Keeping Your College Years Affordable- At Least 7 Ideas (PART 1)

By Timothy Siburg

We all know that going to college or graduate school can be expensive. Marcia and Ryan covered that well earlier this month, in fact. I am happy to say that there are ways to keep your college years affordable that worked for me and might work for you.

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“The Great Wall of Cup of Noodles” beginning to form in the spring of my first year in college. By the end of the semester, the entire left hand side of the window would be full of the Cup of Noodles from top to bottom.

During my first year of college, my roommate found a way to save on some food costs by stocking up on cup of noodles soups. He loved them so much, as the year went on, he even built a wall of cup of noodles to help block out the sun near his desk. This was humorous to me for several reasons, but especially because our room’s window was shaded well by a big tree outside it, and given that we were at a college in western Washington state, overly sunny non-cloudy days were not common experiences.

I must confess that I got through college affordably thanks to great scholarship support, and my parents’ help paying for school. I am grateful for that, and in the years since college, have worked to give back financially (and in other ways) as possible to help other students afford the great education that I believe I received. I view that as part of my faithful response, and a way to steward what I have been entrusted with by God.

Even with the great scholarships I received, I discovered at least seven helpful ways to make college even more affordable.

Walking

In college and especially grad school, I put an emphasis on walking. Instead of driving to the palley-1840264_1280harmacy or grocery store a half mile off campus, if it wasn’t raining I loved to walk. This obviously helps save a little on the car costs, but it is also good exercise, good physical stewardship. In grad school, I didn’t have much of a choice, as I went carless in Claremont, California. Thus, I walked to Trader Joe’s a few blocks away for groceries, and even to church, 1.8 miles each way. Of course, you can’t beat Southern California weather, so that was enjoyable. When needing bigger things, like a Costco run, it helped to have friends with cars though.

Friends, Family, and Parents

Speaking of friends, it certainly helps to have friends, family, and especially parents who visit or are nearby. For me, this meant a free place to do laundry whether at my parents’ or grandma’s home while in college. It also meant, good home cooking, which you start to miss while at college. It’s never a bad thing either to have your loved ones come and treat you for a lovely lunch or dinner off campus too. I am grateful I had all of this (and so much more support) when I was in school.

Textbooks

One of the most expensive parts of college can books-1943625_1280be textbooks. In some fields, new editions are printed seemingly every year, and because of that, prices can seem astronomical. Often, you can get by with a slightly older edition, saving you some money. In other cases, using a website like half.com, or a used book site can be helpful. Better yet, if you have friends who have recently taken the class requiring your book(s), perhaps you can borrow it from them, or even trade textbooks as needed? In seminary, when my wife and I found ourselves in the same class, we tried often to only purchase one copy of the required books to share. This worked some times, but we also like to take notes in our books, so other times, we had to breakdown and purchase a copy for each of us.

Here are a few ideas to keep your college years affordable. Come back next week for more.

About the Author

timothy headshotTimothy Siburg is the Director for Stewardship of the Nebraska Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), a Deacon in the ELCA, and is a member of the COMPASS Steering Committee. His wife Allison serves as an ELCA pastor, and together with their cat Buddy, they reside in the greater Omaha area. Timothy attended college at Pacific Lutheran University, and graduate school at the Claremont Graduate University and Luther Seminary. Timothy can also be found on TwitterFacebook, and on his blog.

Image credits: Timothy Siburg, pixabay.com

Returning to “Why,” in Hopes of Getting Off the Consumer Escalator

By Timothy Siburgwhy-1432955_1280-red

Over the past three weeks we have pondered about the ups, downs, and challenges of riding and being on the consumer escalator. We have recounted many reasons why we might want to rethink our spending and the way we steward our time and resources around Christmas and Thanksgiving. In the previous November posts, Marcia, Matt, and John have done a beautiful job of offering alternatives and insight into positive ways to reconsider consumerism.

This week, I want us to dig into the question of “why?” What really matters this time of the year, and how might focusing on that question make for a more faithful response and richer holiday experience?

