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Friday, May 30, 2014

I Am A Ball Of Sweat And Sobs

The Insanity workout is nuts!

I feel like I should take a BEFORE and AFTER picture of my body's amazing transformation throughout this 60 day "Insanity" workout, except I have this inner monologue that convinces me not to. It goes something like this:

"Do the workout! Kill it! Slay it! Feel the burn! Ok, that's a little too much burn. Back off a little. Just a little. We'll pick it back up in a... holy mother of everything that's pure and wonderful that hurts! Ok, rest. Rest it out. Take a breath. Now start... in a minute. After another... short... wow this is hard. Harder than I thought. Maybe this isn't worth it. You know what, my knees feel like they're on fire, my feet are killing me, and I'm bathing in my own sweat. This is disgusting. I wonder what's on TV. Isn't this Shark Week? I'm hungry. Oh look, cookies!"

So, frankly, I don't think my transformation is going to be that amazing.

Ok, I'm kidding. I'm not really that pathetic.

Honestly, I gotta be proud of myself for sticking with this workout for four weeks now. Four weeks and still going strong. Next week my workout buddy and I begin month two where, from what I hear, the warm-up routine is the workout from month one. Did you catch that? The WARM-UP is the WORKOUT from month one. It has moves in it with names like Mountain Climbers, Floor Sprints, and Suicides.

That's right, Suicides. Presumably named such because people have died doing them.

And, like I said, that's just the warm-up. As for what the actual workout is, I have no idea. And I am fearful with anticipation. I am a literal ball of trembling child just sobbing on the floor.

It's really hard to know how well I'm doing at this point in the workout. I haven't lost any weight yet, but my body is firmer. Flappy areas are less flappy. I'm more flexible, and my stamina has improved, but at the end of each workout I feel like my body has just been the battleground for some kind of world war where everyone got shot and is dying in agony, screaming.

I'll tell you what, if I survive month two and come out the other side with six pack abs I'll do an after picture. If not, I'll just pretend this whole torturous experience never happened and go back to watching Shark Week. I hear they have footage of Great Whites getting eaten by Orcas. Should be epic!

Keep pumpin' ;-)

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Learning What's Really Important Can Result In Drastic Life Changes

A screenshot from our "Penny Pinching Rap"
Blogging. It's a never-ending saga. Jake and I try to make each post stand on its own, but sometimes you may need to do a little catch-up reading to really know what we're talking about. So if you missed my post about being "house poor" you might want to check it out here before you continue reading. Or not. It's your choice. I'm just saying, it's what awesome people do.

Anyway. Moving on.

In our quest to be debt free as soon as possible, the hubby and I have chosen to put a lot more money toward our mortgage than what the bill calls for. Our plan was to get that bad boy paid off in about five years. And, honestly, we were doing quite well at that. We don't have kids yet. We've both been working hard. So things seemed to be going along beautifully.

And then life happened.

It was around the end of winter that we had multiple unexpected financial burdens heaped upon us, not the least of which was the fact that our mortgage company had screwed up our escrow account BIG TIME! It upped our monthly house payment by $400, which took our whole "pay off the house in five years" plan by the throat, shoved it under water, and held it there until it choked and died.

Then came hurricane Obamacare which demanded every free penny we had and then some.

Moreover, Jake and I have spent the last couple of years realizing just how much time and money it's really going to take to manage our house, even after the mortgage is paid. I mean, the house is huge. It's 150 years old. It needs a new everything. Heating costs are astronomical, not to mention the taxes that show no sign of ever going down. Both my dad and Jake's dad would have a field day in this house, but neither of us are our fathers. We don't know the first thing about renovating. More's the pity.

After two years in this house we now have a better idea of what we want in a home, what we need. We've also learned a lot about each other, what our capabilities are and what's important to us.

On that list of importance is:

  1. Being closer to our church in order to be more actively involved in it.

  2. Being closer to Jake's job because the hope is that one day I'll be able to stay home with the kids and homeschool, and I know Jake would love not to have to spend five hours a week commuting.

  3. Being able to enjoy our home instead of always feeling overwhelmed with a long list of repair jobs.

  4. Being closer to family is important to us, especially when we have kids.

  5. Being able to free up some money for adoption, which is something Jake and I have always dreamed of doing.

So, we have decided to pray about doing something drastic, and putting what we once thought was our forever home on the market. It's time to find a smaller place, a cheaper place, that will help us out financially and get us more in-line with what we now know to be the things that are really important to us. We want to be done with being "house poor." (Again, if you need that defined check out my previous post on this topic like all the other awesome people do!)

If we do decide to put the house on the market we know it will only sell by a miracle from God, and we are trusting that if this is what He would have for us at this time in our lives than He will do that miracle.

In the meantime, we've begun renovating the upstairs, which will either serve our future family, or perhaps serve as a space we can rent out to earn a little extra money.

Keep pinchin' ;-)

PS. We do plan to fix the basement, unless you all think an indoor pool would help in the selling process!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

What It Means To Be "House Poor"

What it means to be "house poor"
"House poor."

I'm pretty sure the first time I heard that phrase was when Jake and I went to meet with a financial adviser before we bought our house. He looked over our finances and gave us feedback on whether or not it was financially feasible for us to buy a house.

This meeting took place over two years ago now, but I still remember what he said. He warned us by saying that while we could probably swing a mortgage and all the home-maintenance frustrations that come with owning a house, but he wouldn't recommend it at this point. He took into consideration our income levels, along with some debt that we had, and said that, for us, buying a home might make us feel "house poor."

He then went on to describe what being house poor looks like. It doesn't mean that you can't afford to make the payments, but instead that you'll leave yourself with nothing much left after the bills. The house, essentially, will become your life. And since you can't really afford to do anything but stay home and pay for your house, you'll feel "house poor."

I heard him out, and although I believed what he had to say, I was hopeful that things would be different for us. I mean, we weren't planning to spend nearly as much as the bank said we qualified for, and I was sure that in the long run it would be wiser to invest our money into a mortgage instead of rent, and so I made it my mission in life to convince my then fiancĂ© that buying a house was the best option for us.

After all, we were getting married soon and we needed a place to live. How great would it be to start out life together in our very own house!

What it means to be "house poor"
So after looking at four or five homes we found what we believed to be our "forever" home—a place we could raise a family, grow old together, have the grandchildren come and visit, and host big holiday parties. We had to jump through a ton of hoops in order to purchase the house due to the type of government loan our bank recommended we go with—we had to get permission from the owner to go in and start cleaning to demonstrate to them how serious we were; we had to paint the outbuildings, the deck, the trim, and a bunch of other things. Finally, a month after our wedding, we closed on the house! OUR house!

