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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Developing An Attitude Of Gratitude In Your Kids

"Why is it that a two-year-old is often happier playing in the box a toy came in rather than playing with the actual toy? Why is it that children living in poverty in third-world countries seem happier and more content than kids in wealthy nations? Because neither is caught in the trap of comparisons. They don’t know what they are missing out on. They are simply grateful."

That's the idea behind Smart Money, Smart Kids, a brand-new book out by Dave Ramsey and Rachel Cruze. Literally, it just came out today. I think.

I remember one Christmas when I was a kid, probably eight years old, I was tearing open presents like a madman... er, boy. My stack of presents was pretty big, and was piling up so fast that I couldn't unwrap them fast enough. I was oblivious to everyone else in our small crowded living room—my cousins Nick and Danny, my aunts and uncles, my sister Tess, my parents. I couldn't think of anything else but me. Me and all those glorious presents that just kept on coming!

I don't remember being aware of Philip until my dad tapped me on the shoulder and asked me to come into the bedroom. He closed the door behind me and told me that Philip was a foster kid, just a little older than me, who had been sent to live with my aunt and uncle the day before Christmas. No one knew he was coming, so no one had gotten him any presents. I remember feeling a little embarrassed at that point by all the presents I had so greedily been diving into.

Dad made me put on my coat and boots and we drove into town looking for a store, any store, that was actually open on Christmas. When we found a little hardware/convenient store, dad took me inside and asked me to pick out a couple presents I thought Philip might like. I found a radio-controlled car and an action figure. We took the toys back to our apartment, wrapped them, and gave them to Philip.

I don't know if Philip expected to get anything for Christmas or not, but being a boy of around 10 or 11, I'm sure he was hoping for something. The look on his face when I handed him the presents was one of surprise and happiness. He had that radio-controlled car racing around the kitchen in just a few minutes.

I tell this story because I think, more often than not, we see kids on Christmas throwing temper tantrums because they didn't get what they wanted, or they didn't get enough. I tell ya, it was an eye-opening thing for me to witness a kid like Philip endure a Christmas fast while I was enjoying a Christmas feast.

In their book, Smart Money, Smart Kids, Dave and Rachel talk about raising children who are sincerely grateful for what they have. How do you teach a child to develop an attitude of gratitude? How do you show them what it is to appreciate what they've got?

I think for my kids it's going to involve taking them to a soup kitchen or homeless shelter on Christmas Eve where they can help serve the less fortunate at a time when they're getting plenty. I want to give them a visual picture to keep in mind whenever they think they don't have enough, or complain because of what they have. Because I'll tell you this, after I gave those presents to Philip and went back to my stack of gifts—which had grown considerably in the time it took my dad and I to go on our brief shopping trip—I didn't have the same greedy, gimmie-gimmie attitude. I was sort of blown away by what my dad had done, and embarrassed that I didn't see the need that he saw in Philip.

"We all have things to count as blessings, but we also have a tendency to lose our sense of awe and our sense of gratitude. Make sure your heart is full of gratitude for the blessings in your own life. Let your children witness this in you, and they will want to respond with gratitude for the blessings in their own lives." —Smart Money, Smart Kids.

What has it been like for you teaching your kids to be grateful?

Keep pinchin' :-)

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Don't Be A Toadie

I don't want to be a toadie
It amazes me sometimes just how deep, and how often, people get into debt. I'm not pointing fingers. I'm guilty of this. Just ask my wife. People like me who enjoy spending money are always in danger of spending too much. The discipline of reeling ourselves in takes time and practice.

I'm sick of being in debt. It's one of the main reasons I've decided to strive for debt-free living with "gazelle intensity," as Dave Ramsey says.

But there's another reason I want to be out of debt: I don't want to be a toadie.

Humans are like toads sometimes. You put them in a frying pan and turn up the heat, and the little toadie will cook to death because he doesn't sense the gradually rising heat (or so I've heard. I don't think MythBusters has done an episode on this yet. PETA probably won't let them). Just like that poor little toadie, those of us who attract debt just sit there as the mounting threat of debt builds around us. We start to sweat under the pressure as the heat rises. It takes a lot sometimes to realize that that sizzling sound isn't a barbecue. It's our butts!

You can always tell who the toadies are too. They're the ones living in a run down trailer with a six different satellites attached and a brand new 4X4 parked out front. They're the ones with high blood pressure. They're the ones who can barely afford to pay the rent, but go to the movies every week, buy gourmet coffee every morning, and eat at restaurants like they're going out of style. defines "toadie" as someone who is a side-kick, a tag-along, someone who does the dirty work. Like people with too much debt—they're not walking around with a credit card in their pocket; it's the credit card that's walking around with a toadie attached, tagging along, spending and spending and spending. The dirty work.

I don't want to be a toadie. I don't even want to look like a toadie. When people look at my house I want them to see evidence of a good steward. I don't want to be embarrassed by my purchase history. I'm done living in the frying pan of debt collectors.

