In a different phase of life, my husband and I bought a pizza franchise and opened a restaurant in the little town of Orange, VA. Our good friend, and pizza mentor, Jerry told us that we should look at “pepperonis as quarters.” An individual pepperoni probably costs a penny or less–I never did the math, but I got the point. Wasting food costs me money, and small wastes add up quickly and take money out of my pocket. Little things matter whether you are trying to make money in your business or trying to live within your means on a tight budget.
In my current job, I am a consultant in a small business development center. I meet with people each week who would like to start businesses. Many of these dreams will be derailed or postponed due to poor credit and/or lack of financial resources to get a business started. Often these people have plenty of income, yet they have failed to live within their means. Some of them have made big financial mistakes, such as buying a house that they cannot afford, but many are in trouble because they have failed to control small expenses. They forget that lunches out and $4 cups of coffee can make a big dent in their budgets.
As a Christian, I am a steward of all that God has entrusted to me. When someone mentions stewardship, money management is probably the first thought that comes to mind. Stewardship, however, encompasses all phases of your life, including how you use your time and how you use your talents. We can relate the “pepperonis as quarters” adage to time and talents, as well as to money. Saving a few moments here and there throughout your day can add up and allow you more time to play a game with your child, read a book for pleasure, relax with your spouse, or start a new project. Honing your talents little by little can help you gain speed and proficiency.
I Corinthians 4:2 tells us, “Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful.” I hope that this word will encourage you to look for small ways to be a better steward of your time, talent, and money.
We are a few weeks into fall, and the holidays are just around the corner. The holiday season will not be back to “normal” this year, as covid-19 continues to wreck havoc with schedules and supply chains. It’s always a good idea to start early and have a plan. This year, planning ahead is more important than ever. Here’s some steps to help you have a blessed holiday season. 1) Savor time spent with family. Many of us will feel a bit more comfortable traveling this fall and having guests in our homes than we did last year. Make up for lost time. Invite family and friends for simple meals, fellowship, and games. Spend less energy planning the “perfect” event and more time enjoying being together with those you care about most. 2) Focus on the real reason for the holidays. Take time to reflect on how God has blessed your family during the past year. Even in challenging times, we are a blessed nation. Thank God for the blessings He has bestowed on you and for the gift of His Son, whose birth brought hope to a darkened world. 3) Avoid revenge spending. Many people have put their spending into high gear this year to make up for fewer opportunities to indulge in 2020. Economists have dubbed this phenomenon “revenge spending.” This is not a good idea. Spending more will not make your holidays merrier, and it might eat into savings accumulated last year. 4) Budget. In the next few months, you will be shopping for food, candy, gifts, and decorations for fall, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Plan now for spending, in accordance with your budgets. 5) Set aside time. Plan to take a few days off from work or set aside some Saturdays to begin shopping, planning menus, and start decorating. 6)Delegate. Share duties with your spouse, children, and family and friends with whom you will celebrate. They may come up with great, new traditions to include in your celebrations for many years to come, and you will save a lot of time. 7)Plan ahead and be flexible. The past year and half have taught us that we don’t know what the future holds from day to day. Covid-19 has presented us with new challenges and obstacles. Celebrations had to altered last year and that may be true again. 8)Start early. Covid-19 has played havoc with the supply chain. We experienced shortages last year, and we will again this year. Transportation of goods is taking longer. If there are items that are “must-haves” on your list, order early and be prepared to accept substitutes.
This is reprinted from my new quarterly blog which focuses on helping you manage your money in ways that reduce stress and honor God. Click here to subscribe to my quarterly newsletter: http://eepurl.com/hG1VjT
I would love to hear about how you plan to celebrate the holidays this year. What will you differently to make this year special for your loved one?
