Tag Archives: Susan Ball

Time Management, Creativity, and REM Sleep

I have a good friend, Johnnie, who has expertise in many subjects, including time management. Time management is essential for Johnnie, as she balances family time, church service, and volunteering with SCORE with the four businesses she currently owns and manages. She also manages to include exercise, prayer, and devotional time into each day.

Earlier this week, I asked Johnnie how she plans her days and if she devoted some time each day to each business or if she focused on different businesses on different days of the week. This lead to Johnnie sharing some her time management tools. In the course of the conversation, she mentioned the importance of being quiet and still for a few minutes upon waking to continue in the creative sphere of REM sleep. I had never before considered that sleep had an impact on creativity, although I read studies that demonstrated that long period of quiet are a boost to creativity.

Coffee, note pad, and flowers
Photo by Lum3n on Pexels.com

Despite this being a new concept to me, I immediately recognized the truth of Johnnie’s statement from my own experiences and those of my husband, Steve.

Steve is a civil engineer. He deals with complex issues in designing sites for buildings and subdivisions and coming up with a good solution is often challenging. He is prone to wake up in the early hours of the morning with a solution having come to his mind. It is not uncommon for him to rise at 4 or 5 am to work on a plan. I believe that these solutions arise from the creative state the brain enters during REM sleep.

Personally, I have found that I if I can stay in bed and be still for a few minutes after waking that I will have a creative spurt. Suddenly, I am inspired with ideas for the next scene for a novel I am working on or a blog post to write.

If you want to increase your creativity, I encourage you to spend some time in the morning being quiet. Let your creative mind continue to work after sleeping, and listen for the still, small voice of the Lord speaking into your life.

Some of Johnnie’s other time management tips included (1) start the day with worship–she exercises to praise music, (2) schedule a time of prayer at the beginning of each day, (3) set aside one or two days a week to be less busy and more focused on projects that require concentration and/or creativity, (4) turn off your phone and ignore email for blocks of time each day, and (5) schedule most meetings on one or two days a week.

Woman with journal and a cup of coffee
Photo by Alina Vilchenko on Pexels.com

Johnnie is the author of Legacy Moments–Transformation that goes Beyond Change. You can learn more about Johnnie and her coaching services at JohnnieLloyd.com

To learn more about how to be a faithful steward of your financial resources, please click the Finances categories tab to find many blogs on money management, budgeting, and stewardship. My book Honoring God with Your Money is a great tool for financial money management.

The Peace that Passes Understanding

My mother used to love to tell the story of how I came home from Sunday school when I was five talking about “the peas is pass is.”  She was quite puzzled and was unable to decipher what I was trying to say.  The next Sunday she asked the teacher, who explained that I was trying to say, “the peace that passes.” We had sung the song “I’ve Got the Joy, Joy, Joy” in class.

One of the lines of the song goes link this: “I’ve got the peace that passes understanding, Down in my heart, Down in my heart to stay.”

As a five-year old, I had no clue what “the peace that passes understanding” was. It is a fun catchy song that has stuck with me through the years. Over a lifetime, I have experienced many instances of this amazing peace.

The song comes from Philippians 4: 6, 7, “Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (King James Version)

White dove. The dove represents the Holy Spirit, who brings peace into uor hearts.
Photo by M Sidharda on Pexels.com

The New King James Version begins “Be anxious for nothing.”  This exhortation was needed in the days of the early church as followers of Christ faced intense persecution.  They had much to fear, yet Paul admonished them to not live in fear, but to come to the throne of God with their needs and to trust God to meet those needs.

This directive is still pertinent today. We face threats and stress from many sides.  Some threats are applicable to every person who lives: financial stress, health challenges, political unrest, and economic pressures. Other threats are directed specifically at the Church. As Christians, we are under intense pressure to compromise our beliefs and our values in the name of being politically correct. Christianity has not been outlawed as it was in Paul’s day, but Christians are under attack daily.

And God is still the answer. When we bring our trials, challenges, and tribulations to the throne of God, the Holy Spirit fills us with God’s peace.  A peace that does not make any sense—that surpasses our understanding.  In those moments, we know that our lives are in God’s hands. He is walking beside us through each and every trial.

Whatever you are walking through today, do not be filled with anxiety.  Rather, bring your needs to God, with thanksgiving.  God will hear you, and He will walk this path with you.  Then you will experience the peace that the world cannot offer.

Bring your problems, your worries, and your cares to God.  “Humble yourself under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your cares upon Him, because He cares for you.”  I Peter 5: 6, 7

Being God’s Arms Extended

In our church, we often use the phrase “God’s arms extended.” We use this when speaking about reaching out into our community and sharing God’s love through service, ministry, and prayer.

To my knowledge, the phrase “God’s arms extended” does not appear in the Bible. However, Jesus expressed the importance of doing this in Matthew 25: 31- 46. He was teaching His disciples about things that will happen when He returns to rule over the earth.

