The Budget Train

Have I mentioned on here that I love to shop?  Well, I do.  In fact, that is one of my primary reasons for needing to start (and stick to) a budget.  I buy something everyday.  Sometimes it’s just a soda from the gas station and it’s rarely anything very big, but I must buy something everyday.  As a result, I’m constantly freaking out about having enough money.  Also, it’s the reason we have so much credit card debt.  So this budget thing is really going to make a difference.  After all, Jesus said, “”No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.” (Matthew 6:24).  In Jesus’ name, I will no longer let money get the best of me.  I will no longer think of my life in terms of how much money I have.  I will no longer pander to my credit cards (but I will pay them off because Jesus also said, “…Then give to Caesar what is Caesar’s…” {Luke 20:25}).  God called me to make a budget, and I give to God first from my budget.  I have faith that he will take care of me.

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The grocery is making me paranoid…

It’s true!  This may come as a shock, but the main objective for your grocery store is to get you to spend more money.  My main objective is to spend less money.  Obviously, the grocery is out to get me.  I decided to test out my food budget-ness before I really start out on the BIG BUDGET (that starts on Monday).  I grabbed Squirmy and my best friend and we headed over to Meijer.

If you don’t mind, I’m going to digress here.  I normally shop at Kroger because it’s close and Meijer because they have a great produce section.  I’m still going to frequent these stores, but I’m also adding Aldi and Sav-A-Lot to my list for canned goods, some produce, bread, et cetera.  I know a lot of people coupon clip and get awesome savings, but quite frankly, I don’t have that time since I go back to work in a few weeks, so I figure buying an off-brand at these stores equals about the same in terms of savings.  Brand names rarely mean that much to me (except with peanut butter and canned tuna — gotta have my Jiff and Starkist).

Intermission over.  So, we headed to Meijer.  My first stop was to check out the produce.  I got a bundle of spinach for $1.29.  Spinach is great because it’s so good for you and you can put it in anything.  You can make a salad with it like normal people, if you want.  However, I’m not normal.  I don’t actually like vegetables, but I know I need them, so spinach is my leaf of choice.  If you use fresh spinach, it doesn’t have much of a taste, so I chop it finely and put 1/2 cup or so in everything.  I mean, everything.  I throw 1/2 cup of chopped spinach in my chili, my lasagna, my mac-n-cheese, my Hamburger Helper (store brand, of course), even in my Spaghetti-Os.  It’s a great way to sneak in some veggies.

Next up was potatoes.  Potatoes aren’t the best veggie for you (are they even considered a vegetable?  I dunno…), but I love ’em and you can put them in just about anything.  There were, of course, a ton of different types of potatoes because it’s Meijer and that’s what they do, but I just wanted plain ol’ russet potatoes.  They had three displays for the russet potatoes.  You could get two 5-lb bags at 2 for $5, one 8-lb bag for $3.99, or one 10-lb bag for $3.00 — all the same brand.  Now, without pulling out your calculator, which one is the best deal?  The 10-lb bag for $3.00, of course.  Which one did I pick up?  The 2 for $5, of course.  Thankfully, my friend caught this money-grubbing trick and steered me in the right direction.  My point?  The store knew exactly what it was doing — it was trying to get me to spend more money!  That’s their job!  I’m sure you’ve heard why stores put the milk in the back?  So you have to find stuff you “need” as you walk back to get it.  I’m very thankful that my local Kroger has a small cooler up front with milk choices.   The moral of the story here is to pre-plan your trip so you don’t buy impulse items, shop with a calculator, and keep your eye out for “tricks.”

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Remember Me?

Okay, kiddies, I’m baaacckk!

I’m so sorry I’ve been gone for so long.  Who knew having a newborn took up so much time?  (Okay, so maybe you did, but I didn’t.)

Well, Squirmy turned four months old on Tuesday.  He’s 27 inches long and nearly 16 pounds!  We still love him!

Okay, enough small talk — let’s get to work!

Today’s task is daunting for anyone, but especially for a new mom and young wife: HOUSEHOLD BUDGET.  That’s right.  I said it.  BUDGET.  If you know me, then you know one thing: I love to shop.  In fact, I might have a problem.  I know I might have a problem because I have a lot of credit card debt.  Granted, I haven’t used my credit cards for two years, but I haven’t paid them off either.  Nope, I just maintain my minimum payment and move on.  Good for the credit card companies, bad for me.

