Being Confident of This

Grace for the work-in-progress woman

5 Ways to Stretch a Budget: Part 2 (the practical bit)

Yesterday I shared with you the first half of 5 Ways to S-t-r-e-t-c-h a Budget.  If you haven’t read the first half, I encourage you to do so as it contains the foundation of our frugal living.  In these tough economic times, it’s hard to find ways to make a small budget work, especially if you have a large family and are living on a single income. These tips should help.

And now, for part 2:

3. Pray for Your Needs and 4. Buy Gently Used

(these two overlap quite a bit)

Appliances – Finding good deals on appliances is admittedly harder than saving money on other items, but it can be done!  Our first action is to pray about it.  Remember, the Lord promises to provide for our needs.  Our favorite money-saving techniques when buying gently used appliances are to look at garage sales, ask friends and family to be on the lookout for us, check craigslist, buy scratch and dent, and so forth.

Vehicles – We have never had a car payment, ever. When we realize that it’s time for a new (to us) vehicle, we start praying! Sensing a theme yet? 🙂 We know we cannot afford a car payment while attempting to pay down student loans, so we ask God to send us a vehicle that will meet our needs as well as our budget.  Praise the Lord, He has always provided the vehicles we needed, sometimes even at no cost to us, including the necessary switch to a minivan before the birth of our twins!  Then, we are often able to pass on the blessing by giving our old vehicle to someone else in need.

For necessary car repairs, we also pray.  My husband does whatever he can himself, but if it’s a major repair, we usually have to ask for help.  We’ve been blessed with some mechanics in the family, but when they are busy we have also turned to church family or friends.  If you know someone mechanically minded, you could even trade services – offer to babysit, make a meal, or some other skill you or your husband have!

Furniture – In our home, you will not find new furniture. It’s a luxury we cannot afford, although I’ll admit I’ve been tempted at times!  The majority of our furniture has come from garage sales, hand-me-downs, Goodwill, Craigslist, and so forth. We often pray for furniture needs as well, especially when we moved last year and our twins needed to graduate to full-sized beds and dressers of their own.

God provided a set of bunkbeds, a loft bed, a few dressers, a desk, and more – most of which came from one garage sale.  We had looked at loft beds online for our daughter’s room since it was going to be quite small, but they were very pricey. We prayed about it and just didn’t feel peaceful about spending that much money on a want.  That very weekend, God provided via the garage sale where we found a white loft bed with matching shelves and dresser – all for $50!  They wanted to get rid of it so badly, they even threw in an extra desk. Praise the Lord! If we had not been willing to wait, we would have unnecessarily spent well over $400.

Baby Items – We have pretty much outgrown the baby years here, but when we found out we were pregnant with twins over four years ago, I learned a lot about trusting God to provide for needs in this area.  He provided a second crib, clothing, a second exersaucer (which wasn’t even a need, really), and so forth from generous friends and even neighbors. We even found car seats we really liked on clearance in one of those moments when you know God is just blessing you for the fun of it! 🙂

I also shopped a lot of garage sales, but my favorite place to shop was the nearest second-hand baby store, called Once Upon a Child.  Not only are the gently used items half the price of a new item, but also outgrown baby clothing and items can be traded in for cash or store credit.  If you don’t have one in your area, check for another baby thrift store. E-bay was another source of gently used items that I utilized.  Last but not least, I often swapped items with ladies at church. For more ideas on how to save in the baby area, read 9 Ways to Save on Kids’ Clothes.

Vacations – We do splurge a little in this area (at least what we call splurging). God has always provided a way for us to vacation when needed.

5 Ways to Stretch a Budget, big family on single income, make a tight budget work, how to save money, pastor's salary, vacation

Now that my husband ministers full-time, vacations are becoming much more of an actual need than a want, and as the saver in the family, I’m learning to see them that way. 🙂  However, the funding isn’t always available, even for a “cheap” vacation like camping. In this case, we have vacationed at relatives’ homes, we have swapped houses, and we have even found some ministries for pastor’s families who help provide lodging.  If you are a family in full-time ministry in desperate need of rejuvenation, please visit this site: http://www.lawrencewilson.com/free-retreats-vacations-pastors/ .

