Running to Share

I watched him run. He was ready. He had joy on his face. Every lap counted. He was running for charity and he is only a pre-schooler. Other, older and bigger kids ran further and longer, but he was giving it his best. He had a great attitude. He was making a difference greater than he probably understood.  Crosby was helping.  Twice as I was watching, he stopped briefly and talked to me. I felt honored. Though we see each other regularly at church, this was the most conversation we ever had.kids-running

Crosby taught me an important lesson.  Even young children can give to others. Sometimes as parents we get in the way.  We may think they can’t do much or they are too young. True he could not address the letters that were mailed requesting support, but he did the running.

Helping our children develop giving hearts can be challenging. Like many other worthwhile endeavors it takes time, energy, and a little creativity.  Children often have plenty of all of these.  They may have some wild and crazy ideas and some of those may be perfect.

Why not challenge yourself and your children to discover ways to give to others.  Perhaps start with one project per season of the year.  It could be as simple as raking the neighbor’s leaves or taking them some homemade pumpkin muffins.  Try sharing some of those surplus tomatoes from your garden.pumpkin-muffins

Giving to others makes us better people.  It helps us to focus on others’ needs and less on ourselves. As we share our stuff with others, our stuff becomes a little less important to us and the people become more important.

Recently one of our local high school sewing classes made colorful pillowcases for a hospital pediatric ward.  I applaud these students and their teacher for using their abilities to serve others. I am continually amazed at the generosity of my city.img_3518

What has your family done to serve someone else?  How have you managed to involve your children? Please share your ideas.

10 Things to Know About Resale Stores

I live in a city with a population of approximately 76,000. We have seven resale stores where I shop plus at least five more resale stores where I refuse to shop. Creepy, overcrowded, disorganized or unclean stores get moved to my refusal list. Furthermore, I do not know why most of the resales shops here close at 3 p.m., but it annoys me. Only 2 of the 7 where I shop are open until 4 p.m., which seems a more reasonable hour to close, but it is still an hour earlier than most businesses.

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containers from a resale store, which I use for plants

I have bought a diversity of items from resale stores.  The dress I wore to my third son’s wedding came from a Good Will store.  Two weeks ago I paid .50 for an excellent John Grisham book to take on a vacation and then throw away rather than bring it back home.  Last Christmas I bought 80 individual Christmas cards at a penny a piece.  Other purchases have included planting pots, dishes, linens, fabric, wrapping paper, greeting cards, craft supplies, books, costumes, playtime dress-up clothes, adult and children’s clothing, coats, boots, candles, seasonal decorations, sports equipment, furniture, puzzles and toys, jewelry and even gifts for others.  Furniture is great to get second hand especially if you have children, are a young couple just starting out, move a lot, or just like unique pieces.  Refurbishing furniture is also very trendy right now.

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mother of the groom, standing next to the bride, wearing  full length, $10 formal dress from Good Will

I asked my smart and savvy #3 daughter-in-law, Jackie, (mother of 5) to share some of her thoughts on resale shopping.  The following are her 10 ideas:

  1. No one will ever know where you purchased your clothing from or how much you spent for it unless you are walking around with the tag on it. 🙂
  2. Thrift stores use to have more of a negative connotation years ago than they do today. Today it’s trendy to shop at one!
  3. Kids grow so fast that resale shopping can save a lot of money. If you are saving money on clothing, you could be spending it on other things; vacation, sports, groceries.
  4. Babies don’t care if they are wearing Baby Gap, Gymboree or Children’s Place clothing. A lot of older kids don’t care what brands they wear either.
  5. Here’s a fun experiment for your teen who only wants to shop at the mall. Give them $25 and tell them to go buy clothing at the mall. Give them another $25 and take them to a thrift store (even better go on a sale day) and let them see how much more they can buy!
  6. One of the best things to buy at thrift stores is books!! A board book for a child runs about $10 new. At a thrift store most books are under a dollar.
  7. Special occasion clothing and shoes are often worn once or twice by a child (or an adult). Buying these things second hand is often an excellent money saver.
  8. Check to see if your thrift store offers coupons or discount days for even more savings.
  9. Some thrift stores are better than others. If you go to one and are unimpressed, try another. Ask around for recommendations.
  10. Some people shop at thrift stores to make money. You can often find new, like new, antique or one of a kind items at a very high discount. These items can then be sold for two or three times what you paid on E-bay or a Facebook selling site. Before you head this route though, do your research to find out what will sell. If you purchase things and are not able to use or sell them, you are wasting money.

