Teens and expenses: how we do it

The winner of last week’s book giveaway Tokens of Affection is commenter #1 Stefani.

Thrift store shoes

I thought it might be interesting to some of you to hear how we work all the ‘extra’ expenses that teens tend to have.  We have a moderate budget which allows us to supply all of our kids’ needs, but it doesn’t always allow us to fund the ‘wants’.  So that’s where they come in.  If they want something badly enough, they work for it.  Here’s how it currently works at our house.

I will often buy kids some new clothes for Christmas. They also have a grandma who gives them new clothes at birthday time. At other times in the year I will grab them items at the thrift store  or on sale as I find them and I see that they have need. When we go thrifting together, I will often tell them I’m game to buy them one item, and then they can buy whatever they find beyond that one item.

When it comes to shoes, the girls have so many, and get so many hand-me-downs that I don’t buy them much beyond what we occasionally find at the thrift store. In the photo you can see some thrift store shoe finds from a couple years ago. The boys wear out their shoes much faster than the girls, which I replace at the cost of up to $30. If they want to buy something that costs more, it’s up to them to pay the cost beyond that first $30.


We don’t really have a big entertainment budget these days, and our teens (like typical teens) have lots of wishes. In general if the activity is less than $5 or so, and we’re all going, we pay.  If it’s more than $10 or so, and/or if it is something they’re doing on their own with friends, it’s their deal. Some examples: a couple of our teens have done judo at our local rec center, which they’ve paid for themselves, though I have several times paid for a month or bought them a judo gi as a Christmas or a birthday gift. We are willing to spring for dollar theater movies every few weeks.  We also will pay for them to go to a couple other new-release (full price) movies during they year.  When we went to the water park this year, the teens paid their own admission.  But we had several half-price coupons, which made the cost a lot more reasonable.  A few times our kids have done paint-ball, which they’ve paid for themselves.  But we paid to take them all ice skating awhile back.  This seems to work pretty well, and it also makes kids think about how badly they want to do any particular activity.


We have a minivan that has been our ‘teen’ car for years.  We  pay those expenses and the kids can drive that vehicle for free to necessary activities.  Our daughter who currently uses the car most is doing a one-year dental assisting program at the community college this fall, and to assist her in that goal, we are letting her use the van for free, and will supply the gas.  Once she gets out of school and gets a job she will be able to save and purchase a car for herself. We have also been driving our teen sons to their jobs this summer, which has allowed them to build up enough savings to buy cars of their own.  Our teens typically don’t buy cars til they’re at least seniors in high school, but we currently have three 16 year old teens and one 18 year old.  There just won’t be enough car to go around between all four of them.  So it is actually a good thing that our boys are so eager to buy cars on their own. Once they have their licenses and their own vehicles (bought for cash– no loans allowed) they will be paying all auto expenses, as well as half the cost of insuring their vehicles.  My dad has typically helped us out by fixing broken vehicles very affordably.

College Expenses:

Some of the teens have taken college classes in high school, which they pay for themselves.  They’ve also been helped out by a dual-credit scholarship that our local community college offers to high school students interested in taking college credits during high school.  Once they are in college, they will continue to pay their own way.  So far two of our kids have graduated from college with no debt.  We are hoping it will work that way for the younger kids as well, and are encouraging them to apply for scholarships and keep grades up.  Thanks to our large family, the kids do also tend to qualify for Pell grants.

Housing for College and Beyond:

Kids can live at home for free as long as they’re in college and are being responsible about their studies.  Our current 18 year old is planning to stay home while she gets her one-year program done, but most of the other kids have opted for dorms and later apartments.  We are willing to let kids stay home beyond college for a small amount of rent, but so far all the kids have been eager to get out on their own and live independently.

Sometimes I wish we had the finances to afford this or that special activity for the kids– I’m a momma, after all, and want to give good gifts to our kids. But then I have to remind myself of the good growth that is coming from this; the limits of our budget are teaching our kids a lot about their limits of their own budgets.  I’m sure there will be budget stumbles for them along the way— we all have them.  But I think that having to work and pay for some of their own wants from an early age will help them have more realistic ideas about budgeting as young adults.

What about you?  If you have teens, do you pay for all their expenses, or do you encourage them to pay some of their own?

If you’re interested in reading more about teens and money, you might enjoy our $20 Grocery Experiment



Frugal Friday: Teen Car Edition


This week was a big one for one of our teens.  After a couple years of working and saving, he was able to buy his first car.  He found this 1995 Cadillac for the princely sum of $1100.  Of course that didn’t include the new battery and oil change it immediately needed, or the price of that first tank of gas. He’s feeling pretty broke right now. But we are pretty proud of our boy for saving and working to buy this car on his own.

