Category Archives: Finances

Praise Report: Auto Style

Can I just tell you that I spend entirely too much time worrying about things?!  Just Wednesday I was provided with fresh worrying material when the Toyota mechanic at the dealership informed us that our 2002 Sequoia needed new front and rear brakes, rotors, wiper blades, terminal for the battery, and on and on their list went!  Yes, fresh fodder for this weary mind that has a lot going on at the moment!

Well, the total for the above repairs would have cost $1,400 as I mentioned in a previous post, which nearly gave me heart palpatations just thinking about it in light of other recent expenditures.  We’re a one income family on a fairly tight budget, so huge unforeseen expenses are unwelcome financial intruders!

Our good neighbor across the street happens to be a Toyota certified mechanic and we’re also good friends with them.  I tell you, the Lord planted them there to be a blessing to us and vice versa.  My daughter often pals around with the young mom and her toddler, who is cute as a button!  We called our good neighbor last night to see if he could install the parts if we picked them up.  He said that it was no problem to order the parts and he could do the work today!  Wow.  Not even 24 hours later, he had our SUV up and running!  He picked up the parts this morning and paid with his employee discount too!  The parts cost $440 and he wanted to charge only $110 for labor.  We couldn’t let him do that, so my husband will give him a check for $650.  I know he doesn’t want to accept it and just wanted to be a blessing, which he was!  But, we also believe in treating people fairly and showing our appreciation.  We’ll have to bake him a cake soon.  He loved the last chocolate cake my daughter made for them.

What a tremendous answer to prayer this is!!  A savings of nearly $1,000!  (If the parts only cost $440, that means the dealer’s mark up and labor was $1,000!  Insane!)

God truly is so faithful to provide for our every need.  Why do I spazz out and doubt then?  “Lord, help my unbelief!”  Ah, somehow I think trusting God is a lifelong lesson.  God always provides and it’s not as if I didn’t think he would in this instance.  I just didn’t know how!  The timing couldn’t have been worse, but that’s when a pause is in order and deep breaths.  How I thank God that His favor lasts a lifetime.  “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life!”  He is so good to us, full of mercy, compassion and love!

So, the lesson here is trusting God no matter what the circumstances or the timing are.  And, the bonus lesson is remembering how God provided this time when the next financial challenge comes along!  In the Old Testament, they built a monument in the desert when God performed a miracle.  Sometimes we need to also do that in our spiritual life today.  Write down the praise reports.  We’ve instituted a “Blessings Jar” where we write down all the great things God does for us throughout the year.  And at the end of the year, it’ll be great to reflect back on!  This testimony definitely qualifies a submission in the Blessings Jar!!

How has God provided miraculously for you lately?  Have you praised Him for it?  Built a monument?

 

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Consumerism

Americans are great consumers, aren’t we?  We will buy just about anything.  Rocks.  Others’ trash we believe to be treasure.  A shirt with some man’s name on it so we can be advertising pawns.  A bag with a strange logo emblazoned on it.  A motor vehicle because some commercial said we’d be cool or sexy if we drive it.  A McMansion because society says you have arrived if you live here.

Have you ever stopped and questioned yourself why you are purchasing something?  Far too often, I think it has to do with the pervasive subliminal messages.  I don’t think we were born with the need to impress or be cool.  I think we were born with the desire to be loved, fed and clothed.  Pretty basic needs if you ask me.  How did we stray so far from basic necessity then?

I’m not saying it’s a negative thing at all to own expensive things.  They’re all wonderful if one can afford them.  It becomes an issue when our identity is enshrined in things.  We all want to put our best foot forward (or at least most), but what about when you overextend your foot?  You dislocate your finances.  Not good.

Because our society is more connected than at any other time in history, we are bombarded with advertising as well.  I am a stubborn individual.  I turn down the radio on commercials.  I mute the t.v. on commercials (if I watch t.v. at all).  I close out the ad box on YouTube.  And why do stores think we need to be entertained in the check out aisle with a series of advertisements?  I resent the “in your face” brainwashing.  I really am not impressed with what some advertising guru tells me is the latest and greatest thing that I must spend our hard earned money on.  Not in the least.

Question:  Would you still buy that expensive suit, handbag, watch, car, etc. if you were invisible?  Obviously no man is an island to himself, but it poses food for thought.  Who does it matter most to?  Impressing the other guy/gal or something you truly enjoy to the extent of the price tag?

Perhaps I do not possess the need to be associated with some high fashion brand or exclusive logo because my identity was established more than 2,000 years ago.  You see, my identity is in Jesus Christ.  I do not turn to the things of this world to fill an inner craving of acceptance because Jesus paid the price on Calvary when He purchased my salvation and wholeness.

One day the things of this world will be no more.  Rather than focus on the trappings of this world, I set my hope and faith on things that will outlast this temporary existence.

“Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal.  Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal.  Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.” ~  Matthew 6:19-21

If I strive to be accepted by society via Coach, Rolex, Mercedes, a McMansion, etc., what does that say about me?  If they let me in their “club”, would that bring happiness?  We are pilgrims, my friend … just passing through.  This world is not our final destination.  Do not set your affections on the things you see here.  We have an eternal home that will far surpass anything we’ve yet seen!

“And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” ~ Romans 12:2

To be sure, quality items are pleasurable and acceptable.  They just don’t captivate my heart.  My heart is set on things above.  And my focus is on bringing as many to heaven with me as possible.  You see when we’re caught up in replicating the culture of this world and fulfilling some need for social acceptance, our focus is often distracted from winning the lost.  It’s not about us anyway.  It’s all about Jesus, the One who took our place on Golgotha’s Hill, so that we may live eternally with Him!  That’s where my hope lies!  What say you?

 

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Prepare a Will … Protect Your Loved Ones

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We all plan to live to see 99, but sometimes “The best laid plans of mice and men” don’t pan out. (quote by Robert Burns)  They say there are two certainties in life:  death and taxes.  True enough.

Some may subconsciously think that if they draw up a will, the unthinkable may happen, which is silly, of course.  It’s right up there with, “If I visit the doctor, he’ll find something wrong with me.”

To everything there is a season.  (Ecclesiastes 3)

I’m not a financial planner nor do I sell life insurance, but I have seen firsthand the importance of preparing a will and purchasing life insurance.  My mother died suddenly at the young age of 53 without either.  Fortunately, most of  my parent’s accounts were joint, so the financial impact wasn’t as devastating as it could have been.  However, she was the primary breadwinner of the family as my father had retired on disability years before, and her loss presented an unexpected financial burden.  In the months following her death, the four of us children pitched in to assist our grieving father with his heavy financial load.  I’m confident that our devoted mother never intended to create such a hardship on the rest of our family.  She loved us more than anything in this world.  It’s just one of those things that slipped through the cracks of financial planning.

It is my hope that this little reminder to prepare a will and purchase life insurance will help another family avoid unexpected financial strain.  If you have children under 18, it is vital to designate a guardian for them in your will as well.

Every state has different laws regarding having the will notarized or merely signed by two witnesses.  Research the applicable laws in your state.  An awesome resource is:

http://www.legalzoom.com/legal-wills/wills-overview.html

Another important document to prepare is a living will, which is an advance directive regarding medical care and life support.  Having this in place lets your family and doctors know of your wishes, and relieves them of making very difficult decisions in the future.

Here’s a link for a plethora of information on wills and estate planning:

http://wills.about.com/od/fiveessentialdocuments/

My husband and I recently updated our will and had it notarized at our bank.  The bank manager came in to speak with us and said how wonderful it was that we were taking care of this.  She mentioned that she and her husband needed to do this as well.  I thought that was ironic since she works in the financial industry.  This just illustrates how very intelligent and well-intentioned folks can overlook this important matter or procrastinate, thinking it’s not urgent.

May I urge you to make this a priority if you haven’t already done so?

Lastly, I would like to suggest establishing a “Legacy Drawer“.  Dave Ramsey talks about it here:

http://www.daveramsey.com/article/legacy-drawer-keep-your-family-prepared/lifeandmoney_relationshipsandmoney/

In a nutshell, it means writing down (or typing up) all pertinent financial information so your spouse or family members will easily be able to access accounts in the event of death.  Often times, one spouse handles the bills, retirement accounts or insurance.  Clearly maintaining account numbers, pin numbers, passwords, etc. in one place will simplify matters immensely for the surviving spouse or other family members.  Of course, it’s a prudent idea to store such documents in a safe.

Estate planning is not just for the wealthy nor for the elderly.  It’s for everyone.  It’s about leaving a legacy from one generation to the next.  About passing down love, hope and blessing to those we hold most dear.

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The Credit Card Trap & Hope

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There’s something to that verse that says:

“Owe no man anything, but to love him.”  ~ Romans 13:8

We’ve all been there…credit card debt.  They say the average American owes over $15,000 in consumer debt.  That is an astounding figure, isn’t it?  Ouch.  Double ouch.  I’m happy to say that, in this instance, we are well below average.  We almost have none.

It is entirely too easy and relatively painless to swipe that shiny plastic card when making purchases, isn’t it?  The illusion is that we can buy anything we want.  And, we can…up to our credit limit.  But, eventually that dreaded credit card statement arrives in the mailbox and it’s time to face the music.  If we are spending within our means, it’s no problem.  We merely pay the balance in full.  The problem lies in our inability to make that payment in full and the compounding interest on our outstanding balance.  And, then how do most of us deal with this issue?  We pay the minimum balance due.  But, that’s not all.  We continue to charge.  This is when our spending habits can really spiral out of control.

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Robbing Peter to pay Paul never works!  When we are taking money from future earnings (which is what credit card debt is), we are stealing from ourselves.  We are stealing our time and energy…and joy, my friend.  This is a self defeating habit that must end.

The advertisements for credit card debt seem to be so appealing with cash back bonuses, airline mileage points, hotel points, etc.  They neglect to equally advertise that you are more than paying for these purported advantages in credit card interest and any annual fees that may apply.  They lure you in, and, if you’re not careful, things can quickly get out of control.

