Hope for your financial life and beyond

How to Get the Most Out of Christmas

Weeks ago, at the beginning of November, stores already had Christmas decorations on display. I know those stores are just trying to get the most out of Christmas season. But it’s too early at that point for me to think about Christmas.

get the most out of christmasFor me, December 1st officially starts my holidays. That’s because I know that in the 31 days of December, my family will attempt to cram more into each 24-hour period than is usually desired. For me, the annual cramming revolves around two specific lists – my December To Do List and my Present Wish List.

The To Do List for December is very important. It’s filled with kid activities, social get-togethers, Christmas programs and of course shopping. Additionally, home chores are also part of the To Do List. So, because I’m a teacher, I get a “vacation” during Christmas break which gives me a greatly needed window to do these activities and catch up on all that I’ve let slip by.

The other list – the Present Wish List – is all about what I would like to receive on Christmas day during our annual gift exchange. This one is a little tricky and here is why.

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The Sam’s Club Scan N Go App Is a Shopping Game Changer

Have you ever missed out on something for so long and when you finally heard about it, felt stupid for not knowing sooner? That’s how I feel right now about the Sam’s Club Scan and Go app. I’ve been shopping at Sam’s for about a year now and just learned about this app several months ago. It’s actually been out since 2016.

Sam's Club Scan and GoThe only thing helping me shed my feelings of stupidity is the shopping experience this app provides. It’s that amazing!

One of the challenging things about shopping at warehouse clubs like Sam’s or Costco is the checkout line. First of all, there is the line itself. It’s usually long, especially during peak hours. I’ve easily stood in line for over 20 minutes before on the weekends.

Secondly, it’s just a bear to check out with all your massive, bulky items. You have to unload at the checkout line and then reload carts after the items are scanned. Even the most skilled checkout attendant can take 5-plus minutes if you have a cartload or two. But we put up with this because we are saving money by buying in bulk.

That’s where the Sam’s Club Scan and Go app comes into play. By using it you can bypass the whole checkout line process! Here is how simply it works.

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Give Money and It Shall Be Given Unto You? (Luke 6:38)

 Hidden Nuggets Series #77 – “ Give and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.” – Luke 6:38

give and it shall be given unto youI’ve spent a lot of time cataloging all the Bible verses about money. I started this site so that I could share what I learned about money from my Bible reading. There are literally hundreds of verses that give us positive instruction about the use and abuse of our money.

Unfortunately, individuals and churches have misinterpreted many verses in the Bible about money. They use these verses to teach and promote a message that isn’t there. And perhaps no other verse is abused more than Luke 6:38. It reads:

“Give and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.” (KJV)

Why is this verse so abused? It’s done so in a way that makes people think they will profit financially from giving.

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6 Ways a Monthly Budget Brings Freedom, Not Bondage

Here is a little test for yourself. When I mention the word budget do you think of the word “freedom” or do you think of the words “constraint” or “bondage.” The word you choose probably identifies your basic attitude about having a monthly budget.

budgetI love budgeting! I know some people think that’s crazy. For them, budgets bring to mind images of people in straitjackets, unable to move. The household budget acts as a restrictive torture device, in most cases forced on them by someone who thinks they know how to manage money better. Budgets can make people feel confined and boxed in.

I’ve been there.

I love to spend money as much as the next person. At one point in my life, I felt like a budget wouldn’t help me accomplish any financial goal. I knew for sure it wouldn’t make me feel good because I couldn’t buy the things I wanted. Budgets seemed difficult to piece together and I frankly didn’t have the time (or want to take the time) to figure it out.

Fortunately, I came around by doing some soul searching and through the gentle prodding of someone close to me – my wife. Eventually, I agreed to give budgeting a three-month trial run.

That decision changed my life. Not only that, it changed our lives. And the best part was, we received something I never thought a budget could possibly produce: Freedom.

In just a few short months I realized budgets produce freedom, not bondage. Here are six ways they can bring the same freedom to you.

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6 Special Reasons Why I Love Having a Travel Budget

travel budgetI love having a travel budget! For my wife and I it was a priority from the beginning of our marriage. We both went on family vacations growing up and wanted to carry on that tradition with our kids. And never was that ideal more driven home than on a hot, summer afternoon at a tourist beach in St. Maarten.

This is no ordinary beach though. It’s Maho Beach, situated just yards away from Princess Juliana International Airport. Oddly enough, people don’t come to this beach for the beach. They come to watch the planes land.

It’s 1:00 pm in the afternoon and dozens of tourists are standing on the beach looking out over the water. The chalkboard at the nearby restaurant lists the daily landing times. As we looked, right on schedule a tiny speck appeared out over the water.

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10 Tidbits of Financial Wisdom on My 45th Birthday

Forty-five. That’s the age I turn today – March 7, 2018.

A lot has changed in our world since 1973. Almost every area of life I can think of has made advancements. Mostly these have been for the good of society and have ushered in new eras for technology, medicine, science, politics and sports just to name a few.

