Hope for your financial life and beyond

Back to School Tips to Manage Your Crazy Mornings

Next week my kids head back to school. YES and DOUBLE YES! They will hate that I’m saying that but after two long summer months it’s time to get back to the school thing. And to celebrate that, I’m going to remind my kids (and all of you who are reading) of some back to school tips that help us manage our crazy mornings.

back to school tipsMornings during the school year can be hectic…am I right? After all the days of sleeping in during the summer, suddenly you are forced back into an early wake up call. And in the span of an hour it seems like you do 100 things to get inside the school building just in time.

It doesn’t have to be so hectic. In fact, I could count on one hand the number of times last year where we were truly rushed and almost didn’t make it to school.

Those who know me will say, “But you only live seven minutes from school!” To which I say, it doesn’t matter. When I worked in education I knew of people who lived that close and seemed to be late every day. So with that in mind, here are some back to school tips that we’ve learned over our 11 years of seeing our kids off to school.

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How to Invest 1,000 Dollars at Age 18

I recently had a conversation with a former student of mine who is looking to invest in the stock market. He’s in college now and has some money sitting around that he doesn’t need for school. He wanted to know how to invest 1,000 dollars or more at this stage of his life and whether it was realistic or not.

how to invest 1,000 dollarsHis situation is similar to what many 18-year-olds face. They’ve worked full-time summer jobs since they were 16 and maybe even part-time ones during the school year. Their college expenses are taken care of either through scholarships or the bank of mom and dad. The money they have earned is just sitting in their savings account drawing little to no interest. Does it make sense for them to do something else with it, like beginning to invest?

The answer is “YES…Absolutely!” but with a very big BUT.

Before I get to the BUT though lets look at some assumptions about 18-year-olds that are going to impact how they invest and where they put their money.

Assumptions About 18-Year-Olds

While not true for all, these generalizations pretty much highlight what most 18-year-olds are going through:

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Why I’ll Cherish Every Moment of the Next Four Years

It’s a Milestone Monday of sorts at our household. Today at 7:45 I’ll be dropping off our four kids for their first day of school. That may seem ordinary but it’s not the start of just another school year for us. This year is a bit more special.

hourglassOur oldest daughter Kelly is entering high school.

14 years down.

4 more to go.

Four more years until…

…she likely moves out for the first time.

…she doesn’t regularly join us at the dinner table.

…she isn’t in our home church each and every Sunday.

…she really learns what it’s like to depend on herself.

…we face the college tuition bill (oops, sorry…that’s a tangent of thought for another day).

I used to not care about this stuff. When she was two, high school and college seemed so distant. I’d find myself in circles of older parents who would say, “Cherish these moments because it will fly by so quickly.” I’d politely nod at their exhortation and think, “Sure, sure…I won’t miss anything.”

Now I wonder where all the time has gone. Why did it happen so fast? How can it be 14 years since my first child was born?

Ironically, now I’m the older parent sharing the value of cherishing time with those just getting started on the journey.

Everything Has Its Time

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The Best Solution For Those Buried in a Snowdrift of Debt

In the winter of 2004, we had the fortune/misfortune of visiting my parent’s house in Ohio just before a severe winter storm hit. We had arrived just as the snowfall began and it…just…never…stopped…falling. Snow, snow, snow for two straight days.

van buried in a snow driftBy the time the skies cleared their tiny little town had received over two feet of snow – a kid’s dream but an adult’s nightmare. It had blanketed and buried everything in sight, including our van as you can see by the picture to the right.

Walking through that knee-deep snow I kept thinking to myself, “How will we ever get out of this mess?” It’s not like it’s going to magically melt away. No one in town is going to come rescue us – they have their own snow problems.

In fact, some exacerbated our problem. Thank you snow-plow man for clearing the road and pushing another two feet of snow to our curb.

Even worse, as I started to look at the mountain of snow from different angles the situation seemed even more desperate. At least in the first picture I can still see the van. From this viewpoint hardly anything is visible…

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5 Coping Strategies For When the Busyness of Life Causes the Dam to Break

water causes an explosion at a dam

Water exploding through a dam

On Friday, I commented to my blogging friend Tonya at Budget and the Beach that I was not looking forward to the upcoming weekend. When I realized all the items that were on my to-do list, I sort of felt depressed. I could see there would be absolutely no down time.

After all, aren’t weekends supposed to be relaxing? Most of the time during the school year ours are not, especially during tax season (from Jan. – Apr.) when Mrs. Luke1428 works on Saturday. It feels like the weekends are jammed packed with everything that couldn’t get done Monday – Friday. They become more hectic for me than the actual workweek.

For some perspective, (and I’ll keep this brief) here is what happened in our house the last three days:

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Now That’s What I Call Love

Hidden Nuggets #28“Love never fails.” – I Corinthians 13:8

HandsThese hands have seen many years.

Time has not been kind to the physical features. These once vibrant hands have aged into a wrinkled shadow. The attempt to elude time’s impact on the body has failed. Time ages us, one and all.