    TJroom

    Can you guess how many of these pieces were purchased at resale stores?

I like that many resale stores are fund raisers for charities in my community. Some of my favorite stores are supports for the local hospital, a Lutheran school, Catholic Charities and the crisis pregnancy center.   Shopping at these stores definitely benefits my community. All of them accept donations, which is a great place to donate your stuff if you are purging or decluttering and do not want to have your own garage sale.

I prefer resale stores over garage sales for the following reasons: 1. Weather is not a factor. 2. The season is not a factor. 3. Bigger selection of merchandise and better variety all in one location.

Resale stores help stretch a budget.  Buying slightly used at a deep discount off new items helps us be content with not having the latest and greatest.  Contentment is hard to find and keep in our culture.

Disclaimer #1.  Just because an item is offered at a low, low price does not mean we actually need it. This situation does provide an excellent teaching moment for your child to learn the difference between wants and needs.

Disclaimer #2.  If you purchase too many items, your home will soon look like one of those messy and creepy stores I mentioned in the first paragraph.  Shop wisely.

What’s the best thrift store deal you have found?

9 to 5

Are you a parent employed outside the home?  Whether you work full time or part-time it can be a challenge with pros and cons.  Have you examined the real costs of employment?

Before having children I worked as a receptionist and bookkeeper at a doctor’s office.  I enjoyed working there but the plan was to be an at-home mom and fortunately we did not need my income.  My husband worked in the computerized medical instrumentation field.  He helped develop a CT (computerized tomography) scanner for G.D. Searle. D.D.H.

Just before our son turned one year old I happened upon my previous boss at a community event and learned that my former co-worker had suddenly quit, leaving the boss in a bind.  I agreed to return to part-time work for the summer months giving her time to acquire and train a new employee.  A high school student agreed to come to my home to babysit. (Thank you, Tracie.)  I rode my bike the 2.5 miles each way to the office and back home.   My travel and clothing expenses were nearly zero.  I think weather may have required me to drive a few times.  After paying taxes, my babysitter who worked 40  minutes longer than me each day actually made more money that summer.   However, I had the satisfaction of regular exercise and helping a friend.

Our family continued to expand and we continued on one income.  I was working 24/7 at home as a mom, teacher, and homemaker.  When our #1 son was 14 years old my husband began a business of building custom furniture and our income dropped by 75%.  Did I go out and find a job to supplement our income?  I did not.  I did not have a marketable skill that would have netted a worthwhile income after subtracting taxes and all the expenses of employment such as transportation, clothing, childcare, and increased meals not prepared at home.

IMG_1756We preferred to live on a lower income.  Employment for me was not desired primarily because we wanted to continue to homeschool and I volunteered many hours every week at our church as a youth director.  As our children became teens they were also involved in this youth ministry.  Eventually, I was hired at our church as a youth pastor.

Years later, when we had only one child at home, we enrolled him in a homeschool  co-op where he attended classes two days a week.  At first I volunteered at the co-op, but by the second year I was employed as the receptionist and later the dean of students.   Like many parents who understand the benefits of working at their child’s school, I only worked when he was there.

Not being employed does mean living with less income.   One may choose to deem that a problem or a challenge and opportunity.  I consider having more time with my children and spouse a wonderful benefit.   It also means having more time to do activities which help stretch one’s income such as couponing, gardening, canning, home cooking, garage sale and resale shopping.    There are tons of ways to stretch your money.  I recall being gifted with a book titled The Tightwad Gazette, from which I gleaned a few ideas.   Amazon carries it, cheap, and many others of that genre in print or digital format. Mary Hunt is a newspaper columnist with lots of money-saving tips, whose articles I enjoy reading.    Her website is: www.everydaycheapskate.com/moneysavers

Whether you choose to pursue a career, work part-time or full-time, do your best to get a clear picture of all the ways doing so will impact you and your family beyond just more income.   Sometimes you have more options than you think you do.   If you are a parent, you will be working somewhere all day every day, 24/7.

P.S.  Our nest is empty and I am working part-time with lots of flexibility and I am enjoying doing so.

