Archive for November, 2010

Super cute holiday photo cards at Shutterfly!

Tuesday, November 30th, 2010

This season Shutterfly has an abundance of photo cards in a variety of sizes and styles!  I went to their website to design a photo card and had a hard time deciding which to choose! I made a several different options and will have to sit down and finally make a decision before Christmas gets here!  Here are some of my favorites:

A really cute gift idea for someone who loves photos (like me!) is a calendar! I also LOVE the photo books at Shutterfly.  I make a photo memory book every year and I also make them for special trips that we take.  If you are going to have a holiday party, order super cute invites from Shutterfly!

DEALS:

You can get free shipping on orders over $25 using promo code: SHIP25.

Save 30% on prints using promo code: PRINT30

If you have a blog, you can get 50 free photo cards!  For details, click here.

6 things to buy after Christmas

Friday, November 26th, 2010

This article lists the top items to wait to purchase until after Christmas to get the best savings!

1. Baking Ingredients 

During the holidays, supermarkets and discount stores load up on baking supplies to meet shoppers’ demands. Afterward – when you just can’t face another gingerbread man – these stores slash their prices out of necessity. “It’s a great time to stock up on chocolates, spices, flour, sugar, the basics,” says Freeman. The chocolate may be colored green and red, but it tastes the same!

2. Electronics

The Annual International Consumer Electronics Show runs the first week of January. That’s when companies roll out all their new models of computers, cameras, cell phones, printers … you name it. While early adapters salivate over the newest and latest tech gadgets, January is a great time for everyone else to buy the most recent models – which will, no doubt, be discounted heavily to make room for the new. ”If you don’t take advantage of the Christmas deals, don’t worry. After Christmas, everything’ll be on sale!” says Freeman. Last year Walmart offered shoppers a $50 gift card when they bought Microsoft Xbox 360 through January 1.

3. Winter Clothes & Accessories

There will be no shortage of discounts at department stores and clothing retailers – especially on hats, scarves, boots, winter coats and wool socks. Invest wisely by opting for non-trendy staples that will last you another winter or three.

4. Refurbished Goods

Expect stores’ “refurbished” bins – where returned appliances and gadgets get a 10 to 20% discount – to be well-stocked after the holidays, as people return unwanted gifts. One note of caution: Only buy refurbished items from reputable dealers that offer a manufacturer’s warranty. Sony, Dell, Amazon, Apple and Kitchen Aid are all in the refurbishing business.

5. Holiday Cards, Wrapping Paper, Ornaments

This one’s obvious. Expect discounts of 50 to 90%. A tip on the wrapping paper – go for a solid color, instead of a sheet with Christmas trees or dreidels. Gold, green, blue or red wrapping paper, while seasonal, can also be used throughout the year.

6. Calendars

Can you wait a few extra days to get organized? It’s almost a given that Borders and Barnes & Noble will have their 12-month calendars on sale the first weeks of January. I’ve spotted their buy-one-get-one-free or “All Calendars $1″ deals throughout the years, appearing right around New Year’s Day.

DIY Advent Calendars

Monday, November 22nd, 2010

Recently I made an Advent Calendar for a friend.  When I was searching for ideas, I came across some really cute DIY Advent Calendars!  I ended up making this one because it best matched the description of what my friend was looking for.  I think it turned out really cute:

I wanted to share with you some of the other ideas I came across.  They are so creative and are a beautiful way to countdown the days until Christmas!

“The Heart of Frugality”

Friday, November 19th, 2010

A friend recently passed on this article to me about frugality.  It is an AWESOME article that was very encouraging to me!  In it, Tim Challies discusses the true meaning of being frugal and compares it with the way the world, specifically Christian circles, have warped it.  I must admit, I like chasing a good deal, but I never really feel like I am pro at regularly getting a bargain.  Occasionally I can get jeans for $2 (ok, that happened once!) but most often I spend $50 for a pair.  Or sometimes I can get more cleaning supplies than I know what to do with, for $15, but that is a rarity.  I often times find myself looking at my grocery receipt wondering, “How come I can’t seem to get a weeks worth of food for a mere $30 like some of the bloggers I follow?”  I always think, “Maybe if I didn’t work, I would have more time to scour the circulars or search the sale bins or clip stacks of coupons.”  Peter graciously reminds me time and time again, “Some people God blesses with time and some people God blesses with money.”  We are so very thankful that God has provided for our every need and has allowed us to have great careers that enable us to live in a metropolitan area and own a house and still have money left over to use in service for His people.  But I must admit, the thought that I am not a “good” Christian has crossed my mind time and time again because I haven’t been able to pinch as many pennies as my Christian friends.  I was thankful for Tim’s article that reminded me of God’s provision and His care for His people.  Our God is an awesome God who is generous in what He gives.

