Frugal Fall: Why be Frugal?

“Not that I am referring to being in need; for I have learned to be content with whatever I have.” – Philippians 4:11 (NRSV)

All this month COMPASS blog post writers have shared thoughts about being frugal, but we never necessarily pondered why to be frugal. I think that’s a fair question.

community of friends

Being frugal for my wife Allison and I allows us to be able to share time and resources together with friends, in community together, like gathered here for a potluck.

On the practical side, being frugal gives you more opportunities to save and more flexibility with all your resources, which I wrote about earlier in October. That can be especially important in this holiday season time of year, when expenses can be higher. (In the coming weeks we’ll share some ideas about how to be frugal around Thanksgiving and Christmas.)

Today though, I want to think more about the biblical and faith reasons for being frugal. For me, it’s really about being content.

Sometimes being frugal is a necessity because of life circumstances: a lack of income or unexpected expenses. But being frugal can also come from a desire to be generous. My wife and I try to be frugal by living on a budget and using coupons when shopping. We do this not to be stingy, but to be able to give more to our faith community and concerns and needs in the world that we are passionate about. We do this also to have resources and income to provide gifts to family and friends, and to host and welcome people into our home for an occasional meal or experience. Granted, our current income limits these possibilities, but we still like to do this.

An example of being sports fans, gathered with our friends to root on the Seahawks in the Super Bowl (Feb. 2014) against the Broncos.

An example of being sports fans, gathered with our friends to root on the Seahawks in the Super Bowl (Feb. 2014) against the Broncos.

Allison and I are sports fans, and have found that we can create some times to gather with friends (new and old) while watching our favorite football team, the Seahawks, or even a good baseball game, as we are now in the midst of the World Series. During these sporting events, potlucks are our best friend. Instead of going out to a restaurant to watch the game, we invite people over and each shares a little for the food and beverages. The game is fun, but what really is great is that we are having a good time with community, while being frugal.

We do this because we like to be with others and because it’s something we can do within our means to be generous, to share, and be content.

With Thanksgiving and Christmas coming soon, how can you be frugal while still being generous, and living abundantly? Or, if you’re feeling called to be frugal, what’s your next step to do so? What’s a step you can take this week live more abundantly?

The answers to these questions will be unique for each individual person. For me, abundant life—a life I believe is a gift and really life (1 Timothy 6:19, NRSV)—is a life full of meaning and purpose in work and vocation, and a life in relationship with loved ones and neighbors. This is a life of community, and at least for Allison and me, by being frugal in some ways, I think we’re able to make our resources stretch a bit more to create community with others.

What does being frugal mean or look like in your life?

This blog is a component of the Ecumenical Stewardship Center’s COMPASS initiative to engage young adults in conversations about faith and finances. Like what you see and want to know/do more? Visit the COMPASS web page and join the COMPASS community on Facebook.

Frugal Fall: Halloween decorations

During October, the COMPASS blog is sharing thoughts, tips, and reflections about having a Frugal Fall. Today, we are happy to welcome Chelsea DeBall and welcome back to the blog, her husband Matt DeBall. Together Chelsea and Matt share some about what their family does to have fun decorating for Halloween while staying frugal.

pumpkinsDecorating for the holidays can be a cumbersome task that can also be accompanied by a hefty price tag. But just because you don’t have big bucks to spend on decorations doesn’t mean your house needs to go through these festive seasons looking sparse! We’ve found a few easy & affordable decorating ideas for Halloween and would love to share them with you. But first…

Why decorate for Halloween?

If you’re a person of faith, decorating for Halloween might seem like a waste of time and money. Why would any Christ-follower want to decorate their home for what some people call “the devil’s holiday”?

In John chapter 3, we find Jesus and Nicodemus talking about how someone may receive eternal life. Though the conversation is important and we find the iconic and well-known image of God’s love in John 3:16, the circumstance in which Nicodemus approached Jesus for this conversation was “at night” (John 3:2). Whether this conversation was actually at night or if the gospel writer was explaining the spiritual condition in which Nicodemus was in as he approached Jesus, either is fitting. As Jesus revealed God’s love in word and deed to Nicodemus, he did so by being available and having a spirit of hospitality.

So why decorate for Halloween? Because it is a way to show love to our neighbors and reach out into the community. Because having carved pumpkins on our porch and passing out candy to neighbor-kids is a way to make ourselves available. And most important, because in doing so, we follow in the hospitable footsteps of Jesus.

A few frugal tricks to treat your home to a Halloween make-over:

Pumpkins at the right price – Want fun & unique pumpkins but don’t want to pay the nursery prices? Check a local farmer’s market. At least one stand should sell pumpkins, gourds, or festive mums at a reasonable cost. Plus, what better way to show love to local farmers than buying fall produce? Don’t forget to grab some apple cider donuts as you leave!

