Kris Mares

Just a woman trying to love Jesus and others a little bit more…

We hit a mini-goal! May 5, 2016

It’s no secret that Racer and I follow Dave Ramsey’s 7 Baby Steps. We are currently teaching a Financial Peace University class and as a part of the class, our homework was to have a “Budget Meeting.” Sounds scary doesn’t it? Sometimes, it is. Sometimes, those budget meetings are loud and end abruptly. But they are always worth it.


Because sometimes, you find surprises!

Racer and I sat down last week to look over April and finalize our May budget. It was pretty close to being done, so I did not anticipate any issues. But something was amiss with April. We had a bunch of extra money! Racer got excited (free spirit that he is) and I got nervous (nerd that I am). What did we not pay? Where did I mess up? What is wrong? Racer was like “Extra money!!” He wanted to allocate it right away and I wanted to figure out what went wrong. We had a 3 paycheck month and I though I’d accounted for it but something was amiss. Soooo…. after a loud discussion about starting a New Car fund and where the extra money came from, we agreed to focus on May and give me time to figure out what was going on.

Basically, I messed up. In a 3 paycheck month, we lived on two. So we had an entire paycheck to figure out what to do with. Since we’re on Baby Step 3, it was an easy decision. And Racer got his New Car fund started too. Win-win.

FullSizeRender (7)Since building our 3-6 month Emergency Fund has been a lengthy task for us, being able to put an entire paycheck away was HUGE! It means we hit a mini-goal and got to “move up” our line on our tracking chart! We are moving slowly in our progress, so we had agreed to only move our line when we hit the 25% increment marks and we did it! Hitting this first mark has really motivate us in this step again (we’re actually at 30%, but you know, nerdy me only drew up to the pre-done line that was there…).

Three things we learned during this budget meeting: A) be more diligent about our monthly budget meeting; b) always budget just the 2 paychecks and month and on a 3 check month use it toward your financial goal; c) break big goals down into mini-goals and take them one smaller step at a time.

Budget meetings can be hard. No way around that. But they keep us on track and help us stay focused on our goals. As a bonus, sometimes you get a text later that says “As much as we get at each other’s throats, I love doing the budget with you.” Who knew?

And when you’re used to living off 2 paychecks a month, why not just keep doing that? I know this would only work for people who get paid bi-weekly, but for those that do, why not use that “extra” check that comes twice a year to make a big impact on whatever Baby Step you are on, or financial goal you have?! Can you imagine being able to put an entire paycheck toward paying off a credit card, student load or car note?


And big goals… well they just seem big and overwhelming don’t they? But breaking a large goal down into smaller pieces… well, those smaller pieces seem a LOT more doable and quicker to reach. So, whatever your financial goal is, break it down into 25% increments and make those your goal. Save 25% and then celebrate! Pay off that first small debt then celebrate! Pay off 50% of the house then celebrate! Those small successes really do motivate you to reaching the next small goal and eventually, you’re at the big goal!

So, have that budget meeting today! (We use EveryDollar.) Set those goals and celebrate the small victories! And if you need a place to start, pick up Total Money Makeover and it’ll walk you through.

So let’s celebrate! What financial goals (big or small) have you reached lately! Comment below and let us know.


(Disclaimer: Some of the links above are affiliate links.)


Money vs. Health: my struggle April 28, 2016

Filed under: Money — Kris @ 2:46 pm
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We used to belong to a gym. Yep, you heard that right. Used to. We had a family membership to the local Y. For a time, we went regularly, particularly the kids and I. But then life got busier, time got more occupied and the Y was less frequented. So, in an effort to save money and use our resources to pay off some debt (at the time), we didn’t renew our membership.

And my body has paid for it. You see, for every financial decision we make, there are good and bad consequences. No consumer debt = good. No exercise = bad. When we were members at the gym, I at least tried to go and “get my money out of it.” Tried. But then, I just didn’t.

Now, Racer and I have talked about needing to re-join the Y. But I’m having a hard time justifying the money for a family membership when we still are trying to build our emergency fund. We have other financial goals that those fees would go toward.

But in a physical earlier this year, my doctor and I agreed that I need to move my body. While my health “numbers” are ok, the direction of my health is going the wrong way.

So, save money or go to the gym?

So what’s a girl to do?

The answer really came to me in stages. Walking was a good start. Then my health insurance sent home pedometers with a cash earning program for reaching certain step goals. Then a morning devotion focused on the theme of “move” really hit my heart.

