Thursday, February 3, 2011

False economies

Jennifer suggested I write a post one of the ways I tried to save money back when we were dating. But first, a little background.

Back in 1997, I was living in a small..."apartment." It was actually a tiny mobile home in the backyard of another mobile home. My apartment was about 250 sq ft. It had enough room for a full size bed, a two-person table, a tiny kitchen, and a tiny bathroom, which didn't even have a door. But, the apartment came furnished (bed, table, some kitchen utensils, etc), with utilities, for about $300/mo.

I lived there without a TV. And I didn't have a phone. I would walk to the gas station, which was one mobile home away, so I could use the pay phone.

Anyway, one of the ways I tried to save money was by getting the most for my money when it came to garbage bags. That meant buying 30gal bags. After all, why would I spend money on small 13gal bags when I can get the giant 30gal bags for about the same price.

Well, you can probably imagine how long it would take a single guy to fill a 30gal bag. So, there were occasions when the apartment would stink pretty bad 30gal of rotting trash stinks up 250 sq ft quite easily.

So, in my attempt to live super-frugally, I ended up living like Oscar the Grouch.

There is such a thing as a false economy. Cheaper up-front costs don't always equate with long-term satisfaction.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

I'm getting fat on all this cake

How do Christians, living a wartime lifestyle, handle the many opportunities they have to spend money in the name of friendship? Here's my current situation:

Jennifer has a friend who is fulfulling a lifelong dream of starring in a particular play in our local theater. To celebrate this, a group of this lady's friends are going to make a date night out of going to the show and then going to dinner together.

The tickets to the show are about $20/person. So, for the two of us to go, it would be $40. Add the cost of babysitting. And, add the cost of the dinner, which I'd estimate will be at least $25. This will easily cost more than $75 for a night out to show support a friend.

But, here's the real issue. There's always something to celebrate. We have two kids. If we're friends with 6 couples, and each couple has two kids, then there's going to be an average of one kid's birthday party per month. Plus, there's the one friend's birthday party each month. Plus, there's always someone's kid who is selling Girl Scout cookies. And the list goes on and on.

This all reminds me of a Seinfeld episode, Frogger. In that episode, Elaine is getting fat at work because of all the birthday cake. In a company with a few hundred people, it's someone's birthday almost every day. So, she claims to be sick, just so she'll have a reason not to eat the cake. But then they give her a get well cake.

So, do wartime Christians spend lots of money in the name of friendship? Or, do we act like the oddballs by sitting out so many social occasions? What is one to do?

Saturday, June 27, 2009


What Would Jesus Buy?

Christians are supposed to use our money--really God's money--in ways that glorify God. We are entrusted to manage God's resources just as a business manager is entrusted to manage the resources of the business owner. A business manager is expected to use resources just as the owner would if the owner were making those immediate decisions. In fact, executives of publicly-traded business are required by law to seek the best interest of the stock-holders (owners).

As Christians, we're to spend the resources entrusted to use in the way God would most want us to spend them. But, how do we know what God wants us to do with the resources? Since Jesus is our model for daily living, would it make sense to consider him a model for daily spending? And if so, would that mean one way to understand how to spend money or use resources would be to ask, "What Would Jesus Buy?"

And if that is a good question to ask, how would asking that question change the way we spend money? What do you have that you think Jesus would spend money on? What do you have that you think Jesus wouldn't spend money on?

Monday, March 9, 2009

The right way to be rich

Here's a new John Piper video addressing the question, "What is the right way to be rich?"

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

22 Words

I'm a pretty big fan of Abraham Piper's blog, 22 Words. In a recent post, he wondered whether he's the only person who tends to take way too many napkins at fast food joints. I think this can be applied to wartime living in the sense of not wasting resources.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Repurposed Garage Sale Finds

I really wanted to give my daughter a dress up box, pretty and full of fun clothes to wear and imagine with. But, when I browsed the toy aisles, I couldn't find exactly what I wanted. Either all the clothes were princess-style, or they seemed to only focus on one style of dress up. Oh, and did I mention they were too expensive?!

