Interesting Methods of Saving Money

If you do a quick google or Pinterest search, you will find many beautiful and well designed blog posts on how to save money. I like reading them, because i’m always up for learning new ways to stretch the dollar. But, they’re all, kind of the same, so I decided to come up with a list of more unconventional ways to save money.

And lest I sound like some expert or one who’s figured it all out, I must confess that I don’t do all of these well. In fact, I do rather poorly at some of them, and I can see where it’s cost me money.

If you’ve been with me very long, you may have read my series of posts on Consumerism that I wrote a couple years ago. It describes my journey away from mindless consumerism into a more simple and contented lifestyle. I wrote on: shoppingsocial mediacontentmentmultilevelmarketing, and why all of it matters.

It remains a struggle, living in such a privileged country, and I continue to have to work hard to make the right decisions.

In David Platt’s book “Follow Me”, he describes the openly idolatrous practices of some of the people he encounters in other religions. But he brings it home in paragraphs like,

When we think of worshiping idols and false gods, we often picture Asian people buying carved images of wood, stone, or gold or African tribes performing ritualistic dances around burning sacrifices…… But we don’t think about the American woman incessantly shopping for more possessions or obsessively consumed with how she looks. We don’t take into account men and women in the Western world constantly enamored with money and blindly engulfed in materialism.

Ouch. And so when I speak of saving money, I’m not speaking of being smart with your money so you can afford bigger splurges or nicer things. I like to think of it as saving for opportunities or needs that arise that bless and impact more than just you.

This was a really long preface into this list, but I hope it gives some context.

  1. Be organized with your possessions. This is where I don’t do well, and I realize when I clean out the junk drawer that I actually did have two tubes of super glue, and because of my mess, I now have three. Little things like that seem hardly worth mentioning, but they add up.
  2.  Figure out good quality-to-value ratios. Again, I struggle with knowing where it’s best to invest in quality, higher cost products and where value is most important. This is especially true in home ownership, where it’s tempting to buy/pay for cheaper services and products that won’t last as long or perform as well. I haven’t figured this one out, but I do know that going the cheap route can ultimately be more expensive in the long run.
  3. Know your weak areas and work to avoid them. In my posts on Consumerism I talked about how powerful media influences can be and how easily accessible products are. Literally any product you can think of is two days away from you with the click of one button. Marketing ploys are everywhere and they are all after your dollar and sense of contentment. If you have a weakness for certain things, figure out how you talk yourself into them, and then pull out your mother tone, and respond to yourself in a way to get your own attention. just kidding. kind of.
  4. Stay away from places that accept money. This comes as a shock, to be sure, but research tends to agree that when you go to a place that takes money, you will spend money. Going on a hike, would therefore, be wiser than going window shopping with friends, if you’re trying to save money.
  5. Utilize natural resources. That’s fancy for saying, “hang out your laundry.” As a child, this was probably my least favorite chore. Any ominous clouds, or suspicious moisture in the air was sure to have me running back to the house to try to persuade my mother to use the dryer. My mother was wise. Wisdom is acquired, apparently, through the paying of bills. I usually had to hang the laundry out anyway. And now, in some strange twist of irony, I scan the sky again, this time as the bill payer, and sometimes before the last drops have fallen from the sky, I’m out with the laundry. My theory is this: if the sun will run my power bill up through the hot summer months, than it will also dry my laundry. I find some peace in that. Also, it gets you outside, which is desperately needed anymore. And then you can stop buying your vitamin K supplements. Cha-ching!
  6. Stock up when you can, on products that you use, when they’re at rock-bottom prices. My sisters were rather wide eyed to come home and find 6 bottles of our favorite coffee creamer on the refrigerator shelf. We had the space, we would use them before their expiration dates, and that sale saved us $6. Would I buy another refrigerator for deals such as this? No, but I stock up where I can. We also have enough dish washing soap for this year, thanks to running across our favorite brand, full size at our Dollar Tree. Maybe an eight dollar savings, but guess what, they add up!
  7. Learn the discipline of sticking to shopping lists.