Utilities – You can only stretch this budget so far since heat and electricity are necessities (in this country anyway).  However, setting the thermostat at 66 or 67 in the winter months and 75 or 76  in the summer months saves quite a bit of money.  If you can’t go that far, even a couple of degrees can make a difference.

Consider rewarding your children for turning off unnecessary lights or appliances in the home to motivate them to keep utility costs to a minimum.  Additionally, we utilize the budget-billing program to keep our monthly costs even, which is easier to budget for. Consider investing in energy efficient appliances, but only if you have the finances to.  Again, if your budget is lacking, pray about it.

5. Do It Yourself Whenever Possible

Haircuts, Home  improvements, Home decorating, Lanscaping, Gardening, Sewing, Homemade cleaning products – whatever you can do on your own rather than paying someone else to do is like money in the bank!  A $25 pair of clippers lasts a long time – just sayin’. (See this tutorial to learn how to cut boy hair at home and my pinterest board for lots of other DIY tutorials.) Learn how to re-purpose everyday items such as baby wipes.  And with the invention of Pinterest and the DIY blogs readily available, we really have little excuse to avoid learning some new skills, right? 🙂

If you have already tried to d-i-y and it just isn’t working, why not trade services to save money on the things you need help with?  A few years ago, I promised my husband I would never again ask him to lay laminate wood flooring after we sold our previous home.  He was miserable doing it and encountered much difficulty, even with the help of my brother-in-law!  But we can barter with friends next time we need new flooring.

Praying for Needs, How to stretch an already tight budget, single income, large family, how to save money

So that’s how we live frugally to achieve our financial goals.  After 14 years of marriage, my husband has learned to appreciate my frugal nature, and I have learned to allow him to balance it out.  Sometimes it’s nice to have the freedom to buy something new, or something that is a want rather than a need.  I’m thankful for God’s wisdom in the mate He chose for me!

I’m sure I missed something, but I hope these ideas have helped you find areas in which you can stretch your budget, tooEven if you currently have a budget with a little room to spare, why not consider cutting back in just one area so that you can support global missions or feed a hungry child?  When looking around our home, I can see there are things that we could live without even today, so I’m challenging myself here, too.  Remember that as with any changes in life, learning to live more frugally is a work in progress.  Even small steps can lead to success!

Have a great budget-stretching tip?  Share with us in the comments!

Jen 🙂

If you enjoyed this post, you might suggest these practical suggestions for making things last:

http://harvestlanecottage.blogspot.com/2013/06/forty-ways-to-use-it-up-wear-it-out.html

or this post with additional ideas for savings in order to live on one income:

http://yourmodernfamily.com/how-to-become-a-stay-at-home-mom-on-one-income/

or these postw detailing how to save on kids’ clothes:

9 Ways to Save on Kids’ Clothes (part 1)

9 Ways to Save on Kids’ Clothes (part 2)

 

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5 Ways to S-t-r-e-t-c-h a Budget: How a Family of 6 Lives on a Single Income

  Today on Mama Monday, I want to touch on the matter of saving money!  I know in these tough times, many families are looking for ways to stretch the budget.  I also know that my husband and I learned several difficult lessons about finances early on in our marriage. So, as a family of six living on a single income, I’d love to share with you how we make our tight budget work! 🙂

Growing up an MK (missionary kid) taught me many life lessons.  I’ve seen what it is to truly be in need.  I know in many areas of the world, children often go hungry and families sleep on the bare dirt floors of a thatched jungle hut.  I’ve witnessed firsthand the difference between needs (for survival) and wants (for pleasure).  I’ve also seen our Father God provide for our family in some amazing ways – money for shoes sent from another state, postmarked before we even prayed for it!

So, when my husband and I first joined our lives together, it’s not surprising that some of our first arguments were over money – how to spend it.  🙂  I was very reluctant to spend our finances on anything I did not deem a need and my husband was more laid-back in his approach to finances.

