Category Archives: Family

Lessons in Money Management

My parents raised nine children on a single income, so careful money management was a priority.  I don’t recall them ever formally sharing money management lessons. Rather, they instilled good money management habits through their example and casual conversations.  One of the ways they taught us good money management skills was by a allowing my sisters to make some of our spending decisions at an early age. The lessons I learned include:

  1. Spending for one thing means less money for something else.  When I was about 13, my parents decided to give us each $20 per week allowance.  In 1972, $20 was a significant amount of money. In fact, it is equivalent to about $130 today.  The catch was that the money had to cover all of our discretionary spending.  We were free to pack lunches for school, but if we wanted to buy lunch, it came out of our allowance.  We were also responsible for buying our own clothes and paying for movie tickets and other recreation.  We learned to manage money and make hard decisions.  If I wanted a new pair of shoes, I might have to pack my lunch for a whole week.
  2. Shop the sales.  My mother was a master shopper.  She watched sales and clipped coupons.  I have seen her leave a department store with multiple shopping bags of clothes for which she paid less than $20 in total.  She loved to search the clearance racks for a blouse or sweater that everyone else had overlooked, and she loved the challenge of finding the perfect skirt or pair of slacks to go with it.  She would go to every clothing store in the mall in search of what she needed to ensure that she got the best bargain. Mom knew what month to shop for appliances or furniture, and she knew when the “white” sales (linens) would be going on.  She loved to shop the after-Christmas sales, and she often bought outfits in January which she would give to us the following Christmas. With four daughters born in a 4 ½ year span, she knew one of us would be able to wear the skirts and sweaters she bought.
  3. Buy quality and keep belongings until they wear out.  My mother believed it was worth spending a bit more to get better quality.  She bought traditional styles that would not go out of fashion, and she wore her clothes until they were worn out.  Similarly, Dad taught us to keep cars until the costs of repairs exceeded the car’s value.  He and Mom purchased a car when they married in 1955; my middle school principal purchased the car from them in 1974.  They added a second car in 1965, as I was starting first grade.  I drove that car until my junior year of college, when I was rear ended while driving it.
  4. Save up for major purchases.  I don’t recall my parents ever taking out a loan to purchase a car.  Of course, a new car was a true rarity in our household.  I do recall, however, a couple of occasions when my father borrowed cash from his life insurance policy to cover a major purchase.  He explained that the interest rate was very low, and he was, in essence, paying it back to himself.
  5. Balance your checkbook regularly and know where your money is going.  Balancing the checkbook before we had computers could be a time-consuming activity.  My mother always sat at the kitchen table to balance the checkbook.   Canceled checks were returned to the payer in those days. Mom would tape the canceled checks to the check stubs in a large, three-ring binder.  She would mark them off on the bank statement and determine what checks she had written that had not cleared.  Mom balanced the checking account to the penny, and she was never satisfied until it balanced.
  6. Count the true cost of debt.  My parents bought their final home in 1971 for about $35,000.  The monthly payment of $238.  I believe the interest rate was 7 ¼%.  Mom marked off each payment on an amortization schedule. When there was sufficient money, she would make an extra principal payment or two.  I remember her explaining to me that when she paid extra money toward the principal, she was saving more than one payment, as the balance went down and less interest accrued from then on.  I also recall multiplying $238 by 360 payment and realizing that, if they made each payment as scheduled, the $35,000 house would cost them about $86,000.  This was an eye opener and provided an ideal opportunity for us to talk about homes as investments that would increase in value, whereas a car would lose value over time.  My mother paid off the house in about 13 years.  While my father appreciated not having a mortgage payment, he did fuss more than once over losing the tax deduction of the interest.
  7. Establish credit early and manage it well.  When I graduated from high school, my parents bought me a sewing machine.  Mom then declared that I needed a sewing cabinet, which I would have to buy myself. We went together to the Singer store and picked out a cabinet.  I believe the price was $125.  She instructed me to put $25 down and helped me apply for a credit card.  When the bill came, I paid off the balance in full.  At the age of eighteen, I had established some credit of my own.  I never used that credit card again, but it was the key to allowing me to get a Sears card a few years later.
Calculator, currency, and note pad.
Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

These money management principles have served me well. Steve and I have tried to instill them in our own children. I hope that they will help you to manage your money better and have less financial stress in your life.