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.  He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.” Matthew 25: 31 – 34

Jesus explains that those who offered food and drink to the hungry and thirsty, extended hospitality to the stranger, clothed those in need, cared for the sick, and visited the imprisoned are the sheep. Those who failed to extend assistance and compassion are the goats. Those who cared for others will receive eternal life, and those who did not will receive eternal damnation.

We had a missionary, Mark, speak in our church on Sunday. He shared that early in his ministry in Africa, he had not learned enough of the language to preach and teach. For a time, Mark was limited to embracing children and engaging them in sports. He began to get discouraged that he could not do more. As he prayed, Mark said something along the lines of, “All I can do is hug the children.” In his spirit, Mark clearly heard the Lord say, “Thank you.”

Mark realized that when we, as God’s people, show love to others, we allow God to show love through us. As Mark hugged the children, he was allowing God to wrap His arms around these precious little ones. Mark was literally being God’s arms extended.

What a beautiful picture! God wants to provide for the hungry, thirsty, needy, sick, and imprisoned. And, He does provide through us.

The next time you see someone in need, afraid, or discouraged, I pray that this illustration will come to mind and that you will take the opportunity to be God’s arms extended.

Please feel free to share an instance in which you knew that God was using you to be His hands extended.

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Grocery Shopping Amid Empty Shelves and Rising Inflation

The government announced last week that the inflation rate for December 2021 was 7%.  This is the highest rate of inflation since 1982.  Two of the hardest hit sectors were energy and food.  MarketWatch reports that prices for eggs have increased more than 20%, beef and chicken prices are up 13 – 15%, and coffee is up 10%. 

To make matters worse, grocery prices are expected to rise another 5% in 2022.  The biggest increases are expected to be for steak, chicken, mayonnaise, eggs, cereal, and vegetables.

Additionally, grocery shelves are emptier than we are used to seeing them.  Inflation and shortage combine to make feeding your family more challenging than we are used to dealing with in America.  And it is wreaking havoc on family budgets.

To keep your budget in balance, you must (1) find ways to keep your grocery spending within your means or (2) cut expenses in other areas and allocate more money for groceries.

Photo by Kevin Malik on Pexels.com

So, I am offering these ideas to help you eat well and stay within your budget.

  1. Eliminate waste. Americans waste on average one pound of food per person per day.  To reduce your food waste:
    • Plan meals and shop using a list.
    • Check the vegetable bins in your refrigerator daily to assess what needs to be eaten and plan meals accordingly.
    • Keep a food log, so you know when you cooked each dish.  Check log to see what needs to be eaten first.
  2. Make the most of leftovers—turn leftovers into soups, casseroles, and sandwich fillings.
  3. Buy cheaper cuts of meat and cook in a crockpot or instapot to tenderize.
  4. Buy store brands. You may have to try multiple stores to find the brands you like best.
  5. Shop at multiple stores to get the best buys and find items that were out of stock at your usual store.  Plan trips, though, to save gas and time.
  6. PLAN, PLAN, PLAN—but be prepared with backup plans, as shortages are expected to continue.
  7. Plant a garden and grow some of your own produce.
  8. When you find a good price for produce, stock up and freeze or can the excess.
  9. Shop at Discount stores, such as Wal-Mart, Costco, and Dollar General.
  10. Buy less than perfect or ugly produce.  Prepare immediately or process to eat later.
  11. Purchase meat that is nearing its sell-by date and has been marked down. Cook immediately or freeze.
  12. Invest in food storage dishes to keep leftovers.
  13. Invest in a vacuum sealer to freeze uncooked meats and leftovers to be eaten later.
  14. Search Pinterest and other internet sites for new recipes using ingredients that you have on hand.
  15. Challenge yourself to come up with new recipes using items you have in your pantry.
  16. Ask God for wisdom to help you make wise shopping decisions.  “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” James 1:5

I hope that you will find some of these tips to be helpful as you navigate empty grocery shelves and higher food prices.

What grocery saving tips can you add to this list?

You will find additional information on creating budgets and managing your finances in many of my other blog posts by clicking on the Finances tab on the right. 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.  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.

New Year’s Resolution or My One Word

We are seven days into 2022, and, if you made a New Year’s resolution, you may have already broken it or you likely will soon. Studies show that most people throw in the towel by the end of January, and 68% don’t last a full month.

My One Word is an alternative to making New Year’s Resolutions. The concept was conceived Mike Ashcraft, senior pastor of Port City Community Church in Wilmington, NC, in 2010.  Mike realized that resolutions are often focused on overcoming past failures–I resolve to lose weight gained or to get out of debt that I have accumulated. He recognized that a better approach is to focus on what God wants to do in your life.

