Budget Cuts: How to Go from 2 Incomes to 1

cropped 34I’m excited to introduce my first guest blogger!  A former missionary kid, Joy grew up in Swaziland and Fontainebleau, France.  She worked as a teacher, preschool director, and programs coordinator for an adoption agency, before becoming a stay at home mom.  Though the rewards are great, the pay sure isn’t!  After checking out Joy’s tips for budget trimming, we’d love to hear YOUR tips in the comment section below.


Last summer, I left the job that I loved and embraced a higher calling: motherhood.  Besides gaining a beautiful baby boy, we also lost one income.  My husband and I live in an expensive city in the US so our budget took a hit.  How were we going to pay all of our bills, tithe and save?  We had to take a serious look at our budget and make some difficult adjustments.  And so, our lifestyle changed.

Here’s a few of the most helpful changes we’ve made to help stretch our budget along the way:

1. We decided to use cloth diapers.  We had been tossing around the idea of using cloth IMG_2762 editeddiapers for a while but when our son arrived and we realized how much we spent on diapers monthly, we decided to go for it.  And we love it!  We started when my son was 3 months old.  We use the Grovia hybrid system and we spent about $350 to purchase everything.  We have 8 shells and 24 inserts.  Our son wears cloth all day, but at night he wears Pampers Stay Dry.  Because we use cloth diapers, a box of 56 disposables lasts us about a month and a half.

Now that my son is eating solids, we use Grovia’s bioliners.  If his diaper is just wet, then I wash the bioliner with the rest of the diapers and use it again.  When the liner gets holes in it, I throw it away.  If he has a messy diaper, the cleanup is easy.  Just throw the liner with the poop away and put the cloth diaper and shell in the wet bag to wash later.  It’s less hassle and less mess.

2. I make a meal plan every week.  I shop in my pantry first to see what ingredients I have so I can plan my meals around them.  Then, I figure out what meals we are going to have that week, and I make my grocery list.  Some weeks, I only need to replenish our fresh food supply and I can keep the meals planned the previous week.

I have found that making as much as you can from scratch is the cheapest way to go.  Frozen veggies are another money saving idea.  I still buy fresh ones, but I also have a stock of frozen ones because they last longer and can make a good supplement to a meal.  I can always throw together a stir fry easily too.  Finally, don’t be afraid to make breakfast food for dinner.  Omelets, waffles, pancakes, french toast or crepes with fruit and yogurt make cheap, filling meals and often only require ingredients that you already have in your cupboards.  We usually have breakfast for dinner once a week.

3. We track our spending each week.  This way, throughout the month, we see how we are doing budget-wise and how much we have left.  There is a lot of software out there to help families track their spending.  My husband created our spreadsheet but Mint.com has come highly recommended.

Groceries are one of the major items in our budget each month, so I have a post-it note on my fridge with the dollar amount that reflects what we have budgeted.  At the beginning of each month, I get a new post-it and write the amount that I have available to spend that month on groceries.  Every time I come home from the store, I subtract the amount I spent from the amount on the post-it.  This way, I know exactly how much I have to spend for the rest of the month.  I’m very visual and it’s a good reminder for me.

4. I shop with my grocery list and my calculator.  I know, I know.  How embarrassing to walk through the grocery store and add up each and every item!  But it really helps me to see how much I am spending so that I am not surprised when I get to the cash register.  Because I know how much I can spend from the post-it on the fridge, I stay in budget and still get what’s on my list.  I may just need to choose the cheaper option instead of the name brand or the organic one for a few things.  Plus, I use the calculator on my phone so it looks a little less embarrassing (hopefully!).

