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Trouble Keeping Track of Your CASH? Try This!

Ever have that situation where you thought you had a certain amount of cash… only to realize it somehow disappeared?



As in, probably you spent it, but are not quite sure where or when.  Or how much you even had to begin with.  (It most often happens for us in garage sale season…)


A transaction record would keep you in the know for where your dollars went.

You know those checkbook registers you get with every box of checks?  Chances are you won’t need all the pages.  Go ahead, open those staples right up and put a page to use!  (You could also use any piece of paper, or create an excel worksheet, but if you have a little booklet of these handy pages already done up, why not?)

Write the balance at the top of the page.  Money going OUT (spent) gets written in the “Payment/Withdrawal” column.  Money coming IN (added) goes under “Deposit/Credit.”   On the right you can keep a running total of your current cash balance.  Viola!  You now have a transaction log of all the cash passing through your hands.

TIP:  There’s less of a paper trail when using cash, so save your receipts to easily balance your cash ‘account.’  Watch out for garage sales and other places where you don’t even have receipts to help, and spend the few moments it takes to write your expenditures down to keep track of where your money is going.

BONUS:  Checkbook registers are the perfect size to fold around your cash in your wallet.  Now isn’t that just icing on the cake??!

DSC_2869 pin

Let us know in the comments if there’s a way YOU have found to record your cash balance and transactions.

Work in Progress!

Hi friends!  We hope this will be a useful place for information, ideas, and encouragement as we cheer each other on to be good managers of the finances God has entrusted to us.  At the moment though, this site is a work in progress.  We hope to have more content up in the coming months, but for now, check out our Recommended Resources page for some great learning tools!

5 Ways to Save Money when You’re Out over Mealtime

5 Ways to Save Money when You’re Out over Mealtime


We were running to town for some building supplies and several other quick stops.  It was only mid-morning, but my realist mind knew that by the time we had made the half hour drive there and done our errands and shopping we’d end up being out over lunch time.

Unintentionally staying out longer than we planned would be the perfect scenario for us to “need” to eat out.  We love eating out, but this wasn’t one of the times we were choosing to spend the time or money on a nice meal.

So what can be done to make the damage be as little as possible?  

5 Ways to Save when You’re Out over Mealtime

Take snacks with you.  Better yet would be a complete pack lunch, but that didn’t happen today.  I did grab some cheese sticks, granola bars, graham crackers, and cheerios to take along.

Pre-decide your (minimal) order.  This is the same concept as going to the grocery store with a list.  Then when the cashier asks if you would like to upsize that, or add a _____, you’re not left making a last-minute decision under pressure.

Go through the drive thru.  We find that when we dine in, our order may start very small.  But when we’re not totally full yet, and food is at the front counter just a few steps away… It’s all too easy to come back with a sheepish grin and that $1 ice cream treat that we’d been gazing at on the poster for the entire meal!  I also feel bad about dirtying a whole table, using multiple high chairs, and the store’s restrooms, just for a $1.50 order of chicken nuggets!  Maybe that’s just me.  Going through the drive thru?  It’s a lot more comfortable if you’re just ordering one small item.

Skip the coffee.  What could be better when the kids are fast asleep in their carseats than to pick up coffees for the drive home?  That $5 frappe would sabotage your cheap fast food survival goal.

Limit your time out so you’re at least not out over TWO meals!  Other than sometimes on a road trip, we never eat out for multiple meals in one day.  If you know you need to be out longer, plan ahead enough to for sure pack the rest of your meals and snacks.

After eating the snacks we brought along, we got by for $3.81.  The kids split a 10-piece chicken nuggets ($1.50 + tax advertised on the digital sign at BK), and Ben and I each had a McDouble (2 for $1 special).

We were by no means full, but it held us over until we got home.

And all for less than the price of a fancy coffee.

Budget Categories

Budget forms typically have the basics – housing, food, electricity, gas for the car, fun spending, etc.  But what about home office supplies?  Getting your hair cut and styled?  Stamps and Christmas cards for your holiday mailing?  Do you combine groceries and toiletries or not?  How specific do you want to be?  A separate envelope for an Amazon Prime subscription?

