december financial update

you've heard it before, the holidays are expensive. between gifts, postage, traveling, cards, eating out, and the like, one can really break the bank.

i've prided myself on being over-prepared financially and mentally for the holidays months in advance, but even i failed to stick to our budget this year. i'm a little disappointing in myself, but i refuse to beat myself up about it. because we've been extremely blessed and we're doing just fine.

in the midst of overspending, we ended up borrowing a small amount from our savings.

2012 financial goals:
  1. fill all of our essential dump funds as fast as possible. these dump funds include:
    • auto insurance
    • home insurance
    • auto tax
    • home tax
    • pest control
    • eye exams
    • eye glasses
  2. pay off our student loan
  3. fill all of our non-essential dump funds. these dump funds include:
    • christmas
    • clothing
    • vacation
    • birthdays
  4. save and pay cash for a second car
  5. fully fund our emergency fund (6 months of expenses)
percentage-wise, we're 6.26% completed with our 2012 goals. 

i think i can be excited about being 6.26% ahead of schedule, so i'm going to be!

happy saving!



while i usually don't reach all of my goals, i love setting them. i love seeing what i can accomplish and challenging myself. it's really fun for me. and mostly, i love crossing thing off of lists.

some essentially immeasurable goals
be more hilarious. i personally think i went above and beyond on this one
[by writing intentionally humorous blogs mostly]

be more adventurous.
[by traveling spontaneously at least once this year]

be more creative.
[by having 'craft time' once a week] while i didn't always blog about it, i was way more crafty than i have ever been.

be more ambitious. i think i was definitely more ambitious this year, but i didn't start a novel quite yet
[by starting the rough sketch of my novel idea]

be more shrewd.
[by having products and a business plan for an etsy shop by the end of the year]

some more measurable goals
complete one craft-project a week

blog 3 times a week [156 blogs in 2011] this one makes 200!

send birthday cards to everyone in my [immediate] family i think i forgot my brother-in-law, but i came close!

have a party of people over once a month

complete a bible read-thru plan [still haven't accomplished this one in my lifetime]

read 20+ books

make dessert twice a month

make adorable christmas stockings

learn photoshop

drink more water [as opposed to the barely none that i drink now]

well, in many ways you could say i'm a failure. there are a lot of things i didn't do on this list. but i still feel successful. i think i grew and accomplished a lot in 2011. here are some other accomplishments from 2011 that i can be proud of:

we saved and paid cash for a little under half of bryan's tuition this year!

i learned some new things, like how to make felted soap bars, how to pipe, and how to crochet.

we cleaned out our crap and made over $225 by selling some of it!

and, possibly the most significant accomplishment of 2011: i now own the taylor swift speak now cd.

peace out 2011.


trailer park life

you know you live in a trailer park when...

you suddenly find yourself with not one but TWO grills.

[thanks Robinsons, we'll miss you!]


haiku tuesday

vacation draws near
west coast christmas adventure
i am quite antsy


trailer park life

you know you live in a trailer park when...

your neighbor [who also lives in a trailer, obviously] says: "i'm assuming your bathroom is in the same place ours is?"


felted soap bars

what the crap is a felted soap bar?
why did this crazy girl make her soap brown?
does the brown one look more like poop or hair that you've just pulled out of the shower drain?
what is the purpose of a felted soap bar?

all good questions, my friends.

a bunch of my favorite people in iowa city got together on wednesday night to craft! my friend kaylee orchestrated this fun, sudsy little project for us. so onto your questions:

a felted soap bar is simply a bar of soap which is covered in felt.
felt is simply wool that has undergone a significant amount of friction

so to make these felted soap bar, we covered delicious smelling soap in wool, slipped it carefully into a stocking [or knee-high as i like to call them] and scrubbed our little hearts out. we were all covered in suds and our hands felt a little dry, but we had these beautiful creations to show for it!

i happen to really like brown, okay? i know it kind-of looks like hairy nastiness, but the heart is cute right?

in the end, we all have a felted soap bar that we can use as a loofa and a bar of soap all at the same time!


haiku tuesday

almost twenty four
husband, bass player, red head
bryan alsbury


trailer park life

you know you live in a trailer park when...

this is the view from your kitchen window and that frisbee has been there for the past year and a half.


slaps in the face from Jesus

have you ever had one of those moments where you just wanted to shake someone and tell them everything they've ever done in life is wrong? and the main reason you want to chew them out is because you know they wouldn't listen to a word you've said yelled?

i've got to admit, i have had more fake conversations in my head with those people than i can count. and none of them have ended well. even though they were completely fictional conversations, they left me feeling incredibly bitter and angry. and of course, all of this is unbeknownst to them. they're in their little tra-la-la land all happy and thinking they are perfect and such.

the voice of a super wise man named pastor tom rings in my ears every time this happens. "bitterness only hurts you." he would say.

how true is that?!?

this is a lesson that Jesus has to teach and re-teach me almost every day.

and He does. He is always trying to get me, a supreme lover of justice, to understand that i am not right and i need to love people, no matter how crappy those people are.

the interesting thing is that Jesus is so inventive with His teaching methods! seriously, He's not shocked that i still haven't learned this, and He's ready with a bunch of lesson plans and examples and slaps in the face.

so guess how He's teaching me to love (and not be bitter at) crappy people this time around?
you'll never guess, i'll just tell you.

He's showing me tons of other people who actually do want and respect my opinion. weird, isn't it? i've been realizing that while i'm so caught up in focusing on what i can do to get people to listen to me, that i've been missing out on people who actually seek me out for wisdom.

it's really weird actually. i've been convinced that nobody likes me and everyone thinks i have nothing to offer. i've been just itching to shout to all of them, "i've got something to offer, just read my blog you idiots!" (i just made myself laugh out loud with that one) but hopefully you know what i mean.

meanwhile, people are actually asking me for advice and seeking my counsel on stuff. where did these people come from?!

it's really left me confused. should i try to get these idiots* to listen to me? or should i stop trying so hard with those people and hang out with people who actually think i'm cool? hmmm, such a tough decision. *slapintheface*

did i mention Jesus not only has lesson plans written up entitled "lisagrace on bitterness" but also huge slaps in the face for me?

so, here i am, humbled that God has enough grace even for people like me. and even more humbled that people actually do take my advice seriously. may God get all the glory for being able to use me to help others because you know it's definitely not my doing.

