When God Has Other Plans

I can proudly (which may be part of the problem) say with God’s grace and wisdom my husband and I are making great progress in reducing our debt and tightening up our spending.

Each year for the several years we have sat down and figured out what we would do with our income tax return each of us having a list and then comparing it and coming to an agreement.  The past few years have led to more responsible things like eliminating debt, major vehicle repairs and the like.

In January I spent three or four days mulling around ideas in my head on what the best use of our tax refund would be.  Some fun stuff, some necessary expenditures and some debt reduction.  A good mix for Brad to take care of a few things he wanted to do and I had peace of mind that we were working on debt.  It seemed like a good plan.

Brad greed with the ideas and so it was settled.

Then along came God.

He said to me  “Let him buy it. He needs to make the decision.”

To read the rest of this post come visit the new More Than Four Walls launched 4/9/12.  Here’s a direct link to this post.

Finance Fridays: What to do with Debt

Debt can be a constant source of worry and stress. If your married it can be a huge stressor on your marriage.

So what do we with all of our debt? We cannot run from it.  Well, some people can and do but as Christians we must do what is right and responsible.  How do we get out of debt and avoid it in the future?

First we have to know what we’re dealing with.

Acknowledge The Debt and Get a True Picture

I’m sure you’ve heard the saying that the  first step is admitting you have a problem. This can apply to addictions, relationships and debt.

You have to acknowledge that you have debt and that the debt is a problem. Many people can admit that they have debt but you also have to admit that it is a problem.

You need a real analysis of our debt and you need to understand the big picture of where you sit.

Your credit card debt is not just a $90 monthly payment on a $4,000 balance.  It’s 18 years to pay off $4,00  and $3,000 in interest paid.

Using paper or spreadsheet software log all of  your debts. Include the name, total due, minimum payment and pay off date.  You can find this information readily available all credit card statements and some mortgage statements.  Most banks/lenders have online access which should also have this information.  Crown Financial Ministries has a simple yet effective sheet for logging debt here.

Once you have your numbers together you’ll have a true picture of what you owe and the depth of your debt.

This is not a place to give up. This is just your starting place! I’ve said before that have to know the truth to make progress.

Talk to the Lord about your debt.  If you’re afraid tell him.  Don’t feel condemned over the debt you have accrued, be convicted that you’ll do something about it.  Ask the Lord to give you wisdom.

Next week we’ll explore what to do once you know what your debt picture looks like.

Until Next Time,

Be Blessed

Finance Fridays: Tips to Reduce Spending

Whether you’re new to budgeting and planned spending our you’ve been actively managing your finances for a while there is always room for new learning and reminders of the simple things that can quickly destroy a family’s budget.

 Here are a few tips for budgeting success

 Call a Family Meeting

Call a meeting with the family and discuss ways everyone can help in reducing expenses.  Even young children can get in on the action by having “Light Switch Duty” and be sure lights are out when no one is in the room.

 Nix Brand Loyalty

Do you really need Heinz Ketchup?  Are Aldi Brand paper plates just as good as Dixie brand?  For our family the Heinz is non-negotiable.  Off-brand ketchup will not do.  Paper products are a different story.  I am an Aldi fan especially

English: A bottle of Heinz ketchup

for things that I do not buy organic or natural. Also consider if you need name brand things like pens, paper, diapers, baby wipes or laundry detergent.

 Annual Utility & Necessary Expense Shopping

Once a year, shop for the best rates on utilities and other “necessary because they just are” type expenses.  Here is a list of some things to checkInsurances – car, life, home owners

  • Utilities – propane, oil and even natural gas and electricity in areas where they are deregulated. Deregulation means that you have a choice of who you will buy your natural gas or electricity from just as we have a choice of who we buy our long distance phone service from. Speaking of…
  • Telephone service – there are now companies who offer Voice Over IP (Vonage, Magic Jack, etc). Compare your bills and see if you can save
  • Cable or Satellite providers
  • Don’t forget to ask about bill bundling.  In my area we bundle our local phone service, long distance, internet and satellite and save around $60.00 a month.

 Grocery Shop with a List and Meal Plan

English: Aldi, Central Park The Central Park d...

Grocery shopping without a list is a big no-no and a great place to start in plugging budget leaks.  If you do not meal plan you should consider it.  I mean plan monthly and shop monthly but I know others that do it weekly or bi-weekly.  In my house the more I stay out of the grocery store the better!