A more thorough list of expenses – and thus, possible envelopes – would have really helped Ben and I brainstorm when we started budgeting!  Obviously, you will have slightly different ones tailored to your life.  If you are just starting out, don’t feel overwhelmed!  Remember, this comes after three and a half YEARS of monthly budgeting!  It’s definitely been tweaked and refined a few times and is what works for us at this stage of our lives.

Now, especially for the crazed-budget-nerds among us – ‘a place for everything, and everything in it’s place’ solves many category quandaries… You’re welcome. 🙂

Ben & Naomi’s Budget Categories

Giving: Tithe

Giving: Generosity

This is a fun envelope we added that is directly related by a percentage (above and beyond our tithe) from our creative income (anything we make extra above Ben’s normal work) – selling on eBay, garage sale buying and reselling, etc.  Basically the only rule is that it has to be spent on others!  One of our favorite uses is taking people out to eat.

Savings: House

Big ticket items like a new roof, an addition or adding a garage.  Ever thought of saving to buy a house?

Savings: Baby Fund

As soon as we find out I’m pregnant, we stop all other saving and fill this envelope so we have starter $ for doctor bills and pregnancy-related expenses.  Once it hits the goal amount we resume saving as normal and then after baby is born and all are healthy we take what’s left and redistribute to the other savings where it “would” have gone.  When I’m not expecting, it sits empty.

Savings: Emergency Fund

3-6 months worth of expenses and we don’t add to it if the full amount is there.

Savings: Retirement

Savings: Vehicle Replacement

Right now we have a decent vehicle that fits us all and is not falling to pieces so this envelope is empty.  When we had our old Honda Civic, we knew we would need another vehicle in the future so we started adding $ to this envelope until we had saved the amount we wanted to spend on our next car.

Savings: Vacation

Just like the car and baby envelope, we only start saving when we have something in mind.  Back when I worked, we saved for 1.5 years in this envelope so we could go to China!

Home: Rent/Mortgage

Home: Repairs – paint, new carpet, little fixes, etc.  Also appliances and furniture.

Home: Miscellaneous – yes, there will be something you didn’t have a category for!

Home: Office Supplies – printer ink, anyone?  Paper?  Tape?  Stamps?

Home: Phones & Electronics

Utilities: Electric

Utilities: Propane – this is our heat; others may have city water/garbage…

Food: Groceries & Toiletries

With the way we separate everything else out, it’s a little odd that we combine these… I guess since we always do the shopping together at the same place, it makes sense.  And we spend minimal on toilet paper, make-up, and shampoo…

Food: Eating Out

Transportation: Fuel

Transportation: Repairs, Tires, Registration

Most people think to budget for gas, but you don’t want to suddenly realize your car needs new tires @ $80 a pop.  There’s also annual registration and/or plates.  And no matter how new and ‘reliable’ the car, there WILL be repairs!

Clothing: [We each have an individual clothing envelope]

Health: Dental/Optometry/Chiropractic/Other

This is for all health-related expenses that are out of our pocket, and also our deductible.

Insurance: Health/Healthcare Sharing in our case

Financial: eBay

This envelope is like a mini bank account that all eBay income is recorded in and then shipping expenses paid out of, so it’s simple to track actual income.

Financial: Business Ideas

Ditto above for all other types of creative income.  This is where the sign-up and annual fees would come out of if you are a distributor for essential oils, cleaning products, or fitness companies, if you are into that kind of thing.

Financial: Miscellaneous – some bill or fee you weren’t expecting.

Personal: Recreation/Fun

Movie tickets, amusement parks, spending $$ on trips for trinkets, etc.  Can also be used for food on special occasions.

Personal: Ben’s Spending

Personal: Naomi’s Spending

Our little bit of pocket money to spend on whatever we want!  These are very important envelopes so you don’t blow the budget!

