman College in May with a Bachelor in Business Administration. We had paid our mortgage off in three and a half years, had an emergency fund of nine to twelve months, and even paid cash for a used, reliable minivan. Fifteen months later our fourth child was born and we knew that our family was complete at this stage in our lives.

During these years we had taught the Crown Small Group Study at church because honestly our church just wasn’t ready for Dave Ramsey. We often had friends over for dinner and conversation usually led to money. I always felt and still do feel guilty talking with friends who have so much debt when we don’t have any. But then I look at the cars they drive, their home, their clothes, their children’s expensive activities and the fact that both of them work to keep up with their lifestyle and I realize I shouldn’t feel guilty. I should feel sorry for them.

In December of 2007 three couples had dinner at our home on separate nights. Each couple had the same mission when they invited themselves over, seeking advice with their money. By January we had registered a new Financial Peace University class for our church. The first class had 17 families. Another couple and I provided childcare free of charge. In the fall of 2008, he taught his second FPU class before being deployed through the holidays.

During his deployment I began promoting the next class. Worried and afraid I would let my guilt get in the way, I prayed and started the class as he returned home. We finished in April. This time he provided childcare.

We met last spring with one of your ELP’s to discuss our retirement and wealth building. He said we were on the right track. Although it had taken us 11 years we can live comfortably when the housing market bounces back, he retires from the guard and begins building houses. Thanks to you and a great military package offered through the Shades of Green we took our then seven, five, four and two year olds to Walt Disney World for the first time last summer.

Friends often ask me if I will go back to work when all the kids are in school. I don’t know, I want to have a flexible schedule so I don’t miss out on anything. What I really want to do is counsel other families and help them with their money, time, and family management skills. But I want to be available where there is a need and I feel led by God. I believe that I will be able to do that thanks to your teachings, our sacrifices and God’s grace.

To close I have a couple of stories I would like to share, the first about our now seven year old daughter. When she was five the compact disc player in the van always played the cd’s from Financial Peace University. One day she heard you talking about the bridge that Jesus built. She began to question her daddy about that bridge. She prayed that day to accept Christ as her Lord and Savior. For our family, Dave, you not only taught us how to manage our money but also encouraged our daughter in becoming a Christian.

The other story is about our six year old daughter. She has had the hardest time with you Dave even though she has known no different. She often makes comments about you when she is upset about not getting something she wants. Our family favorite was during a weekly trip to Dollywood last summer. She wanted popcorn and coke during a show. I told her no that I didn’t bring enough money and she could eat a snack that we brought. She replied with, “I guess Dave Ramsey won’t let me have popcorn, huh?” Sorry Dave, but at least she got it.

Last spring my husband went to church to watch the Town Hall for Hope, I put the kids to bed and turned on the radio. Our second oldest daughter’s asthma was acting up and so she was lying on the bed with me. As we listened, she asked, “Why does Dave Ramsey know so much about money?” I told her that at one time you had a lot of money, then you owed and didn’t have much money and now you have a whole bunch of money. She told me she was just tired of us always talking about money and Financial Peace and Dave Ramsey. I turned and looked at her and said, “You know, because of Dave Ramsey and God, Mommy gets to stay home with you. If we hadn’t listened to Dave Ramsey I would take you to daycare every morning and go to school to teach.” I stopped to let it soak in for a minute. Before I could say anything else she replied, “Sh, Mom, Dave Ramsey’s on the radio.” Thanks Dave. We lived like no other, so now we can began to live like no other.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

How Do I Get My Blog Off Facebook

I don't know what I did to get all my blogs on my facebook notes, but they are all there. I don't want them to be there. Does anyone know how to stop it from sending them to facebook?

Monday, March 15, 2010

How Do You Spend Your Tax Refund?

I finally filed our taxes tonight. You would think working at H&R Block that I would have done them sooner. But no, I procrastinate. Having four children and the Making Work Pay Credit give us a pretty good chunk of a return. If it weren't for the kids we wouldn't get anything back. We don't have a lot taken out of the paycheck. Better to have the money in hand each pay period than to loan it to Uncle Sam and get it back at the end of the year. Because of the kids our tax liability is low to zero every year which we love.

After I filed I sat down with a notebook and my return and budgeted our refund. Now I'm not going to tell you how much we got back total but I will give you some idea of what we are going to do with it.

Each person who worked this year will receive up to $400 back on their return. If you didn't work or worked very little you will receive up to $400 too. So I decided that since the President wants us to spend some money in this poor economy we should split the amount we will receive and use it as blow money. I have lost 27.5 lbs so far and think that a new spring wardrobe on the government is exactly what I deserve. Well of course Mikie doesn't., so we compromised. I can spend $100 on clothes, he gets $100 for whatever he wants. Hopefully clothes, cause he's lost 2 pants sizes too. But nonetheless the rest will purchase new living room furniture and I can move the money I was saving for it to something else.

The next thing we agreed on was to take the amount we received from the additional child tax credit and split it between the four kids mutual funds for college. It won't be a huge amount but it will help in this year’s contributions.
We received a month's worth of Parent's Day Out fees in the daycare credits so that will be budgeted for PDO. Which will free up some money in the monthly budget.
Then we had about half of the refund left. I was thinking I would use it for school, my teaching license runs out next year and I've only taught 4.8 years of the 5 years that I needed to teach on this license. That's what 4 kids in 4.3 years gets ya.