The belief we can escape time’s impact is folly. Yet it is not all-powerful. In this picture, I find three evidences of time’s failure:

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Providing For Your Own Is Always Right

Hidden Nuggets Series #25 – “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” – I Timothy 5:8

Let it go

Let it go

I was saddened the other day when I went to visit the site of a personal finance blogger I had begun to read and saw that as of December 31st he had discontinued writing. I wouldn’t say we were close blogging friends or anything but he had commented here and I had commented at his site. Plus we were social on Twitter, so I guess that counts for some connection, right?

He left a really nice closing letter explaining why he was going on an indefinite blogging hiatus. That’s a really nice touch. Nothing says “I don’t care” to your readers like suddenly disappearing into thin air without leaving so much as a whisper as to why.

His reason for stopping – personal issues.

Blogging has become an integral part of my life. I have loved connecting with people online, sharing my story and hearing theirs. Outside of my family and faith, nothing is giving me as much pleasure right now as building this site and being social with people online.

But if I came across some personal issues or my family needed more of me for some reason, I would gladly give it up.

Well…reluctantly…sadly…but gladly.

So I say “Kudos” to my colleague for being responsible and recognizing what held more value.

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Knowing When to Give Yourself a Blogging Break

tied up handIs blogging wearing you down? I know for me there have been various times during the past year where it felt like a drag. I’ve seen this sentiment expressed elsewhere on blogs, so I am fairly certain it’s a common phenomenon.

If you are like me and feel a sense of commitment in keeping to a predefined schedule, you probably just suck it up and write through the tough days. A couple of times this year when I did this though, I felt my writing quality suffered.

If your main income is derived from blogging you don’t have much choice. You essentially have to keep working through the doldrums.

Whatever your situation, it’s a sickening feeling to be tied to something that you can’t (or choose not to) take a break from.

For 2014, I’m going to work on giving myself some freedom to take writing breaks from my blog if I feel the need. Nothing too extended – just skipping a post here or there. I think the benefit to me will be staying fresh and not forcing myself to produce writing that is sub-par.

Are there optimal times to take a break from your blog? I think you should at least consider it on these occasions:

Around Holidays

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The Boy vs. the Blog – Exercises in Giving

Hidden Nugget Series #10 – “And whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, assuredly, I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward.”  Matthew 10:42

800px-Football_on_groundToo often my thoughts degenerate into believing that only quantity has value. In other words, I mistakenly believe that when giving, it needs to be done in great amounts. While there are times and places to give generously, perhaps even exorbitantly, I’m convinced that isn’t the norm.

Last week I’m seated one evening at our downstairs computer pounding out another Luke1428 blog post. I’m on a roll as each sentence is coming quickly. (Oh if it were only this easy to write every blog post.) Then half-way through my glorious blog-writing experience, disaster struck.

My 10-year old son peeks around the corner and asks me to throw the football with him.

Ugh. Major cognitive dilemma.

Do I go play with him and risk losing my train of thought? (It’s incredible frustrating to have a writing groove interrupted.) Or do I simply tell him “Sorry bud, daddy is working and can’t play right now?”

What would you do?

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Shock Treatment to Break Your Financial Procrastination

Shock coilsCollege breeds procrastinators.

At no time of my life did I put more things off until the last minute than my first few months in college. Every hour something new would entice me to put the books aside and enjoy the other, more exciting things college had to offer.

The pickup hoops game at the gym.

The late night pizza runs.

The cute girl one dorm over.

Time and time again this would happen, especially early on in my college life. As a result of my attention to anything unrelated to studies, I would often find myself starting papers at 11:00 pm that were due the next afternoon. Talk about putting your back up against a wall. It was an all night scramble of writing, filled with Mountain Dew and Ho-Hos.

“Fairly quickly” is the answer to the question “How long did it take you to develop a more disciplined attitude?” Had to…my freshman GPA (and ultimately my graduation) was depending on it. I realized there was no way I could maintain those negative patterns of time management and succeed at that level of education.

Procrastination creeps into all areas of our life. We put off dealing with relationship issues, work assignments, our spiritual health and even kid problems. Perhaps in no area does it rear its ugly head more so than in the world of personal finance. What is it about money that keeps us from confronting our difficulty with managing it?

Are you a personal finance procrastinator? Ever said any of these things:

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My Fantasy Football Obsession: Finding Life Balance

fantasy football obsession

Hidden Nuggets Series #8

The NFL season kicked off last night with the Denver Broncos playing host to the Baltimore Ravens. The long, tedious summer of Major League Baseball is coming to a close and there is no better remedy than good old-fashioned football. Let’s be honest, MLB doesn’t hold a candle to the NFL (or college football for that matter) in popularity.

It also doesn’t compare in fantasyland.

I started playing fantasy football in 2006 in an 8-team league with some of my friends. I won our leagues’ inaugural championship going 12-2. Since then, I’ve lost in the championship game two other times and have only incurred one losing season. My overall record stands at a healthy 60-36.

If you have never played there is something you need to understand…fantasy football COMPLETELY changes how you watch an NFL game. If you are not careful you may develop a fantasy football obsession.

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