Tuesday, 28 July 2009

The Tithe Confession- Day 4

Now some people will have never heard of this word 'tithe' but for Christians the tithe is a really important thing and many people will probably think it is terrible but we don't tithe. Its not because we don't believe it to be important - to give 10 percent of what you earn back to God - by giving it to church. Well I've felt bad about not doing it for years but rather than hope no one asks me like I normally do I'd rather just be honest and be challenged rather than try to hide a guilty secret.
When we moved back to Sheffield, pregnant and I was jobless our rent was high- over half our wage and we simply couldn't afford to live. We tried to tithe out of discipline anyway as we believed in it as a value. However every time we wrote a cheque and gave money it would bounce, take us overdrawn and we'd get a load of evil evil bank charges - so we chatted to our Chruch leaders and made a decision and felt ok about stopping our giving. The other factor which is different is that I started a job I believe God was asking me to do and I'm still 4 years later unpaid or hardly paid for that. I think giving back what you have is important but I think that can be with your time, not always finances... Its a situation we will look at again if I get paid this year...this year please! I do believe there are so many good things you can be open to happening and billions of blessing if you can be a chearful giver - it just isnt cheerful with bank charges taking you further and further into trouble and I just don't like the lack of freedom we have by being in debt. One day we will be free of it - I can't wait!
Greedy is not where I am aiming for - being careful has always scared me because if I'm carefree with my money it means its not precious and I don't want to become someone who counts and tries to keep every penny and can't be generous and full of faith with it. I can, I am sure become careful and not greedy... but I know its a fine line.

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Day 3...the Testing day

So this has been a hard day to write about which is why its late! Money wise this has really been an interesting day but has, in my head, been totally overthrown by the hardest day as a parent. I will put the 7 hours of tantrums down to Elijah getting up at 5.30 am and not say any more about that...but it was not fun.
So though it nearly didn't happen today we went to Hope City Church. We got there late because of breakfast tantrums but it was worth doing. Money situation no 1. Got to the car park and I found a tenner in my bag randomly! Cool!
Church was great ... I know the children will have a good time in their groups and I know Elijah spend part of the morning in their huge wacky warehouse! This place is massive in every way...its a business as well as a Church and I do love being in an environment where everything is put on to a high standard. As Joel is employed by 3 churches we are limited to where we go to to these 3 and being in a relatively quiet area I do feel we miss out sometimes. We love the people in our church... there are some truly amazing people ... but the Sunday services ca be really hard work. We decided after 6 and a half years (of which Joel or I have been employed by churches and so tied to that one) we'd not really been anywhere out of choice so we made a decision we'd go to Hope City for the 7 week summer holidays. Seemed a good time...there is no childrens work at ours through the school holidays and because of this lots of people seem to opt out of going.
So the worship at Hope is big too... there's a band of about 25 people and a choir or you're led by about 8 singers. The sound is big, there are smoke machines, lights... I love it there. I don't feel I have to sing loud to help the sound along - I know I can sing loud if I like and I have space within all that to really lock in with God. I miss going to places like that. The preaching is challenging and inspiring and for the past 2 weeks the series has been really helping me process some stuff thats going on in GoldDigger and some big issues we are working through.
Money wise I felt a bit unsure what to do when the offering came round... I remembered the tenner I just found but then I remembered it wasn't my church and we don't normally give to places we visit... they normally tell you not to! and I didn't feel full of faith enough to give away my whole new tenner - so I looked in my purse deciding if I could find a quid then that was a tenth of that so I could put that in ... but I didnt so I didnt give anything. And then ashamedly after the service bought myself a coffee ( they have a Starbucks in there) as the children wore me down about buying them some chocolate - so I spend £2.95 - but it went to their business which is a bit like giving it :s ...maybe. Titheing has been a wierd issue for us... maybe that can be the subject of my next post... I don't want to go into that now I dont think...

So went to mum and dads for lunch ... free food ... then when we got home I was doing some craft with Holly when I heard something come through the door ... I checked it a bit later and found an envelope with a card inside that read 'Have a nice week' and £50 inside! Now that's what I'm talking about when I say there are some truly amazing people... all the churches round here have been so supportive to us as a family and have really helped us out. My job hasnt been able to pay me so we've really struggled. For a time in our old house when we were renting our bills would't have been covered by how much we had coming in except that someone regularly put a wadge of cash ...£200 in a plain envelope though the door... and last year when our cam belt went on our car the mens homegroup at our church rallied together and gave enough between them ... not to replace it but to get a better one!
Interesting situation though as normally my reaction to getting money through the door, or finding a tenner in my bag would be to go YAY and stop worrying about our finances. But commitment I have made so commitment I will keep. Having money shouldn't change the way I think about it or how sensible I am hoping to become so a sudden £60 in my life shouldn't change my wholesome new attitude! So other than my guilty £2.95 I have spent no more.

