This Christmas is going to be simple. We will only be with two of our five children, but it will be simple for other reasons too. We haven’t lived at home for months; instead, we are living out of our nineteen foot caravan (or trailer) parked inside of our third son’s Trayvax factory. www.trayvax.com We are being squatters here while we work on renovating our first son’s mobile home nearby. We have simplified because we have less space in which to live.
Downsizing has made me grow mentally. I’ve become aware of “living small” which is a trend in America now. When we lived in Belgium in the 1990’s, we learned first-hand how most people always live small; in America, however, the trend for most of my sixty-seven years has been to live bigger and own more stuff. The real problem with “more stuff” is that you have to have a place to put that stuff and a space for the place: thus the advent of storage units where one pays monthly to keep his or her accumulated junk. But downsizing is part of the American history with pioneers downsizing to the max to get across this vast and varied country. So this Christmas the only two children whom we will spend it with also live in mobile homes or trailers and don’t have any place to put more stuff either, and both sons have downsized and simplified to the best of their ability.
When I think of simplicity too, I think of that first Christmas where our Lord was born in a stable and then laid in a feeding troth for a crib. There were no lights, but only the light of angels and the star of Bethlehem; and there were no Christmas songs but only the praises and adoration of the shepherds who had been told of Christ’s birth. Mary and Joseph owned nothing, but in that simplicity they had been given their greatest wealth on this earth, Jesus.
So in thinking of this Christmas, I began to ruminate on the best Christmas all my children told me they ever had. It was pathetic in my mind, but to their credit, it was tops.
We were living in Connecticut where Michael was Captain of a fast-attack submarine, so he was gone 70% of the time, and I homeschooled and raised the four children (at that time) all by myself since no relatives were near. During that December 1993, I became very ill with the flu, and wasn’t even able to purchase gifts for the children; and remember back then there was no internet shopping for we were just getting into word processers not personal computers. So I did the only thing I knew I could handle, I gave them each about $20 and took them to Big Lots which is a discount store and let them buy their own Christmas presents. Then we came home and all four wrapped their own gifts with newspaper and laid them under our $5 artificial three-foot Christmas tree which I had named “Humble.” Then I went back to bed.
That Christmas morning they awoke me, and we all followed our old family tradition of lighting a candle and saying a prayer of thanks and praise at the top of the stairs then walking down the stairs with the lighted candle. I collapsed on the nearest couch while my four opened their presents with squeals of delight. The rest of the day was a blur, and how they fed themselves and got back in bed that evening escaped my notice. That candle was the only bright spot in my day, but in their little minds, they each had hit the jackpot with their gifts.
The bottom line of this story is Christmas is meant to be simple yet amazing. It is the story of a loving Father giving His children a path to find salvation through the supreme gift of His Son, Jesus. And it is a truthful tale of how we are each to live, in simplicity with wonder at our many undeserved gifts. We are blessed to bless others.
My mother, Lila Wild Rife, lived to be 99. Her mother, Mabel Riggs Dunfee lived to be 101. When I last saw my mom about a week before she passed, her final words were, “Remember the poor, Martha.” It struck me as odd because even though she had lived through the Great Depression and had known hard times, she had fared well, financially. Yet looking back on her life, she would often take an entire meal to a family in our church who had lost a loved one or was experiencing illness. I would sit in the back seat with the jar of gravy between my feet while holding onto the warm pot roast surrounded by green beans and boiled potatoes. In addition, in lieu of flowers at her funeral, she requested the monies be donated to a WV church shoe fund for impoverished children. She remembered the deprived and had set a good example.
But even though I haven’t worked outside of the home for 35 years and have been a full-time wife, mother and homeschooler of my five children, how could I remember the destitute? One of the passages which I have loved and striven to read daily is Proverbs 31—the ideal wife. It states, “She opens her hand to the poor, and reaches out her hands to the needy.” It further adds, “She makes linen garments and sells them; she delivers girdles to the merchant.” (RSVCE) The challenge with the linen garments stuff is I HATE to sew, but I do like to knit so I began knitting simple dishcloths which required little thought, and I started selling them to people with little thought of the unfortunate. The monies went into my own coffers.
When I opened that catalog, I was struck by the pictures of farm animals which one could purchase as gifts, and those animals would be sent to a poor farm family overseas. Here I who need nothing could give a gift to someone who has nothing. Well today, after our Bible study class at Saint Cecilia Catholic Church in Bainbridge Island WA, my dream came into fruition. I sold $95 worth of my Frugal Catholic dishcloths and the members donated $145 more.
Yes, today my Bible Study Class and I are the proud donors of two goats and three rabbits which are being sent. With a bit of handiwork on my part and the wonderful generosity of my group, through the Catholic Relief Services, http://crs.org we are doing exactly what Mom asked me to do. In Mark 14:7, Jesus told us, “For you always have the poor with you….” but it is easy for me to turn away or simply hand them a dollar when convenient. That is not, however, what remembering the poor is about; it is about discovering our skills to help.
Maybe your thing isn’t knitting dishcloths. Perhaps it’s doing mission work building houses in Haiti as some in our church are doing. Or possibly it is serving food to the poor in your community or visiting the sick. Jesus asks us to think on our talents and use them for His glory so He might bless others through us.
