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Saturday, November 3, 2012

Changing Your Financial Behavior

 It’s a proven fact, inflow must be equal to outflow, or else there could be a crisis, such as a foreclosure or repossession, or your family could starve.    In the United States, we are fortunate to have programs such as food stamps and welfare to help us when times get tough.  Many of us will never go hungry.  The amount of debt, however, is increasing by leaps and bounds.  The interest rates are at all-time highs and people continue to borrow when the income runs short at the end of the month.  One of the few ways to have a good financial future is to set up a good budget and stick to it, but without sticking to the budget, it really is worthless. 
                Fortunately, I was taught at a young age of 15 how to set up a budget.  I was raised to spend my money wisely and to save.  Setting up the budget, isn’t always the hard part.  All it really takes is a sheet of paper, a pencil, and possibly a calculator.  I am a nerd and love using the computer, so I have my budget typed out on an MS Excel Spreadsheet.  Whichever method works best for you is great.  Now deciding where to spend the money can be more difficult.  Also, writing the budget may be a little stressful if there doesn’t seem to be enough money coming in to meet all the expenses.   
It seems that more people may have trouble sticking to the budget than actually writing it.  But it all starts with the budget and then the next step is changing the spending behavior.  I’ve learned from my group at church called Celebrate Recovery, that the first thing we have to do is admit we have a problem.  If you’ve always been living paycheck to paycheck and bouncing checks or using credit cards, then you most likely have a spending problem.  I was in denial for a long time, until I realized, I had a lot of debt.  I was not one to bounce checks or even reach the point of foreclosure, I’ve always paid my bills on time, but my issue was that I felt it was ok to have certain debts like credit cards and car loans.  Now, that’s another story about how to get out of debt.  But if you’re ready to start the budget and change the behavior, you are on the road to getting out of debt.
                Here are 6 steps to improving your financial behavior:
1.       Write out the budget, either on a piece of paper or on a spreadsheet
2.       Use a cash envelope system
3.       Get rid of temptations to spend such as credit cards, debit cards, or cash in your wallet.
4.       Pay bills, buy necessities first.
5.       Get a support group of people who are doing the same thing as you
6.       Find a mentor who’s already gotten their spending under control

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Hurricane Sandy

Everyone effected by Hurricane Sandy, you are in my thoughts and prayers.

Sunday, October 28, 2012


My husband and I decided to have dinner and movie night at home last night.  We rented a documentary called "2016" by New York Times bestseller author Dinesh D'Souza.  Wow!  What an eye-opener this was for me.  I admit, during the 2008 Presidential Election, I had mixed feelings about President Obama.  On one note, I thought, wouldn't it be a great time in history to elect our first African-American President, but something about him just didn't seem right.  When he spoke I got a funny knot in my stomach, like I couldn't believe anything he said and he had other motives.

Well, now this documentary brought everything together.  It all makes sense now.  The "apology tour" as the media calls it where President Obama basically went to other hostile countries and said we shouldn't have done militarily what we had.  Then also why President Obama supports "Occupy Wall Street".  Before watching the documentary, I did have the opinion that President Obama wants to cripple the poor.  I know lower-income individuals may not see it that way, but I have been lower-income before and have learned that the more effort we put into things, the more we can get.  If we keep having things given to us, we'll never learn how to earn it ourselves.  I've learned that idea from being a parent as well.  If I just give my children everything without them doing their chores...they will never learn how to care for themselves...and one day my children will be out of the house and they will have to care for themselves.

I am not against the poor.  I give tithes, I give clothes, food, money and my time to the less fortunate, because I had been where they are at, but I believe we need to teach them, not enable them.  I believe President Obama doesn't want to teach, so much as just give.  After watching "2016", I now know his other possible motives and it makes so much sense.  It explains why he has the attitude he does towards the 1% of the upper class. 

I just fear that President Obama has many Americans brainwashed into believing what he says, that he may win the election this year.  I pray that Americans open their eyes and realize that what he is doing is not helping our country, it is hurting.  I have personally seen the effects from 'Obamacare'.  I know someone who works in the medical field and has taken a pay-cut because of it.  I know parents who have had to pay higher co-pays for medication for their children even though their children are on State funded health care.