But that’s all changing.  Mr. Rachel and I would love to buy a house of our very own, so we have decided that we must pay off our debt in order to do that (student loans are another issue — we’re focusing on credit card debt and car loans).   A few years ago I bought this handy book at a small church in Kentucky  — Does God Prefer Paper or Plastic? by Dan and Marlis Williams. 

It has been doing a fine job at collecting dust on the bookshelf until I felt called to pick it up.  God’s wisdom is so infinitely more awesome than mine, and he really knows what he’s doing.  I heeded his call and began to reread the book.  This time I followed the directives and started to put together my budget.  As it turns out, we have some money left after paying the bills.  We never realized this before because we blow our money on stupid stuff throughout the week.  However, with our new budget, Mr. Rachel and I are each given an allowance to pay for gas, eating out with our friends, or other stuff we decide we want.  Any extra money will go into an emergency fund.  Once that is full, we’ll start paying above the minimum until we eventually banish all the debt (praise Jesus!).

I’m also going to start menu planning to make sure that I don’t blow my food budget every week.  More on that later…

You can purchase the book at Noah’s Dove Publishing .

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Task of the Day

1. Become blameless and pure

Hmm.  I don’t think that’s happening anytime soon, but by-golly-gee, I sure am tryin’.  How does one go about becoming “blameless and pure” anyway?  Well, I am definitely NOT the expert on that, but I do have a pipeline to the man upstairs that enables me to have some insight on the matter.  (Said pipeline is a two-way street: Prayer goin’ up and The Word comin’ down.  I suggest you invest in both.)

I was sitting in church last Sunday, just minding my own business, listening to the preacher man like a good Christian girl when he mentioned something I happen to be very good at — complaining.  A little backstory: I have the unique ability to zero in on one little bitty thing in a sermon (usually mentioned off-hand and very rarely the actual point of the sermon) and be moved by it.  Case in point, the complaining.  Preacher Man’s sermon was not about complaining, but he did mention it at the end and that’s where my brain went.  I like to think that God knows I have attention issues and so he hits me with these momentary zingers to get me back on track.  Okay, God…back to the complaining.

Preacher Man mentioned how we should praise God for our blessings and not curse him for the hard times.  He explained as good Christians we would never intentionally curse God ::gasp::, but sometimes we do when we murmur complaints.  There, he said it.  “Murmur complaints.”  If I were to list my five greatest talents, Murmuring Complaints would definitely be up there.  Sometimes I don’t even realize I’m doing it.  I’m trying to be funny or I’m trying to be empathetic toward someone.

Sally: My kids are driving me crazy!

Me: I know!  I can’t put Squirmy down for a second without him screaming again.

How easy is it to complain?  So easy!  In our society, it’s practically expected.  If something bad happens and we don’t complain, we become that “weirdly happy girl who’s always positive.”  (You know who I’m talking about…)  But what if we did become that weirdly happy girl who’s always positive.  Would that be so bad?  Is it really that hard to find the positives in our daily situations?  Paul says in Philippians, “Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation…” (Philippians 2:14-15).  So that’s how you become “blameless and pure” — you stop complaining and arguing.  I can do this.  I can stop complaining and find the positive side.  Okay, so maybe I’m overestimating myself.  After all, I’m still working on trying to curb my sarcasm and sharp tongue and that post was weeks ago.  Luckily, as I mentioned earlier, I have a direct pipeline to the man upstairs.  I say I’m going to quit complaining.  I pray for the strength and guidance to quit complaining.  I actively work on quitting complaining.  Together, we make it happen.

Fortunately for us, complaining is not a new issue.  People have been complaining as far back as Eve.  In his sermon “Learning to Stop Complaining”, Reverend Bruce Goettsche outlines some tips on how to stop the complaining:
1. Be Realistic.
2. Realize that complaining is against the Lord, not men.
3. Monitor your conversation.
4. Develop a Godly perspective (Bible reading, prayer, worship).
5. Hang around positive people and consciously pay attention.
6. Remind yourself that you will have a greater influence for Christ as a cheerleader than as a complainer.

Adding this new challenge to my “kind tongue” challenge will strengthen my ability to grow in both areas.  I’ve just got to keep reminding the man upstairs that I need his help, and he’ll continue to give it.

(Image from http://www.worldwideshoppingmall.co.uk/toys/images/products/0749852224.gif)

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“What Would You Do?”

Well, I watched it. (And you can too on Hulu — “What Would You Do?”)