Personal: Self Improvement – books, seminars (educational things)

Baby: Diapers & Accessories

We budget for (generic) disposable diapers.  A good way to track the savings (or not?) of cloth diapering, and whatever we don’t spend because I cloth diaper, we can use for baby accessories!

Baby: Sitter – in other words, an investment in your marriage!

Gifts: Friends & Family

Gifts: Weddings

This covers wedding gifts and also helps with travel, tux rental, lodging, and other expenses when in/a part of or even just attending weddings.  At this age in our lives a lot of friends are getting married and the expenses add up quick!  We KNOW it’s going to happen… we just don’t know WHEN.  If we prepare, there’s no panic session when the invites come in the mail.

Annual Envelope Categories

Often, it is slightly cheaper to to pay premiums and bills annually (always check though).  We are all for saving money, and especially where it’s easy to do so!  If you are currently living paycheck to paycheck, it will take a little working up to it to get to this point.

Financial: Budget Software

We use digital envelopes that sync with our smart phones.  BIG SURPRISING REVEAL:  We have never done REAL paper envelopes with cash inside!  I know, right?!  This works great as long as you are disciplined that when the money’s “gone” it’s GONE, even if there is still money in your bank account (it’s “in” other envelopes, remember?).  For us, the several $ a month has been worth it to help us manage God’s money!  There is now a free one though – ask me about it!

Financial: Taxes

B.K. (Before Kids) there was one year we had to pay in some instead of reimbursements.  So we save for it, just in case.

Financial: [Work] License – continuing education, work in your field license renewal, etc.

Insurance: ID Theft Protection – important, but often overlooked!

Insurance: Save to Share (higher cap for our health care sharing)

Insurance: Disability

Insurance: Life [separate envelopes for Ben and I]

Insurance: Renter’s/Homeowner’s

Insurance: Auto

Home: Domain Renewal – for websites like this one!  

Home: Amazon Prime

Gifts: Christmas

Yup, it comes every year!  So we save for it the 11 other months.  This covers gifts for others and travel.

Gifts: Family Mailings

We like to send a Christmas letter and family picture!  It’s not cheap either.  A couple hundred dollars just in stamps alone, and then getting the card/picture printed, special paper, etc.

Gifts: [for each person in our immediate family]

We have chosen an amount that is the max to spend on each person annually.  This includes Christmas AND birthdays.

And there you have it, folks!  All 54 envelopes that we have currently!  You can see why we do digital rather than paper ones… LOL!  In case you have a few different expenses than I listed above, here are a few more possible envelope categories for the average family:

Annual zoo, club, pool, gym or museum memberships

Homeowner’s Association fees

Home educating curriculum/co-op fees

Monthly magazine/other subscriptions

Payments on debt – student loans, credit cards, etc.

Pet food & care

Cable TV

Home phone/internet line

Hairdresser or dry cleaning

And in case you were wondering, here are answers to some questions that may be bouncing around in your head about now…

Yes, we do “rollover” envelopes.  {That means, if we don’t spend it all in one month it ‘rolls over’ and adds to the amount the next month – necessary for bigger purchases like pantry restocking in the grocery envelope or filling our natural gas tank for heating.  It gets filled 2-3 times per year, but we set $$ aside every month so when the bill comes for $CRAZY BIG BUCKS$ we don’t have to freak out; the money is there.}

No, we do not put money in ALL these envelopes every time!  Uh… I wish we had an income like that??!  As I noted above, a few of them are empty, that we may use in the future.  Some of them got a little built up and we decided we didn’t need to add more cause we aren’t spending as much in that category right now.  Or, maybe it shows you are neglecting something important.  {Hint: When the babysitter envelope is stuffed and overflowing, you need to go on a DWOK (date without kids) ASAP!}  Keep in mind that we add a teensy, tiny amount to some of them (see next paragraph) and a lot are just $5.  A little bit here and a little bit there does add up!  Goodness, no!  I feel like I need to repeat myself so this many envelopes doesn’t seem not possible.  We DO NOT add $$ to each of these envelopes every month!

