Save Money and Develop a New Mindset with a Financial Fast

If you’ve ever had surgery or bloodwork for your cholesterol levels, the test required you to fast for 8 hours or more. Many people also endeavor to fast for its health benefits to promote better digestion, weight loss, lowering cholesterol, and resetting appetite. Others may fast for spiritual reasons, like drawing closer to God for spiritual direction or increasing discipline.

Sack with bundles of cash falling out

However, eating is not the only item you can limit when fasting. I have “fasted” activities, such as crossword puzzles, computer games, and television, to gain more time to accomplish a goal or project. My time management fasts typically lasted until I achieved my goal or task.

A financial fast might be in order if you need to control your spending better. Whether you are just beginning to set up your budget or years into managing your money and want to reach a new goal, this plan might be the catalyst for your success. A total financial fast eliminates all unnecessary expenditures for a set period, whereas a partial fast eliminates specific spending categories. After you review your budget, decide which option works for you. During the period of the financial fast, you cut your spending. Fasting should increase your bank balance. However, you will likely experience other benefits.

Benefits of a Financial Fast:

One benefit is an increased awareness of how often you spend money on non-essentials. The ease of your purchases can hinder your realization of how much you spend. While shopping, a store offers multiple ways to pay for items. Pulling out a credit card or clicking the online “order button” distances the shopper from feeling their loss of money. Consider if you paid cash for every transaction. As the stack of bills shrinks in your hand, you connect the loss with the purchase. If you habitually charge $5 for breakfast and $10 for lunch every workday, you may not realize that those purchases add up to $330 each month (based on 22 workdays per month). The individual transactions are hardly worth noting when you examine your credit card bill, but the total makes a big dent in your bank balance. You will be surprised when you implement your fast. Those quick habits of taping your phone or swiping your credit card will lessen, and your bank account will grow.

A second benefit will be breaking bad habits and creating good ones. If you have been going through a drive-up for a coffee and breakfast sandwich, and now you skip that, you may begin to make coffee and breakfast at home. After a few weeks of this, making breakfast at home should be a regular habit, and going through the drive-up might become a once-in-while treat.

A third benefit is saving time. It takes time to get from your office to your car, drive to a restaurant, eat, and return to your office.   Packing a lunch takes much less time, and you can use that time savings to do something else, such as taking a walk, writing a letter, or engaging in a friendly conversation with a co-worker.

Finally, you are developing a new mindset of finding ways to enjoy life that do not require spending money. If you decide to fast spending money on recreation, you will work harder to seek free entertainment options. You will likely find many available to you and your family.

Action Plan for a Financial Fast:

  1. Decide on a goal for your financial fast. Possible goals might include:
    a. Paying off some debts
    b. Saving for a vacation
    c. Developing an appreciation of “free” activities and habits
    d. Demonstrating to your children that you have the self-control to delay a purchase until you have ended your spending fast.
  2. Set a time frame. Many financial experts recommend a 21-day fast, which is based on estimates that it takes 21 days to make or break a habit. Other experts recommend a period of intermittent financial fasting, such as fasting financially for one week out of every month. Your time period could be shorter or longer, depending on your goal and what spending category you will fast.
  3. Decide what you will fast. One option is to go on a strict fast, where you only pay bills and purchase groceries and medicine. Another option is a partial fast in which you forego spending for specific categories of items. For example, if buying shoes is a personal weakness, you might fast shoe purchases for an extended period. If you are saving to go on a cruise, you might give up dining out and recreational spending to have more money going toward your cruise budget.
  4. Plan for success. If you give up eating fast food for breakfast and lunch, ensure you have groceries to prepare those meals at home. Have motivational phrases and Scripture verses in your wallet, car, and computer to help you stay motivated. Celebrate your success without breaking your fast.
  5. Avoid temptations. If you are fasting clothing expenditures, avoid visiting your favorite apparel sites and stores. Throw away catalogs and delete marketing emails without reading them.

Recently, I participated in a 24-hour dietary fast at the request of a friend with a terminally-ill child. The purpose of the fast was to spend time in prayer for the child. I had no other motivation. Although I have been working to lose weight for a while, I did not fast with the expectation of losing weight. When the fast ended, however, I found that my appetite had been “reset.”  I have been able to eat less and feel satisfied, which has led to weight loss. A financial fast can provide the benefit of resetting your spending mindset, which will reap economic benefits for you long after you have ended your financial fast.