For a Christian, the why can be found in the heart of the Christmas gospel in Luke 2:1-20, often read every Christmas Eve. Within that rich text, we hear the proclamation from the angel of the Lord,

 nativity-scene-1807602_1280-crop“Do not be afraid, for see- I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.”
– Luke 2:10-11, NRSV

 It might sound trite to say that this is the “reason for the season.” And I am not exactly trying to say that. But if we remember that this is at the heart of the celebrations, festivities, food, fellowship, and all of the gift giving this time of year; if we remember that it is the fulfillment of the promises of the prophets which guide our journey through the season of Advent to the manger; we might just have a chance to get off the consumer escalator.

I am one who loves to give gifts. My wife Allison and I see that as one of our love languages. We also love to say thank you, which is why Thanksgiving is one of our favorite holidays. But at the heart of our gift giving, joy, and gratitude, is a knowledge that we give gifts because it is one of our joyful responses to the pure gifts and good news of God who we know through Christ Jesus.

We don’t give gifts because we want to earn something in return. We give without the expectation of return. We give, because we can’t help but feel so overjoyed with the good news of a God who comes near, becomes incarnate, walks with us, is given for us, and loves us. In our joy, we can’t help but want to share our joy through the sharing of our stories, time, the giving of gifts, living fully in God’s abundance and love.

envelop-576252_1280 Of course, Allison and I don’t give without a plan. We always sit down and make our Christmas budget each year prior to Thanksgiving. We include plans for our annual Christmas letter and the costs associated with printing and mailing it, as well as our hopes for what we are willing to give to family and friends, our congregation, and other needs, nonprofits, and ministries we feel connected to and passionate about.

So, why do you give? Why do you do what you do this time of year- spending, wrapping, cooking, eating, decorating, gathering with friends, families, and colleagues? What part of the promises of God and the Christmas story motivate you and lead you into the way that you spend your days and evenings this time of year?

However you may answer these questions, I hope and pray that you have a meaningful journey to the manger, and are so caught up in the promises of the good news, that you can’t help but want to share it. And for those of you who feel like you are stuck on the consumer escalator, I hope that by thinking deeply about the “why,” you might feel comfortable and confident in your ability to get off it.

About the Author

timothy headshotTimothy Siburg is the Director for Stewardship of the Nebraska Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), a Deacon in the ELCA, and is a member of the COMPASS Steering Committee. His wife Allison serves as an ELCA pastor, and together with their cat Buddy, they reside in the greater Omaha area. Timothy can also be found on Twitter, Facebook, and on his blog.

Image credits: pixabay.com

Seven Suggestions for Gift Giving

By Matt DeBall

“Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7).

Gift giving is a hallmark of the holidays. God set the tone for this when Jesus was given to us as the savior of the world. Remembering God’s gift of love, we gather with family and friends for festivities and exchange gifts to express love to one another.

icmeelgsThough it goes without saying, loving one another, through spending time together and giving gifts to one another, is an important endeavor. However, with the distraction of flashy advertisements, we sometimes buy and give unsustainably. We might recognize our financial limitations, but feel pressured to spend beyond our means, and as a result, buy gifts with hesitation. We may also get carried away with holiday sales and buy gifts without much forethought. Whether we are more prone to reluctance or compulsion, neither motive matches the joy we should experience in giving. As you prepare for this holiday season, consider these seven practical suggestions for gift giving.

#1 Budget – Carefully plan how much you can spend on party preparations and gifts for family and friends, and take steps to stick to your budget. Be sure to include even small expenses as they can add up quickly. (Wish you could give more? Consider how you could better prioritize gift giving in your budget for next year.)

#2 Buy with cash – Purchasing gifts with cash will support your plans to spend within your budget, and by not using credit cards, you can also avoid added stress when you see your next statement (livingonthecheap.com/35-tips-to-save-money-and-time-during-the-holidays).

#3 Try a “secret Santa” or “white elephant” gift exchange white-304608_1280Especially for large families, these two methods of exchanging gifts can allow for cheerful, budget-friendly giving. “Secret Santa” allows for every person to give and receive a thoughtful gift, and “white elephant” can make for a fun-filled gift experience (www.wikihow.com/Organize-a-White-Elephant-Gift-Exchange).

#4 Create a thoughtful card – This is the perfect combination of a handwritten note and a decorative, one-of-a-kind card. Craft a card that will be appreciated by the recipient and write a heart-felt message inside. You may consider including a photo and a poem or brief story from an important shared memory from the last year (www.biblemoneymatters.com/100-frugal-creative-homemade-christmas-gifts).
Additional option: include a $10 gift card.