*hopefully you caught the heavy sarcasm there, they're not really idiots, i just make them out to be idiots in my head and i realize i'm being totally insane.


november financial update

calculating kids

looking forward to our 2012 budget, we've decided to re-name our normal sinking funds category. mostly because they are not really sinking funds anymore.

as i was running the numbers for next year, and looking at our increased goals, particularly in the "sinking fund" categories like eye exams (bryan hasn't been in a couple years) and vacation (we've never taken a vacation aside from visiting family), i realized something: we don't make enough money to be able to afford all of that.

we do spend less than i make after our giving, bills and cash envelopes. and we do have some extra sources of income like bryan giving plasma and little surveys or odds and ends that i do. and sometimes we're lucky enough to get into car accidents. but because we can't count on plasma or those random extra earnings, we can't count on filling all of our sinking funds little by little each month.

so we're changing our budgeting strategy around and we're affectionately renaming our sinking funds to dump funds.

the dump fund: where we dump as much money as possible, as quickly as possible and fill the fund for the entire year in one fell swoop.  

it's similar to the debt snowball in many ways. the main reason i like it because it gives us momentum on our other goals. if we don't have to save little by little each month for those inevitable expenses, we can put more money towards the goals we're really ambitious about, like paying off our student loan before it accrues any interest.

i don't know if it possible, but i'd love to completely cross off the first goal on our list before 2012 even starts. with that said, here's the update for november!

2012 financial goals:
  1. fill all of our essential sinking dump funds as fast as possible. these dump funds include:
    • auto insurance
    • home insurance
    • auto tax
    • home tax
    • pest control
    • eye exams
    • eye glasses
  2. pay off our student loan
  3. fill all of our non-essential sinking dump funds. these dump funds include:
    • christmas
    • clothing
    • vacation
    • birthdays
  4. save and pay cash for a second car
  5. fully fund our emergency fund (6 months of expenses)
percentage-wise, we're 6.97% completed with our 2012 goals. 


haiku tuesday

apple pie, card games

happy faces all around

black midnight shopping


trailer park life

you know you live in a trailer park when...

you watch painfully as the tiny, cute, super old lady with a walker complete with tennis balls walks slowly but noisily to the mailboxes. her walker scrapes along the concrete sidewalk as she inches towards them.

i just wish the mail had actually come that day, because she walked back to her trailer with nothing to show for it.


paint chip calendar

this was a little bit of crafting fail, but i decided i'm still satisfied with the functionality and overall look. i LOVE having a calendar in the kitchen, especially a dry-erase one! bryan loves it too, and he said he thinks it looks cool.

of course i can thank pinterest for the idea, but i tend to forget to read the actual instructions/tutorials, i just look at the picture and do it my own way.

i used a 16x20 sheet of plastic that came from a poster frame, 30 green and yellow paint chips from lowes, and lots of mod podge, which didn't end up drying very well on that sheet of plastic, oh well. i'm not really sure how it could have worked out better, but a friend on instagram asked if it was laminated. that's not a bad idea and would eliminate the use of mod podge. but i don't think the laminate would be as sturdy as the poster plastic.

i also suppose that instead of speculating with me on how to put this thing together, you could just look at the tutorial on pinterest that inspired this craft [which i still haven't looked at by the way]!

happy crafting!


planning for Christmas

calculating kids

i LOVE giving gifts to people at Christmas, it's so much fun. there is something so gratifying about finding that "perfect" gift, the one you know will be loved and appreciated. being crafty as i am, i've handmade a lot of gifts for friends and family, but i've got some family members who are as into the handmade gift-that's okay too.

whether handmade or store-bought, giving thoughtful gifts at Christmas-time is something i value greatly. i think it probably means more to me than the person receiving the gift.

the thing about giving gifts is that it can be stressful, because it costs money. and giving gifts is just ONE of the expenses that usually comes along with Christmas. we send out christmas letters with a photo card, we go out to eat a little more often around the holidays, we travel, we give more money away, and we just generally spend more money.

i'm not complaining, i love this time of year, and i love all the things that go along with it. even the spending money part. after all, it's easy to spend money when you have money to spend! here's how we plan for the Holidays financially:

at the beginning of 2011, we decided on a reasonable amount to spend on Christmas. we actually doubled what we tried to spend last year, because it was too hard to stay within such a small budget. then we divided that number up into monthly increments and saved a little bit each month for Christmas. instead of catching us by surprise, gift-giving is something we can do with out feeling sick about how much we're spending. i'm so grateful for that.

i also am in the habit of Christmas shopping throughout the year. if i find a really great deal on something, or find something really unique that i know someone will love, i'll buy it then and just pull the money out of our Christmas "envelope."

what are your plans for Christmas spending? how early do you start putting money away? how do you save money during the Holidays?

have a great Thanksgiving tomorrow!


haiku tuesday

food, friends, family
loved ones who we rarely see
happy thanksgiving!


trailer park life

you know you live in a trailer park when...

you see this on trash pick-up day:

note the american flag in the background. america would be proud. 


a bombhitit

my mom used to declare, "your room looks like a bomb hit it!" so often, that i actually thought a "bombhitit" was a noun used to describe a very messy room.

well, mom, don't come to our trailer, because it looks like a bombhitit.

the alsberries have been experiencing extreme discipline issues. our house is a mess, which i've allowed for far too long. it started a year ago when i was all like, "i can't work three jobs and keep the house clean." that was actually pretty true, but now i've had just one job for over four months, and i'm still not cooking or cleaning like i know i could be. somehow, i keep convincing myself that maybe we can live in our own filth, for just a little while longer. wouldn't that be nice?

really, the problem is at this point that i've gotten into such strong cleaning habits, it's proving hard to break them. especially because these cleaning habits i speak of are mainly the ones where i throw all of our crap into the rooms i can shut the doors on and hide from. seriously, it's sick.