Saturday, 25 July 2009

Day 2

So this is the second day of my spending fast. Activity-wise this day should be fairly strait forward. Elijah has a horrid cold and is really whiny today and doesn't want to go anywhere. I would normally think different to him but I have got a mild dose of swine flu paranoia and whilst Holly and I have asthma and Elijah a cold which is keeping his defense system otherwise occupied I don't really want to risk it... so may people I know don't care and are writing it off for not having underlying health problems...but the 6 year old girl who died in this country only had tonsilitus. She should not have died from that. Can't think how that poor family must be feeling... So home today it is... building houses for teddys and hopefully a bit of time in the garden if it stays dryish.
So ... a day in... I spent 2.25 on 6 pints of milk (and even used one of those horrid self service tills that I hate... that was also overcoming a fear for me... I hate machines!) but that came out of my purse as my last bit of cash so my £14.67 is still in tact! However, Hollys Dancing show DVD came home with her yesterday so I owe my mum for that £17.50(!) - yep £17.50 just to spend 3 minutes of the whole 38 performances trying to locate Holly out of the 90 4-5 year old girls all with stripey busy bee costumes, all with identical ponytails, ribbons and shoes and in slightly blurry quality video. They stand in rows and then when you have almost worked out if it is her or not they all buzz around the stage and you're back to square 1, in the meantime the camera is also panning round making it impossible - its practically the most advanced level of Where's Wally. So yikes - now I'm feeling precious about my £14.67 and don't want that to become -£2.83. Strategy - I'll try stalling her on that one me thinks!
The photo above represents a night of working on sales ideas for my new etsy shop. Well realistically I got sidetracked designing a banner for it and probably a bit more so by facebook and then did a few sums. End result= a blurry and tired face and not enough sleep.... oooh and a banner and a few sums of course :)

Friday, 24 July 2009

A curious journey

I realise why I am enjoying this journey of thought so much... Money is still something we don't talk about. As deep insecurities in my self worth and the issues around sex and relationships are something I talk about as a job and have little processing left to do on these issues its not as fun to write about them... but money is just as private a thing to most people I've met. My family NEVER discussed money with me. My dad took care of all the bills and would never discuss income with us, bills or payments. Mum may have known about these things but also would never tell me how much things cost. I don't know why... some poeple are just private about money. As much as they are lovely, generous people and its not that I want to put any blame their way but I did leave home into the big wide world with NO IDEA how much it cost to live. As my dad sorted even my fees and accomodation whilst I was at uni I didn't even learn then so because everyone else was getting loans and credit cards - I didnt realise I didnt actually need one so I'd just go shopping after practically every lecture. Some would say I was stupid - yes - basically you're right. But why is it that we can't talk frankly about money.. people are so defensive. We want people to think we are rich - that we have everything we need, yet we always say we don't have enough and would never say we were rich. We all complain about not having enough whilst simultanously putting on a show with our lifestyles, clothes, activity, generosity which is all to say that we do have more than everything we need. Wierd!
And strangely though I live in a society where my friends and I are open to challenging each other; our attitudes, values, relationships, even the way we bring up children... but I'd find it easier to tell a friend that I didnt like their boyfriend than I would that they were spending an unneccesary amount on their phone bill.
I'd love to be more open with people about it... I don't have a clue how much people earn... my friends and family... I could take a rough guess if I know what their job could make and so any conversations I have around money are a bit awkward. I don't know if my £200 a month food budget for our family of 4 (including all lunches) is a lot or a little compared to anyone else - so conversations around that are strange. Someone if you are out there reading this... whether you know me or not... enlighten me... tell me what you spend on food, or how much you'd pay for a new coat, do you run a tight budget... do you talk to people about the real issues you have with money?

The Great Supermarket Debate

Heading into controversial territory here...1. Tescoisation is a new sociological word which is the same category as Cococolanisation ... and as I don't like Coke I can quite easily adopt the moral standpoint around that one. Being against Tesco is a bit more tricky. 2. Two of my friends Sarah and Lorna work for Sainsburys and would be cross if I shopped anywhere else 3. Everyone and all the adverts say Asda is cheaper. 4. I LOVE Sainsburys and always have and go to the same one - though it has grown tremendously from the little Archer Road branch I used to go with my mum, where me and my brother would get a french stick and sit in the trolly pulling all the middle out then eating the crust. We'd eat the entire thing and mum would have to pay for the wrapper. So theres a lot to go in the mix when deciding where to shop.
A friend of mine, Rosie, was so against a new Tesco being opened next to the Spa in our area that when she once needed some nappy bags (aprox 60p) and Spa, Coop and the pharmacy didn't have any - she refused to go to the new tesco but instead drove 2 miles down the road to the massive tesco to get them from there instead!
So since my issue is money saving I am going to be motivated by this rather than getting into the ethics of big businesses. Not that I don't care about that but, lets be honest here, I don't know if Mr Asda is kinder than Mr Sainsbury - I can only speculate and probably badly. But... I will support local business where possible, I will buy fair trade where it is an available option, I will not compromise on health and fresh ingredients.
I don't agree that Asda is less. I think for brand products it may be but I'm a value shopper and find Asda dont have as much in their value range. I always spend more when I go to Asda -fact. Also its so much further so I'm also spending loads more in petrol. Generally I actually spend the least when I go to Sainsburys - fact. Bigger store here so more value range. But easily distracted by things that are magazines, DVDs, kids clothes, shampoos, makeup...dangerous territory.
So my new experiment is ... Tesco online... ! I must say I feel embarrassed when the big lorry pulls up- that the neighbours... most of whom are elderly and catch the free bus on a Monday from right outside my house... must think I'm ill, or pregnant or just plain lazy. However I am hoping that by restricting my shopping to online I will avoid the impulse purchases, offers I don't really need, the hungry shopper syndrome where I buy SO many sweets. So I should have a better idea of how much I am spending as I can keep a check on the amount as I click. To say we've had 2 birthdays, including a party shop in the last month I have kept the shop to under £200 ... which when we last budgeted 5 years ago (! man thats bad!) that is what we said we could afford for food. We're a family of 4 now but haven't got more income so still work to that. We've gone for separate trips for extra milk and bread a few times but essentially that's not bad. You do pay for delivery but some slots are just £3 which is less than a normal sweet spend... So I'll keep watching how that's going and see if I can pull that in anymore without us going hungry!