Do-it-yourself ghosts – Have some old white sheets? Make friendly ghosts for your front yard! Simply cut the sheet in half (giving you fabric for 2 ghosts), then drape the sheet over a styrofoam sphere from the floral section of a craft store. Tie the sheet to form the “head” of the ghost, and then practice your art skills by drawing a face on the new ghoul. Hang the ghosts with fishing line or twine from gutters, shutters, or trees to quickly and easily spook-ify your lawn.

skeleton flamingos-squareFestive skeleton flamingos –Remember those plastic pink flamingos you were embarrassed to have as decorations? Well it’s time to go diving through the garage because there is a fun way to decorate these for Halloween. Grab black spray paint and white acrylic paint at your local craft store. Spray paint your flamingos with the black paint and cover all remnants of its pink past. Once it has dried, use a picture from the web (search for “skeleton pink flamingo”) as a guide and begin painting your skeletal flamingos. Once the white paint has dried, it’s time for them to haunt your garden!

Low-priced Halloween decorations – Want to decorate for Halloween but time or patience to craft eludes you? Make coupons your friend or find cheap decorations at grocery stores. Many craft stores like Hobby Lobby or Michaels have great sales on seasonal decorations. Have a little money left in your budget? Consider buying discounted decorations after the season has passed as stores significantly cut prices on “last season’s” décor.

As you prepare your home with do-it-yourself decorations for Halloween and your heart to be available for neighbors, be ready to save money and see God work in mysterious ways.

What do-it-yourself decorations will you try this Halloween? Is your church doing anything special for the community to celebrate this spooky holiday?

C&MDeBall-9-15About the Authors: Chelsea and Matt DeBall live with their Welsh Corgi (Watson) in northern Illinois. Chelsea works as an assistant for a Special Recreation Association, and enjoys writing, baking, and home-decorating. Matt serves as a coordinator of Donor Communications for the Church of the Brethren, is pursuing a Master’s of Divinity from Northern Seminary, and enjoys running, reading, and napping. Together, they love the fall and spending time with family.

This blog is a component of the Ecumenical Stewardship Center’s COMPASS initiative to engage young adults in conversations about faith and finances. Like what you see and want to know/do more? Visit the COMPASS web page and join the COMPASS community on Facebook.

Frugal Fall: A Financial Self-Examination

During October, the COMPASS blog is sharing thoughts, tips, and reflections about having a Frugal Fall. Today, we are happy to welcome back regular contributor Nicole Brennan, a Marketing Assistant at Barnabas Foundation. Nicole shares some important ideas and reflections about a “Financial Self-Examination.”

Nicole and her friends having some fun this fall, on their visit to see Pope Francis while he was visiting the United States.

Nicole and her friends having some fun this fall, on their trip to see Pope Francis in Philadelphia while he was visiting the United States.

There is an underlying pressure to make the most of the hot weather during the summer months. My days and evenings were booked trying to squeeze in bike rides, family outings, church fundraisers, date nights, and road trips. Now that autumn is upon us, it almost seems the slight chill in the air makes everyone slow down a bit. Take advantage of fall inactivity and whatever breathing room you have to assess your financial health!

I am very money-minded while travelling on a budget, but my “big-picture” finances tend to get a bit away from me. I have automatic withdrawal for all my bills and automatic deposit with my paycheck. Since everything is pre-programmed, it is very convenient, but the details (and my overall financial health) are sometimes lost. I recently asked myself these four questions to audit myself and see how I am doing.

Am I Following My Budget?

I use my credit card for everything- gas, groceries, clothes, and all the miscellaneous stuff in between. When the email comes saying “Time to Pay!” I look over the expenses to make sure they are accurate, maybe add them up if I have time, and spend my accrued points. If you haven’t made up a budget, a monthly spreadsheet in Excel only takes a few minutes to set up, and you can see your immediate monetary stats all in one place. If you already have one, now is a great time to update it, and make adjustments as needed.

What Do My Retirement Savings Look Like?

My financial advisor (aka- my dad) has always taught me to save, and it’s a value I hold near and dear. If you have a company retirement plan, take advantage of it! If not, then personally set one up ASAP! Your HR representative will be able to help if you are with a company. However, if you are an entrepreneur and/or don’t have company help, consult a financial advisor. (You can try to “go it alone,” but if you are unfamiliar with the financial world, it will be difficult. To get started, do some research about 401(k), 403(b), Roth and IRA options at IRS.gov.)This is a great calculator to help you understand what your projected retirement saving goals look like and where they need to be. It factors in rate of return, current and future salary, current age, age of retirement, and a few other factors. It’s fairly simple to understand, and there’s a handy glossary of common terms below.

Did I Use All My Benefits?