Keep pinchin' :-)

Monday, April 21, 2014

Recipes and New Traditions On Resurrection Day

Holidays. Something I took for granted as a child. We had fairly regular annual routines in my family growing up. The hubby did too. As we grew up, though, and siblings got married and moved away, both Jake and I have found our childhood traditions changing rapidly. While it's sad to say goodbye to old traditions I've decided rather to embrace the fact that we get to create new ones.

This Easter was a perfect example. With our families both scattered around this year, we decided to get together with some friends for a big lunch. It was great! Lots of yummy food, great conversation, and a beautiful day.

I don't know what future holidays will hold for us or what new traditions we'll form, but I know everything will be fun and exciting as long as I have the hubby to do it with... oh, and these two VERY important menu items. (And if ever these two dishes of pure yumminess aren't present, all chaos may ensue. In case you haven't guessed, this is a key issue for me.)

Sweet Potato Casserole
1 - 40oz can of sweet potatoes (drained)
1/2 c. milk
2 eggs
1 stick butter or margarine softened
1/2 c. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla

Mix altogether with mixer (mash potatoes first). Spread into buttered 9x13 pan.

1 c. brown sugar
1/3 c. flour
1/3 c. margarine, softened
1 c. pecans or walnuts chopped

Mix topping together and crumble over potato mixture. Bake at 350 for 35 minutes. You can actually make this in advance if you want and just store it in the fridge until you're ready to cook it.

Strawberry Jello Salad
2 small or 1 large strawberry jello mix
1 container frozen sliced strawberries (about 16 oz., I think)
1 small can crushed pineapple drained
Sour cream

Thaw strawberries (sometimes I don't fully thaw). Stir jello with 2 cups boiling water. Stir in strawberries and pineapple. (Don't drain strawberries) Pour half of mixture into a glass container (9x13 or 7x9 for a thicker salad). Let set in refrigerator (about 30 minutes) When set, spread layer of sour cream. Pour rest of jello mixture and chill.

What are some traditions you have for the holidays? Special recipes, favorite places to eat out or family you always go to? Tell us all about it in the comments.

Keep pinchin' :-)

Friday, April 18, 2014

The Great Shopping Trip

I think I was in high school when my older sister and I had the bright idea to do our family of eight's grocery shopping for the week. We figured this way we could get all the food that we really like that Mom never seemed to buy. We were both naive enough to think that since we had both grocery-shopped with mom for years that we had this thing down!

First, we knew that mom always built our meal plan around sale prices, so we spent some time scouring the weekly fliers to find out what was on sale. Mom gave us the same budget she would have and told us we had to have 7 days worth of food, and sent us on our way.

I honestly don't remember how long it took us to do the grocery shopping, but I'm sure it took us hours. Neither of us had ever really paid that much attention to where things were located in a grocery store, so, naturally, this part took us quite a while.

Finally we arrived home, exhausted, broke, and pretty darn frustrated because we had spent so much time trying to buy everything that mom told us we needed for meals that week that we hadn't had any money to buy the things we really wanted. In fact, I think we found that we could barely even purchase all the meal items. Talk about an eye-opening experience!

Needless to say, that was the first and last time we ever took on that responsibility!

I share this because even though my sister and I  may not have entirely succeeded on our mission, we obviously learned some things by observing and participating in the process of grocery shopping. I think it's important for parents to have their kids take part in activities like this because someday they will have to do it for themselves, and learning to do it properly takes time and practice.

As your kids get into their teenage years you might even want to challenge them to take on the job of grocery shopping so that they can have real life practice in a skill that will help them be good stewards of their money later on in life.

Although I don't shop for groceries exactly the same way my mom does, the basic core is with me—look at sale flyers, know prices from different stores, and stick to the budget!

Do you have any memories of trying to do the family grocery shopping when you were young? Or an experience with your own kids? Leave us a comment to tell us all about it.

Keep pinchin' :-)

Thursday, April 17, 2014

A Few Of My Favorite Things

Recently as I was out enjoying the beautiful weather I started to wander down the road of "I wish I could do this... Oh, but why does this have to cost money? ... Can't we be like everyone else and just..."

This is a dangerous path to start down, and oftentimes is not one that we can quickly backtrack from. I decided to instead think of some of my favorite things. Of course this line of thinking was triggered by just a few lines from that infamous Rodgers and Hammerstein song:

Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens
Bright copper kettles with warm woolen mittens
Brown paper packages tied up with strings
These are a few of my favorite things

Cream colored ponies and crisp apple strudels
Doorbells and sleigh bells and schnitzel with noodles
Wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings
These are a few of my favorite things

Girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes
Snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes
Silver white winters that melt into springs
These are a few of my favorite things

When the dog bites, when the bee stings
When I'm feeling sad
I simply remember my favorite things
And then I don't feel so bad

While that was Maria's list, I will create my own:

Laughter. It really is one of the best medicines. Laughter can take my saddest self and make it merry again. My favorite laughter is definitely a good belly laugh from a baby or the laughter of little girls.