However, a few short months later, we found ourselves expecting our first child and my husband without a job.  During that time of zero income, I forgot those missionary kid lessons.  I forgot that when we have needs, we turn to our Heavenly Father for help.

Matthew 6

 25 “For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? 27 And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? 28 And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, 29 yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! 31 Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ 32 For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

34 “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own.

………………………

As a result of trusting in our own abilities rather than in the Lord, we quickly found ourselves in debilitating debt.  It took 5 long years to dig out of the money pit we created.  Since then, we have grown tremendously in our financial stewardship, mostly out of pure necessity.

I praise the Lord for the work He has done in overhauling our money mindset!  Today, being a stay-at-home mom of four, I contribute very little to our family finances, so making the most of what we have is not optional – it’s mandatory!

5 Ways to Stretch a Budget, tight budget, single income, large family, ways to make a small budget work

I often field questions from others on how we make a single income work for our larger than average family (although I know many much larger than ours).  So, I asked my husband to help me make a list of the areas in which we save money so that we can achieve our financial goals, the primary goal being that I am free to stay home with our children, and a secondary goal being to eventually live debt-free (that’s the work-in-progress part).  🙂

I hope you find these budget-stretching tips helpful!

***Disclaimer – this is not a post about whether or not women should stay home or go to work. That is a decision for each family to make with God’s guidance, and I recognize that some families just don’t have that option. Additionally, it is not a post to brag about our money-saving budget – it truly is by God’s grace alone that we are no longer living paycheck to paycheck and we still have much growing left to do.  This is a post on ways to stretch the budget if you are looking for help – how we make a single income (a pastor’s salary) work for our family of six. 🙂

Top 5 Ways to stretch your budget.  Budgeting for a family of six on one income, tight budget, making a small budget work for a large family, single income, pastor's salary

Top 5 Ways to stretch your budget. Budgeting for a family of six on one income.

1.       Follow God’s Plan for Finances

Start with a Budget!  It seems obvious, but many people don’t have a detailed budget, or they have one that they don’t follow. (Of course, we always stick to ours….Ha!)  If you don’t have one, make one.  If you don’t know how, ask someone for help. If you aren’t sure where to start, visit Crown Financial Ministries  for some helpful tools.

Pay off Debt – OR better yet, try not to take on any debt in the first place; instead trust God to provide for your needs.  Oh, how I wish I had understood how interest works earlier on in life!  If you are already overwhelmed by debt, check into Credit Counselors’ Corporation or a similar non-profit group as soon as possible.  The longer you wait, the worse it will get.  Trust me – we’ve walked that path before! 🙂

Offerings –  For us, giving a regular offering is non-negotiable.  However, it was not always so!  When first married, we were both still in college, so our income was very, very small, at times non-existent.  So, we didn’t give consistently and usually what we did give was the leftovers at the end of the week.  In time, however, we both became convicted that giving needed to be a priority.

We started very small: only five dollars a week.  But we gave faithfully, and little by little God helped us to increase it.  And while we wondered where our food was going to come from, He continued to provide! I want to encourage you that even if you have so very little at the moment, you can still be obedient to the Lord in this area.  Even if the amount seems too small to matter, remember that it’s not about the money, it’s about the heart.  I’ve heard that “you can never out-give God.”  Test Him!

Luke 21:1-3 “And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury. And He saw a poor widow putting in two small copper coins. And He said, “Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all of them…”

Savings – For our family, savings is also as non-negotiable as we can possibly make it.  Of course, sometimes things come up –something major breaks on the minivan, someone becomes ill, etc.  For us, savings is definitely still a work in progress, but the goal is to have savings built up for each one of those occurrences so that we don’t have to take money from our budget to meet those additional expenses.

2.       Distinguish Needs vs. Wants

Cable TV/Internet – We  realized early in our marriage that for us, the expense was a want, not a need, and we simply didn’t have room for it in our budget.  So, for many years we used an antenna when we wanted visual entertainment, or a VCR.  Today, we splurge on Netflix – $7.99 plus tax per month. 🙂  Additionally, Internet service is not really a need (unless you work from home), but we choose to splurge on it now that we have room in our budget.  If you are struggling to meet your monthly budget, these are two expenses that can probably go.