My parents raised nine children on a single income, so careful money management was a priority. I don’t recall them ever formally sharing money management lessons. Rather, they instilled good money management habits through their example and casual conversations. One of the ways they taught us good money management skills was by a allowing my sisters to make some of our spending decisions at an early age. The lessons I learned include:
Spending for one thing means less money for something else. When I was about 13, my parents decided to give us each $20 per week allowance. In 1972, $20 was a significant amount of money. In fact, it is equivalent to about $130 today. The catch was that the money had to cover all of our discretionary spending. We were free to pack lunches for school, but if we wanted to buy lunch, it came out of our allowance. We were also responsible for buying our own clothes and paying for movie tickets and other recreation. We learned to manage money and make hard decisions. If I wanted a new pair of shoes, I might have to pack my lunch for a whole week.
Shop the sales. My mother was a master shopper. She watched sales and clipped coupons. I have seen her leave a department store with multiple shopping bags of clothes for which she paid less than $20 in total. She loved to search the clearance racks for a blouse or sweater that everyone else had overlooked, and she loved the challenge of finding the perfect skirt or pair of slacks to go with it. She would go to every clothing store in the mall in search of what she needed to ensure that she got the best bargain. Mom knew what month to shop for appliances or furniture, and she knew when the “white” sales (linens) would be going on. She loved to shop the after-Christmas sales, and she often bought outfits in January which she would give to us the following Christmas. With four daughters born in a 4 ½ year span, she knew one of us would be able to wear the skirts and sweaters she bought.
Buy quality and keep belongings until they wear out. My mother believed it was worth spending a bit more to get better quality. She bought traditional styles that would not go out of fashion, and she wore her clothes until they were worn out. Similarly, Dad taught us to keep cars until the costs of repairs exceeded the car’s value. He and Mom purchased a car when they married in 1955; my middle school principal purchased the car from them in 1974. They added a second car in 1965, as I was starting first grade. I drove that car until my junior year of college, when I was rear ended while driving it.
Save up for major purchases. I don’t recall my parents ever taking out a loan to purchase a car. Of course, a new car was a true rarity in our household. I do recall, however, a couple of occasions when my father borrowed cash from his life insurance policy to cover a major purchase. He explained that the interest rate was very low, and he was, in essence, paying it back to himself.
Balance your checkbook regularly and know where your money is going. Balancing the checkbook before we had computers could be a time-consuming activity. My mother always sat at the kitchen table to balance the checkbook. Canceled checks were returned to the payer in those days. Mom would tape the canceled checks to the check stubs in a large, three-ring binder. She would mark them off on the bank statement and determine what checks she had written that had not cleared. Mom balanced the checking account to the penny, and she was never satisfied until it balanced.
Count the true cost of debt. My parents bought their final home in 1971 for about $35,000. The monthly payment of $238. I believe the interest rate was 7 ¼%. Mom marked off each payment on an amortization schedule. When there was sufficient money, she would make an extra principal payment or two. I remember her explaining to me that when she paid extra money toward the principal, she was saving more than one payment, as the balance went down and less interest accrued from then on. I also recall multiplying $238 by 360 payment and realizing that, if they made each payment as scheduled, the $35,000 house would cost them about $86,000. This was an eye opener and provided an ideal opportunity for us to talk about homes as investments that would increase in value, whereas a car would lose value over time. My mother paid off the house in about 13 years. While my father appreciated not having a mortgage payment, he did fuss more than once over losing the tax deduction of the interest.
Establish credit early and manage it well. When I graduated from high school, my parents bought me a sewing machine. Mom then declared that I needed a sewing cabinet, which I would have to buy myself. We went together to the Singer store and picked out a cabinet. I believe the price was $125. She instructed me to put $25 down and helped me apply for a credit card. When the bill came, I paid off the balance in full. At the age of eighteen, I had established some credit of my own. I never used that credit card again, but it was the key to allowing me to get a Sears card a few years later.
These money management principles have served me well. Steve and I have tried to instill them in our own children. I hope that they will help you to manage your money better and have less financial stress in your life.