TelestrationsGames. One thing that both the hubby and my family have in common is playing games. We enjoy getting together with family and friends and playing all sorts of games. Have you ever heard of Telestrations? If not check it out! It has quickly become one of our favorite go-to games.

Sunshine. I LOVE the sun! I hate wasting a beautiful sunny day indoors. In fact, I have been known—if I've worked a third shift and am desperately tired but it's gorgeous out—to drag a mattress out on the back deck so I can sleep and still enjoy the day.

Talking. I love to talk. I have proudly worn nicknames including Chattabox! If I am home all day by myself I am bursting at the seems when the hubby walks through the door. Thankfully he knows this and is very gracious to listen.

Walking. Whenever I go out for a walk it energizes me, and if it's with a good friend it gives me opportunity to actually get in my million words for the day.

Heat. Ask anyone who knows me where they will find me all winter, the answer will be about three feet from the woods stove. I love the warmth so much I had the hubby help me completely rearrange what is supposed to be our dining room to make it a nice sitting area in order to be close to the wood stove.

Hugs. I love me a good bear hug. When the world seems upside down, and I really want to go live in that cave outback, a hug usually does wonders in making me feel better.

So, there you have it, a few of my favorite things. What are some things that are free that you love? Let me know so I can add them to my list!

Keep pinchin' ;-)

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Jake's Take: Hoosiers - Just Start Shooting

Deriving financial insights from today's blockbusters and yesteryear's classics.

Jake's Take: Hoosiers
My wife will be the first to tell you that her husband is very weird. There’s two things about me that are fairly odd that, frankly, not even I understand.

  1. I hate professional sports, which is strange because I grew up in a family of people who were always rooting for someone—Red Sox, Patriots, Celtics. Even my sister likes sports more than me.

  2. But I love sports movies. I find them to be some of the most feel-good and inspiring movies around—A League of Their Own, The Rookie, Major League.

So, yeah. Hate sports. Love sports movies. Weird. I know.

It’s kind of a paradox then that I would derive any kind of insight about anything from a movie like Hoosiers, but, let’s face it, Hoosiers is one of the best sports movies ever made, and it contains a great life lesson. It's an oldie, but it's worth seeing if you've never seen it.

In the film, Coach Norman Dale, played by Gene Hackman, coaches a small Indiana high school basketball team all the way to the state championships against all odds. At the finals he walks his team into the gymnasium where they’re going to play the final game. The new gym is huge. A basketball palace, far bigger and more impressive than any gym the tiny high school team has ever seen. It’s not what they’re used to. It’s intimidating.

Coach Dale pulls out a tape measure and has the boys measure the height of the basket and the distance to the foul line, and points out that it is precisely the same as back home. Don’t worry about the size of the gym, he says, just play your game.

Dani and I led a Financial Peace University class at our church this winter, and it has opened our eyes to the wide range of financial backgrounds that people come from. Some people have debt that they can easily pay off within six months or a year; others are facing decades of work. But it pays to remember that no matter how big and scary your situation is, the financial steps to get out of debt are the same no matter what:

  • build your emergency fund
  • use the debt snowball
  • gazelle intensity!

And these steps never fail to help when you use them. When you employ the right practices, it won’t matter if the stadium is a basketball palace or a small Indiana high school. You’ve got the tools. Now start shooting!

Keep pinchin’ :-)

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Giving Bucket List

The Giving Bucket List
I think God made me a giver. Ironically he also made me a spender—or maybe that was the devil's doing. Either way, I find that giving is a hard thing to accomplish when I don't have any money left to give.

And getting married hasn't made things any easier. Dani and I both have the same vision when it comes to giving, but there are many financial burdens that come with joining our lives together, buying a house, and planning for children. We give regularly to our church and to others as we are able, but there's a lot we need to accomplish with our finances before we can, as Dave Ramsey says, "give like no one else."

I dream of being able to give more though. Like on my 40th birthday, instead of getting presents, I want to go out and do 40 random acts of kindness—pay for someone's lunch, someone's gas, wash someone's car, help a little old lady out of the store with her bags. Some of this will require some money, unfortunately.

Other things I'd get a kick out of doing someday include:

  • Finding a need within our church and taking care of it anonymously—e.g. paying a widow's bills, help a single mother make a payment, give that missionary what they need.

  • After eating out at a restaurant I want to leave the waiter or waitress a massive tip.

  • Treat my local fire department or police station to a BBQ complete with burgers, hotdogs, French fries, chips, soda, salads (for something healthy), and cookies (to negate the salads).

  • Buy a bunch of gift cards to a local coffee shop and hand them out to random strangers as they enter.

  • Help a friend or family member out with a need—anonymously if possible.

I feel really guilty sometimes about not being able to give more right now, but I keep reminding myself that the wife and I will get there some day though. Some day we can be the givers I want us to be. Some day money won't be so tight and we can spend our days amusing ourselves by giving and giving and giving.

I'd be curious to know if anyone out there has done any kind of radical giving. Don't be shy. You don't have to brag, but share with us how the Lord has led you to bless others and what kind of experience it was.

Keep pinchin' :-)