Image result for how men and women shop at target

We laugh because it’s funny, but guess who’s bill will likely be the highest?? Granted, he won’t have the cool dollar spot stuff in his cart and the trip won’t be as fun, but if you’re after saving money, follow your husband. I would also recommend your presence by his side at Bass Pro, to be fair, but this picture makes the point about lists. We tend to get in trouble in the meandering, wandering shopping trips and those little impulse buys can quickly add up.

8. Don’t litter. I saved the best for last here and this is a tribute to my departed Hershberger grandpa. He enjoyed calculating all the money that he saved by not littering when he was on road trips. Just look for the signs with the dollar amount posted for littering and then add them all up at the end of the trip to see just how much you saved by not littering. The savings are truly remarkable. I saved over $10,000 on a recent trip to South Carolina. Depending on how you look at it, it makes all of your trips free, because the savings always way outweigh the trip expenses.

In case you don’t know me, I’m totally joking in that last point.  But I can’t see a litter road sign without thinking about my grandpa.

I’m curious now, what interesting ways do you have, of stretching that dollar? To what extents will you go? What are your secrets?

That Time We Went to California::

us

So a little background for this trip:

We are a group of girls who met at a Bible School fairly many moons ago, and I, in fact, was in the same dorm with Jen and Sarah. We are all discovering how much fun traveling  is and thought it would be fun to do a big, international trip sometime, somewhere, but we didn’t have enough experience under our belts to do something so big, so we thought we’d practice on a smaller trip.

Easter weekend is a nice, extra-long weekend for some of us so we set that as a date and then came the fun of choosing a location. After coming through a long, cold winter, we all knew we wanted someplace sunny and warmish. So we threw a few ideas around and ultimately ended up choosing the Big Sur area, in California. This area is known for its scenic drive along Hwy 1, and its amazing views. We all booked flights into Monterey, found a cheap motel in Marina, and rented a nice little car for all the sight-seeing.

We flew into Monterey on Thursday afternoon and after eating a delicious Thai lunch and sort of getting our bearings, we hit the road with the first stop being the Carmel Mission in the beautiful town of Carmel-by-the-Sea. This Franciscan mission was the second to be established in California and has beautiful gardens. There’s a history video you can watch, describing the attempts to convert the native Americans to Catholicism and what that all entailed.

IMG_4115

IMG_4102IMG_4092

It was quite literally a feast for the eyes, all the flora and fauna that are not native to any of our areas. Calla lilies, for example, bloom randomly in ditches in this area. We then headed back to our motel to settle in and then we did a Walmart run for picnic supplies for the next day.

The next day day found us all raring to go at about 7:00, thanks to the time change. But, to our disappointment, there was dense fog, so thick you couldn’t see much of anything. This was the day we had set aside for driving part of Hwy 1, which boasts incredible views. Mountains are on one side, and sheer drop-offs and the ocean lay on the other side. While we were disappointed with the visibility, the fog gave the views an ethereal, almost other-wordly feeling, and Sarah and Jen exclaimed how much it reminded them of Ireland.

IMG_4115 (1)

IMG_4179

 

IMG_4134

 

IMG_4144

In all the research we had done about what to see and do in the area, Calla Lilly Valley came up as a place worth seeing. We knew we were pushing the end of their growing season and so our hopes weren’t too high about how they’d look. But just look!!!!

IMG_4176

I think it was a little taste of heaven. The vivid, mossy green of the grasses and hills, coupled with the delicacy of lilies, set against the backdrop of the Pacific Ocean had us all rather speechless with awe. It was so amazing, we, in fact, revisited it the next day 🙂

The further south we drove, the more the fog lifted, and when we arrived at Linekiln State Park, it was mostly clear. One of the things I wanted most to see on this trip was redwoods, and while we were a little ways from the legendary, massive, ancient trees, Linekiln gave us a few younger ones. Maybe teenagers, in tree years? Whatever the case, they were beautiful and fulfilled that desire 🙂

IMG_4205

IMG_4213

 

We hiked beside a stream that ran through the redwoods and led us to these beautiful falls. We hiked back, following the stream, and found it dumped into the ocean, and we had our picnic lunch on the beach.