For more money management tips and information on creating budgets, please check out my other blog posts under the Finance tab. For those desiring a better understanding of Biblical principles of money management, I have written a book Honoring God with Your Money. It is available on Amazon and from Barnes and Noble.
If you have money questions you would like me to answer, you may email me at email@example.com or write your question in the Comment section. Those who email me will be signed up to receive my free quarterly newsletter with money management tips, encouraging stories, and Scripture inspirations.
Are you one of the 16 percent of Americans whose credit score is so low that it is negatively impacting your life? A very low credit score can make it nearly impossible to qualify for a home mortgage or a business loan. You may be able to get a loan to purchase a car, but you will be assessed a high rate of interest. Those with very low credit scores pay more for auto insurance than those with average or good scores. If you are one of these people, it is important to take immediate steps to improve your credit score. It will take some effort and time, but it is a very achievable goal.
I recently helped a man write a business plan and develop a cash flow forecast to open a restaurant. He had many years of restaurant experience, along with some of his own money to invest, and other income to help support his family. Everything looked good. In our first meeting, I asked him his credit score, and he assured me it was in the mid-600’s. A score in the mid-600’s considered to be Fair—not great but certainly high enough for him to qualify for the loan. Unfortunately, he was quite wrong in his assessment. He applied for a loan and the banker pulled his credit report, which revealed a credit score of about 450.
By any measure, a credit score of 450 is Bad. In fact, a score of less than 579 is viewed as very poor credit. The man was shocked and embarrassed by his low credit score. He had qualified for a mortgage less than a year earlier, so it is likely that his credit rating was at least Fair at that time. So, what happened? I don’t know the answer, as he didn’t share his credit report with me. I did provide him with guidance in regard to reviewing his credit report to see if it contains errors, correcting any errors, and being diligent in managing his credit. If you are in a similar situation, these steps can help you.
The first thing you need to do is review the report for errors. Any errors should be reported to credit report agency. Most credit reports and scores are generated by Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. You should check your report with each agency at least once a year and report any errors that your find immediately. Errors might include information for someone who is not you but has a similar name, incorrect information about loans that have been paid off, and credit that you applied for but did not accept. You should also check for evidence of identity theft.
Here are links for filing disputes with each of the major credit report agencies:
Getting any errors corrected can have a significant impact on your credit score. Unfortunately, it will take a little time for the agency to investigate your dispute and correct any misinformation.
If your score is low due to poor management of your finances, such as late payments, missed payments, and charge offs, you should follow these guidelines to better manage credit and improve your score:
Be sure to make at least the minimum payment on all accounts every month.
Make payments by the due date. Late payments and skipped payments hurt your score. The later the payment, the larger the negative impact on your score.
Don’t open any new credit accounts–don’t buy a car, don’t refinance your home, don’t apply for any new credit cards. Every new account increases your available credit and lowers your score, at least temporarily.
Don’t close any older accounts. If you recently opened accounts you don’t need, you might want to close them. But, keep open your oldest accounts. Length of credit history improves your score.
Keep your credit card balances at 50% or less of the amount of credit extended.
Within a few months, you should see an improvement in your credit score.
The man above will have to put his dreams of opening a restaurant on hold for a while. It is too bad. However, if he can get any errors corrected, and if he commits to taking the steps above to improve his credit, he may be able to qualify the loan he needs in 6 – 12 months. It will take a real effort and determination on his part; however, if he keeps his goal in his sights, I believe he will reach his goal.
God desires that His people pay their bills on time, honor their commitments, and don’t allow money to rule their lives. If you are struggling to manage your finances, seek Christian counsel and pray diligently for God’s guidance. You will find additional information on creating budgets and managing your finances in many of my other blog posts by clicking on the Finances category on the right.
If you have money questions you would like me to answer, you may email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or write your question in the Comment section. Those who email me will be signed up to receive my free quarterly newsletter with money management tips, encouraging stories, and Scripture inspirations. For those desiring a better understanding of Biblical principles of money management, I have written a book Honoring God with Your Money. It is available on Amazon and from Barnes and Noble.
