Faith and Financial Resources

Fall Shopping Spree: Refreshing My Wardrobe to the Glory of God

I woke up a couple weekends ago thinking about shopping with a desire to refresh my wardrobe…a wardrobe that had been a little neglected with us being on a tight budget for several years. And let’s be real, I’ve always been pretty frugal so sometimes I realize I’m wearing stuff I’ve had for a looong time.

wardrobe.b

So anyway, Drew was a good sport and went with me to the outlets. I went “prayed up” because I often get a bit overwhelmed working through wanting to be a good steward and not being materialistic or getting caught up in consumerism while also wanting some freedom in enjoying feeling cute and being relevant.

It was somewhat easier when we were on a tighter budget than having more resources, now. Before, I had a set budget and followed pretty closely. Now, I have an abundance (compared to before) and I’m wrestling through being free in Christ and not a slave to my own man-made rules (what I tend to lean towards when wanting to know the “right” amount to spend; this can be legalistic for sure).

I often wrestle through “two sides of the ditch” between thoughts rooted in materialism versus asceticism.

Materialism: “ excessively concerned with physical comforts or the acquisition of wealth and material possessions, rather than with spiritual, intellectual, or cultural values.”

Asceticism: “the doctrine that a person can attain a high spiritual and moral state by practicing self-denial, self-mortification, and the like.”

Source

These definitions are extreme, but I definitely see myself get stuck in some way between the two. I think it’s healthy to fight materialism and not find our identity in stuff, image, success, approval, etc. I think it’s equally important not to swing the pendulum the opposite way of thinking you can’t enjoy good things.

While shopping that day, I got stuck at times, possibly trying to have the “perfect formula” for how much to spend. I kept praying for God to give me wisdom and freedom in Him.

By the end of the weekend, I felt pretty free and good about the decisions I’d made. Ultimately, resting in God’s grace. I think seeking to be a good steward, pushing back against consumerism, and wanting to be relevant is a life-long journey of prayer and asking God to guide me. This is a much better route than creating rules for myself and thinking I’ve got it figured out.

My ultimate desire is to be lead by the Holy Spirit, to keep searching the motives of my heart,  pursue freedom, and aim to glorify God in the way I live (yes, even in shopping!). By doing this, I’m finding freedom “getting out of the ditch” on either side. It’s a continual process with conviction and grace along the way.

I’m so thankful I’m no longer a slave to the law, but free in Jesus. ❤

As a bonus, here’s some practical tips I often process before shopping:

  • Intent: Who am I trying to please? Is this to enjoy with pure motives or is it rooted in envy, pleasing people, pressure of what you’re “supposed to do”?
  • Priorities: does this align and/or support my priories?
  • Budget: does this fit within budget?
  • Eternity: how much do I want to acquire on earth? How much money am I willing to spend on outward appearance? Personally I like to keep it simple, pursuing the benefits of margin.

Hope this is helpful insight into what I work through. Your priorities and convictions may be completely different. The biggest point I want to make is the importance of seeking to honor God with our resources and asking Him to guide us.

Can you relate? How do you work through wanting to honor God in the way you use your resources while wanting to be relevant and enjoy things? Comment below.

 

.Em

Practical Budgeting Tips

Should We Upgrade Our Vehicle?

For the past year or so, Drew and I have considered upgrading my 2003 Camry for a newer CRV. With other finance goals in mind, we’ve been thinking through if buying a newer vehicle is a good decision for us, currently.

Here’s some of the things we’ve worked through:   vehicle

Pros (reasons to buy a newer vehicle):

  • The excitement of a “new car” and liking the look of a CRV
  • This would be a great road trip vehicle and sweet for camping
  • I’d like to trade my car in before we have to put a lot of money into fixing it

Cons (reasons to wait):

  • Vehicles are not an investment, they only lose value
  • I primarily drive my car to and from work, park it all day, and drive home
  • Seems silly to pay ~$12k to park a car all day
  • While some days my wanting a CRV is really just because I like the look of it, many times it’s rooted in pride; pride in feeling good in what I drive, that I paid cash for a nicer vehicle, etc. (the ugly stuff in my heart)
  • We could invest the $12k-13k, instead
  • It’s currently just Drew and me, so I don’t “need” a bigger car
  • I’m hesitant to make such an expensive purchase based on “want” vs. “need,” especially in light of all the ways we could use the money
  • The Camry has been a great car and huge blessing; it’s needed minimal repairs, gets great gas mileage, and has provided sweet memories (the first car I’ve ever purchased and what we’ve had since getting married)

After thinking through the points, above, we plan to keep the Camry and hold off on upgrading. If major things begin to break, we’ll probably reconsider. Personally, I’d only be buying it for a “want” and not a “need” and, for now, it doesn’t seem best to put $12-13k into a vehicle to replace a car that’s been such a blessing.

