Coupons: A Family Tradition

By Bonita Y. McCoy

Coupons saved my way of life.

When my oldest son was a baby, we lived in a neighborhood that had sidewalks. This was the first house we had owned, and money was tight. Because we were a one-car family, I would take the baby out for a stroll in the afternoons just to get a break.

I began to notice on recycling day that many of my neighbors didn’t keep their coupon booklets but rather tossed them in with the other recycling. It took a bit of nerve, but if I spotted the booklets on top of the bins, I stopped and pulled them out. We needed all our pennies, and coupons were one way I could help cut the cost of our groceries.  After all, I was a stay at home mom, and I wanted to do my part.

Over the next several months, I began to find more and more of the booklets at the top of the bins. My neighbors were becoming aware of my weekly walks on recycling day and made the effort to make the coupons accessible for me.

Their ministry to my little family lasted for nearly two years until we moved.

During this time, my aunt in Mississippi also began sending me an encouraging note along with coupons for diapers and other items that she knew I used. Through the generosity of my aunt and neighbors, I was able to keep our grocery bill within our budget.

Today, coupons play an important role as a ministry tool for me and my family. We have given coupons for diapers and formula to new mothers and young families, and we have sent specific coupons to friends when it was a product that we knew they used often.

Within my family, I exchange them with my mother-in-law, and on the flip side, I pass them along to my own daughter-in-law.  They have become a family tradition, of sorts. Even my youngest son knows to ask for a coupon before going to get a haircut. For us, couponing works.

Five Coupon Tips:

  • Don’t buy items just because you have a coupon. The idea is to save money. If the store brand is cheaper or the coupon is for something you don’t normally use, it won’t save you money.
  • Team up with a buddy. Nobody can keep up with all the sales. Find someone who is interested and swap coupon booklets every week or two.
  • Don’t be an extreme coupon-er if it isn’t you. Do what fits your life style. Some people have notebook binders; others like me have the wallet-sized coupon holder that fits in your purse.
  • Put your coupons somewhere, like in your purse or your car, so you’ll have them with you when you’re out. The number #1 problem with using coupons – leaving them at home.
  • Remember coupons can be used as a ministry tool. You can use them to purchase needed items for food banks or homeless shelters, or you can find a neighbor who could benefit from your unused coupons and share with them, like my neighbors did for me.

Coupons have played a vital role in the life of my family. They are a McCoy tradition. We use them to save money for sure, but more than that, we use them to bless others.

Click to tweet: Coupons saved my way of life.

Writing Prompt:  The coupon made me think of my neighbor Lenita…


Hello! I’m Bonita Y. McCoy. I hail from the Great State of Alabama where I live on a five-acre farm with three horses, two dogs, two cats, and one husband who I’ve had for over twenty-five years. I am a mother to three mostly grown sons and one beautiful daughter-in-law who joined us from Japan. I love God, and I love to write. My blog is an expression of both these passions. Drop by and visit.

www.beautifulpiecesofgrace.blogspot.com

Gathered Fragments

by Harriet E. Michael

And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost.” John 6:12 (ESV)

I first noticed this verse in an old handwritten book my father has on his shelf. It was handed down to him by his mother who got it from her mother. It appears to be an old journal of some type. On the pages of the book are poems gathered and carefully written by its first owner. Some are famous poems while others are original work by family members. My grandmother and even my father have some original poems hand written by them in this treasured book. The book is titled, “Gathered Fragments” and this verse is written in beautiful penmanship on the first page.

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These words in scripture were actually an instruction by Jesus to his disciples after the miraculous feeding of five thousand people. The crowd which gathered to hear Jesus was hungry. It was lunchtime and the people were without food. Most of them had come spontaneously without planning ahead even enough to have brought lunches. Rather than going home, the disciples found a little boy with a small lunch of five loaves of bread and two small fish. After blessing the food, Jesus broke it into pieces, and offered it to the hungry crowd who consumed it eagerly. Then, when the crowd had eaten all they wanted, the disciples were told to “Gather up the fragments, that nothing be lost.”