Paying our Children

Don’t you enjoy having some money of your own?  Children do not have as many opportunities to earn money as teens or adults. If your family budget can afford to pay them for their work, then I suggest you pay them for family care chores, but not personal care chores. Personal care chores include washing and bathing, teeth and hair brushing, getting dressed and undressed, bed making and cleaning own room.  Family care chores include laundry, meals, home, yard, animal, and auto maintenance.Yes, we would like for our children to be willing to contribute to the needs of their family without the incentive of money, but then so would your employer.

Remember our goal is to prepare them for the adult world where work is compensated.  As you pay them for their work, they can begin learning money management.    money How much should they be paid?  How much can you afford is the wrong question.  A better question is how much is the job worth.  Don’t pay more than you can afford but don’t pay all you can afford either.  Because they are children there are few places they could earn more than the minimum wage. For example to determine the worth of a clean bathroom I used the length of time it would take me to clean the bathroom times the minimum wage.  20 minutes times $9.00 per hour equals a $3.00 task.   I think this a generous formula. Never use how much time it takes a child because they are more distracted and less focused.

When my sister and I were children it sometimes took us 2 hours to complete the 20 minute job of clean up after dinner and doing the dishes.  Was the entire kitchen a disaster?  No.  Were our parents giving us more to do than we were capable of doing?  No.  We were fooling around.  We were leg wrestling in the living room or giving each other airplane rides.   We were watching TV or doing whatever we thought to do in the midst of a simple chore.  We distracted each other.

Because of our chores for money method, our children rarely came to us asking for money.  Rather, there was an understanding that if they needed money, they needed to do more work.  I provided them with a list of additional chores that could be completed for extra compensation. This included things like vacuuming out the car and disinfecting all the doorknobs and light switches in the house. sink & dishes

If the purposes of chores are earning money, developing skills, and contributing to family needs, then is there a time when that goal is reached? All three tenants are on-going and never ending; however family dynamics do change and children grow up.  Many older teens find employment outside the home which meets their financial needs.  As our children entered employment we lessened and eventually removed regular household chores from their daily schedules.  More and more of their time and energies at home were used on tasks that were only done weekly or as needed such as lawn mowing, snow shoveling or vehicle maintenance.  At the same time they were gaining more personal care chores such as purchasing and caring for their own clothing. Everyone appreciates a pat on the back for a job well done, but a little cash is mighty nice too.

My money

Everyone enjoys having some money all their own to spend or not spend in the way they choose.  Adults and children need to have some money of their own over which they have total control. Parents can certainly give guidance but must release authority to their children to ultimately make their own choices and decisions.  Of course, money can be spent only once. If a child decides to spend all they have on candy today, then tomorrow when they discover some toy that is exactly what they want, they will not be able to buy it at that time.

Dan, Dave and Tom loved to play with the four inch tall G.I. Joe figurines (not dolls).  At some point each of them earned enough to buy one with their income from a week’s pay for chores.  However, they could only spend half their pay because they were required to allocate one quarter their income to savings and tithe ten to twenty five percent.  This meant they had to wait two weeks to buy one figurine. This was an important lesson in delayed gratification and goal setting. Unfortunately for them, the cost of the figurines rose at about the same rate as their income for quite a while. Extra jobs were calculated in terms of purchasing more G.I. Joes sooner.IMG_1077

Saving money is a life-long skill.  It is an important habit to develop.  Money spent out of savings had to be planned for and discussed with a parent.  Children rapidly change their minds regarding what is important to them and why they want certain items.  Time is a good sorter of needs and wants and priorities.

As adults there will always be unexpected needs or emergencies outside of budgeted items.  This is where savings bales us out of a potentially difficult place.  Shortly after college graduation our daughter moved into her first apartment.  She and her friend selected 2006_0817(010)a two bedroom, third story apartment of an old house.  I remember questioning her about her budget and financial stability.  She assured me she could afford this move. She did have full time employment.  I asked her about handling unexpected expenses.  “Like what?” she asked.  “I don’t know what it will be”, I replied, “something you don’t know about yet.”  She did not think any unexpected expenses would occur.  Everything was all planned.  On the day before moving day she and I did much cleaning in that old apartment including washing windows.  As she slid open a double hung window to wash it an unsecured window air conditioner unit plummeted two and a half stories landing with an awful and fatal crash. Oops! There was that first unexpected expense.  Fortunately, the landlady did not require her to purchase a replacement unit.  Our daughter lived without air conditioning.   (The guy in the pic is the cousin who helped her move, not her roommate.)

