30 Days of Thankfulness, Day 25: Online Banking

Today, I am thankful for online banking.

It just makes my life easier.

Remember the days when you had to sit down and write out checks every. single. time? So do I. And I’m glad they’re over.

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Earn Free Money with Ebates

A couple of years ago, a friend introduced me to Ebates.

Any time I want to do some online shopping, I first start at Ebates and link to the store (if I can) from the site. For every purchase made through the site, I get a percentage back in cash. Percentages vary per store.

Since March of 2011, I’ve received $181, which is set up to deposit into my PayPal account. The site pays out once a quarter.

Some of the stores I link to include Drugstore.com, GAP and Eddie Bauer.

Check it out! You could be missing out on some free cash!

God is in the Used Truck Business

GMC Jimmy

Introducing Jimmy, our new-to-us debt-free vehicle!
Welcome to your new home, Jimmy.

God is everywhere, in everything.

In today’s American society, that’s easy to forget. But recently, I’ve been reminded of that – by a speaker at a women’s event, again by a pastor at our church and in every day life. I suppose God knew I had forgotten and needed reminding!

Is He in the kitchen while I’m washing dishes? Yes. Is He with me at the grocery store? Yes. Is he with me while I’m watching my son throw himself on the floor after I tell him he can’t have another cookie? Yes.

But I do forget that sometimes, and it is easy to put on my Christian hat when it’s obvious that I should have it on – not so easy to keep it on during the most mundane tasks and errands.

Case in point: God even cares about the vehicles we drive.

BP and I had been looking at different vehicles for our family during the past month or so. (Riding squished in the front seat of a pickup truck isn’t working out so well!) When he started looking, we owned an old, rusty white pickup that sat in the driveway; a newer red pickup that we felt needed to be replaced with something bigger (though we have a small loan on it); and a mid-size car that is paid for.

A couple of weeks ago, someone showed up on our doorstep and offered to buy the rust bucket we had sitting in the driveway. BP had declined selling it previously, but for some reason, he let it go this time. What a coincidence, right? (NO! It was God!)

Once “old whitey” was gone, BP started researching something to replace the red pickup. He had found a couple of possibilities online (all of which would require a small amount of financing), but for whatever reason, we remained hesitant to make a decision. The very day we were considering pulling the trigger on one (still hesitantly), we ran into some friends who happened to have a vehicle for sale, and it was just the size we were looking for. They are planning a cross-country move and don’t want to take an extra vehicle with them.

And we knew it was the right thing to do.

God was telling us to be better stewards with His money. God had a vehicle to fit our needs all along — one that wasn’t going to keep us in vehicle debt.

In hindsight, God’s hand was in the situation from the beginning. (Which should be obvious, right? He always is in every situation!) We will be one step closer to being debt-free after the red pickup sells. Apparently, He has some other plans for His money.

I Miss Cloth Diapers

For a couple of weeks, I’ve been using disposable diapers and wipes full time on my Little Bundle of Joy due to a staph infection on his leg. As an almost-full-time cloth-diaper family, this hasn’t been ideal, but the experience has further convinced me that cloth diapers and wipes are the right decision for us. (As an FYI, staph can remain in clothing, so as a precaution, we’re using disposables until the infection is completely cleared.)

E in wool longies

As you can see, Little Bundle of Joy is feeling better, but the infection isn't completely gone. At least he can still sport his peacoat wool longies from Sloomb.com! So soft and cozy ...

I’ve discussed the benefits of cloth diapering previously, and I’m going to extol the benefits of it again …

  • Using cloth diapers and wipes saves money. It really does. For two weeks, I’ve seen my money get thrown into the trash with each and every diaper change. We’ve blasted through several packages of diapers and wipes, only to turn around and buy more! How is this a good idea? (That’s rhetorical. It is not a good idea.)
  • Cloth diapers and wipes make it so much easier to clean up messes. Cleaning up a dirty bottom with disposable wipes? Oh. My. Goodness. Gross and ineffective. Cloth wipes are quick and easy, and they actually clean up the mess.
  • Cloth diapers and wipes are far, far, far less stinky than their disposable counterparts. Holy moly, disposables smell bad.
  • Disposing of disposables is hard work; those things are heavy.

I realize that cloth diapers are not for everyone, and even we use disposables for certain situations, depending on who Little Bundle of Joy is with or where he’s going. But if you’re even considering cloth diapering a little tiny bit, you’ll be glad you made the switch!

And if you are ready to make the switch, here are some of my favorite brands:

BumGenius

Sustainablebabyish

Ragababe

Money In = Money Out

Yeah, we’re going to get political for a moment because I have had about enough of our national debt, and this redhead is getting mad. (And you know what they say about redheads …)

Yesterday, I read an article in The New York Times, “In Deficit Plan, Taxes Must Rise, President Warns.” The very first line of that article says this:

President Obama pressured Republicans on Wednesday to accept higher taxes as part of any plan to pare down the federal deficit, bluntly telling lawmakers that they “need to do their job” and strike a deal before the United States risks defaulting on its debt.

