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6 Creative Ways to Save for Your Family Vacation

Here are 6 ways to start saving for your next family vacation.

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I’ve hiked the Camino de Santiago in Spain, swam the turquoise waters around the Seychelles Islands, and surfed the swells off New Zealand’s coast. I’ve shopped in Prague, admired architecture in London, and scaled castle walls in Ireland.

Where were my children during my international travels?

Except for the castle walls — at which point they were harnessed in tightly and wearing helmets — they trailed peacefully behind me, single file, licking their ice cream cones as they regurgitated classic literature relating to our location.

At least, that’s my reality until I open my eyes.

It’s then that three different scents of morning breath meet me. Six eyes stare me down, willing me to wake up and feed them breakfast. I try to postpone their hunger, but they outnumber me.

Reluctantly, I leave my world traveling behind and wonder if there’s any food in the cupboards. It’s still a week from payday and the hungry munchkins ate all six boxes of cereal in seven days. That equals .86 boxes of cereal a day! The birds are chirping the sun is shining, and all I can think is, Wouldn’t the beach be awesome right now?

Yes, I answer myself, it would — unless I had to stay in a condo with a kitchenette. Kitchenette = ability to cook meals (breakfast, lunch, and dinner).

Why can’t we afford a vacation? How much does one even cost? Is it the food, the gas, or the hotel that helps keep Visa workers employed?

I unload the dishwasher and turn to stack the plates in the cabinet as I daydream about restaurant meals. I freeze — face-to-face with the villain keeping me from my dream of a family vacation. (No, it’s not my husband. At this early hour, he’s still sleeping.) It is my French door, pull-out drawer, filtered water, stainless steel refrigerator. Her matching sister, my super-powered, ultra-hot, 7-cycled dishwasher helps foil my vacation plans, too. In fact, as I turn circles in my kitchen, I catch a glimpse of the 42-inch flat screen plasma TV, the leather couch, the new curtains, and the shiny red laptop.

Doo-do-da-doo-doo. The jingle of my front-loading washer and dryer rouses me from my daze.

What is keeping us from a vacation? It’s me.

I need to ask myself, what do I value most? I spend my nights dreaming of experiencing the world with my children, but spend my days helping our country slow the economic recession. Why am I not putting my money where my heart is?

Experiences and memories are what my heart craves. But my spending habits often betray my heart. For example, six months ago we weren’t planning for travel; we were too busy spending money on stuff. What I didn’t spend on stuff, I miserly stuck away in an account, always feeling poor and never believing that we had enough for a rainy day.

I think the hardest part has been realizing that the stuff doesn’t last very long in a house with three young boys. My treasure is daily dented by hockey pucks, tarnished by permanent marker, and crushed by impromptu wrestling matches.

Doo-doo-da-doo-doo. I wake up from my daydreaming. My priorities need to shift.

Today, these are my humble attempts at saving for a family vacation:

1. Craigslist

I don’t like yard sales but I love craigslist. I made a list of stuff that we were’t using and started selling it off, piece by piece. Sure, sometimes the money has gone to bills or shoes, but most of it goes into an account.

2. Mutual Gifts

When Nathan and I receive a little bonus (and I do mean little), we stick it away. Recently we received $100. We’ve decided to hit Virginia Beach in the fall, when we can get a hotel room for $39/night. That’s two and a half nights! Woohoo!

3. Mystery Shopping

Yes, I know it’s corny and there are some really bad advertisements out there. But I have made some beautiful paychecks for very small amounts of work. I’ve shopped at a major nationwide coffee chain, my husband and I have had dates nights at restaurants that would never fit in our budget, and we have taken the kids put-putting, bowling, and just out to ice cream. I fill out a short survey and get reimbursed for the required purchase plus a small stipend for gas and time. For those of you who live in rural areas, the bonuses can be as large as $120 for a single shop. This is very abnormal, but possible. Plus, if I know we are headed out of town, I look for mystery shops at our destination. If we are lucky, we get to try something new for almost free! There are safe sites out there.

4. Checkbook Cheating

This is a really fun way to trick myself. In my checkbook, I round all of my record keeping to the next highest dollar amount. For example, if I go to the store and spend $29.16 on groceries, I record it as $30 in my checkbook. It’s like a virtual change jar. In one year alone, I put away almost $600 as a cushion in the account. I’ve gotten so good at my system that I’ve added an extra step. I do all my monthly spending on our Discover card. This earns us around $800/year in cashback bonuses. To keep from accruing credit card debt, as soon as I charge it on my card at the store, I also pull out my checkbook and record the transaction (still using the rounding technique). I get to save in my virtual change jar, make money on my cashback bonuses, and not carry any credit card debt month to month.