Venturing into the dangerous territory of Etsy

The novelty of starting a mission is that I'm writing a second blog in a day... I assure you... probably wont happen again.
Etsy is one of the most captivating, mammoth, hour draining websites you will ever come across. It's like Ebay but not just any one's old junk... unless its 20 years old then it can be called vintage - which is allowed then it is any one's REALLY old junk... It's all things handmade, designed, vintage or supplies for creating amazing things. Its also less well organised than Ebay so you don't quite know where you'll find what you're looking for ... or indeed know quite what you're looking for because it is full of things that other people have concocted in their heads. Like I sad...dangerous! It sweeps you up an carries you away into a mad exploration and you can't stand the thought that you haven't seen everything that there is to see - but because of the lack of thorough and obvious structure you cant find a way to keep track of what there still is to see... and your heart has palpitations and you start to sweat in case you miss something!
So, as a creative type I see no reason why I can't join the world of the Esty shop keepers, design myself a little banner and get creative. I've spent the last week researching products I could get printed and could make if I could spend the outlay... but pulling myself back to my £14.67 reality I have resigned myself that I am going to have to start with cards. I'm not optimistic...everyone can make cards and I'm sure the creative types who journey frantically through the world of Etsy will not find card making beyond them. Still... saturated as the card market might be ... I do find that a lot of them are pretty naff - yes they have a lot of objects stuck all over the front but that's not really ...nice - so I may as well give it a go. Ironically I never send cards, as I quite often have lost the ones I have made and refuse to spend money on them as I have some somewhere - so if nothing else (ie. no one buys any) then at least I'll have more to fill my house and then I may find some when a card occasion arises. This evening then... let the card making commence.

Lets start at the start.

Ok ... now to start something a bit different... after many years of aimless blogging about things I give way too much thought and conversation to...therefore ending up with nothing left to blog about that is interesting for me to write... this is something different for me...and hopefully something that will change my life. My life is a happy one. I am happy in my work, I have a happy home life with the man of my dreams as my husband and 2 gorgeous children. However our finances are shockingly bad. I've never been able to save... I have no financial strategy. I have a job that costs me money and I'm hardly paid for and I love things... just love new things, old things, business ideas that have initial outlay and then never happen ... We have debts and debts but if someone gave me a big wadge of money I know I would buy a new camera and start planning an extension on the house. Paying debts off is a horribly boring things to do. But I know that month after month we get charges and the little I make for my job is often outweighed by the charges from those lovely banks who just love to kick you when you're down.
So, I know people who have been both rich and poor in the same year but who have remained consistently good with their money ... so I figure that I must be able to develop that in me - yeah? Why not. So this week starts my journey of discipline... not sure where it will take me and I hope to blog everyday... just to have conversation with myself if nothing else and maybe if I can committ to it being a 365 thing I could be anywhere by this time next year - maybe debt free with my own beach house in Malibu - (not that I would really need that) The trigger for this is that I have just been left alone.. my husband Joel has just left to take a group of young people to Soul Survivor and for te first year I have decided to stay home with the children rather than take them. I realised last night that we have run out of money and though I had been planning various things in my head to fill the time (as I'm not great at looking after the children on my own - it must be said I find it really hard!) I looked at our balances to find all the credit cards, all the overdrafts maxed out and just £14.67 to last us till the end of the month. So thats what we have. I know to some people that would sound impossible, but to some its a wealthy position to be in... I'm not trying to sound poor and get sympathy... its what we've got and I know I need to pull on my creative skill and discipline to get us to the end of the month... so its a personal challenge. I have got a half stocked fridge, I have half a tank of petrol, hopefully no bills still to come out - so we'll see what we can do. What I want to do is not merely scrape by hating everyday but to enjoy it so much, being aware of saving so that I carry it on and even think of ways to make money... I dont want to spend my life in debt so I need to start the big climb somewhere. Here's to a steep hill!