Monday, December 1, 2008

Tight Beginnings

So here's the thing: whenever I write something in my blog that starts out, "I'm excited about this topic, so I'm going to blog about it at length later," I'm usually lying. I don't mean to lie about it. It's just that I always come back to the topic later and think to myself, "Why in the world did I want to do this? I have nothing to say about this that couldn't be said in one sentence." Then I realize that I'm thinking in double negatives, so I take some time to switch it around in my head to make sure that I thought it correctly. Then I say, "Everything I have to say about this could be said in one sentence. Yes, that's it."

With that in mind, I have some maintenance to do, some tying up of loose ends. And why do we have loose ends but not tight beginnings?

Loose end #1: China 2
I thought at one point that I would write on and on and on about the many wonderful people that I met in China. Then I thought about what it would be like to hear someone else drone on and on about wonderful people halfway across the world, and I wanted to choke that person with a rice noodle. Let's just say this:
  • Della (that's the English name she chose to go by) was a college student. She adopted me as a friend for the few weeks I stayed on her college campus, and she proved to be loyal and faithful even in such a short time. I gave Della her first swimming lesson.
  • Nick owned a coffee house in the central market in Yuxi. He loved music, particularly folk, and he always had Alison Krauss or James Taylor playing in his shop. If you're ever in Yuxi, be sure to drop by the Fin du Monde Cafe. You won't regret it.
  • I was privileged to meet one woman there, a Christian woman, who had been imprisoned many times for her faith. She refused to quit preaching despite the frequent arrests, and as a result, she had brought literally hundreds to Christ. She was frail, soft-spoken, and gentle. A few days after I met her, my group took a walking tour of a mountainside filled with temples. Our guide went on ad nauseum about the three faiths represented there (Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism) and how great it was that the different religions could live in harmony with each other, even in such close proximity. Meanwhile, I wasn't allowed to tell him I was a Christian.

Loose End #2: Tales of the Tea Party and Chicago and How I fell down the stairs
I have tons of pictures of the tea party, so perhaps I'll post those as a picture story. As for the party itself, there's not much to say. We drank tea, ate scones, talked of England - stuff like that.

Chicago was fun, of course, but no particular anecdote sticks out to me as a Must Tell. I'll let the trip marinate awhile longer.

As for the stairs, well, that's coming up.

Loose End #3: Moneymoneymoneymoney...Muuuuuh-nay
My fingers simply will not type about penny pinching. Every time my hands touch the keyboard my mind goes blank. It's as though there's a secret connection between my computer, my fingers, and my brain. Perhaps it's a vast conspiracy, a retailer's trick to get us to spend, spend, SPEND. Clearly, the manufacturers placed thrift detectors on old QWERTY, forcing silence on all things cheap. I have two questions only: How did they do it, and how can I use it for my own gain good?

Wow, friends. Wow. I just stepped away from my computer for a few hours. Directly before leaving I wrote a few bullet points of money-saving information and then with great deliberation pressed Save on the draft. Well, guess what. My computer froze while I was gone, forcing me to restart it upon my return. When I reopened this post, my paragraph on thrift tips had mysteriously disappeared. Accident? I think not. Those debt inducing bigwigs at the computer company are at it again, but I shall overcome this persecution. I'll get you yet, you anti-centites.

For now, however, I'll (re)list in bullets my few helpful hints at saving moolah.
  • Food is expensive. QUIT EATING OUT. You can feed four people a full meal for twenty bucks or less when you cook at home, and I often cook for under ten dollars. They're not fancy meals, but they're tasty and filling. Ex: Grilled chicken breast over salad, ham and bean soup with cornbread, sloppy joe's and a couple of veggies.
  • Buy non-perishables in bulk when the price per unit says it's worth it.
  • Meat is expensive. Generally, you can substitute a vegetarian meal once a week to cut down on your grocery bill.
  • Brown bag it for lunch. You can buy lunch meat, cheese, and bread to last you two weeks for the same price as two Subway sandwiches.
  • If you must eat out, skip the beverage and the dessert every now and then. Water won't kill you (unless of course, it's laced with arsenic. I'm looking at you, Computer Key Mafia.) Your wallet will be heavier, but your body will not. Nice exchange, no?
  • Change your own oil. It saves you ten bucks or so, but, more importantly, you get to pretend you know what you're doing. Apply streaks of old oil to face for that "I just bashed my fingers with a wrench and I don't even care" look. Chances did.
  • If you live in the States, you don't need as many clothes as you already have, so don't buy more. Remember that one year I told you about when I didn't have money for a haircut? I spent $37 on clothes, shoes, and accessories that entire year. It helped, of course, that I got fantastic hand-me-downs from Audra every time she visited. The point, however, is that if you're looking to boost your savings or get out of debt, this is the first place to start. Let's be painfully honest: if the thought of cutting down on clothes terrifies you, then it's probably something you should do just as a personal growth exercise. You can do it. You can.
  • Finally, tell other people about your plans to be thrifty, and make them hold you to it. Tell them how they can best support you. Who knows? One of them might even join you.
  • And real Finally, tithe. But, Emily, I thought we were talking about saving money. Yes, Reader, we are. The truth is that every cent we earn is a gift. We are blessed, and we need to acknowledge that before others and before our Creator. We have responsibility to give, not only in abundance but also during drought. I learned this one the hard way. I failed to tithe during that particularly difficult year, and I found that the money worries were always on my mind, oppressive and weighty. Money worries have come and gone since then, but I found that after I started tithing again my heart became much more receptive to trusting in the Lord. I believed with confidence that he would clothe me as he does the lilies of the field. I looked on future debt with hope instead of the all-too-familiar despair. Tithing released me, at least in part, from money's grip, and although I struggle with the Worry demon daily, I know it no longer dominates. Test the Lord in this one, and just see if he doesn't open the floodgates.
There you have it. The next time I tell you I'm going to blog about such-and-such a topic, don't you dare believe me. In fact, call me out on it. In the meantime, good luck with any thrifty goals you've developed, and may you have a very happy Tight Beginning.


Mary Brooks said...

for some reason telling me to have a tight beginning made me feel as though i should....clench something.

that's all.

Pop said...

That's Mahhh Girrrl; Pop is soooo proud!!!!