Fast forward almost two years later.

I can now say I understand firsthand what the phrase "house poor" means. I wouldn't recommend anyone live this way. The house has, exactly as the financial planner warned, become our life. We work to pay off the house, and when we're not working we're thinking of other ways we can work to earn more money to pay off the house. And if we're not doing that we're making emergency fixes to the flooded basement or the broken furnace, we're renovating the upstairs, or just maintaining the property—mowing, shoveling snow, raking leaves, gardening. It never ends.

The time has come for a dramatic change. Jake and I have a lot of things we want to do in life and right now this house is holding us back. We're considering doing something drastic to change our circumstances... but you'll have to come back to find out the rest of that story.

Keep pinchin' ;-)

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Horrendous Healthcare Hunt, Part 2: The Why

Stock photo by Kurhan
I know. I know! I said I was done shaking my fist at the government in my last post about healthcare, but the truth is I just don't shake my fist as often. Still, every time the subject of healthcare comes up I turn toward Washington and extend an obscene finger—not really, but I'm thinking it.

And Dani and I are not alone. There isn't a single person we know who doesn't roll their eyes at the mention of our country's laughable "affordable" healthcare system. Almost everyone within our circle of family and friends has had to make radical life adjustments to their finances, their jobs, or living arrangements in order to be able to afford the massive expense of Obamacare.

Dani and I have been on the hunt for affordable healthcare for the last couple of months, looking at several Christian sharing programs. We'll blog about what we've found on a later date—so stay tuned—but for now I wanted to address the "whys" behind our reasoning.

Yes, it has a lot to do with the fact that we literally cannot afford insurance through the Affordable Care Act—informally known as Obamacare, which is what I will call it from this point on because I can't type "AFFORDABLE Care Act" without laughing so hysterically that I lose the ability to type. But, seriously, we CAN NOT afford it. We would have to go hungry or forgo putting gas in the car or not pay our mortgage in order to get the government's insurance.

But there are other reasons that we oppose it—reasons I believe every Christian should hold to.

WHY #1: Caring for the sick isn't the government's job.
Let me paint a picture for you. I love my wife. I'm sure that you want me to love my wife. You can desire for me to love my wife all you want, but it's not your role to love my wife FOR me. You would be taxing yourself too much if you tried to love my wife... and your neighbor's wife... and all the wives in the world. It's just not up to you.

The same goes for the government regarding health care (among other things). The government's role is to do things like protect our borders, execute justice, and fight threats (Romans 13:4, 1 Peter 2:13-14, the Preamble to the Constitution). They are not tasked with caring for the sick.

What begins to happen when the government steps in and starts doing things it's not supposed to be doing is tyranny. In regards to health insurance, when the government starts handling healthcare it cannot help but intrude upon people's lives and impede their freedoms.

WHY #2: Obamacare creates bondage, not freedom.
An addict is enslaved to their own addiction. A non-believer is in bondage to sin. Obamacare claims to allow choice, but does so within such strict confines that true freedom doesn't exist. In actuality, Obamacare creates bondage. When we do not have the freedom to choose if or how we want to spend our earnings, then we are in bondage. And with Obamacare we are in bondage to the government.

Scripture is clear on this: God hates slavery. He sent his only Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross to free us from slavery to sin. The Apostle Paul warns us not to become slaves to men (1 Corinthians 7:23).

Ultimately, Obamacare is theft, but, unfortunately, our government has come to believe that the ends justify the means. Stealing from one person to give to another—even if it is for a good cause—has become acceptable. Anytime money is taken from us involuntarily to fulfill a purpose not expressly stated in our Constitution, it is theft, even if it's for a good cause.

WHY #3: Obamacare violates Biblical truths that we hold sacred.
The government should not put itself above the Christian principles upon which it was founded.
One of the worst aspects of Obamacare is that it forces Christians to violate their conscience and subsidize things like abortions, sterilizations, and contraceptives. The government should not put itself above the Christian principles upon which it was founded. In the New Testament, Peter says that Christians must obey God before men (Act 5:29). And when it comes to Obamacare, we will NOT participate if it means murdering innocent babies.

WHY #4: Lowering healthcare costs through the government is a lie.
One of the biggest lies perpetuated by Obamacare is that government regulation can lower healthcare costs. But think about this: the government gets its money from the people it governs. If it decides to enact a massively expensive healthcare program, who is going to pay for it? The people of course! When the government demands that everyone have health insurance, healthcare costs are going to increase for two reasons: 1) demand increases, and 2) competition decreases. Government oversight actually raises healthcare costs exponentially.

The goal in any free economy should be to shop for good medical care like you shop for a good mechanic. With healthy, economical competition among healthcare providers, costs go down. This is what should happen in a free society. This is the kind of society our forefathers wanted to establish, and the kind of society my grandfather fought for.

WHY #5: America needs to become more responsible with its debt.
Obamacare has inflated our national debt beyond anything anyone ever could have imagined. We are currently spending as a nation more money than we possess. This is NOT good financial stewardship! This is NOT being responsible! God's warnings against debt are all throughout Scripture, and they don't apply just to individuals, but families, businesses, and nations too.

For Dani and I, the main reasons for not wanting to be a part of Obamacare is the way it violates our Biblical beliefs, robs us of our freedom of choice, and the massive expense of it. We are hopeful that some day a different solution will be found, but until then the horrendously time-consuming, difficult task of finding affordable healthcare continues.

Keep pinchin' :-)

Click here to read "The Horrendous Healthcare Hunt Begins."

Friday, May 23, 2014

Earning A Little Extra Through Wedding Photography

Wedding Photography by Jacob L. Grant
So, yeah, not having a kids is a big boon when it comes to saving money. Don't get me wrong, I'm very much looking forward to the day when we bring a highly dependent, self-seeking, money-consuming scream machine into the world, but the fact of the matter is Dani and I have been able to put such a big hole in our debt because we are both able to hold full-time jobs, have few expenses, and haven't yet punched out any kids.

But that will change soon, I'm sure.

In the meantime we're doing everything we can to pay off our debt. And believe it or not that has a lot less to do with cutting back expenses than you might think. I mean, yes, doing things like finding a cheaper cable TV package or not going out to eat so much are going to ensure that less money bleeds out of your budget, but the bigger payoff is in good old-fashioned hard work.