How did frugality go at your house this week?  I’d love to hear some of the ways you’re teaching your kids about wise spending.

Which three words would you choose?

FriReunion (17)

Recently the adoption community was rocked by the news that an adoptive mother of many children was killed in a car accident.  It is so hard to process news like this.  That’s when faith has to come in, I guess– faith that the God who knows everything knows better than we do.  But oh, it’s hard to trust that God really does have a good plan for those precious children.

My friend Carrien recently wrestled with a similar issue when friends of theirs died, also in a car accident.  She talked about how a lot of times no matter how hard we try, we can’t change everything we’d like to change in this world, and how futile that can sometimes feel.  When she shared those feelings with her husband, here’s what he said:  “You are a very minor drop in the bucket, just as I am, just as we all are. We have no ability to predict the outcome of our actions, positive or negative. We do what we do, because it is who we are, not because we are changing the world.”

She said that for a long time she’s made choices in life in this way:  “I ask myself who I want to be, and then I act the way that person would act.”

Isn’t that a great thought??  I love it.  It’s taken me years to truly understand that I can’t really change other folks. I can’t solve all the problems I want to solve. But I can work on myself.

Who do I want to be?

My friend Tisha, a fellow adoptive mom, has also been doing some thinking about life-legacy.  When she heard about that adoptive mom who died, who left a tremendous legacy of love to her family, Tisha decided on three words that she most wants to represent her.  She chose brave, reflective, and impactful.  Aren’t those great words? She even asked her children to choose words of their own– you really ought to go read the whole post for a fuller picture of her thoughts about all this.

After reading her words, I just had to choose some words of my own.  I hyphenated to get a bit more in there, but here’s my three.  Joyous. Grace-filled. Giving.

Oh, I want to be all that to the ones around me. What about you? How would you like to be remembered when the time comes for you to leave this world?

“…being confident in this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion.” Philippians 1:6

Down by the river side

This past weekend we took some of the kids camping in the mountains. ‘Some’ because with three teens working and one taking a summer class, it’s becoming just about impossible to find a time everyone can get away. This weekend we left two teens home with my folks, and took four kids with us, which felt like a ridiculously small number of kids in our big ol’ van. We missed the ones who couldn’t come, but we had fun with the ones we brought, and ended up feeling like it was still worth going. My mom and dad had fun visiting with the other kids, and then they were able to go to work and school as they needed to do. Still, it felt sad to think we’re past the era of being able to easily pack everyone up and take off on an adventure together.

In the summertime we almost always camp on John’s mom’s land, which has been John’s family’s summer gathering place since the 1970′s.  It’s along the edge of a sweet little river where we go fishing and swimming. Both John’s parents and his grandparents have owned land along that river.
John’s granddad built a a big open shed to shelter their travel trailer so they could leave it there on his land year round.  For years after he died, that old trailer stayed there under the shed.  Then a couple years ago someone outside the family expressed an interest in the trailer, and so off it went to a new home, leaving the shed empty.

But not for long.  We discovered the space was just right for our own travel trailer, so for the past couple summers we’ve parked under the shelter for the summer. Parking is tricky–we (meaning, John) have to get everything lined up exactly straight, because there are literally only inches to spare on each side.  But once it’s in, it’s like the shed was made for our trailer.  The most delightful bit of the shed is the little deck that granddad built along one edge, with its perfect view of our beloved river. 

Our family place

Our trailer is few feet shorter than grandma and granddad’s, leaving a bit of unused shade under the cover behind our travel trailer. This year, at the tail end of our stay, we decided on the spur of the moment to get some lumber and add just a bit more deck in that empty space behind the trailer.  John built the framework, then set the kids to pounding nails.  Within a couple hours, we had a whole new addition to the space that has been so very well loved for so many years.

Always, whenever we stay here, I think of the previous owners and creators of that space.  How Granddad lovingly thought of every little detail to make his beautiful bride comfortable when they came to the mountains to rest and relax and visit. How Granddad would zip around on his motorcycle, and Grandma would sit fishing at her favorite little fishing hole.  How John as a little boy would walk through the woods from his parent’s cabin to visit the grandparents and to play with them.  How they’d all gather together around the campfire in the evenings and laugh and swap stories. How one year just before we were married, John brought me along and showed me around the place too. How we’ve come all these years too, first with tiny babies and toddlers, then with school kids and teens.

Even in this busy phase of our life, it is precious to me to think that our children all have sweet memories of this place, of spending time with us and with siblings and grandparents and cousins. Of riding motorbikes and carrying fishing poles and splashing in the river and occasionally chopping trees or hammering nails to keep everything together and functioning well. I can only imagine that Grandma and Granddad would smile to see us here.

