Hope for your financial life and beyond

How to Prioritize What’s Important When You Make a Budget

I remember the first time my wife and I really tried to make a budget. So many expenses were coming to mind it was difficult to prioritize which ones were most important. We messed up many things in that first month’s budget and felt really frustrated at our efforts.

make a budgetIt didn’t deter us however from trying again…and again…and again. We found that after several months of trial and error certain expenses always drifted to the surface first. It was apparent that we were drawn to some expenditures more readily than others because they represented fundamental needs for our family each month.

So what expenses go first when you make a budget? Then how do you determine what comes next? Today I’m going to outline our five-step thought process as we make a budget each month. Hopefully it will give you some direction as you try to figure out how your hard earned dollars will be allocated.

Process to Make a Budget

When you begin the process of putting a budget together, start with the highest priorities and work your way down. It should look something like this:

Budget Priority #1 – Necessities Above All

Put simply, you have to survive. Nothing else can happen in the budget before your basic needs are taken care of.

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Beware: All That Glitters Is Not Gold

Hidden Nuggets Series #44 – “When I saw among the spoils a beautiful Babylonian garment, two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold weighing fifty shekels, I coveted them and took them.” – Joshua 7:21

all that glitters is not goldYou could see in his eyes the burning desire to possess the golden treasure. The moment he had waited for his entire life had now come. The reward was within his grasp and nothing could stop him now.

Except the chain reaction that occurred once Indiana Jones lifted that little idol off its intended resting place. You just knew that bag of sand he used to replace the idol when he picked it up was not going to work.

In the next few moments, he would face a collapsing cave roof, poison darts shooting from the cave walls, a giant rolling boulder, and natives with spears. The worst part is he didn’t even get to keep the idol, having to turn it over to his treasure-seeking arch rival. Sure does seem like something bad happens when we try to attain something that we are not supposed to have.

The Eyes Are The Window to the Soul

Of all our senses I believe we are most enticed by what we see. We see people with power…we want it. We see wealth…we pursue it. We see people take shortcuts to get ahead…we attempt them. We see fame…we crave it, even if just for 15 minutes.

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Our Local Target Is Showing How to Rock Customer Service

customer serviceEnjoy this guest post by Kim Fourman, aka Mrs. Luke1428.

I recently had a great experience with Target’s customer service – and it wasn’t the first time.

Where’s My Kid?

About three years ago, I was shopping at our local Target (or Tar-jay if you’re cool like that) with my then 3 year old son. I was up at the kids’ clothing section near the front of the store when all of a sudden – I can’t find the 3 year old. Gone. I look around calmly at first, and then with a little more panic.

If you’re a parent, you know the feeling of dread that grows and grows when you can’t find your child.

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Why We Don’t Give Our Kids Allowance

My wife and I are not giving our kids allowance simply for existing. We’ve chosen a different path to reward them with money.

kids allowanceDoesn’t it seem our culture has lost the passion for hard work? I look around and see adults taking risky, unnecessary shortcuts in an attempt to get ahead in their career. I see people playing the lottery to get rich quick instead of choosing to build wealth over time.

Then there are those people in tough financial situations that won’t take certain jobs because they consider the position beneath their standards. Really? Must not be that desperate.

Our mindset has changed to thinking we should be given things simply because we deserve it. Someone else (like the government) will provide for me, right?  So why work?

Sad thing is, these attitudes are being scooped up by our young people. We have a generation of kids who bristle at the idea of doing a 30-minute homework assignment on a Tuesday night. Cuts into their Snapchat time. If they do muster the desire to attempt the work, they only put in half the effort. They shut down if the answer to a problem causes them to think for more than two consecutive minutes.

More and more kids are refusing to push themselves to work. They are opting out of excellence. And when they fail, someone or something else is to blame.

If we are going to succeed in life and with money, we have to clearly embrace a concept found in the Bible – “In all labor there is profit but idle chatter leads only to poverty.” (Proverbs 14:23)

That’s why we are not giving our kids allowance.

Giving Kids Allowance Doesn’t Teach the Value of Work

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When Conventional Wisdom About Money Clashes With Conviction

Today, I’m honored to be a guest contributor at My Money Design. I’ll be sharing how I lost my disciplined spending habits through the use of credit cards and the issues that arose because of that.

In the middle of my problems two things occurred that caused me to rethink what I was doing. In those moments, my new found beliefs came in conflict with my behaviors. What would I do?

