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31 Days of Giving on a Budget: Turn a Ladies’ Night Out into an Opportunity to Give Back

Welcome to Decembers series on 31 Days of Giving on a Budget. In this series, I’ll be sharing inspiring stories from my readers and posts with practical ways to give — even on a limited income.

If you have a Giving on a Budget story to share of a way you or your family has given to others this year or this holiday season, please email me your story and a picture to go along with it, if possible. I’d love to hear it and possibly share it during this series!

The following is a testimony from Michelle of  The Willing Cook

I have a dear friend who has 6 children (ages 3-13) and 2 foster children (10 months and age 2). Four of the children are at home with her all day while her husband is a teacher at our Classical Christian School. They are very tight on money, time, and energy. Their days are tough, but they see their lives as a ministry to all their children.

Since I am generally seen as the social coordinator of our little group of friends, I try to plan Ladies’ Nights Out once a month. And as I was thinking through what we should do for our upcoming Ladies’ Night, the possibility of going out to dinner or doing anything that cost money was not sitting well with me. (Most of us are frugal because we have to be or because we choose to be.) It has also been weighing on me how we should come together to serve one another in times of need. Why don’t we do this more often?

So, we organized our Ladies Night to be a Freezer Meal Cooking Night and then we gave all the meals we made to our dear friend in need.This was a complete surprise for her and she was overwhelmed with thankfulness!

Oh, I cannot tell you how much of a blessing last night was. We all came together to fellowship with one another and minister to a sister in need.

Here’s it worked:

I came up with the meals to fix using mainly recipes from MoneySavingMom.com. I did the grocery shopping the day before and was able to get everything for about $35 total (we used some ingredients I already had on hand).

The day before we got together, I did some of the cooking — like making the burrito meat and diced chicken.

I set up stations in my kitchen with the recipes printed out and put everyone to work, even the recipient! It took about 1.5 hours to get it all done, but it fun work!

The meals we made & the quantities:

And of course we couldn’t have a proper Ladies’ Night without a treat for ourselves. We completely indulged ourselves in Brigette’s Upside Down Praline Apple Pie. Amazing!

Everyone left with a full tummy of delicious pie and many laughs, as well as a full heart able to minister to a friend! And, one last thing, everyone wanted the recipes and agreed we should have more Freezer Cooking Ladies’ Nights Out.

Thank you, Crystal, for your part in such a great night!

Michelle is blessed to stay home with her three children (ages 10, 7, and 4), while her husband works to provide. When she’s not experimenting with allergy-friendly meals, she’s blogging about it at The Willing Cook. Through the Willing Cook, her hope is that you gain peace of mind in your kitchen (and your pocket book) and are able to serve those you love who suffer with food allergies.

31 Days of Giving on a Budget: Volunteering in Your Community (Day 2)

Welcome to December’s series on 31 Days of Giving on a Budget. In this series, I’ll be sharing inspiring stories from my readers and posts with practical ways to give — even on a limited income.

If you have a Giving on a Budget story to share of a way you or your family has given to others this year or this holiday season, please email me your story and a picture to go along with it, if possible. I’d love to hear it and possibly share it during this series!

Guest post from Emily

Being able to volunteer in the community is a huge highlight of my job. It lets my company build publicity and it lets me help our community.

However, to me, volunteering doesn’t stop when the doors lock for the day. So, it’s important for me to prioritize my outside-of-work volunteer hours so that I do not negatively impact my family or my budget.

Here are a 4 tips that help me do just that:

1. Choose Wisely: Pick an Activity You Believe In

One activity that I became involved with is “Backpack Buddies” which sends needy children home with a backpack full of food for the weekend. This project was started by the church I attend, so it was something my husband was involved with, too. We were already financially donating to this ministry, so I only added work-time volunteer hours to this event, initially.

2. Maximize Your Dollars and Time

As a church, we chose to collect the funds raised for “Backpack Buddies” and go to Costco and Sam’s Club in order to maximize our donations. However, so that I wouldn’t take time away from my family, I did not volunteer to be on the committee that goes to the nearest Costco (an hour and a half away) to purchase the food. Instead, I help assemble the backpacks twice a month on Friday mornings and help organize the packaged foods on Wednesday evenings.