BUT, there is hope. because i read these two quotes that are going to forever heal me of poor housekeeping habits.

i am the problem.

i am the problem. but i am also the solution.

baddabingbaddaboom. i'm a brand new person people!

okay but seriously, when is my house going to get clean again?

well, i've finally started working on it. last week, i took my first two 18-gal totes of stuff to the local consignment shop along with a treasure chest-type thing. i swapped clothes at my church's clothing swap and i took the rest of the clothes i never wear to goodwill. we're in the process of getting rid of everything we don't use or don't need. and it feels good.

after that, i hope to start deep cleaning, because our house could really use it. and my husband and i would both probably function better if it was clean and tidy.

all in all, if it's any encouragement, i still stink at this "homemaker" thing and i've been married for 2.5 years.


savings plan for 2012

calculating kids

saving enough to pay our upcoming u-bill was our last financial goal to complete for 2011 and at the end of october, we were successful! all of our sinking funds have been filled and we just paid the last of our annual irregular bills. in my nerdy financial brain, 2011 might as well be over. 

that being said, it should not shock you that i'm already thinking about our 2012 financial goals. they are the biggest goals we've ever set for ourselves. some are fun, some are important, and some are essential. and when you add all the goals together, it's quite a shocking dollar amount.

now, i've been really transparent with our saving goal for tuition. i've given you the exact dollar amount that we've saved each month. i reasoned that if you really wanted to know, you could google how expensive one year at the university of iowa is and figure out how much we needed and were saving. so i figured i'd just post the actual numbers so you could see in reality how much we're saving for bryan's tuition.

but my financial updates are going to look a little different in 2012. the main reason being that you can't google how much we've decided to save for a vacation next year, or how much a fully-fund emergency fund is for us. we've decided not to make these dollar amounts public, because there really is no need to.

now that that's out of the way, here's what we have planned for 2012 (in order of importance):

  1. fill all of our essential sinking funds as fast as possible. these sinking funds include:
    • auto insurance
    • home insurance
    • auto tax
    • home tax
    • pest control
    • eye exams
    • eye glasses
  2. pay off our student loan
  3. fill all of our non-essential sinking funds. these sinking funds include:
    • christmas
    • clothing
    • vacation
    • birthdays
  4. save and pay cash for a second car
  5. fully fund our emergency fund (6 months of expenses)

honestly, looking at the bottom line, to save all of this in one year is impossible. but setting big goals seems to be good motivation for us and public (blog) accountability is an even better motivator for me. AND bryan will no longer be a student after may! not only will we not have to pay tuition, but he'll actually be working! woohoo! 

because we have already completed our goals for 2011, we're starting on our goals for 2012 now. i'll blog about our progress at the end of november in lieu of the monthly tuition updates. 

happy saving! 


haiku tuesday

mess mess go away
come again another day
or maybe never


trailer park life

you know you live in a trailer park when...

the stop sign becomes the local community bulletin board. 

i personally find the sign construction materials a classy touch: 
sharpie, duct tape and a little ceasars pizza lid. 


infinity scarf [rust & gray]

i'm a little bit in love with this scarf.

it's my first infinity scarf, and it's actually all for me. i didn't make it with anyone in mind to give it to, and now i love it so much i think i'll just keep it for myself. and thanks to my love for good sales even when i don't have a project in mind, this scarf cost less than $10 for the materials. you definitely can't buy a 100% merino wool scarf for that cheap, people.

the above picture shows how long it is, but this is likely how i'll wear it most of the time:

and for the knitters out there, here are the basics of this scarf:

i used two 50g skeins of super aussie 100% merino plus a tiny bit of leftover gray that i had from another project.
i also used a US10 35" circular needle

cast on 225 (or a multiple of 3) stitches, join yarn and repeat rows one and two until desired thickness is reached or you run out of yarn (which is what happened to me)

R1: kkp (repeat x 75)
R2: kpp (repeat x 75)

it feels so good to have completed a craft again! finishing knitting projects always seems to give me such momentum. here's to more crafts to come!

happy crafting!


back on the blog horse

here's an interesting fact, i'm writing this blog without a working delete key. it's my own fault of course, i knocked over my hot chocolate yesterday. while i was lucky enough to get only a few drops on my laptop, those drops landed on the delete key. i wish it would have been the "\" key instead. bleh. we'll see if i can get through this blog without getting so frustrated that i want to throw my macbook up against the wall. because that would only make things worse.

if i can't fix it, i'll just have to get really good at the "highlight and replace" method that i'm currently using  as a form of deleting. it's that or suddenly becoming perfect at the art of type.


you may have noticed that i took a little break after a couple weeks of crazy blogging and giveaways. i hope that was okay, i was a little burnt out. but it was so much fun to give stuff away and write about things that get me really excited.

you also may have noticed that i'm back on the blog horse this week, with the usual posts and such. i'm reserving the thursday time slot for random thoughts of mine, because blogging can be a nice way to write out some things i'm thinking about.

i don't actually know if the haiku tuesday thing will last, but i'm really into haiku's right now. i think they're the next trendy thing.

i really want to start craft of week again, but time for crafting has been so elusive for me. on the other hand, i'm pretty sure that's the most popular segment of this blog, so i think i'll try to make it a higher priority.

so that's what's happening on the blog. and that's how my thoughts come out when i'm not trying very hard. two sentence paragraphs with no flow.

here's to hoping i can get my delete key fixed in a timely fashion!


aftermath of the car accident

calculating kids

i've mentioned that i got in a car accident in early october. i was on my way to ames to have some sister/mother bonding time. i was so excited about spending an afternoon shopping with my sister and going out to dinner with my mom. i left iowa city at 11:30am and was planning on getting to ames by 1:30pm.

but i didn't get to ames until close to 3pm because i hit someone on the interstate.

why did i hit a car? because the car suddenly crossed three lanes of traffic into my lane, where i braked, swerved into the ditch and swerved back into my lane which resulted in the hit of her car and the ditching of my car.