Dani babysits when the opportunities allow. She also makes and sells crochet hats (which are super-cute, in my totally unbiased opinion), and I take on odd jobs here and there as they come around

One of things that has helped us the most is my photography. While photographing a wedding I can make almost double what I make in a week at my graphic design job, and I'd probably make a lot more if we lived somewhere else. The problem is our tiny rural area of the country doesn't see a huge demand for wedding photographers.

The problem is two-fold:

  1. The population 'round these parts is the opposite of dense. Not a lot of people = not a lot of weddings.

  2. And the second factor has to do with the fact that even though there are people getting married, they are really spread out. So in order to make my wedding photography a full-time job I'd have to market myself across state lines and be willing to drive several hours to get to a job, which can seriously inflate my prices.

Regardless, I do what I can, taking almost any job I can get my hands on, and enjoying the extra money when it comes. Dani and I have decided any money earned through my photography gets split two ways: half goes into paying off our debt, and the other half goes into maintaining the photography business—new camera gear, computer software, etc.

Wedding Photography by Jacob L. Grant
Wedding Photography by Jacob L. Grant

Wedding Photography by Jacob L. Grant

Wedding Photography by Jacob L. Grant

Wedding Photography by Jacob L. Grant

I write about this as an example of using what you've got to help yourself make some extra green. It may not make as much as photography, it may make more, but the point is you're using that gazelle intensity to develop a better work ethic and earn more money. And, furthermore, you're employing disciplines that will help you become a better money manager in the long run.

So, until that debt gets paid off and you can live like no one else...

Keep pinchin' :-)

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Memorial Day Craft

Memorial Day is almost here! I know, it feels like just yesterday it was winter... wait, it was just yesterday!

No matter, the gateway to summer is just around the corner. Last year on Memorial Day weekend we got a fairly big snowstorm. It hit the day after we put out the patio furniture, dropping several inches of snow on green leaves, flowery bushes, and some of the plants in my garden.

I learned my lesson, at least where the plants are concerned, and I am waiting until after Memorial Day before planting my garden this year. Well, except for the lettuce and peas, which I planted last week, but they should be ok.
DIY Memorial Day Wreath

I like to decorate my house with seasonal or holiday decorations so last year I put together this easy-to-make wreath to hang on my front door. It was super simple and fast, and no matter how uncrafty you might think you are you can make this too.

You'll need a grapevine wreath—which you can find at Walmart—along with some scraps of blue, white, and red fabric, and some sparkly star foam stickers. I tied the three strips of fabric into bows, stacking them on top of each other, and placed the stickers over the rest of it.

It was a really simple decoration, and I like it enough that I can keep it up all summer because it works for Memorial Day, Flag Day and Fourth of July.

Keep pinchin' :-)

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Society's War On Boys Has Gone Too Far

Has our culture's anti-bullying message become a war on boys?
Stock photo by S Braswell
Welcome to Penny Pinching Prose where we talk about finances, marriage, rap music... and occasionally devolve into infantile ranting about pet peeves and social awkwardness.

Such is today.

An issue that is near and dear to my heart is how boys—and even men in general—are treated in this culture. Now, Dani and I don't have kids... yet... but that doesn't mean we know nothing about raising children. We have parents. We have close friends who are parents. So we at least have an idea of what's involved. And when I see today's boys being told they can't play cowboys and indians because they may offend several different social groups, my heart hurts for them.

Moreover, I fear for the boys I'm (hopefully) going to have some day and the social repercussions they're going to face because, I'll be honest with ya, we're going to play cowboys and indians TO DEATH! And we're going to use toy guns and wrestle in the living room and set off rockets and learn about bows and knives and practical, every-day guy stuff, and, you know what?—damn a society that tries to tell me not to treat my boys like boys.

I take major issue with the rampant "anti-bullying" message currently plaguing our public school system. Don't get me wrong, there is a line that shouldn't be crossed when kids are being mean to each other and that line should be enforced by adults, bullies should be punished, and kids should be taught to stand up for themselves, but, NEWS FLASH: kids are kids! They're going to call each other "Poopyhead" and "Four eyes" and "Ugly fuggly dirt eater." Such is the realm of Kiddom. You can't coddle every child whose feathers get ruffled because another kid played harder than he did during recess.

The reason I take such issue with this strict anti-bullying stuff is because the great majority of it is aimed at boys who are, a lot of time, doing nothing but being boys. Boys run. They push. They shove. They fight. They like guns. They like adventure and being aggressive, but sometimes they just don't know how to express that stuff and so feelings get hurt. In the last 10-to-20 years America has seen a virtual war on masculinity that aims at making men better girlfriends to their wives while taking away their God-given nature to fight and protect and be strong and courageous and adventuresome.

American Enterprise Institute scholar Christina Hoff Sommers has recently released a new book called The War Against Boys, in which she talks about this very issue. She says it's past time to make elementary schools more friendly to boys, and she has four ways to do that: turn boys into readers; inspire their imagination; get rid of zero-tolerance policies; and bring recess back.

“Being a normal boy is a serious liability in today’s classroom,” Sommers said in a short video lesson for Prager University, a conservative video series. ”Increasingly, our schools have little patience for what only a few decades ago would have been described as boyishness.”

To no one's great surprise, Sommers is being met with tons of politically correct resistance.

I was recently hired to videotape an elementary school play when a couple of 7-to-10 year old boys noticed the pocket knife in my camera bag, which I keep with me because it has some handy tools I use with my camera gear. The boys were so unaccustomed to seeing a knife on their school campus that they took a lot of interest in it, but as soon as the principal noticed what they were so gaga about she confiscated it.

"You're not allowed to bring that onto school property," she told me.

She locked the pocket knife in the school cafeteria as though it had done something wrong, until the play was over and I had to leave, at which point she kindly returned it to me.

Our schools have become too sanitary, too feelings-centered, and so competition-free that the instinctual needs of boys are not being met. It drives me nuts, and it's one of the main reasons why my boys won't be going to public school. They'll be homeschooled where they'll learn tons of useful stuff, where they'll be taught respect and kindness, but not browbeaten when their youthful energy results in "boyishness."

And when the zombie apocalypse finally comes it will be my boys who lead the resistance for the simple reason that they'll be the only ones who know how.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Don't Keep Lying Dormant When You Can Thrive

Trouble with a dormant strawberry
I love strawberries, and my hubby is a big fan of strawberry smoothies, so this spring I ordered 100 strawberry plants with the intention of planting them, growing them, and enjoying them for a long, long time!