We have one week until election day and I pray that people are putting thought into their vote and not just voting for the guy who sounds or looks 'cooler'.  This is not college, this is our lives and our country.  We need to do research and take the election seriously...and if neither candidate is great, vote for the lessor of two evils. 

"Give a man a fish, feed him for a day.  Teach a man to fish, feed him for life."  ~Author unknown

“Give a man a fish; you have fed him for today.  Teach a man to fish; and you have fed him for a lifetime”—Author unknown
“Give a man a fish; you have fed him for today.  Teach a man to fish; and you have fed him for a lifetime”—Author unknown

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Can we ever go back?

As I stayed home from work last week with my ill, 6 year old daughter, I felt such sweet sorrow.  I loved staying home, taking care of her and getting caught up on housework and yet I felt guilty for taking time off work and losing 2 days worth of income.

My second day back at work this week has really got me thinking, am I really where I should be?  I'm a mother of 3 children and 1 step child.  I work 40 hours a week away from home and then another 20 hours at home doing laundry, cooking, cleaning and any other odd jobs that need to be done.  After these 2 difficult days back to work at my day job I began pondering the question, can we ever go back to the way it was in the 1950s?  I'm talking about women staying home taking care of the family.  I know many women's rights activists may get angry with my question, but I firmly believe that we were created for certain purposes. 

A woman's purpose is a nurturer and caregiver.  We were made to stay at home with our children and even school them at home.  I believe we would have a better society if the women could home-school their children while the men go to work.  I know, that touches on a whole different arena because I know there are men who stay at home. 

I know families where the women home-school their children.  They aren't wealthy by any means, they just live on a tight budget.  Some of the children are grown up and married now and they turned about beautifully and I believe that the parents had a lot to do with that.  I know a family where the mother home schooled half of her kids, the ones she home schooled never rebelled, the others that she sent to public school did rebel.  I am not saying that home-schooling is the complete answer or even a stay-at-home mom is the answer, but it is part of the answer. 

I know we can't go back in society, but we keep track of historical events to prevent mistakes made in the past.  Sadly we are making more mistakes now, but it is becoming the past, and we can look back and see what worked better.

My goal is to be at home with my kids and hopefully be able to home-school them before they enter high school.  I pray God gets me there and gives to the motivation to get there sooner than later.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Our Financial Behavior

A big factor in our finances is our behavior.  We might be considered a spender or a saver when it comes to our money.  But I believe there is a healthy balance.  I used to be a major tightwad.  I remember when I joined the military at 18 and I was on leave after finishing Tech School.  My step-father said I should get a small loan just to establish some credit.  I wanted to buy a laptop computer so he figured that would be a great opportunity.  With his help, I qualified for a $1000 loan.  I signed on the dotted line and had a new computer.  I was excited about my new purchase.  I got to my new duty station with clothes, some trinkets and a laptop.  I was so motivated though to pay off that loan, that I paid off the 12 month loan in 3 months. I'm not quite sure if that allowed me to establish any credit though.

I was fortunate at the age of 19 to have a full-time job, free medical, paid for dorm room, free food, gym and no need for transportation.   Sure I didn't own a lot of things, but I had money in the bank.  I was a tightwad.  Not too long after I had arrived, I met someone who had the opposite financial behavior.  He looked at me shockingly when I told him I didn't even own a television.  I said there was no need because I would go to the rec room to watch T.V.  He on the other hand, had a car (along with a car payment), a big screen t.v., VHS player, expensive stereo for his dorm room and his car, video games and a desk top computer.  The downside was that he was behind on car payments.  I was thinking, well that's why I don't have all those things because I don't want to get in trouble with my money.

There are many extremes of people out there due to the way our parents raised us or by pure rebellion.  Now it's funny, but I ended up marrying that man whose financial behavior was completely opposite of mine, but like many people say, "Opposites Attract"!  I helped him straighten out his car payment situation and in return, he let me drive the car.

After setting up the budget, you need to figure out your financial behavior.  Some questions to ask yourself are:

1. Do you like to spend money on things even if you don't need them?
2. Do you spend money when you are feeling depressed?
3. Do you try to justify purchases for things that aren't considered necessities?
4. Do you feel the need to spend any extra money that comes into your account?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you are probably a spender.