5. Good, Old-Fashioned Sacrifice

We just bought a house, so the temptation to spend, spend, spend is overwhelming. However, my husband and I have decided to just be more aware of our spending habits. We weigh the impact on our monthly budget and decide, “Do we or don’t we?” Most of the time, we don’t. Sure, I go without new clothes more often. My husband stopped his Blockbuster pass. But the kids have chosen to sacrifice as well. Our oldest was invited to play travel soccer. We decided together, as a family, that our monetary resources should be saved for a more family friendly event, like a vacation. They are excited to be a part of the planning!

6. Go Local

Don’t underestimate local benefits for residents. I just found out that Bush Gardens, while very expensive, offers season tickets to local residents for only $10 more. That makes the $250 well worth it if my family of five can go several times in one entire spring and summer! As soon as our three year old stops running away in large crowds, we’ll be there.

These are just a few ideas that are working for our family. Some families prefer to stay home. I recently read an article that suggested you invest in your home and make it your very own retreat. In that case, I’m about to list a 42-inch plasma TV on craigslist. I’m sure your husband would love it.

I think the important lesson for me is this: Take time to name the things I value in life. Then, whatever my priorities, live them well. If I can do this, whether at home or at a faraway beach, I will have no regrets when my last child leaves home. And honestly, isn’t that what it’s all about?

[This article was originally published on June 21, 2009 as “Piggy Bank Holiday.” We love it so much, we’ve republished it for you.]

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Marian Green resides with her husband and four children. She is an adoptive mom, a pastor's wife, and (once again) a student. She is currently working on a non-fiction project for "bad girls" -- helping women who have lived lives of promiscuity to redefine marital intimacy. In between it all she takes a deep breath and realizes, none of this was what she had planned in life ... and she loves it. Marian blogs at Uprooted and Undone.

1 Comment
  • Shari Barnes

    I would love to know where to find more info about mystery shopping. I want to make sure I am looking at reputable places!! Thanks for any info you can share!

Articles

When Doing Justly, Loving Mercy, and Walking Humbly Stand at Odds

If your compassion far exceeds your capacity, here’s one way you can be sure to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly.

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One of my life verses is Micah 6:8, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

It is one of my favorite verses because my heart has been so moved by the love Jesus has for me and the sacrifice He made for me that I am grateful to have a way to express my gratitude through acts of justice and mercy while walking humbly with God.

I have found at times, however, the call to do justice and love mercy come in conflict with the call to walk humbly with God. For me, one of the ways to walk humbly with God is to recognize my limitations. I have to put skin to the fact that I am not God which means saying, “no” to ministry requests. It means going to sleep when I could be spending time advocating for the harrowed and helpless in the world. It means limited seats at my table, limited funds in my bank account, and limited energy in my body cannot be ignored but respected and adhered to.

This is hard for me at times, especially when I scroll my Facebook feed and see friends who are caring for their really sick children, spouse, or other family member all while millions of refugees flee war torn countries and babies are slaughtered by the hundreds each day in our country through the abortion industry.

As I scroll, I receive texts about one family member’s surgery gone wrong and another family member announcing a new baby is on the way. I have in mind my neighbor who has inpatient surgery scheduled this week and another neighbor who is trying to hold down a full-time job, care for twins all while battling profound “morning” sickness.

Folks at church are fighting for their lives in physical and spiritual ways, and strangers who pass me on the road are clearly battling something as demonstrated by their impatient honking because I won’t take a right turn on red. I want to meet the needs of all; I want to do justice and love mercy, but I’m daily confronted by the fact that I am so limited.

What am I to do when doing justly and/or loving mercy seem to come in conflict with walking humbly with my God?

God keeps bringing me to this answer: prayer.

God invites us to cast our cares before Him because He cares for us.
God tells us to be anxious for nothing BUT WITH PRAYER present our requests before Him.
God commands us to pray without ceasing.

And, when I walk humbly with God, I see the immense kindness in His command.
He gives us a way to do justly, love mercy WHILE walking humbly with Him.
It is by praying without ceasing.

