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31 Days of Giving on a Budget: Volunteering in Your Community (Day 2)

Welcome to December’s series on 31 Days of Giving on a Budget. In this series, I’ll be sharing inspiring stories from my readers and posts with practical ways to give — even on a limited income.

If you have a Giving on a Budget story to share of a way you or your family has given to others this year or this holiday season, please email me your story and a picture to go along with it, if possible. I’d love to hear it and possibly share it during this series!

Guest post from Emily

Being able to volunteer in the community is a huge highlight of my job. It lets my company build publicity and it lets me help our community.

However, to me, volunteering doesn’t stop when the doors lock for the day. So, it’s important for me to prioritize my outside-of-work volunteer hours so that I do not negatively impact my family or my budget.

Here are a 4 tips that help me do just that:

1. Choose Wisely: Pick an Activity You Believe In

One activity that I became involved with is “Backpack Buddies” which sends needy children home with a backpack full of food for the weekend. This project was started by the church I attend, so it was something my husband was involved with, too. We were already financially donating to this ministry, so I only added work-time volunteer hours to this event, initially.

2. Maximize Your Dollars and Time

As a church, we chose to collect the funds raised for “Backpack Buddies” and go to Costco and Sam’s Club in order to maximize our donations. However, so that I wouldn’t take time away from my family, I did not volunteer to be on the committee that goes to the nearest Costco (an hour and a half away) to purchase the food. Instead, I help assemble the backpacks twice a month on Friday mornings and help organize the packaged foods on Wednesday evenings.

3. Make It a Family Event

Last Christmas break, my husband and I, together as a family, helped cook meals at our church for the “Backpack Buddies” kids and their families. We were able to help others while also enriching our marriage. I fall more in love with my husband as I continuously find how giving and caring he is. This year we will have our daughter there with us, too.

4. Know It’s Okay To Say No

If your time budget or financial budget is spoken for, please say no. Neither you nor the organization will benefit from you volunteering if you don’t have the time to follow through with your commitment.

Even if it’s the best cause you could think of, you don’t want to cause undue stress to your family by blowing your budget or taking too much time away from them. Prayer is always welcome for any need, and can often be the best way to help.

I honestly do enjoy volunteering, and I feel that many people do, too. I truly believe you can volunteer without spending a penny, and I also believe you can donate without spending a minute of your life. It’s important to find a balance that is right for us and our family. And remember, you can never go wrong with prayer.

Happy volunteering!

Emily is wife to Garrett, mom to Katherine, and a compliance officer. She enjoys spending time with others and is starting to enjoy running.

What a Messy House Can Teach You About Financial Success

Originally published in March 2012

I woke up to a very messy house today. After being gone all last week and taking Sunday to just rest and reconnect with family, I was met with real-life this morning: unwashed dishes in the sink, dirty laundry to be done, suitcases to be unpacked, and stuff strewn about.

As I thought about how I was going to attack the piles, I realized that the same plan of attack could be applied to finances:

1. Don’t Panic!

Truthfully, I felt somewhat overwhelmed by how bad the mess was–especially with everything else I needed to accomplish today. However, I quickly realized that being overwhelmed would do nothing to fix the issue.

In the same way, if you find yourself in a huge hole financially, panicking won’t do anything to improve the situation.

2. Make a Game Plan

Once I got over being so overwhelmed, I created a game plan: I surveyed the whole house and realized that the mess really just concentrated in the kitchen and bedroom areas. So I carved out a block of time during the day when I would devote my sole attention to dealing with the mess.

If you want to achieve success in your finances, it’s imperative to have a game plan. Dreaming and wandering around in circles doesn’t accomplish anything. Consider where you want to be financially in a year, two years, or five years from now. Write those goals down onto paper and figure out what changes you’re going to make in your life to help you get where you want to go.

Moving forward...

3. Break It Down Into Bite-sized Pieces

After I blocked out the time to focus on the messy areas of my home, I divided those areas up by sections, set the timer, and got to work. Instead of trying to tackle entire rooms, I focused on specific areas one at a time. This made it much more manageable.

A game plan is great, but if you don’t break your big idea down into bite-sized pieces you’ll probably find it’s just too hard. Simplify your game plan by breaking it down into yearly, monthly, and weekly goals. That way, you’re not trying to scale a mountain in one leap; you’re just focusing on the next few steps in front of you.

4. Keep Going–Even When It Takes Longer Than You Expected

I had hoped to knock out all of the messes in an hour or so. But it seems things always take longer than I hope. I got distracted, children needed help, and things came up. But by continuing to plod on, even when it was slower than I’d hoped, I finally finished and had almost everything cleaned up and put away by the time Jesse got home from work tonight.

When you’re working toward financial goals, you’re almost guaranteed to have unexpected things come up: job loss, extra expenses, cars that break down, medical bills, and more. It’s easy to get discouraged and want to give up when it seems like the going is so slow. But press on and remember that moving forward–even at a microscopic rate–is still moving forward!