This month, I am trying to cut our grocery budget in half.  I want to stay within $250 for all of our groceries.  Ambitious?  I know.  Because I am a stay at home mom, I can go to different grocery stores and shop the deals, within reason of course.  When I was working, this was not possible because of my schedule and desire to spend time with my husband after work.  We are also blessed with an Asian supermarket within walking distance.  It is the cheapest and best place for me to get fresh produce, especially since my son just started eating solids and I am making his baby food.  Last week, I bought 2 acorn squash, 3 zucchini, 5 apples, 2 lbs of clementines, 3 large sweet potatoes, 1lb of celery and 2 onions for just $18. So far this month, I have been spending $60/week on groceries and now, I am at the end of the month with $13 to spare.  My goal from now on is to spend $240-$280 a month.

These budget stretching ideas may or may not work for your family, but my family has found it extremely helpful to make a plan, track our progress, and experiment with new ideas (cloth diapers, home-made baby food, and Asian markets have been much easier to adopt than we ever expected).

And yet, my family can budget and plan as much as we want but I need to remember Who ultimately provides for us.  I need to embrace Matthew 6:33 and seek first the kingdom of God without worrying about how He will provide for us.  Growing up as a missionary kid, I saw how God provided for our family in times when we thought it impossible for Him to do so.  And now as an adult, with a husband and baby, He is still showing me how important I am to Him, and how He will provide for my every need.  It may not be my every want, although He does provide for those too, but He has always provided for my every need.

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Decorating Kids' Rooms on a Budget
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To Those Battling Biblical Womanhood

woman_read_bible-400x400Recently someone asked me to respond to an article bashing biblical womanhood.  Admittedly, it’s one subject I’ve been fairly silent about.  Partly for fear of the backlash.  But mostly because I am the last person who deserves to write about it.  It’s not that I ever rejected the Bible’s call to submit to my husband (I Pt 3:1, 5), or have the sort of spirit that’s beautiful in God’s sight (I Pt 3:1-4).  In fact, I embraced such teaching as sound doctrine from a wise and sovereign God.  The problem was, I couldn’t live it to save my life.

As a kid I was fairly compliant.  So naturally, when I walked down the aisle, I believed this whole biblical womanhood thing would come easily for me.  Sweet and submissive as a baby bunny.  Boy, was my husband lucky!  Then somewhere within our first year of marriage Xena Warrior Princess rose up within me and slaughtered the bunny.  What I once believed to be compliance, I now recognize was pride.  Back then it manifested itself in the arrogant belief that I could fulfill the call to biblical womanhood in my own strength.  Once I realized I couldn’t, it manifested itself in utter outrage that I should ever be asked to.  Why should I submit?  I’m smart and gifted.  I can get it done twice as well in half the time.  And so I became controlling, disrespectful, and angry.  But I could never control things as completely as I wanted to, which only made me more furious.  Finally, all the anger gave way to deep discontentment.

Maybe you can relate.  Maybe you can’t.  Maybe the entire notion of biblical womanhood makes you want to gag.  Here is my challenge.  If the thought of submitting to an honorable man feels old-fashioned or degrading to you, then for just a moment, set it aside.  Forget all about submission and respect as it relates to a man, and ask yourself the one question I was forced to confront: Am I willing to submit to God? 

I finally came to see that my real fight was with Him.  It wasn’t my husband’s role I wanted, it was God’s.  I longed for the authority to control my life as I saw fit.  Like Satan himself, my heart cried, “I will make myself like the Most High” (Is 14:14).  I’ll never forget the day God opened my eyes to what I was becoming.  As I cried on my knees, He gave me a new verse from Isaiah: “You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you” (26:3).  Oh how I longed for peace!  And I saw that it only came by way of trust.  Deep down, if I really trusted God, I could stop trying to be Him.  Then instead of being thrown into turmoil by the things I couldn’t control, my mind would be steadfast.  And all the anger, anxiety, and discord I’d welcomed into my heart and home would be replaced, at last, with peace.