IMG_4236

Our lunch spot.

We headed back north and with better visibility now, we were better able to see the beautiful panoramas that the fog had been concealing. The following picture is McWay Falls. You can’t make this stuff up, folks. It was one of those places where you just wanted, like Peter, James and John, to set up a tent and dwell 🙂

IMG_4302

IMG_4371

IMG_4322

The famous Bixby bridge. I did a lot of the driving on the trip and while the heights didn’t bother me at the time, I’d dream at nights of getting too close to drop offs and such things.

IMG_4288

this

We then spent the evening in Monterey on the Fisherman’s Wharf, where we ate the legendary clam chowder in sourdough bread bowls. Outside the restaurant, sea lions were hanging out on rocks, barking occasionally.

IMG_4382

IMG_4376

There were so many places that we could have explored more thoroughly and Monterey was definitely one of them.

The following day dawned bright and sunny. We had a little pow-wow and decided to change plans and drive Hwy 1 again, to really experience the views.  But before we retraced our route from the previous day, we headed north to Moss Landing to enjoy a bit of beach time. As one who has spent lots of time on Atlantic beaches, the reality of cactusy succulenty ground cover instead of sea oats was rather awesome.

b5b06a4c-d246-4b0a-b820-9642245a770e

IMG_4412

On this day, we experienced more local culture by stopping in at a few places such as a farm market with fresh strawberries and other produce that was grown in the area. We drove past fields of strawberries with what appeared to be migrant workers out picking them. A lot of strawberries that you buy at the grocery store come from Salinas, which is where we were on this day. Another high light was stopping at this succulent farm. As we were wandering around, admiring all the unique succulent varieties, the owner approached and we chatted for a bit. He asked if he could take a picture with us for Instagram in exchange for a succulent for each of us to take home. We agreed and sure enough, we were on his business’ Instagram page in a few hours 🙂

C640EDEA-0BD2-4BF7-81EB-E9550CD0DB8D

He got the Idaho part wrong. Jen, in fact, is from Ohio 🙂

IMG_4308

We then headed south again, to see the same Hwy 1 scenery in the sunshine. Notice how dramatically different the pictures feel, with blue skies and sunshine.

E0747FCD-7407-477C-9FD8-CCB24D319FD0hj

IMG_4457

 

IMG_4458

Our flights home were Sunday afternoon so we decided that it would be special to attend Mass in the morning. We chose a beautiful, historic old cathedral and were disappointed when we got there that morning, that they moved their services to a nearby building to accommodate all the masses of people that were there for Easter Sunday. Before the service started we met the very friendly, and welcoming…. Father or Priest or Pope or whatever he was. He kind of embarrassed us by publicly welcoming us at the beginning of the service, asking us to stand in the midst of hundreds of other visitors and members. I still concur that being friendly and approachable even in travels is key to having a good experience, but sometimes it can bless you in embarrassing ways 🙂 The service was very interesting, and we all ended up getting re-baptized by the same priest and his assistant, who went from aisle to aisle, flicking water at all the people with what appeared to be a little whisk broom. The irony of a few Anabaptist girls, getting “baptized” again, in a Catholic service was not lost on us at all.

We ate a delicious brunch at a nearby cafe before heading to the airport, returning our car and then getting on our respective planes to head home.

It was truly a special trip, and we saw so many beautiful places and encountered so many friendly, interesting people. My memories of trips always include two kinds. The ones where you reap the rewards of doing good research and have those pinch-me-is-this-true kind of moments. Stunning vistas, interesting plants, wonderful food. That kind of thing.