You can choose to fund everything monthly by taking the annual amount needed divided by 12 OR fund a different category each month.  For example, budget [example amount of $200] to life insurance in Jan., car insurance in Feb., taxes in Mar., Wedding gifts in April, renter’s insurance in May, all the little things like domains in June, etc.  We find it’s just easier to list them all out and divide the amount because then we remember throughout the year what all we are subscribed to and paying for.  Sometimes the divided out amount is pretty small, like $1.67 per month in one envelope!  We like it because we can be more exact this way.

No, you DO NOT need to have this many envelopes!  A successful budget is one where every dollar of income is assigned a mission.  You can have a successful budget with 10 envelopes!  For a college student a basic budget may only have 5!  It depends more on your personality for how detailed you want to get.  (You could have one envelope for ‘Utilities’ and it could have the $$ necessary for water, electricity, heat, garbage and internet.  Just be on the alert that when the electricity bill is unexpectedly higher, all seems fine… until the internet bill comes due and there’s not enough left in the envelope.  That’s where it went.)  Before kids we had quite a few less categories to think about!

Subject to change.  Like any good budget, it is fluid rather than set in stone, and envelope categories will come and go as needed.

Do you budget?  I’d be really interested in how you divide the categories out.  Any other questions about how we do budget categories?  Feel free to ask in the comments or email us!  We want to be transparent about what we do so it can be helpful to others!

The Dangers of Debt

My first encounter with debt came when I was 15.  It was fall and my siblings and I needed winter coats, boots and bigger clothes.  Courtesy of Visa, my parents could conveniently get us these things before they had the money for them by charging them to their credit card.  Like so many others, this is what they routinely did and it had always worked to pay it off the next month.

But the next month came and their income was less than half of what it normally was.  The subsequent months were also low.  For the first time they couldn’t pay it off.  They were in debt and paying interest.  My dad had panic attacks and anxiety for the next several months.  It was very stressful.  I didn’t understand how it all worked entirely, but even as a child I felt the guilt of wearing those clothes.  I knew one thing: debt had horrible effects and I never, EVER wanted to be “in debt” to anyone!

In just the past year among my family and close friends my husband and I have seen the following examples played out in people’s lives.  These are REAL people in REAL situations.  Names have been changed to protect their privacy.

  • Eighteen-year-old Curt borrowed money to buy a more expensive than he could afford, but hopefully “more reliable,” car so he could go to school.  When a deer jumped out in front of him on a dark early morning commute, he had an almost-totaled car, no money and a huge debt he still owed to relatives.  (As luck would have it, no full coverage insurance either.)  He had to fix the car or buy a different one, and he had money for neither.  The debt only went up, to the point he owed more than the car was worth.  Then it would need other small repairs or new tires and that month’s payment that should have gone toward the debt would have to go to that instead.
  • Rachel and her husband are working hard to pay down their student loans.  They can live on his income alone, but hers is necessary to pay down the debt faster and be able to save.  But… she’s expecting.  The burden of these student loans are jeopardizing their dream of her being stay at home mom.
  • John and SueAnn want to be in full-time ministry working at a church.  Their exorbitant student loan debt – from a great, but very expensive, Christian college! – is causing stress in their relationship and restricting ministry.  It is overwhelming and hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel when the debt is so big and a ministry-worker’s salary is so small.
  • Josh took out a loan to buy a car, thinking that with his very stable job he would be able to pay it off within a year.  Some very poor life choices cost him his job and now he cannot make those once so-sure payments.
  • Ray co-signed with a partner on some business loans.  The business venture ended up not working out and now he is stuck with a big amount of debt to pay down.  This debt is hampering his dream of working with youth and extravagant giving.
  • Dick and Cindy are a retired couple with an upside down rental on their hands.  The monthly rent is barely enough to cover the payment, let alone repairs and other expenses.  Unfortunately the apartment has too much owed on it yet that they would have a pile of debt either way and so they are slowly taking the hit month by month as it costs them to keep it.