For more money management tips and information on creating budgets, please check out my other blog posts under the Finance tab. For those desiring a better understanding of Biblical principles of money management, I have written a book Honoring God with Your Money. It is available on Amazon and from Barnes and Noble.

If you have money questions you would like me to answer, you may email me at susan.ball5@aol.com or write your question in the Comment section.   Those who email me will be signed up to receive my free quarterly newsletter with money management tips, encouraging stories, and Scripture inspirations. 

An Open Letter to Target: Regarding your New Restroom Policy

This is a well-written blog in protest of Target’s policy to allow men in ladies’ restrooms and women in men’s restroom. We need to protect our children’s innocence and privacy.

Mary From Martha

To Whom It May Concern:

I am a woman. I am a frequent shopper in your stores. I am first and foremost a mother. Your recent change in policy of who you allow to use each restroom concerns me. You stated in your blog post, “We believe that everyone…deserves to be protected from discrimination and treated equally.” and “…you’ll always be accepted, respected, and welcomed at Target.” As a business owner, I do understand your right to make a stance as a company. As a parent, I will never understand why you would trade the safety of our women and children for the sake of not hurting  feelings.

I realize that everyone needs to feel accepted, loved, and wanted. I know the struggles of a person struggling to find their identity. I also know that as of September 2012, a Gallup poll showed that approximately 3.4% of Americans identify as

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A Cat Pinata for a Special Birthday

Cat piñata for our grandson's birthday

Cat piñata for our grandson’s birthday

My two year-old grandson is crazy about cats, or Meows as he calls them. So when I decided to make him a piñata for his birthday, it seemed natural to make a cat piñata. My husband Steve and our four year-old grandson Daniel got in on the fun. Steve and I made piñatas for our children when they were young, but it has been many years since our last one.

I used two balloons to form the head and body, and paper mached them using a mixture of flour and water. Daniel painted it orange, as his brother’s favorite stuffed animal is an orange tabby. I used batting to make a patch of white on the cat’s chest and face. Steve made the feet, eyes, and ears from construction paper, and I finished it with a fancy tail.

Daniel was very proud of the finished product.

Daniel was very proud of the finished product.

Daniel was quite proud of our efforts and dubbed it ‘cat yata.’ Joshua was thrilled. I am not sure that he will be quite so thrilled tomorrow when it is put into action at his birthday party.  What a delight it was to work together as a family on a creative project.  Our granddaughter is already wondering what kind of piñata grandma and papa are going to make her for her birthday in December.  I am certain that we will need Daniel’s help to make a very special piñata for his cousin.

I Got My Life Back

Have you ever had to give up a job, a project, or a dream that you really wanted, only to find afterwards that the sacrifice had given you your life back?  I have had the experience a few times.

The first occassion was about 20 years ago.  I was teaching part-time in the small private school my sons attended.  I had a wonderfully supportive principal and liked most of my fellow teachers.  The families of the students were encouraging and supportive.  Theoretically, my work day ended at noon, giving me three hours of ‘free’ time before my children got out of school. However, the free time was often taken up with grading, lesson planning, and filling in where needed.  Additionally, the school had some issues which I couldn’t overlook.  I struggled with these issues my last year before making the decision to not return.  I chose instead to homeschool my sons.  A friend questioned that decision.  She had homeschooled her son previously and she told me, “When I sent him back to school, I felt like I got my life back.”

For me, the opposite was true.  As I adjusted to being a home-school mom, I realized I had gotten my life back.  I enjoyed teaching, but it was time-consuming and extracted a toil on my family.  Homeschooling allowed my children and I to sleep in and be better rested.  It allowed me to focus my ‘best energies’ on my husband and sons and to have more time to take care of my home and prepare more home-cooked meals.  An added benefit was the ability to travel and take vacations when everyone else was in school.  I never regretted my decision to be a full-time mother and homeschool teacher, even though that was not what prompted me to make the decision to my teaching job.