But then I forgot to plant them.

Well, sort of. When they first arrived it was pretty cold outside, rainy, and the ground was mostly frozen, but I was told I could safely refrigerate them to keep them dormant and moist. So the bagged-strawberries settled in on my refrigerator door next to the mayonnaise and Root Beer where they remained for a week.

Actually, it was two weeks.

Ok, if I'm completely honest, it was three! Yikes!

Some of the strawberries looked like they were frozen and possibly dying, but since we had invested some hard-earned money in them I was determined to plant them. That way if they did die I could blame nature and not my fridge. (I know I'm totally to blame, but just work with me here).

So on the next nice day we had I planted them in my garden. In just a couple of days I noticed that they actually appeared to be thriving in their new environment—they were growing leaves and getting bigger.

I told a friend who knows a thing or two about strawberries and he assured me that living in the fridge for three weeks wouldn't be a problem because the strawberries were lying dormant.

Cue sigh of relief.

The trouble with a dormant strawberry
This got me thinking about finances because, yes, just about anything gets me thinking about finances. No matter how impossible it may seem sometimes we all have the potential to be financially responsible. Making the journey to debt-free living is a choice that has to be made, and until you make it you're just lying dormant. In the fridge. Freezing. And possible dying. The potential is there, but until you're planted into some good soil and given some sunlight you probably don't even that potential is there.

That's kind of what it was like for us going through Financial Peace University. It brought us out of a lifestyle of overspending and debt and gave us the knowledge we needed to grow. It took some time to get used to—just like it's taking my strawberries some time to adjust—but when done right it's possible to thrive, even flourish, in a debt-free lifestyle.

Storms are going to come, and there will be dry spells, but if you stick with it you have a much better chance of thriving than if you stayed in the fridge.

Are you still in the fridge lying dormant, recently planted, or in full blossom financially?

Keep pinchin' :-)

Monday, May 19, 2014

Flexing My Muscles... or Lack Thereof

It's called "Insanity." It's a six week workout series that I've been going through with a friend. To give you an idea of how hard this workout is I'll tell you that my wife passed out from the intensity of it the first time she tried it. So, instead of my wife, I've found a workout buddy who lives up the road from me and we've been plowing through it every night for the last two weeks.

The workout is, as the name implies, insane. It's a high energy, high impact, heart-racing, sweat-dripping excursion into total body pain. The only thing I can imagine that's any worse is maybe giving birth, but, being a dude, I will never have to experience thank.

Insanity, by fitness professional Sean T., is the kind of workout I prefer though because it doesn't involve any gym equipment, weights, or exercise gear. It's just you. Your body. And a ton of cardio and plyometric exercises. It's an expensive kit, but, thankfully, I had bought it years ago, back before we were following such a strict budget.

Thanks to my workout buddy—who has attended medical school, and knows a lot more about the inner workings of the human body than I do—I've been learning a lot about fitness. Exercise is just a small part of getting into better shape. There are some dietary practices one has to employ in order to see results, because I can follow the workout instructions to a T, but if I'm not doing something as simple as drinking enough water than my body is going to suffer.

I can't help but relate this whole Insanity experience to my finances. In many ways, the financial disciplines that Dani and I have been practicing for the last year or so are very similar. If I think of my workout as my budget, then everything I do leading up to the workout is like my spending habits. If I have $1,000 in monthly bills, but only budget $500, then at the end of the month I'm going to have a hard time meeting my budgetary goals. Likewise, to get the most out of my workout, I need to make healthier choices throughout the week—a banana for a snack instead of a cookie, more water and less lemonade. It's these little choices along the way that make the whole thing work.

My friend and I just completed the second "fit test," which acts as a sort of gauge of how you're doing. I'm pleased to say we have both seen some measurable improvement in our fitness level. It'll be interesting to see just how much progress we can make in the weeks ahead.

Keep pinchin' ... or, as Sean T. likes to say, "Peace out!" :-)

Friday, May 16, 2014

The New Normal

It's funny how easily one can adapt so well to change when you put your mind to it. Three years ago I would have found many of the things that the hubster and I do to save money today to be an inconvenience, but now they have instead become second nature.

I was thinking about this today as I was getting "free" heat—AKA opening up all the doors in my house to let the warm air in so that when it gets cold tonight I won't have to turn up the thermostat to make it warm. Growing up I never would have thought of doing something like that, but I've learned to see the value in some of these small money-saving matters and nowadays I do them without really thinking about it.

And it's also sort of a game to me—I always check the thermostat before I open up the house to see how many degrees it goes up. Today it went for 65 to 68! Which is pretty good in my opinion :-)

Here are a few other things that have become my new normal:

  • Hanging the laundry up to dry instead of using the dryer.

  • Planning trips into town in order to save on gas.

  • Baking bread.

  • Making my own laundry soap.

  • Unplugging appliances and electronics when not in use.

  • Driving a little bit slower on the interstate to save gas. (My husband discovered that if he goes 60mph as opposed 70 he can get about 20 MORE miles per tank.)

When you start on the journey to debt free living it might feel uncomfortable, inconvenient, or just plain annoying, but if you stick with it, over time, it can become your new normal, and that new normal will thank you when you are finally debt free!

Keep pinchin' ;-)

Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Story Behind "Drowning in the Basement"

If you asked either of us where "rapping" fell on the list of Crazy Things We're Going To Do As A Married Couple, we'd both probably say: "Nowhere." Because it never would have occurred to either of us that it would ever happen. But we had so much fun creating "The Penny Pinching Rap"—which talk show host Katie Couric called an "ode to Dave Ramsey"—that we wanted to make another one.

We considered a variety of topics—married life, my motorcycle, an ice cream cone that fell on the ground—but when the topic of our flooded basement kept coming up Dani finally said that we had to do a rap about that.

Which comes first—music or words? For me it's always words. For two reasons:

  1. I'm a writer. I like words.

  2. I don't know jack about music.

After penning a first verse and a bunch of lines for a couple choruses, I couldn't think of a second verse. I presented my problem to Dani and said, "The only thing I can think of is you talking about how impossible it is to find someone who knows how to fix basements."

And she said, "There you go! Just have me a tell the story."

I created the music in Apple's GarageBand (because that's how sophisticated I am), and then we recorded our vocals, completed the audio track, and finally filmed the video.

