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The Simple Things


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Our family had just finished up our one week fun-filled vacation, which included 3 days at Disneyland, 2 days at the ocean and two days of travel. Due to a limited budget, we had to be very creative in how we were going to do this money wise. We decided to pull our travel trailer, which would allow us to stay at cheaper rates via a campground, compared to a hotel. I made a food menu and packed all the meals for each night. And because the five of us could not fit into our 28 foot trailer, we had to bring a tent. Did I mention it was the beginning of December?

Is that roughing it or what?

In my spoiled-american way of thinking, I was roughing it (Please don’t think any less of me). I didn’t have the nice fine hotels that I saw other tourist getting dropped off at as we rode the shuttle back to our campground. I didn’t have the cash, and I wasn’t willing to use credit cards to purchase the over-priced food and souvenirs I saw others around me buying. Not us, we headed back to our campsite to eat our sandwiches. Did I mention I didn’t even have running water in the trailer? The waterline broke the first night in the trailer, which meant I had to cook outside and go out and “fetch” the water every time we needed it. How about this, while my son was sleeping in the tent, someone came in while he was sleeping and stole his Verizon pad and his ipod, not to mention, my husband’s bike. Now I know you really are going to feel sorry for me. The neighboring RV’s around us were luxurious and had multiple slide outs, while our travel trailer only had one slide out. I know I sound pretty sickening…

Bear with me….I come around to my senses…

How did I get to this place where I rated the value of my life on what my materials consisted of? Is the degree of my worth, or that of my family, based off the assets we walk around with? As I began to refocus my thinking, I began to see the joy in the mist of the simplicity of life (And, I know maybe not even what some would call simplicity). We were forced to lay aside all the electronics and simply listen to each other. My third son quickly discovered that I was the Yahtzee champion of the world. I didn’t rely on Facebook updates and Instagram pics to keep me entertained. We got to spend every evening while we where at Disneyland watching the fireworks boom over our heads. We spent the evenings sitting around the campfire roasting marshmallows. I was living in the simple moment of life realizing that time was going by way too fast.

Nobody, at first glance, probably walked by our “homestead” at the campground and said, Wow! Look at the nice luscious trailer! But if only they could see the precious memories that were being made inside, that life isn’t measured by how much money is in the bank or what kind of “big people toys” one owns. I needed a good shaking and a wake up call. I’m embarrassed of were I was letting my thoughts take me. However, I know I am not alone. We are all so consumed with so much. And if we stopped to slow down long enough, I think we would see that we are focusing on the wrong things.

What are your thoughts and lifestyle saying about you? Where is your focus?

Blog post: What is Your Lifestyle Saying?

Do’s and Don’ts to a Hassle Free Christmas

I can’t think of any other time of the year, besides vacations, that can blow a budget out of the water other than Christmas. There is so much emotion tied to this time of year. There is the marketing push to buy things we don’t need, spend money we don’t have, and starting the New Year off the same way every year: with the promise to get out of dept and start living on a tighter budget. Well, if this sounds familiar to you, I have some good news! You can begin to make wiser choices right now! My husband and I sat down and came up with a list of do’s and don’ts that will hopefully keep your budget on track.
Do’s
Remember the real meaning of Christmas– “Jesus is the reason for the season”
Shop with cash– Cash in hand automatically keep you from spending too much. When you can physically see the cash leaving your hands, it’s not only emotional; it’s also final because once it’s gone it’s gone.  
Have a set spending amount- When you have a set spending plan, it will remove the regrets of over spending. 
Shop sales– The one thing you can count on in this economy is that every retailer is competing for your hard earned money, so be patient and shop around for the best deals. My favorite comparison shopping site online right now is http://www.shopzilla.com. On my smartphone, I like using Redlaser, Groupon, and Living Social. I know there are many others.
Don’t
Shop with a credit card– I feel this is the number one “don’t” to a stress free Christmas.
 Most Americans today use credit cards without even thinking twice about it, but the truth of the matter is we can spend twice as much with credit than we do with cash. When using credit, we do not feel the connection to spending as you would with using cash. We tend to buy our family and friends a whole lot of stuff they won’t even like anyways. And by the time you add up the interest you might be paying off with the credit card,  it makes it not such a good deal after all.
Impulse buy– This is the number one budget buster. If you have to stop and think about buying an item (should I or shouldn’t I), than chances are you shouldn’t buy it. Ask yourself if this is the best gift.
Buy out of guilt– Christmas is a very emotional time of the year with family and friends and at times we tend to buy out of guilt or obligation. It’s a good idea to make a list of family and friends you need to by gifts for, and what your budget will allow. Don’t forget to think outside of the box- making crafts, giving your time, or giving bake goods as a gift. Don’t let the retailers and marketers get into your head by telling you that “stuff” brings happiness. If you don’t have the money to buy all the things on people’s list, that is ok. This might be a good time to get back into the real meaning of Christmas and start some new Christmas traditions. It is not about the gifts!
Go shopping without a plan– When you go shopping without a plan , you can end up buying a whole lot of stuff you didn’t even intend to get……this will blow your budget out of the water.
Forget to enjoy yourself- Smile! Jesus loves you!
Ok, this is not an exhausted list, but I hope it’s a start to a fun-filled Christmas that radiates the love of Christ.
For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6
“Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.” Matt. 1:23