Additionally, with us not saving for retirement or investing while we paid off our loans, our goal is to “make up for it” now by building up those accounts. We also want to pay 20% down for a home, save for vacations, and other goals.

This conclusion may change tomorrow, but it seems like the best decision for us today.

I hope this post provides encouraging perspective. Perspective to pray through the motives of our heart and use wisdom, reason, and a vision for our life, instead of just thinking about what we want. If we can pursue contentment in what we have and take captive thoughts of wanting the “next thing,” I think making wise purchases gets a whole lot easier.

You may be in a different place today where buying a newer vehicle is a good decision. In all circumstances, however, I encourage you to filter your decision(s) through similar thoughts; pursuing contentment and perspective before making the purchase, and being open to waiting if it seems best. All the while, asking God to reveal the motives of your heart (and this is so freeing! <3).

In a culture where consumerism, comparison, and discontentment run rampant, we need to be prepared to push back. Are you with me?!

Em

Practical Budgeting Tips

“Living Forward” Creating a Life Plan to Transform Your Finances

I recently started reading Living Forward by Michael Hyatt and Daniel Harkavy. The premise is creating a “life plan” based on the legacy you want to leave, along with a tactical strategy you’ll implement to pursue your vision. The author’s ask you to imagine your funeral and what would be said about you. If you don’t think where you are today will lead to the legacy you want to leave, the goals you make in between the gap are what you’ll pursue through your life plan.

living forward. blog

This concept was essentially my motivation to pay off our loans ASAP, looking into the future and making a plan to achieve the desired result.

When Drew and I got engaged, we began discussing the type of future we’d like, starting a family, personal goals, etc. We knew paying $986/month would be a hindrance, in general, and we didn’t want to live with that weight for the next 20+ years. We knew it would largely play into many decisions we would make and trap us down.

*photo credit

So we created a vision for our money (like a short-term life plan). The end goal was to pay off our debt before having kids. This led us to a goal of being debt free within 2-3 years.

We knew the starting point ($76k of debt) and where we wanted to go (debt-free within 2-3 years).

Next, similar to the advice from Living Forward, we needed to fill in the gap with a tactical plan (how we’d attempt to pay off $76k in less than 3 years).

This led to Drew researching budget tools and us using YNAB (You Need a Budget). We set a budget of what we thought was a reasonable amount of money in each category/month (food, spending, entertainment, clothes, bills, etc.) and began tracking everything we spent.

The difference between where we were and where we wanted to end up was easily measurable with this tool. The key was keeping an eye on the end goal and our progress to get there, adjusting the plan to meet the goal if we got off course. Click here to learn more about our strategy.

Where I want to focus today is encouraging you to realize where you are with your finances, determine your end goal, and create an action plan to get there. Make the action plan measurable, and view your progress often. I recommend checking your budget before you spend money, as well as your weekly and monthly progress. Believe me, you can get creative in cutting back the grocery bill if you know you have $50 remaining and a week before the month ends.

So what’s your end goal? Pick something that motivates you. Here’s some of my motivations:

  • Margin for when unexpected expenses arise, for pursuing a dream (like Drew quitting his job to pursue a career change), and to decrease worry over money (remembering, ultimately, God’s in control and my source of peace)
  • Have a savings worth 6 months of living expenses
  • Increase generosity
  • Save for retirement
  • Buy a house with a nice down payment, taking on less interest/debt
  • Pursue investments and other income streams
  • Flexibility

Another take-away from Living Forward, is to create “pull power” with the goals you set. In other words, your goal should be motivating enough to pull you through to the end.

“The lesson is simple. You get what you focus on. What we see ahead impacts the actions we take right now. How we live and lead is directly connected to what we see. What’s important is that the future be enticing enough to stay focused. We call this ‘pull power.’” -Living Forward

If we didn’t have specific goals when we started our debt-free journey, I predict we’d still have about $40k in debt. If we had passively said, “hey, I think debts bad and we should pay off our loans,” we probably would’ve put extra money left over each month towards loans. However, I anticipate it would’ve been about half as much because we’d be thinking in terms of “that’s a nice goal,” but probably not filtering our decisions through it.