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In our house an additional forced savings happened at birthdays and Christmas.  During the four weeks prior to one’s birthday and Christmas purchasing of wanted items was forbidden.  This prevented duplication of desired items and gave others time and the opportunity to give to you the things you were wanting.

Once a child is employed and earning an increased income they need to learn to do banking.  Banking is just a mature system of envelopes. They should open checking and savings accounts.  Related to them are several skills which need to be learned.

  1. How to write a check.
  2. How to record that check in the registry.
  3. How to make deposits and record them.
  4. How to reconcile an account with the bank’s records.
  5. How to do online banking.
  6. How to responsibly use a debit and/or credit account.
  7. How to keep financial records and file income tax returns.

For teens debit and credit accounts should have limits. Credit cards should be paid in full every month.  They are an important tool, not a license to spend recklessly.

Living generously

My husband and I have been heavily influenced in the area of finances from our families of origin and the teachings of Larry Burkett.  We were both taught to earn, save, and tithe.  I recall when my older sister got her first regular babysitting job.  She earned $12 per week and divided her money into four envelopes.  Written on the envelopes were Savings, Tithe, Spending, and Presents.  I was amazed at how quickly she saved enough money to purchase a small black and white television set for our bedroom.  On many occasions I was the happy benefactor of the Presents envelope.  When I began babysitting I followed her example.  My husband grew up on a farm in Nebraska and had the opportunity to manage his own business raising sheep, chickens and goats. Thus he also had opportunity to manage money and make money decisions. Larry Burkett was a strong proponent of training children financially beginning with preschoolers.  The following are some of his guidelines:

  1. Pay them only for jobs that are completed.
  2. Pay for quality work. Have a strict work performance code for teenagers.
  3. Pay fairly, within your budget, but don’t overpay because you can afford it.
  4. Reward extra effort.
  5. Teach your children the “sharing” principles from God’s Word.
  6. Teach your children to save.
  7. Teach principles of budgeting.
  8. Get and use a checking account.
  9. Get and responsibly use a debit/credit card.
  10. There are no allowances in the real world.

As soon as a child is able to earn money they can also learn to manage it. Begin with a very simple system of envelopes or containers labeled with words or pictures for “Tithe or Church or God”, “Spend”, and “Save”.  Because it is mathematically easy to cut an amount in half and then half again, we had our children use half their money for “spend”, and then halve the remaining half resulting in saving one quarter of their income and giving one quarter of their income.  This meant I had to have on hand many single dollar bills and quarters so that the money could easily be divided. $_12

We explained that biblically we are instructed to give a tithe or ten percent.  A biblical tithe was just the basis for giving.  It is the minimum.  Tithes and offerings were given. “Moreover, we will bring to the storerooms of the house of our God, to the priests, the first of our ground meal, of our grain offerings, of the fruit of all our trees and of our new wine and olive oil. And we will bring a tithe of our crops to the Levites, for it is the Levites who collect the tithes in all the towns where we work.”  Nehemiah 10:37

When people practice giving liberally in childhood, when they only have a little, a habit is developed which helps them be liberally giving people as adults with employment income.  Giving a tithe and offering is reflective of a heart that is obedient and recognizes God as the giver and provider of everything.  It also builds trust in Him to continue to do so.

In many homes financial details are kept very secretive. There is some wisdom in this however there is also value in not always keeping it all a secret.  Children and even teens cannot comprehend all the bills and expenses a family incurs.  Nor do they understand adult income. We also don’t want to needlessly burden them with money worries. But in financially tight times your children can rise to the challenge to live more frugally. They can learn much from hearing or overhearing some of the process and discussions about priorities in saving, spending and budgeting.   I think this is especially true whenever philanthropy is concerned.

Matthew 6: 2-4 says, “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”   Because of this scripture we did not involve or even inform our children anytime we would give to a need or make donations.  We thought we were being scriptural in our secrecy.  However we realized by our secrecy we were missing important teaching and modeling opportunities.  If being generous was important to us, then we needed to model it.  It was not a matter of bragging but of training.

One way we have found to contribute to others’ needs is ordering online gift certificates from major grocery stores or department stores to be delivered anonymously.  We have also played ding dong ditch delivering bags of groceries at a doorstep.  Our youngest son has participated in this “game” being our runner as we wait nearby in our car.  This is a great way to involve children who can keep it a secret and still fulfill the principle of Matthew 6.