Maybe that river of ours does too– that ever-changing but also somehow changeless river– trickling along, watching our family growing and living and loving our time together here.



The Pharisee in me

On the water

Funny thing about life before parenting, and even life before you’ve had the chance to parent a challenging child. You can be really smug thinking you’re a pretty decent person, that you’re good at loving and good at forgiving. You may glimpse a bit of less-than-awesome lurking in there, but it’s still possible to fool yourself that most of the time all is fairly decent inside that heart of yours.

And then. Challenge comes.

Maybe it’s a defiant kid. Or a wounded one. One who struggles with anxiety, and shows it by trying to control everything, including you. Or maybe it’s not even a child. Maybe it’s a teen. Maybe it’s a spouse who hurts you, challenges you to the core. And you find yourself looking at a person in your life whom you’ve promised to love, whom you’ve been called to love, whom you desperately WANT to love.

But instead of love, if you’re being honest, you sometimes feeling pretty much the opposite. Sometimes you’re even acting pretty much the opposite.

And all of a sudden you’re face to face with just how bankrupt that heart of yours can be, when you’re running on your own power.

Because real love isn’t the kind that only loves someone who’s smiling sweetly back at you and agreeing that all your ideas are stellar. Real love carries on, reaches out, gently directs, shows kindness, even in the face of rejection. Yes, there is a place for limit-setting too– some situations where you legitimately need to say, ‘No more’.  But real love keeps seeing the struggling soul inside that person who’s hurt you.  Real love keeps being willing to go to the cross daily for that person.

I can’t love like that on my own.  I can only do it with the power of Jesus in my life.  And even then, imperfectly.

In the past, there were times I judged people who were struggling to love those around them. It seemed so obvious to me what they should be doing.  Lose that grudge. Love your kid.  Love your spouse. Forgive your friend.

Except, wow, that job is exhausting some days.

These days, thanks to the hard bits of my own life, there’s a new compassion in me for folks struggling to love well. Life is hard.  Relationships are hard.  We’d all be better off if we judged less and forgave more.  Offered grace more freely, especially when folks don’t deserve it. We’re all going to hit those hard moments when we need someone else to reach out with more grace than we deserve, and love us in spite of ourselves.

And sometimes the person I most need to forgive is myself. Yes, I can do all things, but ONLY through Christ who strengthens me.  And the wonderful thing about Jesus is that He’s always there to pick me up when I get foolish and try to walk on that water all by myself.

Thoughts on a life lived looking down


When our oldest daughters became teens a decade or so ago, none of their friends had cell phones. Since then electronic communication has exploded.  These days most young teens have cell phones, along with many elementary school kids.  And most of these phones have internet access built in right along with calling and texting. Everywhere I go, I see kids looking down at screens.  Walking down the road.  At stop lights. In restaurants. Even tiny children clutching screens sitting in shopping carts as their mothers shop. This is one trend we’re trying hard not to encourage with our kids.

Our 18 year old waited til 18 to get her first ‘dumb’ phone, and til high school graduation for a smart phone.  Our two 16 year old sons would love phones, and when they get their driver’s licenses in September, it would probably be really convenient.  But we really, really don’t want them to have the terrible temptation of internet any time, anywhere.  And we really don’t want them to live the last years of their childhood looking down at screens.  We’ve opted to charge one old ‘dumb’ tracfone with minutes, to be shared by both of them at times when it would be good for us to easily communicate with them.  Other communication can happen, in moderation, on our home phone and on facebook for 15 minutes or so most days. But not constantly.

As you might guess, some of our kids don’t love it.  They’re itching for more access, more ability to communicate with friends. And yes, we’re fully aware that once they’re out on their own, they’ll be making their own choices. When that time comes they may live for awhile constantly connected, heads down, tapping away at screens, forgetting to look up. But I don’t want that time to come just yet.  I want them to have a few more years to facing up and out, looking the ones around them in the eye, and sharing thoughts face to face.

Our hope is that more time in real life as kids will make it easier  for them to find a good and healthy balance later as adults.  To be the type of person who can use tools as they were intended, but also be able to set gadgets aside, maybe even for hours at a time, so that they can really live and breathe and inhabit the one precious, wild wonderful life that is theirs.

Other writing on this topic

The real reason I say no to electronics

What that ipad is doing to your kid

Are we starving the hearts of our children?


family time

Family time

I’m still here, kinda.  On Tuesday we got home from a really nice family vacation at the beach with all our kids, my parents, and my sister.  Lovely fun.  I’ll post more of the pictures below in a sec.  At the moment, however, I’m propped up on pillows in bed with quite a nasty flu, one that one of the grandbabies had on the trip, but that most of our kids haven’t gotten.  Yet.  Might be a bilious next week at the Owlhaven.