As my husband and I approach our 40th anniversary in two weeks, I have been thinking a great deal of the blessings of a long marriage in both financial and non-financial terms. That will be the subject of my next blog. Today, I want to talk about the devastating financial impact divorce can have on both members of a couple. This was on my mind even before I read the sad announcement today that one of the world’s wealthiest couples is divorcing.
Bill and Melinda Gates are ending their marriage after 27 years. Their wealth is staggering, and both of them will emerge from the divorce with more money that most of us can comprehend. Hopefully, they will amicably divide their great resources and continue to be generous in their philanthropic endeavors.
For most couples, however, divorce negatively impacts their finances and significantly lowers their standard of living. The costs of obtaining a divorce are staggering. In a relatively amicable dissolution, it is estimated that each partner incurs legal fees in excess of $10,000. Those costs can be much higher if the proceedings are hostile and protracted. Considering that the average household savings in the U.S. is about $42,000, a divorce can wipe out 50% or more of the savings accumulated by the couple.
With their savings significantly depleted and about half of the income they previously enjoyed, each member of the couple must strike out on their own. There are now two rents to be paid and two sets of utility bills. Each spouse winds up with a considerably lower standard of living. There will likely be additional childcare expenses, and perhaps travel expenses, if one spouse moves to a new city or state. Many divorced people struggle for years to achieve the standard of living they enjoyed while married.
Women are hit particularly hard, as they are often the custodial parent. The non-custodial parent typically helps with some of the expenses by paying child support. However, there is often resentment by both parties. It is very rare for either parent to be satisfied with the child support mandated by the courts. The custodial parent struggles to meet the needs of the children, and the non-custodial parent struggles to make the child support payment and provide for his or her own needs. This is not God’s plan, and it is not good for either the parents or the children.
Of course, the devastation of divorce is much more-far reaching than just the financial impacts. And the blessings of a till-death-do-us-part union are much, much greater than the financial blessings. God’s Word tells us that marriage is for life. When Jesus was questioned about divorce, He responded, “Because of the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept.But from the beginning of the creation, God ‘made them male and female.’ For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’; so then they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.” (Mark 10: 5 – 9)
If you want God to bless you in both your marriage and your finances, it is important to make decisions that honor God. That includes loving your spouse and doing all that you can to have a long, prosperous marriage.
The story of the loaves and the fishes is likely the first story that pops into your mind when you consider how God miraculously multiplies the offerings we present to Him. It is a truly amazing story. A small boy offers his lunch of five small fish and two loaves. Jesus blesses the food and has the disciples distribute it among the thousands of hungry people who have come to hear His words. After all have eaten–five thousand men plus women and children–the disciples collect the leftovers and find that they have more remaining by far than they began. The disciples collected the broken pieces and filled twelve baskets. This story is recounted in Matthew 14: 13 – 21.
What makes this story even more impressive is that Jesus replicated this miracle sometime later. In the second instance, Jesus fed four thousand men, plus women and children, with seven loaves of bread and a few small fish. This time seven baskets of food were remaining after everyone had eaten. (Matthew 15: 20 – 39)
These miracles took place in two different regions but likely within a short period of time. One can overlook the disciples’ skepticism in the first instance that they could provide food for such a large group of people. After all, they barely had enough food for themselves. However, on the second occasion, the disciples were again ready to send the hungry people away. Jesus actually set them up by stating, “I do not want to send them away hungry, or they may collapse on the way.” Matthew 15: 32. Rather than responding in faith, the disciples failed the test. “His disciples answered, ‘Where could we get enough bread in this remote place to feed such a crowd?’” (v. 33)
It is easy for us to criticize the disciples’ lack of faith. We think they should have learned from the first extravagant multiplication of the offered food that Jesus was capable of multiplying resources and meeting any need, no matter how great. How could have even questioned Jesus’s ability to feed the crowd?
