Get Control Of Your Money Jan06

Get Control Of Your Money...

  With the New Year comes lots of attention on starting over and getting things in order. Try finding a parking spot at your local gym! And check out the closet organizing systems on sale in January! One area worth evaluating is your financial life. If you’re like me, you need a system to keep track of your income, bills, spending, and budgeting. For the past four years I’ve used a great piece of software called YNAB, short for You Need A Budget. Even though I’m still working on the budgeting aspect, YNAB has certainly helped me keep better records and track my spending. Now YNAB has taken its method and software to a completely new level. Instead of relying on a downloadable software package, YNAB has now become an online tool that connects all of your devices with your banks, credit cards and other financial institutions. Being web-based, it can more easily updated, and improved, and not rely on your precious storage of Dropbox. I can access YNAB on my computer, smart phone or tablet, all perfectly in sync and up-to-date with your banks and each other. Reconciling is not longer a much-dreaded, tedious process, rather a simple matter of assigning imported expenses to your priorities. YNAB‘s founder, Jesse Meecham, says he and other early adopters of the new YNAB are actually reconciling more often because it’s less work, making them keep on top of their financial activity more than ever. I am currently taking advantage of a free 34-day trial, using YNAB to sync with my financial institutions and give me a birds-eye view of all my accounts in one screen. No more logging onto separate bank websites to check on balances; I can even see my current mortgage status! In a...

Enjoying The Holidays...

I could have titled this article, “Surviving The Holidays,” but that had such a negative tone! I also thought of, “Staying Safe Over The Holidays,” but that sounded so pessimistic. How are you planning to enjoy the holidays? Will you enjoy them, or be stressed out? What would it take to actually ENJOY them? I realize this article is mostly for Americans, for where else do people get their panties in such a wad over a season that should be meaningful, sweet and relaxing. This is the time of year we can be vulnerable to potential pitfalls. It is important to enjoy time with friends and family, explore spiritual celebrations, and a get a break from the routine. Here are a few tips to keep in mind: Let it go. People are busy driving, shopping and preparing for Christmas. Some drivers seem to be going especially slow. Others are obnoxious shoppers with whiny children and attitudes. Family members know your buttons and are likely to push them. Let it all go. Don’t take offense. Don’t get frustrated. Let it go. Take a deep breath and relax. Do you really have to have 5 salads for Christmas dinner when 2 will do? What is the worst that might happen if you don’t get everything on your list done? Will you die? Will the world come to a end? Probably not. Watch your back when you’re out shopping. Thieves look for opportunities. Be mindful of your surroundings, keep your keys out and ready, and hug your belongings tight. Never leave a purse or other valuables within sight in your vehicle. NEVER leave your purse, even if you don’t think there is anything of value there. Even a driver’s license or ID card can help someone steal...

The Right Gifts Dec16

The Right Gifts

Gift giving at Christmas has its roots in remembering and commemorating two actions: First is the gift of God’s Son, Jesus, to make right all that had gone wrong in the world. The second is in remembering the gifts the wise men took to the Christ child after traveling far and wide to find him. But manufacturers and merchants have turned this into the most profitable time of the year. You are likely thinking about what gifts to purchase for your friends and family this year. And some of you are tempted to go into considerable debt to do so. How can you celebrate Christmas differently this year? How can you say, “I love you” to those who mean the most in your life without causing harm to them or yourself? Here are a few things you might think consider: 1, Check your motives. Are you really trying to bless others and truly love on them? Or are you trying to impress, outdo, and otherwise spoil? Exercising unhealthy behavior around others is never a good idea, and it likely does more harm than good, even if you don’t intend it. Model sensible behavior that is ripe with good intentions; people will pick up on the love behind the gift, no matter how small. Better to give something small but personalized, rather than something expensive that may go to waste, or even embarrass the recipient. See Dave Ramsey’s article on “4 Competitive Pitfalls To Avoid This Christmas.” 2. Ask yourself if you can afford the gifts you want to purchase. Someone recently wrote nationally-syndicated advice columnist, Amy Dickinson, asking how to handle a mother-in-law who routinely overspends on multiple gifts for her grandchildren, yet who is chronically behind on her mortgage and routinely asks for...