One final note is I have a large porcelain rabbit collection which was started as a young girl when Grandmother Mabel gave me my first. Is it a coincidence that I can now use my knitting to give live rabbits away? No, I think that remembering the poor has been built into my heart over the years because when my passing comes, I can take real rabbits with me into eternity. “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Matthew 6:19
Two of my favorite scriptures when I get dressed in the morning are identical–Matthew 6:28-29 and Luke 12: 27 RSVCE. In them Jesus says, “And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.” Bottom line: God provides for His children. He knows what we need before we ask for it; He knows what we need even if we are too dumb to ask for it; and He knows what we require, if we trust Him for it.
Clothing is no different. God cares enough to get me dressed nicely in the morning, and here’s how. We shop at second-hand clothing shops, together.
Now for those of you entering the “Frugal” world which is getting more and more fashionable, there are four basic sources of used clothes:
- Someone gives them to you.
- Garage Sales where people clean out their attics and basements and sell the items in their garage or front yard.
- Thrift stores where the selection can change daily and the price every three to four weeks as it is lowered.
- Consignment shops where people bring in their better garments to sell in return for about half of the shop asking price.
As you can guess, the prices go up from “a” through “d” as listed above. And the selection is better in “c” and “d.” That is where God and I prefer to do our shopping. He hasn’t shaped me into The Frugal Catholic for nothing, you know.
HERE IS HOW IT WORKS
Years ago when I began my married life, I also started daily reading Proverbs 31. Solomon relays the ideal wife as taught to him by his mother, Bathsheba. I learned this epitome of a helpmeet is truly awesome: she dresses well, stays fit, eats with intelligence, helps the poor, runs her household smoothly, profits from a home-based business, speaks with wisdom and kindness, and is loved by her husband and children. That sounds like a nice way to end up. The only problem, however, is there are too many attributes to focus on. So the best way was to begin with one—“She makes herself coverings; her clothing is fine linen and purple.” 31:22. I knew I wanted to look good for my husband, and our funds were limited so thrift shopping with God was a great place to start.
That’s when God began His lily arraying stuff in my life. And that is when I began telling him what I would like to wear and asking if He could find it. He did.
When we lived in Europe in the 1990’s, one had to purchase a wardrobe for the bedrooms because there were none built in like in America. It was clear, as a Navy wife, how very, very many clothes I had compared to the rest of the world. That wardrobe taught me better closet organization and to get a clearer idea of how I wanted to dress. I began organizing my clothes in garment styles. All the summer shirts were grouped according to color, and then the summer pants in a similar manner and so on into the winter items. Clothes which weren’t worn were released. Likewise, it was always easy in Europe to pick out Americans for our clothes were brighter than our European’s counterparts who dressed in blacks and tans. Their closets were lean; ours were stuffed.
So when we arrived back in America, I found more used clothing shops from which to choose. Yes second hand stores are less expensive, but in considering that stuffed wardrobe and remembering the European’s lean clothing style, how many clothes are enough? That is where God really stepped in. We went for comfort and style, not quantity.
Yes God helps me get dressed each day. I look at my outfits which generally match, and think back to where we found those black slacks—$ 5.00 at the Rotary Auction Yard Sale. Then that shirt was located at Bargain Boutique Thrift Shop. The black shoes and red scarf were from the Goodwill thrift store and the purse a local consignment store. Total cost of my outfit for that day is $21. Savings if new would be about $200.
BUT WHAT IF YOU REALLY WANT SOMETIHING?
Did it ever occur to you that God might really want that same something you want–for you? So why not ask? For example, when my daughter and I were looking at possible colleges for her in West Virginia, we found a great women’s shoe store where I purchased her a pair of Birkenstock sandals. I also saw a pair of red patent leather Alegria shoes that I wanted, but they were too expensive. So I asked God to find me the same thing, but secondhand. He did about a year later on the shelf of a thrift/consignment shop where I volunteer once a month. I dust the place with my double-fisted dusting technique where I have a feather duster in each hand. The real reason I dust is so that I can see everything in the shop. And there they were. The exact same red shoes, exact size, only $120 cheaper. I wore them to 10:00 mass last Sunday.
Let God clothe you as beautifully as He garments His lilies. Think of what you need or want. Then ask as it identically says in Matthew 7:7-8 and Luke 11:9-10, “Ask and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.” And remember too that although God may not give you exactly what you want, He may provide something even better so it is good to be on the lookout for His surprises. Our Heavenly Father longs to make his children smile.
My husband Michael, of 35 years, and I were riding home in our 15 year old car after babysitting our 1-year-old granddaughter when we both came up with this newest article idea. When Michael and I share mutual driving or walking time is when our thoughts flow most easily. Anyway, I asked my husband what he felt were the five biggest budget busters that we had both seen and experienced, and most of the following rolled off his tongue. Perhaps, armed with this information, you can keep a better lid on your finances too so that your budget doesn’t bust out.
No matter how you look at it, whether on vacation or simply at home, eating out—any meal—cuts more heavily into ones finances than any other activity or item. The concept is rather simple, really. You have worked hard all day, you are tired, and you deserve a treat. WRONG. You deserve to keep yourself on your budget if you want to get ahead financially. Remember, “What you don’t spend here, you can use or save over there.”
Perhaps the strongest case for dining in that I know of is Ben and Donna.* (Names changed to keep the sharers anonymous.) Ben had come to my daughter’s soccer game since he and Donna are wonderfully supportive. As we watched the game, he was lamenting that he didn’t feel he could ever retire because he and Donna just hadn’t saved what they need to. He is self-employed and excellent in his career; however, when I asked him why, he shared that he and Donna eat out several times a week. He also added that when he and his wife have friends over, they go out for dinner too. All I could see was RED, in his budget that is.