I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. Psalm 139.14

Yes! But if I am wonderfully made, how is my physical state living that out? Am I honoring God’s careful creation of me? I want to do that, thus I need to care for my physical self.

So, then the wrestle comes. How do I manage my money, my time and my physical self in a way that is pleasing to God and still keeps me on track for the goals our family has? How do I balance the need for exercise with the need to save money?

You see, it’s not just the gym membership that costs, but it’s also the gas to drive there as there is no location that is convenient. So how do I find something low-cost, that fits into my schedule and is convenient. I mean, why can’t I have it all?

Well, God helped. Just a week later, in my morning devotion, the theme was “walking.” Walking with God, walking God’s path for me in life, walking in God’s presence.

12998453_1136367073075192_6725095061062340834_nSo, I’m walking. Walking with friends. Walking in the morning on the days I drop kids off at school. Walking. And while I walk, I have my ear buds in, listening to Dave Ramsey’s podcast and True Stewardship podcast (and a few others) so that I can also stay motivated on my financial journey! Win win right?!

I also found a couple of free apps that lead me through a bodyweight style circuit. You know, push ups, jumping jacks, lunges… that type of thing. Totally free and does all the timing and instructions for me. So that’s good too.

So, gym membership money gets to stay reallocated to savings goals AND I’ve found a way to get in free exercise. And for accountability, I text my dear friend for encouragement.

You may have a conflict in goals – money vs. ?? Maybe its money vs. quality time with your spouse. Maybe it’s money vs. “making memories” with your children. Maybe it’s money vs. a need for relaxation. Each decision we make has consequences.

Perhaps, though, there is another way. Perhaps, there is a way to do both. Maybe not how you imagined, but still a way. Think creatively. Think outside the “normal” box. Ask God for help. It may come in pieces, but it will come.

I’d love your encouragement and ideas for other “free” ways to exercise! Please share your struggle, journey or thoughts in the comments below.

Also, remember to sign-up to join me for a morning make-over (affiliate link) starting May 1st!


5 Frugal Things April 21, 2016

For me, being a good steward of resources means using things us, making do with what I have and just not buying what isn’t necessary. For me, being frugal isn’t being “cheap,” but instead is about saving money where/when I can so that I can give more to others and use the resources of this earth in the kindest way possible. It’s not about “saving the earth” (although Earth Day is tomorrow and I am a bit of a tree-hugger), but it is more about ending unnecessary use of “new things” and making do with things that are already produced. I’m a fan of the “reuse” part of the 3-R’s of recycling.

So, in advance honor of Earth Day, and along with one of my favorite bloggers, The Frugal Girl, here are 5 things I’ve done this week that are frugal:

  1. Took my own bags to a store that actually has plastic bags. I mostly shop at Aldi and need to take my bags, but this week I went to another store where I typically get fewer items and use plastic bags (which I reuse for bathroom garbage). This week, I took my own cloth bags!
  2. I meal planned for the rest of the monthLately I have been just buying the same old stuff at the store and we’ve been getting burned out. So I downloaded the app, found easy recipes (mostly for the crock pot since we have sports practices/games that started up), used the grocery list feature and did my shopping! We’re set for the rest of the month and it was super easy to do! Now I won’t be tempted to just “pick something up” or wander around the store looking for “something that sounds good.”
  3. I sent recycling items with Gorilla to school for an art project. Gorilla’s class is learning about Earth Day, so we sent some items destined for recycling to be “repurposed” as art! Totally free, educational, and it reuses them before recycling!
  4. I printed on the back side of paper print mistakes. In the church office, I sometimes make printing/copying mistakes. Instead of tossing them in recycling right away, I put them in a reuse tray, then when printing drafts or something, I use those papers and eventually recycle! Saves the church money AND reuses the paper.
  5. I divided out yucca plants and used them elsewhere in the yard. I have several yucca plants that were growing “extras,” so I divided them, replanted a few in other locations and have some to give away! Good for my body, my yard and another yard too!

So, what did you do this week that has been frugal? Any plans to celebrate Earth Day? Tell me in the comments below!


Does the bank hold treasure? April 14, 2016

Filed under: Money,Uncategorized — Kris @ 2:14 pm
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Money is a funny thing. It’s really hard to live without it (yet there are people who do it!), we always seem to need/want more of it, yet we don’t always use it the best that we can.

There is this interesting little Bible verse though, that talks about our heart and our treasure:

Instead, collect treasures for yourselves in heaven, where moth and rust don’t eat them and where thieves don’t break in and steal them.Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:20-21, Common English Bible)

Jesus said that.

