A very, very economical tea

Tea.

Tea

I took this photo at a backyard tea-party I was at on the weekend (it was a bridal shower). Very fun! Lots of different David’s teas, and the favours were David’s Teas 🙂 I got coco chai rooibos – yea, I’m pretty excited to try it.

Tea is such a big part of many cultures, including ours in North America. I descend from Northern Irish folk (Britons) who call the bubbles after pouring tea “money” and believe the milk does not cool down the tea, the tea “warms the milk” (and milk always goes into the cup first). There really isn’t an occasion, when you’re alone or with others, that doesn’t call for tea, according to my Grandma. It warms you up on cold day, and cools you down on a hot one (from sweating, I presume).

And it’s got caffeine. A drug that is addictive. 

When I was trying to beat my depression, I decided to tackle my physical health as an attempt to improve my mental health. Part of that involved cutting out caffeine. No coffee or tea. Are there health benefits to coffee and tea? Sure. Are there multi-million dollar companies funding research into the health benefits of their products? Yes, and I don’t disagree that perhaps coffee and tea drinking over a lifetime may help prevent cancer (so does staying inside). I just know that for me, I felt a lot better when I cut out caffeine. I started getting happier, and I’m not going back (except when Grandma offers me a cup of tea, because, you know).

Here is a quick blog about some great, cheap tea. Because let’s face it, tea is also a huge industry and you can spend a lot of money when you start going to places like David’s Tea, Teaopia, or even Starbucks, for your hot-water-on-leaves. 

Spruce: Go native. Find a spruce tree, and put some in some boiling water. Tastes sprucey. The native people of Canada taught the pioneers about this in the early days of our nation. To prove that I’m not crazy, this blog titled American Bushman” can vouch for spruce being delicious, natural, healthy tea. (ALSO – ripping off leaves from a tree is FREE.)

Ginger: Buy ginger root. It looks very odd, and I once put a small piece in my cart at the grocery store and my husband thought it was garbage and was going to leave it there when we were checking out, but it’s very cheap (since it’s light and you’re charged by the weight). I only use about one slice for one cup of tea, about the size of a quarter, and store the rest in a baggy in my fridge. If the ginger root is smaller than a quarter, I might use two slices. I tend to slice mine thin, and I don’t peel it, but you probably should. Add boiling water, and you get a tea which aids in digestion (like a ginger ale when you’re feeling sick, except without the sugar).

Anise: This is a seed you can buy in the bulk barn. It makes a tea that tastes like licorice. Again, aids in digestion. An Armenian friend of mine serves this alongside regular tea and coffee at her house – and I love it. It’s light and refreshing. You don’t need much (a couple pinches for one cup, or a teaspoon for a pot). The seeds are pretty fine so you can either use a strainer, or try your luck at letting them float around and sink to the bottom and just stop drinking when you can’t take a sip without getting a mouthful of seeds (like the Chinese do, with their loose leaf green tea).

The above three are the only teas I can attest to personally as being delicious, caffeine-free and so cheap it’s disgusting. But there are lots of other teas you can find at the Bulk Barn or bulk section of your grocery store, if you look!

What’s your favourite tea? Where do you buy it?

Money & Missionaries: An Interview – Part 2

We’re back with Ashlee to present Part 2 of an Interview with a Missionary! (Not as exciting as an interview with a vampire… but I digress… and I’m totally kidding. Way more interesting.) You can read Part 1 Here.

A couple weeks ago I got an email from Ashlee announcing she was going to be moving to Germany, God-willing, this January, to begin working at a school with her husband, Nick. She’ll be fund raising and is a newly wed (one year in August!), and was kind enough to answer some of my questions for an interview here on the blog! You can find her blogging her adventure over at Always Learning.


Q. In your letter, you mentioned “God’s will for your financial health.” I like the idea of being financially healthy – what have you learned about what that looks like?

A. Giving and saving!

I think financial health begins and ends with giving. Everything we have comes from God: he gives to us, generously! Nothing we have is our own: we should give it freely.

I love reading about the early church, how they had all things in common and no one wanted for anything. I believe this is still a viable model in our day and age and I hope Nick and I are moving ever closer to a lifestyle that looks like that. But, it’s going in baby steps because we both definitely have a lot of consumer-driven habits and weaknesses that we’re still working on!

