Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Am I a Good Manager?

Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together! (Matthew 25:12, NLT)

Kris was my very first discipleship leader. She discipled me for about 6 months. Kris was a stay-at-home mom, and she and her husband, Tom had two toddlers at that time.

I remember Kris and Tom not doing very well financially, and Kris used to ask me to pray for money needed to repair their roof, to replace their broken dishwasher, etc. Then, one day, Kris told me a revelation she had had that week about their financial situation. She said, "I realized that we never have enough money because we are not handling it right. Tom has a well-paying job, and we should be O.K. but we are not...I mean, we just are not good managers of His money. How could God entrust us with more, then?"

Can I handle more if I am given more? Am I a good manager?

Everything in the heavens and earth belongs to God. He gives and He takes away. Whatever given to us are our responsibilities, something that we will be asked to give an accounting of one day.


Monday, June 29, 2009

$3 Dinner - Chicken Over Rice

On weekdays, I really don't feel like spending more than 20 minutes to prepare dinner. Tonight's dinner menu Chicken Over Rice was my dream-come-true. It took me only about 10 minutes to prepare this dinner! (We usually program the rice cooker in the morning, so the rice is ready to be served when we come home.)

Ingredients (2 servings)

1 lb chicken, washed and cut into strips, seasoned with salt, pepper, and cooking wine
1/2 onion, sliced
4-5 dried red chile pepper
green onion, chopped
1 egg
1.5 C water
2 T soy sauce (or 1T tuna extract)
1/2 T garlic, minced
2 bowls of rice


1.Sautee minced garlic in a lightly oiled pot
2.Add seasoned chicken strips and sliced onions to the pot and cook until chicken is not pink any more
3.Pour water into the pot; add dried red chile pepper, soy sauce (or tuna extract)
4.When the soup starts to boil, add egg and stir to break it
5.Add green onion to garnish; salt and pepper to taste
6.Pour it over rice and serve


Sunday, June 28, 2009

Double Coupon, Double Saveon

Did I tell you that I feel exhilarated when I use double coupon?

Last Friday, I bought a 10 oz. A-1 steak sauce at $0.99! The original price was $4.50, so we saved $3.51. From my weekly search at mygrocerydeals.com, I found out it was on store sale at Jewel-Osco for $2.99, and then we found a $2.oo off manufacturer's coupon from Sunday paper.

As I had written before, when we were planning our wedding, we saved over $3000 by using coupons, online promotional codes, haggling or simply by asking for discount. C.J., who was not much into using coupons at that time, came to see what those little coupons can do. Now he is the one who brings coupons books and Sunday paper for me to check every week.

One Dollar Here, One Dollar There, One Dollar Everwhere!


Thursday, June 25, 2009

Toothpaste to the last drop

My parents should be given credit for these saving tips. I respect them for having lived such frugal yet generous lives.

I. Toothpaste

By the time we cannot squeeze out any more toothpaste from the tube, we cut the tube into a few pieces. Then we can use the leftover toothpaste inside the tube. A small (4.6 oz, 130g) toothpaste lasts us about one and a half week more by doing this.

II. Shampoo, Dishsoap

When you cannot pump out any more shampoo or dishsoap from the bottle, add water and shake to use the leftover inside the bottle.


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

$3 Dinner - Wonder Pizza #2

Last Wednesday, C.J. and I decided to go to CostCo for a date night. It was after dinner, so we weren't really hungry. However, as there wasn't any sample food to munch on at CostCo that night, we became despondent and decided to buy and share a huge slice of pizza at CostCo food court. Half way into eating that pizza slice, C.J. made a very flattering comment: "Honey, your homemade pizza tastes much better than this". So here is the pizza for tonight's $3 dinner!

I call this a Wonder Pizza because it makes us eat lots of vegetables and other healthful stuff which we don't normally enjoy by themselves. Somehow the pizza sauce (or spaghetti sauce in our case) makes all things delicious.