Before I post pictures and lie back down for another nap, I wanted to announce the winner of that lovely book The Nesting Place.  It is commenter #43 Tina who blogs at the Miles Clan.  Congrats, Tina!

And photos.  It truly was a precious week with all our kids around us. We took close to 1000 pictures, but here are 40 of my favorite.

Yachats (6) Yachats (2) Yachats (9) Yachats (38) Yachats (16) My momma Clamming Yachats (36) Yachats (15) Yachats (19) Yachats (10) Loving the water Yachats (17) With my sister Sophie Ben Yachats (25) Yachats (14)  Stories and naps Keisha Yachats (24) Yachats (5) Heceta Head lighthouse My baby Yachats (3) Emily Yachats (13) Yachats (11) My dad Moody models- and a photobomber Everyone was there, from A and Z Your face is MINE Yachats (31) Yachats (12) Yachats (28) Yachats (26) Yum Doing their best modeling poses

All 21 of us

grace, guidance, and grudge-holding

parenting during frustrating moments
I’ve been hashing over a dilemma that has plagued me to a degree ever since my first kid told me no, and continues to challenge me these days as we parent many teens.  In nearly every parenting journey, there’ll be times when a kiddo looks you in the face and blows a big fat raspberry, whether you’re asking him to pick up his blocks off the floor or reign in a sassy tongue or walk upstairs to get something.  Obviously that kid is immature and needs some re-directing. Usually the first time or two it’s not too hard to look him in the face and say, “Answer me with respect, please.” But along about the 4th or 14th or 44th time that the same old junk rears its nasty head, it can be darned hard to keep the tone even yet firm, with eyes that are loving instead of flashing your own personal brand of flames.

Kids can be relentless.  And some are just plain more hard-headed than others. How do you act in love toward them when they are choosing wrong? How do you keep your own frustration from clouding your judgement (not forgetting that ALL of us have a great need for grace and love exactly in our hard moments) while also lovingly addressing the very real issues that parents are called to address?

I do it so imperfectly. But one of the things that I was reminded of recently in Bible study is this: though God calls me to guide and direct and speak truth to my kids, He doesn’t call me to sanctify them. I can’t stop them from sinning, or from struggling with their fallen human nature. All true growth and change is between them and God. And even when I handle things well, there will be times when the middle of their struggle can look really messy. My job is to be faithful to the best of my ability. But the outcome belongs to God.

Another thing that I was reminded of by a friend is that God’s grace is there for me too, even as it is there for my kids. Yes, even when I get impatient and zip out angry words I instantly regret. That very forgiveness that I’m so grateful to have myself is also the forgiveness I need to keep offering my kids. We all need grace.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about balancing grace and guidance, and avoiding frustration when a child is being hard-headed. How do you encourage stubborn kids in a better direction?

Summer projects for outdoor fun

Recently while thinking about the summery fun I’m hoping to have with my family, I came across several ideas that I thought would be fun to try.
Firepit-in-15-MinutesEasy DIY Firepit — John got me one of these metal firepits for my birthday last summer, and we’re thinking it would be really fun to jazz it up with a rock surround like this one.  The one shown here takes 44 stones and about 15 minutes to put together– practically instant gratification!  Probably the most time consuming part of the project is making sure you begin with a level surface. Click on the photo to go to the blog and read the instructions.

Water BlobMake a Water Blob — I’d never even seen one of these until recently, but it looks like a fabulous way to entertain little ones who might be too small to play safely and happily in a swimming pool.  (All my grandbabies!)  Basically you seal the edges of a large painter’s tarp using an iron. (While ironing you use a layer of parchment paper between the iron and the tarp.)

sponge bombsSponge Bombs– This idea is something I might try for our annual 4th of July bash.  Filling water balloons takes SO much time, and these sponges can be filled and tossed over and over again.  I’m thinking about ten per person would keep a water fight good and lively, especially if you had buckets of water stashed all over the play area. Click on the photo to visit InnerChildFun and read the direct4th of July Flag Palletions.

Raise the Flag- Here’s a great use for an old pallet.  I think my 11 year old daughter and I would have fun painting this, and it would look awesome in the corner on our front porch.

Do you have any projects you’d like to try this summer?  Pinned anything interesting lately?

A happy weekend

Jared's graduationHappy weekend for us– Jared, our third born and oldest son, graduated from college with a degree in computer science!  He starts a new job in June. So proud of him!