There are several Proverbs about ants, and taking heed of how they store food for the Winter. Like I said, this is definitely our weakest area, so I admire people who save and sometimes resent their amazing discipline! But the point being, that it’s wise to save, to store away for hard times and for your old age. It’s like saying “I want to continue to be giving and generous in the future, not just today,” because if you do have money put away you will be able to help out in emergencies and maybe have extra, allowing you to be even more generous.

Q. The book you’ve been reading as you prepare to fundraise, Funding Your Ministry by Scott Morton; what would you say is the biggest thing that you’ll take out of this, into the rest of your lives?

A. The concept of Vertical Giving.

It’s the idea that giving and receiving does not happen from person to person – that’s horizontal giving. It really happens between God and a person. Someone gives an offering to God, it goes up to Him. Then that offering is used to meet someone’s needs, they receive the gift from God. Gifts go up to God, then back down from God to those who need it. It’s vertical!

Morton goes on to say:

“If you view people as your source of funding, you have a horizontal view. That’s merely worldly charity. Furthermore, you alternately may feel deserving or undeserving of donor gifts.”

You should feel neither entitled nor burdened by others supporting you financially because ultimately it’s their gift to God and his gift to you.
This helped me get over my fundraising qualms in a big way!

Q. What are you most looking forward to through this experience?

A. To learn! We are so excited to be trained as teachers and learn from more experienced teachers. And not just as teachers but to learn more about ministering to teens and about living in community, since the students and staff make up a small, tight-knit, Christian community.

We’re also so exited to continue working with teens. We love teenagers and have a passion for preparing them to have their faith tested by “real life” as adults. Hopefully we can help our students work through some of their faith questions and feel grounded in their faith.

 

 

 

 

 

***

I am really excited for Ashlee as she embarks on this adventure. I have a number of friends who have gone into full-time ministry and the process of fund-raising is definitely one that begins reshaping you and transforming your heart way before you ever reach the mission field. It’s been such a blessing hearing from you, Ashlee, and I pray that your adventures continue to bring you wisdom and joy as you learn about God’s economy and his purposes for your life!

Read more about Ashlee’s adventures at her blog, Always Learning.

Money & Missionaries: An Interview – Part 1

I’m back from my vacation and after a couple days of migraines I’m finally getting back to the ol’ blog again. Yes. I had two days worth of migraines. I think my eyes had gotten so used to the great outdoors and the insides of quaint B&Bs that when I made them look at a computer screen again they decided to explode. Now that I can see again (and I’m in a much better mood, no longer feeling like death warmed over), I am happy to present:

Ashlee!

A couple weeks ago I got an email from Ashlee announcing she was going to be moving to Germany, God-willing, this January, to begin working at a school with her husband. She’ll be fund raising and is a newly wed (one year in August!), and was kind enough to answer some of my questions for an interview here on the blog! You can find her blogging her adventure over at Always Learning.

I have always wondered how managing your money would look different as a missionary, and how money in general must seem a very different animal when you have to ask for it, so I am super grateful that Ashlee has agreed to answer some of my questions at the beginning of her journey!

Without further ado, here are the first batch of questions: Part 1!

Q. Do you have any advice for people who are considering missions but are concerned about the costs?

A. If you’re worried about personal debt I would say: make it part of your ministry vision to get debt-free. Realize that paying off your debt can be a first step in a long journey to realizing your ministry dream, whether as a missionary or anything else really. Luke writes “So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?” (Luke 16:11). Show your trustworthiness by tackling your debt. I think this is equally true for bad financial habits. That’s my personal battle: not just being “ok” financially, but being really responsible and wise so I can show God he can trust me with more precious things too.

If you’re stressed out about asking other people for money, which can seem really daunting, I would say: go to the Bible! We just did this awesome Bible study about fundraising and there are so many examples in the Old and New Testaments about fundraising. My favorite is in Nehemiah, and also Paul’s very direct and gracious appeals for funds for his missionary work in his letters.

Q. How has your day-to-day spending changed – if at all – with this mission coming up?

A. It has definitely made me more aware of our spending and given me the impetus I needed to start budgeting. We applied to be missionaries in May and are hoping to leave in January, so everything is moving very quickly. To be honest, I haven’t had very much time yet to sit down with my husband and work out a new budget. Not that we’re big spenders or irresponsible. I think we’re both just a little unaware unless it’s time to pay the rent or other bills. The rest of the time we just try to spend wisely and hope we won’t get in the red.