See my other posts on Meal Planning by clicking on “Meal Planning” to the right.

 Save on Laundry

Wash as much as you can in cold water and use drying racks, inside clothes lines or outside clothes lines.  Before we had our son I was able to cut our electric bill greatly by reducing hot water washes and dryer use.  Making your own laundry detergent is another money saver. 

 Pack Lunch

Whether it’s going to work or going for groceries if you’re out all day pack your lunch.  You can save a ton of money if you pack instead of buying.  Think about it – a $4.50 “value” meal at the drive in twice a week is $468.00 a year.  How many times a week do you “drive thru?”   Not only does it save money but oh how much healthier it is to pack a lunch.  I don’t care if you pack store-bought lunch meat on store-bought white bread with store-bought mayo it has GOT to be better than mystery meat from any fast food chain.  But that’s another topic for another day!

 Avoid the Mall

Like it’s the plague. If you do not need a specific item do not go! We are like bugs attracted to a light when it comes to malls, craft stores, hobby shops and sporting goods stores. The simple fact is until or unless you have trained yourself in restraint just stay away.  Don’t go stroll through the mall on a Sunday afternoon for something to do – stroll through the park.  Too cold? Rainy? Then cuddle on the couch and watch a family movie or play a board game? Don’t have a board game or a movie? Make a big fort in your living room with clothes pins and sheets.  Don’t have sheets?  Well, then I’m out of ideas at the moment.

 

There are tons of ways to save money by tweaking little things in your life.  Ask the Lord to show you ways your family can save.  Ask him to open your eyes to see things that you may otherwise miss and remember, it is all about being good stewards with what the Lord has given us.

 Until Next Time,

 Be Blessed

Finance Fridays 2/10/12

Welcome to Finance Fridays! Every Biblical stewardship is critical to the lives of Christians.  Ecclesiastes 5:10 says “Whoever loves money never has money enough; whosoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income.  This too is meaningless.”   Every Friday we’ll cover topics on biblical stewardship, spending, saving, budgeting and general ways to be frugal. Join me as we look toward God’s plan for our finances and away from the worlds. 

This week’s topic: Tips For Cutting Kitchen Cost

On average the American family will throw away 100 pounds, or $500.00 worth of food every year.  This is a tragedy on so many levels.  Polution, landfills, people who go without food.  Pick your poison. They are all valid reasons to act wisely in the kitchen.  So is your budget. 

Being frugal in the kitchen can cut your budget and still allow you to eat healthy.

Here are just a few tips to get you started (there will be more come!):

  • Meal Plan. I started meal planning about 9 months ago and I cannot tell you what a difference it has made. Now, instead of making a chicken and tossing the left overs a week later because they were forgotten about we have chicken Saturday night, chicken pot pie Sunday and chicken salad sandwiches for lunch Monday.  Plus, I make bone both/stock with the carcass.  This has been the biggest money save for us.
  • Scale back your recipes.  If you’re feeding a family of 2.5 like us, you do not need to make a 9×13 pan of maccaroni and cheese.  and 8×8 is plenty with leftovers for lunch.
  • Buy bulk when you can. It is cheaper per ounce to buy a 29oz canister of coffee then a 16oz bag.  You might pay more up front but the per ounce cost is less. Same goes for toilet paper, paper towels, etc
  • Name brand isn’t always necessary.  There are some good quality off-brand items that are way less expensive.  Aldi’s brand of paper towels work just fine as do their napkins and paper plates.  Does anyone really care if you’re using Brawny (and if they do tell them to bring their own paper towels.) 

What ways have you found to cut kitchen cost?

Until Next Time,

Be Blessed

Finance Fridays 2/3/2012

Welcome to Finance Fridays! Every Biblical stewardship is critical to the lives of Christians.  Ecclesiastes 5:10 says “Whoever loves money never has money enough; whosoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income.  This too is meaningless.”   Every Friday we’ll cover topics on biblical stewardship, spending, saving, budgeting and general ways to be frugal. Join me as we look toward God’s plan for our finances and away from the worlds. 

This week’s topic: Determining your Net Spendable Income

I’ll be honest.  It took me a few tries to wrap my head around “NSI” but it really isn’t that complicated.  The condensed version is this: NSI is the money left after tithing and taxes.  See, simple.

