How I’m Planning to Adjust My Budget As I Enter the Workforce

Do you have a student who is graduating? Maybe this insight will be of benefit! ~ Sally

Guest Post by Lauren Davidson, a 20-something Millennial building a career

As a soon-to-be college graduate, the idea of earning my first paycheck is both exciting and daunting. It means freedom — and responsibility. While I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to do more things, to have more cash flow, and to not rely on my parents for money, it is a major transition in my life, moving forward in search of my calling. I am moving into my adult life — and I need a budget to match.

The idea of budgeting may seem outdated, especially to those of us who grew up in the age of the internet and apps for everything. Luckily, it doesn’t have to be hard or old-fashioned. Apps like Mint and LearnVest make it easy to figure out how much money you have coming into your accounts — and how much you’re spending. I’m setting up Mint on my phone before graduation, to start the process of learning how to budget — setting myself up for success before I even begin work.

Once I know how much money I’ll have coming in each month, the real fun can begin. It will be time to figure out how much I could spend. First, the necessities: housing, utilities, student loans and other unavoidable expenses. I put together a list of everything that I absolutely have to pay, starting with my student loans. I already figured out if I had private or federal student loans, and whether I have a grace period for these loans (the 6-month period of time between graduation and when you start paying the loans). Although I do have a grace period on some of my loans, I will go ahead and make interest payments on those loans during that time — doing this can substantially cut down on the total amount owed overall. This is a good move, since student loans are my largest form of debt right now. Did you know that the average graduate borrower leaves college with upwards of $28,000 in student debt?

Knowing how much of my budget will be devoted to necessities, I’ll have a better understanding of how much money is left each month. I’ll allocate money for other necessities like groceries and entertainment, and then devote a chunk of money towards savings and retirement. The key for me is to automate both my savings and retirement, which is a painless way to make sure that I am putting away enough to meet my savings and retirement goals. I have learned that the key to a successful retirement is to start saving early — and to put away as much as I can afford each month. By figuring out my budget early on and setting up my account to automatically deposit money each month, I’m making the choice early on to prioritize my retirement savings.

I also took the time to figure out my big picture goals. It can be difficult to know where you want to be in a few years, financially speaking, when you’re just trying to get started in your career. By sitting down and coming up with a list of what I want to achieve, I’ll be able to set up a game plan for success. For me, the most important thing is to pay off my student loans, so I’ll craft my budget around finding extra money each month to put towards my monthly payments.

Learning how to budget fresh out of college can be challenging — but it is very doable with a little planning and preparation.

Guest Post by Lauren Davidson, a Senior at the University of Pennsylvania, double majoring in Communications and English.

Vision for Africa!

What would life be like if you had blurry vision all of the time? It would be normal for you, because you never knew it could be any different. Suppose someone gave you a pair of glasses, and you could see for the first time? Would you be excited? You bet your eyesight, you would!

In 10 short months, our Uganda Mission Team will leave for Africa with a medical professional to lead Eye Clinics. There, we will measure for visual acuity and fit patients with prescriptions for sight. In a five step process, our team will evaluate different levels of eye health.

It reminds me of the story in Mark 8:22-25 where Jesus healed a blind man in stages. My NIV footnotes say this two-step process is indicative of our blindness: “Many persons with normal eyesight are spiritually blind.”

What has blinded me to Truth? Ego, pride, an independent spirit? I’m praying for new eyes to see the hand of God at work.

Did you know young adults in Third World Countries struggle with cataracts because of the intensity of the sun?

Would you do two things for us?

~ Pray for the Team traveling to Uganda March 3-16, 2018.

~ Collect glasses, readers & sunglasses & mail them to Busti Church of God 996 Forest Ave Ext. Jamestown NY 14701 before November 1 so that we have time to label the glasses with prescription strength.

Thank you for partnering with us!

To Uganda or Bust!!


Book Review: God’s Easter Miracles

Author, Lee Ann Mancini and Illustrator, Dan Sharp have done it again, in creating adorable caricatures that are relatable and entertaining. In God’s Easter Miracles, sea creatures in vibrant colors tell a story in the saga of the Sea Kids.

Easter has come to the coralhood. The Sea Kids are looking forward to the egg hunt after church. One Sea Kid, Paul, is sad because he didn’t find an egg marked for the special prize. Jimmy has a dilemma when he is asked to share one of his eggs. All of the Sea Kids face a crisis when Brian’s brother is in a boating accident. How will they respond?

