Saturday, February 19, 2011

First Tale of the Tuckers, featuring "A Financial Mandate"

     It's Saturday morning as I write, and Duane is on the road to somewhere warm. It's snowing, and I'm supposed to be doing laundry and cleaning our office, so it seems like a REALLY good time to blog a little bit.  Nice and cozy doncha know. :)
     So I'm not sure where all this is gonna go as a blog, but as a CEF director, newly married to a truck driver with more than a few years of experience, enjoying the challenge of trying to be a good wife, housekeeper, cook for someone besides myself, partner in the money management office of the Tucker Coorporation, and "mom" to a selfish mostly-deaf shaggy dog, I figure there can be no shortage of SOMETHING to talk about. The question is whether it'll be something you want to read about! lol I'll warn you that when laundry awaits as an alternative, I start to get diarrhea of the keyboard in a hurry!
     I figure that readers or no, I'm going to try to keep up with this blog for the sake of accountability. I figure that most Friday mornings will be a good time to check in, but with Duane’s fluxuating schedule, that may change from week to week. At least that sounds like a good thing on which to blame my lack of self-discipline!

Also, for those of you not used to using "Blogspot", if you want to make it easier to find each installment, you can add this page as a “favorite” with your browser (call me if you need help). There are other ways to do it too, but that sounds like the simplest if turning on the computer is sometimes a challenge for you!
One of these days I’ll tell you what a “typical week” looks like for us, but I don’t want to overwhelm you right up front (this’ll be long enough as it is!). One highlight of my week though, is on Tuesday when Sarah comes over for… I don’t know what to call it. It’s kind of a Bible study, only we’re studying a book on being the Proverbs 31 woman (Elizabeth George is a GREAT author by the way), and it’s kinda her coming over for dinner, only we fix it together (and she usually brings some great ideas), and it’s kinda accountability partnership, only… well, yeah, that sounds about right. We learn sooo much from each other, and being open with each other and God opens the doors for some amazing growth. I both love and dread those times, cuz I KNOW I’m gonna get “called on” some stuff every week. What a blessing!
Usually Duane would come home on a Friday and go back on the road on Sunday, but this week the schedule was changed midweek, and I had him 8pm Wed through 5am Saturday, which was pretty nice. The downside is that now he’s back on the road, and I probably won’t see him til next Friday unless he’s able to stop in sometime, which he does sometimes.
Thursday we ended up with a houseful of guys over for dinner. I was really glad that I had been doing so much better on keeping the house clean over the last couple weeks. Duane called me at work and told me the boss and a co-worker would be over for dinner, so we added our friend Allan to the mix, and planned for tacos for dinner. After errands and such though, company started arriving 2 minutes after we got home, and we dug right into dinner prep. Duane really really likes to cook, and does it so much faster (and tastier) than I do, so we had a great meal whipped up in no time. What a joy to do what we both love, and show His Love through hospitality. Of course Molly and I had to stick together with all these guys in the house, but definitely had fun doing it.
Oh and here's a funny story from working with kids. I got to sub for a Good News Club this week, and had so much fun. As I told the missionary story of Po, who grew up watching his baby sister while his mom worked all day, I told of how he started to use his smarts to get away with doing bad stuff. I reminded the two boys I had in club that there WAS Someone who saw what he was doing though, and opened it up for guesses of who that might be. After the first guess of “his sister”, I agreed that she probably saw some of it, but there was SOMEONE who knows EVERYTHING that also knew. “His Mom?” was the next guess. I was jealous of the mom who sat in the back of the class who was able to bust up laughing without the kids seeing: it was REALLY hard to keep a straight face!
Things God Has Been Teaching Me.
Like I said, when Sarah comes over, it’s hard NOT to learn something, whether its how to cook better or how to love my husband better, so this week it was a combo deal. Sarah brought over the stuff to make some pumkin spice gluten-free muffins (made using coconut flour), and they turned out a little dark around the edges, but oh-so-yummy-moist in the middle. Good Stuff!