it was not fun or amusing. and i was sorely disappointed at the time this was taking away from my family. and at the same time, this was the best car accident to get into. ever.

first of all, myself and my car could have been much, much worse. it could have flipped, i could have been stuck inside, i could have been injured. lots of things. as it were, i wasn't even sore the next day and my car was still completely drivable. my car incurred a sizable dent, but nothing else seems to be wrong with it.

second of all, the other driver was not hurt either.

third of all, other cars could have easily been involved. it was a crowded interstate but we were the only two cars involved in the accident.

fourth of all, we got a bunch of money for the damages! well, it was a bunch of money considering that we decided to leave the dent in the car and keep the cash.

bryan and i have been talking a lot about how to make the most of this unexpected money in the last week.

what would you do if you received a totally unexpected amount of money? 


haiku tuesday

birthdays, friendship, fun
wonderland is wonderful


trailer park life

you know you live in a trailer park when...

you find yourself thinking of clever yet cutting things to yell back at the trailer park hoodlums who frequent the streets and yell obscenities at all passerbys.


giveaway winners!

yay giveaways! i absolutely love giving things away, especially really cute things! and after plugging all the numbers into random.org, we have a completely new list of winners this week-even some that i don't know personally. i feel like a real blogger now.

lullabies winner (white hair clip): Rachel Y.
compassion winner (pin): Amy F.
exodus cry winner (earrings): Leah S.
missions winner (bobby pins): Natalie
look around winner (coffee sleeve): Jeska A.

bonus giveaway cd winner: Kellie E.

i loved all your comments, but my favorite was leah's: "Okay, this is going to be my lucky comment I can feel it. ;)" leah, that was your lucky comment! how funny is that?!

since i've never not known my commenters, i'm hoping this works out.

here's what you have to do to claim your prize:
email me your mailing address by friday, november 4th (i promise i'm not some creeper who's going to stalk you, i just want to mail you your prize!)
i'll mail all the prizes out on friday, so you should all receive them early next week.

i'll also try to contact you however i can, and if i don't hear back from you by friday, i'll have to give your prize to another reader.

thanks for reading, commenting, and giving me some love last week. i would probably blog even if no one read this, but i'm thankful to those of you who do. : )

october tuition update

to quote myself: "we still need to save at least $506.74 this semester. i'm not super confident that october will be a good month..."

we saved $520.23 in october! i'm not really sure how that happened...but it totally did!
God is awesome.

total tuition for 2011-2012 school year: $9,654.00
total tuition paid so far: $2,090.00
savings at the end of october: $2,104.49 $2,090.00*
difference: $5,474.00 (which is the exact amount that our loan is covering)
percentage saved: 43.3%
percentage left to save: 56.7%

here's how october went down:

right at the beginning of october we got our dryer fixed. this made me want to puke. it cost $140 dollars just for the guy to walk in the door. one new heat lamp later, and we just paid $220 to fix our dryer. gross.

three days later, i got in a car accident. long story short, i was on the highway and the other driver crossed into my lane without seeing me. i braked but had to swerve into the ditch and ended up popping back out of the ditch, hitting her, and spinning back into the ditch. both the other driver and i were perfectly fine, but our cars both gained sizable dents. unfortunately, that was five weeks ago now and i still haven't heard what the consensus is regarding the fault.

but the month started getting better after those two events.

my amazing dad decided he wanted to pay for our dryer, so he left us money on our fridge after they stayed with us for the weekend of my brothers wedding. it made me cry-what a huge blessing!

bryan was finally approved to give plasma again. he wasn't able to give most of august and september.

our car insurance went down. since we have a sinking fund for our car insurance, we got to put the extra that we had already saved up into our tuition fund.

my eyesight didn't change enough to warrant a change in prescription! not only is this the first time i've ever gone to eye doctor without feeling like my eyes are dying, it also means i only had to pay for my eye appointment and not new glasses! we also had a sinking fund for my eyes, so we got to put the extra towards our tuition fund as well.

i was honestly getting nervous about not having enough to pay our u-bill for next semester (i'm assuming we'll receive the bill sometime in november). but i'm so glad that we intentionally didn't take out more loans than we thought we needed-God has provided the rest with plenty of time to spare!

*i'll post soon on why we're only keeping exactly what we need ($2,090.00) in our tuition fund account


bonus giveaway!

as an added bonus to this weeks daily giveaways, i'm extending the comment timeline through sunday, october 30th. so now you have extra time to enter to win one of five cute crafts from lullabies.

but i'm also giving away one hardcopy of the lullabies for africa cd to one random commenter from this week! so if you haven't commented yet, and would like a chance to win a copy of this cd, you know what to do!

here are links to the five posts you can comment on:

lullabies for africa
exodus cry
missions & relief projects
the look around

please leave only one comment per post to keep things fair, thanks!

the look around

as you might be able to confirm after this week, we're totally into giving. we always want it be a large part of our lives. we want to trust God for his provision, and we want to give more than we're always comfortable with. 

this week has been a great reminder for me to give even more. [for example, i'll confess that while we decided to give monthly to exodus cry, i didn't actually do it until i sat down to write the blog about it.] it was encouraging to see so many comments and so much excitement about giving. i truly hope i've encouraged you to think more about how you can contribute to causes that you find worthy.

but this week, i was challenged to write about one of the pitfalls i fall into when it comes to money. 

sometimes, it's really easy to just write a check and wash your hands. 

being generous is a discipline in a lot of ways, and i think bryan and i have become pretty disciplined about it. and in that way, i have this tendency to think very logically about giving money, rather than being heartfelt and moved. does that make sense?

i guess what i'm saying is that there are often times when needs arise, and my first tendency is to say, well, let's write a check. it's not to pray for the person in need. it's not to bring them dinner and see how they are doing. it's not to seek to understand why they are in need. my solution is cold hard cash and often, that's exactly what it is: cold. removed. even haughty. 