God’s Easter Miracles provides a story arc, problem solving for children, learning practical ways to care for others, and what it means to be a follower of Jesus. It even has a hidden symbol that adds a puzzle to solve. I am delighted to recommend this gem to parents, grands, and all who love children. It tackles tough topics like autism, trauma, and the way God answers prayers, with sensitivity and compassion. And it opens the door for conversations with the little ones in your life, as you read about Jimmy the seahorse, Lenny the manatee, and all of the Sea Kids at Beneath the Sea Play Park. This is a book that extends beyond a holiday, to year-round faith-building fun!


Disclosure of Material: I received this book free from the publisher through the book review program, which requires an honest, though not necessarily positive, review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s CFR Title 16, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Book Review: A Wife’s Secret to Happiness #wifestylin

In A Wife’s Secret to Happiness, author Jen Weaver says God longs to give eleven specific blessings to your life and marriage. She explores those gifts by sometimes tackling controversial issues in our culture today… submission, respect, interdependence and busyness, among others. I guarantee this book will make you squirm. Even as I celebrate my 30th anniversary this year, I find multiple areas in A Wife’s Secret to Happiness that challenge me to keep growing as a wife.

Jen Weaver is a millennial who is reaching out to her generation with a genuine love for Jesus and His Word. She’s a wife and mom working to flesh out the principles of God’s love in the context of her marriage, and she does so with refreshing transparency.

All girls walk down the aisle toward marital bliss, but few find the happily ever after. Jen proposes that we are looking instead, for unity, provision, safety, intimacy and partnership.

“Submission is divine empowerment that culture has confused and the enemy has contorted to mean oppression.” Jen uses the story of Naaman to illustrate her point. Naaman had leprosy and was told by the man of God to go and wash in the waters of the River Jordan. But Naaman was a person of influence who felt he was above following orders. When he submitted to the directions, he received the healing. Jen uses Naaman’s story, and others like him, to help us understand the blessings we receive when we do things God’s way. And really, that is the whole point, that following God’s plan is the way we find self-worth and confidence, instead of expecting our husbands to define who we are.

“Your man is part of God’s generosity in your life- the human heart to love you like Christ loves the church. Even if he falters, he is still part of God’s provision. Your man is not the ultimate provider. God is.”  Do you see how this is a heart issue? We’ve been chasing happiness instead of chasing God. He wants to meet our needs. He wants a relationship with each of us!

Jen says we are warriors, “doing mighty things in our families and marriages.” Just as Queen Esther filled a unique position and function as King Xerxes’ wife. She didn’t “usurp her husband’s authority or throw his stupidity in his face. She seeks the Lord and proves her character is of great worth.”

Jen brings up hard issues, and they’re hard to implement. But she also raises an important question. What does it mean to honor my husband?

Buy this book and explore the nuances in your own relationship with your husband. Look at the quizzes and online bonus tools. You just may be inspired to get a renewed perspective on your marriage, too!

I am giving away a copy of A Wife’s Secret to Happiness, courtesy of Leafwood Publishers, to one reader in the continental United States. Leave a comment on my blog (at the top of this post, under the title) about one of the ways you honor your marriage, and you will be entered into the drawing to be held on Saturday morning, March 25.

Join the #wifestylin movement!


Disclosure of Material: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through The BlogAbout Network book review program in exchange for a fair and honest review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s CFR Title 16, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Snow Day

For the first time in 22 years of living in western New York, the Governor declared a State of Emergency before a storm actually hit. All of the weather maps show a major snow event colliding with an air mass coming from the opposite direction.

A trip to get groceries is due.

The gas tank needs to be filled up.

It feels good to be prepared.

Yet the storm didn’t come as predicted for our area. And people scoffed. “We’re hardy New Yorkers,” we said. “We can take a few feet of snow.”

In 2,000 years of proclaiming the message of Christ’s birth, repeatedly the warning has been sounded, “Get ready. Christ is coming again.”

But the storm hasn’t hit yet, and so people are doing business as usual. “We’re strong,” we say. “We’re gonna live forever.”

What’s in my pantry?

Is there salvation?


Devotion to God’s Word?

Have I filled up my gas tank with God’s presence in my life?

It feels good to be prepared, yet, what about my neighbor?

Does the gal in the checkout line know the message of Jesus?

How about the boy who put gas in my car yesterday?