My Bible study, Honoring God with Your Money, is a great resource to help you understand how to manage your money better and achieve your financial goals. It is available on Amazon. If you would like to receive my quarterly newsletter with tips on managing your money, please complete this short form: Honoring God with Your Money (

Why More Money Is Not the Solution to Your Anxieties

Are you struggling with financial stress, low self-esteem, depression, or marital discord? People often believe the solution to their stress and unhappiness is more money. Do you often think, “If I only had more money, I would be happier?” Perhaps you imagine winning the lottery and believe all your burdens and financial problems would melt away. Would all your troubles disappear and your attitude permanently change? 

Are extremely wealthy people happier? The rich and famous may have more earthly treasures, but this does not lead them to greater happiness or satisfaction. Many studies have shown that extreme wealth is a hindrance to happiness. American author, Graeme Wood, wrote an article in The Atlantic entitled “Secret Fears of the Super-Rich.” The piece included a behind-the-scenes look at a project that asked wealthy individuals, those with a net worth above $25 million, to write freely about their deepest concerns. The stunning revelation to most readers was that the participants faced many anxieties, including isolation, worries about work and their families, and insecurities about their wealth. Graeme Wood concluded, “The respondents turned out to be a generally despondent lot, whose money had contributed to deep anxieties involving love, work, and family). (The Atlantic, April 2011 issue). Since the release of the landmark project on wealth and happiness, more recent studies have verified these conclusions.

Let us not overlook the idea that some may be in a desperate position and struggle daily to provide the basic necessities of life for themselves. They will likely have some anxieties that money or access to the essentials could resolve. Otherwise, money is not your answer to your worries. 

Life is full of many challenges, and Jesus himself said, “In this world you will have trouble.” John 16:33. A personal relationship with Jesus Christ is the solution to reducing and managing your anxieties. However, the Bible does not suggest that all your troubles disappear once you have a relationship with Jesus. The scriptures offer a solution to managing our anxiety and lifting the burden of worry. 

Abie Kulynych, a pastor and author, believes one way we can reduce our anxieties is by actively remembering God’s provisions in the past. In his devotional “Thou Art with Me, Volume 2,” he discussed how the nation of Israel became anxious about their needs being met, despite God supplying them with manna daily.  “For Israel, there came a point where gathering manna was simply what they did rather than what God had done for them. They were so accustomed to the miracle that they forgot it was miraculous. What if the key to quieting the voice of anxiety is constantly reminding ourselves of God’s goodness? What if Israel, every morning, when they walked out into the open places to gather their manna, had stopped and said, “Look what God has done for us today?” What if we did more than count our blessings? What if we recounted them? I’m not talking about telling our story to someone else, but telling it to ourselves, regularly, daily, constantly. I think that if we told our testimony to ourselves more often, we’d have more opportunities to share it with others.” (Page 317, Commentary on Psalm 149)

God blesses each of us daily. If we reflect on God’s blessings and His past provisions, we will be more likely to trust Him to meet our future needs. God wants us to trust Him. He does not want us to be anxious but to come to Him with our needs.  

God instructed the Israelites to record their blessings and to remind their children of God’s faithfulness in the past. We need to incorporate that command in our lives and with our children. 

Here are a few suggestions to start recording God’s faithfulness in your life: 

  1. Create a blessings journal.
  2. Read your journal regularly to remind yourself of God’s faithfulness.
  3. Share stories of God’s provisions with your children to increase their faith and trust in God to meet their needs.
  4. Place notes around the house to remind you to take all your needs to God in prayer. He wants you to ask for His help and is delighted to answer your prayers and meet your needs.

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4: 6-7

If you have not yet accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior, you have not yet experienced the peace of God. I urge you to accept Jesus’s free gift of salvation and experience the true peace that can only come by knowing that your sins are forgiven, and you will spend eternity in Heaven. Guidance on how to take this life-changing step is in the link “Basics of Salvation.”

My Bible study, Honoring God with Your Money, is a great resource to help you understand how to manage your money better and achieve your financial goals. It is available on Amazon. If you would like to receive my quarterly newsletter with tips on managing your money, please complete this short form: Honoring God with Your Money (

Feed the Hungry by Reducing Your Food Waste 

Can you relate to this phrase often told to a child 40 years ago at a dinner table? “You better clean your plate because there are starving children in Africa!” When I was young, my parents used to tell all 9 of us that phrase. It never made sense to me that cleaning my plate could impact whether other children were hungry. And, of course, if cleaning my plate results in me overeating, it will not benefit anyone and could harm me.  

Today, there are still hungry children. At least 1 in 6 children in the U. S. face food insecurity. Cleaning my plate still will not help those hungry children. On the other hand, if I reduce my food spending, I could donate money to one of the many organizations devoted to feeding the hungry.