3. Make It a Family Event

Last Christmas break, my husband and I, together as a family, helped cook meals at our church for the “Backpack Buddies” kids and their families. We were able to help others while also enriching our marriage. I fall more in love with my husband as I continuously find how giving and caring he is. This year we will have our daughter there with us, too.

4. Know It’s Okay To Say No

If your time budget or financial budget is spoken for, please say no. Neither you nor the organization will benefit from you volunteering if you don’t have the time to follow through with your commitment.

Even if it’s the best cause you could think of, you don’t want to cause undue stress to your family by blowing your budget or taking too much time away from them. Prayer is always welcome for any need, and can often be the best way to help.

I honestly do enjoy volunteering, and I feel that many people do, too. I truly believe you can volunteer without spending a penny, and I also believe you can donate without spending a minute of your life. It’s important to find a balance that is right for us and our family. And remember, you can never go wrong with prayer.

Happy volunteering!

Emily is wife to Garrett, mom to Katherine, and a compliance officer. She enjoys spending time with others and is starting to enjoy running.

31 Days of Giving on a Budget: Teaching Our Children to Be Givers (Day 3)

Welcome to December’s series on 31 Days of Giving on a Budget. In this series, I’ll be sharing inspiring stories from my readers and posts with practical ways to give — even on a limited income.

If you have a Giving on a Budget story to share of a way you or your family has given to others this year or this holiday season, please email me your story and a picture to go along with it, if possible. I’d love to hear it and possibly share it during this series!

Guest post from Desiré of When You Rise

Christmas can encourage generosity and goodwill in even the stingiest and grumpiest of people. But is can also breed selfishness and greed as well… especially in children.

Who can blame them? The holiday is so commercialized, that even adults can be left drooling while window shopping and feel guilted into “breaking the bank” in order to give the biggest and the best. It’s easy to lose sight of what Christmas is really about.

A while back, my husband and I decided to implement some Christmas traditions that would keep the birth of Jesus at the center of our celebration. One of them is to give our kids a gift the day after Thanksgiving that will help them celebrate the true meaning of Christmas all season long.

Jesus was not thinking of his own comfort and ease when he gave up the throne and came to earth as a human baby that first Christmas. His selfless love is both humbling and inspiring.

So this year, I thought it would be good to reinforce this spirit of generosity by trying to teach my kids its importance. We came up with a fun and frugal way to do this!

The day after Thanksgiving we are giving them a fun piggy bank that I got on clearance at Target last year after Christmas. A piggy bank certainly isn’t necessary. You could easily turn this into a fun, free craft project with your child! Just use an empty container and decorate it in Christmas colors. It doesn’t need to be fancy!

Here’s how we’re going to use it:

My 2 sons (2 years old and 4 years old) are going to do “jobs” for the next 3 weeks to earn money to put in their banks. They’ll help me sort laundry, dust, clean out the van, wash windows, and so on. Granted they are young, so these “jobs” might end up being more work for me, but I believe it’s a worthwhile lesson.

At the end of the 3 weeks, we’ll count up our money, make a list of recipients to buy gifts for, and head to the local dollar store. They will get to choose one item for each person on the list. My hope is that spending money that they’ve worked for will make the gift-giving all the sweeter and the lesson much more meaningful.

Don’t get me wrong, I love to lavish my children with fun presents, but I also want to instill in them now, that this season is not all about them. My prayer is that teaching them generosity now will help them grasp the incredible and generous gift they have been given in the Savior.

Desiré posts ideas for teaching kids of all ages the Bible and share some of the lessons God is teaching her along the way on this parenting journey at When You Rise.

31 Days of Giving on a Budget: Teaching Our Children To Be Gracious Receivers (Day 4)

Welcome to December’s series on 31 Days of Giving on a Budget. In this series, I’ll be sharing inspiring stories from my readers and posts with practical ways to give — even on a limited income.