After six years of homeschooling, my husband and I decided to open a restaurant.  The boys were hold enough to work in the restaurant.  The plan was that my husband would run the restaurant in the mornings, while I home schooled the boys; the boys and I would cover the evening shifts.  It was a good plan, but needless to say, things did not work out exactly as planned.  Homeschool and family life soon took a back seat to the demands of business ownership.  After much soul-searching, we decided to sell the restaurant.  It was a difficult decison for me, as I felt we had worked so hard to make this dream a reality.  I was heartbroken that it hadn’t worked out as planned.  Yet, once it was sold, I again had the feeling that giving it up allowed me to get my life back.

Once the business was sold and we had moved back to our home town, our twins asked to enroll at the local Christian high school.  They needed a math teacher, so I found myself teaching again.  I loved being part of this wonderful Christian school, but it was demanding. I taught seven classes daily in addition to being a class sponsor and helping out with other clubs and projects.  I stayed for two years after the twins graduated and thoroughly enjoyed it. Yet, I felt God leading me to leave.  Again, it was a hard decision.  God led me to another job that allows me to use the skills I have honed through my past work experiences and through business ownership.  And, once again, I felt like I got my life back.  Teaching was very demanding and required many hours of grading and planning after school hours which took away from my family time.    It was also very rewarding, which made the decision to quit that much more difficult.

Since leaving teaching, I have had time again to engage in hobbies and try my hand at some new ones, including writing and blogging.  I have had two novels published and recently completed a Bible study on money and finances. God has opened doors that I would not have had the opportunity to walk through if I had remained a teacher.

Perhaps you are wrestling with making a change in your life, such as leaving a job you love or giving up on a dream.  Change is never easy, but it can lead to new and exciting opportunites that would never come if the change were not made.  Search your heart, pray, and allow God to lead you.  As a Christian, I know that God has a great plan for my life.  His plans and purposes are much more wonderful that the plans I would make for myself.  I have found that I am happiest and feel most like ‘I got my life back’ when I follow the path He lays out for me.

“‘For I know the plans I have for you’, declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'”  Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)

Have you ever made a change and felt like you got your life back?

Do you feel God is leading you to make a change now and you aren’t sure that you want to let go of your current job and/or dream?

Thirty-two Years and Counting

Today Steve and I celebrate thirty-two years of marriage.  We started dating as our high school graduation approached and married one week after graduating from college.

This is what we looked like in our dating days (circa 1980).

The boy I fell in love with

The boy I fell in love with

Me way back then

Me way back then

Our family grew in 1985 with the birth of our son Chris and expanded again in 1987 when our twins, Jon and Matt, were born.

The family in 1989

The family in 1989

We took our first cruise in 2006 to celebrate our twenty-fifth anniversary.  With us in the picture is our amazing server Virginia.

Celebrating our 25th anniversary with a Caribbean cruise

Celebrating our 25th anniversary with a Caribbean cruise

In recent years our family has grown rapidly as both twins married and became parents.

Our family today (Christmas 2012)

Our family today (Christmas 2012)

God has truly blessed us and our family.  We are grateful that God is the head of our household and that we can look back together on thirty-two incredible years as a family. We can’t wait to see what the coming years hold.  Through the good and bad, we will face all of life’s challenges together with God’s help.

Happy Anniversary, Steve.  I love you with all my heart!

Mom and Dad do not love each other anymore.

I wanted to share this blog written by our long-time friend Mike Patz, pastor of First Assembly of God church in Gainesville, FL.  Mike writes about what constitutes real, lasting love and provides words to inspire us all to love our spouses with the same commitment we love our children.

Mom and Dad do not love each other anymore..

If I won the lottery…

Mega millions jackpot

Mega millions jackpot

Last week a couple in our community won the lottery in the amount of $217 million.  They took a one-time payout of $135 million.  I’m not sure if that is their before-tax, or after-tax, winnings.  Either way, it is a  lot of money.  The husband and wife were reported to be planning to retire early, buy a large retirement home, pay off debts, and give money to charity.  The husband bought a quick pick ticket on the spur of the moment as he was preparing to board a plane in Richmond to go on a business trip.  It was certainly a fortuitous decision.