The Heart of Frugality By Tim Challies

Over the weekend I came across some video of America’s self-proclaimed cheapest family. They got me thinking about frugality, a topic that is all the rage in Christian circles today (or at least in some Christian circles). I have discussed this issue once or twice in the past but want to return to it today. Why? Because a lot of people put a lot of effort into frugality and I think many of them do so without thinking deeply whether what they are doing is right or wrong. They are saving money and this must be good, right? I’m not entirely convinced. So hear me out.

One reality about frugality is that it is contagious. I think it can be especially difficult issue for women. When one or two women in a church emphasize frugality and talk of all the amazing deals they’ve been able to find—how they managed to find a lifetime’s supply of Baby Aspirin for $4 or how they’ve gotten 180 rolls of toilet paper for the cost of 18 rolls—other women may feel like they are being spendthrifts for paying full price. It is difficult to say, or even to believe, that there may be no inherent virtue in frugality. And yet I want to suggest that very thing: there may be no inherent value in it.

Frugality

What Is Frugality?

The Bible is clear that money issues are very closely connected to heart issues. Money has the ability to expose all kinds of idols of the heart. This is true whether a person is a miser or a spendthrift. Money can be an idol in want and in plenty; frugality can be done wrong and done right. When we discuss frugality, we must realize that we are talking about the heart more than the home.

The actual definition of frugality can differ from person-to-person. Some see it as meaning little more than economical so that a frugal person is a person who buys things at lower prices than another person might. I think this is what most people mean by the term and how most people live out their attempts at frugality. They feel they are being frugal when they buy things using coupons rather than paying full price and when they purchase clothes or other necessities at thrift stores instead of buying them at regular stores.

Of course there is certainly nothing wrong with saving money on life’s necessities and if such a thing is possible, it is usually wise. The problem with this kind of frugality, though, is that a person can still have an irrational or unbiblical love of “stuff” while trying to be frugal. Saving money can be a good thing, but it doesn’t matter much if we are saving money in one area so we can just spend it in another. By saving money on groceries a person may then just use his savings to buy more of other things—more than is unnecessary. Is it really frugal to save fifteen cents on a box of macaroni but to have a house stuffed to the rafters with things purchased at the local Goodwill?

I think the greater ideal with frugality, and something a lot of people miss, is the ideal of not just paying less, but buying less and thus avoiding waste and avoiding becoming captive to stuff. True frugality is not spending less but having less. A truly frugal person doesn’t buy just as much stuff at lower prices, but learns to live with less of it. If you find that your efforts in frugality help you spend less but leave you with a house that is equally filled with stuff, you are not being frugal. A kind of frugality that really hits the mark is this one: “It’s about a simpler, less complicated lifestyle, not about being cheap. While those who put a frugal lifestyle into practice do tend to be thrifty, there is a method to their madness” (source). It goes on to say “People who practice frugal living tend to look for ways to save time as well as money, and generally prefer a slower, more laid back pace instead of the hectic ‘rat race’ life so many others lead.” Now we’re talking.

So in this article when I discuss frugality, I am talking about it as I believe many live it—involving a great emphasis on saving money, not necessarily on living with less stuff. It’s about the deals and bargains, about the thrill of saving a few pennies here and a few dollars there. It is something that can go from a minor distraction to a passion to a lifestyle and almost to a way people define themselves.
The Heart of Frugality

The first thing I want to point to is the heart. There are few more accurate barometers for our hearts than money. Whether you are spending too much or pinching every penny so hard that it bleeds, your actions and attitudes reflect something in your heart. If you spend more than you have, perhaps you are reflecting greed or a bravado that rejects the fact that God expects us to be in control of our spending. If you pinch every penny, perhaps it shows that you live in fear or that you somehow think God will provide only through what may be excessive control.

The fact is, there is no guarantee that a frugal person is less addicted to money and less under the control of money than a person who spends all he has (and more). And this is really the main thing I want you to take away from this article. Frugal people can be every bit as worldly, as obsessed with money, as those who spend like it’s going out of style. Frugality is not inherently good. It is the kind of thing that can masquerade as good even while it is an idol.

Always we need to remember that it is God who provides for us and that he has promised us our daily bread. He will provide what we need and our confidence must be in him, not in our own efforts. This is true of the great issues like salvation and sanctification, but also of the smaller issues like finances. So always look to the heart! If you find that your frugality has extended too far—that you do not buy what you need even if you have the money, or if you find that you are reluctant or stingy in giving money to the church or to others in need, you can be certain that your frugality has taken you captive.

We need to live in that spot somewhere between confidence in God’s provision and the need for financial self-control. We do not want to presume upon his provision and neither do we want to act as if we do not believe it is true. All the while we want to make sure that we do not make an idol out of stuff and that we do not make an idol out of frugality. We can take as much pride in what we save as what we spend. Both reflect a sinful heart.

A second issue relates to the necessity of frugality. Many people who emphasize frugality could doubtless get along just fine without being frugal. For such people the amount of time it takes to scour the racks of thrift stores, to clip coupons, to read the frugal blogs and to search for deals online could be better spent in other more significant pursuits. The fact is that frugality is a significant investment in time and effort. Many of the most frugal people make a hobby (or more!) out of it.

