money myths

Get Rich Slowly is one of my two favorite finance blogs. It has innovative ideas as well as a balanced perspective toward money, and I have found far more relevant tips here than elsewhere.

Every now and then, as you’ve probably noticed, I find a post that I like so much that I can’t help sharing it. Today, that includes this one: http://www.getrichslowly.org/blog/2010/04/27/money-myths-and-the-importance-of-thinking-for-yourself/

I particularly appreciate the section on money myths. I think there are several included which are worthy of separate blog posts all of their own, but I doubt I’ll actually get to doing that, so let me just point out my favorites:

  • It’s not wrong to be rich.
  • The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.
  • It’s important to budget on what you actually earn, not on what you hope to earn.
  • Just because you can’t take it with you when you die doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t save money responsibly while you’re alive.
  • A person’s standard of living is not based on how much they spend and consume.
  • Buying a home isn’t always better than renting one. (Especially if you are like us and move at least once a year. It simply wouldn’t be worth it at this point in our lives.)
  • Having to pay for something yourself doesn’t have to mean it’s worth more to you.

I think that each of these points are things that Keith and I have learned to some extent during our marriage. The last one is one that I’m not sure I’ve heard anyone else say before, but I have certainly seen the truth of it in at least one area of our life together: our car! We just hit 200,000 miles on the 1997 Camry that Keith’s parents gifted to him more than six years and 110,000 miles ago. The blessing of a continually reliable vehicle and not having to make car payments has been something for which we have truly been thankful.

I’ve just now begun to chew this over, but I think that when people have helped me financially – whether with college scholarships or with gas money – I have appreciated it and remembered it long after I have remembered the so-called satisfaction of earning my own way the rest of the time. I’m not suggesting that it would be a good idea to always receive without having to work for it, but I do disagree with the idea that helping someone will cause them not to appreciate it – whatever the “it” might be – as much. If done right, I think generous assistance can not only be a blessing that cultivates a heart of thankfulness, but also a catalyst for the one who has received to continue giving to others.

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Published in: on April 29, 2010 at 3:55 pm  Comments (2)  

preparing to be out of work

The major financial thing on my mind right now is that Keith will be out of work after the middle of the month.

In a lot of ways, it’s a good timing for a break. I have the two weeks after that all scheduled out for us: making goodies for Christmas, throwing a birthday party for Rilla, having the ultrasound to determine our baby’s gender, celebrating Rilla’s birthday, enjoying Christmas at home with the three of us, having Christmas celebrations with family, and then moving before the end of the year.

But after all of that… then what? I haven’t been concerned about it, mainly because a) God provided a place for us to move to that is nearer to Keith’s work, and I don’t think He would do that right now if there would not be work to follow it up; b) we have that little bit in savings; c) we can get a good tax return soon; and d) unemployment checks are a beautiful thing. But the most important part is that e) God always provides.

So really, how do you prepare to be out of work? 

For us, it has meant making sure all bills are up to date and the credit card we use for monthly expenses is at a $0 balance. It has meant making sure that the groceries I buy will go the distance if we can’t afford to buy more for a month or two. It has meant not spending anything extra, whether on needed clothes for Rilla or gifts for others or whatever else.

Unfortunately, I don’t think I’ve been doing the best job of it this time around. Normally we wouldn’t take a trip to Utah right as money gets tighter. It may be that I should have spent less on Christmas presents. And buying a few pieces of (used, of course) furniture for our new place was probably not the greatest idea, although I will be selling a few pieces as well to make up the cost. I have been stocking up goodies for our daughter’s first birthday party, and that in itself is probably not necessary; we could just not have treats there, and people would probably understand.

But in these matters, and in other ones, I think this is where it all comes back to grace in finances. I’m not a perfect steward of our finances any more than I am a perfect steward of the love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, and so on in my life that is also a gift from God. I’m not a perfect wife or a perfect mother or a perfect friend. I need daily grace in order to honor the Lord in what I do, and this applies to finances as well. Sometimes I mess up by accident, like spending $4.50 on aluminum-free baking powder at the health food store when I could have got it at Fred Meyer for $2.50. Sometimes I mess up on purpose, like buying organic bananas at 79 cents a pound when I know that the normal bananas at 49 cents a pound really don’t have enough pesticides on them to warrant me buying the organic variety. And yet the point of trying to be frugal and spend appropriately is not perfection. The point is to honor the God who has enabled me to live and move and have my being. When I mess up, He forgives me. It doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t try to do better, but it does mean that His love and grace toward me is not tied onto my ability to do better.

Now I don’t know how this fits into all of that, but here’s a little secret about my real mindset toward money: sooner or later, it goes away. Sometimes you can make it stretch longer. Sometimes I don’t think it’s worth worrying about, so I just buy what we need and throw in a few wants until it is all gone. Worrying about it doesn’t seem to make it last longer; instead, it only makes the spending of it less enjoyable. So when it looks like we are going to run out of money, here is the honest truth: I don’t usually try all that hard to be extra frugal. Partially that is because I think I am frugal enough as it is, but also because I just think… well, what  can you do? We’ve got to pay the bills, and we’ve got to buy food, so I’ll just do what I normally do and see how long it lasts. God will provide once it’s gone, so whether that happens in two months or two months and one week doesn’t seem to matter all that much.

Does anyone else have that kind of mindset, or am I the only one?

Published in: on December 6, 2009 at 2:09 pm  Comments (2)  

on going to weddings

Our family of three took a trip to Utah over Thanksgiving weekend. It was our first time returning there since we moved away more than two years ago, and so it was largely a visit to see old friends. The big impetus for us to go, though, was the wedding of a dear lady who is very much due for a beautiful new season in her life. We had the privilege of seeing her glow as only a bride can. We had the honor of witnessing the joining of two hearts and two families. It is not something we will soon forget.