Here is a wonderful Godly man who has a wonderful Godly wife and wonders what his future financial will bring because of a consuming habit. What advice would you give? Well, I shared how two meals Michael and I had had at their home over the years had meant so much. Both were soup and bread, and personally, I thought both were elegant. When you have friends over, they (or at least I) rarely remember what we eat; instead, we remember the fun, the laughter, and the shared stories. So with friends, set a nice table with some candles and serve whatever you have—something that won’t set you back financially. After all, as long as your guests don’t come down with food poisoning, they will remember the fun, not the food.
And what to do about having meals at home instead of eating out? Several ideas come to mind.
- If you are watching your waistline, eating out is NOT a good option because at least in America, dinners are generally larger portions than one person needs.
- Have a few quick back-up dinners in your pantry or freezer that are fast and easy. My favorites are canned pasta sauce and dried noodles, canned soup, boxed macaroni and cheese with a can of tuna added, scrambled eggs for dinner, or a frozen pizza (or better yet one you make using a bread machine). (Our bread machine cost $12 from the thrift store.) Come up with five of your quick favorites, and make sure you have them on hand. And for lunches that you want to eat out, get into the habit of “brown bagging it” or packing your own noon meal the night before. Big savings come from making lunches and dinners at home.
- Have your child or children make dinners for you instead. Even if all they can prepare is a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, make it into a fancy meal by adding placemats and candles. What a great way to get your kids involved in the family budget.
- And if you must eat out, then just order one meal for two people and ask for an empty plate. As senior citizens, Michael and I are keenly aware now of how little food it takes to add pounds, and oddly enough, when we split a meal, we both feel full. If you need more food, then order an extra salad.
- As I have shared before, when you want to have a date with your significant other, then dine in! Simply use a previously prepared dish (of which you froze half), set the table, and stay at home. Why put financial stress on your marriage or dating life when you don’t need to. Friends of ours with twelve children, The Breeden’s, used this practice “home-style dating” by going into their bedroom for a meal and date while one of their older children got the younger ones to bed. Sharon Breeden even bought a small white wrought iron table and two chairs at a yard sale and kept them permanently in the bedroom. That furniture was a reminder that home-style dating never goes out of style!
No matter what country or continent you are in, four letter words seem to get the best of us all. But by now you know that my favorite four-letter “F” word is “FREE.” But a second serious contender is “SALE.”
For the past fifteen years in Poulsbo WA a furniture store has always posted “Going out of Business SALE.” How one can go out of business for fifteen years is beyond me, but that “S” word was part of the front signage. Finally they did go out of business, but I often wondered how many folks were suckered into purchasing because of the “SALE.”
And too often, buying items on sale equals buying “stuff” you don’t need. Even if it is on sale, you are still spending money, hard-earned money; it takes a lot of will power, but just stay out of stores, and you will stay away from sales.
Here in America, cars are a status symbol. And many people purchase or lease one every three years.
Whether we will admit it or not, most people turn their heads towards an expensive car and move their noggins away from a clunker. I personally notice BMW’s and fancy sports cars; but such cars come with more than just a high sticker price. They require costlier insurance, worry that someone will scratch or dent them just for spite, and a more mechanical expensive up-keep. Older used cars are just that—older and previously owned (dented and scratched). So what can be done if you are locked into getting a new car? Learn to live without.
We recently purchased a small used car with cash in celebration of our 35 years. It will replace our other car which is 15 years old and our truck which is 23 years old: total car years 38. In my personal study of frugal millionaires, many have purchased used cars and have driven them to over 200,000 miles. Likewise, in their book The Millionaire Next Door by Thomas Stanley and William Danko, they address millionaires who are used vehicle shoppers. This type of millionaire says Stanley and Danko, “Inoculate themselves from heavy spending by constantly reminding themselves that many people who have high-status artifacts, such as expensive clothing, jewelry, cars, and pools, have little wealth.” And the authors have noted that for the average earner, “Success in accumulating wealth is based on living well below his/her means.” So a new or leased car every three years? If you want to build wealth from whatever income you are making, definitely not.
Now before you visualize some poor soul living on the street, reformulate in your mind, if you will, as to what is meant by “addictions.” Addictions are too much of anything; and that can range from eating or drinking too much, to having too many activities, to too many things, or to gambling too much. The bottom line is “too much.” The Bible is clear on this subject.
Proverbs 23:19-21 (NRSVCE)
19 Hear, my child, and be wise,
and direct your mind in the way.
20 Do not be among winebibbers,
or among gluttonous eaters of meat;
21 for the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty,
and drowsiness will clothe them with rags.
Similarly in Sirach 37:31, (RSVCE), it warns of what will happen if you can’t control your addictions.
30 for overeating brings sickness,
and gluttony leads to nausea.
31 Many have died of gluttony,
but he who is careful to avoid it prolongs his life.
It is with prayerful consideration that each of us must determine what our “too much” is. Then with God’s help, we can regain balance.
Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How are we robbing thee?’ In your tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me; the whole nation of you. Bring the full tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house; and thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you an overflowing blessing. Malachi 3:8-10 (RSVCE)
Want to keep your budget and finances in the black? Then skim off that top 10% and live off of the other 90%. Just think about it this way: God gives you the whole 90% and only asks for 10%, but if you refuse, then the enemy eats up the 10% and digs heartily into your other 90. Your choice; but it is a behavior with a promise. Who would not want the windows of heaven opened on us with an overflowing blessing?