Mike challenged his congregation and blog readers to pray about where God wants to lead them in the coming year.  What is God speaking into your life?  What does God want you to become?  How does God want to use you? What does He want you to learn?

MyOneWord.org
myoneword.org


As you pray and focus on God’s will for you, you will feel God impressing a word into your spirit. This is your One Word for the coming year.  Your Word will be unique to you and where God is leading you. 

I chose my first One Word in 2011; it was Delight.  I also chose a theme Scripture for the year that went along with my word, “Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4  At that time, my husband had been unemployed for two years, with no end in sight. Yet, the Lord promised that if we delighted in Him, He would bless us. I meditated on Psalm 37:4, and God lifted my spirits and increased my faith. And, despite my husband’s continued lack of employment income, God provided for us to celebrate our 30th anniversary that spring with a cruise to Alaska. And, by the end of the year, my husband was back at work with the company that had laid him off nearly three years earlier. Praise the Lord!

Some of my other One Words have been Commitment, Intentional, Rest, and Stewardship.  My year of focusing on stewardship lead me to write a book and start a newsletter. The book and newsletter are designed to help others become responsible stewards of the financial resources God has entrusted to them.

My One Word for 2022 is Praise. I look forward to focusing my energy on praising the Lord throughout each day.  Rather than a single verse, I have selected Psalm 150 as my theme Scripture passage. I am considering choosing a new Psalm of praise for each month, or maybe every week.

I encourage you to pray about God’s desire for your focus in 2022 and to select a word that represents your focus.  To learn more about the My One Word experiment, go to myoneworld.org.

If you have questions about faithful stewardship of your financial resources, please feel free to 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. You may also sign up for the newsletter on the Contact page of this site.

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.

Thankful for Blessings

“Enter into His gates with thanksgiving and into His courts with praise.”  Psalm 100:4

As our nation celebrates Thanksgiving, I encourage each of you to pause for a few moments today to reflect on the many blessings God has bestowed upon you in the past year. Certainly, 2021 has more than its share of challenges. It would be easy to focus on the interruptions in our lives caused by covid and rising prices for food and gas. However, we all still have much for which to be thankful.

Grateful Thankful Blesses

The Bible is replete with the command to thank God for His goodness, as we read in Psalm 95: 1- 7:

Oh come, let us sing to the Lord!
Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving;
Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms.
For the Lord is the great God,
And the great King above all gods.
In His hand are the deep places of the earth;
The heights of the hills are His also.
The sea is His, for He made it;
And His hands formed the dry land.

God is our creator.  He made us, and He is worth of our praise and our outpourings of thanksgiving.  “Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.” Psalm 100:3

Today and every day, we need to express our gratitude to God for giving us life, for providing a beautiful home for us to reside in this life, and for sending His Son to redeem us and make provision for us to live eternally with God in heaven.

May your heart overflow with gratitude for our wonderful Lord.

Cornucopia and Happy Thanksgiving

Thanking Those Who Provide Service


My life was made much easier during the past year and a half by those who did not have the option of working from home and social distancing.  Grocery clerks, postal workers, delivery people, truck drivers, and many other were out in the public every day so that the rest of us had access to the things we needed.  Thanksgiving is a great opportunity to thank those who sacrificed for the rest of us. 

Here’s some ideas to show appreciation:
1) Hand-written note.  Do you know that is takes only about 3 minutes to write a thoughtful, sincere thank you note?  Set aside time each week between now and Thanksgiving to write a couple of thank you notes to those who have most impacted your life during covid. If you will mail your cards, allow extra time as postal deliveries are taking longer than in the past.

2) Gift cards.  Consider purchasing gift cards for those who provide services to you regularly. Gift cards can be included with thank you notes, or you can write a quick “thank you for your service” message on the card. Of course, budget for the gift cards and stick to your budget. A sincere thank you is more important than the amount of the card.

3) Holiday tipping. Many of us tip those who provide service to us more at Christmas than at other times. This year, consider giving tips at Thanksgiving instead of, or in addition to, your Christmas tip. 

Thank you note and flowers
Photo by Giftpundits.com on Pexels.com

As you take time this Thanksgiving to meditate on God’s blessings, ask Him to bring to your mind those who have made your covid-experience more comfortable. He will guide you to remember those who will be truly blessed by your heartfelt and sincere message that you have been blessed by their hard work and sacrifice.

Pepperonis as Quarters

Pepperoni Pizzas
Photo by Polina Tankilevitch on Pexels.com

In a different phase of life, my husband and I bought a pizza franchise and opened a restaurant in the little town of Orange, VA.  Our good friend, and pizza mentor, Jerry told us that we should look at “pepperonis as quarters.”  An individual pepperoni probably costs a penny or less–I never did the math, but I got the point.  Wasting food costs me money, and small wastes add up quickly and take money out of my pocket.  Little things matter whether you are trying to make money in your business or trying to live within your means on a tight budget.