Did you know that Jesus taught more about money that he did about any other topic except love? Love, then money. Hmmmm…

Just this last Monday, I was reminded of a Zig Ziglar quote:

Show me your calendar and your checkbook, and I will tell you what is most important in your life.

That’s a challenge isn’t it? Do our bank accounts show what is important?

So I went to look. Racer and I use EveryDollar to create and maintain our monthly budget (it’s free). It’s an easy way to tell our money where to go and to stay focused on our financial goals. EveryDollar also does all the budget math for us!

So what did it say was important? Basically family and giving. The highest expenditures had to do with maintaining our home, giving to others and childcare.

Although we are still working on Baby Step 3, we hope that one day our giving will far exceed our home expenses. But until then (and even after), we can make sure our home is a place where we give of our time and hearts to others. A place where people can come and be loved.

You see, our treasure is not the stuff in our homes. Our treasure is not found in the number the bank says we have in our emergency fund. Our treasure is not what the 401(k) statement does or does not say.

Our treasure in the love and grace and truth we leave in the hearts of our family, our friends, our co-workers and the strangers we meet. Our treasure is found in the ways we invest in the lives of others.

And no matter what your income is, how tight the budget stretches, how much debt you are paying off, or how overwhelming your financial situation may be, your home can be a place of love, because that is all about attitude. Trust me. We’ve had a low income, had a budget stretched so tight it broke, paid off a lot of debt, and been so overwhelmed that I laid on the bathroom floor 8-months pregnant and cried my eyes out. But if you ask my kids now, they don’t remember that. They remember parks (free), Saturday morning pancakes (super cheap to make), library activities (also free) and family movie nights (also free because we watched what we had on hand).

No matter where you are on your financial journey, you can make a difference in how you think about money. It’s not about getting more, but about using what you have to bless others.

So, take a look. Look at your calendar. Look at your checkbook. Where is your treasure?


Budgets are a funny thing October 8, 2015

Filed under: Money — Kris @ 6:24 am
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As Racer and I teach Financial Peace University, we’re learning a lot. Yes, we’re learning about God’s ways of handling money, but we’re also learning much about ourselves. And that’s why a budget is such a funny thing.

As we work out our budget together, we’re learning about our own styles. I’m a spending nerd. Racer is a saving free-spirit. I like to spend, but make sure everything lines up, the numbers match, we have a plan and every penny is accounted for (so I can spend them). Racer is laid-back, doesn’t like to be boxed into a plan, wants freedom, but saves and doesn’t need to spend every dollar (except at gift-giving times).

And as we know these things about ourselves, we can know more about the other too. Self-awareness allows us to be other-aware. And being other-aware makes our relationship stronger. We communicate better, we give the other the space that s/he needs, we understand the space the other exists within.

And making and tracking a budget together (not just me or not just him, but us, together), has caused us to be more honest together. I can no longer hide the coffee or impromptu lunch conversation. I have to be accountable for my time and my spending. Racer can no longer let his travel help him ignore some of the home repair needs and long-term family goals. Our budget and money management is no longer solely on my shoulders and that is a good thing.

You know the funniest thing about budgeting together? It’s helped us dream together. When we have to talk about money for now together, we get to ask the question “Why?” together. Why are we paying off debt? Why are we giving? Why are we saving? Why are we prioritizing wants in this way? Why do we think this need requires more/less of our dollars? Asking “Why?” together has helped us think bigger picture. We get to look past the frustration of today and consider what tomorrow might be able to look like. And doing so helps us change our behavior today so that we can make that dream for tomorrow together.

Realizing that, made budgeting a whole lot less painful.

Try it sometime. Try sitting down with your spouse – or a trusted friend if you are single – and make a budget out. We use Every Dollar (it’s free and super easy to set up online and then to track spending on our phone with the free app). It’ll take a few months to really get the hang of it, but try it! Dream while you do it! What if you didn’t have those debt payments? Why save for an emergency? What could retirement look like if I save more? Why am I giving this amount – what if I could give more?

Yes, if we let them prompt our dreams, budgets are a funny thing.


Crowding out Contentment September 10, 2015

Filed under: Money — Kris @ 7:09 am
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Our family has quite a financial journey. We’ve lived above our means (and incurred to debt to prove it) and we’ve lived below our means and we’ve fed our children with government assistance. We’ve made some good financial choices and we’ve made some bad ones. I’ve learned a LOT through that journey.