We weren’t put on this earth to go our jolly own way. It reminds me of Mordecai’s words to his niece, Queen Esther, “Maybe you have been positioned in this place, for such a time as this.”

We were born into this generation for a reason. There are people next to us every day who yearn to know the purpose of life. Jesus said He came to bring fullness. If we don’t tell them about Jesus, then who will? They need to know there is a Resurrection Day coming, when we will give an account for our lives. And the One who is coming, is the One who loves us most.

If we put so much effort into preparing for a snow storm, wouldn’t we do so much more for an even greater day, The Day that will determine where we spend eternity?


Book Review: 31 Verses to Write on Your Heart

Liz Curtis Higgs brings a bouquet of verses to the table and delicately places them on a banquet of lace. Her words soothe and cajole. Her illustrations reaffirm. As she serves up 31 Verses to Write on Your Heart, she also offers up sage wisdom: “When you spend time in God’s Word, life starts making sense. The broken places inside you begin to heal. Darkness and discouragement give way to hope.”

Beloved author and speaker Liz Curtis Higgs has learned the beauty of that advice. A seasoned student of the Bible, Liz has authored more than 30 books with 4.6 million copies in print.

When used as a daily devotional in collaboration with the Study Guide tucked into the back, this little treasure will unlock God’s Word in a new way and stimulate your thirst to dig further. Incorporating over 30 translations of the Bible, Liz dissects each verse in order to glean the rich fullness packed therein. She also references the Hebrew and Greek words, in order to mine out the original intent.

One example that shone for me, was the chapter based on Proverbs 27:17, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” Liz talks about the meticulous process a blacksmith follows to sharpen an iron blade. A metal file is drawn across the blade to create a sharp edge. The blade is rubbed against an oiled whetstone to smooth away the rough edge. Then heavy sandpaper blends the edge with the rest of the surface. What does that have to do with people? When we care about each other, we use words to open gently, polish and smooth over old wounds. We sharpen each other’s faith “with a timely word.”

31 Verses to Write on Your Heart is a delightful tool to put to work month after month. From 31 passages to 31 tips for absorbing them into your life, 31 Verses will equip you to carry God’s Word with you wherever you go!


FTC disclaimer: “I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.”


Book Review: Teach Us to Want

Do you wonder if ambition is ungodly? Do you think you shouldn’t chase your dreams because they don’t feel “spiritual?” Jen Pollock Michel tackles questions of how to understand the desires that move us, in her book, Teach Us to Want.

Jen is gifted at unwrapping Scripture in understandable language. Her writings appear in Christianity Today, Beautiful Orthodoxy, The Gospel Coalition, Today in the Word and The American Bible Society. Jen asks, “Is it true that the hardest, least desirable choice is the most obviously holy? Is it true that personal desire must never be trusted?”

The process of finding answers to her own questions, leads us down a path of introspection and searching. She ponders the place of self-salvation and the one where we embrace God’s will.

How important is this topic? Life-changing. Because it is the difference between trusting God, or demanding control. Jen says, “Holy prayers of desire don’t simply aim to get something from God: they’re ambitious to get God in us.”

If you’re human, you can relate to this book. We’ve all experienced disappointment and dashed dreams. But Jen Pollock Michel offers something more: hope and the knowledge that the Lord has a good plan in store for us. She unpacks how the desires of our heart can impact the expression of our faith. And desire is a wanted characteristic, instead of taboo, because it unveils opportunities the Lord wants to use through our God-given gifts.

Read it and be blessed!


Book Review: In A Pit With A Lion On A Snowy Day

Do you have a lion you’re facing, that project looming larger than life? What about a fear you just can’t tackle? In A Pit With A Lion On A Snowy Day will help you stare down your obstacle with a bravery you just didn’t know was possible. And, yes, it is that good. Mark Batterson has lassoed a beast many of us face, as we seek the courage to dream big dreams with God.

Mark Batterson is the author of a dozen books, including The Circle Maker, and the lead pastor of National Community Church in Washington, D.C. His innovative look at the definition of success will cause you to rethink your view of God’s work in your life.
I promise this book will make you stop in your tracks. Batterson says when we fail to step out of our comfort zones, we rob God of the glory He wants to showcase in our lives. When there is no problem to be overcome, there will be no miracle experienced, because we’re not fully relying on the Lord to do the unexpected. He says we’re called to chase opportunities and take risks for God’s best.
Are there any irrational fears and misconceptions that keep you from God’s best for your life? It’s time to reframe them.
Are there difficult circumstances you’re asking God to get you out of? It’s time to ask Him what He wants you to get out of them.
Is uncertainty rocking your faith? It’s time for your faith to embrace uncertainty. Batterson contends risk taking is at the heart of righteousness.
I chose to read this book because of the tagline: How to Survive and Thrive When Opportunity Roars. Are there times when you feel like me, an opportunity is scarier than the potential? This book helps with that! Batterson provides tips to develop the skills needed for the path. Get your own copy today and go after a dream that is destined to fail without divine intervention!
FTC disclaimer: “I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.”