The other memories are the ones you can’t plan and happen organically as a result of experiencing it with people who too see the beauty and humor of situations. They often include lots of laughter. I have two of those memories from this trip. The one happened during our grocery trip, where we discovered, to our dismay, that plastic bags don’t come with your purchase. “We are of good, German stock. We don’t buy bags.”, one in our group was heard to mutter, so we left Walmart with armloads of unbagged picnic supplies which we dumped in our trunk. We then had to reload them all in our arms and carry them through the hotel in front of everyone who was around, which was both hilarious and kind of embarrassing.

IMG_4126

It was a good tip for me to remember for any future trips. Take a disposable bag with you. They are usually lightweight, don’t take up much space, and can be used for multiple purposes. Pictured below is my aunt’s Piggly Wiggly bag in Levanto, Italy. Maybe you could even negotiate a deal with your local grocery store. Feature it in a beautiful, foreign locale in exchange for free groceries for a month????

20181007_180845

The other funny memory is the evening we decided we were going to watch a beautiful sun set over the Pacific Ocean so we rather frantically looked up the sunset time, as well as beaches nearby. It turned into something of a joke, with some of the beaches being closed or inaccessible, and sunset quickly approaching. When we finally found a beach, we laughed ourselves almost silly with the forthcoming sunset. It was a little……underwhelming for all the work we put into finding a spot to enjoy it.

IMG_4514 (1)

But those moments are also part of the fabric of a great trip. Learning how to re-calibrate when the unexpected happens, learning how to experience both the beauty and fun of situations out of your control. Understanding that the attitude you take into it determines your level of enjoyment and appreciation. Travel does more than exposes you to new places. It teaches you things about “being” that don’t happen as naturally at home in the familiar, comfortable rhythms of life. It also has a way of putting you and life into perspective. I’m just a small part of a big, beautiful world. My God of the familiar eastern, coastal, sea oats and calm waves is also behind the cactus and the crashing of giant breakers on Pacific sands. I find a bit of comfort in my smallness, because I’ve seen the bigness of my God and His ability to hold everything together. The ache of unexpected beauty, the cramping of a stomach wrecked with laughter from bizarre experiences, the almost palpable nearness of God in a redwood forest- this is why I choose travel over 15 pairs of shoes and daily drinks at Starbucks. It’s why I eat rice and beans frequently and hang my laundry outside. Basically I have become my mother and therefore occasionally get to see the world 🙂

If you are a girl/lady/female and are interested in traveling but want someone else to do the legwork and take care of logistics, check out this post. I don’t know Camille personally, but I think her trip to Italy this summer looks really good. She’s traveled extensively  and enjoys the planning/preparing part of it and is passing this love on to others in the form of an opportunity.  I’ve been to most of the places she’s going in this trip and I can assure you, they won’t disappoint you!

I hope you enjoyed the post. tt serves as a beautiful memory holder to me, of dear friends and a very special place.

Vicki

 

A Year for Coming Home

I’m sitting at home on this Sunday morning, coughing and sneezing from a very nasty cold I picked up in Poland last week. You would think a European-derived head cold would be somehow more charming, but I can assure you, it’s not. It snot. Or whatever.

My visit in Poland, minus the head cold, was actually very pleasant. It is quite magical to have big, snowflakes swirling around you while surrounded by very old and beautiful buildings in old cities. It was fun to actually need scarves and gloves and boots. But probably the best part were the inspiring and interesting conversations I had with my dear friend who I went to see, and with new friends I made over there. Because of how much we wanted to say in a short amount of time, and because of my cold, I lost my voice. I was literally only able to whisper when I left Poland early Wednesday morning. Sometimes it is your heart you lose in places, sometimes it is your voice 🙂

I suppose being thousands of miles from home is a really good place to be when considering a new year and new possibilities. And being forced into silence due to a voice issue, is probably also beneficial for introspection and looking forward.

