Where Did the Money Go?

We all share a common dilemma: our money sometimes seems to vanish into thin air. Is there too much month left at the end of your money? In launching an investigation to find out where all the money goes, I discovered a variety of ways our monthly finances can disappear.

Petty cash: Whenever we think we need extra money, we may visit an ATM machine or write out a check for cash at the bank and put the funds into our wallet. Once the money is there, we lose track of it and it quickly disappears. For example, the candy bar at the end of the newsstand is only 50 cents, and we have the change, so why not? After a few trips, we’ll find our extra cash is gone. Also, some ATM machines charge transaction fees. Most people consider the fee inconsequential, usually around $1.50, but those fees add up.

Rounding off checks: It is easy to fall into this trap. When you go into a grocery store, do you ever round up the amount of your check because it seems like such a small amount? For instance, you might only need to buy lettuce and a few tomatoes; your bill comes to $1.44. Being embarrassed to write a check for such a small amount, you write it out for $5.00. That extra money tends to end up where the petty cash did: as part of a disappearing act. If possible, write the check for the exact amount.

Grocery shopping: Some may question why this is listed here. The fact is, many families do not know how much they spend for food every month. For that reason, they spend until they have what they need—along with several things they don’t need—and then wonder why so much money has been spent on food. If you budget the same amount of money for food each month, you will find that those little “extras” you thought you needed will disappear, instead of your money.

Long-distance phone calls: It’s wonderful to hear a familiar voice of a loved one; however, it’s easy to forget that as the minutes tick away, so do the phone fees. Before long, you may have quite a few long-distance charges that were not in the monthly budget. Although it may not seem as enjoyable, a letter sent with a 32-cent stamp is a lot cheaper than a 30-minute long-distance phone call that may cost a lot more.

Impulse buying: I can’t tell you how many times someone has told me what a great deal they got at a 50 percent off sale and later in the conversation say how strapped they are financially. I usually find they had not budgeted for the on-sale item, but “it was such a good deal” they couldn’t pass it up. When you buy a “bargain,” you’re not saving money, you’re spending money. Because good bargains come along all the time, set aside the money first and then look for the bargains.

Credit card finance charges: When the monthly credit card bill comes, it’s tempting to pay the minimum amount without thinking about the high interest you’ll have to pay. The minimum payment on a credit card balance is usually about 2 percent of the outstanding balance each month. Therefore, on a $1,000 balance, you would have to pay only $20. But at an interest rate of 18 percent, the monthly interest for the entire balance is $15. In other words, you are only paying $5 toward your balance, and the rest of the money—$15—is going to pay off the interest. (Even if you don’t use your credit card next month, your next credit card bill will be $995!) Here’s a good guideline to follow: Except for emergencies, if you can’t pay off the balance in full each month, you should get rid of the credit card until you can.

These are a few suggestions to help keep our money from disappearing. With a little bit of effort, we can plan where our money goes, instead of wondering later where it all went.Terry L. Fowler, Vancouver, Washington

[illustration] Illustrated by Don Weller

Grandfather’s Book: Color Him Loved

As sisters, we compiled a coloring book for our grandfather as a gift for his 90th birthday celebration. To find stories about him that we could illustrate and that would be of interest to our children, we read his personal history. We came up with 14 stories and facts about his life that we decided to use in our book. For example, he was baptized by an elderly man who, as a child, was baptized by the Prophet Joseph Smith.

We began looking for pictures to illustrate the short printed story on each page. Because our artistic abilities are limited, we were pleased at how many pictures we found in the Friend magazine and other sources that we could trace or copy. The Friend also gave us ideas like making a dot-to-dot picture of the country where Grandfather served his mission and creating a coded message to decipher. We traced over a photo of my grandfather to use on the cover.

All of his descendants gathered for a special program to honor grandfather, and we distributed the coloring books to each family. The books were wonderfully received. Grandfather has since died, but we are grateful we were able to make this remembrance of him that will help his descendants know him better.Jill Davis Stewart, Las Vegas, Nevada, and Kaye Davis Esplin, Salt Lake City, Utah

[illustration] Illustrated by Scott Greer

Paralyzed at the Pulpit?

By following some basic tips, anyone can give interesting talks with confidence.

  1. 1.

    Choose an appropriate subject. Prayerfully consider your topic and purpose. “We are to teach the doctrines of the Church, emphasizing the first principles of the gospel, relating faith-promoting experiences, bearing witness of divinely revealed truths, and using the scriptures.”

  2. 2.

    Determine what you already know. What wisdom and insight have you acquired about your topic? What aspects of the subject are important in your own life? Brainstorm everything you know about the topic, then choose the approach that seems best. Use your own interests, questions, and strengths to develop your talk.

  3. 3.

    Keep it simple. Use words that are familiar to you and to your audience, and use simple but concrete words that create vivid mental pictures. Rather than trying to cover all aspects of a topic, emphasize two or three main points.

  4. 4.

    Use reliable and appropriate sources. Select information for your talk from the best possible sources, such as the latest conference talks, Church magazines and manuals, and books written by General Authorities. Your meetinghouse librarian may be able to assist you in finding additional materials.

  5. 5.

    Structure your talk. Divide your talk into an introduction, a few main points, and a conclusion. Begin with an attention-getting introduction, such as a story or quotation directly related to the subject. Stories are best when told, not read. It can be helpful to begin with appropriate humor. Once you have introduced the topic, develop each main point clearly. One way to do this is to explain the concept, then illustrate it with a story. Conclude with your testimony.

  6. 6.

    Practice beforehand. Create note cards or a keyword outline, and use these tools during a practice session. Don’t try to memorize your talk, but allow time for review until you feel comfortable with your talk. Remember to smile.

  7. 7.

    Teach with the Spirit. Prepare yourself to be in tune with the promptings of the Holy Ghost so that you and the congregation will “understand one another [and be] edified and rejoice together” (D&C 50:22).

Even though you may feel nervous, using these tips will aid you in your preparation and presentation.Jennifer Shumway Ballard, American Fork, Utah

Our Home Evening History

While our children were growing up, we had them take turns keeping minutes of our family home evenings. Not long ago I decided to preserve their comments by typing them into the computer to add to our family history. What a fun project it turned out to be!

As I read through our minutes, I found myself laughing aloud at the funny things our children wrote down, such as our telling a daughter not to be silly when company dropped in and a four-year-old son’s counsel not to jump on anyone’s furniture when we went visiting. I also found myself wondering if singing “I Hope They Call Me on a Mission” (Children’s Songbook, p. 169) every other week or so had anything to do with the fact that four of our children served missions.

Our minutes showed the goals we set as a family at the beginning of every year, and as I typed those goals into the computer, I felt again a sense of satisfaction that we accomplished many of them. Now, as adults, I see my children still setting goals.

The minutes also tell another story. They reveal the changes in a child’s handwriting over the years—from drawing simple pictures to printing to writing in cursive; from scribbling along the side of the page in boredom to drawing recognizable scenes and objects as they listened to the lesson.

Keeping minutes of our family home evenings captured on paper some of our best memories of our family growing up.Shirley M. Oakes, Gridley, Illinois

[illustration] Illustrated by Sheleena Hamblin