Ingredients (1 large pizza)

>Yeast Mixture
2 ts yeast + 2 ts sugar + 1/2 cup of warm water

4 C flour
1 t salt
2 t black pepper*
4 t red chile pepper*
1/2 C grated cheese (I used Parmesan & Romano)
1/2 C garlic powder
1/4 C olive oil
1 C warm water
1/2 C extra flour
1/4 C extra olive oil

*Adding black pepper and red chile pepper makes the dough spicy

spaghetti/pizza sauce, chicken (seasoned & cooked), onion, bell peppers, olive, can of corn, pineapple, tomato, mozzarella cheese

**These are suggestions. Feel free to use whatever you have or want.

1.Make and set aside yeast mixture
2.In a big bowl, add and mix flour, salt, black pepper, red chile pepper, grated cheese, garlic powder
3.Add olive oil, warm water, yeast mixture to the bowl, and mix with a fork***
4.Sprinkling extra flour on the dough, knead it for 8-10 minutes
5.In a plastic or zipper bag, pour extra olive oil, put the dough in the bag, cover the dough with oil
6.Let the dough rise for about 1 hour
7.Punch it down and wait another 30 minutes
8.Spread the dough on a pizza stone or baking pan, roll the edges; preheat the oven
9.Bake the dough for 10 minutes at 400F
10.Spread spaghetti sauce, add toppings, sprinkle mozzarella cheese, and bake for 10-12 minutes at 400F

***A fork works much better than a spoon or spatula


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Got Emergency Fund?

The wise man saves for the future, but the foolish man spends whatever he gets. (Proverbs 21:20, LB)

A few years ago, there was a contest on Moody Radio. The rule was to describe life in 6 words or less. The winner's phrase was "Not What I Had In Mind".

Life certainly is not predictable, and the uncertainty of life often entails unexpected expenses.

It is a well-known fact that in America, unexpected medical expenses is the the number one reason for people getting into debt. In today's economy, job loss is competing for the top spot with medical expenses. How about a major car repair that needs to be taken care of immediately?

An emergency fund is an amount of money that you can obtain quickly in case of immediate need such as: an illness, loss of job, or other interruption of income. This money should be set aside in a savings account which pays the highest available interest or in a money market mutual fund that provides immediate access to cash if needed.

During our pre-marital finance workshop at Willow Creek's Good Sense, we decided to save 6 months' living expenses as an emergency fund. However, right now, we are aiming for 12 months' living expenses.

Having an easily accessible fund does not mean losing opportunities to earn interest on the fund. C.J. and I have been using a 7-day CD to keep our emergency fund. It automatically gets renewed every 7 days, provides a relatively high interest, and it is easily accessible.

It is often said that when it rains, it pours. How about building a safety net which not only provides protection but also keeps growing?


Monday, June 22, 2009

Bed Time Story #1

C: Honey?
H: What?
C: Let's say we become millionaires, are you still going to keep cooking $3 dinners?
H: Why not?
C: Honey?
H: Que?
C: Let's say we become millionaires, are you going to keep cutting the toothpaste tube?
H: Any problem?
C: Honey?
H: Listening.
C: When we become millionaires, I want to rent a Bentley for a day.
H: Why?
C: Because it's my dream car.
H: We'll think about it.
C: Honey?
H: (snoring)
C: Honey?
H: (pretending to be asleep)
C: Honey? (shaking Hyuna's shoulder)
H: (snoring louder)
C: (whispering) I love you. Good night. (smooch ~ )


$3 Dinner - Hearty Oriental Chicken Stew

This past weekend, C.J.'s college roommate Mike and his wife, Grace came over for dinner. This chicken stew was one of the main dishes for the night. Despite strong kick of ginger and red hot pepper, everyone loved this dish. Oriental chicken stew for tonight's $3 dinner!