If you have a Giving on a Budget story to share of a way you or your family has given to others this year or this holiday season, please email me your story and a picture to go along with it, if possible. I’d love to hear it and possibly share it during this series!

Guest Post by Angi from SchneiderPeeps

With Christmas just around the corner I have been thinking about not only giving but receiving. Many moms have said that they want their children to realize that this holiday season is about giving not getting. And I totally agree with that.

But I’ve been thinking that part of giving is receiving, not in the sense that if I give you something then you have to give me something, because giving is not necessarily reciprocal. Rather, I’ve been thinking about the fact that if everyone is giving — which most people are this time of year — then someone is receiving. Most likely those “someones” are our children.

My children are wonderful givers, I have seen my son (10 at the time) give his only coat to another boy who was “needier” than my son was and my children are always wanting to make something to give to someone. They truly get joy out of giving.

However, we also want our children to be wonderful receivers. Not just to say “thank you” and write a thank you note (although those things are important), but we want them to feel great joy when receiving a gift, just like they do when they give. We don’t want them to feel guilty or unworthy when they receive a gift (or a compliment), to feel like they need to reciprocate, or to feel that any “strings” are attached.

What We Want Our Children to Understand About Receiving a Gift:

  • We want them to see that it is God who provides for us and if someone gives us a gift, we should be thankful to God, first and foremost.
  • We want them to treasure the gift and more importantly the giver.
  • We want them to see the giver’s heart and not just look at the gift.
  • We want them to realize that no one “has” to give them a gift but that they want to give the gift.
  • We want our children to feel special when they receive a gift.

No Hard and Fast Rules For Our Gift-Giving

We don’t have any hard and fast rules about the gifts that we give to our children. We just kind of take each year as it comes. Some years we’ve done family gifts, some years we’ve done individual gifts.

We also don’t have any rules about what others give our children (other than common sense appropriate stuff but most people who give gifts to our children know what we value and are respectful of that). Part of this is that we don’t want our children to have an entitlement mindset when it comes to gifts. We also don’t want them to be disappointed that they didn’t get a certain item. If there’s no expectations then there’s no (or at least not much) disappointment.

I asked my boys and they said that they are happy with the way we handle our gift-giving toward them. They like being surprised. They like that we get to have a holiday where there’s no gift giving stress in our home. They have also seen that the things that were so very important for their friends to have wind up in garage sales a year or so down the road.

What We Teach From New Year’s to Thanksgiving is What Matters Most

I think this realization is so important to make the leap from the gift being about the item to the gift being about the person giving it. This idea of being a gracious receiver may be one of the best gifts you can give your children.

It will also help them be content with the things that they already have and the things they are given. It can help them to not look and compare what God has given others to what God has given them. It can also help them learn to be happy, not envious, of their friends when their friends receive more than them.

So while I know that this time of year can breed ungratefulness and greed, I am going to make a conscious effort to help my children learn to be gracious receivers, by enjoying what God has provided for them through others.

I also think that it is not necessarily all that important what we try to teach our children about giving and receiving from Thanksgiving to New Year’s. It’s what we teach them from New Year’s to Thanksgiving that will make the greatest impact.

Angi is a pastor’s wife and mom of 6 children who spends her days homeschooling, crafting, gardening, playing chauffeur, keeping chickens, trying to learn how take better pictures and blogging at SchneiderPeeps.

Photo credit: Big Stock Photo

31 Days of Giving on a Budget: Charity Begins at Home (Day 5)

Welcome to December’s series on 31 Days of Giving on a Budget. In this series, I’ll be sharing inspiring stories from my readers and posts with practical ways to give — even on a limited income.

If you have a Giving on a Budget story to share of a way you or your family has given to others this year or this holiday season, please email me your story and a picture to go along with it, if possible. I’d love to hear it and possibly share it during this series!

Guest post by Alison from Experimental Wifery

When I taught third-grade, I wanted to help my students give something wonderful to their families for the holidays. I didn’t want to encourage half-hearted art projects or cheap, poorly-made presents; my options were limited.