People have already remarked about how they're delighted to see that we can take a stressful thing like a flooded basement and make fun of it. In truth, that's pretty much all we can do. We have a sump pump that works hard at controlling the incoming water, but our house sits right on top of the moisture bed and so water flows through our basement almost like a stream sometimes. When it rains hard, that poor sump pump runs almost all day. We can't afford to perform the exterior drainage work required to permanently fix the problem, not now anyway, but as long as it's under control we can live with it.

In the meantime we might as well just have fun and laugh because there's too much life to enjoy to get bent out of shape over spilled milk... er, water. So until our next major life event that inspires another rap video, we hope everyone gets a kick out of "Drowning in the Basement!"

Keep pinchin' :-)

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Our New Rap Video: "Drowning in the Basement"

As we've mentioned in previous posts, our basement has enjoyed anywhere from 2-to-20 inches of standing water for the last 16 months. In celebration of our frustration, we present the follow-up to our hit music video "The Penny Pinching Rap" with "Drowning in the Basement!" Enjoy!

Monday, May 12, 2014

Date Night: Is 2 Chefs 2 Much?

This last weekend the hubby and I decided it was finally time to have another date night. We have been super busy lately and haven't done anything in a while.

One of the date night ideas for May—see my list of Free Dates for a Year if you don't know what I'm talking about—was to make a meal together, but it had to be something we've never made before. Jake thought it would be a great idea to make stuffed-crust pizza because we both love pizza and neither of us had ever made it before. I didn't have time to make my super yummy pizza crust because it requires two hours of rising time and it was already after 6pm, so we tried this recipe:

No-Yeast, Quick Stuffed Crust Pizza

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 tablespoon cornmeal or flour
5 cheese sticks
garlic powder

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Mix flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Add 3/4 cup water and 3 tablespoons of oil. Stir until dough forms a ball, adding more water or flour if necessary.

2. Sprinkle cornmeal or flour over a greased 14-inch pizza pan or a large round stone. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough into a 15-inch circle or you can do it right on the stone. Transfer to the pan, letting the dough drape over the edge. Cut string cheese in half lengthwise; place on the dough around the edge of the pan.

Stuffed Crust Pizza Recipe
Stuffed Crust Pizza Recipe
Stuffed Crust Pizza Recipe

3. Fold dough over cheese, pinching to seal. Prick dough thoroughly with a fork to prevent bubbles. Brush with the remaining tablespoon oil and sprinkle with garlic powder for added flavor. Bake 5 minutes.

4. Remove crust from oven. Top with your choice of sauce and favorite toppings. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, until cheese is melted and crust is golden brown.

5. Enjoy!

For your own at-home date night you can follow our delicious pizza recipe above or choose your own great recipe. Consider making a multiple course meal including dessert!

Keep pinchin' ;-)

Friday, May 9, 2014

God's Grace In The Midst Of A Lawn Mower Battle

I have this buddy who lives in Virginia, and during the months of February and March, while Dani and I are still shoveling snow from our driveway and trying to stay warm, he likes to call me up and talk about how he's prepping the lawnmower for the first mow of the season. When we're still waiting for the temperature to rise above 30, he's out getting a tan. When his barbecue grill has gone through one propane tank, we're still waiting to even use ours.

I don't get to gloat to him very much, but I will say this: I have a far more awesome lawnmower! And though I don't get to use it as much as he gets to use his, mine's got more horsepower, a wider cutting range, and far more style. I try to use this to make him jealous, but I don't think it ever works.

Anyway, so after months and months of a laboriously long winter, we finally had a nice sunny day where I got to dust off my awesome riding mower and give the lawn a once over. First, it was time to change the oil.

And so began the first of many things that went wrong that day.

You shouldn't change the oil on a completely cold engine. It's best to let the mower run for 10 minutes or so to warm up the engine. It makes the oil flow better. But after sitting around all winter, my lawn mower's battery was dead. This did not surprise me, but it didn't really make me happy either. I did a quick internet search to see if it was ok to jumpstart a mower's battery with a car, and though most people said it was ok, they advised: DO NOT START THE CAR! Apparently the rev of the car's engine will overpower the mower's battery and potentially cause it to catch on fire. I'm no mechanic. All I know is what I read, and what I read on at least six different websites was: do not start the car! Do not start the car! Do not start the car!

Well, that didn't work.

My frustration was growing.

I called up a local retailer who serviced the mower and asked about how to jumpstart it. The serviceman said: "Start the car."

"Are you sure?" I asked. "I don't want to blow up my mower."

"What makes you think you'll blow up your mower?" he asked

"The internet."

He laughed. "Well, we do it all the time here."

So I said a quick prayer, started the car, and mower jumpstarted just fine.

Stupid internet.

Now, time to change the oil.

Again, I'm no mechanic, but I've changed the oil on enough cars to know the process. I know you're not supposed to over-tighten the oil filter. It says right on the oil filter: tighten by hand. Furthermore, the John Deere instructional video on how to change your John Deere oil filter clearly states: Be careful not to over-tighten your oil filter. Well whoever it was at the manufacturing plant who put this oil filter on must have used a power drill because I nearly broke my hand trying to get it off. I ended up having to make a trip to Home Depot to buy a special oil filter wrench. After another quick prayer and a few grunts and groans later the filter finally came off.

It was passed noon by the time I finally got the oil changed and I was thoroughly aggravated by what had become an exceptionally long task. My entire morning had been wasted on what should have been a 15 minute job.

And I still wanted to:

  1. Mow the law
  2. Clean the barbecue grill
  3. Take down the broken pieces of fence
  4. Stack some wood
  5. And maybe get started on the upstairs renovation

Ambitious, I know.

I did manage to clean the barbecue grill though, and that was another laborious task more time consuming and messy than I had anticipated.

But back to the mower.

Ten minutes into mowing the lawn I noticed smoke coming out of the engine. The oil cap had popped off and the brand new three quarts of oil I had poured into the tank was having a party all over the engine. Awesome. Fifteen minutes later everything was as clean as I could make it, but the battery was still dead. So I pushed the mower over to the car to jumpstart it again.

At this point, it occurred to me that with so much oil spread all over the engine, and live jumper cables being hooked up to the mower, there was a good chance I could blow myself up. I had cleaned up the oil spill pretty well, and figured if I was extra cautious when hooking up the cables I would be ok, and—after another quick prayer—I was.