I cannot take a meal or give money to every sick person or family I know. I cannot extend kindness to all my neighbors all at the same time they’re in need nor conjure up sustainable solutions for the refugee crisis and contact all the necessary world powers to make it happen.

I cannot heal all, but I know the Healer.

I cannot provide for all the needs, but I know the Provider.

I cannot rescue everyone in need, but I know the Rescuer.

I cannot comfort all the broken, but I know the Comforter.

I cannot speak peace over every situation, but I know the Prince of Peace.

I cannot be all to all, but I can go to the Great I Am through prayer, lay all the people, problems and pleas for help before the Omniscient and Omnipresent God of all Creation.

I can do this through prayer.

Recently, via an Instagram contest of all things, I came upon A–Z prayer cards designed by blogger/author/speaker, Amelia Rhodes. It is a simple concept packed with a powerful prayer punch. It has served me personally in this tension of wanting to do far more than I practically can do. It provides prayer prompts starting with each letter of the alphabet along with a scripture that coincides with the prayer focus. It ranges from Adoption to a creative “Zero Prejudice” for the letter “Z.”

The cards are well thought out, color printed on sturdy cardstock with blank lines for the user to write in the names of people and/or organizations that are personal to them.

If, like me, your compassion far exceeds your capacity, pick up a set of these prayer cards and unload your burdens onto a God whose competence matches His kindness, both boundless.

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Articles

Facing Our Fears in Motherhood

Do you have fears tied to motherhood? If so, here’s encouragement for you.

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“Are you scared?”

I was taken aback by his question. Scared? Of what?

“Of anything,” he answered.

I had just shared my due date with a new class of trainees.

“He has three boys,” another new hire volunteered. So fear is to be expected, I reasoned. I’m just about to face the most frightening experience in my life.

Of course I was scared.

I was scared…

  • I’ll lose my temper.
  • I’ll whine about sleepless nights.
  • I’ll breastfeed too often or not often enough.
  • I’ll leave piles of unfolded onesies in the middle of the nursery floor because I’m too tired (or lazy?) to fold teeny-tiny baby clothes for the upteenth time.
  • I’ll go with disposable diapers when the better choice would be cloth.
  • I’ll work too many long hours at the office and miss precious moments with her.
  • I’ll sign her up for too many activities and push her to become Miss Achieve-It-All.
  • I’ll pass on to her my ugly pride, self-righteousness, and perfectionism like a dreadful contagious disease.
  • I’ll miss countless little joys in life while pursuing worthless dreams.

Facing Our Fears in MotherhoodIn short… I was afraid I was going to fail miserably as a parent.

And now, holding my second-born daughter in my arms, thinking back on that brief exchange just a few years ago, I realize those fears were well-founded. I’ve failed many times. I’ve lost my temper. I’ve raised my voice. I’ve worked too much and played too little. I’ve seen my own sinfulness reflected in my daughter.

Yes, I’ve failed, but over and above it all, God’s grace has covered my parenting imperfections and made me run to the cross day after day. The writer of Proverbs puts it this way:

Whoever fears the LORD has a secure fortress, and for their children it will be a refuge.
Proverbs 14:26

When it comes to fears, we have two choices: Will we fear the unknown or will we fear the Lord? Will we allow the uncertain to grip us in its clutch or will we turn to God’s Truth to set us free?

Scared? Oh yeah. There was so much to be scared of that day. And even now, if I’m completely honest, there are still fears nibbling at the edges of my consciousness. Fear that we won’t outgrow the temper tantrums. Fear that the two girls won’t get along. Fear that I’ll mess them up and cause them interminable hours on a psychologist’s couch.

I’m sure you have fears, too.

But rather than allow those fears to consume and paralyze us, we can take them to the Lord, acknowledging His sovereignty over our parenting, pleading His grace over our mistakes, and entrusting His provision over their futures. He is not only able to handle it all — He is far more capable to be trusted with it all.

If I say one thing to that frightened 9-month-pregnant me standing in that room years ago, I would say this: Don’t let fear rob today’s joy with tomorrow’s unknowns. Each day has enough worries of its own (Matthew 6:34).

Instead, let us keep seeking God, running to Him as our secure fortress and resting in the knowledge that He will care for us and our children one day at a time.

What are you scared of today? Name your fears and bring them to the Lord, allowing Him to replace them with His peace that passes all understanding.