Anyhow, after talking with Mikie we decided it would go into the used car fund. So I'm keeping my eyes open for a newer Suburban. As for school, Mikie will graduate in May and we still have money saved from his degree. I can also use military spouse options. Now I just have to decide on what classes I want to take.

So I know that most people use their refund for vacation, to pay off bills, or buy a car. But what will you do with your tax refund? Leave me a comment and let me know!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

How Do You Carry Your Debt?

I’ve been asked to speak next week to a community group about our family’s journey to being debt free and to share some ideas that will help others. As I was writing out my speaking plan I noticed my three year old stuffing rocks in her back pockets. She kept saying, “Please turn them sideways mommy.” Her pockets are not wide enough to turn the rocks sideways so they had to go in the best they could. It reminded me of a friend who had started Financial Peace University several years ago when we first started teaching it.

My friend’s family had been in debt for a long time. She was ready to be out of debt but her husband wasn’t ready to get on board. They have several children, in fact they could be the modern day Brady Bunch. She started the class, came the first week, called two days later to tell us she had taken a part-time job and would have to work on class nights. The next time we taught the class she came for a class or two and her second part-time job conflicted with class night. The third time we taught the class she didn’t even try to come because she was doing Financial Peace on her own. She had read the book, listened to the cds and worked out her budget and plan. She came up to me one Sunday night at church. “Here,” she said handing me her purse. I looked at her like she was crazy. Then I dropped her purse in the floor. I didn’t expect it to be heavy so I had just took it from her. Before I realized it had hit the floor she began to laugh.

I asked, “What in the world have you got in there?” “Rocks,” she said nonchalantly. Before I could ask anything else she continued. “Those are my burdens, my debts. Each one represents a credit card, medical bill, student loan, car loan and the mortgage.” She had chosen rocks by size depending on the amount of debt. She had used a Sharpie marker and labeled each rock. By the time I held her purse she had paid off three smaller debts and removed those rocks. Once paid off they were placed in the creek behind her house to be washed away.

I encouraged her as she spoke to hurry and get rid of a few more of those before she messed her back up. I haven’t seen her the last few months, she’s usually working on Sundays. But the last time I ran into her she was working fervently to get rid of a few more of those rocks.

As I watch my three year old trying to carry around her rocks. I watch her pants fall down and she pulls them back up. I think about the debts that people carry. The debts that pull you down like those rocks, sometimes their heavy, sometimes you slip on them. But please don’t let them weigh you down. Use those rocks to your advantage. Carry them not with worry but with confidence that this year you will start to send those rocks down the creek. Start with the smallest ones first.

If you’re a visual person like me fill your purse with rocks. Every time you go through the drive-thru or stop for coffee you will see those rocks. They will be a reminder that it’s the little things that get you out of debt.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

I Challenge You!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

As the new year begins many people make resolutions. A resolution according to Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary is, “solving: the act of determining.” You actually determine what needs to be fixed in your life and resolve to change it.

I’ve quit making resolutions, this year I’m working on challenges. When I challenge myself I’m more likely to complete whatever I have set out to do. I also have an accountability partner that I share with depending the challenge.

I’ve lost weight before but it always seems to find me. By going to Weight Watchers I am accountable at weigh-in. Plus it costs me twelve dollars a week whether I go or not if I want to continue.I am seven pound from my goal weight.

I have been challenged by several people, including myself to read my Bible daily. This is year I am following the Discipleship Journal Bible Reading Plan. We received a copy from church. You can visit their website www.discipleshipjournal.com and print your own copy. I have three accountability partners my husband and two of my best friends.

Another challenge that I am continuing this year is to spend the 8-9 PM hour, after the kids are in bed, in quiet time. Joining me in quiet time will be my Bible, my book of the week and my journal. I take notes as I read and once I’m finished reading both books I will write about my day and anything God has shown me that day. This is when I hope to write my devotions to share with you.

Our family challenge is to simplify and declutter our lives, not just our home but our activities too. We are starting with clothes. Laundry will be washed each day and put away. When a new piece of clothing comes into the house, an old one must go out.

I think about Adam and Eve and the Garden of Eden. The serpent came into the garden and tempted Eve. He challenged her to eat the fruit of the tree that God told her and Adam to stay away from. Genesis 3:7 says, “At that moment, their eyes were opened, and they suddenly felt shame at their nakedness.” Then God sent them out of the Garden of Eden and they were met with challenges every day.

Before you challenge yourself this year, pray and ask God to show you what His “challenges,” plans are for you. Don’t suddenly have your eyes opened because of the serpent only to realize that your naked.

Today’s scripture is Matthew 3:1-12; Acts 3; Psalms 5 and Genesis 12-14. It doesn’t take long to read, but stay focused.

Tell me about your challenges for this year. Have you committed to reading the Bible daily? Leave me a comment below and let me know.

Father God,
I ask you to show me today the challenges I need to pursue this year. Help me recognize them and work heartily for you as I complete them. Because you give me the rewards that I deserve.
Amen