Ingredients (4 servings)

Chicken, washed and drained (I used 1 pack of skinless, boneless chicken thigh from CostCo)
Potato (2), washed and peeled
Onion (1)
Carrot (if you have)
Dried red hot pepper
Green Onion
Jujube (=red dates) (5-10)
Clear dry noodle (Dang-Myun in Korean), soaked in water until soft

Sauce: Soy Sauce (8TB), *Oyster/fish sauce (1TB), Cooking wine (3TB), Brown sugar (4TB), Minced garlice or garlic powder (1TB), Ginger powder or minced ginger (0.5TB), Pepper, Water (4C), Sesame oil (1TB)

*If you don't have oyster sauce, add more(2TB) soy sauce instead.


1. Cut chicken in bite size and sprinkle with salt and pepper
2. Cut potato, onion, carrot in similar size as chicken
3. Make sauce
4. Boil chicken, dried red hot pepper and jujube in 4 cups of water
5. When chicken is cooked, add potato, onion, carrots and sauce
6. When potato is cooked, add pre-soaked noodle and chopped green onion
7. Boil a few more minutes before serving


Saturday, June 20, 2009

Seeing is Spending

Last week, C.J. received a big cash gift for his MBA graduation. As we have a tendency to spend what we see, we decided to put that money into a short-term CD which we plan to use for our future car purchase. We love living on the left over!

I wish I had such discipline as a single person. Before I got married, I had only one checking account, which did not help much in regulating my spending. I definitely could have saved much more by putting extra money into something which is not as easily accessible as a checking account.

Well, better late than never!


Thursday, June 18, 2009

$3 Dinner - Bowlful of Good Stuff

A bowl of rice can be more nutritious than a dozen dishes. On days when I cannot come up with grandious meals for millions of excuses, I comfort myself by making one of these super-nutritious bowl of rice. Accompanied by one or two side dishes, it becomes a humble, yet wholesome meal.

Followings are some of the grains I use:

White rice, Brown rice, Sweet brown rice, Wild black rice, Millet, Kidney beans, Black beans, Red beans


Giving 40%

Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this," says the LORD Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it. (Malachi 3:10 NIV)

Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test! (Malachi 3:10 NLT)

Growing up, my mother often quoted Malachi 3: 10 to tell us the importance of tithing. She told us it's the only time and place that God tells us to "TEST" Him. In addition to the monthly tithe, we were taught to bring an offering whenever we went to church. When I got my first formal, full-time job, I gave my first month's income away as the "first fruit", which, I was taught, belongs to God.

During our very first finance workshop at Willow Creek's Good Sense, C.J. and I agreed to increase our giving by certain % whenever our household income reaches certain milestones. For example, let's say our current household income is $40,000. When our income reaches $50,000, we will increase giving from 10% to 11%. When our household income reaches $70,000, we will increase giving to 12%...and so on.

However, last Sunday, when our new teaching Pastor Justin Nalls preached on Malachi 2:17-3:12, and quoted a commentary from Allen Ross, a Bible scholar, it gave me a whole new perspective of looking at the way we give.

According to Dr. Allen Ross, during the Old Testament period, the Israelites gave about 40% of their income to God. Here is a brief summary of their giving.

Basic Tithing
= Priest's due + Basic Tithe + 2nd Tithe (for Jerusalem and its needs) + 3rd Tithe (every other year for the poor)

Other offerings
= Animals for the 3 festivals + Sin offerings + Leaving corners of their fields for the poor to glean + Animals/gifts as free will thank offerings + Giving to charity, widows, orphans, strangers, and the poor

What an eye-opening and humbling revelation!


Tuesday, June 16, 2009

V8 - Bitter to the Mouth, Better for the Health

I think V8 is the best drink in a can. Do I like how it tastes? No! However, as C.J. and I have realized how good it is to our health, we make ourselves gulp down a few cans of V8 every week. The biggest benefit I have noticed since we started drinking V8 is that my immune system has become stronger, which then has led to a significantly reduced chance of catching a cold and other popular bugs.