Michael and I know, as do millions of other Catholics from all financial walks of life that you can never out give God. The more you give to Him and trust in His providence, the more your life will be blessed. Think of this final budget buster as one with teeth. You can never out give God. Period.
So rethink these five budget busters and their significance in your life then figure out your own methods of busting back.
When my husband and I married some 35 years ago, he was a runner, and in order to snag him when we began dating, I took up running myself. Prior to that, my main exercise was ballet, tap, and jazz lessons. Now I wanted to impress him and running seemed an easy way. That behavior lasted for about a year, then we married; and I became pregnant with our first child. I tried to jog after the babies came, but walking seemed a better choice because I could push a stroller, communicate with my offspring, and still remain coherent as a mother. It was only when the oldest could babysit became older that I was able to walk by myself with a Rosary, and that is when I discovered (some fifteen years prior to converting to Catholicism) prayer walking.
Is Prayer Walking Scriptural?
Now prayer walking is as old as the human foot. We see incidents of it throughout the Old and New Testaments. For example, when Abraham was asked by God to sacrifice his only son Isaac in the land of Moriah, Abraham had to walk three days to get there. With such a request by his Heavenly Father, Abraham in his submission surely wasn’t thinking about the latest sports scores. And as we see from scripture, Abraham’s trust resulted in an A+ for obedience and Isaac was spared. (Genesis 22:1-14) Again we see in The New Testament where two of Christ’s disciples, after His resurrection, were walking to Emmaus, which was about seven miles from Jerusalem, and they were conversing with each other about all the things which had taken place when Jesus, Himself, approached and began traveling with them and explaining to them all the things concerning Himself in all the scriptures. And, of course, they failed to recognize Jesus until He had taken the bread, blessed it, broke it, and began giving it to them. Walking with Christ and prayer opened their eyes. (Luke 24:13-31) Indeed, prayer walking can likewise open our eyes to our relationship with our Heavenly Father.
Prayer is a learned behavior of spiritual communication with God. It is learned in the same way that a child learns his or her birth language, one word at a time. It comes from an inherent trust that someone is in charge and wants to know us better. That someone has our best interests at heart and desires to be closer to each of His children. Prayer is also a two way street. In a great brochure by Our Sunday Visitor ( www.osv.com ) called “How to Pray as a Catholic,” it states: “Prayer is a conversation with God. Like any conversation, it goes both ways. We talk to God, and He talks to us. God loves us more than we can imagine. He wants us to get to know and love Him as a Father. Like any loving parent, He wants to spend time talking with His children.”
What Then Is Prayer Walking?
Prayer walking is simply a new way of seeing exercise. Personally, I feel like walking is one of the best exercises out there for health and fitness. It is one with which a person, male or female, can grow old and continue to do daily. Many other sports fall by the wayside with age due to their intensity and propensity for injury; but with walking, it is simply an ordinary anthropological movement which can turn into human exercise with little or no forethought. Prayer Walking, on the other hand, involves that movement but with a help—a Rosary. As I stated, I began Prayer Walking with my white plastic Rosary in the snows of Connecticut back in the 1990’s. Since I knew nothing about how to properly pray the Rosary, I would simply put a prayer request on each decade of my 50 beads. First decade was for my husband and the subsequent four were for each of my four children. I would touch those beads and my words would flow out as to my concerns. I really didn’t take time to listen to God respond and I never heard a booming voice with answers, but somehow, I experienced answers either through revelations in Sacred Scripture, encouragement and advice from others, or being affirmed from hearing God’s word in church. Answers came and you can find them too.
Now as a Catholic I have learned how to pray the Rosary, and so enjoy the times I can use it when I walk. The best size of Rosary to use is the one decade kind which looks like a bracelet and often is. You can finger it in one hand and either say The Rosary mystery for that particular day or use it as I did (if you aren’t Catholic) to pray for your private intentions or as I used to say, “A place to hide my prayers.” Now though, I hold it in my right hand and run it though my fingers as I walk and pray. This small bracelet-size-one-decade Rosary works better than the regular-five-decade-size Rosary because you can do it in one hand thus keeping both hands in the rhythmic swing of the walking. Bottom line is that before you know it, you have accomplished your daily prayers and your daily exercise at the same time, and in The Frugal Catholic’s mind, that is called efficiency!
What Are The Different Kinds of Prayers?
Saint Thomas Aquinas stated, “The Lord’s Prayer is the most perfect of prayers… In it we ask, not only for all the things we can rightly desire, but also in the sequence that they should be desired. This prayer not only teaches us to ask for things, but also in what order we should desire them. And, of course, you say the Lord’s Prayer five times within a Rosary recitation. Also another easy way to remember the different kinds of prayer is in the word ACTS which could well be prayed by fingering four decades of the Rosary itself.
A = Adoration
C = Confession
S = Supplication
Ready to Give Prayer Walking a Try?
In conclusion, the next time you want to be efficient in your life, try prayer walking. One of my goals before I “go home to heaven” is to walk the 25,000 miles it would take to walk around our big Catholic world. So far I have accumulated since 2003 over 4762 miles. Now either I am closer to God or healthier, but either way, both are leading me home.
