Lightening Up Family Home Evening

The first Monday night after we were married, my husband and I sat down on the stiff little couch in our basement apartment and started singing, “There is beauty all around. …” We couldn’t finish the hymn because we were crying for joy. There was love in our home, and we were happy to be a family.

Some years later, having good family home evenings became more challenging as we struggled to keep the attention of our three little children. When our oldest child would cry and pout and we would have to put him in his room, I would think, “Oh my, aren’t we having great family home evenings.” We were serious about teaching the gospel to our children, but we didn’t seem to be succeeding.

We gradually learned to loosen up and make our home evenings more enjoyable. Here are some ideas that have helped us:

Taking turns. Children need to hear from both parents, so my husband and I take turns giving the lesson. As our children have grown older, they have given lessons too. By the time our oldest child turned seven, he could present a good lesson by himself.

Memorization. We use home evening as a time to memorize a scripture or an article of faith, which we then post in the kitchen and refer to during the week.

Participation. Everyone helps in some way. One child presents a flannel-board story, another conducts, another leads the music, and so on. Other assignments include preparing refreshments, leading games, and listing appointments and activities on the family calendar.

Resources. We use the Primary lesson manuals extensively for teaching our younger children. The manuals are inexpensive, and they provide wonderful stories, games, and ideas for other activities. The Family Home Evening Resource Book and the Friend are also excellent resources.

Flannel board. Using construction paper and clear contact paper, I have made lots of simple flannel-board figures that are captivating teaching tools. I keep them filed according to the scripture story or gospel topic they illustrate.

Award time. We end our home evenings by recognizing the good deeds or behavior of our children during the past week. Each child receives a badge to that effect. Dad emcees the event, calling the name of each child and reading the award as the child stands on an elevated spot in the room. We all cheer as Dad gives each child a mighty bear hug. Award time is the best part of the night.

Sometimes our Monday nights are so hectic that we have to take the phone off the hook. At other times we have the lesson on Sunday and the activity on Monday. Despite the effort it takes to plan an uplifting family home evening, it is still the best thing we do as a family.Nancy Chapple Grant, Centerville, Utah

Emergency Savings the “Centsible” Way

What if you lose your job and cannot find employment for several months?

What if you have to pay unforeseen medical expenses? What if you are injured and cannot return to work for a long time? Or the washing machine and the car break down at the same time? Or a family member is hospitalized, and although you have medical insurance, the deductible amounts and the copayments are costly?

Do you have enough money set aside to help cover such financial emergencies? If not, it’s important to establish an emergency savings account—a reserve fund that will lessen the shock of financial hardship.

Counting the cost. Your first goal in setting up an ideal emergency fund should be to have at least enough money to cover your expenses for three months. After that, you can expand your goal to six, nine, or even twelve months. Financial experts say that in times of financial crisis, families can usually cut expenses in half and still get by. This means that unless your monthly expenses during a crisis were unusually high, you probably would need only one and one-half times your monthly income to cover your expenses for a three-month period. If you intend to draw from your year’s supply of food, clothing, and other items, you can adjust your goal accordingly.

Some people prefer to build up emergency funds gradually. If you plan to do so, it may suit you to save some money during each cycle of your pay period. For example, if you get paid weekly, set aside money weekly; if you get paid monthly, add to your fund monthly. Experts recommend that families save 10 percent of their income. In the case of my family, we could save only 2.5 percent of our income at first, but we worked at it until we finally reached our goal. In the process we became better savers. Whatever amount you decide to save, the important thing is to put money into a savings account on a regular basis.

Availability of funds. Although your emergency money should be accessible in time of need, it should not be so easy to get at that you’re tempted to use it for day-to-day expenses. You can keep your money safe from unwise withdrawals by exercising self-discipline and by observing these guidelines: (1) keep your emergency savings account separate from your other accounts; (2) decline automatic teller cards and checks for this account so that you must go to the bank to get your money; and (3) decide beforehand under what circumstances you will use your emergency money.

It is also wise to get an interest-bearing account. Your primary goal is to have your money available upon need, but an account that earns interest at the same time is an added bonus.

Getting started. This is often the hardest part. The key is commitment. You must make payments to your emergency savings account as if it were any other bill. Whether you take advantage of an automatic payroll deduction plan or make deposits into an account, it is important that you commit to building your savings program and accept the responsibility of preparing for your future financial security.

Be patient and persistent as you contribute to your emergency savings account. Remember that it is by small, regular deposits that you will achieve your financial goals. For most people, it takes one to three years to save enough money so that the account will be an effective buffer against financial crises.Vaughn Cox, Sandy, Utah

[photos] Photography by Phil Shurtleff; props by Jeanette Andrews