Did you know the average American family throws away about $2,000 of food annually? In a society that feels the slowing down of the economy, it might feel like you have to pull back on your donations to non-profit organizations. However, if the average family could reduce waste and spend less, they could help feed hungry people. 

Consider challenging your family with these ideas for reducing waste and spending less on food expenditures: 

(1) eating smaller portions, 

(2) saving leftovers for second meals, 

(3) eliminating/reducing food waste by taking a bit more care in planning meals and using fresh food before the expiration date,

(4) allowing your children to participate in meal planning, shopping, and making to reduce the burden for you. 

These simple steps can help reduce food spending enough to make a difference in the lives of hungry Americans and others worldwide.

Here are some other motivational thoughts on helping you to reduce your spending on food and save to make donations:

For only $38 per month, you can sponsor a child through Feed the Children. Reducing your food waste by 23% would provide enough extra money to support a child. 

If you reduce your food waste by 30%, you will save $50 per month. A $50 donation to No Kid Hungry will provide up to 500 meals. 

A reduction of 15% would allow you to provide a gallon of milk for 15 families through Food for Others. For another 15% reduction, you could provide 20 families with a dozen eggs.

Volunteer at a local food bank when you turn in your donation. Your motivation increases when you see the impact it makes on the families in your community. 

Jesus encouraged us all to feed the hungry. “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 35 for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in;  I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.'”  Matthew 25:31-36

If we all take steps to reduce our food wastes and expenditures, we can change make a meaningful difference in the lives of others and fulfill Jesus’s command to feed the hungry.

My book “Honoring God with Your Money” can provide you with many other ideas to reduce your expenses and manage your money. For other ideas on managing your money, please sign up for my quarterly newsletter:

Helping Your Child Establish Credit

When I graduated from high school, my parents gave me a sewing machine as my graduation gift.   The gift extended beyond the device, and my mother used this opportunity to help me establish credit and a good credit report. Sewing was a skill my mother taught me, and she knew that I enjoyed it. A few days after graduation, Mom and I went to the store and picked out a cabinet for the machine, which I would pay for myself. I completed a credit card application and put 20% down toward the cabinet purchase. A few days later, I received a Singer credit card in the mail. When the bill arrived, Mom had me write a check to pay the balance in full. So, at 18, I had a credit card with a record of promptly paying the debt in full.

My parents set a good example to use credit sparingly and to maintain an excellent credit record. In those days, gasoline companies and department stores issued most credit cards. They were used only in the store that issued the card. General-purpose credit cards, such as Visa and Discover, were rare in those days. I do not recall ever using the Singer credit card, but having it allowed me to apply for and receive a Sears credit card while in college. I used that card sparingly and promptly paid the balance in full upon receiving each bill. My mom invested in a gift that she knew would benefit my future.

When my sons began driving, I co-signed for a credit card for each of them. I wanted to ensure that they never got into a situation such as needing gas and not having any money. They had limits on how they could use the card. I could check the card online at any time, and my husband and I  expected them to pay their balances in full each month. If the bill was due and had not been paid, I transferred money from their savings account to pay the bill. We discussed their spending habits regularly. With a bit of guidance, they maintained excellent credit during college. When our first son to marry wanted to purchase a house, the mortgage lender was impressed that a twenty-two-year-old had a credit score in the high 700s.

A wonderful gift any parent can give their child is to help them establish good credit. Teaching the principles of financial integrity and maintaining good credit is critical to helping your children transition into adulthood.

Here are some guidelines to help parents get started on training their children to establish credit:

  1. Model responsible use of credit.
  2. Have family discussions on your budget regarding discretionary spending.
  3. Don’t assume your child has learned what they need to know about credit in school. Talk to your child about establishing and maintaining credit.
  4. Help your child to develop self-control. Early in their lives, teach them that you cannot afford to buy everything they want. Discuss with them the need to make choices and prioritize needs over wants.
  5. Demonstrate self-control by saving for larger, discretionary purchases. Share information with your child on how your savings are accumulating and how soon you will be able to make your purchase.
  6. Help your child develop a savings plan when they are young. Putting aside even a small amount each week or month can result in a tidy sum by the time they graduate high school. This money can be applied to college or their first car.
  7. Co-sign for a credit card for your child and discuss their spending habits each time the credit card bill comes. Discussions should be positive and affirm good decision-making. A good time to do this is when they start driving and going places without you.