Some of what God was teaching me though, has been that “My energy and efforts must never be motivated by possible rewards” I found that in the book by Elizabeth George, but I had also seen it exemplified in the life of my friend Lana (there should be a link to her “Raw Food” blog on the right of this page). It’s my JOB to be a loving wife, good financial manager, housekeeper, person with the right heart, no matter what the rewards are or aren’t. I’m not really looking forward to learning that the hard way, but I definitely “get it”. Especially in light of the struggle to save money (see below), I want to see progress, but I may not always see the tangible evidence. As I often pray, I ask God for just a GLIMPSE of the work that he is doing behind the scenes. He is doing so much in me and through me that I may not see, but I have to TRUST that he IS doing it. But a glimpse of that work sure does help give me incentive to keep plugging on. And I guess that’s what happened on Thursday as I got to see that glimpse of why I’m supposed to be working so hard to keep the house up: I get to serve beside my husband in his service to others, through hospitality and through his work. Wow, I just learned something as I wrote that! lol. I guess this blogging thing is good stuff! J
Okay, so we know we’re all supposed to be good stewards of what God has given us (money, time, resources, talents, etc), but God kinda brought the finances into focus for us a couple weeks ago. As we were talking about some ideas of some financial goals and opportunities, we realized that if we wanted to be able to handle those opportunities, we were going to have to have some self discipline in handling finance. Which neither one of us have been doing lately. We know all the theories, plans, and principles (or at least PRETEND we do) that are supposed to go with good stewardship, but haven’t put them into practice. SO: on that Saturday night we determined to do our very best for the next 3 months (seemed like a good checkpoint) to save money, and especially to put it toward our credit card debts and then savings. Whatever our excuses or reasons for not following the principles we know, we realized that we HAVE to do better at being stewards of His money. The next day, God had the sense of humor to have us hear that our church was offering a Dave Ramsey course. Okay God, we get the hint.
SOOOOO the class hasn’t started yet, but we’re already making changes. It is definitely NOT an overnight process, as we struggle each day to cut back on our spending, find things we can sell (then actually sell them), start paying more on the credit cards and develop a workable budget (not necessarily in that order).
Here’s how we’ve gotten started. I had used our online banking to make a list of all the things we spent money on and categorized them, so we could see exactly where we’ve been spending our money. Some things were standard, but we realized we were spending WAY too much on items that we wanted and would use, but we didn’t NEED. So that was one of the first ways we’ve challenged ourselves to cut back. Though we’ve cut out a lot, there are still items we wonder if we’ve fallen short on: the propane for the grill so we could fix a steak for Valentine’s Day (we had saved the steak from the last time we bought in bulk), and the small filing cabinet for organizing the office. Both were considered investments for the long-haul, and were carefully shopped for so we got the best price, but we still realize that we COULD survive without them.
I think the hardest time to cut back is at the grocery store. We do try really hard to make sure and buy with the long-term in mind: buy the large packages of meat, then freeze it, or lots of butter when it’s at a good price. But it still racks up the grocery bill. It’s one thing if we’re still within budget, but it’s not so good when that puts us over budget. We’re gonna hafta work on that, and I think we KNOW the answer is to suck it up and not spend it if we don’t have it. But its really hard. And yes, I’m whining, but I think we’ll figure it out soon.
One good thing we’ve done is to start a price comparison book. We’ve found that Sherms and Walmart tend to have the best prices, though one may have much better prices on certain items, while the other is the best place for OTHER items. So we’re trying to do better at figuring out what to buy where. Now I realize that somewhere in the comparisons, if you’re running to three different stores to get your groceries, you may be using up more gas to go “save” money, so you’re not really saving money, but at least this way we can make an educated and planned effort. Hopefully I can do a quick check online of any sales before I go shopping, compare those to my already documented price sheet, and make an educated guess on whether I’ll actually save money by going to a store. Also this way, since all three stores are on my main route home, with a little planning, I can plan my shopping trip in order of greatest effectiveness! I now have our price comparison in an Excel spreadsheet that I’m pretty sure will work on my PDA: I should be able to take it with me to the store, just in case I have last minute questions on something. Time will tell if this is effective or not, but I’m looking forward to trying it as one of the many ways we work hard to be better stewards of His money!
The laundry seems to be getting louder and louder as it calls my name, so I’d better go for now! Thanks for braving this rather lengthy blog for today! I’m sure I won’t have TIME to write this much each week, so I hope you’ll join me again next week.

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