that's one reason why i love compassion. they make it virtually impossible to just give money. they practically shove it down my throat that i should be praying for and writing letters to the child we support. it's not just money that she needs, it's love and support and letters and jesus. 

so my challenge for you today, but mostly for myself, is to do "the look around." what are the needs around you? the needs that might be a little messy and emotional and hard to meet? the needs that may take more money, more time, more stress than you're willing to give? 

how can you contribute?
maybe it's helping the homeless in your area. maybe it's visiting someone you don't even know in the hospital because she has no one else visiting her. maybe it's letting someone borrow your car. maybe it's buying someone lunch and listening to where they're at. maybe it's serving someone who doesn't deserve it. maybe it's helping someone with their finances. maybe it's making a meal for someone without a real support system. maybe it's organizing all of your friends to make a big difference to a women's shelter. 

it could be a lot of things. today, i'm going to do the look around here in iowa city and find out. 

this week, i'm giving away five handmade crafts from lullabies for africa! 
and i've saved the best for last. this cute little thing is a reusable coffee cup sleeve! instead of using the paper ones that come around your cup at the coffee shop, slide this thing on and you're good to go! 

simply leave a comment on this post if you'd like to win this coffee sleeve!

i'll randomly select the winner at the end of the week!


missions & relief projects

do you want to know something really shocking about me?

i thought so.

i don't have any desire to move overseas. if i'm truly honest with myself, i don't. and it's not for lack of trying either. i've taken perspectives (an amazing and life-changing class!) twice. i do my best to keep updated on what is going on in the world. we are blessed to attend a mission-focused church. but i still don't want to move overseas. i like america.

you can start booing now.

let me clarify by saying that i would move overseas. in a heartbeat. i understand that God loves the world and it's people way more than i love america. and i'm all about following God wherever he leads me. we moved to iowa city in faith, and that was a great step for me. if God wants us overseas, we'll know and we'll go.

but i don't know if we'll ever move overseas, honestly. this is quite possibly the reason why i love those who are passionate about missions and relief work. because i'm frankly not passionate about going myself. but if someone else is, i get so excited.

we are blessed to have many people in our lives who are passionate about many different people groups. i'm so thankful for them-they make me fall in love with the world. they help me see the world the way God sees it.

bryan and i have become eager to help fuel these passions financially, especially since we don't have a specific goal for ourselves when it comes to missions.

how can you contribute?
  • compassion international has organized some swift and trustworthy relief efforts. consider making a one-time donation to meet critical needs.
  • support your friends or family who are going.
  • consider taking perspectives in your area and evaluate your role in world missions.
  • support a missionary through gospel for asia.
  • pick up a copy of operation world and pray for nations.

this week, i'm giving away five handmade crafts from lullabies for africa!

simply leave a comment on this post if you'd like to win these hairpins!

i'll randomly select the winner at the end of the week!


exodus cry

a little over a month ago, a student organization here at the university of iowa called Students Abolishing Slavery held a viewing of this movie. Nefarious was a powerful film in more ways than one. it plainly described the tragedy of the sex trade in our present world in an artful way.

despite it's horrific focus and against all odds, the film ended with a hopeful spirit. this organization seeks to raise awareness of modern day slavery and the sex trade, rescue women by setting up lighthouses, and reach and change the hearts of men. but it was clear at the film's end that only true healing can come from the power of Jesus Christ. this is the message they carry with them.

it was not a difficult decision to choose to give Exodus Cry monthly support. i talked to bryan about it and we decided to add it to our budget.

how can you contribute?

this week, i'm giving away five handmade crafts from lullabies for africa!

simply leave a comment on this post if you'd like to win these awesome earrings.
i'm probably going to have to get a pair for myself!

i'll randomly select the winner at the end of the week!


compassion international

have you heard of compassion international? you likely have. it's a cause that has gained wild popularity. and unlike the bachelorette, their popularity is well-deserved.

this is a multi-faceted organization who has found an incredible balance when it comes to the job of supporting impoverished children and families. i've listed just a few things they provide:

  • a monthly financial support program that connects the able to children in need of clothing, food, and education in impoverished areas of the world
  • a deeper connection between the sponsor and sponsored by allowing for pictures, updates and correspondance along with the financial contribution
  • amazing compassion-run programs for the children that allow the gospel to be delivered while also meeting the physical needs of those in need
bryan and i support an almost 11-year-old girl from the dominican republic. i love receiving her letters and hanging her cute drawings on my fridge. she has truly become a part of our family.

how can you contribute?

this week, i'm giving away five handmade crafts from lullabies for africa!

simply leave a comment on this post if you'd like to win this adorable pin.
my sister-in-law put a lullabies pin on her winter coat-i must say, it's pretty cute!

i'll randomly select the winner at the end of the week!


lullabies for africa

this week, i'm sharing five different opportunities to give. i've shared several times now on why my husband and i find giving to be an essential part of life. i thought it would be fun to help promote the causes that we are most passionate about. 

today, i'm sharing about a wonderful cause. Lullabies for Africa is something i've been really excited about these past few months. 

haleigh is a friend of ours from ames. bryan played for the anthem band while she was also in the band-this girl has pipes! i was so excited to get a support letter from her and hear that she was going to kenya for three weeks this winter. it was so evident that God had moved in haleigh's life and given her new eyes to see all of the orphans in need. thus, the Lullabies for Africa album was born-some of our good friends both in Ames and in Iowa City contributed to this album, which is also fun! as usual, God had a bigger vision than even she had for this project. 

on top of the cd, haleigh (and some other awesome people) have been hand-crafting a bunch of cute goods and selling them with the promise that 100% of the proceeds goes to help orphans in africa! 

watching haleigh be transformed by God's vision and love for the world has totally gripped my heart. i've told her several times that i'm just so excited about what God is doing in and through her! 

how can you contribute? 
  • consider making a donation to the Lullabies for Africa cause.
    "The money collected will go towards traveling costs and fees. Any donations that exceed the $3500 mark will go to help families adopt from Africa."
  • check out the adorable handmade goods in the lullabies etsy shop.
  • purchase the cd as a gift or for your own children, it's a beautiful collection of lullabies!

this week, i'm giving away five handmade crafts from lullabies for africa!

simply leave a comment on this post if you'd like to win this adorable hair clip. 

i'll randomly select the winner at the end of the week!


preview for next week & giveaway winners!

i have to tell you, i was nervous and excited for all of you who commented on my blog as i was entering the numbers on random.org. you all had pretty good chances. apparently not very many people were interested in winning free amazon.com giftcards-i honestly expected more comments!

but there were only 5 winners, which means some of you did not win. i guess i'll just have to do more giveaways next week! next week is what i like to call "give week." i'm going to be writing about generosity, worthy causes, and how and why we give even though we're on a tight budget.

and in the theme of "give week" the giveaways next week are actually in support of a cause i've been super excited about lately. here's a picture of the adorable items i'm giving away, i'll post more about the cause on monday!

and without further ado, here are the winners for this week!