One thing really hasn’t changed though. And that is our need for money. We need it now just as much as my parents did when I was born. Money provides us with the means to secure the most basics needs for our survival – food, clothing, shelter, utilities and transportation. If any one of those key areas is missing in the equation, then we are more or less suffering to some degree.

I’ve been blessed in that I’ve never had to worry about meeting these needs. However, that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been a challenge at times. But both my parents when I was young and now myself leading my own family have always been able to manage. I’ve truly been blessed in that way.

In my 45 years of life, I’ve learned some valuable lessons about money and finances. So today I’d like to give you 10 quick bits of financial wisdom that have helped shape me over the years. I won’t get bogged down in the details about how I learned these lessons. If you want to read more details, click on the links I’ll provide.

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Refinance Your Mortgage Now While Rates Are Still Historically Low

A home purchase is one of the most exciting and expensive financial transactions a person will make. Because homes cost so much, most people choose to buy one by getting a mortgage. They borrow money from a lender at an agreed upon interest rate for a designated length of time. When the loan is paid off, the house is legally theirs.

refinanceThe rate lenders charge for interest on a mortgage does not stay the same. They fluctuate, sometimes even from day to day. Because they can change frequently, Person A may end up getting a lower rate than Person B. It seems unfair that one person could get a better rate and save money just because they had better timing on their home purchase.

That’s where refinancing comes in to play. If done properly, it can end up saving homeowner’s money in the long run.

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Emergency Fund Basics: The Step On Which All Other Success Is Built

If you are just getting started with the “getting-my-financial-act-together” bit, you might not know where to begin. Have I got good news for you. It’s time to cut through all the clutter and for you to realize one important truth. The first step to success in all other areas of personal finance is creating an emergency fund of cash. Then you need to save it for a crisis.

emergency fundThat may seem like a bold statement. I can attest though, from personal experience, having money set aside strictly for emergencies is the #1 strategy that has propelled my wife and I forward in paying off debt, saving for retirement and college and investing in the stock market.

Why is that you ask?

Because it’s a fact – emergency situations in life are going to come. We cannot escape them. So it just makes sense that we learn how to manage through a crisis.

If we don’t have cash that is easily accessible to take care of the emergency the moment it hits our door, then we are really only faced with one alternative – going into debt to deal with the situation. And it’s this constant accumulation of debt that hinders our ability to accumulate great wealth over time.

You must break the going-into-debt-to-solve-the-emergency cycle.

In this article, I’ll outline the basics of having an emergency fund. You’ll learn when to start one, what to use it for, how much to save and the best ways to fund it.

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How Your Gifts Are Also Fit for a King (Matthew 2:11)

If you could give a gift fit for a king what would it be? You may think you would have nothing to offer such an important person. I’d suggest though, that no matter what your personal or financial status, you always have something to offer. I base that challenge on one of the more intriguing stories that surrounds the birth of Jesus.

fit for a kingThe book of Matthew tells us that Jesus received some special visitors shortly after he was born. We know them as the Magi, or the wise men from the East. We don’t know exactly where they came from although many speculate ancient Persia. The Bible doesn’t state how many there were. We do know they arrived sometime after the birth of Jesus because they came to visit Mary, Joseph and the boy at a house (Matthew 2:11) not in the stable, which many traditional Christmas scenes depict.

The Bible tells us that as the wise men entered the house that day, they came bearing gifts – gifts certainly fit for a king. We are told they bowed before Jesus,  “…and when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh” (Matthew 2:11).

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Sinking Fund: The Best Way to Save Money for Christmas Gifts

Ten years ago my wife and I hated Christmas shopping. Sure it take enormous amounts of time and energy. But more than that, it played havoc on our December monthly budget. We’d have to come up with money for Christmas gifts out of nowhere while still paying all our other bills. It was a real challenge that often led to frustration and even overspending on gifts. Thankfully, the financial frustrations vanished the day we heard about a simple money management technique called a sinking fund.

sinking fundThe concept of a sinking fund is not new but it took me to my mid-30s to hear about it. Essentially, a sinking fund is a savings fund you create for the express purpose of purchasing something in the future. And, as I’ve found out, it’s a really easy technique anyone can learn. It’s also one of the best practices to help you eliminate overspending and pay for bills, gifts or other budget items that come infrequently.

Because this has revolutionized how my wife and I pay for things, I want to show you how it works. And at the end of the post, I’ll include the template we use to keep track of our savings.

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How to Easily Protect Yourself When Giving to Charities

Are you someone who loves giving to charities? My wife and I sure do. We make it a practice to give at various times during the year. But our interest really peaks during the holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas.

There are so many charitable organizations that do great work at these times of year. It is true that people are in need year round. However, the depth and seriousness of focus seems to peak during the holidays. I think that’s because we have an innate – some would say God-given desire – to help those in need. Many of us have been blessed through the holidays and we want to pass those joys and blessings on to others.

giving to charitiesOf course giving to charities doesn’t have to be only about money. You can give of your time and talents as well. But for most, the easiest path is to donate money and let the charities put that to use the best way they know how.

But how do you know if your money will be used wisely? Perhaps the better question is how do you know if you are not getting ripped off or taken advantage of by a rogue charity or a scam artist?

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