Map Your Progress

Looking for a life hack to help you reach a goal? Check this out. I love sharing resources as well as ideas with you. This time I have a GREAT one! Map Your Progress is a new initiative to help you accomplish your goals by coloring your progress. You may remember the old thermometer posters that were sometimes used to show the amount of money raised for a project. This is like that, but much more personal and much more creative. It all started when Californian Amy Jones got a clear message from her accountant that it was time to clean up her financial mess. She had carried debt on credit cards for much too long, and it was time to pay them off. (Funny how easy it is to put charges on a credit card and so hard to get it off!) As a tool to help her stay focused and encouraged, Amy decided to turn her knack for doodling (in boring meetings and conference calls) into something practical to help her abolish her debt. Using an unused canvas that was laying around, she drew swirls to represent specific increments ($100). Then each time she paid that much towards debt, she would color in the appropriate number of swirls. Brilliant! After a few months, the drawing actually built up Amy’s confidence. Instead of feeling overwhelmed, she actually believed she could eliminate her debt. And she did it, more than $26,000 worth! Wow. I used a similar technique in the past to mark off chapters of the bible I read in a year. But this is way more fun than little boxes. This is creative! And it’s something you can keep in front of you all the time. What is your goal? To save for...

You Need A Budget Jul28

You Need A Budget

I am on a quest to be financially healthy. And for me to be successful in any area of my life, I need a SYSTEM that helps me accomplish my goals. It must be easy to use and convenient. At the beginning of 2012, I began looking for a program to keep track of my money, and was so pleased when I found You Need A Budget, or “YNAB” for short. My readers can get a $6 discount  on the software by linking from this site. And students can get the software for FREE with proof of school registration! I had used Quicken to balance my checkbook for years. But when a computer upgrade made the program unusable, I was forced to find an alternative. What I found does so much more. And Lord knows I needed more. YNAB has software for both your computer (Mac or PC) and smartphone (iPhone, Android or Kindle Fire), syncing all your devices effortlessly via Cloud Sync. Not only does it keep track of your checking account, but ALL your accounts including savings, credit cards, and Pay Pal. It also contains your budget, so you can keep track of what comes in and what goes out. Reports show you exactly what your money is doing. YNAB money management so simple, even I can do it! And I’m numerically challenged! However, YNAB is much more than software. The company offers free live and recorded classes to teach you how to use the software and the method. They teach a four-rule method to help you stop living pay check to pay check, get out of debt and save more money. They are: Rule #1 – Give every dollar a job Rule #2 – Save for a rainy day Rule #3...

What took me so long?...

Did you ever do anything, and then wonder why it took you so long? I’ve lived near the Rocky Mountains for almost 20 years; I’ve wanted to go camping—real camping—for most of that time. This weekend I finally did it! Now that I’ve done it, I realized doing it the first time wasn’t such a big deal, and doing it again will be much easier! I’m over the first-time hurdle! It did take a few things to fall in place. I needed someone to go with. I could go camping with just my dogs, but going with a friend who also wanted to go was a real help in organizing and also feeling safe. Resources. There is all the camping gear you need. Another friend gave me her old camping cooking stuff (pots, dishes, etc.) plus a water container and lantern. This was a huge help; guess I didn’t even know where to start before that. After that, I picked up a very warm sleeping bag and tent on sale for really cheap. Watching for sales and bargains is key if your income is limited like mine. Learn from others. I got online to find camping packing lists to figure out all the stuff we needed to have on hand. Why reinvent the wheel when you can learn from others? My experience did have to have a convergence of several things. These are likely things you need to do what thing you’ve wanted to do for so long. Vision: Picture yourself doing it. Desire: Want it enough to put in the effort, including planning and putting together what you need. Resources: Get creative. Watch sales, borrow, think about how to re-purpose what you have. Time: Take time. You will need to carve out time to...

Time = $ Mar04

Time = $

How much is your time worth? There is a popular saying based on a faith principle: “You have not because you ask not.” This week I spent almost an hour on the phone with my Internet provider. I saw my bill was going up, so I called the company to get it lowered. All the subscription services (Internet, TV, cell phone, etc.) have customer loyalty departments whose sole purpose is to maintain your business. It’s cheaper for them to keep you rather than recruit a customer to take your place. So I was on the phone for almost an hour, but most of the time I was on hold, so had my phone on speaker while I did other stuff. But an hour? Was it worth it? Well you tell me. I found out my bill was going up from $35/month to $75/month. By the time I got off the phone, the customer service representative got my bill down to $20/month! That’s almost half of what I was paying! By agreeing to auto-pay (on a credit card which I prefer to my bank account), I have a new promotion for 6 months, when it will then go up $10. So in six months, I’ll call back and get another promotion. That’s the game these companies play, but if you’re willing to pay, you can save significantly! So how much did that phone call save me? $55/month X 6 months = $330! That’s not too shabby for less than an hour of my time! That’s $330 I can do something else with! You wouldn’t believe the discounts you can get just by asking. (This applies in the U.S.; I am unfamiliar with how things work in other countries; but I think it’s worth finding out!)...