It got me to wondering what I would do if I were to win the lottery.  It’s not going to happen, as I don’t play the lottery.  However, it’s interesting to think about.  I bet most of you have at least thought about how such a staggering sum of money, or even a mere few million dollars, would change your life.  I think most of us would agree in general with the decisions this winning couple announced–early retirement, vacation home, debt elimination, and charitable giving.

But what would I do specifically with that amount of money?  This is what I have come up with:

1) The first ten percent would go to my church and like-minded Christian ministries to share the gospel and love of Jesus Christ.  God asks that we return a tithe, or ten percent, of all that He gives us to support the work of the church and spread the gospel throughout the world.  A big chunk would go to my local church and to support Assembly of God missionaries.  Another portion would go to the Assembly of God’s  emergency relief ministry, C0nvoy of Hope, and to organizations such as Samaritan’s Purse.  Based on the one-time payout of $135 million, the tithe would be $13.5 million.  Let’s round that up to $15 million, leaving $120 million for other things.

2) A large vacation home at the beach would definitely be on my list.  And perhaps a second vacation home in the mountains.  I would love to have a place large enough for my children and grandchildren, as well as my parents and siblings to all gather together in one place.  And, of course, with all those people in one house, I would gladly spend money on a cleaning service. It is hard to imagine spending $1 million or more on a home, but for the sake of this exercise, let’s budget $10 million on vacation homes, leaving $110 million.

3) Donations to my college alma maters would be another priority.  It would be nice to give back in a substantial way to the institutes of higher learning that played a prominent role in my education  My father taught at my undergrad college, now the University of Mary Washington, for 32 years.  It would be very satisfying to donate several million dollars and have a building named in Dad’s honor.  Let’s assume that $5 million goes to each institution, with $100 million left.

4) I would spend another large portion, perhaps the largest, to provide first-rate care for my mother-in-law.  She is in a nursing home and, while she is more than adequately cared for, she longs to be in a real home of her own.  However, she needs round-the-clock care and the socialization afforded her by being with other people.  It would be very satisfying to provide her a warm, homey environment with the care she needs.  I can envision spending $20 million to build a nursing home in which each patient would have a private room and a personal staff to attend to their needs.  After building a nursing home, about $80 million would remain.

5) I would set up college funds for my grandchildren and a nest egg for each of our sons.  Conservatively, these savings funds might consume another five million.  $75 million remains.

Beyond these five expenditures, I think I would set aside a rainy day fund for Steve and I and would donate the rest to charities.  Of course, it would be a chore to decide which charities to support.  The Bible teaches us that “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded.” (Luke 12:48)  I believe I would feel burdened to do the most good I could would the money.  Therefore, I would target organizations that help the homeless and our wounded veterans to get back on their feet.

Winning such a staggering amount of money is really beyond my comprehension.  While this couple is free to spend, save, and share this money as they wish, they have a moral obligations to use the money wisely.  History has demonstrated, however, that many lottery winners frequently wind up broke or in debt in a few years.  They aren’t prepared to handle such a tremendous sum of money and they spend it lavishly and donate to any and all groups that asks for a donation.  I don’t expect that to happen to this couple.  I hope that the money brings them happiness and that with this money, they help many other people to have better lives.

Have you thought about what you would do if you won the lottery?  I bet you have.  What would be your top priorities for the money?

 

February 26, 2013

Follow up to blog post:  I just read a post about a couple who last year won half of the largest powerball jackpot ever.  This couple, Mark and Cindy Hill, have remained true themselves and are generously using much of thei $136 million lump-sum payout to improve their community.  The article states that this is unusual and that history shows that 70 percent of all lottery winners will spend or lose it all within a few years. To read the entire articles, go to http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/25/missouri-powerball-winner_n_2749795.html?1361825691&icid=maing-grid7%7Cmain5%7Cdl3%7Csec1_lnk3%26pLid%3D275177

A Well-Deserved Retirement at the Age of 80

Last week my father retired for the second time.  His first retirement was back in 1979 after serving 26 year as an officer in the United States Marine Corps.  He was 47 at that time.  He never considered his military retirement to be a true retirement from the world of work. He was far too young and had far too many obligations.  Three of his nine children were in college and another was a senior in high school.  The youngest of the bunch was only two. 