I mowed for another 10 minutes before I had to get off the mower and move the newly cleaned grill. Upon forgetting to put the mower in park, the mower powered down once I stood up. The battery was still dead, and this time I was too far away from the car for a jumpstart.

My aggravation peaked.

It was now about 4 o'clock in the afternoon. That's it. I was done. Apparently I was not supposed to work outside that day. Life tried to warn me first thing that morning when the mower's battery was dead, and again during my epic battle with the oil filter. I should've listened. I should've just stayed inside and procrastinated the day away.

But, in the plus column, I learned two things from all of this:

  1. The internet is stupid. Granted, the internet has a lot of great advice and instructions for many of life's little issues, but I'm sure if it were possible to compile all of the info on the internet and sort it out into "truth" and "non-truth" 90% of it would be absolute rubbish.

  2. God is never-endingly gracious. Despite my horrible attitude, God answered my prayers to help me get the oil filter off. Despite my near temper-tantrum, He answered my prayer to get the mower started. And even though I was ready to put my fist through a wall after the oil spill, God graciously prevented me from blowing up.

Despite all that went wrong that day, and despite my poor attitude, God continued to meet my needs and prove His reliability even when I wasn't acting very deserving of it. It just goes to demonstrate what a truly gracious God we have. His goodness and mercy extends to all those who ask for it.

As far as my awesome lawn mower goes, I'll revisit the dead battery some other day. Tomorrow it's supposed to rain, to which I say: good. I didn't want to work outside anyway.

Keep pinchin' :-)

Thursday, May 8, 2014

New Year's Resolutions 4 Months Down

Can you believe it's already May? While I have longed for the warmer weather, time seems to be going by faster than ever. I haven't checked in on my New Year's Resolutions in a couple of months, but that doesn't mean I have forgotten them, so here's my latest update.

Faithfulness in our finances. The end of March brought the end of our first time of leading Financial Peace University. It was so fun to go through the class again, and celebrate all the successes our group had throughout the process. In our own finances we have faced many unplanned bills with my car, the furnace, and our escrow account being adjusted up by several hundred dollars. However, God has been faithful to continue to give both of us extra work, so none of these costs have forced us to dip into our emergency savings. We also looked into our car and house insurance and just changed policies that gave us better coverage with a savings of over $300 a year!

Faithfulness in living a healthy lifestyle. My family decided to commence the Belyea Biggest Loser competition last week, which will go through the end of the year, and though I had already started runningI've found that this little competition is making me want to be more faithful. With the warmer weather I am also trying to be more active outside.

Faithfulness in my spiritual life. I am continuing to do the Word of Life Quiet Time online. We have been in 1 Thessalonians recently which I've really enjoyed. This past week I have begun to look into Scripture about our words, and am working on my own little devotional about that, which is fun and good for me. 

Faithfulness in being good stewards of the homestead God has blessed us with. We have continued to host a Faith Group in our home every other week, which we enjoy a lot! Our apple tree, blueberry bushes, and strawberry plants arrived a couple of weeks ago and are in the ground now. I also planted some peas last weekend, and hope to plant lettuce, carrots and more peas in the next week. We are also hoping to start renovating our upstairs into a vacation rental—we don't really use the upstairs space at the moment and we could use the extra income.

Faithfulness in being the wife my husband needs me to be. I am working on turning my sarcasm into encouragement, hence my study on words. That is the biggest area that I can currently see that needs work because I so often forget how damaging my words can be, and how much he really needs me to be his cheerleader.

How are you doing with your New Year's Resolutions? If some have fallen by the wayside, it's never too late to pick them back up again!

Keep pinchin' :-)

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

How Pruning Can Benefit Us

How pruning can benefit us
At the end of winter I decided to cut back my raspberry bushes. I'm not entirely sure if that was the right thing to do, but it seemed logical to me. The raspberry bushes were on our property when we bought our home almost two years ago, and I'm not sure how long they had been there prior to that or how long it had been since someone took care of them. I wasn't sure what was old and what was new, so I decided to just cut it all back in hopes that in the future I would reap a greater harvest.

As I was raking out all the branches I had pruned and the dead leaves, I was reminded of how this is kind of what Jake and I have done with our finances. In some ways I feel like we have hacked back and hacked back as far as we can go in hopes of building a better financial future. We went into this process with some hesitation, facing a lot of unknowns, and we still don't really know what will happen next, but we are trusting the process to produce financial fruit for us. We knew that we couldn't keep spending the way we had in the past if we expected things to be different in our future, but knowing that didn't necessarily make it any easier to cut out restaurants, Netflix, or our vacation budget.

Another thought that occurred to me was how God prunes my spiritual life. Often times in order for God to really work in my life He has cut back or completely remove things that I thought I needed. While this process is painful, if I stick with it and trust in Him, I usually find that He is faithful to do a mighty work in my heart and life. Sometimes He even replaces the things I thought I needed with much more precious things.

It amazes me how often I am willing to hang onto the old, broken, damaged parts of my life for fear that I won't like what will happen if I allow them to be pruned back, but as long as I am unwilling to allow that process to happen I am missing out on the good things my Father in heaven has in store for me.

So, while I wait to see what comes from my raspberry bushes I will allow those newly cut-back plants to remind me of the importance of the pruning I need in order to continue in my financial and spiritual life.

Keep pinchin' :-)

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

A Little Off Topic: How To Overcome Writer's Block

This blog is supposed to be about our penny pinching journey to debt-free living, but there are many other parts that make up who we are, parts that are bound and determined to, at some point, show through.

One of the parts that makes up me is that I'm a writer. And I hate saying that. I always thought it sounded conceited: "I'm a writer." But inside I'm thinking, "No, I'm a clumsy word masher-upper. J.K. Rowling is a writer. John Grisham is a writer. I just smush together words." Anyway...

I've mashed together three books in my lifetime, and am working on others—though only the voices inside my head know why. Publishing is a miserable business these days. It's hard to break into. And even harder to make it monetarily worth it. For me, I have to write. It's almost like there's this hyper-active kid inside my brain who really, really, really needs a crayon because if he doesn't get to scribble on a wall soon he's going to wet himself. So, every now and then, I sit down in front of my computer, give the kid a crayon, and start mashing words together. Sometimes they make sense, other times I revisit my writing months later and ask, "What in tarnation was I thinking?"