V8 is not only difficult to gulp down, but it's not cheap, either. However, I believe spending a few dollars now for preventive healthcare is much better than spending a fortune for future medical problems.

After some experiments, we found that V8 is much easier to drink when it's cold, and also that V8 becomes more desirable when we drink it with some sweets such as cookies or brownies.


Monday, June 15, 2009

$3 Dinner - Salmon Wrap with Asparagus and Mushroom

Health experts recommend 2 servings of salmon per week. As raw salmon is way too expensive, we use canned salmon instead. The usual salmon dish I make is 'Salmon Wrap (or Salmon SSAM in Korean)'.

We had this salmon wrap with mushroon salad and lightly sauteed asparagus for dinner tonight. The beauty of this meal is that there isn't much stove usage going on.

Ingredients & Directions (for 2 servings)

Let the rice cook while you prepare other dishes.

*Salmon Wrap
1 Canned Salmon
Lettuce, washed and drained
Korean red pepper paste (season it with sugar, sesame oil, little bit of vinegar)

*Mushroom Salad
Mushroom, washed, drained, and sliced (I use pre-sliced baby portabella mushroom from Trader Joe's) --> season it with salt, pepper, sesame oil

*Sauteed Asparagus
Peel off outer hard skin of asparagus
Chop asparagus in lengths of your preference
Sautee asparagus in a lightly oiled pan with some salt

How to eat
Place a lettuce on the palm of your hand
Put a little bit of everything on the lettuce (i.e. rice, salmon, mushroom, asparagus, red pepper paste)
Wrap the stack of food with the lettuce leaf
Squeeze the wrap into your moth - the smaller the wrap is, the easier it will go into your mouth!
Bon App├ętit!


Sunday, June 14, 2009

Date Night

Do we ever eat out? Yes, we do! We enjoy exploring resturants that serve great food at sensible prices.

Yesterday, after having an awesome time of worship at the House of Prayer, C.J. and I went out for a date night. After much discussion, we decided to go to Chodang Tofu Village. Tell me about a hearty meal...the hot spicy tofu soup was so satisfying, as always! Including tip, the dinner cost us $25.

There are several restaurants in Chicago area, where we always find high quality food at very resonable prices:

1. Chodang Tofu Village - Korean Cuisine - No MSG. Their tofu soup will not disappoint you.
2. Pita Inn - Mediterranean Cuisine - Fast food in high quality & no tips!
3. Hub's - Greek Cuisine - Try their Shish-Ka-Bob
4. Viccino's Pizza - Italian Cuisine - This is the only pizza I pay for!
5. Psistaria - Greek Cuisine -I always get Souvlaki on Pita to-go.

What's your favorite restuarant? Let us know!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

$3 Dinner - Turkey Chili

Our march for 'more white meat and less red meat' continues, and today we made turkey chili. This big pot of chili should be enough for at least 6 servings, and total cost for all the ingredients is less than $10 even when we used organic kidney beans and tomatoes. So this truly is a $3 dinner. In addition, it's an easy and nutritious meal to make.

2 lb. ground turkey
1 onion, chopped
1 C celery, chopped
1/2 - 1 C bell pepper, chopped
1 - 6 oz. can tomato paste
1 - 28 oz. can diced tomatoes
2 - 15.5 oz. can kidney beans, drained & rinsed
4 t garlic, minced or power
1 t salt
1 t cumin
2 t chili powder
1 t cayenne
1/2 t pepper

1. Brown meat and onion.
2. Combine meat, onion and remaining ingredients. Mix well.
3. Cook in a slow cooker on High for 3 hours.

Desperately hoping this pot of chili will last us at least for the next two days, I'll stay away from the kitchen this weekend....(did you hear me, C.J.?)


Friday, June 12, 2009

TV-less in Digital TV Era

One of today's CNN headlines is the dawn of digital TV era. Since we do not own a TV set, that is one less thing to do for us!