His first attempt at a second career was selling life insurance.  It wasn’t a great fit, as it required meeting with potential clients in the evenings and weekends.  Dad had spent much of his military career away from his family and he wasn’t willing to sacrifice any more family time.  After a year of selling insurance, the perfect job opportunity became available.  Mary Washington College (now the University of Mary Washington) was expanding its offerings of business courses and starting a business department.  Prior to joining the Marine Corps, Dad had trained to be a teacher.  After a tour in Vietnam, Dad was given the opportunity to earn an MBA.  He was a perfect fit for the new department of business and was the first instructor hired.

Last week Dad completed his teaching duties at University of Mary Washington, although his official retirement date is a few weeks away.  Dad also turned 80 last week.  After a career spanning 59 years, Dad is certainly deserves to enjoy a leisurely retirement.  However, it is unlikely that he will sit around idly.  He’ll spend time with his grandchildren and great-grandchildren and cheer on the Washington Redskins and the New York Yankees.  He will also continue to do taxes for the many friends who have depended on him for many years. 

Many people have asked why Dad continued to work well past the normal retirement age.  I always respond, “It keeps him from having to help Mom with the gardening.”  The truth, however, is that he continued working because he enjoyed it and it kept him busy and engaged.  Working with college students helped keep Dad young and active.  It allowed him to interact regularly with his peers and young people and to keep up with changes in our society and in technology.

Working past the normal retirement age is nothing new in our family.  Dad’s grandmother was irate when she was forced to retire from working in the textile mills at the age of 72.  My mother’s mother was a victim of mandatory retirement when she was forced from the nursing job she loved at the age of 65.  In the 1960s and 1970s, many capable adults were compelled into retirement at the age of 65.   In 1978 the mandatory retirement age was increased to 70 and in 1986 it was abolished altogether. 

I am thankful that the laws have been changed, allowing healthy, vigorous seniors to remain active in the workplace as long as they desire to keep working and as long as their employers feel they are continuing to contribute positively to their companies.  I am grateful to the University of Mary Washington for giving Dad the opportunity to continue teaching for as long as he wanted.  No one at the University ever suggested that he was too old to continue teaching.  The university supported his decision to keep on teaching until he felt he was ready to retire.

I am very proud of my father’s contributions to protecting our nation and educating our young people.  He has touched many lives.  I pray that he enjoys a long and productive well-deserved retirement.

Dad (in the suspenders) celebrating with family and friends at his combined birthday and retirement party on Saturday.

Dad celebrating his retirement and 80th birthday.

Having Sons = Trips to the ER

Having raised three energetic sons, my husband and I have made many trips to the emergency room. We recounted some of them as we sat in the ER last night with our son Jon who had been injured playing indoor flag football.  Jon went deep for a long pass, got tangled up with a defender, and fell headfirst into the wall surrounding the field.  Much of the wall is plexiglass so spectators can watch the game; however, this particular corner section was wooden.  Jon had a mild concussion, a sprained wrist, and a gash in his head requiring seven staples.

I should add that Jon is 25, married, and the father of a nearly 2-year old son.  Jon first decided to join the adult flag football league a year and a half ago.  He tore his ACL in the first game and had to sit out an entire year.  He played his first full season earlier this year relatively injury free.  This second ten-week season has been a different story.  He fractured his left thumb in a game three weeks ago but continued to play.  His team was playing for the division championship last night, so Steve and I decided we should go to cheer him on.  His wife Ashley stayed home with their little one. He played about 10 minutes before being injured.  Hearing his head crash into the wall, my maternal instincts kicked in.  I hurried down the sidelines to see him sitting up and alert, with blooding running down the side of his head behind his ear.  I knew immediately that Steve and I would be making the trip to the ER with him.

Jon’s latest injury required seven staples.

Since our sons are all in the mid-twenties, it would be logical for this to have been our first ER visit with an injured son in many years, but that is not the case.  We hurried to the ER in the early hours of a cold morning in January of this year after our oldest son Chris scalded his hand with hot oil.  (See Jan. 7 blog for details.)