Spend, Save, Give pt 3

Ok, I will finish up this finance series with giving…… Giving did not come easy for my husband and me. It was hard for us to part with hard-earned-money. Yeah, we would give a little here and a little there. It was nothing consistent just enough to make us feel like we did our part. That is where our thinking was all wrong. It was not our money, but we were entrusted by God to be good stewards of the resources He had given us. Here are a few points we learned along the way:
It was all about our motive and purpose for giving. We had a heart issue. God did not need our money (It’s the God of the universe we are talking about!) He wasn’t prying our hands open. Infact, in 2 Cor. 9:7 it says, “So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.” And before that it says, “You reap what you sow.”
We began to see giving as an act of service. The fruit and blessings we began to see in our lives became unparallel to what we were seeing before we freely starting giving. As we grew, the clenched hands we were holding on with so tightly began to loosen. There was a sense of freedom.
I don’t know where I heard this statement, but I love it! ….We as Christians can get spiritually constipated. All is going in but nothing is coming out. When someone is constipated they are uncomfortable and bound up, and I believe they are not free to live up to the full potential God has for them.
Giving(Tithing) can also very easily turn into a legalistic thing. “Any legitimate practice can be done with a legalistic attitude. In such case, the fault lies with the attitude of our heart, not with the practice itself. If anything hits close to home or starts meddling in our life, we can dismiss it simply by calling it “legalistic” Legalism can be a convenient label to cover our unwillingness to obey God.” Randy Alcorn
~For us tithing was a good starting point, it opened up the way for us to get into the discipline of giving, which later led to more giving.~
 We are called to support our local church. 1Cor. 16:2 tells us that the early church sold their houses and land, and they brought the money and laid it at the Apostles feet, and it was distributed to anyone as needed. And, 1Cor. 9 tells us that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel.
Giving comes in many different forms. There is the giving of our time, possessions, and talents.  And….Guess what? We can’t out give God! No matter what it is!
We are called to support our local church. 1Cor. 16:2 tells us that the early church sold their houses and land, and they brought the money and laid it at the Apostles feet, and it was distributed to anyone as needed. And, 1Cor. 9 tells us that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel.
We are the solution to a world in need. May we let the love of Christ freely flow through us. We can freely give as we have freely received. And by the way, teaching our children to give of themselves and money is the best gift we can give them.
God loves a cheerful giver.
Then He will answer them, saying, Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did for Me. Matt. 25:40
Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, That there may be food in My house, And try Me now in this, Says the LORD of hosts, If I will not open for you the windows of heaven
And pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it.
Mal. 3:10
* In closing, when I starting writing Spend, Save, and Give I didn’t write it in chronological order. In our home giving comes off the top.
      

Spend, Save, and Give Pt 2

Let’s talk about saving some money…………………

I did a word search on money using http://www.biblegateway.com/ and came up with nearly 200 verses about money (depending on bible translation). So, that tells me it is an important subject as far as God is concerned. I would challenge you to search the scriptures for yourselves and see where God leads you.

When I think about saving money two words comes to my mind: hoarding and stewarding.

I am sure you are familiar with the parable found in Luke 12 about the rich man. He had grown plenty of crops and this is what is said about him, “And he thought within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’ So he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my good. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.”’ This is not the purpose of saving money. Infact, God called him a “FOOL”.

Another story I thought of that conveys another side of saving, is the story about Joseph. He was sold by his brothers into slavery, and he eventually ended up in Egypt in charge over Pharaoh’s house. His job was to gather one-fifth of all the grain that would grow in the seven years of plenty, that way when the seven years of famine came there was still food to eat in the land. Infact, there wasn’t just enough for them, but for those throughout out the land. Isn’t that cool?