WHY FRUGAL AND WHY CATHOLIC
Years ago, while attending a charming wedding of a daughter of one of my high school friends, I remarked to another high school friend, Laura, that someday I wanted to stage “a frugal wedding” for my offspring. Laura was horrified at that thought for she knew me well enough to know what I meant by “frugal.” I just couldn’t justify in my mind that the family of the bride (my best friend Kathy) would have to shell out $25,200 and upwards for the average American wedding. Well November of 2014, I finally got my chance and staged a wedding for my first born son and his wife for $953. And you can do the same at probably an even lower cost.
This year my husband and I have been married for 35 years, and we reaffirmed our marriage five years ago within the Church when we both became Catholic. Thus, as we have seen over these 35 years, marriage is what God intended to help couples grow in faith, love, and fidelity; and of course, it is one of the Seven Sacraments within our Catholic Church for good reason. In a speech Pope Francis made to young Italians on October 4, 2013 in Assisi Italy, The Holy Father stated, “Don’t be afraid to take definitive steps such as that of marriage; deepen your love, respecting the times and expressions, pray, prepare yourselves well, but then trust that the Lord doesn’t leave you alone! Make him come into your home as one of the family. He will always support you.”
He also added, “Two Christians who marry have recognized in their history of love the call of the Lord, the vocation of two, male and female, to become only one flesh, only one life. And the Sacrament of Matrimony envelopes this love with the Grace of God, it roots it in God himself. With this gift, with the certainty of this call, one can begin with certainty, there is no fear of anything, and everything can be faced together.”
Another interesting point I discovered about a Catholic marriage statistically confirms what Pope Francis so beautifully stated:
According to a study by Georgetown University’s Center for Applied Research, Catholics have a lower divorce rate than couples of other faiths. Mixed faith marriages are more prone to failure. Catholics who marry Protestants or non-religious spouses have a divorce rate of 49% and 48% respectively. Catholics who marry someone of the Jewish faith have a 35% divorce rate, while Catholics who marry other Catholics have a 27% divorce rate.
HOW TO START PLANNING
My expedition into wedding planning began four days before the actual ceremony. Although our planning period was exceptionally brief, I believe that length made decisions definitive and kept down all the costs. The journey began when my daughter-in-law to be, Caroline, called on Wednesday night to say that she and David, who were engaged, had found an open day in their work schedules to get married–Sunday 23 November 2014. Since neither are Catholics, they needed to find an official to marry them. After locating one in Seattle who was willing to marry them on the ferry to Bainbridge Island where they had met a year before called shotgunweddings.com , and after clearing it through the ferry system, Caroline and I started preparing. Well, we had the place, but we just needed the guests. So I composed an email, cleared it with Caroline, and then sent it to all of our friends and family and Caroline did the same. Thus within two days, we had about 40 guests reply that they would be attending. That major step in motion made it time to start on some of the finer details.
WHAT THE BRIDE NEEDED
It was now time to start a list of first things first. To begin, I asked, “What would the bride wear?” Well she had a dress which she had purchased from a vintage thrift store which fit the bill. I went and purchased a veil from Bargain Boutique (a local thrift store) on our Island for $10. Next I found a blue garter since a bride must have “something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue, and a penny for her shoe,” according to American tradition. We covered that custom with her old veil, her “new” dress, a borrowed antique handkerchief, a blue garter, and a 2014 penny for her shoe.
WHAT THE GUESTS NEEDED
Next the guests had to be considered. The reception would be held in our home which would cost nothing for the venue. I had found two wedding crystal goblets when I had purchased the veil. We needed, however, some simple wedding decorations which I purchased from the The Dollar Store: heart candles, purple ribbons, purple napkins, purple paper plates, plastic silverware, and a bride and groom ceramic decoration. I then took the ribbons and some battery powered lights and made a centerpiece in a glass vase thus negating the need for flowers which would have added to the expense.
As it turned out, Caroline’s Mom flew in from out of state and also provided a bouquet for her daughter as well as a lovely floral arrangement, two corsages the Mom’s, and boutonnieres for the groom and best man. For their guest book, I simply used a family one we use whenever people come over for dinner. Photographs would be taken by attendees with cameras and then compiled into a photo manual at Walmart. The rings were purchased from another local thrift store for two dollars each. And shortly after their engagement, I had found a $12 lavender long dress for myself, the mother of the groom, from Goodwill with its original $89 tags so I was set for a fancy dress. Now it was time for the food considerations.
Since Caroline and David live in another city in Washington State, I went to Costco and shopped for the reception food. They had decided on pulled pork, rolls, baked beans, chopped salad, wine, beer, sodas, and sparking apple cider for the wedding toast. With that procured, I began to prepare the meal totally in a Crock-Pot. The pork shoulder went into a Crock-Pot on Friday night, and on Saturday morning I shredded it and added barbeque sauce. Michael and I went to Mass on Saturday evening to observe the Sabbath.
And then on Sunday, their wedding day, before all of the wedding party and guests got on the 12:20 PM ferry to Seattle for the 1:10 PM ceremony heading back towards Bainbridge, I simply put the cooked BBQ in one Crock-Pot, the canned baked beans in another, and the rolls in a low temperature oven. The salad was already prepared so we tossed it together after the reception. Caroline had picked up donuts for the wedding cake, and I had purchased ferry post cards at her request to hand out to the guests along with bird seed to throw at the bride and groom as they left. The drinks were chilled, and we were ready.