We often view submission as oppressive, but I’ll tell you, as I submitted to God that day, I’d never felt freer in my life.  The truth is, biblical submission has and always will be foundational to Christianity.  To quote Webster, to submit is to “yield to the authority of another.”  Is this not the very heart and soul of the gospel?  Indeed this is the example Christ Himself set, when He submitted to the Father’s will, becoming obedient to the point of death (Phil 2:2-8).   And that is exactly what’s required of any who would follow Him.  The call to Christianity is not a call to rule, but to die (Mt 16:25).  To become a bondservant, a slave, to the One True King (Rom 6:22).  And in so doing, to discover life and freedom for the very first time.

Do I believe God has a distinct vision for womanhood?  Yes, I do.  If He wanted men and women to function in exactly the same way, I believe He could’ve made one gender.  We could’ve reproduced asexually, like star fish.  But He didn’t.  He could’ve made Eve first.  Or inspired Paul to urge men to be keepers of the home, subject to their wives.  But He didn’t.  He intentionally created both men and women, and through Scripture revealed the equal but different roles for which He designed them.

If you struggle with the doctrine or application of biblical womanhood, would you be willing to begin by yielding to the authority of Christ, then asking Him to teach you His vision for womanhood, as revealed in the Bible?  Not what you want the Bible to teach, or think the Bible should teach, but what it actually teaches.  Because as Wayne Grudem points out, when we tweak Scripture to suit our preferences, what’s ultimately at stake isn’t merely manhood or womanhood.  It’s the authority of the Bible itself.

So, to the dear reader who asked for my thoughts on biblical womanhood, it is with great love and humility that I offer this response.  In case you’re wondering, I still know what it’s like to struggle with respect, to long for control, and to be sick of managing a household.  But because of His grace, I also know what it’s like to experience glimpses of harmony, when my husband and I embrace our God-ordained callings because we trust that His design is best.  And I can say this—it is beautiful, it is peaceful, and it is freeing.

Other Resources:
7 Misconceptions about Submission by Mary Kassian
Biblical Womanhood in Five Minutes An audio interview with John Piper
Evangelical Feminism & Biblical Truth
 by Wayne Grudem
Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood by John PIper & Wayne Grudem
What’s the Difference? by John Piper

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Can You Really Raise a Child with an Unbiased Worldview
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Making Peace with Family Systems {or Why Everybody Fights So Much Over the Holidays}
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Getting Real About the Girl Behind the Grin
Getting Real About the Girl Behind the Grin

Two Different Men

largeWhen I was but a youthful girl
Of four and seventeen,
I chanced upon two different men,
Whose natures were unseen.

One was handsome, tall, and dark,
With gallantry to spare,
He swept me off my feeble feet,
And made me twice as fair.

I came to know him by a word,
As we dined and danced,
For while he brought the stars to life,
I called him sweet Romance.

The other man was odd to me,
For he never left my side,
Though often I was known to gripe,
And roll my eyes and chide.

He did not lure with mystery,
Pour gifts upon my greed,
In fact at times he grew so dull
I scarcely paid him heed.

But as the days gave birth to years,
My skin came loose and gray,
And when I searched for my Romance,
He’d wandered far away.

I trembled in my lonely bed
With sickness and with fear.
“Do not cry,” a soft voice said,
“I am ever near.”

The other man stroked my face
And dried my weathered nose,
He brushed my hair with shaky hands,
He gently held me close.

“Where is the one who stole my heart,
Fierce and young and brave?
Why would he arise and leave
An old man in his place?”

With wrinkled lips he smiled and said,
“We’ve always been the same,
Both he and I were but one man
Resolved, your heart to claim.

He was grand and I was small,
When first we caught your whim,
And though I grew from day to day,
You always preferred him.

But now, my dear, as dusk draws near,
I have grown so vast,
That though he was the first to win,
It’s me who’ll be the last.”

I held his face between my hands,
I cried into his tears,
Until his old familiar touch,
Had swept away the years.

At last I knew there was one thing
That I could be sure of:
And so I whispered in his ear,
“Then I shall call thee Love.”