In my current job, I am a consultant in a small business development center.  I meet with people each week who would like to start businesses.  Many of these dreams will be derailed or postponed due to poor credit and/or lack of financial resources to get a business started.  Often these people have plenty of income, yet they have failed to live within their means.  Some of them have made big financial mistakes, such as buying a house that they cannot afford, but many are in trouble because they have failed to control small expenses.  They forget that lunches out and $4 cups of coffee can make a big dent in their budgets.

As a Christian, I am a steward of all that God has entrusted to me.  When someone mentions stewardship, money management is probably the first thought that comes to mind.  Stewardship, however, encompasses all phases of your life, including how you use your time and how you use your talents.  We can relate the “pepperonis as quarters”  adage to time and talents, as well as to money.  Saving a few moments here and there throughout your day can add up and allow you more time to play a game with your child, read a book for pleasure, relax with your spouse, or start a new project.  Honing your talents little by little can help you gain speed and proficiency.

I Corinthians 4:2 tells us, “Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful.”  I hope that this word will encourage you to look for small ways to be a better steward of your time, talent, and money.

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. 

Seven Tips for Better Stewardship of Time

Stewardship is the word that God impressed upon me to be my focus for 2021. For me, stewardship involves not only managing our money and financial resources well, but also using the talents God grants us and the time allotted to us in ways that honor Him.

Time stewardship is the most challenging of the three for me. I tend to function best when my to-do list is very long and my time to complete it is short.  When my to-do list is short, it is easy for me to find get distracted.  But the pressure of a long list and little time give me focus and energy. I love making a long list of tasks to be accomplished and then crossing items off as I complete them.

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

So, why don’t I make a list each day? That is a question I ask myself regularly, and the only answer I have come up with is that I haven’t found the right tool that works for me.  But, list-making tools is not the subject of this blog.  Rather, this blog is about strategies that I have learned and am attempting to enact to be a better steward of my time, so that I can accomplish the goals God has put into my heart.

  1. Make a List.  Your list should include tasks to be completed today, this week, and over the new few weeks.  A strategy that I learned many years ago is to include some “routine” tasks that you already do at the start of every day, so that you can quickly cross something from your list. Time management experts recommend “Making the bed” or “Showering” as the first task on the list. Crossing off tasks gives you a sense of accomplishment and will help you to accomplish more with your time.
  2. Stack Habits.  This suggestion is from Mark Batterson’s book “Win the Day.”  Mark suggests developing good, daily habits by stacking tasks together routinely.  Develop a routine to help you start the day off right, and you will manage your day better. For me, I have stacked exercise with Bible reading.  When I discovered that I could read books on my kindle while pedaling my exercise bike, my mornings improved significantly.  This works best when I get out of bed, grab my kindle, and get on the bike.  I start the day with God’s word, and I get my blood flowing.  I wake up more fully, and the day goes better.
  3. Prioritize Tasks. It’s not enough to have a list. You have to take some time to consider what tasks must be done today? What tasks can be put off until tomorrow or next week?  If you don’t prioritize what needs to be done, you will end of being distracted by emails, phone calls, and tasks that appear urgent but are not critical to you having a successful day.  Ask God for wisdom to align your priorities with His.
  4. Minimize Distractions.  Set yourself up for success by being pro-activate in minimizing distractions.  Timothy Ferriss, author of “The 4-Hour Workweek,” is a master of minimizing distractions to accomplish more in less time.  One key tip is to avoid checking emails and responding to texts and phone calls throughout the day.  Rather, Ferriss recommends checking emails and messages at a few pre-determined times a day. Evaluate what your primary distractions are and take steps to minimize them.  For those who work in an office, an open-door policy might be a major distraction.  Consider closing your door and putting a “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door for periods of uninterrupted work.
  5. Schedule Down Time.  No one should be all work and no play, and no one should spend too much time playing and avoiding work. Everyone needs time to kick back and read a book, watch television, or go out for a leisurely dinner.  Plan these times in your schedule to ensure balance in your work and leisure time.
  6. Seek God’s Direction.  Start each day with time in God’s word.  Pray for wisdom, and listen for His direction.  God will show you what is important for you to accomplish each day to fulfill His will for your life.
  7. Ask God to Multiply Your Time. As God multiplied the fishes and the loaves, He can multiply your time.  When we seek God’s will and use our time according to His purposes, He will allow us to do more in less time.  When you need to get somewhere quickly, and all the traffic lights you encounter are green—that is God’s blessing on your time.  If you get in and out of an appointment much faster than you expected, that is also God’s blessing. Make a habit of recognizing God’s hand in allowing tasks to be accomplished quickly and smoothly, and thank Him for those blessings.

There are many other time-management strategies. Which ones are your using?  Please share your best tips in the Comments.