#1: Christy
#2: Alicia
#3: Kaylee
#4: Ami
#5: Karlee

congratulations! you will all receive an email today from amazon.com with your giftcard information!


iphone apps + giveaway

**scroll down find out how to enter to win a $5 amazon.com gift card!**
post your comment before 10/22/2011

it's not too late to comment on my other posts this week
more comments=more entries
i want to give these giftcards away!

this is relatively new to me, as i've only had an iphone for a month and a half. but apparently i really enjoy doing menial tasks for fictional money like "swagbucks" or "kicks" or "points." you all probably think i'm crazy! just note, i don't have a longterm history with any of the apps i'm about to mention like i do with the other four sites i've written about this week, so don't consider my recommendation as gold or anything. 

what it is?
i recently read this article on making money with your iphone. most of the apps out there simply advertise certain products by having you scan barcodes when you're in the store.

shopkick and checkpoints are two apps that i use. 

how does it work for me?
if i feel like it, i'll run around walmart, scan some barcodes, and earn some points. i haven't earned enough points to mean anything yet, so i'm not convinced it's worth my time yet. but, like all of the things i've mentioned this week, i've found that it doesn't actually take a lot of my time once i figure out a system.

i don't by any means make extra trips to the store just to get these points, but i'm in walmart a couple times a week anyway, so i'll make some scans if i'm not pressed for time.

if you don't have a smartphone, which i know is many of you, i would liken these apps to technology-driven mystery shopping. i've never mystery shopped personally, but i know this is a viable way to earn some extra cash, too, and you don't even need a smartphone! : )

where's the proof?
i don't have any proof yet, as i mentioned earlier, but on shopkick, i've earned 561 kicks in about 3 weeks. i'm a little less than halfway there to earn a $5 target giftcard.

*giveaway closed*
enter to win another $5 amazon.com gift card today!

here's how to enter the giveaway today:
simply leave a comment answering this question: what you're favorite way to earn "free money?"

i'll randomly select a winner for today's giveaway at the end of the week!


pinecone research + giveaway

**scroll down find out how to enter to win a $5 amazon.com gift card!**
post your comment before 10/22/2011

it's not too late to comment on my other posts this week 
more comments=more entries
i want to give these giftcards away!

what is it?
pinecone research is a survey company. their surveys are consistent and simple, and they pay promptly with no strings attached. it's the only company i spend the time taking surveys. while inboxdollars and swagbucks both offer many surveys, i've never found that those are worth my time. 

how does it work for me?
i receive requests to take surveys between 2 and 4 times a month. each survey takes me about 20 minutes to complete if i'm focused. with pinecone, i receive $3 for every survey i complete.

i try to complete the survey as soon as it lands in my inbox. most surveys allow only 2-3 days to complete, and i've missed several opportunities because i simply forgot to respond.

i enjoy taking the surveys, even though it is the most time consuming "free money" thing i do.   

where's the proof?
pinecone doesn't have an earnings total, but in the past year i've completed 23 surveys, so i've earned $66 in one year. at 20 minutes per survey, i earn about $9 an hour.

disclaimer, pinecone only allows for a certain number of researchers. i'll try to post the next time they have openings.

*giveaway closed*
enter to win another $5 amazon.com giftcard!

here's how to enter the giveaway today:
simply leave a comment answering this question: have you ever taken surveys before? 

i'll randomly select a winner for today's giveaway at the end of the week! 


ebates + giveaway

**scroll down find out how to enter to win a $5 amazon.com gift card!**
post your comment before 10/22/2011

it's not too late to comment on my other posts this week 
more comments=more entries
i want to give these giftcards away!

what it is?
ebates pays you for shopping online. you can receive on average 1-4% cash back simply by clicking through this site to get to the store site. 

how does it work for me?
basically, i use ebates whenever i can. i don't do a ton of online shopping other than on amazon.com and ebates unfortunately doesn't offer any cashback for amazon (darn!). however, i do occasionally purchase things from target.com, gap.com or somewhere else. i've also recently noticed that they link to a lot of airfare websites, so i'm definitely going to use ebates the next time i buy plane tickets! when i hear of a good online deal or decide to order online, i simply go to ebates first, search for the store i'm using, and click on their link.

this creates a "ticket." after i complete my order, ebates processes my cashback-it's that easy!

disclaimer: ebates only processes payment 4 times per year and you have to have over $5.00 (not including your sign-up bonus) accrued before you get paid.

where's the proof?
while i love getting that extra rebate, i still don't shop online a lot, so the pay off isn't as big for me. but i never refuse free money! i've earned $49.76 since june 2009.

another note: shopathome.com is a similar website. i also have an account here, but i prefer ebates by far. shop at home requires $20 in earnings before they pay although they do pay monthly if you've reached over $20.