Cell Phones – I recently read that average cell phone bills for single users are upwards of $71, and for a family of four, as much as $200!  That’s a lot of money to pay out every month for a “want”!  What has worked to keep our costs low is using Tracfone, Net10, and other prepaid companies. (Update: currently we use a company called Consumer Cellular – 3 lines on a shared plan for $67.00/ month!)

We receive all of the advantages of cell phone usage (even data plans) without being tied to a contract, and since our company pays to use larger companies’ towers (like Verizon and AT&T), we rarely lose signal! If a cell phone is a true need for you because of work, etc., consider changing to a less expensive company or plan. If you can’t change your cell phone to a lower-cost plan at this time, consider getting rid of your home phone altogether and save in that area, or consider downsizing to one shared cell phone.

Clothing – This area is probably the one in which we stretch our budget the most.  Growing up an MK, I wore whatever clothes were available, plain and simple.  Brand name loyalty was not an option for our family back  then, and it’s not an option for my family now!  Don’t get me wrong – I love nice clothing, but buying new wardrobes for our children every year is not feasible for our budget.

Clothing three children, one teen, and two adults can be a challenge, but we’ve found a variety of ways to save (check out 9 Ways to Save on Kids Clothes). Clothing for adults is more challenging, but garage sales and thrift stores can still be useful. When we have a clothing need, I often take it to the Lord in prayer before I start shopping around. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve been blessed with bags of clothing from friends, church family, neighbors, and even a well-timed garage sale!

 Philippians 4:6-7

 Be anxious for nothing, but in everythingby prayer and supplication with thanksgiving

let your requests be made known to God.

And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension,

will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Food – Again, we don’t have the luxury of caring about brands.  Although, I readily admit that I am  toilet paper snob . The cheap brands just don’t cut it. 🙂    To save money on food and toiletries, I buy store brands and shop at stores like Aldi’s, as well as local  farmers markets (when in season).  In the last few years, I have also learned a great deal about couponing!  I know, I know – not everyone loves using coupons, but it works for us. (Yes, I have a small stock-pile. No, I’m not one of those extreme couponers with a basement full of paper towel). 🙂

Another way to keep grocery bills low is to create a menu and shop for only the items you need for that menu.  This really works for our family. I also cook from scratch (or nearly from scratch) almost every night of the week, rather than buying pre-made meals or eating out, although we do splurge by eating out on occasion (dollar menu, anyone?).

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Bottom line: always keep in mind the question of whether the item you want to purchase is truly a need or if it’s just a want.  Once you have honestly assessed the situation, then you can decide whether or not to fund the purchase even if it is a want.  I also cannot emphasize enough how prayer impacts the way in which we use our limited finances.  Often, when we have a need, if I cannot find the item at a price we can afford, I wait…

And He provides.

Please join me  for the second half of 5 Ways to Stretch a Budget with more practical ways to save!

Jen 🙂

Have a tip to share?  Comment with your best money-saving advice!

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Sanity Saving Chore Charts

Sanity Saving Chore Charts

Last summer we sold our home and moved to a new town so that we could live in the community that we are currently ministering to.   We were very blessed to be able to move into a larger home with plenty of open space downstairs.  I just knew it would be perfect for the kids and perfect for entertaining people from our church, as well as new neighbors and friends.  What I didn’t count on was the time it would take to adjust to cleaning and maintaining a larger home!

Perhaps it wasn’t only the larger house but also the fact that we’d spent the previous year living with the bare minimum as most of our possessions were packed away in an attempt to present a tidy, de-cluttered home-for-sale to possible buyers. When we unpacked all of our “stuff” at our new home, it was a lot more to keep track of and we had not yet established where each item belonged.  Perhaps part of the problem was that our children, particularly our then 3-year-old twins, had grown a lot, which meant bigger messes, more loads of laundry, and additional cooking for those growing appetites.  Perhaps it wasn’t the smartest decision to also take on a new pet so soon after moving (our beloved cat, Cheddar).