Children do not instinctively know how to establish credit and maintain a good credit record. They must be taught, and it is your responsibility as their parent to instill good credit decision-making skills. Good credit will pay great dividends in your child’s future. “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”  Proverbs 22:6

For more tips to help you manage your financial resources, please see my other blogs in the Finance tab. My book, Honoring God with Your Money, is full of guidelines to help you use money in a way that builds true wealth. Click here to sign up for my quarterly newsletter:

Hope is Not a Plan

As a Christian, my hope is in the Lord, who holds my life in His hands. As a writer, I hope people buy my books and read my blogs. As the owner of short-term rental property, I hope that vacationers decide to stay at my home. But, as a small business consultant, I share with my clients the mantra, “Hope is not a plan.”

Hope is essential to taking risks and moving forward with new opportunities in your life. However, hope does not bring me readers or renters. I must take action to inform potential readers of my books and blogs and potential renters of my property. Those actions involve effort, such as marketing, advertising, and asking for reviews.

If you are trying to achieve a financial goal, hope will not help you to accomplish your goal. You need to have a plan:

  • If you want to purchase a new home or car, you need a plan to accumulate the down payment.
  • If you want to get out of debt, you need a plan to start paying off one debt while meeting the minimum obligations on your other debts.
  • If you would like to retire early, you need to start putting money into a retirement account at an early age and be consistent in making contributions.
  • If you want to improve your credit score, you need to obtain your credit report and assess what debts need to be paid off, what errors need to be corrected, and what steps you can take to reduce your total amount of debt.
  • If you want to start your own business, you must maintain a high credit score and set aside money to invest in your business.
  • If you want to start budgeting, you need to research and evaluate budgeting tools to determine which one you will actually use.

Key Factors of a Plan to Accomplish a Financial Goal:

  1. Live below your means. If you want to save money for any reason, or if you’re going to pay down debt, you must spend less than you make. This requires you to know what you spend and evaluate where to make cuts.
  2. Write down your goals. Studies show that writing down your goals significantly increases your chances of achieving them.
  3. Have an accountability partner. If you are married, you and your spouse should hold each other mutually accountable. If you are unmarried, ask a friend to be your accountability partner. Hold each other accountable by encouraging each other and reminding yourselves that money spent cannot be used to meet your goal.
  4. Celebrate milestones. Give yourself a pat on the back when you hit an intermediate milestone, such as paying off a debt or saving a certain amount of money. Milestone celebrations should be free or low-cost to keep you on track to achieve your goal.
  5. Make it easy to save. Set up payroll deductions for retirement or other savings so you never have access to the money. Download a budgeting tool that makes it easy for you to track your spending. Avoid “window shopping,” which increases your desire for items you do not really need.
  6. Keep your goal in front of you. Have a picture of your dream home or car on your refrigerator. Write your business plan and look around for possible locations. Develop a bucket list of all the fun things you will do in retirement.
  7. Evaluate your progress periodically, and if you have gotten off track, take action to correct your mistakes and get back on the right track.

Your plan does not have to be complicated to be effective. Start dreaming, set a goal, and develop a plan to reach that goal.

Setting and achieving financial goals helps you honor God in how you use and manage the financial resources He has entrusted to you. It also allows you to build treasure in Heaven. For more tips to help you manage your financial resources, please see my other blogs in the Finance tab. My book, Honoring God with Your Money, is full of guidelines to help you use money in a way that builds true wealth.

If you have never accepted Christ as your Savior, please consider accepting the free gift of salvation from your sins and eternal life in Heaven. It will pay dividends for all of eternity.

Minimizing the Costs of Credit Card Balances

Americans have a love affair with credit cards. They make life easier while also making it easier to overspend. Studies reveal that a purchaser will spend an average of 20% more on an item when using a credit card than when paying with cash.

Person using a laptop computer and holding a credit card.  Title is "Minimizing the Costs of Credit Card Balances."

Credit card usage peaked in the fourth quarter of 2008, as the nation entered a severe recession, with balances reaching a then-high of $866 billion. Credit card balances fell significantly over the next 5 years. As the economy recovered, however, the use of credit cards and credit card balances began to rise. Today, credit card balances are approaching the $1 trillion level. The average consumer carries a credit card balance of $7,279 ( Fifty-three percent of credit cards being actively used are not paid off in full each month. The average interest rate of these balances is 20.92%, and the average interest rate being offered to new borrowers is 23.65%. 

The good news is that most Americans make regular credit card payments, and only 2.25% of credit card balances are delinquent by 30 days or more.

The minimum credit card payment is typically about 2% of the balance. On the average balance of $7,279, the minimum payment would be $86. At that payment and an interest rate of 20.92%, it would take a borrower 28 years and 3 months to pay off the debt. The total interest paid would be $27,776. In this scenario, the $7,279 in debt would cost the borrower $35,055.

