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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Operation Christmas Child: Changing Lives One Shoebox at a Time

I believe the Bible when it says, He who has a generous eye will be blessed, for he gives of his bread to the poor” (Proverbs 22:9). Spiritual and emotional blessings come when we give to others, especially those in challenging life situations. And this time of year I can think of nothing better to give to than Operation Christmas Child. 

operation Christmas childCan you imagine living in a world with no Christmas? What does that look like?

There are no kids eager to wake you up at 7:00 am. No smiles when a gift is received. No feelings of being special. And no comforting thoughts that someone cares for you.

What an unattractive and dismal scenario that paints. Sadly, millions of children all over the world experience a Christmas just like this. Their Christmas is bitter, meaningless and without hope.

That’s where Operation Christmas Child steps in. But they are only able to do so with your help. Here is how.

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The Ultimate Guide on How to Make the Best Monthly Budget

I’ve written a lot over the years on how to make a monthly budget. It’s really been important to me because creating and successfully living on a budget turned our life around. My wife and I would not be where we are financially had we not admitted the problem and took the time to learn how to budget.

So I’ve decided to pull all my knowledge about doing a monthly budget into one post. And I’ll tell you right now, it’s going to be a long one. But it’s also going to be really helpful. If you are new to budgeting, struggling with budgeting or a veteran at budgeting, you’ll learn something from this post that you can apply right away.

To help with organization, I’ve divided the post into several segments. Here is what you can expect to find:

  • monthly budgetWhat are budgets?
  • The real reason you need a monthly budget
  • Why people resist budgets
  • The one tip that started our success
  • The basics expenses of a monthly budget
  • What percentage to spend in each budget category
  • How to make your monthly budget zero-based
  • What to do with the left over budget money
  • Why your monthly budget isn’t working
  • Three helpful strategies for spending
  • Budgeting resources that work

With that as our outline, let’s get started.

What is a Budget?

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I Have a Lot of Debt: Can Hard Credit Checks Impact My Credit Score?

Debt has become the standard way for people to manage their financial life. Instead of cash, families and individuals are turning to credit more and more. It seems an easier form of payment, granting access to things when we need or want them.

But, the amount of debt is a major problem many Americans face. According to a 2022 financial report by CNBC, the average US household with debt owes an average of $155,622. That is up 6.2% from over a year ago. The debt includes credit cards, mortgages, home equity, lines of credit, auto loans, student loans, and other household obligations. This makes one wonder whether using debt is a wise path in the first place.

Regardless of where you fall on that issue, existing debt makes it harder to pass credit checks and get any additional financial applications approved.  Banks are less willing to extend additional lines of credit to someone already swimming in debt. So, you need to understand what you are facing if you are wanting additional financing for something. 

In this article, we’ll be diving into credit checks and how they impact your credit score. We’ll also see if there are any work-arounds to help you get the financial assistance you need.

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How to Save Money Without Losing Track of What It’s For

One question I routinely get asked by friends and readers of this site is, “Can you teach me how to save money without losing track of what it’s for? How do you account for your money when you are saving for an emergency or for a future need?”

how to save moneyThe problem boils down to this issue: you have to keep track of what money is to be used for what purpose.

When you deposit money into your savings account, it gets mixed in with all the other money in the savings account. How do you keep the boys separated and make sure the money designated for the new dishwasher actually ends up going for the new dishwasher and not the car insurance or the baseball card fund?

Like many others, this frustrated me too. But then I remembered something my parents used to do that helped with this. So I took their system and enhanced it for the digital age. It completely fixed my issues and has been a lifesaver ever since.

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What Does the Bible Say About Debt? Wait Til You See

I turn to the Bible for a lot of questions in my life. After all, God has a lot more wisdom than I do. So why not tap into that knowledge? It seems that no matter what I’m dealing with, I can find some answers within the pages of the Bible.

what does the bible say about debtA few years ago, I’m reviewing our finances and this question randomly pops into my head, What does the Bible say about debt?  The truth is it wasn’t a random thought at all. My wife and I were trying to get out of debt so the topic was weighing on our minds. I knew what I thought about debt but didn’t really know what God said. So I decided to give it a look.

What I found was a little surprising and served as a wake-up call. Not only that, but at another level, it provided encouragement and hope. I realized there was a better path to take than the one I was on.