Ah! So much better!

quote photo credit

Peanut Butter Bon-Bons

Peanut Butter Bon Bons

Guest post from Brigette Shevy

This recipe brings back special childhood memories for me… every December, my family would make and freeze dozens and dozens and dozens of cookies – and we always included these bon-bons!

We would spend the week before Christmas making up platters of goodies to give away to all of our neighbors, relatives, friends, co-workers, and anyone else my mom could come up with… we even included the mailman and UPS man! Of all of the delectable treats we would make, these were always one of my very favorites. I mean, how could you not like peanut butter and chocolate?

These bon-bons only take a handful of ingredients, make a large batch, and store in the freezer very well. They look fancy and indulgent and taste amazing. Just one word of warning, though: these are extremely addictive!

That’s it!

If you’re looking for a simple, delicious treat to make for a holiday party… give my Peanut Butter Bon-Bon’s a try!

Brigette is a full-time wife and mother who is blessed with three amazing bundles of energy (ages 5, 3 and 1). She enjoys music, experimenting in the kitchen, homeschooling her children, finding great deals, long-distance running, and anything chocolate.

How We Save $1,000 Per Year By Riding a Moped

Guest post from Allie

My husband and I have been married for almost four years, and have been a one-car family the whole time. Our surprising secret to making this work?

A Scooter!

I drive the car, he takes the scooter. We have figured that our trusty little Moped saves us at least $1,000 a year. How so?

Upfront Costs

It was cheaper for us to buy a Moped (a nice, used one with cash) than to pay for a year of auto insurance on a car. Combine that with the fact that a Moped is obviously much less expensive to buy than a car and you have significant savings.


My husband fills up the gallon tank once a week for whatever the price of a gallon of a gas is that week. His scooter gets 70 miles per gallon!

Auto Insurance

Our insurance for a scooter is significantly less than a car.

Maintenance Costs

The scooter requires little maintenance, and if there is a repair to be done, my husband can usually do it himself.

Overall, having a Moped and car has been a huge blessing for us. We are on a tight budget, and the extra wiggle room has been wonderful.

If you are wondering if you should forgo a second car and get a Moped, here are some things you should think through:

What’s the weather like?

We live near Denver, where it is pretty mild all year long. My husband can use his scooter even during most winter days because it doesn’t snow all that much. Even when it does snow, it clears within one or two days. As long as the roads are clear and you don’t mind the cold, you can even make it work even in winter.

Where do you need to go?

My husband has a 3-mile radius to his life–home, work/grad school, church, and various spots around our little town. His routes require no major roads or high speeds, so he can safely get everywhere he needs to go during the typical workday. (FYI: A moped can go up to about 40 miles per hour.)

What’s your back-up plan?

On the days where my husband can’t take his scooter due to snow/ice/rain, we need a back-up plan. Since we live about two miles from school/work, I either drop him off before I head to work, or he can hitch a ride with friends.

Having a scooter has certainly been a unique way for us to save money, and though it is not always the most convenient option, the savings are more than worth it!

P.S. Check with your state for laws about scooter use. In our state, a helmet and eye protection is required and it is only for one rider.

Allie is a wife to Tim and brand new momma to baby Hudson. She works part-time and spends the rest of her time home with the babe, volunteering at church and enjoying life in Colorado!

photo source

4 Weeks to a More Organized Home {Simplified}: Day 14 Update

If you missed the Day 14 assignment, you can read it here.

I have a confession to make: I completely forgot to post this last night! But I do sort of have a legitimate excuse… even though I know I’ve talked about not making excuses, so I really should be making one. 🙂

I flew to Little Rock, Arkansas yesterday to do some radio interview segments with FamilyLife. While there I also got to hang out with one of my favorite people and authors (Tricia Goyer), spend some time picking the brains of the Economides (known as “America’s Cheapest Family” — we did joint radio recordings together on the topic of saving money), and meet with some other wonderful folks from FamilyLife.

I also have the opportunity to get to meet and do a Q&A with Tricia’s Teen Moms group last night. What an amazing group of young women! I cannot imagine the hardships and difficulties on their plates and was so inspired by their questions and their sincere desire to do the best they can do with their money while juggling finishing high school and raising a baby as a single mom.

Needless to say, it was a busy day yesterday… and I didn’t get to my hotel room until after 11 p.m. After I called Jesse and we chatted about the day, I fell asleep! And it wasn’t until this morning that I remembered, “Oh yeah, I was supposed to put up that 4 Weeks Update post last night!” Oops.

Anyway, thanks for your patience and understanding. 🙂 So, without further ado, here’s my utensil drawer clean-out.

By the way, aren’t you all so proud of me for taking your advice and getting some drawer organizers? 😉

Those organizers have made my drawer organization a breeze (see how my utensil drawer used to look without them here). Thank you all; you’re brilliant!

How did you do on Day 14? I’d love to have you share your progress and success with us so we can be inspired. Either post a link to your blog post below or leave a comment with your update.

Free ebooks: Advent Devotionals, Christmas Recipes, Past Forward, Writing Conversations

Download a free copy of Make Him Room: An Advent Devotional.

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