When a consumer (that’s you) begins to take an active role in their financial future, they can minimize the interest on credit card balances. Remember, interest is handing part of your hard-earned paycheck to someone loaning you money. If you are not paying off your credit card each month, you need to determine why you carry a balance. 

The steps below can help you make advances on getting a handle on your credit card debt: 

  1. Always pay at least the minimum balance on time.
  2. Set up automatic payments to ensure that payments are always made on time.
  3. Pay more than the minimum balance whenever possible.
  4. Consider the actual cost of debt before making large purchases on credit cards.
  5. If your balances are on multiple credit cards, prioritize paying off the card with the highest interest rate first.
  6. Live below your means so that you will have some money each month to put toward your credit card balances.
  7. Create a budget to live within your means. (Refer to my past posts on budgeting) 

To learn more about how to manage your money and pay off debt, please click the Finances categories tab to find many blogs on money management, budgeting, and stewardship. My book Honoring God with Your Money is a great tool for financial money management.

If you would like to receive my quarterly newsletter on managing your money, please complete the short form: newsletter signup.

The Costly Use of Credit Cards – a real life example

Credit cards are an important part of transacting business.  Without a credit card, you may find it difficult to rent a car or reserve a hotel room.  Credit cards can simplify life and make it easy to buy online, pay for gasoline, and get in and out of a store quickly.  For those of us who pay our balances in full each money, credit cards extend free credit and provide the ease of making one monthly payment.  Yet, for those who do not pay their balance in full each month, credit cards usage will result in interest payments and late fees.

Credit card companies make money on (1) transaction fees when you charge a purchase and (2) interest and late fees on accumulated balances. They are incentivized to lend borrowers more than they can repay in order to earn interest, and they encourage borrowers to carry balances by setting low monthly minimum payments.   In fact, many companies set the minimum payment so low that it could take as long as 6 – 9 years to pay off one debt even if you did not charge anything else on that account.  The interest that would accumulate during this time adds significantly to the cost of the item purchased.

The following example is based on a close friend’s true experience; for this illustration I will refer to him as John.  John purchased a riding lawn mower for $3,600 from a well-known retail chain.  John charged the mower on a store card at an interest rate of 21 percent.  The minimum monthly payment of $98 was calculated so the loan would be repaid in 5 years.  Had John made only the minimum payment and made all the payments on time, the mower’s total costs would have been $98 * 60 = $5,880. So the mower was $3,600 at the store but he would pay a total of $5,880 if he made the minimum payment of $98 each month to the card. The total interest paid would have been $2,216, which is more than 60 percent of the original purchase price.

When I met with John, he had been paying on the mower for 24 months.  His payment record looked like this:

MonthPaymentInterestLate FeeBalance
5$196.00$62.64 $3,446.11
6$98.00$60.31 $3,408.42
7$98.00$59.65 $3,370.06
8$98.00$58.98 $3,331.04
9$98.00$58.29 $3,291.33
10$98.00$57.60 3,250.93
11$98.00$56.89 $3,209.82
13$98.00$55.96 $3,155.96
15$98.0055.01 $3,100.19
16 54.25$30.00$3,184.45
18$196.0055.51 $3,031.69
19$98.0053.05 $2,9786.74
20$98.0052.27 $2,941.01
21$98.0051.47 $2,894.48
22$98.00$50.65 $2,847.13
23$98.00$49.82 $2,798.96
24$98.00$48.98 $2,749.94

Through a misunderstanding of when the first payment was due, John’s first four payments were considered late.  Eventually, he reviewed his bill and made a catch-up payment in month 5.  He made the next 7 payments on time but then made several more payments late before getting back on track.  At this point, John had been assessed $240 in late fees and increased his expected accumulated interest on the loan by $145.  The lawn mower’s total expected cost was now $6,265, which was 74 percent more than the original purchase price.

Ironically, at this time, John had some money in savings.  We determined that he could use his savings to make an additional payment of $1,000.  This payment reduced his expected interest on the loan by $659, making the lawn mower’s total cost $5,606.  After making the additional payment, John called the credit card company and asked that his interest rate be reduced.  His interest rate was lowered from 21 percent to 12 percent, saving even more in interest.