Isn’t that a beautiful instruction? How do you gather fragments? Do you have a collection of some kind? Perhaps you collect rocks, coins, or stamps. Maybe you like to make scrapbooks? Do you keep old photos and relics from years gone by; polished and put in a place of honor in your home or give them away as special gifts? My father has a plaque hanging in his home of an old letter he wrote to his mother from camp when he was a child. His sister found the letter and made a very special birthday gift for him one year. Maybe you have carefully held onto family heirlooms so you can pass them to the next generation. Or perhaps, you gather fragments in other ways. Maybe you can or freeze garden vegetables for winter eating or maybe you gather and dry herbs, fruits, or vegetables.

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I have written about this concept before. In fact this blog post is drawn from a previously published magazine article I once wrote. But as I thought about our topic this month, this verse and practice kept coming to my mind. I think one of the best ways to keep costs down is to have a habit of gathering things that can be reused at another time by us or by others.

When the disciples gathered the fragments in the Bible story, they had twelve baskets left over. Though this was a miraculous occurrence, the underlying principle is still valid. If you or I form fragment gathering habits, we will find abundance in our lives too. And so will others whom we bless with our fragments–carefully gathered and lovingly given.

Click to tweet:  “Gather up the fragments, that nothing be lost.”

Writing Prompt: Share about something you gather and reuse. How do you keep / alter it for future use? How/ when do you use it again?

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Makes Cents to Me!

by Tammy Trail

Our reality is we have no savings. We are rich in debt, and poor in cash flow. Can anyone else relate? My husband and I  struggle to save money. We have taken the Dave Ramsey course–Financial Peace University–our antelope has broken legs. Dave teaches that we should all have $1,000.00 emergency fund. Typically, when we can get a nice sum saved something happens. A car needs big repairs, an appliance goes on the fritz, or my husband’s commission check goes up in smoke.Our savings account may be bare, but we do manage to find ways to save money. It allows us to treat ourselves to a movie, or a nice meal in a restaurant.

I recall in my youth, our family would spend Sunday dinners seated around my Grandma Quigley’s big dining room table. My mother and I still marvel over how she fed all those family members with the meager salary my Grandpa brought home. Grandma sure knew how to make the food stretch, and I think she passed that gene onto me.

When my darling husband complains about spending too much at the grocery store I know it’s time to go back to my habit of making menus. It is a time-consuming task, but someone has to do it.

The family helps by giving meal suggestions. I take a blank calendar to give each day a meal. Then I pull out my box of recipes and begin making a list. I make columns for my list–one for meat, one for dairy, canned goods, produce, etc. Once I have my list done,   I make sure to have a quarter, and my own shopping bags for a visit to Aldi’s. The quarter is used to rent a shopping cart. You bag your own groceries. I usually buy all my produce, dairy, and canned goods here.

Next, is a stop at Sam’s Club. Here is where I purchase meats  in bulk, frozen vegetables, and frozen items the teenagers will eat for their lunches. After this trip, I spend a bit of time separating the meat to freeze. For instance, I buy a very large tube of ground beef and separate it into one pound zip lock bags for future use.

The plan is not to go back to the store for the month, unless it’s absolutely necessary. I will need to replenish paper goods, bread, and milk.  I try to restrain myself from buying anything else. Do I save money? Every time I go to the store without a plan, I spend $20.00 to $30.00 more. So, yes. I think I do save money.

I remember a time when we had no money for food, days away from a pay check. I took every leftover we had in the refrigerator and mixed it together, tossed cheese on top, and baked it. It was actually pretty good! My kids also know what happens when I tell them it’s the “end of the month slump”. That means beans and rice for a few days.

Click to tweet: Our savings may be bare, but we do find ways to save money.

Writing Prompt: Share your favorite money-saving trick when you go to the grocery store. Consider adding it to a story you’re working on.

Saving Money With Lists

By Gail Johnson

Do you like finding new ways to save money? I do. I also like sharing ways to save money. So I’m enjoying this month’s theme!

For this post, I decided to list ways to save on several items rather than one. Let’s begin with school supplies.

School and Writing

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Whether you have kids in school or not, writers need school supplies. Or at least, this one does! I begin everything with pen and paper! I learned how to save money on used books when my children entered college. My son refused to buy new books when he could purchase used ones from Amazon. Moneycrashers.com offers great advice.