Book Review & a Christmas Giveaway! Listen, Love, Repeat

Listen, Love, Repeat: Other-Centered Living in a Self-Centered World intrigued me right off. In the Table of Contents, Karen Ehman hit all of my favorite buttons… “Living a Life of Welcome,” “How to Care for your Clan,” Recipes, Gift Tags and many more ways to express affection for the people in your life.

Karen Ehman is an author and speaker with Proverbs 31 Ministries who has earned the right to be heard. Other works include Keep It Shut: What to Say, How to Say It, and When to Say Nothing at All and Let. It. Go. How to Stop Running the Show and Start Walking in Faith. Listen, Love, Repeat: Other-Centered Living in a Self-Centered World carries on her theme of making words count.

The principles Karen talks about are so counter-intuitive, they are a stark reminder in our selfie culture to put others first. Examples from the pages of history and the lives of those seeking to please God are peppered with stories from her own family and experiences. Here’s a sampling of thoughts:

Jesus lived on alert, noticing those “who needed a look, a word, or a touch from Him.” (pg 19)

Jesus “didn’t preach to everyone, heal everyone, comfort everyone, or even convert everyone. He simply showed up where God told Him to go and did what God told Him to do.” (pg 42)

“Kindness is contagious. Our loving actions might seem like they are only intended for one person. In truth, they are like a cannonball of kindness that splashes waves of love onto the hearts of all nearby.” (pg 63)

Hebrews 13:1 urges, ‘Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters.’ The phrase keep on here in the original Greek is from the root word meneto, which means ‘to wait, stay, abide or remain.’ It is a verb – an action word. In a sense, it means to never stop showing up.” (pg 230)

Do you have some bristly people in your life? Get this book! Karen includes tips to help stay the course as you seek to sew goodwill into their lives!

Karen’s writing resonates with those who are tired of doing life “business as usual.” Her insights are a refreshing commentary on the way to find fulfillment in your day-to-day activities. I am so glad for her nudge to honor others by listening to their “heart drops” in an effort to encourage and lend a helping hand.

Are you curious yet? Get your own copy today (On sale right now for $2.99!). Or, you can enter the drawing! I am giving away a copy, courtesy of Zondervan Publishers, to one reader in the continental United States. Leave a comment on my blog (at the top of this post, under the title) about one of your favorite ways to “Scatter Kindness,” and you will be entered into the drawing to be held on Christmas Eve. I can’t wait to hear your thoughts!


Disclosure of Material: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through The BlogAbout Network book review program in exchange for a fair and honest review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s CFR Title 16, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Book Review: A Servant Like Jesus

A Servant Like Jesus is a delightful book, and a wonderful introduction to a series that “builds a strong, foundational relationship with Jesus.” It models friendship, servanthood and compassion through a story with endearing characters. Charlie is shy, Willie & Tina have to learn how to share, and Bernie needs a friend when he gets hurt. The Sea Kids all respond differently to their first day of school. Some eager, some fearful, but all enter the unknown together. They learn an important lesson about helping others and how it also helps them overcome their own fears.

It’s easy to see why A Servant Like Jesus is winner of The Mom’s Choice Award, Illumination Book Awards, Readers’ Favorite Illustration Award, International Book Awards Finalist, IBPA Benjamin Franklin Award and President’s Book Awards Winner. The author, Lee Ann Mancini has found a way to help kids relate to Jesus. And illustrator, Dan Sharp brings images that leap off the page into your child’s imagination! The colors are welcoming. The illustrations are fun, playful, full of detail and include a treasure hunt in the sea.

Get your copy now at GLM Publishing, and save during the holiday season! Take 50% OFF when you use the code: SEAKIDS16. This is a book you’ll read again and again… I can’t wait to dive into it with my own grandchildren!


Disclosure of Material: I received this book free from the publisher through the book review program, which requires an honest, though not necessarily positive, review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s CFR Title 16, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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