In the end, I assigned my students to spend thirty minutes each night doing something charitable for their families in lieu of homework for a week. They came up with wonderful and creative solutions they loved to share with the class.

One student watched her younger brother brush his teeth so he wouldn’t develop more cavities. Another read to her little sister while her mom cooked dinner. One young woman bragged that she went to bed a whole thirty minutes early one night—which was probably just what her mother needed.

My students took the lesson about charity to heart. During the rest of the year they started canned food drives, wrote letters to soldiers in Afghanistan, and mentored other students on their own initiative. These young girls were already generous, but after they had seen the difference just a little bit of thoughtfulness can make in someone’s day, they wanted to share that generosity with as many people as they could.

From those eight- and nine-year-old girls, I learned that charity really does begin at home. So, especially this time of year, my husband and I try to set an example for our toddler of doing things for each other out of love.

I’ll help my husband carry out the recycling. Later, he’ll give me a short rest to unwind from the day. Our son is even beginning to get the idea himself, freely blowing kisses and giving hugs when it seems like one of us is upset.

Giving to others is a beautiful idea, but sacrifice and charity for strangers can’t make sense to a child who doesn’t see sacrifice and charity at home. Thanks to my third graders, we discovered that a spirit of giving within your family is the one of the greatest gifts we can give to our children—and the world.

Alison blogs about learning to be a better woman and wife at Experimental Wifery. She also teaches English part-time at the Brookewood School in Kensington, MD.

31 Days of Giving: The Healing Power of Giving (Day 6)

Welcome to December’s series on 31 Days of Giving on a Budget. In this series, I’ll be sharing inspiring stories from my readers and posts with practical ways to give — even on a limited income.

If you have a Giving on a Budget story to share of a way you or your family has given to others this year or this holiday season, please email me your story and a picture to go along with it, if possible. I’d love to hear it and possibly share it during this series!

Guest post from Victoria of Snail Pace Transformations.

December 1st, 2003 forever altered my life.

I still remember coming home from a day of shopping with a friend to find my home sparkling clean and my children gone. I greeted my husband with a hug and when I saw his face I knew the children were gone not because he had a secret date planed but that something was wrong.

“Call your mom,” were the three words he was able to mutter while holding back tears.

I did and she soon said words no child — no matter what their age — wants to hear, “Honey, the cancer is back, and there is no treatment this time. I have 6 months at best”.

God was gracious, I got more than 6 months to say goodbye. My mom survived over 4 years from the day of her prognosis. She passed away just before her 61st birthday in April of 2007.

The Christmas season after her death was hard. Even though I knew she was passing a few years before it happened, I still couldn’t get over the harsh reality of being left motherless.

I was at a local Mothers of Preschoolers meeting one December morning when a leader announced to the group the location of the church’s giving tree. I went to the tree to look through the children’s names, thinking at least it would get my mind off of grieving for a moment, when I noticed the tags were not just for children but for single moms as well.

I immediately picked up a tag for a single mom. Something about the idea of getting to buy a gift for a mother even though I could no longer get a gift for my own warmed my heart.

I don’t remember all that was on her list, but I do remember one item, a devotional. As I was wrapping up the gift I felt urged to place a thank you note inside the devotional. You see, in giving to someone else, my pain was momentarily eased.

Two gifts were given that day not one.

If you are grieving a loved one this year, I urge you to reach out and give. Churches and organizations across the country offer giving trees like the one I was involved in that year. Many have a table set up at the local mall.

The gifts on these tags are generally not expensive. Many items could be brought down in price with sales and coupons.

Grab a tag of an individual that reminds you of the one you lost, and spend the money you use to spend on gifts for your loved one on these strangers instead.

It’s a great way to honor the memory of those we once cherished and I think you will also discover the healing power of giving… just as I did that Christmas.

Victoria writes at Snail Pace Transformations where she shares her tips on how to purchase items inexpensively, sell things you already own, and shares her love of simple recipes made with simple ingredients.