Money is Spiritual

Have you ever considered that money is a deeply spiritual issue? If you think like most people, you probably haven’t, as spirituality and “the rest of life” have been separated in our collective mind for quite some time. But consider these aspects: Debt: Most of our ancestors considered debt to be sin, and that having loans makes you a slave to the lender. Giving: Generosity is a virtue celebrated in many cultures and religions; there seems to be a deep-down understanding that we need to share. Frugality: This is a spiritual discipline practiced by seekers for centuries. It is abstaining from things that satisfy our desire for status, glamour or luxury. As theologian, Dallas Willard, wrote, “The spiritually wise person has always known that frivolous consumption corrupts the soul away from trust in, worship of, and service to God and injures our neighbors as well.”* Work: The so-called Protestant work ethic has its roots in society and the bible. It comes from a pragmatic understanding that it takes the contributions of all in order for individuals and communities to survive and thrive. There is a saying: work not, eat not. Investing: Jesus told the story of a generous master who gave away money for three people to invest. He got really upset with the one who buried it in the ground and did nothing.** There is a link between poverty (individual and corporate) and spirituality. When principles are violated consequences ensue. You may recall two Get Control Of Your Life podcasts with Carrie Riffee. She and her three kids lived under a bridge for a year. She had just escaped an abusive marriage (he violated principles of properly loving his wife), she succumbed to a co-dependent, unhealthy relationship (violation), and society failed her by imposing...

What Does Rich Mean To You? Feb05

What Does Rich Mean To You?...

I Will Teach You To Be Rich is an awesome book by Indian-American Ramit Sethi that I found to be a MUST READ for anyone with questions about personal finance. “No guilt. No excuses. No B.S. Just a 6-week program that works.” That subtitle says it all! I admit I am turned off by any book or program that promises to make anyone rich. They are usually crap, with the author the only one getting rich. However, I managed to get past the title and order the audio version of this book from Audible, and listened to all at once on a road trip. Written for people in their 20s, the book obviously has a much wider audience, having became a New York Times bestseller and creating lots of buzz. Ramit asks a fundamental question at the beginning that makes his financial philosophy unique. “I will teach you to be rich isn’t just about money: What does it mean to you?” Likewise, he proposes a spending plan that seems more palatable for those who don’t like to budget. He talks about conscious spending; deciding what’s important to you, then adjusting your spending patterns to include that. For example, if spending $3 for coffee everyday is important to you, then do it, but think about eliminating other areas that you care less about, like cable TV if you really don’t use it much. He also offers some good rule-of-thumb principles about allocating various percentages of your income, like saving 10% of your income from an early age. Ramit describes how to optimize your credit cards, negotiate with banks and avoid their outrageous fees, automate your bills, save for things like weddings and retirement, and a lot of basic but really important information on investing. While...

Countdown to 2015…3 Dec30

Countdown to 2015…3...

What are your financial goals for the new year? Get out of debt? Save more for retirement? Be more generous? SET SMART GOALS – Whatever your financial desires, make sure you turn them into SMART goals that are: Specific: Exactly what do you want your money to do for you (and others)? Measurable: Break down your financial goals into practical solutions. How much extra would you have to earn per month to pay off debt or more easily pay your bills? How much do you need to save in order to attain your spending or saving goals? Experts recommend you put real numbers on paper so you can measure your success. Attainable: You likely won’t become a millionaire in the next six months unless you’re well on your way already! Set goals that are actually attainable or doable. And don’t bother buying lottery tickets or hoping for other financial windfalls; you have a much greater chance of being hit by lightning. Financial success usually comes the old fashioned way, by work and praying for it! Realistic: Set goals that you actually have a chance of accomplishing. You can’t work 200 hours a week, but you can likely do more than you’re currently doing. How would giving away 10% instead of 5% affect your bottom line? How would working more affect your family? How long would you have to save to get that thing you want to buy? Try to differentiate between your desires and realistic goals you can actually meet. Timely: Set a realistic timeframe for accomplishing your financial goals? At X$ per month, how long would it take to________________? USE A BUDGET AND TRACK YOUR SPENDING – In addition, it’s vital to have the right systems in place for budgeting and tracking your...

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