Hope for your financial life and beyond

Spring Break: Glorious Rite of Passage or Undisciplined Waste of Money?

spring break

Having a blast on spring break?

This week and next, thousands of high school and college students will embark on the annual ritual known as spring break. They will fill hotels, crowd beaches and party in clubs long into the night. With the sheer number of young people present in these locations – the majority of which will be slightly to heavily inebriated – anything can happen.

That anticipation of the unpredictable defines the allure of spring break. And the alcohol…and the chance to “hook up.”

I’ve participated in three spring break trips in my life. The first was my senior trip in high school to a resort in the Bahamas. The next two were in college. One was with a group of guys (and my dad) to go caving in central Kentucky. On the other trip, I went with a co-ed group of friends and the future Mrs. Luke1428 to visit her father in south Florida.

None of those trips were to what I would call party central locations.

Each trip cost me hard earned money that could have been used for other purposes. I considered them worth it though for the memories they created. After all, isn’t the creation of memories a fundamental aspect of taking a vacation?

I can remember my spring break trips with perfect clarity…a hilarious photo of my high school friend sunbathing next to a gorgeous woman in the Bahamas…the onset of panic when one of my stout college buddies became stuck in a tight crawl of a cave…Kim and I enduring the ear shattering buzz of an air boat ride as we dodged alligators in the Everglades.

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Our Emotional Pet Purchase Is Now Causing Frustration and Sadness

Five years ago, I found myself in the place no pet owner wants to be – the veterinarian’s office watching our beloved pet be put to sleep. Kes, our dog of nine years, had developed cancer that was rapidly spreading through her body. She had quit eating and by the look on her face was beginning to experience pain. Although sad, we had no regrets about ending her life in that way. It was simply the best alternative and most humane thing to do for her.

After about a year, we began to experience empty dog syndrome. Having always been dog people, my wife and I were intent on having an animal around the house. So we started the search to make a pet purchase – buying a new dog.

Not long into our quest we found him. A beautiful, all black, lab mix named Axel. He was part of a litter of puppies that was up for adoption. We made an arrangement with the foster parent to meet him and assess whether or not he would be a good fit.

Upon arrival, we were not disappointed. In every way, Axel lived up to the description we had been given. So cute, cuddly and playful…he was an instant hit with our kids.

What we didn’t anticipate though was our emotional reaction when we saw his twin sister Alley. That emotion led to a decision we are now regretting.

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Price Limits, Blow Money and the 24 Hour Rule

24 hour ruleDo you have a 24 hour rule on big purchases? This strategy, plus two other strategies helped my family spend less and produce massive amounts of savings each month.

I’ve mentioned before how I’m a recovering spend-a-holic. In another life, I spent to my heart’s content, undeterred by any financial damage it would cause. I wrecked our ability to save and follow any semblance of a budget.

My wife and I would have frequent “discussions” about our my spending patterns. The discussions were mostly one sided, with me downplaying the extent of our my struggles. I got so good at deflecting any negativity about our my poor spending habits that I usually ended up getting what I wanted at the end of those conversations. Kudos to my wife for putting up with me…I was a mess.

Clearly I had convinced myself there was no problem.

It’s very easy for spending to spiral out of control. Much of the time, we do damage simply by not developing a system of checks and balances to monitor what’s going on. We end up waking up one day with a mess on our hands, wondering how we got there.

The biggest step that had to take place for my spending habits to change was a shift in my attitude. Thankfully for me, that did take place through a series of well-timed events that occurred at a point when my mind was open to improvement. Only after I willfully chose to get my act together and develop some discipline could my wife and I move forward with some strategic practices to curb spending.

Two such practices we implemented proved valuable for us. Those were setting price limits on spending and following the 24 hour rule.

Price Limits

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The “If Only” Game Creates Liars Of Us All

Hidden Nuggets #27 “Happy is the man who finds wisdom, and the man who gains understanding; For her proceeds are better than the profits of silver, and her gain than fine gold.” – Proverbs 3:13-14

Lamborghini

“If only I had this car then I’d be happy.”