John learned some expensive lessons about credit card debt, including:

  1. Make sure you understand the terms of any debt you take on.  Ask questions and read the sales agreement carefully.  Make sure you know the total costs of the debt and when the first payment is due.
  2. Never pay late, and never skip a payment.  Interest and late fees will apply and will add significantly to the total costs of the debt.  Some companies will increase your interest rate if you have two or more late payments.
  3. Make more than the minimum payment whenever you can.  If John had simply rounded his payment up to $100, he would have saved $83 in interest and paid off the lawnmower 2 months earlier.  If he had paid an extra $15 per month, he would have saved $503 in interest and cut out 13 months of payment.
  4. If you find yourself in over your head, call the credit card company and try to renegotiate the debt. 

This example is a good illustration to use with your children as they start to earn money and establish their own credit. It will show them the true costs of using credit unwisely and help them to get started on the right path to credit card usage.

To learn more about how to manage your money and improve your credit score, please read my other blogs on finance and money management. My book, Honoring God with Your Money, is a great resource to learn how to manage your money according to godly principles.

Click here to sign up for my quarterly newsletter on managing your money. Newsletter

9 Tips for Sticking to Your Budget

A few weeks ago, I shared tips on developing a personalized budget that works for you and your family. You can find that blog by clicking the following link.

A reader wanted me to share some ideas on how to keep on track and stick with a budget. Often we desire to manage our finances and enthusiastically start the steps to wrangle in our spending but quickly lose the motivation and discipline. So, this post focuses on motivating yourself to follow the budget you developed to manage your finances better and achieve your goals.

What is Your Goal?

You should take the time to determine your goal(s). Simply saying that you want to save money is typically not incentive enough to save money. It is nebulous, and you will find that you can justify overspending when you have not determined a marker of how much to save and a date to accomplish this goal.   Setting specific financial objectives and developing a budget will take you one step closer to achieving success. Your plan will motivate you because every good spending decision brings you one step closer to your dream. Your goal should be unique to your life, and you might have multiple ones that you are working on simultaneously. If you have not thought about your financial plan(s), below is a list of some common ones:

  1. Pay off debt(s). 
  2. Reduce stress.
  3. Improve your credit.
  4. Save for a memorable vacation.
  5. Save a down payment for a house.
  6. Save for a new(er) car.
  7. Retire early.
  8. Invest in your retirement fund.
  9. Save for your children’s college expenses.
  10. Start your own business.

Keep Your Goal in Front of You

When my husband and I decided to buy a pizza franchise business, we knew we had to save money to invest in our company. We cut back on discretionary expenses, such as dining out. When we were tempted to go out to eat, we reminded each other that the money we saved by eating at home helped us to achieve our dream. To maintain our excitement about our future business venture, we worked on our business plan and discussed our business goals daily. We also sold possessions not needed in our new life so we could add to our investment fund. Sticking to our minimized budget and saving money was easy because we were excited about our new venture.

Celebrate Goal Milestones

Try to set intermediate goals and celebrate reaching them. It takes a long time to achieve many financial goals, such as paying off a large credit card debt or accumulating a down payment to purchase a home. The average home price is about $350,000, and the lender typically requires 6% as a down payment from the buyer. That means you will need to save $21,000 for the down payment. If you save $1,000 per month, it will take you nearly two years to put aside the down payment. To keep yourself from getting frustrated, set mid-goal milestones, such as saving multiples of $3,000, and celebrate hitting those marks. Your celebration needs to be modest and within your budget, such as having a reasonably-price dinner at a restaurant or purchasing an accessory for your future home. Also, you might make a chart to record your progress if you are visually motivated.

Focus Your Spending Attention on Discretionary Spending

Your mortgage or rent payment, car payment, and insurance premiums are set amounts each month. In the short run, you cannot change them. Of course, they are a significant portion of your budget and must be considered. However, it would be best to focus on areas of your budget where you have more flexibility. Consider saving money on utilities, telephone and internet services, food, clothes, recreation, and other miscellaneous spending.

Use a Bill Paying System to Make Bill Paying Easy

I have scheduled each regularly occurring, fixed payment bill to be paid using our bank’s bill-paying service. This system is great for paying the mortgage, HOA fee, car payment, and insurance premiums. Utility bills and other expenses that vary from month to month are delivered directly to the bank, making it fast and easy to pay them.

Set Regularly Times Each Week to Pay Bills

Setting a regular time to pay bills and balance your checkbook will reduce your financial stress. You can put bills out of your mind until it is time to deal with them. I balance my checkbook each Sunday morning before we go to church. Our church service starts later than a typical workday, and our Sunday morning routine is less hectic than our Saturday mornings. After breakfast, I pour a second cup of coffee and settle at the computer. It only takes a few minutes since there are only one week’s bills to pay and cleared checks to reconcile. 

