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3 Basic Principles To Get Control Of Your Money

Personal finances are just that: Personal. One blog post can’t answer everyone’s questions on what they should do in their own family’s money situation. One blog post shouldn’t be taken as all there is on this subject. But everyone needs a place to start. Anyone who thinks that money isn’t important is just plain wrong. The bible talks a lot about money. It must be pretty important if God put it in the bible. And yet, it’s one of the biggest areas of our life that we ignore, but that we hope all works out. But it won’t by ignoring it. Especially the subject of debt. The bible has nothing good to say about debt. Nothing. So, with that being said, if you’re in debt and you want to get out of it and take control of your money, keep reading. So without further ado, here are the 3 basic principles to get out of debt and start on the road to take control of your personal finances:

1) Stop going into more debt. Stop borrowing more money. Seems simple huh! You can’t get out of a hole by digging out the bottom. This one’s not too complicated but it will be hard to start. Cut up your credit cards and most importantly, follow the next 2 steps because it’s a packaged deal. NO MORE DEBT!

2) Get on a written budget. Do a new budget, every month, before the month begins. Tell your money where to go. John Maxwell said “a budget is you telling your money where to go instead of wondering where it went”! Dave Ramsey says “When you spend your money on paper and on purpose each month with a written budget, you’ll actually experience more freedom than before!” DO A BUDGET!

3) Get on the same page with your spouse. It is vital, let me repeat that, it’s VITAL that you and your spouse be on the same page with your finances. Since money issues are the number one cause of marital issues and divorce, it’s also the number one opportunity to strengthen your marriage. Please hear this: if you and your spouse talk about your finances and agree on your spending, you’ve just agreed on your value system. Your marriage will be so much better because of it. WORK TOGETHER!

There you go. Simple and basic huh? Yep. It’s easy right? Nope. It’s actually easier said than done. You have to really want it. It’s like a diet. Find your why factor, make the decision and then go for it. If you’re like me, you like basic and easy to follow steps to get you started. Especially in an area that’s so big and intimidating. It’s not easy… But it’s worth it. Trust me. Start handling money God’s way! Basic principles. Baby steps. GO!

Please see my resources “Finances 411” page for tools to help with the above steps.

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FPU Graduation

Graduation Table

I’m back. I apologize I didn’t post on Tuesday. That was the day I took the Coast Guards’ Service Wide Advancement test. So, I was studying for the test since last week. I’ll get the results next week sometime. But enough about me. Lets get into today’s topic. Please read on:

Well, Clarissa and I just finished coordinating our 5th Financial Peace University (FPU) class. This time it was at my Coast Guard base and this group was awesome! The class was only 9 short weeks long and we had 14 Active Duty members and 6 of their spouses attend. That’s 20 people. They had a lot of debt. We are keeping that number confidential, but it was quite a bit. I can tell you this. In just 9 weeks, these 20 people managed to pay off over $72,500 in debt. They saved almost $28,000 cash for their emergency fund and they canceled 25 credit cards. Four of the households turned in 55 pieces of junk mail from credit card offers. By turning these in, those 4 households avoided an additional $114,000 in potential debt. And better yet, every single person in that class learned how to stop the pre-screened, pre-approved credit card offers. Plus, 6 households made the decision in front of the class to cut up one or more of their credit cards and cancel them (they got a special gift at the end of class). They have decided to live like no one else, so that later they can live like no one else!

Many of the attendees said how great this class was and how much they learned. One of the couples had already taken the class not too long ago, but they decided to take it again. It was worth it to them. They wanted to change some things in their life so they made the decision to do something different and then stuck with it. The Command (of our base) was impressed with the above numbers and they know that the stress level of those members will go down as they pay off more debt and increase their savings!

Although it was only 9 weeks long, Clarissa and I like to make the last class a little special. So we had a graduation. We had dinner catered by one of the Coast Guards cooks. We had a special cake made in the shape of a cut-up credit card. We had a few prizes to raffle off. To the ones who cut up their credit cards in class, we gave a special hand-made Christmas ornament with the cut up credit card pieces inside, along with the symbol “No Debt” on the front. Then we passed out the Graduation Certificates in a nice Coast Guard folder. Everyone said they had a great time.

So what makes these 20 people different from anyone else when it comes to their personal finances? Not much. Only that they all made the decision to learn something new and then applied it to their situation. They acted upon this new information. They made a commitment and then charged ahead! Everyone can do this too. In my next post I’ll be talking about the 3 basic things that you need to do if you want to get out of debt and change your financial position. Stay tuned. It’s basic but important. Don’t miss it. Until next time…

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I can do all things…

Every good parent wants their kids to grow up to be the best they can be. To contribute positively to society. To make a difference in this world. To stay out of trouble and away from the wrong crowd. To be self-sufficient. And of course we want them to have our value system and political views, along with them liking our interests and hobbies (like Star Trek, Baskin Robbins, & Pepsi of course). We teach, train, mold, shape, guide, love, discipline, and correct them, along with a hundred other things. Years and years of parenting. We will pray and read the bible (if we’re wise). We’ll read so many resources on parenting like books, blogs, articles, and websites. We talk to other parents, young and old, to get their opinions, their techniques, and parenting styles. Some parents will even give us their opinion even when we don’t ask for it! We would do almost anything for our children to turn out okay.

Well, at the Easter Church Service this year (read my post “My Easter Lesson“) the kids were in service with us. Matthew said he wanted to fill out the connection (attendance) card. I said okay. Then I suggested he write a prayer request on the back of the card. He said okay. When he was done, I read It. I was taken aback. I was speechless. I was humbled and proud at the same time. I thought maybe, just maybe he’s getting it. Getting the most important thing in this world: God. Because with God, all things are possible. Matthew prayed “Dear God, I pray for all the people who can’t go to church.” Wow. What a powerful prayer from a 7-year-old. Did you get what he said? ALL the people who can’t go to church. Only God can help with that. That’s a tall order. How would God help? One of His biggest ways is by using other people to invite, give rides, and be a witness. Maybe Matthew will have a heart to serve in that capacity as he grows up. I can’t wait to see.