Now here are some other questions:

1. Do you cringe at spending money or going shopping?
2. Are you always trying to find the best deal and even when it is the best deal, you are hesitant to purchase it?
3. Would you rather suffer in not having something, then buying it?
4. Do you always want to be ahead of bills by a month or 2 so you have a cushion with your money?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you are probably a saver.

I was a saver, but after being with spenders, I felt like the boring controlling person and I realized I needed to lighten up a little bit.  I began tithing to my church and giving to charities.  That actually allowed me to become a little more lenient with my money.  I still remained responsible, but I didn't suck the life out of money.

If you are struggling with overspending, or fear of it, there are support groups where you can receive help.  I am a leader in a great Christ-centered program called Celebrate Recovery which offers support for all kinds of addictions and hurts.  But if Celebrate Recovery is not for you, there are many programs and forums where you can receive help and on the way to a well-balanced Financial Behavior!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Importance of Budgeting

All of the political debates and articles about the economy makes me realize how important the common budget really is to us.  I opened my first checking account when I was 15.  I bought my first car with $600 cash I had saved, or I should say, my mom helped me save up from birthday money I had received from the time I was 1 years old.  That first major purchase began my journey of owning a checking account, getting a job and budgeting.

My mom played a major role in teaching me how to spend and save wisely.  I remember sitting down out the dining room table, going over my first checking account statement and balancing the check book.  I think from that point on, I was a financial nerd.  Nowadays I love using MS Excel to set up my budget.  A couple years ago I heard about which is also a great spending tracking tool.  But the old-fashioned lined notebook and pencil also works fine too.

The key to a good budget is making sure every penny has its' place.  That doesn't mean we're living paycheck to paycheck, it just means that we know where all the money is being spent.  It's not really all that hard to set up a budget on paper, or computer, but I do admit, it's hard to follow through with the actions of spending the amount written instead of what we want to spend.  I'll talk about spending habits in a future article.

Now, to setting up the budget, there are three major areas of focus:
  1. Income
  2. Outgoing (spending)
  3. Savings
Some people may get discouraged when their income seems so low and once they start calculating it out, it seems they don't have enough to cover all the bills.  Well this is how many of us, our country included, have gotten into debt.  Don't get discouraged.  I was at a point in my life where I was a single mom with three children, receiving no child support and at a lower level income job.  I was too prideful to receive government assistance.  I admit, I used credit cards for things like car repairs and medical bills.  But I managed to pay all my bills on time.  This is why there is a process to financial planning.  The beginning of the process is setting up the budget.  The next steps are to make sure to have good financial behavior and then to shop wisely, which I will explain more in the future. 

In the mean time, stay focused and start setting up the much needed budget!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Heart of the Matter

I waited in anticipation for the 2nd Presidential Debate.  I watched the first hour and a half and decided I had seen all I needed to.  The minute either candidate stated what the other had said was false, I started thinking, what's the point of watching the entire debate since I would need to hear from the 'fact checkers' afterwards anyway.  I'm not sure what disgusts me more, a person lying or the person calling them a liar.  One way or another someone is lying.  But I guess what's more important is that the person telling the lie will come out and apologize for it.

We all make mistakes, I am very sympathetic in that area.  But I also understand that if a person continually does the mistake after apologizing each time, then that person loses credibility.  For instance, when former President Bill Clinton firmly claimed not to have had 'sexual relations' with Monica Lewinsky and then later came out and stated the opposite, I lost trust in what Mr. Clinton would tell the public.

Does it really matter then if either candidate meets the qualifications of President if we can't trust him anyway?  The President could be doing things for his best interest instead of the interest for the country.  What it all comes down to is the heart.

We need a person in office who cares more about the hearts of others than of himself.  Who would risk his reputation for the better of the country?  Maybe we should not only look at records but also at character.  They go hand in hand.  We can't have one without the other.  What good, for instance, is a Border Patrol Agent who knows all the laws, but breaks them anyway.

It all comes back to the heart and yes the heart does matter!