I’ve been really convicted to put our finances in good order and get into good habits before we start receiving support as missionaries. Just today I was reading a chapter in Funding Your Ministry about personal finances. Hopefully in the next two weeks we’ll work out a better savings plan (our weakest financial discipline) and maybe start using the good old envelope method for our monthly expenses. Stay tuned…

Also, we just got a puppy. Some people might think that’s really silly since we’re going overseas soon. But it’s something we’ve been talking about before we were ever presented with the missionary idea. We thought about adopting a pound dog in Germany but our research showed us that it would be quite expensive and that expats aren’t usually allowed to adopt dogs. Then a puppy opportunity cropped up and now we have our little mutt, Knox!

Financially, it is something we have to plan for carefully, particularly with the cost of shipping him to Germany. We felt it would be unfair to take that cost out of our support so my husband, quite sacrificially, sold his gaming computer so we have a little slush fund for traveling costs for the dog. I guess that’s one example of how we’re trying to be more responsible about our finances, because pre-becoming-missionaries I don’t think he would’ve done that!

 

 

Stay tuned! The rest of the interview is next!

Travelling Light

My husband and I are going on vacation next week. Expect blog delays 🙂

Last year my husband and I went to Vegas. It was a big trip. We had two weeks, toured the strip, stayed in a ritzy hotel, did all the touristy things, and then went on a road trip in a rented car to see all the nearby national parks, camping all the way. It was amazing.

This year, we’re going to the maritimes. Probably Vegas’s antithesis.  We’ve substituted big hotels and camping, for bed & breakfasts, and our only planned expenditure beyond the rental car and food and board, is a whale-watching excursion.

'Peggy's Cove 360' photo (c) 2010, Aaron Bihari - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

Some tips for saving money while you travel:

  • Whether it’s Vegas or Halifax, research where you’ll be spending the night. Use TripAdvisor to see what (hopefully) unbiased people have said and to see pictures taken by guests of the property. Every place has some negative reviews, but in general, I try to stay at the highest-rated places. I used TripAdvisor to chose my hotel in Vegas, and all the bed & breakfasts out East.
  • Book ahead if you’re traveling during peak tourist season. I planned this trip in May. The first year we were married, my husband and I went camping up the coast of British Columbia – and hadn’t booked camping spots ahead of time. We ended up driving around, calling ahead to places on our cell-phone. There was usually 1 spot left. It was a bit nerve-wracking and we definitely ended up staying in at least one sketchy place because it was the only place with room. Lesson learned. If you know you want to travel soon, sign up to get alerts from kayak.com. It aggregates all the travel websites and shows you the best priced flights. Also check redflagdeals.com – we got our flights for 30% off because we were aware of a one day sale.
  • “Camping” doesn’t necessitate “cheaper”. Camping equipment is not cheap. Buying everything you need for the first time can really add up. So can buying the fuel for your stove, the drinking water, and the millions of other things you can find at a MEC store. It can be cheaper in the long run – if you end up using it. Try renting or borrowing a tent, if you don’t know how often you’ll be camping in the future. Also, the cheaper camping stuff also tends to be heavier and bulkier – consider the costs of oversized luggage charges before you fly off somewhere.
  • Eating out is probably one of the biggest costs on vacation (after travel and board), but also, at least to me, kinda the point. Whether it’s cooking rice over a fire, or eating at an all-you-can-eat Vegas buffet, I love new food experiences! At B&B’s, breakfast (the second “B”) is included. At first I thought we’d be saving all this money because we’d have one less meal to worry about, but when you think of how much it’d cost to feed yourself breakfast for a week… well, let’s just say that the included breakfast is a PERK, but not a real money-saver.
  • Finally, figure out what’s important to you, then be flexible – that way, you’ll be happy with how you spend your money, and your time. For my husband and I, it was Anne of Green Gables, whale watching, and the road-trip itself. Driving was part of the adventure.  At first, we had booked two days in PEI, but that pushed our driving for one day to seven hours – not fun! So we sacrificed some time in PEI, in order to keep our driving manageable, and I think we’ll be a lot happier with that over all.

This summer will mark my third vacation with my husband (not including our honeymoon!). We’re still learning and after every trip we talk about what we would’ve done differently.We love travel, and have made it a life goal to always take some sort of vacation together (even if it’s just to a rented cottage!) every year. Planning is a big part of easing stress and keeping the vacation fun!

