The Step-Down Principle

Many of us sense the need to reduce our debt load and save more. How can we do this when money already seems to be tight? Increasing income may be an option for some, but for most, the answer lies in reducing current expenses, which can seem frustrating at times. As a financial counselor and educator, I have used what I call the “step-down principle” to help many people successfully reduce their expenses.

To use the step-down principle, imagine a staircase. Think of a purchase you will be making and list the most expensive way to purchase that item on the top step. Then go down a step and list the next most expensive way, continuing down until you have the least-expensive option on the bottom. For your food budget, for instance, the top step might be a restaurant. Subsequent steps might include a fast-food outlet, frozen or already prepared food from the grocery store, mixes from the grocery store, and cooking from scratch.

Decide which step you are most likely to use. Then see if you can step down one or more steps. The savings can be tremendous! If you were planning to buy pancakes at a restaurant, for example, but stepped down to buying a mix and cooking them at home, you could save significantly! Even if you do not cook from scratch, you can still save a lot of money by stepping down one or two steps. The step-down principle also works well for purchasing clothes, entertainment, and household and personal items.

Using the step-down principle can bring you peace of mind as you reduce expenses and reach your financial goals.

Alena C. Johnson, Smithfield Second Ward, Smithfield Utah Stake

[illustration] Illustration by Joe Flores

Tapping into Family History Societies

Family history societies can be a good resource in searching family lines and finding names for temple work. My father had moved from his family home in Norfolk County, England, located some 350 miles from where I live, and I had no access to Norfolk County records. So I decided to join the Norfolk and Norwich Family History Society.

Many such societies in the British Isles and other countries work to promote family history research. Most are open to anyone. Check your phone book, library, or the Internet to see if the area in which you are interested has one. Some may have information about the geographical spread of a name or clues about where to try next.

Through these societies I have found people who live in certain areas that interest me. Because places sometimes change their names over time or are known locally by another name, a local contact can provide valuable help. I was able to confirm that a name I had found was indeed my ancestor when a local resident told me that the given place of birth, Gatesend, was just another name for the village of Tattersett, where my family had lived for generations.

Through a family history society I also found a woman who lived in Norfolk who was willing to do the research I needed done there. She had relatives from the south, so I did her family research in London while she did mine in Norfolk. It was a wonderful reciprocal arrangement.

Many family history societies keep their own libraries that often contain materials unavailable elsewhere, such as indexes to census records, transcripts of parish records (valuable if you have trouble reading old handwriting), donated material about numerous families, copies of monument inscriptions, and unpublished material on local and family histories. Some of these societies produce magazines, give lectures, and provide a good forum for the sharing of ideas about family history research.

When my grandmother warned me that her family came from a small village that had another family sharing the same surname, I was faced with a tangle of family lines. I had no success sorting it out until a gentleman from Australia, contacted through a family history society, was able to provide me with photocopies of extracts from microfilms in his possession. Since then I have been able to put together an extensive family tree and have even found a living cousin.

Rosalie West, Truro Branch, Plymouth England Stake

Involving Teens

When your children were younger, you faithfully held family home evening, and all seemed fine. Suddenly your children entered the teenage years, and things seemed to fall apart. What went wrong? Part of the problem is simply the age: teenagers begin to separate themselves in identity from their parents, and they are inclined to test and sometimes resist family time and traditions.

Knowing this, how can you continue to make family home evening a positive experience that involves everyone? Below are a few ideas to try:

  1. 1.

    Let your teenagers prepare and teach the lesson. They will care more about the topic when they feel responsible for it. Suggest that the lesson come from appropriate sources such as the Family Home Evening Resource Book, Church magazines, or the scriptures.

  2. 2.

    Ask an older brother or sister to assist a younger child in giving the lesson.

  3. 3.

    Choose a topic and invite all the children to share something on that topic. They could use skits, video clips, real-life experiences, stories from the scriptures, songs—anything appropriate that interests them.

  4. 4.

    Invite teen family members to pose a question about life or from their own gospel study. Then ask the family to study the scriptures throughout the week to find possible solutions; discuss their ideas at the next family home evening.

  5. 5.

    Study your adult Gospel Doctrine reading assignment with your teenagers. Include institute manuals and other resources for youth.

  6. 6.

    Study the missionary discussions together. Look up and memorize accompanying scriptures. Talk about how the discussions are organized to create an effective overview of the gospel.

  7. 7.

    Select a Church book to read as a family. Read sections aloud each Monday night or assign individual portions to be read individually in advance and then discuss them together during family home evening.

  8. 8.

    Select a book from great literature to read together. Great books can lead to many discussions of gospel principles.

  9. 9.

    Choose a new skill to learn together as a family. Consider many options—furniture refinishing, computer software programs, or racquetball, for example. Or take a class together to learn a new language, and practice it together.

Whatever you share in family home evening, try to include everyone. Do whatever you can to keep this evening a positive influence, and your children will come to value your time together.

Darlene Young, Highland Third Ward, Pocatello Idaho Highland Stake

[illustration] Illustration by Beth Whittaker