To read my post at My Money Design, click here.

Next Post: Why We Don’t Give Our Kids Allowances

Prior Post: Stay the Course: Our Success Happened One Step At A Time

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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Feed Your Pleasures and Break the Bank

Hidden Nuggets Series #24 – “He who loves pleasure will be a poor man; He who loves wine and oil will not be rich.” – Proverbs 21:17

ID-10035317I’ll bet they really knew how to throw a party in King Solomon’s day.

His reign ushered in the peak of ancient Israel’s wealth and prosperity. Buoyed by the successful reign of his father King David and endowed with special wisdom from God, Solomon’s kingdom produced so much wealth, the Bible has this to say about it in I Kings 10:27:

“The king made silver as common as stones in Jerusalem…”

How’s that for wealthy? And everyone, rich and poor, was able to benefit.

The rising tide lifted all boats.

So you can see why I think parties were commonplace, especially at the palace. At the minimum they lived in extreme opulence. We know Solomon’s throne was made of gold and overlaid with ivory. That’s pretty sweet.

With all this wealth at his fingertips Solomon could pleasure himself with anything he wanted.

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Stealing From Your Employer

Hidden Nuggets #17 – “Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need.” – Ephesians 4:28

stealing from your employer

You gonna pay for that?

Your employer needs your hard work to benefit the company.

That’s why they hired you. The company was looking to fill a void so it could make a profit. Something about you stood out.  Match made in heaven.

They believed in you…trained you…even facilitated your success by assigning tasks that would maximize your skills.

So why are you repaying that generosity by stealing from your employer?

Stealing From Your Employer Actions

“What? Me? I would never think about stealing from my employer.”

Most wouldn’t. But before you dismiss the question, have you ever done these things at work:

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I’ll Take Money Over Love. Would You Ever?

Hidden Nuggets Series #14 – “…and every one of us will give you 1,100 pieces of silver.” – Judges 16:5

money over loveWhat values would you betray for money? Would you take money over love? Would you lie or steal if you had a 100% chance of striking it rich?

Would you abandon your morals for one million dollars? Would it make a difference for $10 million? $100 million?

Even thinking about that question makes us feel dirty. We try to convince ourselves it would be impossible to forsake our core principles and beliefs for money. Deep inside, however, we know there would be serious temptation, especially if our financial situation was dire.

Such is the nature of our humanity.

Of course the scenario I set forth Hollywood has already made into a movie – the 1993 not-so-critically-acclaimed drama Indecent Proposal. (Kids need not apply to watch!) It’s not an original story line however, because the theme of someone taking money over love dates back much further than that.

She Took Money Over Love

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How Couples Can Stop Fighting Over Money

This is part one of three on how couples can resolve the constant fighting over money in their daily lives.

fighting over moneyTired of fighting over money with your significant other? You are not alone. Money related problems consistently rank as a top reason so many marriages end in divorce.

This should not come as a shock. When approaching anything major in life, the conversation must inevitably turn to the financial ramifications. Big-ticket items such as shelter, food, career, education, retirement, healthcare, and transportation all have money serving as the underlying theme in the discussion. And when all the minor day-to-day decisions are factored in, it becomes clear money is at the core of almost everything we do.

Many couples do not adequately prepare for the challenges money decisions will create. With each person bringing into the relationship a different background, personality and opinion, money can easily ignite a firestorm of controversy as these differences clash with one another. Before you know it, the continuing conflict can lead couples into thinking they were not meant for one another.

It doesn’t have to be this way though. Couples can implement a plan that will keep them from fighting over money. You can live in harmony together. Getting on the same financial page with your significant other should be a top priority if you desire to have financial success and create deep bonds of intimacy in your relationship.

Steps to Stop Fighting Over Money

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When Conviction Trumps Value

Music CDSeveral times in my life, I’ve felt strongly convicted about addressing a personal issue. I’m no different than anyone else in that sometimes a barrier of some kind keeps me from moving forward. The choices we make in those moments can have a lasting impact for the rest of our life.

One such occasion occurred my junior year of college. I attended Cedarville University in Ohio, a Christian liberal-arts college of about 2,000 students at the time of my enrollment. As part of our program, each student was required to attend chapel services each day along with the occasional special event, such as a lectureship series or revival meeting. During one of these special events, I became convicted of something that many would call irrelevant and only a minor issue.

To me it was big deal though…made bigger when I realized what it would cost me.

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