What is the most important thing to you when you’re traveling? Where do you plan on going next?

Email “Couponing”

In a few days, it’ll be my birthday.

Already, I’ve received congratulations from Starbucks (free drink on my birthday), anthroplogie (25% off in-store coupon) and RW&CO. (25% off in-store coupon).

There is nothing pretty about this. Fail.

I admit it: I sign up for e-mailing lists.

Partly because as a graphic designer and communications specialist I need to understand and see the latest email marketing trends. Partly because I like deals.

Essentially, I’m impervious to the annoyance of having ten new emails each morning, none of which from people I know.

Sure, I’ve deleted my subscriptions to more than a few over the years, but in general, if someone asks me to put my email down for a draw, or if it’s an optional field when I’m signing up for a store’s rewards card – and if I can reasonably assume I’d be interested in the products or services offered at some future date – I don’t mind getting their emails.

At present I get emails from the following retailers:

  • Banana Republic
  • Anthropologie
  • Harvey’s
  • Starbucks
  • RW&Co. – I think at this point the last time I shopped here was my last birthday
  • Eddie Bauer – they have great tank tops and end-of-season sales
  • Ruche (shopruche.com)
  • Groupon – good for dates
  • IKEA
  • Uprinting.com
  • Moo – business cards
  • Clearly Contacts – only really useful when you need new glasses/contacts
  • FH Canada (food for the hungry) – charity
  • World Vision: ACTS – charity, I like to know what my money’s doing
  • Well.ca – an online pharmacy with free shipping, handy for sales
At some point, I’ve given my money over for the services/products/charity of all of these.
It’s reasonable to assume I’ll do it again.

I don't know what you're trying to sell me, but I'm not buying it. (I will, nevertheless, enjoy LOOKING at this strange pansy fairy.)

Most of the stores above with physical locations are local. Hence, useful. They got my email when I went in and bought something.

But a lot of them are still out of my price range.

For stores like anthropologie and Banana Republic, I look at the emails like I would window shop – to see what’s in style and what looks nice – I have no intention of buying.

RW&CO. has the added benefit/financial hurdle of not selling things online. You’d actually have to GET UP and GO OUT to spend money. So you’re much less likely to, but you still get that birthday discount if you’re willing to leave the house.

I used to get emails from Aldo, but I cancelled that, because their shoes are always on sale and it was super tempting and it is totally unrealistic to buy shoes online (I made the mistake twice before learning my lesson).

Aldo accessories, however, are nice – so when I was in the market for a new purse, I signed up for the mailing list to get 10% off (a discount code usable once). Then promptly unsubscribed.

I know my limits.

Because other than the free Starbucks drink on your birthday, the deals aren’t amazing. Every now and then I’m in the market for something, and that’s when I start paying attention. Being on the mailing list means I can find the discount code for it. It is a good strategy to sign up for a “store card” or “rewards card” if you shop some place a lot, too, since that sometimes will get you a discount – but it’s only worth if a) it’s not a credit card, and b) it doesn’t cost you anything.

The risk, of course, is you’re essentially signing up to be marketed to (and no one is impervious to marketing). 

I should probably unsubscribe from this for the next year... I don't need anymore new glasses, no matter how cool they are.

I’ve bought my fair share of shopruche… their product is amazing and their prices are reasonable. But it’s also because of their email marketing (they have incredibly talented graphic designers and photographers working for them so the emails are downright inspiring). They also have this ingenious way of reaching people on Facebook and twitter, by posting all their new stock whenever they get it.

Warning: when stuff is beautiful and reasonably priced, and you have it in your inbox, twitter stream, and Facebook feed, it’s a bit like walking past a beautiful store everyday, multiple times a day. You will be much more likely to buy, and buy often. 

Remember, if you need to watch your spending, being on these lists would be detrimental. Unsubscribe. The deals will be there when you can afford them.

Lesson: search for coupons when you’re ready to buy something, or foresee needing something in the near future. Signing up to receive every coupon ever invented risks you believing that you need something you don’t.

Tip: search “promo code” or “coupon code” + the store name where you’re about to make an online purchase, to see if there’s any coupons you’re not aware of (check RetailMeNot or another such site).

Do you subscribe to any email lists? What stores are you a member of?