WHAT THE ATTENDEES THOUGHT
We got so many compliments on The Frugal Wedding. Everyone enjoyed the simplicity and the lovely ferry ride. My sister, Becky, and her husband summed it up best when she said:
“We loved their wedding. We have shared their wedding details with a lot of people. It was quirky and original. Very expressive of the two of them. The norm these days is over the top. A wedding planner walking around the wedding site talking on her ear bud. Staged gag-me quality photographs. And how many of those weddings that you attend really stand out? I was impressed by how quickly they (with your help) threw it together. When David proudly told me that they did it for around 700 dollars, I thought they deserved a medal. I took a great photo of the two of them on the deck of the ferry with Mount Rainier and Puget Sound as the backdrop. There are very few venues where that kind of view is possible. The donut cake, however, was the piece de resistance. It summed it all up. ‘ Keep it simple and within your means and by all means put your mark on it.’
The price break down is as follows:
Official who married them————————————————————————-$275
Two wedding picture books, 279 developed photos, and 35 postcards for thank you notes all from Walmart——————————————————————————$55
Postcards of the Bainbridge Island ferry to hand out to the guests as a favor——-$30
2 ferry Christmas ornaments to use on the donut wedding cake————————$9
Boxed wine, beer, sodas, and sparkling cider————————————————$95
Veil, toasting glasses, and blue garter———————————————————-$15
The brides dress ————————————————————————————-$40
Donuts for wedding cake—————————————————————————$56
Flowers, (an estimate,) which her mother contributed————————————–$120
Dollar Store decorations—————————————————————————-$18
Paper plates, napkins, plastic cups, silverware———————————————–$19
Two two dollar wedding rings which fell apart soon afterwards—————————$4
Replacement costs of both two dollar wedding rings which fell apart——————-$80
Cost of food from Costco—————————————————————————$125
Cost of where to hold the reception————————————————————–$0
Cost of holding the marriage ceremony on the ferry—————————————–$0
Cost of invitations by sending out an email—————————————————–$0
Cost of their honeymoon (we let them use our time share in Canada)——————$0
Total cost of David and Caroline King’s Frugal Wedding—————————–$953
HOW TO FURTHER REDUCE THE COST
As stated, we did not have Caroline and David’s wedding in a Catholic Church which would have cost nothing have cost nothing for the priest or deacon (or for the venue. (-$275) We also had a ton of food and drink left over so I could have made about half of the food and purchased about half of the beverages; but I felt better to be safe than sorry. (-$50) Thus those two changes would have brought the total cost down (-$325) or around $630 to put on a beautiful ceremony.
According to my Catholic daughter-in-law, Emily King, who married my second son in 2009, “The average American wedding is driven by societal standards and not by the couple’s desires. Emily added, “If the two of them don’t want to spend that much money, they simply don’t have to.” Emily knows what she is talking about for their gorgeous Catholic nuptials cost about $1000. Now that’s keeping frugal thinking soundly in our Catholic family!!
David Byron King and Caroline Avant King 23 November 2014
Fasting gets little attention in Protestant Christianity but is a very important practice in Scripture and in the Catholic Church. Never did I once hear a sermon about it when I was a Protestant for 60 years. When I lived in Virginia, however, my friend, Debbie Streeker, and I fasted together on the same day to pray for the stop of abortion. We both had two small children so it wasn’t easy, and we certainly didn’t see much in the way of our prayers working then. Now, 40 years later with another 40 Days for Life concluding, perhaps many of our prayers have been answered for thousands of children’s lives have been saved. And since becoming Catholic in 2009, I have again been fasting weekly for six years. So it is time for a report to you, my readers, because prayer, (see TFC February 2015) fasting, and almsgiving are part of what we should be doing this Lent and beyond as our interior penance. (CCC 1434)
WHO Can Fast?
Anyone who eats food can benefit from a fast. Now, of course, if you are pregnant or nursing, it is most definitely not advisable, but throughout Sacred Scripture, we see fasting in both the Old Testament and in the New Testament. Moses fasted for 40 days and nights before receiving the Ten Commandments (Exodus 24:18). Queen Esther fasted for three days prior to going to King Ahasuerus the Great to entreat him to help save her people, the Jews (Esther 4: 15-16). Saul (Paul) and Barnabas were worshiping the Lord and fasting with other prophets and teachers in Antioch when the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” (Acts 13: 1-2 RSV) So we have many Biblical examples of holy souls and saints who chose fasting as a means to not only hear God’s voice, but to more clearly know His will.
WHAT is Fasting?
Fasting, according to The Catechism of the Catholic Church is “Refraining from food and drink as an expression of interior penance, in imitation of the fast of Jesus for forty days in the desert. It is sometimes prescribed by a precept of the Church, especially during the liturgical season of Lent.” Now with that definition in tow, no one in their right mind could accomplish it—40 days without food or drink? Well according to scripture, Matthew 4: 1-2, it says, “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And he fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterward he was hungry.” It seems like if he didn’t drink anything, it would have said, “He was hungry and thirsty.” And if a man (or woman) has enough water, he can fast for 40-50 days without suffering permanent injury. So I don’t know if Christ went without water, but He certainly went without food. When I was doing network marketing several years ago, I did talk with a Southern gentleman who was attempting to fast without food and water for 40 days. I was never able to reach him again!
