Archives for : May2017

A Few Tricks to Keep Your Budget Cool This Summer

A Few Tricks to Keep Your Budget Cool This Summer

 

Jamie Griffin is a Middle School Teacher and Blogger who runs the site MrJamieGriffin.com. He and his wife are working hard to pay off their student loans and teach others how to Do Money Differently.

 

Summer is my favorite season of the year! It is full of adventures at the beach, hiking, playing golf, grilling, and camping. Oh, and if you’re in your 20s, don’t forget about all the weddings you will get invited to or asked to be in. Summer is time to let loose a little more, get outside, and be more active. It’s also a time where it becomes really easy to spend more money than you really want to. That’s right, those extra activities aren’t free! Now I’m not saying to skip out on all the awesome, fun adventures. Definitely have fun, hang out with friends, and make some great memories. I am saying however, that you don’t need to break your budget to have fun this summer! I want to share a few tips to help you get the most out of your summer, and stay out of the red.

 

Map Out Your Summer Ahead of Time

March and April seem to be the months that I start making plans for summer vacation. Since I’m a teacher, I still get to dream of and enjoy a true summer vacation 🙂  I’m a huge baseball fan, so I try to get to at least one game every summer, two if I’m lucky. I feel like my wife and I talk about taking a camping trip every year, either together, or with friends, or heck, maybe both! It is a lot easier to travel and visit friends and family who live a few hours away, so we make sure to include those mini trips into our calendar. Plus, my family usually spends a week camping in our neck of the woods around the 4th of July, so that throws off our normal schedule of meal prepping. The warm weather seems to beg us to buy brats or steak to throw on the grill and have a few beers while we host some friends on our back deck. And that isn’t even close to all of it! Your summer schedule can fill up so fast, with an overabundance of events, dinners, adventures, and traveling. If you don’t sit down to map out your summer, you could end up spending money like a football player who just signed a $20 million dollar contract, which I can only imagine is like crazy! Don’t let summer get out of hand, take control now!

 

You may have picked up on this by now, but Jenna and I are really intentional when it comes to our money. Therefore, we don’t just plan out our summer adventures ahead of time, we also plan out how much our adventures will cost. In my dream world, I would love to go to a Minnesota Twins game a couple times a month, go on a long road trip to the east or west coast, and spend a few nights a week grilling out with friends. But the realistic part of my brain, and also my practical minded wife, kick in and remind me that it would be crazy expensive to always do whatever we want each summer. Yes, we might have fun, but we would also be cringing on the inside knowing that we are spending a lot of money, moving us further away from our goals.

Make a List and Estimate Your Costs

When you start to make a list of your summer plans, estimate the costs of each adventure. It helps put into perspective how much money you will need to save up ahead of time. We like to make lists, or at least my very organized wife does. On our list we write down all of our plans, and then we write the best guess price next to it. It really helps us visualize the value in terms of cost and enjoyment. Another nice benefit of actually making a list is it helps you prioritize what you actually want to do, and can afford to do. Which conveniently leads me to my next point.

 

Prioritize Your Plans

If you can afford all of your summer plans and that is truly how you want to spend your money, I say go for it. Do it all! Traveling, camping, and visiting friends is always a blast if you don’t have to stress about money. Carpe that Diem! But if that’s not possible, the list you make will help you figure out which plans are important and what is actually feasible with your budget. It also helps you see if you even have enough free weekends to get everything done, and not feel burned out. When I see a price next to an event, I can more easily weigh the cost against the experience. Is it really worth it to spend $250 on a weekend out of town to watch a Twins game, eat out downtown, and stay in a hotel? Or is it more worth it to spend that $250 on a week long camping trip? Or going to see the Opera or a concert? There are so many ways to spend money and time during the summer. Choose what is most important to your family, and start booking weekends to make it happen.