*giveaway closed*
enter to win another $5 amazon.com gift card today! 

here's how to enter the giveaway today:
1) simply leave any sort of comment on this post, that's it! 
2) get a bonus entry for signing up through my referral link and leave another comment telling me you've done so

i'll randomly select a winner for today's giveaway at the end of the week! 


inbox dollars + giveaway

**scroll down find out how to enter to win a $5 amazon.com gift card!**
post your comment before 10/22/2011

what it is?
inboxdollars is basically an advertisement service. they send advertisements via email and you get paid $.01 or $.02 for clicking to confirm you've read the email.

how does it work for me?
each morning, after i've gotten through my swagbucks routine, i click on my inboxdollars toolbar where it tells me how many unread emails i have. rather than reading them when they come to my actual email inbox, i go directly to my inbox on their site. by doing this, i only check those emails once a day and it takes about 10 seconds to click through them all. i usually receive between 4-5 per day.

these emails are basically spam and i've become numb to subliminal messaging. however, i've never received any actual spam because inboxdollars doesn't share my email. i only receive emails directly from inboxdollars and i simply delete them on the spot.

they also require that you earn $30 before "cashing in."

where's the proof?
while this is considerably slower-going than swagbucks, i still find it to be an easy and fun way to earn a little extra cash. since january of 2010 i've earned $55.24. because of the $30 rule, i've only cashed one check for $33.74 and have $21.50 in my account. i roughly spend a total of one hour on this throughout the year.

*giveaway closed*
enter to win another $5 amazon.com gift card today! 

here's how to enter the giveaway today:
1) simply leave a comment telling me if you had ever heard of inboxdollars before reading this, that's it!
2) get a bonus entry for signing up through my referral link and leave another comment telling me you've done so

i'll randomly select a winner for today's giveaway at the end of the week! 


swagbucks + giveaway

Search & Win

**scroll down find out how to enter to win a $5 amazon.com gift card!**
post your comment before 10/22/2011

i'm being completely sincere when i say, if you don't use swagbucks yet, you're crazy.

what is it?
swagbucks is a search engine that rewards you with points on a random basis for simply searching through their site instead of using say, google. 

it's a simple idea without a lot of gimmicks. i'm under the impression that their partnership with amazon.com makes the idea the huge success that it is. 

how does it work for me?
here's how i use swagbucks:

every morning when i pull up my computer, i have a system. 

i go to swagbucks.com
i earn 1 swagbuck for having the toolbar on my browser
i earn 1 swagbuck for answering the daily poll
and i earn 2 swagbucks for completing the NOSO (no obligation special offers)

then throughout the day, i use swagbucks as my search engine instead of google. 

say i'm just dying to know how demi and ashton are doing. instead of using google to search for these arbitrary facts, i use swagbucks. on a random basis i'm rewarded 7 or more "swagbucks" once per day. 

using this process i earn between 11-15 swagbucks per day.

i also use their great referral system [which i'm doing right now] and read their blog which often has hidden codes. 

how do i make the most of this?
the amazon.com giftcards are hands down the best bang for your buck when it comes to swagbucks. one $5 giftcard "costs" 450 swagbucks. using my system above, i can earn about 1 giftcard per month. and who can't find something to buy on amazon? 

where's the proof?
since march of 2009, i've earned $90 in amazon.com giftcards for spending about 10 seconds a day on swagbucks. roughly, that's about two and a half hours of time total since i started. i think it's worth it! 

*giveaway closed*
this week, i've giving away one $5 amazon.com giftcard each day in honor of swagbucks!

here's how to enter the giveaway today:
1) simply leave a comment telling me if you use swagbucks and how you like it-that's it!
2) get a bonus entry for signing up through my referral link, and leave another comment telling me you did so.

i'll randomly select a winner for today's giveaway at the end of the week! 

free money week

it's free money week!

i've wanted to do this for a while, because i love free money, and i know most people do too.

so, this week, i'll be posting on my favorite ways to get free money. 

i personally use and recommend everything i'll be posting about so if you have any questions or concerns, just let me know. i've found that when you're on a budget, these little extra sources of income can be so much fun!

disclaimer: i consider the money or rewards i receive from these programs to be free because they don't cost me anything but time. all of these opportunities require some time, but most of them very little. these are all things i find enjoyable and fun on top of a fulltime job and keeping a home.

what's even more exciting about free money week is that i'm giving away one free $5 amazon gift card every day!

after all, what would free money week be without free money?!

find out how to win an amazon gift card later today!


under construction

so, i have some fun things coming up on the blog, but i need to re-construct the blog a little, especially because people my mom can't leave comments. so, come back next week for some crazy blog craziness.


september tuition update

did i tell you all that bryan's debit card information got stolen? oh yeah, that happened. catching the four $70 dollar transactions that went through from florida might just be the only plus about obsessively checking my bank account-even on a saturday. we cancelled our debit cards, got the fraudulent transactions credited back to us [over $400 dollars!] and started discussing if it was time to switch to a local bank.

we've been using our bank back in ames for the past year. it's been working out well, the only real inconvenience being that we have to mail in our deposits. but the debit card fraud pushed us over the edge and we decided it was time to turn over the last piece of ames we were holding on to. but, really, it wasn't nearly as dramatic as that last sentence made it sound.

the good news is that the bank we switched to actually offers us the same perks checking account, which is why we stayed with our ames bank so long.

anyway, though i've been trying to switch everything over, our budget sheets are in mild disarray, but the following update is as accurate as always. and that was a long of saying that i really have nothing revolutionary to say this month. here's the update!

total tuition for 2011-2012 school year: $9,654.00
total tuition paid so far: $2,090.00
savings at the end of september: $1,583.26
difference: $5,980.74
percentage saved: 38.05%
percentage left to save: 61.95%

we still need to save at least $506.74 this semester. i'm not super confident that october will be a good month, because we're getting our dryer fixed and the estimated cost of that is $140. but you can't exactly line-dry your clothes when it's snowing. so it's a good thing. happy saving!



have you experienced problems when trying to comment on my blog?

my mom literally calls me to tell me what her comment would have been if she was able to comment, but she can't seem to figure out how.

this is a tough question though, because if you are having problems commenting directly on the blog, you're not going to be able to tell me via comment are you? so, please, do me a favor and email me or if you've traveled from facebook, leave a comment there.


dreams and things

calculating kids

disclaimer: this post is not what you think it's going to be.