I began my word-mashing career as a journalist after I wrote a Letter to the Editor that was apparently so mind-blowingly awesome that it landed me a job at a local paper. (True story). A month later I was a full-time journalist. I hated it. I loved the writing, but I hated the grueling hours, the late nights, the boring meetings, and all the self-important people who thought that the drama happening in their lives was worthy of front page news—"Yes, I'm sure your kid did awesome in the homeschool talent show, but I'm afraid the eleven people who attended do not necessarily qualify this as 'public interest.'"

The one good thing about working for a newspaper is that if you have a problem with writer's block you won't for very long. Well, you may, but then you won't have a job. In the newspaper industry when the editor wants words, you give him words. It doesn't matter how boring the meeting was, or how few people were at the homeschool talent show. If your editor needs 1,000 words you milk that triviality for all its worth. And you've got ten minutes to deadline! There's no time for writer's block at a newspaper, so you learn to get over it quickly or you get out.

Here are three of my own personal tips for overcoming writer's block that I employed while working as a journalist. They worked for me then, they work for me now. Hopefully, with a little practice, they'll work for you, too.

  1. Just start writing. Come on, you can do it. Just start punching letters on the keyboard. The secret to this is to sometimes begin with a completely irrelevant topic. Are you stumped on that oceanic research piece? Start writing about what irritates you about getting soap in your eye. Heck, start writing about why you can't write! Words are like water behind a faucet. Sometimes you just have to turn it on to get them flowing.

  2. Take a tour of your house. Go to another room. Do something different for 10-20 minutes, but no longer. Sometimes when your writing is blocked it's because your brain is too busy. You need to focus your thoughts on one thing in particular to calm your mind, so choose a brief activity that you can start and finish in 20 minutes and then immediately return to your writing.

  3. Talk it out. This is especially helpful with fiction writing. Get up, pace back and fourth, and talk about your story. Work out the plot as though you're explaining it to a friend. Sometimes the reason you're blocked mentally is because your subconscious knows that you're not ready to write about this. You've got plot holes or inconsistencies and your brain needs to think about it first. As you work out the problem you'll be energized to sit back down and write again.

In some cases overcoming writer's block is just a matter of being more disciplined. Doctors will tell you that if you have trouble falling asleep at night to make sure you don't do anything in your bed other than rest. This conditions your brain to associate your bed with sleep. After six months or so you should be able to lie down in bed and doze right off.

This same principle can be applied to almost anything. If you can condition your brain to sleep, you can condition your mind to write. Try picking a "writing spot" in the house and only go there to write. Perhaps pick a certain time of day to write, or a specific type of tea to drink. Discipline your brain to understand that "When we do this _____, we're going to write."

Honestly, these things don't work for me all the time. Sometimes I'm just too tired or distracted or emotionally busy to be able to write. It's important to be able to recognize these times so that you know when to take a break.

Do you struggle with chronic writer's block? What has worked for you in overcoming this problem?

Keep pinchin' :-)

Monday, May 5, 2014

A Sneak Preview of Our Upcoming Rap Video

So the hubster and I have been busy the past few weeks trying to record our newest rap video, "Drowning in the Basement." Initially when we did "The Penny Pinching Rap" we decided we would only do one a year because it is a very time consuming process to write lyrics, record vocals, record the video, and then put it all together. Ultimately we just had too much fun making it, so we are back for round two.

Hopefully we will have it all ready for its debut later this week, but until then enjoy this little slow-mo sneak peak, and try to figure out what I'm saying. Any guesses can be left in the comments.

Keep pinchin' ... or in this case Keep rappin'! :-)

Friday, May 2, 2014

10 Financial Principles Straight From The Bible

10 Biblical Financial Tips
It amazes me that Dani and I, who both grew up in Christian homes, who were both saved at young ages, didn't start learning all of this financial stuff until we were married. In the 16 months since taking Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University we have discovered a whole world of biblically-based financial advisors, blogs, websites, books, and more that talk about managing your money from a God perspective.

Neither of us learned this growing up. I never once heard it preached from a pulpit. I never remember hearing it on Christian radio. Maybe the whole trend of managing money God's way is just now starting to catch on, but I also think it's sad that more pastors don't preach this stuff. The more I learn, the more I think, "It's so obvious! Why didn't I get this sooner, and why aren't more people doing it?"

Here are 10 financial principles straight out of the Bible that I'm, A) stunned I never heard about before, and, B) want to pass on to someone else so they don't waste their life digging themselves into debt. Because, let's face it folks, America isn't getting any better. The government is not going to protect your assets, your 401k, or even your hard-earned retirement. Don't count on it. Put your trust in the only thing that has proven trustworthy: God. The following financial principles are tried and true. They're real, and if put into practice will change your financial future.

  1. God is the source of everything. Learn this. Learn it now and it will make the rest of your life a lot easier. All throughout Scripture we're taught that everything we have comes from God and we give it out of His hands. God owns it all, from the earth (Psalm 24:1) to all the silver and gold (Haggai 2:8) to me and you (1 Corinthians 6:19–20).

  2. Giving isn't a good thing to do, it is an ESSENTIAL thing to do. Like I blogged about yesterday, Deuteronomy 14:23 tells us that tithing wasn't created for God's benefit, but ours, to teach us that God comes first. The Bible encourages us to give a tithe to the Lord (Proverbs 3:9, 10) from the "first fruits" of our earnings—yes, that's before taxes. The book of Hebrews suggests a tithe should be 10%.

  3. You've got to allow some room in your life for the unexpected to happen. By all means, make your plans and live out your plans, but do so with an understanding that God may ask you to do something different. The Apostle Paul was running around murdering Christians when God radically changed the direction of his life. The same goes for the disciples, as well as Jonah, Job, and countless other Biblical figures.

  4. Set something aside for a rainy day. The Bible says that only a fool spends everything he has, but in the house of the wise are stores of choice food and oil (Proverbs 21:20). We should all be setting aside a little bit of what we have because no one is exempt from hard times. A house fire. A lost job. Sickness. The Bible essentially says that not planning for hard times is idiotic.

  5. Avoid unnecessary debt. As I've written about before, the Bible doesn't necessarily condemn or condone debt, but it does strongly caution against it. In fact Proverbs 22:7 essentially calls anyone who is in debt a "slave to the lender." Debt isn't usually worth it. Stay clear of it.

  6. Be content with what you have. Despite what cultural philosophy might tell you, happiness is not found in the "American dream" or by having more money, better cars, or bigger homes. Scripture teaches that covetousness and lust are wayward desires of the flesh that just pull us away from Christ. Just read The Ten Commandments.