If you think these are rare situations of bad luck, just think back in the last year or two for you and what unexpected expenses popped up (maybe some of those became debts).  And look around at your friends and family – are any of them going through a rough time made worse by having debt?  If some of your friends seem to have a great lifestyle supported by debt, wait 5 or 10 years and see how it’s working out for them then.  (In very rare cases they may still seem to be doing fine… and it also may be that you are just seeing the shiny surface of a false identity – that they have lots of nice things and life is great, but if you knew the whole story you’d see there is a lien on their house, money fights instead of quality communication, lots of stress when the bills come, and their marriage is on the rocks.)

Making a commitment to not use debt is a safeguard from:

  • Buying things you don’t have the money for
  • Buying more car than you can afford
  • The stress if there is a sudden change in income (job loss, injury, medical emergency) and you are unable to make payments
  • Your life choices being restricted because of money owed
  • Dragging a heavy debt load into your marriage
  • God’s money being wasted by being paid in interest to banks
  • Assuming you know how much money God will provide for you in the future (i.e. enough to cover the payments you are taking on)

When money is tight thrift store clothes, hand-me-downs, or even charity clothes may be humbling to wear, but it’s better than a new coat that the bank owns.

Deciding to live without debt is choosing to live within your means.  That’s a smart way to live!

Note:  This has been an entirely practical look at why not to go into debt.  To know why Ben and I believe so strongly on the topic of debt, and are so passionate about encouraging people to be free from debt, read What Does Jesus Say about Debt?

What Does Jesus Say about Debt?

The Bible talks a lot about debt.  The Bible has a lot of warnings against taking out or having debt.  Don’t take my word for it; read God’s Word and gain wisdom.

The Most Powerful Truth Against Debt

In this post I’m not going to list out all the Bible verses on debt.  You have heard the saying before; Actions speak louder than words.  I am going to tell you Jesus’ most powerful argument against debt.

Today I want to tell you a story.

There once was a group of people who were in prison.  They owed a debt they could not pay.  They were slaves in chains awaiting death row.  And then a Man came.  He was a Free Man and wanting all people to be free.  But the debt must be paid.  The Man said, “I will pay the price.  It is my gift to them.  I will give Myself for them.  I will die, so they may go free.”  Those people, they were bought with a price.  The death penalty paid for their debts with blood.  But when an innocent Man dies for the lives of others, he cannot be kept in bondage, and so, He lives.  The people had a new Master; after all, if Someone purchases you, you are theirs.  And the Man says, “Yes, you are Mine.  But I do not want you as slaves.  I am adopting you as My sons and daughters.

This is the story that Jesus told… with his actions.

That, my dear readers, is the most powerful argument against debt by Jesus’ own example.

This is what it’s like to be freed from the biggest debt you will ever owe!  So it begs to be asked: If Jesus cared so much for you, why would he want you in debt ever again?

A free individual, a slave of Christ, in service to only one Master {the King},


Related post:  The Dangers of Debt

In case you don’t like following all the links {as I don’t :P}, here are the verses typed out:

23 Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed.24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.  Gal. 3:23-29

18 For, speaking loud boasts of folly, they entice by sensual passions of the flesh those who are barely escaping from those who live in error. 19 They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved. 20 For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. 21 For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them. 22 What the true proverb says has happened to them: “The dog returns to its own vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire.”  1 Peter 2:18-22

23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Romans 6:23

This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.  1 Tim 2:3-4

13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”—  Gal. 3:13

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.  Eph. 2:8-9

16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.  John 3:16

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh,could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin,[c] he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.  Rom. 8:1-4

19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.  1 Cor. 6:19-20

24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.  1 Peter 2:24

13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.  Col. 2:13-14

But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed.  Isaiah 53:5

22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.  Rom. 6:22

In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.  Gal. 4:3-7

* * * *

From the closing…

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.   13 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.  Gal. 5:1,13

We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.  Rom. 6:6-11

16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. 19 I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.  20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Romans 6:16-23

The rich rules over the poor,
    and the borrower is the slave of the lender.  Prov. 22:7

24 No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.  Matt. 6:24

For more on the topic of debt in the Bible, this is a good article by Focus on the Family and this is also good by Christian Personal Finance.