Ever heard of the “if only” game? It’s played like this:

Step 1: Look at your current life situation.

Step 2: Figure out all the junk going on that you don’t like.

Step 3: Use the information from Step 2 to fill in this statement, “If only I could change ________ then my life would be great.”

Step 4: Repeat Step 3 as new negative circumstances warrant.

We play this game all the time:

“If only I were out of debt then I’d be happy.”

“If only I had a bigger house then I’d be happy.”

“If only I were in better shape then I’d be happy.”

“If only my kids would behave then I’d be happy.”

“If only my boss would get off my back then I’d be happy.”

“If only…If only…If only…”

The “if-only” game promotes a lie – the lie being that circumstances produce happiness. The dangerous aspect of this lie is that we project into the future and base our happiness level on a hypothetical situation. In other words, we dream of happy life scenarios based on events that have not and may never occur.

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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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There’s a Robber Stripping You of Wealth

Hidden Nuggets #19 – “A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest; So shall your poverty come like a prowler, and your need like an armed man.”  – Proverbs 24:33-34 ID-10074458

Robbers are all of a sudden a common topic for my 5-yr. old son. Several weeks ago his well-intentioned 7-yr. old sister informed him that there are people who sometimes come and steal little children away. She’s trying to help him be wary of strangers.

Now all the shadows in his room at night have him worried. A little bit of fear has crept into his mind. He is realizing, perhaps for the first time, the world is not altogether safe and he’s worried about being separated from his family.

However, in his unsettled frame of mind, he is forgetting all the elements we have put in place at our house for his protection. Dead bolt locks on the doors. The monitored security system. Two skeptical dogs that bark at ANYTHING! An equalizer locked in the gun safe.

We’ve taken measures at our home to protect ourselves from thieves. We have also taken measures in our personal lives to protect ourselves from ever experiencing poverty. That’s a place we never plan to go, mostly because we are not letting ourselves become vulnerable to it.

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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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Be Fearless

“The Lord is on my side. I will not fear. What can man do to me?” Psalm 118:6

I’m honored today to be a guest contributor at a new blog dedicated to the courage it requires to face personal financial struggles. Todd and John from FearlessMen.com have branched out with a new site called FearlessDollar. I’m there today with several other bloggers providing some insights and helping them jump start their new project.

When we choose to get radical with our personal finances fear becomes our greatest challenger. It binds us up and locks us down. We become completely immobilized as the multitude of fears line up at our front door.

dark tunnel

Are you ready to confront your fears?

Fear of the unknown.

Fear of change.

Fear of a new money management process.

Fear of ridicule from others who think we are crazy.

Fear of the future.

Fear our past will repeat itself.

Fear of our ability to complete the mission.

Because fear represents the greatest challenge, it needs to become our greatest opportunity. Confronting and overcoming our fears moves us emotionally and spiritually forward in ways we could not possibly dream about.

Please click here to head on over the FearlessDollar.com to give Todd and John a shout out on their new venture.

And be fearless today. It’s time to confront what’s in the dark tunnel.

What was the greatest fear you faced upon decided to tackle your personal finance issues?

Image at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Next Post: The Boy vs. the Blog: Exercises in Giving

Prior Post: How to Get Out of Debt

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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Burn the Obstacles: Getting Rid of the Junk That Holds You Back

Hidden Nuggets Series #6  – “Also many of those who were now believers came, confessing and divulging their practices. Also, many of those who had practiced magic brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted up the value of them, and it totaled fifty thousand pieces of silver. So the word of the Lord grew mightily and prevailed.” – Acts 19:18-20

What’s standing in the way of you and an awesome life?

fireA few pounds?

A damaging relationship?

A pessimistic attitude?

An addiction?

A spiritual connection?

Sometimes it’s tough to see what’s holding us back. In general, we don’t have a great track record of diagnosing our own personal issues. Others are much more skilled at pointing out areas of our life that could use some improvement.

Even when we are able to pinpoint the issue, it’s not always easy to alter our course. We offer excuses, rationalize actions and justify our way out of change. We’d rather keep hurting our chances at an excellent life than face the harsh realities of what are our faults.

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