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He Gives Shade To The Weary

If anxiety is a struggle for you right now, remember that He gives shade to the weary.

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Do you ever have those moments of fear because you don’t know what lies ahead? When do those thoughts tend to happen to you?

For me, most of those thoughts happen when I lay my head down to sleep at night. The vulnerability comes forth every time. That’s what happened the other night to me. I shut my eyes and immediately anxiety welled up inside me.

What if we don’t succeed in this new venture? What if we have to move? What if we can’t pay our bills?

I laid there with the covers drawn tight over my head (I still think that I am safer if the covers are over my head), praying scripture over my anxious heart. Assuring myself that God sees me and that He cares.

In the morning, I turned to Isaiah 41, specifically verses 10-20.

“Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10, NASB)

Yesterday, the “what if’s” piled up as I anxiously looked about me. My daughter needs tutoring, however at this point in life, tutoring feels like a luxury we can’t afford. So I listed some items online to sell hoping to make just enough to cover the tutoring. I’m buying groceries on a Visa reward card. I’m holding my breath until the next paycheck comes. But what did God speak over me: Do not fear. Do not look anxiously about you.

“For I am the Lord your God, who upholds your right hand, Who says to you, ‘Do not fear, I will help you.’ Do not fear, you worm Jacob, you men of Israel; I will help you,” declares the Lord, “and your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.” (Isaiah 41:13-14 NASB)

Why shouldn’t I be anxious? Because God will hold me up. God will help me. When I first read the word “worm” as a description, I took it as a slam against Israel. Like, gesh, God. What animal does He relate me to? But through further study, He calls them a worm because worms are helpless. They are viewed as insignificant, despised and weak. God will help me — seemingly insignificant, helpless me — because He is my Redeemer. He is my go’el — my next of kin. The Redeemer is the one who provides for all my needs. Rent. Car payment. Credit card bill. Gas. Food. Clothes. Debt. God will redeem.

He Gives Shade to the Weary

“Behold, I have made you a new, sharp threshing sledge with double edges; You will thresh the mountains and pulverize them, And will make the hills like chaff. You will winnow them, and the wind will carry them away, And the storm will scatter them; But you will rejoice in the Lord, You will glory in the Holy One of Israel.” (Isaiah 41:15-16 NASB).

God is transforming me from a helpless one to a powerful one. The description of that type of threshing sledge is like a modern day earth mover. Powerful. Strong. Immovable.

“The afflicted and needy are seeking water, but there is none, And their tongue is parched with thirst; I, the Lord, will answer them Myself, As the God of Israel I will not forsake them.” (Isaiah 41:17, NASB)

He will come to our rescue. God, Himself, will answer you and me. Can you hear how personal that sounds? Have you ever pleaded with someone important whether your boss, public figure, or even a parent, and they responded to the need themselves? You expected for them to send their assistant, but instead they — the most important one — responded to you.

“I will open rivers on the bare heights And springs in the midst of the valleys; I will make the wilderness a pool of water And the dry land fountains of water. I will put the cedar in the wilderness, The acacia and the myrtle and the olive tree; I will place the juniper in the desert Together with the box tree and the cypress.” (Isaiah 41:18-19, NASB)

This passage describes the wilderness-like times in life. You are barren. You are thirsty. You are hot. You are in need. God will provide what you need. God will quench your thirst. He will provide shade when you are weary. During those times, God can provide in creative, innovative ways. He can provide something out of nothing. Doesn’t that give you great hope? Even when you can’t answer how He will do it, He is creative enough to figure it out even when the odds are stacked against you.

“That they may see and recognize, And consider and gain insight as well, That the hand of the Lord has done this, And the Holy One of Israel has created it.” (Isaiah 41:20 NASB).

God will do all of this so that His glory will be put on display. People — including yourself — will see that He is powerful.

So you can see how after a night of wrestling with fear and anxiety, reading this was like shade and water for my soul. God is a god who sees. And God is a god who acts on your behalf.

What do you need His help with today? What are you fearful about today? What keeps you awake at night? Where do you need some shade?

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Hi, I'm Ashleigh Slater, founder and editor of Ungrind. Here at Ungrind, it’s our goal to churn out biblically-based encouragement for women. We strive to be honest and transparent about our struggles in a way that inspires hope, faith, and perseverance.

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6 Creative Ways to Save for Your Family Vacation

by Marian Green time to read: 5 min
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