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An Ode to My Twenties

Raising Pure Kids in an Impure World


I still remember the conversation.  We were sitting in a coffee shop, three married women with zero kids between us, talking about purity.  All of a sudden one of the women exclaimed, “Can you just imagine trying to teach your kids to be pure?  Where would you even begin?”  Three years later, another mom looked at me and said, “I had sex as a teenager.  Honestly, I don’t even think it’s possible to raise sexually pure kids.  If it is, I have no idea how to do it.”  Both of these women were right about one thing: in and of ourselves we are incapable of raising pure kids.  The Bible says God is sovereign (Ps 103:19), He has ordained all our children’s days (Ps 139:16), and they will be held accountable before Him for their own lives (2 Cor 5:10).

But does this mean we shrug and say, “Sounds like a lost cause to me!”  As Paul would say, may it never be!  We are still called to train, shepherd, and instruct our children.  Let me pause and state the obvious here: my kids are 2 and 4.  This is one article I’m not qualified to write as a parent.  So let me write it as a child.  It wasn’t that long ago that I was a teenager, wrestling with sexual purity.  By His grace, I believe my parents were the most influential tool God used in helping me stay sexually pure.  These are the five most helpful things they did:

Raise them with a gospel-centered WORLDVIEW regarding sex and marriage.  I think it’s tempting to take a spitball approach when it comes to teaching kids about purity.  We present a list of isolated truths about babies, STDs, and future spouses.  But they don’t need a handful of toppings; they need the whole pizza.  Like every other issue, they need us to put it into the context of the gospel, teaching them who they are, who God is, what Christ did on the cross, and how it impacts sex, marriage, and His glory.  All this to say…

Give them a GREATER appreciation for sex.  Say what?  Isn’t that like giving an Eskimo more snow?  The truth is none of us want our sweet children to wind up pregnant with syphilis and a broken heart.  So the temptation is to give them a lower view of sex, to emphasize its dangers and dampen the appeal.  But what we actually need to do is give them a higher view of sex.  We need to take their narrow perspective of this feel-good thing and STRETCH it to include the eternal design of a vast God.  We need them to be awed by the fact that sex is a sacred gift, invented by God, to unite two people in worship of the Creator.  When I was in high school a friend told me she thought open-marriage was no big deal.  “You’re telling me, you wouldn’t mind if your husband had sex with other people?”  I asked.  I’ll never forget her response: “For you sex is this big, special thing.  I don’t see it that way.  For me, it’s just sex.”  It was the first time I realized that Christians are more passionate about sex than non-Christians.

Help them see themselves as IMAGE-BEARERS of God.  I once counseled a teenage girl with a laundry list of heartache: cutting, bulimia, bisexuality.  You know what she sobbed the most over?  Her father.  She never believed he loved her.  As we talked the strangest memory came to mind.  I was a teenager, working on the computer with my feet on the desk.  My dad walked by and said, “Look at those cute toes!”  At the time it embarrassed me.  Oh my gosh, Dad, I’m not 3 years old.  But sitting with this girl I realized just how deeply I have always been assured of my father’s love.  There’s never been a moment when I doubted that even my toes were precious to him.  And without realizing it, I carried this confidence into my relationships with guys.  I believed I was made in God’s image (Gen. 1:27) and worth respecting, because my father–the first man I ever knew–treated me as such.

Assure them of your UNCONDITIONAL love and forgiveness.  Of all the times my parents talked with me about purity, the conversation that stands out the most wasn’t about staying pure, it was about failing to be pure.  My mom said, “I want you to know that if you wind up pregnant, or make every mistake there is, I will always love you and be there for you.”  Looking back, I realize she chose to motivate me the way Christ does, with a relationship, not with fear and the pressure to perform.  Which brings me to my final point.

Let them know that NOTHING is off-limits when it comes to talking with you.  Kids quickly learn to test the water before diving in.  When he was in middle school, an old friend of mine asked his dad if he’d ever had “weird” dreams…you know, like about girls?  At the time my friend was probably doing a whole lot more than just dreaming about girls, but he was lobbing a softball question at his dad.  His father frowned, barked, “No!” and that was the first and last conversation they ever had about purity.  Having a voice into the lives of our kids starts with having an ear into their world.