So it is probably safe to say that fasting generally is going without food. Fasting can also be denying ourselves other pleasures. One man in my church, Saint Cecilia Catholic Church on Bainbridge Island WA, fasts three times weekly from wine. Another lady fasts from gossip. And within the Catholic Relief Services CRS Rice Bowl 2015 Lenten Calendar, (crsricebowl.org ), they also listed fasting from the following: desserts, beverages (except water), meat, snacks, and eating out. For the sake of this blog post, however, I am going to focus on fasting from “chewing food.” That I can handle.
WHEN Do You Fast?
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops offers us this information: Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are obligatory days of fasting and abstinence for Catholics. In addition, Fridays during Lent are obligatory days of abstinence [of meat]. For members of the Latin Catholic Church, the norms on fasting are obligatory from age 18 until age 59. When fasting, a person is permitted to eat one full meal. Two smaller meals may also be taken, but not equal to a full meal. The norms concern abstinence from meat are binding upon members of the Latin Catholic Church from age 14 onwards. If possible, the fast on Good Friday is continued until the Easter Vigil (on Holy Saturday night) as the “paschal fast” to honor the suffering and death of the Lord Jesus, and to prepare ourselves to share more fully and celebrate more readily his Resurrection. Now these are our prescribed precepts as Catholics. I would encourage you, nevertheless, to consider fasting once a week in addition to the above. For myself, I picked Tuesday to fast, because the “T” is in the shape of the cross. I guess I could have picked Thursday too or better yet Friday, in honor of our Lord’s death. But Tuesday it has been for six years.
WHERE Do You Fast?
Well Jesus went into the wilderness to fast and Moses fasted on a mountaintop, but since I am just a normal, ordinary mom and wife, I would have trouble heading off to those places; so I just fast every Tuesday in my home and on the go. Of course, you want to keep your fasting to yourself because Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:16-18 “…do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by men…But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by men but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” In other words, don’t let other people know you are fasting, and look as good as you normally do.
WHY Do You Fast?
Since I can only speak for myself, these are my reasons:
- Fasting gives my prayers an “extra whammy.” In the Bible, the Disciples of Jesus tried to cast out a mute spirit who was convulsing a boy. They were unable. When Jesus performed the miracle, the disciples asked him why they couldn’t. He said in Mark 9: 28-29 “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer and fasting.” So if you want to give your prayers that extra pull, add fasting.
- Fasting unites me with those who know hunger. We, in America, all have so much in the way of food. So with each hunger pang, I am able to lift it up to Jesus and ask him to be with those who experience hunger as an awful way of life, especially little children. I ask that my prayers may save their lives.
- Fasting simplifies my life to focus more fully on my prayers. No meal preparation for me equals more time to pray and offer up my requests.
- I know I am a sinner, like Pope Francis has said of himself. I need to take up my cross and practice self-denial. Fasting has helped me truly see what I really need versus what I really want. It is a small way each week to “take up my cross” but the results are huge.
- To lose weight?? Well not really. You will lose a pound or two each day you fast, but it generally comes back on. Maybe it has helped stabilize my weight where it is, and it is good health practice because it gives your intestinal system a needed “Sabbath” rest.
Again, I can only speak for myself, but I start my day with a protein shake mixed with milk, water, or juice. The rest of the day I generally just drink coffee or tea but mainly water. When dinner time comes, I will prepare a meal for my family and sit down at the table with them with a glass of wine. Sometimes I will end my evening with a cup of hot chocolate. Nothing really complicated; but as previously stated, with each hunger pang, you are given an opportunity to pray and lift up your sufferings to Jesus for the salvation of souls. I truly believe that my simple prayers have been blessed, for my husband and our fifth child became Catholic a year after I did, and my second son a year later. My goal is for the conversion of all my children to Catholicism and an end to abortion. If our Lord Jesus could fast for 40 days, why can’t we do it for just 4 days a month?
Valentine’s Day has come and gone, but hopefully the effects of your shared affection will linger longer than just this month. And to demonstrate, what if I told you a gift existed that was completely free, would take a minimum of time, and would make your love relationship measurably better? Would you try it even though Valentine’s Day is over? Well, Saint Valentine might be a Saint about whose historical record is sparse, but I personally think he would give you this gift too.
Before I tell you what my present is, I want to tell you about Saint Valentine. What seems to be known is that he was a priest and physician in Rome under Emperor Claudius II. Claudius II made an edict that his soldiers were not allowed to marry because they would then focus on their wives and families instead of on fighting. St. Valentine, however, continued to marry Christian couples, thus helping them as he could, and this was considered a crime. He was jailed, and while there St. Valentine restored sight and hearing to the daughter of his jailer by laying his hands on her: a miracle which prompted the jailer to be baptized along with his family and forty-four other family members and servants. But finally after being beaten with clubs and stones, St. Valentine was beheaded on 14 February 270 AD. And on the day of his death, he wrote a letter to the jailer’s daughter and signed it, “Your Valentine.” During the middle ages, it was believed that birds paired into couples in mid-February, and this then became associated with the romance of Valentine. Thus Valentine’s Day is widely recognized as a day for devotion and romance.