Set Up Automatic Transfers to Savings

Once you have established your budget, you need one additional category added to your automatic transfers. This new category should be your savings. Once you determine that amount, set up an automatic transfer on the first of each month or the first payday. This is one less decision you must consider, and you are unlikely to be tempted to pull the money out of savings once it is there.

Make It a Family Effort

If you are married, it is important that you and your spouse work together to set your goals and achieve them.  If you have children, share your goal with them and build excitement.  This is a great learning opportunity for them, and will help them to understand why you are saying “No” to certain items they want you to purchase.  Set aside a time once a week or twice a month to assess where you are and hold yourselves accountable to one another.   As intermediate goals are met, have a family vote to decide on the reward, or take turns choosing the reward.

Recruit an Accountability Partner

If you are not married, you will want to recruit someone that you can review your spending with once or twice a month and who will encourage you to stick with your plan. Be careful not to sabotage your budget by asking your shopping buddy to be your accountability partner.  Perhaps you have a mentor at your work or church, or a parent, who has consistently demonstrated financial responsibility who would be willing to assist you.  Having an accountability partner greatly increases your chances of being successful in reaching your goal.

In summary, set goals, reward yourself for reaching your intermediate and long-term goals, and set up systems to make it easy to pay bills and live within your budget. The easier it is to monitor your spending, the more successful you will be in sticking with your budget.

To learn more about how to manage your money, please click the Finances categories tab to find many blogs on money management, budgeting, and stewardship. My book Honoring God with Your Money is a great tool for financial money management.

Remembering God’s Past Faithfulness

Recently I read a commentary on Psalm 103. The article reminded me of one of my anniversary trips and the magnitude of God’s provision for the cost of the vacation. The commentator focused on Psalm 103: 1 – 2, “Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits.”  The author, Abie Kulynych, wrote that to “forget not” is to keep something front and foremost in your mind and hearts. He writes, “What would your thanksgiving sound like if you started at the beginning and worked your way back to today?”

Man standing on mountain looking at a mountain range

As I read those words, I reflected on the time when my husband and I could pay for our 17-day anniversary trip to Alaska even though he had been unemployed for over two years. I felt the Holy Spirit encourage me to share the details of God’s generosity with our grown children. While they knew of our extended trip to Alaska and that their father had been unemployed, I wanted them to ponder how astounding it was that God provided for us to take the anniversary trip. As I began to share, I also included other instances of God’s financial blessings which occurred before they were born or when they were too small to remember.

Three lengthy psalms follow Psalm 103; they deal with the need to recall God’s faithfulness and the problems that occur when we fail to remember. In Psalm 104, he first recounts how God met all our needs by creating the world in an orderly fashion. In Psalm 105, David provides a long list of how God led and blessed Israel. In Psalm 106, he looks at Israel’s failure to remember God’s blessings and provision for them. The Israelites became dissatisfied and, at some points, even desired to return to their life of slavery in Egypt because they did not follow God’s command to remember and memorialize the miracles He performed for them. 

God dwelt with Israel, yet they took their attention off Him and put it on their problems. God abides with us, yet we are just as prone to focus on our lack and our issues rather than on the abundance God provides for us. It is essential for us to “forget not all his benefits.” Start at the beginning and ask God to bring to mind all the ways He has provided for you and your family. I intend to create a written record for my children and grandchildren. Here are a few entries to get me started:

  • When I was applying to graduate schools, the school of my choice accepted me but did not offer me any financial assistance. One of my undergrad professors called the school and convinced them that I was deserving of a scholarship. Not only did I receive an excellent scholarship, but the school also waived my out-of-state tuition for my entire graduate school program.
  • No apartments were available when we applied to live in married student housing. God made one available just two months into our first semester. The rent was half of our previous rent, and utilities were included.
  • When we purchased our first home, the interest on a fixed-rate mortgage was 13%. We asked God for wisdom, leading us to accept a variable-rate mortgage at 8%. The following year, interest rates fell dramatically, and our mortgage payments dropped by $200 a month. We lived in the house for ten years, and our mortgage payments never reached their original level. We saved many thousands of dollars by not getting a fixed-rate mortgage.

God has likely moved in your life in similar ways. You can ask Him to help you bring these incidents to mind and record them. When needs arise, read your list and meditate on God’s faithfulness. This practice places your heart in a position to ask God to meet your current needs. It will also create a spirit of thankfulness in your heart.

My new novel, Letters to Mother from College, recounts God’s faithfulness in bringing my parents together and helping my mother to learn to follow God’s plan for her life. If you have never considered that God loves you and created you for a purpose, you may not have experienced the joy of knowing Jesus Christ as your Savior and having your sins forgiven. Please click on Basics of Salvation in the tool bar above to learn how you can invite Jesus to be your Lord and Savior.