When our sons were at home, we made numerous visits to the doctor’s office or the ER for stitches and occasionally to set a broken bone.  We had particularly a scary visit when Matt at age 6 got a twig in his eye; the eye quickly swelled and Matt screamed in pain.  After it was removed, he could not read even the largest letter on the eye chart. He had to wear a patch for two weeks and, thankfully, his vision was fine when th patch was removed.  The bloodiest injury was when Chris gashed his foot on an oyster shell.  Blood poured from his foot.  Because oyster shells are full of bacteria, the doctor could not stitch his foot.  The gash had to be left open and the foot soaked for several days to prevent infection.  It continued to bleed for hours.

Jon and Ashley are expecting their second son in October.   Their first son is as busy and active as his father was at that age and I sure the new one will be as well.  Although I wish it weren’t so, I have no doubt that these little boys will have their fair share of injuries and that Jon and Ashley have many trips to the ER ahead of them.  It’s simply unavoidable when you’re raising sons.

Living Through a Major Renovation

Steve and I moved recently into a home that, while relatively new, needed some renovations, particularly in the master bathroom.  We had hoped to have the master bath remodeled before we moved in, but for reasons beyond our control, that did not occur.  Thus, we find ourselves in the midst of a major renovation project.

Home remodeling projects are never fun, easy, or inexpensive.  We have tended to buy newer homes and have generally limited home upgrades to cosmetic changes, such as painting or changing the floor coverings.  Our largest projects prior to the current one involved converting a screened porch into an office and finishing a portion of a basement.  Neither of those projects inconvenienced us much.

Renovating the master bathroom, however, is a totally different story.  Naturally, we had to remove all of our belongings from the bathroom and relocate them to the small guest bath down the hall. Since the closet is accessed through the bathroom, we had to empty the closet.  Our clothes are distributed among the closets in the three extra bedrooms. Unfortunately, for the sake of time, we did not perform this task in any organized manner. Getting dressed in the morning requires a search through all the closets for the desired clothing.

The existing tub and shower had to be gutted.  At the end of the first day of demolition, construction dust coated every piece of furniture in the master bedroom.  That night we vacuumed the carpet, dusted the furniture, and washed the bedding.  Then we covered every inch of the bedroom with plastic drop clothes.  Again this was done without proper forethought.  I wish I had retrieved clothing I would need from the dresser, but alas I did not. At least I know where the desired items are as I fight my way through the yards of plastic covering the dresser.  The first time we had to access the answer machine on the night stand, we moved it into the guest room, as well.

More plastic is adhered to our staircase and upstairs hall.  It keeps the debris off the carpet but not off our feet. I avoid going upstairs as much as possible because I don’t like getting bits of plaster stuck to the soles of my feet.  No matter how much we sweep, we cannot get it all up.  I look forward to the day we pull the plastic up and I feel carpet under my feet again.

Remodeling is messy, it’s inconvenient, it’s time consuming, and it’s costly.  So why are we putting ourselves through this process?  We do it for the end result, of course.  We are expecting to have a beautiful master bathroom that meets our needs when the remodeling is complete.  And although it feels like the remodeling has been going on forever, the entire project should be completed in only a few weeks.  We are willing to endure a short period of unpleasantness in order to achieve the desired finished product. We look forward to the day very soon when our master bathroom will be completed to our specifications and will once again be a usable part of our home. 

As I have watched the bathroom transformation, I have been reminded of the way God moves in us to transform our hearts and reform us to be useful for His needs.  Our old bathroom was operational but it didn’t meet our needs.  The old fixtures had to be demolished and the space cleaned of all the debris before the workers could install the new fixtures.  God has to rid our lives of everything that hinders His work before we can be fully useful to Him.  Sin has to go, of course, but also bitterness, pain, and unforgiveness.  When we give those things to God, He removes them from our hearts and fills the empty spaces with His love, peace, forgiveness, and understanding.  The old has to give way to the new.  The process is often messy and painful but the end result is more beautiful than we could have imagined.

I’m looking forward to the day that my bathroom renovation is complete and even more so to the day that my personal renovation is complete and I stand in the presence of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

If your life needs a renovation, Jesus Christ is the answer.