Well I found a $2.00 book in the Goodwill store called The 30 Secrets of Happily Married Couples by Dr. Paul Coleman. It was written in 1992, but the statistics from a Gallup survey at that time were astounding. According to the survey, “Happiness in a marriage is better predicted by how often a couple prays together than by how often they make love. Couples who pray together (compared to couples who don’t) report having greater respect for their mate (83 percent versus 62 percent), agree on how to raise children (73 percent versus 59 percent), are more playful (56 percent versus 45 percent), and believe their mate is a skilled lover (62 percent versus 49 percent). Individual prayer correlates with marital happiness, too, but joint prayer correlates at a level twice as high.”
Also according to a 1990 university study, “Decades of research have demonstrated that people highly involved in religion have the happiest marriages.” But we certainly don’t hear much about these results, do we?
Now it gets even more interesting. If joint prayer can help your marriage (and I would also add your dating with chastity), it can also help in other amazing ways. Dr. Larry Dossey wrote in Recovering the Soul in 1989 that numerous experiments showed that prayer even helped germinating seeds. Prayed for seeds grew more shoots than non-prayed for seeds. And researchers even “stressed” some seeds by adding salt water to the seed container. “The results were consistent and striking: prayer worked even better when the seeds were under stress.” And Dr. Dossey elaborated that non-directed prayer (thy will be done approach such as in The Lord’s Prayer) worked even better than directed prayer (where one prays for something specific). “While both types of prayer worked, non-directed prayer brought results almost twice as powerful as directed prayer.” So if prayer even works in something as simple as plant growth, why not give it a get-go within your dating or marriage.
But how do you start if you have never prayed together as a couple before? Well begin by taking each other’s hands, bowing your head and saying what is on your heart. Pray together before meals; pray before you leave the home for work; or pray before you fall asleep. My husband and I always hold each other before he leaves for work, and he will ask God’s blessing on each family member by name and any other pressing requests on his heart. I will chime in with my petitions too. Somehow, if he goes off to work and we haven’t prayed, it seems like the day isn’t complete. This joint prayer, however, gives my morning and day a protected feel.
As an addendum, I shared the above statistics with my son and his wife as they were embarking on their honeymoon. David reported back with these results. “We prayed together on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday and they were amazing, smooth sailing days. Everything worked well. Then on Sunday, we forgot, and it was a crappy day that ended with a head injury from roller-blading. Man if we had taken two minutes to pray, maybe that injury would have been offset.”
So there you have it. The Bible has a lot, of course, to say about prayer, but perhaps one of my favorite passages comes from Mark 11:24 (NRSVCE), “So I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” Powerful stuff in your free gift; now employ it.
We’ve seen the pile in our homes and in those of friends. It’s that stack of paperwork composed of unopened bills, bank statements, receipts for the tax file, birthday cards to send, forms that need a reply, letters to write, articles to read, paper items needing to be sent, guarantee registration forms, church events you must remember, and sports schedules to check. It’s a nagging mass that most of us would rather set fire to than deal with. Nevertheless, a way exists to shave down that heap and keep it flowing. Conquer your paper clutter this New Year of 2015 by employing The Frugal Catholic 1-31 File and never lose another dated-response item again. Here’s how.
First you are going to need some tools, time, and a monthly calendar.
If you don’t have it already, find a file box for hanging file folders. I use a 100 year old file cabinet passed down from my grandfather. Not fancy but the drawers work. Next get some hanging file folders (the ones with the little hook on the sides), and a box of manila folders.
- Take 31 tabs for the hanging files and write 1-31 on the white papers which can be inserted into the plastic sleeves placed on the files.
- Take 12 hanging files and do the same labeling with January — December and finally one that says PENDING.
- Label 30 manila folders with a Permanent Marker Sharpie with the words IN BOX. This is where you will place separate pieces of paperwork which need attending.
- Take 10 more manila folders, staple each one so it stays closed, then label it with the word NO.
- File the 31 hanging folders from step 1 above in the file location for the current month.
- Place the manila folders from step 4 above in the weekend dates for the present month because no one should tackle paperwork on the weekends.
As paperwork is received, place it in an IN BOX folder, and file under one of the days for the current month or under a future month if immediate attention is not required. Spread out your IN BOX folders for the current month to avoid being over loaded on any given day. I try to arrange no more than two IN BOX folders per day. When you are ready for the next month, say a few days before, pull out your calendar and put the NO’s in the weekends, and any unfinished 1-31 IN BOX folders into the next month. And when you want to save something for future use and don’t have an immediate place to put it, add it to the PENDING hanging file folder. Between the 1-31 files, January- December, and PENDING, everything you need to attend to will have a nesting place. The idea of The Frugal Catholic 1-31 File is to make a filing system for paperwork to flow through.
Total Cost Around $38
$16 for two 24 count boxes of hanging files
$12 for 100 manila folders
$10 for a hanging file box, if you don’t already have a large family filing cabinet
This seems like a huge expense, but the materials will last a lifetime. I have been using the same 1-31 files now for 30 years which means I have spent about $1 a year to avoid paper pile-up. This is a small expense to keep paperwork flowing. And, of course, you can always reduce the upfront expense by using old files and folders which you presently have.
What I have seen this system do is to create a natural rhythm to my day. If I can’t do the two files that day, I shove both to a later date; and eventually by the end of the month nearly everything is tackled. Also since I like to send out birthday cards purchased from The Dollar Store or Trader Joe’s, I put each of those in an IN BOX folder about seven days before the person’s birthday. Thus, the card arrives on time. The Frugal Catholic 1-31 File has utilized what Sacred Scripture says in Ephesians 5:15-16. “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time.”
Give this system a try and watch 2015 be your best year ever!