since everyone knows how much of a tightwad i am, i thought i'd share just how far this can go. and it goes as far a dreams. not "i've got hopes and dreams" kind of dreams, but "i'm out cold, fast asleep, dead to the world" kind of dreams.

i dream about slightly altered versions of real life. and then the morning comes and i'm left wondering what's real and what's dreamland.

my dream sequence from the other night was as follows:

easily discerned as not real:
i was majorly flirting with a guy who was not bryan. i was practically drooling over him. i'm not going to say who, because there are some things in life that leave me red in the face, but it was bad. in reality, i'm happily married and as a bonus confirmation, i woke up next to my sleeping red-headed husband named bryan. also, this dream has nothing to do with me being a tightwad, it was just funny.

not real, but i wish it was:
i'm floating in water. i'm floating towards something. the something ends up being a bunch of assembly lines. i'm on an assembly line. and all the other assembly lines are full of the one thing i've been searching for: dryers for $50 each. hundreds of cheap dryers! i can choose anyone i want! a clerk comes to help me [i'm not on an assembly line any more apparently] and we look at tiny dryers and regular sized dryers and i pick the perfect one and i only have to pay $50 for it. can you tell our dryer is broken?

truly let down by the lack of reality:
the last dream i can remember from the other night was simply that i was driving around and my gas tank was almost full. when i woke up, i considered this, and determined that i must have filled up my tank on monday. when i got in my car to drive to work, i actually got angry at bryan for using over a half a tank of gas by driving 15 miles for adoleo practice last night. and then i remembered the dream. dang it.

i just need my dreams to actually dictate the future and i'd be set. except for the flirting part. sorry that i dreamcheated on you, bryan.


waiting for you

this music video really gives life to this adoleo song, "waiting for you."

watch it. you won't regret it.


trailer park life

you know you live in a trailer park when...

you actually pass your trailer on your way home. because even though you've lived here over a year, all the trailers still kind-of look the same and you can't exactly remember which one is yours unless you're paying close attention.


the tightwad ditch

calculating kids

here's one thing i often forget about money management: the whole point of financial freedom is to be free.

i'm going to use a common youth group analogy to help explain this one.

every path has two ditches, right? so the path of financial freedom is the same.

one ditch is the party ditch. the one you fall into while you spend more money than you have on things you don't even need. that's the ditch that people like me avoid at all costs. what can i say, i've never been a partier.

but the other ditch traps you in the same way that all ditches do, it just feels a little more right as you're falling in. if you fall into this ditch, you may not have debt. you may have a large savings account. you may, by all evidence, be financial "free."

i fall into the latter ditch. and speaking directly from the tightwad ditch [as i affectionately call it] it's still quite ditchy.

there are days when i don't feel free at all. i feel bogged down by trying to figure out how every last penny can contribute to our savings account. i feel tired of compulsively checking my bank account and updating my check register and wondering why nothing has changed in the last hour. i get so easily obsessed with our finances that our budget sheet is almost constantly up on my computer. it's a dark, damp ditch that isn't the least bit encouraging or freeing.

and then i remember what i always forget. i remember that it's pointless to try. so. hard. at this whole staying out of debt thing and this being wise with money thing if i'm just going to fall into the tightwad ditch. if i'm constantly stressed or obsessed with the bottom line, that isn't freedom.

i think there are physical reasons to be stressed about money, like not having enough to pay your bills each month. but i've never experienced that, so i'm pretty sure the cause for my stress is completely mental. and therefore, i'm completely mental. i will drive myself crazy if i don't lighten up on myself.

jeez, this sure turned into a rant to myself, so i guess i'll just go with it:

note to self: don't be such a tightwad.


trailer park life

you know you live in a trailer park when...

you notice some tires in your neighbors yard. and you also notice that those tires are chained to the lamp post.


recycle fail

you know, you try to do good in this world. you try so hard to be a good earthling and recycle. and this is what you get in return.


i'm just sad that every last paper shred won't get recycled into an egg carton or something.


dumping money into passion

calculating kids

i know i probably sound like a know-it-all about money stuff at this point. just to be clear, i don't know it all. i'm just a huge nerd.

having said that, if i know anything about money management, it's this: passion is a money pit.

this fact is neither good nor bad, just impenetrably true.

let me tell you about my husband. he loves playing the bass guitar. music in general is one of his greatest passions. can you guess what he spends money on?

our house is filled with records, cds, and musical instruments of all sorts. it's fantastic. it's not bad that bryan is passionate about music-it's a quality i'd love for our children to inherit from him. and it's certainly not a bad thing that we have a bunch of music-related "stuff" in our house. some (read: me) might call it junk or clutter, but not bryan. to bryan, it's the most precious stuff he owns.

thus, in our family, music is a money pit.

i certainly have my own vices as well. and between the two of us, we've come up with some shared passions. these passions, in particular, are influenced by this money pit truth. in other words, we've considered the "money pits" that are most valuable and that we want to invest in the most.

so what are our passions?

i've always wanted to be a mom. and i've known for a while that when that day comes, i want to stay home with our children. we want to provide for our children all that they need. everyone knows that kids cost money and a lot of it. but it's a worthwhile money pit.

reaching the world with the gospel. 
this is an area where we are tested to put our money where our mouth is often. while we don't have any particular plans to move overseas, we know that God could put this in our future. we want to be available and ready to go if/when God asks us to and we want to support those who do have plans to go overseas. this is a money pit we never want to lose sight of-we always want to be passionate about the work that God is going.

investing in our community.
sometimes it's throwing a party, sometimes it's providing for someone in need, and sometimes it's the simple act of investing in our local church. we don't want to forget about those near and dear to us, and investing financially is a great way to stay connected.

being a light.
sorry for the small soapbox i'm about to step on, but has anyone noticed how cheap christians can be? bryan and i always want to be open-handed with our money. we want to pay our bills on time, give good tips to waiters, and pay a fair price for services or goods. we don't want to be known for always asking favors or taking everything we can get. this can be a struggle for me especially as "frugal" can quickly turn into "cheap."

what are you passionate about? is it a worthwhile money pit?