 

Save Money Ahead of Time

I have always been a saver when it comes to money. Even when I was a kid, I would hoard Christmas and birthday money for years before spending it. I didn’t always know what I was saving it for, but it seemed like a better idea to keep it tucked away than to spend it on candy and pop. Maybe that is why I love planning ahead and saving for things I really want. It helps remind me every month of what I want to do and gives me something to look forward to. Saving also helps me determine if I really want something, or if it is just an impulse. For example, if I see a shirt I like at Target, I like to carry it around the store while I do the rest of my shopping. While I am carrying it, I can continue to analyze if I really want it or if I’ll actually wear it. When I get done shopping, if I still feel like it’s something I want, and I have cash for it, I buy it. If not, then I put it back. Saving for summer plans can work the same way. If you spend a few months saving, you might decide that you don’t really want to charter a sailboat for a week after all.

 

I also feel like it is more satisfying when I know I have been working hard to plan and save money. I like to reflect on the journey it took me to be where I am, and it feels good to know I met my goal. I appreciate the journey as much as the reward.

 

Find Free and Cheap Dates and Adventures

For the past four years, we have been extremely frugal with our money and in the process found a bunch of dates and mini adventures that are free or very cheap! In fact, sometimes the cheap dates were more fun and memorable than when we splurged. One of our favorite dates that we repeat every summer is “Act like a tourist day.” We live on Lake Superior where tourism rules during the summer. There are all kinds of fun activities around town especially driven by the tourism industry. On act like a tourist day, we choose a handful of these mini adventures and do them with full enthusiasm, including taking all of the typical tourist pictures. Last year we spent $10 on a ship tour, wandered through the gift shop, explored art galleries, walked along the lake, and skipped rocks into the lake. One year we even talked in accents the entire time and built up a backstory in case anyone asked where we were from. For the record, I claimed to be from Ireland and Jenna was from London and we met while I studied a semester at the University in London. We explained the trip to Duluth as our honeymoon to America. It was an absolute blast!

 

Our city also has a free movie in the park every Friday in the summer, and one time we even brought our own computer down to the park with speakers, a blanket, and pillows to watch a movie. We always enjoy a good trail hike, packing a picnic, and spending quality time with each other. If you are creative enough and willing to be goofy and silly, there are loads of things to do really cheaply right in your own backyard!

 

Wrapping It Up

Summer is awesome. Period. But to get the most fun without stretching your budget too far, make a plan and prioritize what is most important to you. Save up and have a blast without the stress. And don’t forget about the free stuff around town. There is always free stuff!

 

Let Me Know in the Comments
What are your favorite summer activities? Any free or cheap date ideas or getaways?

 

Running, Numbing, Fighting

 My adult life has been spent either running from myself, numbing myself, or fighting myself. That’s the truth.

But during the last six years I have been open to facing myself differently, with the help of friends, therapy, 12 steps, and God. Overall I have come to peace with me and what being me entails. I am aware that what happened to me still hurts, still frustrates me. The difference is being able to let go of it. I still feel anxious at times, but with God’s help I can soothe my anxious thoughts and fears by praying, breathing, or taking a walk.

Learning how to take care of my body, mind, and spirit has been life-changing. My career changed as well as my thinking patterns, my eating habits, sleep habits, and social expectations. In order to take care of my body I realized I had to SLOW DOWN. A lot. Way down. Irritatingly slow. It was in that place of rest that I began to heal. My body still screams out in anxiousness if it is not properly tended to.

I recognize and understand that life happens. I also recognize that only I can take care of myself. If left unattended to, I deteriorate physically and emotionally quite rapidly. The way I take care of myself is by getting enough rest, spending adequate time alone, journaling, and talking with my two closest friends. This is a daily practice that has made all the difference for me.

~ Terri Johnson

Happy Mothers Day? Not for Everyone.