On last night’s episode of “What Would You Do?” ABC staged a scene of a breastfeeding mother in a cafe and a rude cafe manager telling her to stop or get out.  They staged the scene with a white mother, a black mother, and a teen mother.  All three had people come to her defense and support her right to breastfeed in public.

I’m very pleased by the responses, and it gives me hope that if I were in a similar situation, someone would help me.  It also made it clear to me that if I see an injustice like this, it is my duty — as a Christian — to stand up and set it right.

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Skim, 2%, Whole…38DD?

I love hidden camera shows, and my favorite is ABC’s What Would You Do? This started as a segment on Primetime, but it was so popular, it quickly grew.  (You can view old segments on YouTube.)  Tomorrow’s episode hits on a topic that is very close to home: breastfeeding.  In tomorrow’s episode, ABC staged a scene in a cafe of a woman breastfeeding.  The woman is then approached by the manager who asks her to leave and starts a big scene about it.  What will the bystanders do?   What would you do?

I’m eager to see the responses because I had an incident myself regarding breastfeeding.  On Mother’s Day weekend, I went out to eat with my mother and one of my younger sisters.   As they began to eat, I placed Squirmy in my lap, covered us with my nursing cover, lifted my shirt, and began to feed him.  He was quietly eating, and I was talking with my family.  After a few moments, I began to realize that the couple and their teenage son sitting at the table beside us were staring.  I turned to meet their eyes, but they all quickly looked away.  The wife began to whisper to her husband about how “disgusting” it was and how they couldn’t believe I’d “do that in a restaurant.”

The old Rachel would’ve turned to them and said something nasty and rude; however, the saved Rachel just sat quietly and ignored them.  What should I have done or said?  In my state it is perfectly legal for me to breastfeed my child wherever I am.  Should I have explained this law to them?  Sound off in the comments — Do you have a great comeback?  Do you even agree with breastfeeding in public?

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A Mother’s Prayer

One of the reasons I started this blog is because I love reading them.  My favorite thing to do late at night is jump from one blog roll to another, finding new blogs about life, humor, parenthood, et cetera to add to my “collection.”  I don’t usually interact with these blogs (although I know the authors would love it if more people did — I know I would!  ::hint, hint::); mostly, I skulk.  One of the blogs I enjoy reading is Letters from Crazyville . She turned me onto another blog, Momma’s Pixie Dreams. The author of this blog recently found out that her youngest, Monkey, is very sick, so her blogger friends have really rallied around her to offer support and prayers. One such blog is The Daily Dose of Reality. Monday’s post at TDDoR was in honor of Momma’s Pixie Dreams and her daughter. In response, I’ve posted the button from that post and have answered the “Monday Minute” questions as today’s post. Please send up a prayer for Monkey and visit these awesome blogs to show your support.

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1 – How old do you act?

Well…it really depends on the situation, but I’ve usually been told that I act older than my actual age.  I would say that I act 32-ish for the most part; although, if I’m with friends at a Bon Jovi concert, I probably act more like I’m 13.

2 – As far back as you can remember, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I can remember always wanting to be a teacher or a veterinarian.   I gave up the vet dream because I realized it might sometimes include blood and slicing poor kittens open.  So I became a teacher.  Who knew it might sometimes include blood and slicing poor kittens open?

3 – If you were to write a book based on your life, what would the title be?

…And Then They Were One: A look at one woman and her relationship with God

4 – What’s something that you do that’s considered “childish” by most?

Daydream.  I love to daydream.  As a child/teenager, I would daydream all the time.  It’s really a wonder I graduated from high school because I was never paying attention.  I was always off in my head.  There I was a famous country singer, an Oscar-winning actress, or the cute, popular boy’s girlfriend.  I don’t get to daydream as much now — lack of time and the realization that time is running out for these daydreams to come true — but I still enjoy it.

5 – The last question isn’t a question. Write a story of a time of when you or someone you know overcame great adversity.

My nephew spent his 1st birthday in the hospital.  I was still a pre-teen at the time, but I still remember it vividly.  At first, they weren’t quite sure what his problem was, so he spent some time in the hospital while they figured it out.  For some reason, he couldn’t have an IV in his arm, so they put it in his head.   He looked miserable.  My sister (his mother) was only 19 at the time, but I don’t remember seeing her cry or lose control.  She stayed strong the whole time and was the reason her family came out of that intact.  My nephew is a teenager now, but she’s still the backbone of her family.  They couldn’t make it through without her.

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