Yet, we are guilty of similar lack of faith in God to meet our needs. God has met our needs time and time again, and we still doubt that He will come through for us in the next “crisis”. Our car breaks down and we fret about how we will be able to pay the mechanic for the repairs. Our hours get cut at work, and we worry about covering the rent. The list goes on and on–a medical test indicates a health problem, the stock market plunges, we hear rumors of layoffs at work, or we don’t get the promotion we had prayed and hoped for–and we fall apart. It feels as if our world has collapsed.
Like the disciples, we ask something along the lines of, “The need is so great. How can it be met?” We need to remind ourselves of all the times God has come through for us in order to increase our faith that He will come through again. God knew us long before we were conceived. He knows that our memory are short and that we have to remind ourselves daily of God’s faithfulness to us. That is why He commanded the Israelites to set up memorials to remind themselves and their children of how God had brought them out of Egypt and blessed them. “Now the people came up from the Jordan on the tenth day of the first month, and they camped in Gilgal on the east border of Jericho. And those twelve stones which they took out of the Jordan, Joshua set up in Gilgal. Then he spoke to the children of Israel, saying: “When your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, ‘What are these stones?’ then you shall let your children know, saying, ‘Israel crossed over this Jordan on dry land’; for the Lord your God dried up the waters of the Jordan before you until you had crossed over, as the Lord your God did to the Red Sea, which He dried up before us until we had crossed over, that all the peoples of the earth may know the hand of the Lord, that it is mighty, that you may fear the Lord your God forever.” (Joshua 4:19 – 24)
When you ask God to provide for your needs, take note of how He answers you. Record these answers in a blessings journal. Read the journal frequently to remind yourself of God’s goodness to you and to increase your faith. Share these blessings with your children and together thank God for the way He has provided for you and your family. God has never failed you, and He never will.
By now you have likely received your third economic impact, or stimulus, check from the government. The stated intent of these checks was two-fold: to assist those whose income has been negatively impacted by covid and to stimulate the economy and support small businesses.
If you are one of the estimated 18 million people currently receiving unemployment checks, then you probably need the money to meet basic needs for your family. And, of course, you should use the money to meet those needs.
However, if you, like me, have maintained your pre-covid level of income, the stimulus check represents extra money. How will you use this money? Many people are saving the money or paying down debt. In fact, estimates are that more about 71%% of the money distributed in the first round last spring was put into saving or debt reduction and another 18% was used for essentials. That left 11% to go back in the economy. Of that, 8% was spend on non-essential items and 3% was donated to charities. (Ben Wick, https://www.businessinsider.com/coronavirus-stimulus-checks-savings-pay-debts-federal-reserve-cares-act-2020-10)
While it is wise to save and pay down debt, those actions do not help to stimulate the economy–and get people back to work–nor do they help our neighbors who are in need. I encourage you to consider using this third round of stimulus money in more altruistic ways.
In case you need them, here are some ideas:
Tithe. For most of us, this money represents an increase. God asks us to give back to His work 10 percent of our income.
Donations to Food Pantries. Many people in your community are relying on food pantries to meet their basic needs. Donations are up, yet there is still a significant need.
Purchase gift certificates from local restaurants and small shops. These businesses are still struggling and can benefit from the cash influx. My husband and I have bought gift cards that we have no intention of using. We consider the purchase of the gift cards to be donations to help ensure that our favorite restaurants and shops are still operating post-covid.
Donate to campaigns to help local shops and restaurants. Many small business are running fundraising events on social media platforms.
Shop with independent businesses. One of favorite expenditures has been ordering fresh seafood directly from fisheries. We’ve had salmon and king crab from Alaska, oysters from Pugent Bay, shrimp from New Orleans, and lobster from Maine. The seafood has been shipped directly to our house. It is fresh and delicious, and we are helping fishermen who revamped their business models when their restaurant sales declined.