When we tell people that we don't have a TV, their usual first response is brief silence and a look of disbelief. We often receive questions like "How do you live without a TV?", "Isn't it too boring without a TV?", "You don't even watch movies at home?", "That's cool!", etc.

We check news and weather through the internet. We own a Benq projector which we can use to watch movies. If we tweak here and there a little bit, we are able to watch TV over the air with an antenna attached to a Samsung ATSC tuner. However, as it turns out to be too much work to setup, most of the time we end up watching movies on my laptop computer.

When we first got married, I worried about my husband, CJ, being completely deprived of TV so suddenly. However, if you ask him now, he will tell you how much he is enjoying a TV-free life. Our after-work hours are used for home-cooked meals, exercise, reading and studying, maintaining home and cars, managing finance, hanging out with each other, and blogging like this!

Sometimes, I wonder what our lives would be like with a TV set sitting in our living room....Come home from work, perch in front of the TV, ramen or pizza for dinner, pile of dirty dishes in the sink, nasty bathroom, dirty clothes piling up, finance charges for late payments and overdrafts, cars in bad condition, escalating health problems, communication breakdown, brain frying, and so on...

Well, I know myself. I'd better keep my life free of TV. Life is, and marriage is much better without a TV set! Alright, we're going out to hit the gym tonight.


Thursday, June 11, 2009

$3 Dinner - Sizzling Turkey Burger

Today's $3 dinner is turkey burgers. Last weekend, first time in my life, I made turkey burgers. I wrapped each with food wrap and put them in the freezer. This morning, I took three burgers out before leaving for work, and when I came home in the afternoon, they were well thawed and ready to be cooked. When cooked, they are much more tender than beef burger and also more healthful.


Ground turkey meat
Garlic (powder or fresh ones crushed)
Flour (a few table spoons - it acts as glue and keeps the patties from breaking apart)
Yellow onion
Other vegetables you have (I added leftover chive & hot pepper)


1. Mix meat, garlic, salt, pepper, flour in a bowl
2. Add ground (or thinly chopped) yellow onion and hot pepper to the above mixture
3.If you have chive or cilantro, chop them and add to the mixture
4.Form the mixture into patties; wrap each with food wrap; freeze


Thursday is for Grocery Game

Did you know that you can check what's on sale in your local grocery store from the comfort of your home? mygrocerydeals.com will save you not only money, but also lots of time and driving related to grocery shopping.

Two of our local grocery stores, Dominick's and Jewel-Osco, update their list of on-sale items every Thursday. So every Thursday, I check mygrocerydeals.com for hot deals of the week at those stores. Last month, we purchased two containers of 2 lb strawberries at mere $4.00, which comes down to $1 per pound! We had lots of fresh strawberries, and froze the leftover to make fruit smoothies later.

Here are some of the hot deals for the the upcoming week:

Cherries Regular/Red/Black (1.00 lb) $2.99 (was $4.99)
Strawberries (1.00 lb) 2 for $3.00 (was $7.90)
Arnold Natural 100% Whole Wheat 9 Grain Bread (24 oz) $1.99 (was $3.19)
Santa Cruz Organic Strawberry Lemonade (32 oz) 2 for $3.69 (was $7.38)

If I buy all of the above items while they are on sale, I'll be spending $11.67 instead of $23.46. It's a saving of $11.79! You see how this grocery game works? Ok, now I got to go to snatch those deals!


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

BREAKING NEWS! $1 -- All Bus Routes Across the Northeast & Midwest

I thought this is a very timely news for everyone who's planning a fun road trip this summer, especially for the extended weekends around Independence Day and Labor Day.

TravelZoo announced this unbelievable deal today.

Travel between 30+ cities this summer for $1 each way. Megabus.com is offering discounted seats on all of its routes for travel through September.

Yes, this is for real! Click here for more information.