#5 Call for a potluck – This is another idea that can be helpful for large families. Invite everyone to bring their favorite dish or two to share for dinner. This both allows everyone to contribute to the meal and prevents one person from fitting the entire bill alone. Tip: Invite everyone to say what they are bringing in advance to better plan for a diverse spread of food.

#6 Make homemade gifts – Whether for cookie-1786885_1280stocking stuffers or regular gifts, consider what gifts you could make for your loved ones. Candies, cookies, candles, and crocheted (drink) coasters are a few creative and simple ideas. You could also give homemade coupons for a coffee or ice cream outing so you can spend time together. One other option: a cookie exchange could be used to supplement
or compliment an exchange of
traditional gifts.

#7 Remember what is most important – While everyone enjoys giving and receiving gifts, remember that the reason for gathering is to celebrate the birth of Jesus and to spend time together. Don’t forget the intangible opportunities of the season like singing Christmas carols, sharing family stories, and simply being together.

By considering these seven suggestions, you and your family can prepare for a pleasant gift giving experience and, overall, enjoy happier holidays.

Do you have any suggestions for saving money on holiday gifts? Share them below.

About the author

m-deball-9-2016Matt DeBall is the COMPASS Communications Coordinator for the Ecumenical Stewardship Center. He also serves as Coordinator of Donor Communications for the Church of the Brethren. He has an MDiv from Northern Seminary of Lombard, Illinois and a BA in Communication Arts from Judson University of Elgin, Illinois. He loves running, reading, and napping. He and his wife, Chelsea, live in Northern Illinois with their Welsh Corgi, Watson, and attend the First Baptist Church of Aurora.

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, follow us on Twitter, and join the COMPASS community on Facebook.

Enough: a faith connection

By Dori Zerbe Cornelsen

“So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today” (Matthew 6:34, ESV).treasure-chest-619762_1920

Jesus talks about the intimacy our hearts have with our treasure before he gets to reminding us not to worry. He encourages us not to store up stuff that that breaks, rusts, wears out and can be stolen. In other words, any stuff stored up is what captures our hearts and becomes what we love. It can take us away from what God intended in the good creation as abundance for all. Rather it becomes scarcity for ourselves.

How do we go from our hearts getting caught up with stuff and move toward the relational possibilities of abundance for all? Maybe it’s possible to journey into such an adventure of discovering enough with our friends, life partners, small group at church or dorm floor.when-you-have-less-stuff-j-becker

I keep going back to an inspirational story about finding enough in the book, Basic Trek: Venture Into a World of Enough: The Original 28-day Journey, edited by Dave Schrock-Shenk, Mennonite Central Committee. In this book Deborah Fast shares a story (Day 16):

Preparing for a three-year term of service in Kenya, my husband and I spent hours carefully packing. “If in doubt, leave it out,” was our motto, as we proudly fit everything into three boxes, two backpacks and various carry-ons. Almost three years later in Kenya, we helped a young Maasai man prepare for a year in Canada as an exchange visitor. We explained Canadian customs, food and weather. We also met at the airport to send him off.

We found Julius near the check-in counter. “Where is your luggage?” I asked. “Here,” he said gesturing to the small bag he carried. “That’s it?!” I exclaimed. “It’s not even full!” “It’s enough,” he said. But Julius also brought two vans, rented for the occasion, packed full of Maasai friends and relatives coming to say good-bye. Dressed in brightly colored traditional garb, they surrounded him with concern and goodwill.

This deeply moving experience has stayed with me. A young Kenyan man, carrying fewer possessions than I would consider “enough” for a weekend trip, heading off for a year in a distant, unfamiliar country. What Julius did carry with him was far more significant – the love, support and sense of identity embodied in the bright red, yellow and blue-clad throng of chanting, singing, and waving fellow Maasai.

Jesus knew that we would discover enough not by ourselves but in the company of others. The good news to which Jesus invites us is to imagine together what new and joyful options there are for living in the reality of God’s abundance. And as Jesus promises, when we put our efforts there “all these things will be given to you as well.”

About the Author:
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Dori Zerbe Cornelsen is a Gift Planning Consultant with Abundance Canada, encouraging and inviting generous living.  She and her husband Rick live in Winnipeg, Manitoba, where lots of generous, warm people live in cold temperatures for 6 months of the year.