What would you need to change to save ___fill in the blank___/month to hit your goal in ___fill in the blank___ time-frame? Remember your end goal often and filter spending habits through this.

Bonus: making sacrifices to pay off debt is typically a choice. Reflect on your end goal for motivation and fight against a “woe is me mindset.”

What’s the future you desire? Would love to hear your goals in the comments!

.Em ❤

 

 

Faith and Financial Resources

Budgeting When You Don’t “Need” to Budget

Now that our student loans are paid off, I’ve noticed myself get a little more apathetic in how I spend money. It’s a small thing, but this week I purchased organic (aka more expensive) chicken that’s now past the expiration date and spoiled. While it’s “only” $9 wasted, it’s a simple example of poor stewardship. I’ve noticed similar examples over the last year since we’ve loosened up on our budget.

Budgeting when you don't need to budget, blogWith this in mind, today I want to discuss my view on the strategy of budgeting even when you don’t “need” to budget. Perhaps you’re not living paycheck to paycheck, or you like where you sit financially. However, I’m convinced having a vision and plan for your spending along with a budget to track your goals can save tons of money and foster healthy stewardship.

Disclaimer: my emphasis in this post is on the ability to be more generous financially when we follow a budget and pursue stewardship. You can  use these ideas to help meet other financial goals, as well.

Regardless of your financial circumstance, I think it honors God when we seek to steward our resources well. For Christ-followers, we know our home is not on earth. Instead, we’re called to prepare for our eternal Home while we’re here (Mt. 6:19-21).

I believe as Christians we should have a vision for the finances God entrusts to us. If we know there’s numerous ministries, believers, and non-believers in need, what if we budget so we have more left over to give? Or, better yet, what if instead of thinking in terms of “left over,” we intentionally plan our budget to create margin to give more?

Take groceries for example. I know from experience, a simple budget of setting goals for how much you want to spend/month and then tracking your progress can easily save a family of two $60-100/month. Think about how far $60-$100/month could go towards giving.

I love Compassion International’s ministry of sponsoring children and families to release them from poverty in Jesus’ name. Check out the story, below, and some of the options you could support through this ministry alone:

 

“God’s Handiwork”

A joyful announcement turns into near tragedy as a mother grapples with rejection.

When Derebe announced she was pregnant, her husband told her to get an abortion or leave. After all, they could barely support their two sons. But Derebe trusted God to provide. She had no idea at the time that His provision would come in the form of Compassion’s Survival program in Ethiopia. Read full story here.

 

The story above is an incredible example of how our resources can change lives. Because someone was generous, the lives of an entire family were changed both physically and spiritually.

You can easily apply this example to several spending categories. Think about how much is spent on clothes and outward appearance. Decorating a home, the house itself, the car we drive, and on and on. I think it can be unhealthy to spend without a plan and/or discipline, or getting too caught up in what we want or feel pressured to have by our culture.

I think stewardship is having a vision for our money and how else it could be used. We live in a industry where billions of dollars are spent annually to make us spend more. If we don’t have a vision, I can guarantee we’re being taken advantage of and the industry is winning. Agree?

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy many things I don’t “need,” but I want to be intentional about the root of why and how much I’m spending. Is it to impress someone? Overindulgence? Insecurities? Pride? Or is it really a treat that I’ll enjoy with good motives and a healthy perspective? This looks different for everyone and it’s all about the heart.

I think my main battle is living in America where it’s so unusual to live with these types of thoughts and questions. We need each other to strengthen and encourage one another to live differently. God’s called us to be the Body of Christ for a reason.

For my family, I hope our lives look  different 5, 15, 40 years from now in the way we view God’s resources and our purpose on earth. I hope by God’s grace and the power of the Holy Spirit that we’re so in love with Jesus, and passionate for others to know Him, that we’re continually transformed in the way we steward God’s resources.

Lastly, I hope this post doesn’t point you to legalism, a moral approach that’s more about “I must give or God will be mad at or punish me” mentality. My desire is for us to be so in love with Jesus that we can’t help but want to be more intentional with this life.

Even as I wrote this post I was convicted of my own tendencies towards legalism. It’s easy to get caught up in what I think is good stewardship for myself and others. I constantly need God’s grace and help to renew my mind and heart in this area.