Happy Mother’s Day? Not for everyone . . .
However, God can redeem anyone
By Mary Zigan
Excerpted from my book, An Upside-Down Heart
The sting of the darkest Mother’s Day weekend ever still burns in my mind. On Friday morning of that weekend, my husband, Don and I had been arguing about who knows what, but the verbal assaults and bickering escalated until there was a major blow up.
I retreated to my prayer closet, which was my lower-level office. I picked up my Bible, and wouldn’t you know, the reading was from Matthew. “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you . . . , go and be reconciled . . . , then come and offer your gift.”
I said out loud to God, “No! I’m always the first one who apologizes, and I’m not going to do it this time.” There is no way I am going to say I am sorry first. The nagging words from Chapter 5 were relentless, and I caved. I went upstairs to where my husband was seated on the rattan loveseat located on the deck. Quietly sitting down beside him, I reached for his hand, but he pulled it away.
With remorse I said, “Honey, I’m sorry for my part in this argument.”
Don quickly retorted with, “It’s too late. I’m going to the farm and when I get back, I’m calling my attorney.”
My reactions to these words were fear and shock! I thought, * After all we have been through, now you’re willing to throw in the towel? I could not believe my ears.
“It’s too late,” he repeated, and he got up and left for the farm. In a panic, I thought, what am I going to do? We had no cell phones or landline at the farm. I was completely cut off from him.
With my stomach churning I did what I would typically do. I went for a walk.
My heart was heavy, my tears were hot, and fear of the unknown welled up in me as never before. These heated, hostile encounters had become a habit all too familiar, but this time Don meant business. The unknowns ahead gripped me stronger that day than I think I had ever felt them. Yet, as I walked, I sensed a voice, a Still Small Voice, saying in my spirit, “Mary, you were faithful to go and ask forgiveness. I will bring blessing and abundance to your marriage.”
Desperate almost to the breaking point, I went through the necessary motions of ordinary life on Saturday. The house was quiet, but Don’s and my hateful words to each other still rang in my head. On Sunday, I arrived at church early, hoping that Elsie and her husband, Don, would be prayer ministers that day. Elsie was a faithful prayer warrior who believed God could do anything.
At the end of the service, I nearly ran to the altar for prayer. There Elsie and her husband gently prayed with me. They encouraged me to put my trust in God for whatever the outcome might be. When I left church that day, even though everything was still uncertain, a load had been lifted.
Don didn’t return home for several days. I had anxious and unsettled feelings of the unknown that were like a vice around my heart. I prayed that somehow our love would supersede our selfishness. God had been working in my heart, had He been working in Don’s? I wondered.
After nearly a week, I had hopeful anticipation that today might be the day he would return. Wanting to put my best foot forward, I took a bubble bath, perfumed, and pulled out a pair of shorts and a T-shirt that showed off my tanned skin, and I was careful to have my attitude in check. In contrast with last week’s blowup, I hoped a gentle, quiet spirit would win his favor.
Don did return that day, and I could sense by his subdued demeanor that he was feeling some remorse. We did not discuss what had happened between us, but there was an unspoken willingness, you might say a silent truce, to ease back into the normal routine we had had previously.
The weather was perfect that summer and God was gracious to give Don and me several opportunities for solitude at the place we loved the most—our farm. We had time to walk together, to talk together, to begin a friendship together, to forgive one another, to laugh and cry together. In a sense it was a courtship. There was tenderness, respect, compassion, and kindness. It became clear that Don and I more than loved each other, we were committed for life!

Author’s note: This Mother’s Day may not be all that you would like it to be. Maybe you have unresolved issues and pain in a relationship. God can carry your burden for you and empower you with His grace to see the trial through.
If you would like to purchase the book, An Upside Down Heart, or invite Mary to speak at your conference, retreat, or Bible study, you may contact her at: mzigan2442@gmail.com

Photos From the Last Frontier

Spring comes late in Alaska.  It starts in the valleys in late March to early April and doesn’t complete it’s climb up the mountains until mid-July.  Only in the last two days have the trees started to bud, which means for about a month we’ve been living in the brown zone, the time period between snow melt and bloom.  If you look across a vast, open space, you pretty much only see browns and greys, which depending on your attitude, can be depressing or a sign of hope.  A friend of mine made the observation that the lack of color makes the few things with color that much more striking.  I think he’s right.  The brown zone gives you days when you can get up with the sun and drive up into the mountains to cross country ski, only to come home in the afternoon and ride your bike.  If I’ve learned anything about weather and seasons in Alaska, it’s that it’s best to not plan your life around it.  Don’t wait for things to be warm enough, dry enough, sunny enough, or anything enough.  It’s best to just embrace the brown.

-Mary’s grandson, Brad

 

The alpenglow on some Anchorage peaksBeautiful brown
A curious marmot pokes his head up

Two otters try to stay warm in the harbor

A close up of some rocks near the sea

The greys of the sea

My dog, Tim, exploring the newly created lake in our front yard