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How to Get Out of Debt and Win in Five Simple Steps

Are you up to your eyeballs in debt? Don’t see anyway out? If so, take heart. You are not alone. Millions of Americans live with this burden. They either never think about how to get out of debt or they think that it is impossible for them to get out of debt. So they never deal with it.how to get out of debt

It would be unwise for you to ignore the mountain of debt that is piling up. You need to wake up and pay attention because excessive debt will cripple your wealth building process. It will mess up your savings, helping the kids with paying for college, and even your retirement investing.

And sadly, in many cases, it also ruins relationships.

Debt is a chain of bondage around your life. It’s an anchor weighing you down. You can’t go where you really want to go because it’s holding you back.

In order to break free, you’ll need to change your perspective, your behavior and your systems for purchasing things. But it’s all possible. It will be a journey you will never regret.

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How to Develop a Purposeful Plan for Giving Away Money

If you have found your way to this article, you most likely have a generous heart and enjoy giving away money to a favorite cause. But have you ever thought about how you give away money? Do you give purposefully or haphazardly as opportunities pass in front of you?

giving away moneyDeveloping a purposeful plan for giving away money might seem silly. You may want to give wherever and to whomever you like without feeling held back by a plan. There is great freedom in that philosophy. However, as I’ve found out over the years, there are also great dangers.

Putting together a purposeful plan for giving away money is a fundamental exercise you should go through. In short, it will help you have success with your finances.

Everyone who gets serious about their finances tries hard to make a monthly budget work. We make a plan to pay for the kid’s college. And we work tirelessly in order to support ourselves in retirement.

So why do we ignore this area of our finances where a lot of money could also pass through our fingers?

The fact is we shouldn’t ignore it. Here’s how to get purposeful with your giving.

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It Is Not a Sin to Buy a New Car

Is it ever OK to buy a new car? You won’t find many people in the personal financial space advocating that practice. Why? Because a car is a depreciating asset, meaning that it goes down in value over time.

buy a new carHow fast do cars depreciate? Figures vary based on the make and model of the car and market conditions. But most estimates say that cars depreciate around 20% the first year, and 15% more each year in years two through five. So you can expect a new car to be worth around 40% of its purchase price after 5 years of ownership.

So looking at those numbers, this should be considered the cardinal personal financial sin. Anyone considering buying a new car instead of a used one runs the risk of being called a foolish, image-conscious over spender.

Used car purchases always outpace new car purchases. But still, data from 2020 shows 14 million new light trucks and automobiles were purchased in the United States.

So, is it really a big a deal to buy a new car? A large segment of society doesn’t seem to think so.

I’ll answer my own question by saying “It depends.”

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Our Nightmare on Rental Street: Lessons From Evicting a Tenant

My wife and I have long enjoyed the benefits that come with owning rental real estate. The extra income each month has given us freedom within our monthly budget to fund things like our personal mortgage payoff, vacations and other investments. Granted it hasn’t been the easiest side hustle and we have learned many lessons along the way. One of those was the process we had to go through while evicting a tenant.evicting a tenant

Evicting a tenant is one of rental real estate’s darker sides. No one ever thinks they will have to do this when a tenant signs the rental agreement. We trust our background research and intuition about the person we’ve selected to fill the property. And we expect the tenant to honor their part of the rental agreement.

We provide them with quality lodging. They pay us for that service. That’s how this business is supposed to work. So, what could possible go wrong with such a simple arrangement?

Actually, plenty can go wrong. Especially when the tenant sees an opening they feel like they can take advantage of.

This is our story of how we dealt with a tenant who refused to pay his rent, how we went about evicting him and the lessons we learned from it.

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The Best Option for the Extra Budget Money at the End of the Month

Perhaps you’ve had this experience with your monthly budget money: budget money

At the beginning of the month you allocated “X” amount for a particular budget category. Due to clipping coupons, noticing that sale item or exercising some intense discipline, you didn’t end up spending as much for that category as you had planned. You had extra money for that budget category that went unspent for the month.

Putting it into an example – you budgeted $600 for groceries but only spent $525. You thought that dress would be $100 but you lucked into a half-off sale. There was no car maintenance for the month and the $75 you earmarked for the car maintenance budget wasn’t used.

So there is extra money available to be used in that expense category. What do you do with the extra money? Where does it (or should it) go or should you spend it at all?

You may have never thought to ask those questions, but there are actually some issues here that need to be addressed. I can think of three different options for your extra budget money at the end of the month, with one of them being the clear cut winner in my book.

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