Clothes

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Who doesn’t like to find a bargain on a new outfit? ThePennyHoarder.com offers her advice on how to save when shopping for your next bargain. My favorite tips are one and seven.

Groceries

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Most of these ideas weren’t new to me. Others would take some discipline. Isn’t that what saving money is all about? See how many ideas you can keep from CashCowCouple.com

Vehicles

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My truck isn’t that old, but it isn’t new, either. I usually tend to my truck and make the appointment for hubby’s car. I use local shops to help local businesses and to have a friend when I’m in need! I thought this article might come in handy.  Debtroundup.com offers suggestions when looking for a tune-up.

Books

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I added this last bit of information because I read one article on how to save money and his suggestion was to eliminate books! What?! Uh, no. I would suggest taking advantage of the offers on your device’s plan. With Kindle, you can get many books for free. Another way to save money on books is not to press the 1-click button too often! 😉 Check out TheHappyHouseWife.com for more ideas.

Do you have any ideas to add? If so, I’d love to hear them. Please leave your tip in the comment section to help others in their quest to save money.

Click to tweet: I’ve listed ways to save on several items rather than one.

Writing Prompts

Sally eyed the purple dress in the window. With her digital coupon and the 10% off sale, she could afford the…

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Lessons from the Heart

By Betty Boyd

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All families have their ups and downs and mine is no different. Each person learns different values, and ideas based upon their environment. I grew up in a home with Italian and Irish-Scottish heritage. My Dad was stern, while my Mom was gentle and kind.

The value of hard work and how to spend money wisely was instilled from an early age . I came from a family of five siblings, and my parents, so money had to go a long way. There was not much languishing, there were always chores to do, homework and of course, attending church every Sunday.

I grew up in the turbulent 1960’s and 1970’s and watched our country change. My ideas stem from this and being frequently punished to keep us all in line. My Dad loved all of us, but it was hard for him to be demonstrative. My Mom was the light in an otherwise very strict upbringing.

At the time, this seemed too harsh for me to comprehend, but over time I have come to appreciate that my parents were doing the best they could.  Both are gone, but my love for them has not diminished, it has grown.

We had our arguments and struggles, but also forgiveness, and the unconditional love that all parents want to give their children. I feel so blessed to have been raised in such a way as to truly appreciate what I have, to dream, and do what I do today.

I am a widow with no children, and have no immediate family in the area.  I do have my Savior, my church family, close friends, and my two brothers to call upon when I need help of any kind.

It all comes down to my world view. Do I want to be bitter and angry for how I was raised? My Mom and Dad were great examples of what parents should be. I am truly grateful for the family I have, and look forward to being the best person I can be for all.

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Family is important …

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Spark:The Firebrand Chronicles, Book One by J.M. Hackman

Today I’d like to introduce author, J.M. Hackman.  In 2015, she won the Editor’s Choice Award in the Realm Makers Short Story Contest for her story, “The Escort,” published in RealmScapes: A Science Fiction and Fantasy Anthology. Her debut novel, Spark, has released and I’ve asked her a few questions…

Hi, J.M.! Tell us a little about yourself and your background.

J.M.: I grew up in the mountains of Pennsylvania. An only child, my imagination was what prevented me from being too lonely. After graduating from Penn State, I married my boyfriend of five years and settled in the same town I grew up in. My mechanical engineer husband and I have been married for twenty-two years (this June), and we have two fantastic girls (ages 11 and 17).

What genre are your books? What draws you to this genre?

J.M.: In 1995, I began writing Christian romance, then took a break to have children. During that break, I read many of the YA series: Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, Lord of the Rings. But none of them had any female protagonists. So I began writing Spark, a YA Christian fantasy with a courageous heroine. Although my stories are speculative, a strong thread of romance twines through each one. This genre is the perfect vehicle to show the fight between good and evil. Readers who would never read a Christian story might be more likely to pick up a fantasy novel. And I love YA because it’s such a fantastic age for discovering what your True North is and who you want to become.

Do you work to an outline or prefer to see where an idea takes you?

J.M.: I have a very rough outline (I use index cards) of where I want my story to start and end, with a few key events in between. Everything else is open. It makes things interesting. Right now, I’m fighting some of my characters because they’re not following orders. I’ll have to do some re-writing to make them fall in line!