Tuesday, June 9, 2009

$3 Dinner - Omrice

Tonight, I'm challenging Erin Chase, the queen of $5 Dinners. I made Omrice for dinner today. Basically, it's fried rice covered with egg skins. I can't tell exactly how much it cost us to make this meal since potato & onion were purchased in bulk, but it should be somewhere between $2.50 and $3.

Ingredients (2 servings)

2 cups of rice, whatever vegetables you have (I used 1 potato, 1/4 onion, 1/4 green bell pepper), salt, pepper, 4 eggs, ketchup, oil


1. Cook rice

2. While rice is cooking, chop the vegetables and sautee them in pan, adding salt and pepper

3. Beat the eggs and make thin egg skins

4. Add cooked rice to the pan and mix with vegetables, adding more salt and pepper

5. Place fried rice on a plate and cover with egg shell


Monday, June 8, 2009

Allowance Money - Money & Marriage

Starting this month, we are giving each other allowance money - $20 a month. Woohoo! It's a way to reward ourselves for our efforts to live frugally.

Looking back at the past 15 months we've been married, we did a wonderful job of managing finance. Fighting against health insurance companies; haggling with furniture companies; confronting and negotiating with utility companies; selling old books and household items on E-bay and Craigslist; packing lunch everyday; taking buses to work during the gas price hike last year; clipping coupons every week...

Even when we had an argument and there was a cold war going on in the home, we kept each other accountable for every dollar we spent. Our commitment to be faithful stewards of the financial blessings God gave us has bonded us much stronger than we could imagine. Without us realizing it, we've become a good team.

*Tip of the day
Managing finance together with your spouse not only builds your financial freedom, but also builds your marriage.


Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Chicken, Turkey, and Tilapia

A few weeks ago, I read a research article on the relationship between red meat and cardiovascular disease. Since then, C.J. and I have been trying to reduce red meat consumption and replace it with white meats and fish. This change in our diet has left us with a few challenges.
First of all, white meats tend to be more expensive than red meats. Ground turkey is $0.50 more expensive per pound than ground beef. Chicken breast is $1.00 more expensive than beef roast or rib eye. So, instead of chicken breast, we decided to go for chicken thigh, which is not only cheaper than breast, but also much more tender and jucier. We decided to pay more for replacing ground beef for ground turkey. It's better to spend more now for quality food than to pay a fortune later to treat health problems.

Secondly, I, the master chef of our household, have never cooked turkey dishes before, so coming up with a few easy turkey meal recipes was a learning experience. I had to do my own share of homework and came up with a few turkey recipes: sloppy turkey joe, tureky chili, turkey burger, turkey meatball.

Thirdly, living in the midwest, finding fresh and inexpensive fish with low level of mercury is not an easy task to do. For now, I decided to go for tilapia as I know it has the lowest level of mercury and yet delicious and inexpensive.


$5 Dinners

Erin Chase and her blog $5 Dinners is my new-found source of healthful yet inexpensive recipes. Mary Hunt, the author of Debt-Proof Living, wrote an article about Erin and her website on Crosswalk.

Bascially, she makes delicious and healthful meals to feed 4 people in her family and she pulls off those meals for less than $5! From my own experience, it's not an impossible task to do, but I know it takes a lot of planning and organization to come up with such meals. So, Erin, thank you so much for allowing us to take advantage of your expertise for free!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Happy Birthday CPF!

Congrats to Bob Lotich at Christian Personal Finance http://www.christianpf.com/

The website has seen over 750,000 unique visitors, and has given away over $1500 of free stuff, and received countless emails or words of encouragement from readers of how they have been helped!

Bob is thanking the readers who, for the last two years, have allowed him to not only make a little money blogging, but who also have helped him to make this his full-time job. To show his appreciation (and to maybe find a few more readers), he is giving away a Nintendo Wii and an iPod Nano (8GB)! Visit him at: http://www.christianpf.com/wii/