  7. Keep records. People who run their businesses without keeping records are morons. Their businesses fail. No intelligent person would run a business like that, yet it's how we run our lives every day. Proverbs 21:23 says to be diligent in knowing the state of your wealth, and 1 Timothy 5:8 says—and this is the heavy one—"If anyone does not provide for his own, especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever." So know what you've got and what you're doing with it.

  8. Don't go into debt with someone else. Cosigning on a loan? I'd hesitate on that one. Proverbs 27:13 suggests that poorest credit risk you could take is to agree to pay someone else's debt. Think about it, the only reason a lender requires a co-signer is if they don't trust the borrower to pay the money back. If you agree to cosign, this means that the lender is smarter than you!

  9. Don't be afraid of hard work. The Bible doesn't pull any punches on this one. God values labor, and richly rewards those who aren't afraid to work hard (Proverbs 14:23, Proverbs 28:19). This whole concept of work is all throughout Scripture. God worked to create the world (Genesis 1:1), and when Jesus called the disciples away from their fishing, it wasn't so they could just follow Him around and listen to Him preach, it was to make them "fishers of men." A different kind of work.

  10. Seek Godly counsel. The Bible says that people who seek the counsel of the Godly are blessed (Psalm 1:1, Proverbs 15:22). If you need financial advice, don't talk to friends and family members who are just as in debt as you are. Talk to your pastor, your elders, and, above all, seek God's guidance through prayer and His Word. And be prepared to hear hard things because they're most likely going to tell you that some of your financial decisions are downright stupid. But if they won't tell you, who will? And if they don't tell you, where does the roller coaster of spending and debt end?
Keep pinchin' :-)

This blog was inspired by an article by Christian financial advisor George Fooshee. Click here to read his 10 biblical financial tips.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Is It OK To Stop Tithing To Pay Off Debt?

Is it ok to stop tithing to pay off debt
Is it permissible to stop tithing if you have a mountain of debt to pay off? Is this acceptable to God?

The simple answer is... sure. Cutting back, or stopping, tithing if you're in serious debt is OK. The Bible doesn't say anything about it one way or another. It's clear from Scripture that tithing is very important to God, but it's also clear that He doesn't want us to be in debt. He wants to be able to use us to the fullest extent, but while we are beholden to mortgages and student loans and credit card companies, our potential is hindered. Matthew 6:24 says no one can serve two masters, especially God and money.

The more complicated side of the issue is your heart. Are you truly making every effort to get out of debt? Are you just using your debt as an excuse not to tithe? Those are the kinds of heart questions that make this more of a gray area, but let's take a closer look at what Scripture says about money and tithing, then I'll wrap it up with a few questions for you that should help you decide for yourself whether you should stop tithing.

First off, we should never minimize the importance of giving to the Lord. Sacrificial giving is part of God's plan for every believer. It was created, not for God's benefit, but ours. It was designed to teach us how to keep God first in our lives. Proverbs 3:9 tells us to honor the Lord with the first fruits of our labor, and cautions that those who give minimally with a reluctant heart won't receive the riches of the Lord (2 Corinthians 9:7, Proverbs 11:24).

We see in the Old Testament that tithing was how God chose to meet the material needs of the priests who also worked at meeting the needs of the poor. To this day tithing is how our churches support our pastors and missionaries. I think it is shameful for any Christian to splurge on life comforts and material things for themselves, but not give to support their local church. In Malachi 3:8, God condemned the Israelites for not tithing, saying, "You are robbing Me!"

And, just to clarify, what is a "tithe?" The writer of the book of Hebrews reveals that a tithe is generally considered to be a tenth of your earnings, (Hebrews 7:5). A lot of people wonder, "Is that before or after taxes?" That's a question that scholars have argued about for centuries, but to me the answer is simple: God first. Why? Because he's God! Yes, I know Scripture tells us to give to Caesar what is Caesar's (Mark 12:17), meaning, give the government the taxes it demands, no matter how unfair it seems, but Scripture says to give God the "first fruits," not the government.

So it should be clear to us that tithing is a pretty big deal to God. Unfortunately recent studies have shown that giving among evangelicals over the last decade has declined to Depression-era lows—less than 3% of Christians are giving charitably. That's a staggeringly low number, and it should be an embarrassing statistic to any believer.

Now what about debt? Well, God is pretty serious about that too. The Bible says that people who borrow money become slaves to the lenders (Proverbs 22:7). God hates slavery. He sent his own Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross to free us from slavery to sin. God wants our lives to be lived free in every way—free from addictions, free from selfishness, from spiritual death, free from creditors and debt. We are told to owe no one anything except to love, (Romans 13:8). So, again, the Bible's position is clear: debt is bad.

But tithing is good.

How do we figure this out?

Let's say you're in debt up to your eyeballs—if you don't get the electric bill paid this week it's going to be shut off; creditors are calling your house every day asking for money; you're in deep in a big way. In this case it would not be wrong to decrease giving, or stop giving entirely, temporarily, to pay off debt.

But consider these three questions first:

  1. Are there other areas of spending that I could cut out first? If you're still splurging on expensive coffee, dining out, entertainment, luxury clothes, or other unnecessary things, perhaps the expense of tithing isn't your biggest problem. Perhaps you should cut back in other areas first.

  2. Do I even really want to give to the Lord? God loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:7), but if you're grumbling and complaining every time you drop a check in the offering plate then that's evidence of a heart issue that goes a lot deeper than tithing or not tithing.

  3. Are there other ways I can give to the Lord during my tithing hiatus? I learned this from my sister a few years ago when she had to take a break from tithing for financial reasons. During that time she tried to serve at church more and give more of her time. You might want to consider doing this until you get your financial feet back under you.

No matter what you decide, be sure to pray about it so that you can be certain that giving up tithing will actually benefit you. Dave Ramsey says that many people have observed that after they stopped tithing their finances actually got worse. In the book of Malachi, God promises that if you do not rob Him of your tithing He will rebuke your devourers and protect you. Might the opposite also be true?

Dave Ramsey also says if you can't live off 90% of your income, then you probably can't live off 100% either, so that 10% that you don't give to the Lord isn't going to help you much anyway. Dani and I have decided to tithe no matter what, and God has graciously enabled us to be able to do that, so I think if you really look at your budget you can find a way to make it work and still give to the Lord. Nobody should beat you up about it if you can't, but pray about it, read the Bible, and if/when you tithe be sure you do it out of a love for God, not guilt.

Keep pinchin' :-)