On my 32nd birthday, I was pregnant with Climber and we were broke. We received WIC, I wasn’t working, we’d lived in our new state for only 2 months, Racer was working for next to nothing. I knew we couldn’t afford a nice meal out (our family tradition) or a gift. So I asked that as a family we go to a local festival and just walk around, looking at the interesting crafts, seeing the demonstrations, letting kids play on the playground and just being together. At that event, there was a carousel that cost $1 per person to ride. We needed $6. We didn’t have it. We had to tell the kids no.

When we got home, I laid my 8 month preggo self on the floor and cried my eyes out. It was the worst birthday I’ve ever had.

Thankfully, things are much better. Racer’s working at a good place. I’m working. We’re debt free (except our mortgage). We could afford a small, simple vacation. Our closets and cabinets are full.

So why do I still look around at other people and wonder why we don’t have what they do?

And when I do, I think about this passage written by the Apostle Paul:

I rejoice in the Lord greatly that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned for me, but had no opportunity to show it. Not that I am referring to being in need; for I have learned to be content with whatever I have. I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. (Philippians 4:10-12, NRSV)

Racer and I have done a fair job of managing our finances. We’re striving to do better, to be the best stewards we can be of ALL the resources God has given us. But sometimes, that desire for more crowds out contentment. Sometimes, the envy of others crowds out the gratitude. Sometimes, the view of what I don’t have crowds out the view of what I do have.

When that happens, I lose track of what God has done in my life and what God continues to do in my life. When that happens, I lose track of what it means to be content.

You see, we each have a different journey and a different purpose. Our resources are a part of that journey and that purpose. And we can live a life pleasing to God, regardless of the “stuff” we have. Contentment is not about happiness or even finding joy in the midst of life’s circumstances.

Contentment is about knowing that what ever I have (or don’t have), that whatever I do (or don’t do), that whatever I save (or spend), that the Lord’s grace is sufficient for me (2 Corinthians 12:9).

So what’s the secret of contentment?


It’s that simple and that hard.


Not Buying It! August 13, 2015

In my search for contentment and good stewardship, I’m always on the lookout for people who have pursued simplicity and less consumerism. When I was perusing the shelves of my local library (one way I can read voraciously without spending), I saw this book and picked it up on a whim.

Immediately, I was drawn to the idea of not buying things for a year. I would love to be able to do just that, so I was hoping that I would be inspired. What I found, was a woman journeying in life who shared an honest assessment of her struggle to not buy things, her deep desire to do good for the planet, for the poor worker, for the sustainability of the world, yet her desire to just have some nice things. I appreciated her honesty in the struggle to make do with what she had, find a way to spend time with friends that didn’t involve money, and at the same time, learn how to receive gifts from others. When you don’t have money to spend, it’s hard to simply receive.

Over the last several years, our family has drastically reduced our consumption. Partly because we had to and partly because I have a growing committment to my inner “tree-hugger” and living a more sustainable lifestyle. The vast majority of our clothes come from a local consignment store or are hand me downs from family and friends (with the exception of Racer’s work pants and all our tennis shoes) or are freebie t-shirts from events/promotions. We’ve been reducing the amount of stuff we bring in (even asking family to give “experiences” rather than things), reusing what we can in a variety of ways (vases, art projects, turned pants into shorts) and we take a bin of recycling every week.

But somehow, I still get a great longing to buy. To shop. To spend money on shiny objects that promise to make me slimmer, give a smile, and heal my soul in just 5 simple steps. Well, you get the idea. I still have this urge to shop.

Why? Well, I think the best gem of the book came in December. On Christmas Eve, Judith Levine and her significant other were walking and stopped into a religious service. Although she says they are atheists, I think she write something that speaks so loudly to faith: “But I do want something that religious offer in abundance; the permission to desire wildly, to want the biggest stuff – communion, transcendence, joy, and a freedom that has nothing to do with a choice of checking accounts or E-Z access to anything” (p. 261).

I think there is a void in all of us that is constantly searching for something more. Levine doesn’t think we need religion to find it. I think she’s right there. But we disagree in how we do fill that void, that desire for something bigger than ourselves. You see shopping can’t fill it. Friendship can’t fill it. Marriage can’t fill it. Children can’t fill it. Social activism can’t fill it. Even a life of being content with what you have can’t really fill it.

Only Jesus Christ can fill that void in our souls that we long to have filled.

That, my friends, doesn’t cost a thing.

We simply have to learn how to receive.

And that can be harder than not buying it.


Enough August 6, 2015

Filed under: Book Reviews,Money — Kris @ 7:14 am
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I just finished reading Enough by Adam Hamilton. It’s a basic book about giving and living a financial life that pleases God.