I wrote a blog piece here about my goals and direction for this past year. It has been a good year. For those of us who love learning and who love ideas and who are always curious about what’s around the next corner, it can be overwhelming. We don’t always know when or how to stop and so putting some safeguards into place for me really helped me.

photo-1469854523086-cc02fe5d8800

Photo by Dino Reichmuth on Unsplash

I think even in taking a break from all the noise out there, and getting involved with every issue that comes along, there is still a lot to sort through, a lot to try to understand.

My generation is the generation of the wanderers. The wonderers. “Not all who wander are lost,” is our slogan as we exchange city limits for open roads and mortgages for cool retro vans. And I get it. I love the thrill of the unknown, especially as it relates to travel. The foreign languages in international terminals and exotic destinations on airport screens tease of places to explore and new cultures to love.

I think this way of thinking has subtly moved into areas of faith and into how we see God and each other. It has moved us away from each other as we all experience God on our own individual journeys. “You do you, and I’ll do me”, while it sounds good, can easily turn into walls that we build around ourselves, protecting us from the hard parts of relationships but also keeping out the potential of the beautiful. Spiritual life on the road can also give false illusions that God’s goodness or abundance is a thing to be experienced around the next corner, or at the next pullover. Chasing more, but never really getting there. I think the scariest part of spiritual wandering is that there ultimately is no desired destination.

Some of the above is where I could naturally go spiritually if not for God. And I think for me, the years of 2019 and 2020 are the years for coming home. The Bible is full of beautiful imagery for dwelling. (“I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”) For postures of stillness: (“be steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in God’s work.”) For the boldness of confidence in knowing Who and What we have and are believing. For abiding.

This seems like it should take away the thrill factor of faith but it actually doesn’t. It just provides the framework in which it can most deeply be enjoyed and experienced.

Tuning out the noise of all the authors and speakers and platforms and everything that goes with that is a practical way for me to park my van. Choosing instead to have God and His Voice and His Word as my filter for everything in life is a practical way to erect my tent and to live in God’s house. God’s kingdom is full of tents, and here we engage with each other and build each other up, and here we reach out to those who have yet to find and experience Him. Abiding in God’s house collectively is how we best interact with each other individually.

This might sound all poetic and fru-fru, but here is what it means for me practically:

  • I cannot learn and tangle with ideas and literature and music merely for the sake of learning or fitting in with certain crowds. Whatever I pursue intellectually should ultimately lead me closer to Christ and truth.
  • I must learn honesty with myself and my desires. Why I want to pursue or engage with something is sometimes more important than the thing itself.
  • It does not mean spiritual or personal laziness. I must find ways as I dwell in God’s house, to exercise my faith and to encourage growth that are God- honoring and Spirit-led.
  • It means a narrowing of my worldview and my focus. It means exchanging some abstract for the grittiness of reality, which many of my kind can struggle with. It also might mean saying no to engaging with popular but questionable issues that come along.
  • It means putting in the work of relationships and going the second mile when it’s hard. That’s what living in tents next to each other in God’s house is all about.

I probably could have worded it better because it could sound depressing and restrictive and stifling, but I can speak from experience that this past year for me in this has been incredibly liberating. It has cleared my head and my heart, and it has replaced anxiety with peace, and wondering with knowing. It has given me confidence in knowing Who and what I have to offer to a broken world.

I have no idea who all reads this, but if you struggle like me in these areas, and life can quickly become hazy and complex and confusing, try parking your van and coming home this year. God’s house has the best views!

Vicki

Disclaimer: This is not to diminish the necessity of owning and coming to grips with your faith. Our faith journeys should include asking hard questions, prowling around down in the foundations, and really seeking to understand. But it should ultimately lead us to God’s house and His people and His kingdom. Some of us can easily stay in the questions, get lost in the basement, and consequently miss out on some of the most wonderful aspects of what it means to be part of something so much bigger than ourselves.