Here’s the thing. A man who brings in millions of dollars a year probably doesn’t need to have his wife work at the local donut store to bring in $300 a month; her time is doubtless better spent in some other pursuit. The same is true for those who don’t absolutely need to be frugal. If God has given great blessing, the time it takes to be very frugal can be spent doing something else. Instead of spending days hunting for the perfect and perfectly cheap cake pan so you can bake a cake and have people over to share the gospel with them, it might be best to just buy it for full price and have the people over a couple of weeks earlier. The finances of some families dictate that great time and care must be given to each dollar, but I am concerned that those with lots of money make a mockery of God’s abundant provision when they pinch every penny. God doesn’t give us money so it can accumulate in bank accounts. He gives it to us so we can give it away and so we can use it to free ourselves up for other, better things.

God has graciously released some people from imminent concerns over finances. It makes little sense, then, for these people to act as if finances are still an pressing concern and that they must be frugal with each and every dollar. I have known people who, though so rich they could not possibly come to the end of their finances, worry about the expenditure of a single dollar on something that is good and necessary. Surely there is no good reason for a person with such money to be too concerned about one dollar. Is this substantially different from a person with no money using credit to purchase something frivolous and something that will sink him further into debt?

Frugality can have its place and for some people is good and necessary. But doing it well takes time and effort; it may be that for some people that time and effort is best used in other pursuits. Again, somewhere between financial self-control and trust in God’s sovereignty is a sweet spot where we spend not too much and not too little, always trusting in the Lord to care for us.

One more quick note. As I think about frugality I am always drawn to the biblical concept of gleaning. In the Old Testament God commanded that people who pick crops leave gleanings behind. Rather than picking the fields clean they were to leave portions that had fallen so the impoverished could follow behind and gather them. Of course the wealthy landowners would have wanted to pick these up and increase their profits, but God used gleaning as a way to provide for the poor. This makes me think of wealthy people who often pick through thrift stores or who line up first for the big sales and I wonder if the gleaning principles has something to say to us here. If we can easily afford $10 for a t-shirt, should we really take the last marked-down one on the rack when for another person this might make the difference between being able to afford it and not being able to? I realize I am on slightly shaky ground with this one, but it probably bears thinking about. Somehow all of this frugality can become a form of greed if we are not careful.

I guess it comes down to this: money can be as big an idol when you seek not to spend it as it can when you do nothing but spend it. Frugality should not be an end in itself but must be a means to a greater end of bringing glory to God and of serving others. Ever and always it is a matter of the heart.

Congratulations Mr. and Mrs. Shawn Templin!

Tuesday, November 16th, 2010

Emily and Shawn were married on 11/12/10!  Emily and I are good friends since high school.  Their wedding was beautiful and lots of fun!

We are family…

Tuesday, November 16th, 2010

I love my family!

To view the entire album, click HERE.

A miracle!

Thursday, November 4th, 2010

As I type this post I have a sweet purring kitty laying next to me.  This is a huge deal because not too long ago, Marty was far from sweet…

As a kitten, Marty was cuddly and curious but as time went on he grew more timid and anxious which resulted in hissing and biting and hiding.  His condition worsen to the point of separation anxiety.  He started peeing in the house when we would leave for trips… at first in the kitchen and then on the carpet in the basement.  After several rounds of antibiotics for what we thought was recurring bladder infections we were at the end of our rope.  We had many talks of giving him up but feared he would be put down because he was so mean! It was a major point of stress in our home.  After one tearful trip to the vet and lots of tests, Marty was diagnosed with Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease.  Not the diagnosis we hoped for!  We were hoping that he had an infection that could be treated… and end all of the urination issues.  We were saddened at the thought that this disorder was untreatable and that we would have to make the choice to either deal with it or give him up.  Because I love him so much and couldn’t bare the idea of him being someone else’s pet…(or worse!) I wanted to try and make things work.  We considered anti-depressants to help him relax, but they came with their own list of health concerns.  We thought about boarding him when we went away, but given his biting history, we knew he wouldn’t be accepted.  The vet suggested one last thing: Comfort Zone with Feliway.  It is a plug in (like a glade plug in) that emits a synthetic pheromone that is calming to cats.  At $50 for the start up kit and $28 for the refills each month, it is expensive, but we wanted to give it a try… it beats replacing carpet frequently!  We tried it for the month of October and had AMAZING results!! Marty was friendly and social and cuddly again.  He didn’t bite us or hiss for the whole month!  The real test came at the end of October when we went away for the weekend.  Fearing the worse, we were pleasantly surprised when we came home to the same happy cat we left… and best of all, NO ACCIDENTS!!!  We are so very thankful for this wonderful product and so thankful to have a sweeter, calmer version of Marty!!