Whatever factors were involved, I quickly found myself overwhelmed by the cleaning projects that come with maintaining an older, farm-style home that had not been lived in for at least a year, if not longer.

Nevertheless, I struggled for months with being overwhelmed by the housework and feeling like I was always “behind.”  Because I felt frustrated and overwhelmed, every little mess the kids made irritated me – every spilled cup, every toy left out, every article of dirty clothing on the floor – and I often found myself grumping at them even as I was telling myself to have patience.  I felt like I was losing my mind!  It was as if I was stuck in Romans 7, knowing what I wanted to do, but feeling utterly incapable of doing it.  A storm raged within, threatening to unleash itself at any given moment.

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So, after many tears of frustration and quite a bit of prayer, my husband and I sat down to discuss the situation in hopes of finding a solution.  We decided it was high time to expect a little more of our four children.  You see, our children have always had chores, but we both admitted that we’d become a little lax in our supervision of them, which was understandable.  It had been a busy year and a half of selling our old home and of settling in, not only to our new home, but also to new ministries we were attempting at our church.

We decided that the best way to save my sanity was to create a new chore system!  I set about researching some age appropriate chores since we have such a wide age-span in our family, and we quickly realized that we failed to see how much our children had grown.  I don’t mean that we failed to notice the obvious that they were taller, older, but that we failed to notice they were now more mature and more capable of handling more difficult tasks.

For our younger two children, we chose this flip-up system with pictures of each daily chore they have.  When all chores are finished and flipped up, they can see their name.  Need a little help getting started? You can check out my pinterest board  (http://pinterest.com/stults6/parenting/)  for DIY tutorials that I used as a base for building my own.  (Also, my amazing sister has taken these flip charts a step further with some great ideas at her new blog Love Notes.  In addition to the flip charts, she utilizes a morning and evening checklist and a chore jar, where children get to choose an extra chore to complete and receive a nice prize.)

Preschool chores focus mainly on taking care of the body, and beginning to take responsibility for their own messes.  For our children, we chose to incorporate things that we would like to become daily habits such as: brushing teeth, making bed, getting dressed, clearing dishes from the table, picking up laundry, and picking up toys.

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They both remain very enthusiastic about flipping up the chores they have done each day, even after several months have passed!  In fact, our daughter often wants to do her bedtime chores (laundry) in the morning because she wants her name to be complete, and sometimes she even reminds us of a chore they haven’t yet done. On the other hand, our youngest son is a good follower and enjoys the praise of a job well done. 🙂

Our older boys have a much more complex chore chart that is laminated so it can be re-used.  We use dry-erase markers to check things off.  One of the things I like most about the chart for the older boys is that it is divided into categories that emphasize different areas of their personal responsibilities.

The categories for their charts include taking care of: my body, my room, our home, our vehicles, our pets, and my relationship with God. They have daily responsibilities as well as a few weekly responsibilities.  Some of the weekly responsibilities have options to allow for personal choice, and the tasks in that area of the chart are more difficult for our oldest son, who is 13.  Again, if you’re not sure where to start, take a look at my pintrest board.  The chart we came up with was a combination of several different ideas.

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(One important note: the “Taking care of my relationship with God” area is included mostly as a reminder to our older boys. Honestly, I wasn’t really sure whether to include it or not, but we decided to.  Since that relationship is personal in nature, we encourage them to make it a priority daily, but we don’t force them to. We don’t want time with God to be assigned a “task” status.)

In our home, chores are part of being a family and working together toward a common goal, which is to be good stewards of the material things God has blessed us with.  We believe that doing chores helps our children to learn personal responsibility as well as team-workFor that reason, we do not pay our children an allowance in relation to their chores.  Instead, we reserve allowance for teaching financial stewardship and how money works in general, but that is just our family preference.

However, our older boys were understandably less excited about the new charts, and our 7-year-old was so overwhelmed by the change that he was practically in tears.  (What he didn’t realize is that most of the things on his list were things he already does on a daily basis, like brushing his teeth and making his bed.) In an attempt to lighten the mood and help them adjust to additional responsibilities, we added a bonus for good attitudes and for helpfulness without prompting – an additional 50 cents on their allowance.