Most companies are re-upping for their health/dental/vision insurance and their HSA/FSA  (Health/Flex Spending Accounts) about this time of year. If you have these, have you taken full advantage of them? Have you gotten your annual physical and dental check-up, yet? If you have money left in your HSA/FSA, spend it! And speaking of your HSA/FSA, evaluate whether you need to add more or subtract some for next year.

Have I Donated to Charity and My Church?

During your self-audit, it’s very easy to adopt a “broke” mentality. “I’m so broke, I only have this amount in my savings!” “I’m so broke, I can barely stay within my budget!” “I’m so broke, I can only squirrel away a tiny portion towards my retirement!”  It also might be easy to deny tithing or giving to your church and charity, because of this mentality. The truth is we are abundantly blessed by God. We have enough, and the OPPORTUNITY for enough, to pay our bills, visit a doctor, and save what we can. It is an honor to bless those places and people when and where we can. There is a joy that comes from giving. Make room in your budget to experience that joy!

COMPASS resources explore the connection between faith and finances, so looking honestly at your financial health is an important spiritual practice. Deuteronomy 8:18 says, “But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth.” (NRSV). It is essential to be wise with what God has blessed us with here on earth, and that means knowing and improving your financial situation as God gives you the ability to do so.

profileAbout the Author, Nicole Brennan: Hello there! I’m passionate about living a stewardly lifestyle, while being adventurous and frugal. I currently live in community with six other 20-somethings in downtown Chicago and work as a Marketing Assistant at Barnabas Foundation, a partner of ESC and COMPASS. In my off hours, you can find me volunteering at a nearby homeless shelter, enjoying live music with friends, or watching reruns of Parks and Rec. Email me at nicoletbrennan@gmail.com or tweet me at @BarnabasFdn.

This blog is a component of the Ecumenical Stewardship Center’s COMPASS initiative to engage young adults in conversations about faith and finances. Like what you see and want to know/do more? Visit the COMPASS web page and join the COMPASS community on Facebook.

Frugal Fall

The leaves are turning colors and are beginning to fall. The days are getting shorter, and the temperatures are gradually falling. School classes are all back in full swing. The baseball season will end soon, after the World Series. Of course, we’re a month into the football season already too.

Pumpkin Patch

Pumpkin Patch

As we leave the warmth of summer behind and inch toward the chill and frost of winter, the COMPASS blog is giving space this October to questions of how to enjoy this season frugally and faithfully.

What do you love most about the fall? What things do you do to have fun, on a budget particularly at this time of year?

My wife Allison and I love this time of year. It can be fun to enjoy a crisp autumn afternoon out at the pumpkin patch, looking for the perfect pumpkin for a jack-o-lantern or to make the first pumpkin pie of the season. It can also be a lot of fun to go and pick some apples out in the apple orchards. These outings have proved to be fun dates for my wife and I the past couple of years. They are very affordable, and usually the only cost is to get to the patch or orchard, and the cost of the pumpkin or apples. We have also found that they are quite popular activities among many Millennials. Why not invite some friends and make it a fun day with them enjoying the outdoors?

If you live in a house and not an apartment, turn a chore into some frugal fun. You’ll probably be spending some time in your yard anyway raking the leaves before the start of winter. In the midst of this chore, take some time and remember your youth by jumping and playing in the piles of leaves. Just be sure and take a shower afterwards so you don’t have some little creepy crawlies stow away in your hair.

Autumn leaves

Autumn leaves

You can use leaves to make fall decorations for your home or apartment. They are really useful for Thanksgiving themed scenes around cornucopias, or other fall themed décor like a wreath for your front door. This can take a little time, but it’s a fun and very affordable project for this time of year.

By being frugal in the fall, you may be able to create some extra savings for other things. For example, by cutting back spending in the fall, you might be able to save more for Christmas gifts or, put some extra money away in your savings account, or pay more on your student loan payment.

As the days do get shorter though, the fall is also a good time to give thanks as we celebrate Thanksgiving in Canada in October and in November in the United States. Give thanks for this time of year, and take a little time to see the blessings around you and share them with others. In place of perhaps a more routine meal prayer, take time before meals to share something you are thankful or grateful for each day as you pray. That sense of gratitude will make your days this time of year even richer. I for one am grateful and thankful for continued meaningful work, new opportunities, and the love and support of my wife, Allison, and God’s gift of these beautiful days of fall. What are you thankful for?

Now it’s your turn. What do you enjoy about the fall? How do you live frugally this time of year? What stories, tips, and examples can you share with others about how to live frugally and faithfully during the fall?

Image Credits: Pumpkin patch and Autumn leaves.

This blog is a component of the Ecumenical Stewardship Center’s COMPASS initiative to engage young adults in conversations about faith and finances. Like what you see and want to know/do more? Visit the COMPASS web page and join the COMPASS community on Facebook.