You need to know how much money you have in order to know how much you can spend.  Did you catch that?  The further along on this journey you get you’ll see that you are only going to spend what you make.  Nothing more.  You can’t spend what you don’t have and you don’t have a credit card.  Repeat after me “I will not use my credit card.”  There. Good.  We’ll cover that more in another Finance Friday.  Your goal now is to decide exactly how much money you’re working with.

To find your NSI grab your pay stub and follow along.  How much did your employer pay you? This is typically the highest number on the stub.  The gross amount.  Take your gross amount times 10%.  This is your tithe. 

Now, there is a section on your pay stub that lists your taxes and other deductions from your check.  These other items could include 401k, health insurance, healthy saving account plans and mine includes the monthly charge for my cell phone. 

There are two ways to approach your NSI.  Some say that tithe and taxes are the only thing you take off of your gross pay amount.  This might be the financ-y way to do it but it’s not how I do it.  I take the net income on my check, the take home amount as some call it, subtract the tithe and what I have left if my NSI.  Why do I do it that way?  Since my employer does take out my 401k, insurance and other items I feel they are non negotiable items.

Here’s an example:

Gross pay: $1,000.00

Tithe: $1000.00 x 10% – $100.00

Taxes, misc: $250.00

$1,000.00 – 100.00 – 250.00 = $650.00.

The NSI is $650.00.

To create a monthly budget you’ll want to know your monthly NSI.

Tips:

  • You can calculate your yearly NSI with your W2 and then divide by 52.
  • If you are paid weekly take your NSI times 52 for a yearly amount
  • If you are paid bi-weekly take your NSI times 26 for a yearly amount
  • If you are an hourly employee base your NSI on a pay period with little to no over time.  Overtime is extra income that might not be guaranteed.

Until Next Time,

Be Blessed

Finance Fridays 1/20/2011

Welcome to Finance Fridays! Biblical stewardship is critical to the lives of Christians.  Ecclesiastes 5:10 says “Whoever loves money never has money enough; whosoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income.  This too is meaningless.”   Every Friday we’ll cover topics on biblical stewardship, spending, saving, budgeting and general ways to be frugal. Join me as we look toward God’s plan for our finances and away from the worlds. 

This week’s topic:  The Recording Expenses Challenge

When my husband and I first stumbled, and it was a stumble, onto this idea of biblical financial planning we took 30 days and recording every penny we spend.  Every.  Penny.  50-cent soda at work….recorded.  $2.00 cheeseburger at the drive thru…..recorded. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Photo by MaryAnnDuhart

We tracked our spending on a spreadsheet or whatever scrap of paper we could find and at the end of 30 days I categorized everything we’d spent. What an eye opener! 

At that time I was commuting 25 miles to work and stopping for a latte every morning.  $4.25 every day 5 days a week.  At the end of 30 days I had spent $85.00 on lattes…..that’s $1,020 a year.  Craziness!!  Even crazier – my husband was spending $1,872 a year on coffee and soda at his job.  That’s $1,992 a year on drinks!!

Tracking your spending for 30 or even 60 days is a great way to begin the move toward responsible, biblical stewardship.  Why? Glad you asked. You need to know what you really spend to know where you can cut or where you need to increase. Brad and I thought we knew how much we spent but when we actually tracked it we were way off base. 

Take the challenge. Track every penny you spend.  Bills, entertainment, baby sitting, groceries write it all down.  Spend as you normally would and for couples, agree not to shame or condemn each other at the end of the challenge because of the amount of money spent.  Agree to come together after 3o or 60 days and look at what was spent.  It is there in black and white – no guessing, no accusing.  The truth is on the page. 

Are you ready? Are you up for the challenge?  GREAT!! I’ve included a link to Crown Financial Ministries where you can find a 30-Day Diary.  If you’re not into all that just write it down in a notebook.  

Here are a few tips that helped us track everything:

  • Ask for a receipt
  • Call the house and leave a message with the item and amount
  • Send yourself an email
  • Send yourself a text message
  • Keep a small note pad in your car, coat pocket or purse

I’d love to hear what you learned after your challenge.  Please don’t be ashamed and there’s no need to give exact figures if you’re not comfortable but let me know what you learned from this.

Until Next Time,

Be Blessed