The answer is not higher taxes. The answer is less government spending.

I don’t know about you, but in my house, when income decreases, we look for ways to cut our spending. It’s a pretty simple equation, really: money in = money out. There is no other option.

If our country continues placing higher tax burdens on the wealthy and on corporations, our country is adding to its own unemployment rate. When the wealthy and corporations have more cash, they employ more people and have more cash for things like benefits and raises, which creates more wealth, which creates more jobs. (Do you see where this is headed?)

Giving the government more control over more tax dollars makes zero sense. Stimulate the economy by allowing taxpayers to stimulate the economy.

Yes, some tough decisions will need to be made. We all know a government job is a “good job,” but unfortunately, many of those jobs offer benefits and retirement packages that are simply not financially sustainable by American taxpayers. I think many of those jobs can be saved, but there needs to be a serious overhaul of pay scales and benefits packages.

Entitlement programs and government grants open up a bigger can of worms, but some serious cuts need to be made there, as well. None of these are sustainable at their current levels of funding.

Will it be difficult? Yes. Would I like to have my income and benefits jeopardized? No. Do I want to see programs cut for people who need them? No. However, jobs and programs that are funded with taxpayer dollars need to be budgeted just like jobs and programs that are funded through the private sector.

Money in = money out.

Cloth Diapers: A Real, Affordable Solution

Recently, I’ve been reading about families who are reusing disposable diapers because they cannot afford to buy diapers every week. This makes me sad for a number of reasons:

1. Babies are being put at risk for diaper rash and other health issues, and it makes them just plain uncomfortable.

2. These families feel like they have no other options.

3. These families don’t even know the options that are available to them.

What makes me angry is that nowhere, in any of the articles I’ve read from mainstream media, is it suggested that these families switch to cloth diapers, a very accessible, very affordable alternative to disposables. As with any industry, you can spend as much or as little as you want on a product. But a family could, realistically, diaper their children from birth to potty training for a few hundred dollars using flats (and you don’t even need a washing machine, though it does make things much easier and faster).

Check out the flats and handwashing challenge, posted by the Dirty Diaper Laundry blog if you don’t believe me. And this article from Louisville.com does a much better job than I of summing up the flats challenge.

This post on Cloth Diapers … by Cotton Babies, is a great resource for tips on how to diaper a baby for next to nothing.

Back to the subject of families reusing disposable diapers … In one article, it was stated: “The Diaper Bank, a Connecticut-based group that provides free diapers to families in need, is working on a national level to build a coalition of concerned groups to push for diaper assistance through existing welfare programs or other means.”

Many organizations, even in my own home town, solicit donations of diapers to give to those who need them.

In my opinion, my donation would be better spent helping families help themselves. Give each family a supply of cloth diapers, show them how to use and care for them, and that’s it. Problem solved. It makes no sense to me why we would support an ongoing problem when there is an obvious solution. Budgets are tight everywhere. This is one area where there is a realistic solution.

Giving Diapers, Giving Hope is working to solve the problem, and others are catching on, as well. This post from All About Cloth Diapers addresses the issue further. Women who already are using cloth to trim their household budgets are working to help other families do the same thing without sacrificing their family’s needs.

Many, many women even sew their own cloth diapers, either because of a financial need or because they like to be crafty, or both! Many blogs, including All About Cloth Diapers, have instructions and tips for making cloth diapers, washing cloth diapers and everything in between. The Thrift Store Cloth Diaper Project post tells the story of how one woman made 24 diapers with approximately 10 covers for less than $30.

Cloth diapering is not for everyone, but it is an option available to everyone.

And in case you were wondering, BP and I do use cloth diapers on our Little Bundle of Joy.

Keep the Money Away from the Bad Guys

In his book, “The Total Money Makeover,” Dave Ramsey says this:

“If wealth is spiritually bad, then good people can’t have it, so all the bad people get it. It is the duty of the good people to get wealth to keep it from the bad people, because the good people will do good with it. If we all abandon money because some misguided souls view it as evil, then the only ones with money will be the pornographer, the drug dealer, or the pimp.”

This paragraph appears in the very last chapter of the book, but it may be the section that stuck with me the most – even more than the get-out-of-debt plan – and I thought it was worth sharing.

I think some Christians try to demonize having money and trying to attain money, but the fact is that God does bless some people financially. God chooses to bless some people with finances and others with different gifts, but the purpose of any God-given gift is to share it with others, believers and non-believers alike.

It is our duty, as Christians, to use our God-given gifts (which may or may not be money) to help others and share the Good News. (The passage in 1 Corinthians 12 addresses spiritual gifts in detail.)

Finances and money are a struggle for many people, especially Americans. However, as Ramsey points out in his teachings, money can be a God-given tool for helping others and doing good. It also can be used as a living testament to the Christian life.

Here are two good Web sites to read and learn about debt-free living from a Biblical perspective:

DaveRamsey.com

Crown Financial Ministries