I’ll admit, I read through it pretty fast. There are good points and important principles for managing finances in a way that aligns with biblical teaching. Each chapter has some great questions to help readers really think about their own spending habits, financial goals and how their bank statement may or may not reflect God’s purpose for them.

I particularly appreciated the section that Rev. Hamilton wrote about the problem of affluenza. You see, Racer and I have been on quite a financial journey over the last 8 years. Soon I will begin telling more of that story (watch the Money category here on the blog). But I still struggle with keeping up with the Joneses. Not so much with material things, but in other ways. I want my kids to have the awesome experiences that I see other families give their kids. I want the church I serve to have the cool ministries that my friends’ churches have. I want to be on the ground level of that cool justice initiative in the community. I want my husband to be sought after and important in his field. Although Rev. Hamilton focused on the acquisition of stuff, it hit home for me that I try to keep up with the Joneses in other ways.

So, for those who are feeling stuck financially and need help seeing the hope of better finances, Enough is a good start. For those who have their needs met, but still wonder “Where did our money go?” and want to have a greater impact in the Kingdom, Enough will help you rethink how you are allocating your dollars. For those that have had a significant biblical financial journey already and have a good foundation and plan for giving, saving and spending, then Enough won’t be quite what you need.

Overall, it’s a great “starter” book for those who are beginning a financial journey that aligns their budget with biblical principles. It’s an easy read, but with some practical principles and challenging questions.


Crocheting with Dave July 19, 2015

Filed under: Money — Kris @ 6:04 am
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This year, I set a goal of making gifts for people for special occasions. A couple of years ago, my mom had taught me a simple crochet pattern and how to follow a written pattern for other items. Since I was still in graduate school, I didn’t really have time to do much crocheting. But this year, with graduation complete, I had set a goal to crochet. And, with a renewed focus on Dave Ramsey’s 7 Baby Steps, I am determined to keep at it.

So I got my chance. A new acquaintance is having a baby. I was invited to a small shower for her and in lieu of running out and buying something, I gave her a card, telling her I’d love to make her something that coordinated with the nursery. She shared the colors of the nursery and I got to crocheting.

I learned a couple of things: it’s hard to match colors, it took longer than I anticipated and I have to pay more attention. I messed up something in the middle of the blanket (counted a row wrong) that showed up at the end of the pattern. It worked out but the blanket’s not perfect. Then again, neither am I.

So, I’ll send the imperfect blanket. It will still keep the baby warm. More importantly though, I know that my prayers asking for God’s protection and blessing as the baby is being “crocheted” together in his mother’s womb were heard.

And I learned that listening to Dave Ramsey podcasts while crocheting is a great way to stay focused on goals.

Next crocheting projects? Stocking hats for Project AGAPE Christmas boxes, dish clothes to sell and give as gifts, and an orange blanket for a special 6-year-old. My mom, Dave, my grandmother and my inner wannabe homesteader should be proud.

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Today I Dyed August 25, 2011

Filed under: Frugal living — Kris @ 9:19 pm
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Today, I felt very much like a domestic diva! I was the queen of the castle, caring for my children while utilizing the resources I had in an efficient and effective way.

In an effort to be frugal and “use it up and wear it out,” I dyed some clothes for the first time. Professor has to wear uniforms to school and after a year of wearing the same navy shirts and shorts (mixed with red and white and khaki), the navy was faded. They all still fit (I’m expecting a growth spurt any time now), so I needed to simply freshen them up and they would be ready to go!

I wanted to use the washer dye method, but since we have a new HE washer, I wasn’t sure how I do it. Plus, the dye will stain plastic and with a plastic agitator piece in the bottom of the drum… Well, let’s just say Racer’s response was this “I didn’t spend hundreds of dollars on a bid new fancy washer for you to stain it with some project.” So instead, I used the sink.

After 2 hours, 2 bottles of Rit dye, one wooden spoon and 3 trips to the washing machine, I successfully freshened the navy on 3 shirts, 7 pair of shorts, 2 pair of pants and 1 skirt (for the neighbor girl). I also tried to dye 2 white shirts, a pair of khaki pants and 4 white dish towels that were stained. Since I did those last, they didn’t quite make it to navy, but more of a purplish, indigo color. I think another round in some navy dye will do the trick though.

Now everything is washed, dried and looking great for another new school year. The Frugal Girl would be proud of my efforts today. Next time though, I think I need to remember the rubber gloves…


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