More to come on topics like this, but I hope this is a good reminder on the importance of stewardship and how it can change our lives…and the lives of others.

Please subscribe and let’s partner in this!

Peace and love to you!

Em ❤

 

Practical Budgeting Tips

How Paying Off 25% of Our Debt Cut Our Monthly Payment in Half

One of the most exciting moments in our debt free journey was paying off our first major loan of $20,000. As mentioned here, our monthly loan payment dropped from debt 25_50. blog$986/month to less than $500!! Our initial debt was $76,000, so $20,000 was just under 25% of the total. HOWEVER, notice how our monthly payment was basically cut in half. Crazy, right?! Only 25% of our debt was paid but the monthly payment dropped by 50%.

This was a huge motivation to keep going!

Prior to paying off this first major loan, we were intentional to pay the minimum payment for each loan and then place additional money towards this loan which had higher interest.

A few months after we paid it off, we decided to step out in faith and have Drew quit his job to pursue a career change. We estimated this switch would take about 6-12 months of living on my income. Had we still been paying $986/month, we probably wouldn’t have considered it.

We only paid the minimum payment for our remaining loans while living on one income. However, if you try this strategy and your income doesn’t change, this is where you can really crush your debt! Ideally,  we would’ve used the $486 we were used to paying on the $20,000 loan towards the next loan we planned to tackle. Dave Ramsey refers to this as the “snowball effect.”

Once Drew transitioned careers, exactly one year later, we continued to primarily live on one income and put one of our incomes toward the remaining debt.

I share this with you for 2 reasons:

  1. Tackling one loan at a time with the highest interest can make a huge dent in your debt. Again, paying off 25% cut our payments in half.
  2. Paying off debt and creating financial margin provides opportunities! Drew made a career change to pursue his passion and talents! He now works from home, doing his “dream job.”

Here’s my challenge for you:

  • Consider all of your debt and which one loan you can tackle.
  • Remember your “why” for motivation.
  • Determine how much money you’ll save each month once it’s paid off. Remember that number!
  • Start here and stay focused on the goal.
  • Pay that sucker off and celebrate!!
  • Keep the momentum going and tackle your next loan!

If you initially have $1,000/month in debt and pay off a loan that costs $200/month, start adding the $200 on to the next loan.

If it’s difficult to keep up with your initial “pace,” you can always loosen up your budget to help you stick with it. We definitely increased our monthly budget a little as our debt decreased and we got closer to the finish line. The important thing is to push yourself but pick a pace you can stick to!

It took us about a year of intentional, disciplined budgeting to pay off $20,000. This first year felt a little stagnant, but we kept with it. We were so relieved and motivated once it was paid off and this is really when we began to feel momentum to tackle the rest!

There were definitely waves of difficult times when we really wanted to spend more money and have more “splurges,” but I’m so glad we stuck it out in the end.

 

So there you have it. I hope this strategy encourages you to start tackling one source of debt!

What’s stopping you from pursuing a debt free life today? I’d love to know how I can help, so please comment below!

 

XoXo.

Em ❤

Faith and Financial Resources

3 Scary Statistics that Point to Our Serious Money Problems

3 scary stats that point to our money probsEver wonder how much debt and/or savings most Americans have? My curious mind couldn’t help think about this, so I went on a research “adventure” to learn more. Today I’m highlighting 3 scary statistics that point to the serious money problems in our society.

My hope is by shedding light on these issues, we’re all more motivated to fight consumerism, have a plan for our money, and encouraged to “swim upstream” in a culture who tells us we should live outside of our means.

So here’s what you’ve been waiting for…

Scary Statistic #1: average household debt

Check out each category below. Did you know the average household owes over $15k in credit card debt, alone?

household debt pic

Main Source ; Other Source

Scary Statistic #2: zero savings and no emergency fund

Shocked that 49% said they don’t have a savings account or have $0 saved??

savings and ER Fund pic

While the majority of us have thousands of dollars in debt, many don’t have a savings account or an emergency fund (often defined as 3-6 months living expenses). So while we’re indebted to someone else, we don’t have much of a cushion for ourselves.

I’m convinced even if someone’s on a tight budget, most of us could save for an emergency fund if we’re intentional about it.

Main Source; Other Source

Scary Statistic #3: car debt

car keys

“Today, outstanding vehicle loans add up to more than $1 trillion, with the average consumer carrying $12,000 of auto loan debt. The total student loan debt of the country stands at $1.3 trillion, not that much higher.”