So, I made my own. I found a gently used picnic basket at a garage sale and painted it a bright yellow. The color wasn't my first choice, but the can of paint only cost me $1 from Home Depot's discarded paint shelf.

Before and After

Then, I looked around consignment and thrift shops for things to fill the basket with. Her favorite items by far - the colored beaded necklaces and the blue tutu. In the picture to the right, she appears to be channeling an Arab woman, but notice the blue tutu is still there!

My total cost for the entire basket was about $6, once I included the dress up items. Plus, there is room to add a few more things that I might find along the way.

I was so glad I could do this inexpensively and still in a cute way. What have you been able to reuse or repurpose for your children?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

I was man A, but want to be B

My previous post about whether men should aim to be man A (saving for a family) or B (investing in the Kingdom) led to some discussion, which is great.

I find it interesting that Jennifer says she's snatch up man A, were he to come along (and were she single). Yes, she thinks man B might be more ideal, but man A is a great real-world catch.

It's also interesting that I was quite a bit like man A when Jennifer and I got together. As she said in her "Meet the Mrs." post, "When we married, [my husband] used his savings to pay off the ~$2000 debt on my first credit card."

When I proposed to her, I had a 5-year financial plan worked out detailing how two college students could afford to get married. I had even calculated how much money I would need to earn per year in order for her to be a stay-at-home-mom and for us to participate in our state's pre-paid college program for our future children. I hadn't thought much about it till now, but I was what Mark Driscoll would call, "a dude's dude." We bought our first house at the age of 23 and had credit scores above 800 by the age of 29. As I said in my "Meet the Mr." post, "I once took great pride in my financial self-determination."

I guess the point of this blog for me is trying to work out how I could get from being man A to being man B. See, there's nothing obviously wrong with man A. He is (I was) a good catch in today's world. But, there's also nothing obviously Christian about man A either. Is there any reason man A couldn't be a good, conservative Jew or Muslim? If you take out the part about praying to God, he could even be a conservative atheist.

Man B, however, is not using his money to build a good, conservative, family-oriented life, though such things have value. He's using his money to advance the Kingdom. As John Piper has said:

Only one life.
It will soon be past.
Only what's done for Christ
will last.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Family heirlooms

Thinking about Jennifer's recent post on wedding rings, I wonder if there's a place for buying some 'big-ticket' items with the intention of making them family heirlooms. For example, what are your thoughts on a young Christian couple investing in a nice engagement ring with the intention of passing it along to their descendants one day as part of their testimony of the sanctity of marriage? After all, "a diamond is forever," or at least that's how DeBeers justifies the diamond's cost.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

An attractive young man?

OK, I never thought I'd be writing a post about attractive young men, but a recent sermon series by Mark Driscoll, of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, got me thinking about how young single men should live. According to Driscoll, a single man should be saving to buy a home, saving for the college educations of his future children, etc. Then, when he meets a young single woman who wants to know what he's been doing, he can say, "Well, I've been saving to buy a house and send my future kids to college." That, Driscoll, says, is a great way to woo a woman.

Now, I can't disagree that women would be more interested in the man with a plan than with a man who's spent his single-man's income on trips to Vegas. But, here's my question. Which of these is a better choice for a man to be able to say:

A) "For the last 5 years since graduating college, I've saved $18,000 so I can buy a house when I get married, and I've started a college fund for my future children. While my old college friends have been buying nicer cars and taking ski trips, I've been praying that God will help me find the right woman to spend my life with, and I want to be prepared when God sends her to me."


B) "For the last 5 years since graduating college, I've been giving most of my extra money to missions and Christian charities. I've been able to help a few families with medical expenses, and I'm investing in clean water projects through Blood:Water Mission. Giving means I can't take ski trips with friends, and I don't have a lot saved for my own future, but I trust God to give me what I need."


C) Some combination, or something different altogether. You tell us.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Have we gone too far?