I’m no financial advisor, but I’ve had some experience in this arena.  If you find yourself in credit card debt, I’d definitely recommend:

http://www.daveramsey.com/get-started?ictid=hpbanner.ny14&goal=debt

The first step is obviously to stop spending and assess your present situation.  Write down every debt you owe.  Map out a game plan on paper of how you’re going to eat this elephant.  One bite at a time.  It didn’t occur overnight, therefore, it will not magically disappear overnight.  But, you will begin to see progress as you put one foot in front of the other.

A change in the way you view money and debt is vital at this point.  Finances are a direct reflection of our mindset.  If you are weak in the area of finances or need motivation to get back on track, I suggest reading books on the topic from successful people.  Your local library is a great resource for this…and it’s free!  Bonus!

Why do you think the Bible says that we aren’t to owe anyone?  Is it just another verse to keep us from having fun??  A resounding no!  It’s to establish freedom in our lives!  God wants us to be free in every area.  Freedom.  No chains.  No bondage.  Anywhere.

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My husband and I often pray that we will continue to be wise stewards with the resources that God has entrusted us with.  I pray that for you as well, my friend.  When we are financially free and operating in wisdom, we are then able to further God’s kingdom on this earth and accomplish His will for our lives.

Prayer:  “Dear God, I thank you for the resources and talents you have given to me.  I pray that you will give me wisdom to use them.  Show me new ways I can be a better steward of all you’ve entrusted in my care.  Help me to walk in financial freedom every day, I pray.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.”

Other Resources:

http://www.christiancreditcounselors.org/crown/

(This is the ministry that the late Larry Burkett merged with.)

http://www.finishrich.com/

(My husband has been devouring David Bach’s books, especially Start Late, Finish Rich and the one on real estate.  I can’t say I’ve personally read his books, but I thought it was worth throwing it out there as a possible resource worthy of investigating further.)

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What is Money?

We all know that money is the currency in which we purchase goods and services.  But, beyond that, what is money, really?

Money represents your time, talents, energy…it is a direct representation of you, isn’t it?

Given that fact, it makes me a little more cautious, okay a lot more cautious, when giving it away.  Each of us only has a limited amount of time each day, each pay cycle, each year.

I think, too often, we have this view of endless, disposable money.  And, it’s true money does sift through the fingers of life faster than you can say the phrase, “Long term investment”.  We buy lattes.  It’s gone.  We spend $10 on lunch.  Gone.  We blow $50 at the movie theater.  Poof!  We tend to think that money will remain in steady supply; therefore, we run the risk of devaluing it rather than appreciating its true worth and directing it in areas that are most important to us.

We are a one income family, which means our spending habits must exercise great restraint, focus on long term financial goals and make purchases wisely.  We also live in a high cost of living area, which requires even greater creativity at times.

When I pause to consider that in order to buy an expensive handbag, I am essentially trading perhaps 2-3 hours of my dear husband’s hard work and energy, it puts things in greater perspective.  I used a handbag as an illustration, but you can fill it in with whatever spending temptation you may have.  I have this affinity for Dooney & Bourke handbags.  They are lovely and well made … and, do I need them?  No.  Are they pure eye candy and therefore frivolous?  Yes.

I recently had this inner “tug-of-war” with myself over purchasing these silly, little travel packing cubes.  I researched several varieties, rationalized spending $50 on two sets of these (because my husband & I would each need a set…color coordinated and all); but, in the end, better sense won out!  Yay for self restraint!  🙂  Could I buy these?  Yes.  Should I buy these?  No.

I decided I could sew some snazzy, lined garment bags with zippers to use inside our suitcase when we travel.  Creativity strikes again!  😉  That doesn’t mean I may not purchase the travel packing cubes ever.  It means that right now, it isn’t a priority for us and can be delayed.  Another cost saving mechanism…delaying a purchase.

When better financial sense prevails, I am so proud of my budget conscious self-control because we are then able to accomplish our financial goals in a more timely manner.  Time is a commodity in and of itself, one that is actually of greater value than money.  Why?  We can make more money.  However, no matter how hard we try, we cannot create more time.  Therefore, we must guard and place immense value on it as it’s factored into financial decisions.

Do you have a scenario where you were tempted to make a purchase, but held back and put it on “hold”?

At the end of the day, money represents your true self, your heart.  That’s why the Bible says:

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  ~  Matthew 6:21

One glance at our budget and it is apparent where our hearts are.  Just as it is for you.  Our money is like a mirror.  It speaks of who we really are and what is important to us.

I love what Dave Ramsey says about establishing a budget:

“It’s telling your money where to go instead of wondering where it went.”

Some helpful questions when considering a future purchase may be:

  • Is this helping me to achieve my overall financial goals?
  • How many hours of my life/spouse’s life do I have to exchange for this?
  • Is it worth it?
  • Is there a cheaper alternative?
  • Can this wait?

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