What is the hardest thing about writing?

J.M.: Writing a synopsis. For me, trying to fit an entire narrative on a single piece of paper is a ridiculous exercise in futility.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

J.M.: Hopefully, I’ll still be writing stories! I’d like to be finishing up my series The Firebrand Chronicles and starting a fairy tale retelling that’s been simmering on the “back burner” for a while. I’d also like to have the opportunity to meet more speculative fiction authors and teach at a conference or two.

Thanks for stopping in for a visit, J.M.!


Spark:The Firebrand Chronicles, Book One

Brenna James wants three things for her sixteenth birthday: to find her history notes before the test, to have her mother return from her business trip, and to stop creating fire with her bare hands. Yeah, that’s so not happening. Unfortunately.

When Brenna learns her mother is missing in an alternate reality called Linneah, she travels through a portal to find her. Against her will. Who knew portals even existed? But Brenna’s arrival in Linneah begins the fulfillment of an ancient prophecy, including a royal murder and the theft of Linneah’s most powerful relic: the Sacred Veil. Hold up. Can everything just slow down for a sec?

Unwilling yet left with no other choice, Brenna and her new friend Baldwin (Um, hello, Hottie!) pursue the thief into the dangerous woods of Silvastamen and beyond. Exactly what Brenna wanted to do for her sixteenth birthday. Exactly. When they spy an army marching toward Linneah, Brenna is horrified. Can she find the veil, save her mother, and warn Linneah in time? And more importantly, why on earth doesn’t this alternity have Belgian waffles?


J.M. Hackman has held many positions: assistant librarian, office assistant, office manager, substitute teacher, writer, wife, and mother. She still holds the last three. And loves it. She received a degree in Elementary Education from Pennsylvania State University and now spends her days writing stories, consuming massive quantities of chocolate, and looking for portals to other worlds.

You can find her at www.jmhackman.com.

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Spark is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBook, Kobo,

3 Questions Wednesday with Melissa Henderson

Melissa Henderson and her husband Alan live in Mechanicsville, Virginia. Friends and family call her “Mimi”.

Stories are constantly flowing through her mind. She can laugh at herself, and there are plenty of experiences in life that bring laughter and joy. That is why their family motto is “It’s Always A Story with the Henderson’s”.

Melissa schedules a time to write each day and is writing her first Christian inspirational fiction story.  She spiritually prepares for writing stories by praying first and asking God to give the words that He wants her to share with others.

Welcome to 3 Questions Wednesday, Melissa! Let’s get to the first question:

What inspires you?

Melissa:  I am inspired by my faith. I am a child of God. His love and His mercies are new each day.  My family also inspires me. Our family is known for funny experiences. We are blessed with the ability to laugh at ourselves. I pray we all will draw closer to God each day.

I love that, Melissa. It’s evident that your faith in God is number one in your life–and humor is its own inspiration, isn’t it? It’s a survival tactic for me!

Next question–

You’re a new addition to the crayon box. What color would you be and why?

Melissa:  I would be “Playful Pink”. When I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2005, people started giving me items that were the color pink. Pink hats, scarves, socks, pencils, notepads, etc.  I have an upbeat playful personality and my favorite color is pink. Therefore, “Playful Pink” would be my crayon color and it would be bright pink.

Ooo, I like that! Goes right along with your earlier statement about humor. Now, last question–

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Melissa:  As a child, I wanted to be a teacher and a writer. My parents and teachers gave me a great love for reading and writing. Today, I am writing my first Christian fiction novel.

What a wonderful testimony of how God brings us full circle and grants the desires of our hearts.

Melissa, thanks for joining us today, and sharing so much of your heart and soul through your answers to our 3 Questions. I look forward to hearing from you in the future. May God bless your writing!

Coffee-loving readers–Melissa is giving away a $10 Starbucks card! Leave a comment below for a chance to win. Ask her a question, or just tell Melissa how much you love coffee! Wish I could enter. 🙂

Please visit Melissa’s blog at www.melissaghenderson.com


Join us next week as we welcome Susan Simpson Holt to 3 Questions Wednesday!

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