Final Thoughts
If I employed every one of these principles, would it guarantee that my kids are protected from the pain of impurity?  Of course not.  We’re called to faithfully shepherd our children, but the results are always in God’s hand…which is really the best part.  If God could turn the greatest persecutor of the church into the greatest missionary for the church, He can use the most sexually active teenager to one day impact the world for Christ.  And He can use an imperfect mom with a painful past to begin a legacy of godliness in her family.  We serve a God who delights in using foolish, weak, and lowly things for His great glory, so together we may boast in Christ alone (1 Cor 1:27-31).

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February Favorites

The last hints of snow are melting, along with our little Olaf, in the front yard.  This month I will steal away for a women’s retreat, refresh my soul with Glimpses of Grace, and watch a beautiful couple get married on Valentine’s Day.  I am very blessed.  Not because my life is perfect, because it isn’t.  Not because I have everything I want, because I don’t.  Not because contentment comes easily for me, because it doesn’t.  I am blessed because today, and always, Christ has not given up on me!  And He has not given up on you.  Hope you enjoy some of my February picks.

ACTIVITY: DIY Magnetic Dolls
Well, I crossed one of the activities off my indoor bucket list.  Using this adorable template as a guide, I drew paper doll lookalikes of my daughter and her best friend, stuck them to adhesive magnetic strips, laminated and cut them out.  Voilà!  (You can get everything you need for this craft at Wal Mart).  My favorite part of the project was teaming up with my 4-year-old to “design” all the outfits.  She has plans for me to make more friends, and a daddy (no mommy?), but we’ll see how that pans out.  I should add that I was going to make a set for my 2-year-old, but when she ripped one of the legs off her sister’s set, I figured we’d wait.  Lots of fun if you have the time and a little fashionista to assist!

ARTICLE: The Dance of Complementarity by Mary Kassian
2820721_300Someone recently wrote in to ask me about biblical womanhood.  I’ve been thinking about it all week.  As I slowly put my own thoughts together, here’s an article that answers the question “Why not function as though we’re exactly the same in marriage?”  The article paints a beautiful picture of how complementarity fosters mutuality and unity within a marriage.  To the reader who wrote me–I’m working on a response to the article you asked about!  I am so touched that you would even ask for my opinion.  I tried to email but my messages returned undeliverable.  Stay tuned!

PRODUCT: I Love My Husband Shirts v neck love 1 white
With Valentine’s Day on the horizon, here’s a product for you and your husband.  Call me dorky, but I think these shirts from Unveiled Wife are really sweet!  I saw them while surfing the site, and bought one to surprise my husband on date night.  I wondered if he would think it was cheesy, but he loved it.  Hmm…a gift for him that you get to wear–not too shabby!  Click on the link above to check out different styles and colors.  Shirts range from $21-24 depending on the style.


MOVIE: My Five Favorite Chick Flicks!
This is probably the one time of year when husbands are most likely to forego war and carnage in favor of watching Will Smith and Eva Mendes fall in love.  These five movies are my all-time favorite romantic comedies–love the actors, love the storylines, love snuggling on the sofa with popcorn and a cute guy who’s guaranteed to roll his eyes at least ten times.

BOOK: Sex, Romance, and the Glory of God by CJ Mahaney SexRomanceandtheGloryofGod
Here’s a recommendation from my husband to yours.  Although Carolyn Mahaney writes one chapter for women, the rest of this book was intended for men.  For some reason, CJ was able to help my husband understand women and romance in a way I’ve never been able to!  He explains how and why men must continue to date and pursue their wives long after the wedding is over.  Best of all, he grounds everything in the power and hope of the gospel.  Perhaps an early Valentine’s Day gift for the Mister?

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January Favorites
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Freedom from Fearful Parenting
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