How to Create a Personalized Budget – “One-Size Does Not Fit All”

Do you find that you run low or out of money before the next paycheck arrives? Is your credit card full of charges that never fully get paid off, and you wish for a month with no unexpected expenses so that you can have a chance to get caught up? If you are not budgeting and planning your income, this is probably a familiar situation for you.

Budgeting Pie Chart

Many people try to create a budget a few times a year and some even stick to it, while many others find it difficult. Maybe you have even tried and found that you could not make it work. That’s because “ideal” budget percentages are based on the “average” person or family, and you are not “average.” You are a unique person, or family, with your own needs and priorities. You need to create a budget that works for you. Before we look at some tips to help you create a budget you can live with, let’s look at an ideal budget for an average household.

The median household income across America is currently $69,000. It consists of 2. 6 people—typically two adults and one child. The table below shows the “ideal” percentages that should be spent for each of the major spending categories, along with the annual and monthly amounts for each category.

Spending CategoriesPercentagesAnnual
Housing (rent or mortgage, utilities, internet, homeowners/renters insurance, phone, cable)36%$24,840$2,070
Food (groceries and eating out)12%$8,280$690
Automobiles (car pymt, gas, insurance, maintenance and repairs12%$8,280$690
Medical (insurance and bills)5%$3,450$287.50
Life Insurance5%$3,450$287.50
Debt Reduction5%$3,450$287.50

At first glance these numbers might look doable, and depending on where you live, maybe these are very realistic numbers.  However, where I live, it is hard to keep monthly housing costs to $2,070.  The average monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment is $1,750.  That leaves $320 for utilities, internet, insurance, phone, and cable.  A careful consumer might be able to manage that.  However, an average family needs more than one bedroom, making it harder to stay within the budget for housing.  Automobile expenses are also challenging.  Currently, the average new car payment is $719, and the average payment for a used car is $527.  When you add in fuel, insurance, and repairs and maintenance, you will almost certainly exceed the $690 budgeted amount.

In order to create a budget that works for your household and one that you can stick with, you will have to make some difficult choices. 

Use these guidelines to help you make the decisions which are best for you and your family.

  1. Determine your needs based on the number of people in your family and your career.
    a. The more people in your family, the larger the home and vehicle you need.
    b. Each person requires food, clothing, and health care, so larger families need to allocate more money to those items.
    c. If your job requires professional or business attire, you will need to allocate more money for clothing.
    d. If you are required to drive your car for work, you will need a newer, reliable vehicle.
    e. Does your household require more than one vehicle for multiple drivers?
    f. Do you need to allocate money for childcare while you are working?
  2. Determine your priorities.
    a. Do you want each child to have their own bedroom, or can children share bedrooms?
    b. Do you want to have a short commute to work?
    c. Do you want to live in a specific community? Or a community with specific amenities?
    d. Is it important to you to have a new car every few years?
    e. Do you want your children to attend a specific school? Do you want them in a private school which will require you to pay tuition?
  3. Consider the alternatives.
    a. You may be able to afford a larger home if you are willing to commute farther to work.
    b. You may be able to live closer to work or in your preferred community, if you are willing to forgo a desired bedroom or other amenity, such as a den, garage, or extra bathroom.
    c. You may have access to safe, reliable public transportation, allowing you to forgo vehicle ownership.
    d. You may be able to continue to drive an older car by engaging in ride sharing to work and renting a car for longer trips.
    e. You can save money on food by packing lunches and cooking most meals at home.
    f. You can save money on recreation by taking advantage of free sources of entertainment and recreation.
    g. If you are single or a single parent, you could save money on housing by sharing a home or renting out a spare bedroom to a tenant.
    h. You may be able to telework full-time, or several days a week, which will reduce fuel expenses and perhaps childcare expenses.
  4. Use the “ideal” budget percentages to create a base budget. Use these budget numbers to help you see the areas in which you are overspending and underspending. Then, adjust your budget based on your current expenses and your needs.
  5. Refine your budget based on your priorities.
  6. If your expenses exceed your income, you must make additional adjustments. Consider the alternatives and make decisions based on which alternatives will best meet your needs and come closest to meeting your priorities

Creating a budget is not an easy task, but it is an important one.   It will allow you to meet the needs of your family and relieve much of the stress you are currently facing.

To learn more about how to honor God with your money and build treasure in Heaven, please click the Finances categories tab to find many blogs on money management, budgeting, and stewardship. My book Honoring God with Your Money is a great tool for financial money management.

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