Or, maybe you have heard of a family who sold and cashed out all they had to go into the mission field. This is wonderful if this is what God was leading you to do. However, I don’t think this is true in most of our cases (It wasn’t in ours). The typical scenario is we get and consume up everything, so when the time of famine comes in our life we have nothing. And we have nothing to give to those around us in need.

When it comes to saving, pray and examine your motives. Remember God is the provider of everything, and He calls us to be good stewards of all He has given us. Time. Money. Resources. He owns it all.

Here are a few practical tips we have learned when it comes to saving money:

Emergency Fund – This is money put aside that you use when those little things in life happens. It keeps you from using the credit card on every thing that happens unexpectedly.

Long Term Saving- This is where you save for retirement.

Every Day Life Things (short term)- Vacations are sure nice. They are even better when they are paid for, and they don’t follow you home. And the last time I checked Christmas is still in December. Kids grow and need clothes. There is college, braces, summer youth camp and the list goes on and on…..

Trust in your money and down you go! But the Godly flourish like leaves in spring. Prov. 11:28 (NLT)

Wealth from get-rich-quick schemes quickly disappears; wealth from a hard work grows over time. Prov. 13:11 (NLT)

The wise have wealth and luxury, but fools spend whatever they get. Prov. 21:20 (NLT)

Spend, Save, and Give

Well, it happened yet again to another friend. They lost their home. It just breaks my heart to see people I love struggling. It seems to be a familiar tune lately……lost homes, lost jobs, lost sense of security. But! We all know, as followers of Christ, that we don’t find our sense of security from any of these things…RIGHT? Because we know all to well that all of these things we put our security in could be gone in a blink of an eye. However, what a blow when one of these trails happens upon our lives.

It wasn’t long ago that my husband and I were basing our quality of life off of what cars, house, and material goods we had. We were chasing after the “Joneses’” Whoever they are.

We were over 40,000 dollars in dept when we stepped into our first Financial Peace class. It was there we learned how to be true stewards of the money God had entrusted us. And now, 6 yrs. later, other than our house we are dept free. We are now facilitators of a Financial Peace University class, and believe me when I say besides us helping others take control of their money, lives, and relationships; it has been a source of accountability for us, because life can so easily pull you in so many directions.

I’m going to attempt to give you some practical steps on how to take control of your finances that I have learned throughout the years:

Spending

Live within your means– I don’t think I need to tell you we live in a gotta-have-it-now society. It’s kinda old fashion to tell ourselves we have to wait and save for something. It’s gotten to the point where we feel we are depriving ourselves. I will just put it bluntly….If you can’t afford it, you can’t have it!

Avoid the gotta-have-it-now syndrome- Try the 10 second rule, which is walk around the store alittle with the item that is a must have and think a few minutes if you really need this item or is it just a want. Nine times out of ten you will discover it was just an impulse buy and you probably have 10 of them at home. Another idea would be to wait over night before you make any big purchases. This will help eliminate buyer’s remorse the next morning.

Bargain shop- Ok, my husband loves this one. He loves to go and hunt for the best deals. And he has found plenty of them. The first item you see in the store is not the only one in the world. Go home and check places like Craig’s list, eBay, and other store sales before making any big purchases.

Grocery Shopping- The worst thing you can do is go into the grocery store without a shopping list. I guarantee you would save a substantial amount of money just by taking the time to make out a menu for the week and only sticking to the items that are needed. Avoid making frequent trips to the grocery store. You might intend to only go in for a gallon of milk, but I bet you will come out with a lot more. And if you want to save even bigger bucks throw in some coupons and watch the savings come. Here is an easy coupon site that I use http://www.couponmom.com.

Cash Only- It is so easy to justify getting that item or items that you never intended to get or don’t need when you are paying with your debit or credit card. Carrying cash in the grocery store is what keeps me on target…that and my trusty calculator.

Budget- I couldn’t talk about money without throwing in the “B” word. Think of it this way…a budget is just telling your money what to do. And it helps you to know if you are over spending in an area or if you are you have more month than you have money. When we first started a budget, we were shocked to find that we actually had money each month leftover after paying all the necessities. Soooo where was all the money going? We were just throwing it away. Yeah, money that could we have been putting away for savings, retirement, college, and for those fun things in life. We will discuss savings next time.

Have an accountability partner– If you are married, this is your spouse. If you are single, go find someone who will speak truth into your life and hold you accountable and help you stay on track in your spending.

Pray- If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. James 1:5

To Be Continued………………..

Let me know what you think. Share some of your tips………