Donations to funds to help pay for childcare and other services for lower-income workers. Many of these workers are struggling to pay for care for children who would normally be in school while they work.
Gifts of appreciation to front-line health care workers. Health care professionals in our area are working full-time schedules and then volunteering additional hours to vaccinate the public. There are many ways you can show your appreciation to them and support your local small businesses.
Of course, we are all praying that the vaccines work and coronavirus is soon a passing memory. In the meantime, pray and thoughtfully consider how you can help those in your community who are facing financial challenges from this pandemic.
My new book, Honoring God with Your Money, is now available on Amazon. This book is a study of what God’s word says about money, wealth, charity, greed, tithing, savings, and much more. It includes principles of budgeting and steps for getting out of debt.
If you are stressed by financial decisions or an inability to manage your money, this is a great book for you. God provides us all with resources to provide for our families and to bless others. Money is intended to meet your needs, not cause you more stress.
As you honor God by managing your money well, tithing, and blessing others, God will bless you. He has promised that in Malachi 3:10, “‘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.‘”
This is a great book for small group studies and Sunday school classes, as well as for young people graduating from high school or college and going out on their own for the first time and newly-married couples. For those who want to teach this in a group setting, I have developed teaching materials. These include activities, discussion ideas, and examples to enhance the lessons. Teaching materials are free and can be obtained my emailing me at email@example.com
I pray that God will use this book to bless you as you honor Him.
There’s a famous saying, “Money can’t buy happiness.” There are many studies that show that having and spending lots of money does not increase happiness. Michael Norton, Professor of Business Administration at Harvard University, disagrees with that statement, with a caveat. He says that money can buy happiness IF you spend it right.
How do you spend it right? By spending it on others. He did experiments a few years back in which he gave small amounts of money to different groups of people. Some were instructed to spend it on themselves and the rest were told they had to spend the money on someone else. Regardless of whom they spent the money on or the amount of money they spent, all who used the money for someone else reported higher levels of happiness at the end of the experiment.
I love it when scientists, or social scientists in this case, prove the Word of God. In Acts 20:35, Paul told the Ephesians, “I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”
“It is more blessed to give than to receive” is really another way of saying that you can achieve happiness by sharing your money with others. And, of course, giving doesn’t only involve money. You can be blessed by sharing your time, talents, and attention with others. Not all of us have the financial resources to give away large amounts of money. But we all have something we can give. And, as this study affirmed, even giving small amounts of money can bless someone and increase your level of happiness.
Further more, generosity brings blessings. Proverbs 22:9 tells us “Whoever has a generous eye will be blessed,” and Proverbs 28:27 says, “He who gives to the poor will not lack.”
I would encourage you to look for opportunities each day to bless someone else with your money, time, or talent. In this way, you will ensure that your days are blessed and filled with happiness.
This morning I read 2 Corinthians 9 during my morning devotions. Paul devoted the entire chapter to encouraging the Corinthian church to be generous and to fulfill the commitment it had made to assist poorer Christians in Macedonia. Paul had been bragging to other congregations of the generous gift the Corinthians had promised, and he wanted to insure that the gift would be ready when it was needed.
As Paul continues through the chapter, he encourages them that God will bless them as they bless others and tells them that it is impossible to out-give God. Although Paul is speaking specifically about being generous with our money, his words also apply to being generous with people in many other ways, such as love, service, time, attention, guidance, and forgiveness. Paul says that our obedience in generosity will in enrich our lives and allow God to be even more generous with us, and it will cause people to give thanks and honor to God.
In the final verses of this chapter, Paul writes, “This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God.Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you.Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift! (2 Corinthians 9: 12 – 15, The Message)
How can we not be generous when we read stirring words like these? Generosity towards others blesses us more than it does the recipients and it brings honor and glory to God.
How has God blessed you after you demonstrated generosity?