Now, for our new chore system to function well, we realized that we would need a consequence for those times when our older boys failed to complete their chores.  We wanted the consequence to be more of a learning opportunity (“the punishment fits the crime” approach).  Eventually we settled on this method:  if there is a pattern of a chore going undone, then the consequence would be to complete the undone chore, as well as an additional one.

I love this solution!  It simultaneously helps me and provides an unpleasant experience that they don’t wish to repeat. I’m happy to report that we rarely have to enforce consequences with the chores because the boys really, really dislike doing extra chores.

Although we’ve had a few bumps along the way, our house has been much tidier in general, considering we have four children living here.  I no longer feel overwhelmed on a daily basis.  Additionally, I’m less uptight about the messes the little ones make because I know they’ll be picking them up before bed.  My sanity has been restored!!  Perhaps most importantly, I know that developing these good habits now will benefit them greatly as they grow into adulthood.

Although initially the chore charts mean a little more work for us parents in supervising and making sure tasks are completed (or even teaching a new skill), the goal is to eventually make parenting a little easier in this area of keeping a tidy home. Our hope is that one day we won’t even have to ask them if they have completed their chores because checking the chart on their own will become so habitual that they will no longer need our reminders.

So, if you’ve been feeling overwhelmed by your housework, feeling taken for granted as the one who cleans up after everyone, or feeling like you just might lose your mind, consider the following questions.

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  1. Who does the chores?  Are you expecting enough help from your children, or do they think it is just Mom’s job to clean up after everyone all of the time?  Or do you often take on the majority of the work because it’s easier to just “do it yourself?”  I admit to being guilty as charged on both accounts previously.  However, especially if you have sons, try to consider how their future wives might feel about this unhealthy portrait of what a wife and mother is “supposed” to do.  At the same time, think of the message you are sending your young daughters.  Yes, we are called to be homemakers, managers of the household, but that does not mean we have to do everything on our own! 🙂
  2. Are the chores age-appropriate?  If, like me, you failed to realize how “big” your babies are getting, you might want to rethink your expectations of them. If you are unsure of what chores are appropriate for your children, a quick google search or pintrest search will return a wealth of information!
  3. Are the chores focused on teaching your children personal responsibility? One of our goals with the new charts was to emphasize the stewardship aspect of chores. We want our children to learn to take care of their things and the things we share commonly, such as our home and vehicles.
  4. Are the chores fairly distributed?  Yes, older children are capable of handling more responsibilities than younger children.  However, avoid burdening one child with the majority of responsibility.  For example, when in a hurry to tidy up previously, I would ask our oldest son to pick up the toys. He is generally helpful and I knew he would do a good job.  However, when my husband and I looked at teaching personal responsibility, I realized I was making a mistake.  It wasn’t really his mess to clean up; therefore, it was unfair of me to ask him to take care of something his younger brother and sister should really be responsible for.  With the new chore system, we really worked at making sure he wasn’t bearing a disproportionate load just because he is older and is more compliant.  Additionally, make sure you don’t put off the majority of the housework onto your children. Mom should have her own set of chores to do (Dad too)!  Lead by example. 🙂

For now I am very happy (and sane!) with our current chore system, but I’m sure after a time we’ll need to look at it again and make changes. I wouldn’t mind trying out a few different methods to give the children a variety, to keep it fresh and exciting.  However, the lessons we learned about what to expect from our children will remain helpful and our over-all goals will probably change very little. Thankfully, I now feel like I”m living less in Romans 7 and more in Romans 8 (the whole “we are more than conquerors” chapter!).  If you don’t currently have a chore system in place, why not give one a try? It just might save your sanity!

Jen 🙂

What methods do you use for teaching responsibility and team-work in the home?  Give us your best advice in the comments!

For more great ideas on how to maximize the flip charts for younger children, check out this blog:

http://sarahjofairchild.wordpress.com/2013/06/11/bogo-mommyhood-chore-charts/

You might find this post linked up at any of these lovely blogs.

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