Source

These facts are bad, right? I don’t share this to depress you, but to highlight the problem many are facing. We live in a culture where it’s normal to spend more than we make and not plan for the future.

“For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.” Luke 14:28

I think the information above is true because we compare ourselves to others, feel discontent, and make unwise purchases. I also believe we live in a “you deserve it” influence. The question as to whether you can afford it goes out the window if you “deserve” something.

So what if we got “weird” and crazy about paying off debt, using wisdom in purchases and savings, and started fighting the trend?

What if we bought a less expensive home than the loan amount we’re approved for?

What if we drove an older vehicle that cost less than the car dealer approved?

What if we cut way back on purchases that aren’t needs and tackled our debt or saved for the future?

What if we did all of this so we could be more generous?

Just because living outside of our means has become so normal doesn’t mean it has to stay this way.

My vision for this blog is to create awareness of our spending habits and an area where like-minded individuals (you and me) can encourage each other to view our resources differently. I hope to partake in the movement of thinking and living differently and ultimately impacting God’s Kingdom because of it.

 

Peace and joy!

Em ❤

 

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Random

“If You Want to Walk on Water, You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat”

My dream to be a voice about how we view and use our resources has been a dream for about 8 years. I chose not to take action on this dream because I feared what people would think (Would people like it? Agree? Read it?). Yet every time a motivational speaker would share or I’d see someone pursue their passion, I’d have that same stirring going on in my heart around my passion.

If you want to walk on water, you've got to get out of the boat. blog

Can you relate? Do you have something you’re inspired to pursue or feel a calling on your life? Do you fear what people will think or have other fears?

Today, I’d love to share that you’re not alone. I think it’s extremely common to have these thoughts and be held back from stepping out and going for it.

I’m just getting started with my blog. I have no idea how God wants to use me, but I’ve felt so much freedom and joy in just moving forward, stepping out in faith to pursue what I feel like God’s placed on my heart.

I’d like to share some questions/concerns I’ve had, along with how I feel God’s been helping me overcome these hurdles:

What if I run out of things to write about?

At the end of the day, any gift and/or passion is God-given for Him to use for His purpose and glory, and my good. If God wants to continue to use me in this capacity, I believe He’ll continue to give me things to write about. I play a part in this by learning, reading, preparing, etc. but, ultimately, my faith is in Him.

Besides, nothing I do will make a difference in someone’s life unless God chooses to impact someone through it.

What if people don’t like it?

I’ve got to remember who I’m writing for, ultimately. While I’d love to help people with their finances, and change the way we view our resources (myself included), I’m ultimately writing to be obedient and use my God-given interests for God’s purposes. Keeping this perspective helps me think less of people’s opinions. The moment I start writing for people to like and/or agree, I’m in for a mess of emotions.

How on earth can I please everyone reading this? Can you imagine how many opinions are out there, let alone trying to predict what people “want” to hear. Writing for an audience of One is way less stressful!

What if no one reads it?

Again, if I”m writing to use my gifts and be obedient, does it matter? I hope to help many people, and it’s been a huge joy to pursue this desire to speak into the topics I’ve been writing about, but, in the end, I want to please God.

I think we all struggle with similar thoughts, and I hope this encourages you that you’re not alone and to pursue your dream.

Bonus Points:

  1. What are people missing out on by you NOT pursuing your passion? You were made for a purpose and wired like no one else on the planet. Who could you be influencing, encouraging, or helping by stepping out and saying “yes” to your dream?
  2. Like I said, it took me 8 years to act, but the last 2 were spent preparing and reading books on topics I wanted to share on. You may not need this much time (and mine was spread out with various life distractions), but I think more often than not things take time to prepare for. Maybe you can’t pursue your dream 100% today, but what can you start doing to get there?
  3. I believe Satan wishes to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10). I think he loves making us afraid to do anything of significance. Realizing this, put on your war suit. Fight the battle…you’re not alone.

Lastly, I recommend reading Visioneering by Andy Stanely. It gave me direction and “arms and legs” to my vision. This also gave me fuel to step out, and keep going. It’s a short read, but a great one!

“If you want to walk on water, you’ve got to get out of the boat” – John Ortberg

Disclaimer: I love this phrase, but I’ve yet to read the book. I purchased it several years ago because the title inspired me. #dontjudge  😉

Ask any questions in comments below!

.Em ❤