Can we ever be too cheap in our wartime efforts? Apparently, Jennifer and I go through an inordinate amount of toilet paper--so much so that we need special storage for our back-up (no pun intended) supply. We're sort of like the rich fool who built barns to store his grains, except we're storing toilet paper. Anyway, in an effort to live a wartime lifestyle, Jennifer decided to buy the cheapest tp storage around. So, my question is this: When is it OK to spend a little more on something that is no more functional, but doesn't make you feel like your living in...well, a house that would have something like this?

Friday, January 30, 2009

Wartime Wedding

I've been reading the blog of a lovely lady named Ali who serves as a nurse missionary with Mercy Ships. Recently she announced her engagement and shared the story of how Phil proposed. I was particularly intrigued with how they decided to handle rings. She wrote,
When I told Phil that I didn't want a fancy diamond engagement ring, he was more than happy to believe me. I wouldn't feel comfortable wearing a diamond in a third-world country, and we both agreed that the money that would go towards a ring could be much better spent paying our crew fees for the next however-long we're on the ship. But we both knew that the symbol of a ring was important, and so one day he jokingly told me he was going to put a tie wrap on my finger when he proposed. I thought it was perfect, especially since he's an electrician and would have easy access to all sizes!
The tie-wrap wasn't meant to last forever, you'll have to click over to her wedding blog to read the rest of the story about their rings. But isn't this a wonderful example of using our resources for something greater than ourselves. It makes me wish I had felt so strong a calling to use my resources this way when I was getting engaged. Furthermore, it makes me wish I could get a decent price for my wedding rings just so I could give the money away and wear something simpler.

What wedding traditions would you give up so that you could do something greater with the money?

Image Courtesy of AuntieP's Flickr Stream

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

What war are you fighting?

The Peters' family is fighting a war to help save their children. One of their wartime strategies is to sell everything they own so they can afford the special care their 2 special needs children require. (HT: BabyCheapskate)

Can you help the Peters family?  

They war we are fighting, to bring glory to God, is an even bigger batter. What are you willing to give up?

Monday, January 26, 2009

Waste Not, Want Not

While browsing the internet for inspiration on post ideas, I found this statement:
Talking of waste, it was illegal to throw out food fit for human consumption during the war. People were fined for putting bread out for the birds.
Could you imagine if we applied that same standard to our lives now? Just how much perfectly fine food is tossed on a daily basis?

Recently, I was in a Quizno's for lunch and saw the sandwich maker cut off the 2 ends of a loaf of bread then toss them into a trash can.

I asked, "You aren't throwing those away are you?" He said, "Yep, there is nothing we can do with them."

The store manager joined into the conversation and said that his father had asked to have them when the shop first opened. The father intended to make croutons out of them. That lasted for just a few days, when there were more bread ends than he could possible keep up. The manager next looked into donating them to a local soup kitchen, thinking a hungry person wouldn't mind using the rounded end of a bread loaf to sope up the last bits of soup. But he was turned away there as well. There were too many rules and regulations about food donations to even make that possible.

What if, I suggested, he bagged them up and left them outside his door at night, in hopes that a hungry person or family could scoop them up. No go there either. If he did that, his shop would be fined for littering.

I know we can't control the laws and regulations that prevented that Quizno's manager from making use of his perfectly fine food, but we can control what we throw away from our own kitchen. I want to encourage you, and myself, to make the best use of all the food we purchase. I often end up throwing out bagged salad because it end up rotting in our veggie drawer before we finish it. I'm going to try to only buy what I know we will eat and make sure we eat what I buy.

What food do you waste the most?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Singer Solution

Peter Singer, Professor of Bioethics at Princeton, wrote "The Singer Solution to World Poverty" (a magazine-length article) to outline what he viewed as a the moral imperative and method for helping the world's poor. If you have 10 minutes, read it and tell me your thoughts.

Is Singer right or wrong? How do his views compare or contrast with Christian hedonism and the wartime lifestyle?