Weddings are one of those unnecessary expenses and time-consuming activities that Keith and I believe are worth it. On our first full day of marriage, we were driving to Oregon for our honeymoon and talking about our own wedding when we decided that as a married couple, we would go to the weddings of our friends whenever we possibly could. We were so blessed by those who had traveled, set aside studying for finals week, and so on to be with us as we pledged our lives to one another that we just felt it was one of the most important decisions we could make to be there for others in the same way. Looking back on the 25+ weddings we have attended since that time, there were definitely seasons when it has been inconvenient or literally took all of our money to get there and back. But we have never regretted going to the weddings of our friends.

So why does it matter so much? We go to weddings not just for the free food – although that is always nice – but because we believe that marriage is an institution created by God and worthy to be honored. It is a privilege to be invited to witness two people enter into a lifelong covenant relationship. Marriage is greatly undervalued in our culture, and we feel that it is a beautiful thing to be able to support our friends not only on their wedding day, but also in the years ahead to be able to pray for them and encourage them to live by their wedding vows.

This blog is about finances, of course, but there are so many things in life that are more important than finances. It is easy for me to fall into the trap of thinking money is the important thing, but it’s not. It’s what we do with it that matters. It is given to us as a tool and a blessing. Going to weddings when it is not the most convenient timing continues to be an encouragement to me, both about what really matters in life and as a reminder of all the other times God has provided for the details in situations. Many times we have taken off work and spent money that we couldn’t afford so that we could go to the weddings of our friends, and look! Nothing disastrous happened. Maybe we’d have a little more debt paid off if we hadn’t gone, but who cares, what good is having provision if we don’t use it to build relationships?

Published in: on December 4, 2009 at 9:12 am  Comments (1)  

this and that

Since one of my four loyal readers pointed out that I haven’t written on here in a while, I’m taking a few moments while Rilla is napping to catch up a little bit. I don’t want to be disappointing 25% of my readership, you know!

Actually, one of my friend’s comments really got me to thinking about the way I view debt. She is mired in it too, yet she said that it is her responsibility and she wants to pay it all back. You know what? I don’t think like that. My thoughts are more along the lines of it being unfair that I ever had to go into debt to begin with, and thus the world owes me something and my debt should just magically disappear. Really, when I stop to admit it, I actually think like that.

And that is why I think that rather than God granting us some huge windfall that makes it all go away, Keith and I are going to have to continue to plod through payment after payment until it is all gone. I have felt like that ever since we graduated from college. We know plenty of people who have supernaturally had their loans forgiven or instantly paid for in one way for another. But I feel like God wants to teach me something in the slow and steady plodding that comes from the long-term commitment to pay off debt. There is definitely a discipline and a patience being cultivated through all of this.

Lately we have had several things come up which seem to have slowed us down a bit in the debt-paying-off process, specifically Christmas presents, a trip to visit friends in Utah, the realization that Keith will likely be out of work in two weeks, preparing to move again, and beginning to prepare for Rilla’s sibling who is due in May.

Each of these expenses (and the choices we have made that led to creating each expense) carry with them all kinds of implications, so maybe I’ll just delve into a few via a short little blog series. Look for it over the next few days…

Published in: on December 3, 2009 at 12:12 pm  Comments (3)  

refocusing

I’m experiencing writer’s block when it comes to this blog.

I had desired to chronicle our road toward financial freedom and the discoveries we make in our efforts to live more and more frugally. But we’re really not making any more changes than what we’ve already made. Every bill we have has been carefully analyzed so that we are paying as little as we can in that area, or as little as is reasonable for us. Every monthly living expense is tracked and kept to a minimum by thrifty shopping or doing without. So what more is there for me to blog about? I read finance blogs daily and am continually looking for ways to save. I use coupons online and in stores. I shop at three grocery stores to make sure I get the best prices. I sell extra items on eBay and Craigslist.

So I think I will write a series of entries about what we do and why we do it. I don’t know if it will be helpful to anyone else, but it may be good for me to take another look at various areas of our finances and share those whats and whys.

With the two or three people who actually read this, that is.

Published in: on September 10, 2009 at 5:54 pm  Leave a Comment  

a blog is born

It’s about time.

I’ve had it in mind to start this blog for oh, a year or two now. I’ve written innumerable entries in my head, but that storage space is running out of memory. It’s time to get going on this thing.

My husband and I have spent much of the last two and a half years dedicated to working with a company called United First Financial, which helps people to get out of debt years ahead of schedule. We have also spent a great deal of time working with our own personal finances and discovering innovative ways to save. Thus, this blog is designed to serve two purposes.

First, it should be a resource to other UFirst agents who are working through the issues associated with selling the Money Merge Account program. For us, this has often meant learning to respond graciously to friends who doubt us or colleagues who view us on the same level as juice salesmen (and therefore try to entice us to become juice salesmen).

Secondly, this is a chronicle of personal tools and techniques used on our own road to financial freedom.

Why combine the two topics, you might ask? Well, the first reason might be obvious… nobody is reading this yet, so it doesn’t really matter much what I do. But the second reason is that after struggling through a few years of trying to appear carelessly, wealthily professional, we have realized that to be simply salesmen just isn’t our thing. We do believe in the Money Merge Account program, and we do believe that it has the power to do for careless people what frugal people can’t do with all their striving; in other words, it works wonders that mere frugality just can’t. To share the Money Merge Account program, we feel increasingly that we must share ourselves. Our own struggles, our own victories.

I don’t know how this thing will go. I just know that I have stuff to write about and so I need a place to write it. If this blog is helpful to others in some small way, so much the better.

Published in: on April 20, 2009 at 9:17 am  Leave a Comment