Parenting is so challenging. There is so much pressure that goes with the territory. The constant battle of what God says, what the culture says, what we were taught growing up, and what our feelings are telling us. It wears you down. There are days when I don’t know if I can do it anymore. Days when I have no idea what I’m doing. And most days I’m not trying to teach my children anything intentional or on purpose. I’m just trying to make it through the day. But they’re always watching me. So I will continue to pray for my children, to read, study, learn, grow myself, watch my attitude, integrity, and character, teaching them our value system, and helping them find out who they are and what they’re meant to do in this world. Then I’ll pray some more and ask for God’s grace and that He’ll fix all the pieces that I’m going to mess up or put in the wrong order. But with God, all things are possible!

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13 NKJV)

Thanks to the PicTapGo app for the picture filter!  https://itun.es/us/vBX4I.i

Thanks to the PicTapGo app for the picture filter!

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“Angels” (watching over me)

Metal Piece 3

This is a long post. Bear with me. 

 When I was 18, I was driving home with my girlfriend (at the time) after visiting my mom on 4th of July. I’m cruising along a typical Southern California freeway, at night, around 9:00pm, in the left lane (aka “The Fast Lane”). And of course me being a cool 18-year-old So Cal guy, with a girl friend,  I was styling in the ever so awesome car, a 1979 Honda Prelude, rust color, with only like 2 gears, but yet it was an automatic. Don’t ask! Well at one point during the drive I decided I would change lanes. I was looking straight ahead and was about to turn on my turn signal. As I did, I thought I saw something in the air. It looked like a piece of paper. No big deal. So I glanced over my right shoulder at my blind spot, then looked straight again and just as I was turning the wheel…. CRASH! Or maybe it was a BOOM. I’m not sure of the actual sound, it happened so fast. It’s hard to put into words. All of a sudden the cabin of my car was filled up with what I thought was smoke. It was cloudy. I couldn’t see out my window. My girlfriend was freaking out. Now, I’ve never considered myself to be like those cool guys in the movies when disaster happens and they run into the danger and have a cool head, and make amazing saves of everyone they come in contact with. I wasn’t like Captain Jean-Luc Picard in Star Trek: The Next Generation who was always cool under pressure. Maybe it’s because I had never been in a situation where I had to be. But, don’t worry, to my surprise, I kept my head. I rolled down my window and managed to pull onto the center divider, on that dark 4th of July night, on a busy Southern California freeway. 

 Well, once I stopped and turned off the car the smoke began to clear. Then I saw it. A hole in the lower part of my windshield. Right in the middle. It had to be about six inches in diameter at least. My dashboard had popped off and was laying on the passengers floorboard. The radio had popped out and was dangling by the wires. And on the back seat, right in front of my very cool Sony boom box, was a square metal thing. What we think happened was this small but heavy piece of metal (please see picture above. It weighed about 6 lbs!) had fallen off a truck and another vehicle must have run over it and flipped it up into the air. That’s what I think I saw when I said it was a piece of paper. Boy was I wrong. The metal piece then fell back down to earth, right toward my car. Almost like my car was acting as a magnet. Maybe because the natural color of my Prelude was rust, the metal piece thought it had finally found a kindred spirit, I don’t know. So it hit my windshields at an angle, then hit my dash-board, then went soaring between my girlfriend and I, and eventually landings in the back seat. It grazed my girlfriends left arm, leaving an abrasion.

 We eventually got home and all was well. The scary thing for me to think about as I laid in bed that evening and even to this day, is how close to dying I came that night. Because remember I was about to switch lanes. I had literally started to turn the wheel to my right. If the metal had hit my car only 1 second later, it would have hit me right in the face with the angle it was coming in at. Just a 6 inch difference would have changed the outcome of that night. Or, if I would have been just 6 inches to my left (toward the middle divider), my girlfriend would have been hit. But by the grace of God and His Angels, I was in the perfect position for the metal to pass right between us. Just a scrape on her arm was the only injury. Her mom and dad commended me on remaining so calm that night. 

 But 18 years ago, 6 inches and 1 second meant the difference between life and death. It’s crazy to think about. I was reminded of the Amy Grant song “Angels” (watching over me). If you haven’t heard that song before or it’s been a while, I encourage you to take a listen. Ask yourself how close you come to disaster everyday. How many times has God watched out for you? How many times have your Angels protected you? More than we want to think about I’m sure. And I don’t want you to be freaked out or paranoid everyday that somethings going to happen to you. Remember my post about “Fear is Powerful“? FEAR NOT the Bible says. The point here is to be grateful you have a God, a Heavenly Father, who is watching out for you all the days of your life. He’s got your back. He has personal body guards watching out for you 24/7. They don’t take breaks, they don’t grow tired, they are dedicated to you because God wishes it. Never forget to thank God everyday for what you have and for having another day to be alive. It truly is a gift. 

 

“If your asking what’s protecting me, your gonna hear me say:

 Got His angels watching over me, every move I make,

Angles watching over me!

Angels watching over me, every step I take,

Angels watching over me….

… Though I never see with human eyes the hands that lead me home…” 

 – Amy Grant song “Angels”

 

For he will order his angels to protect you wherever you go. (Psalms 91:11 NLT)

 

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Power Off!

slide-to-power-off

 

Technology is awesome these days. My dad asked me a while back if I remember telling him when I was younger how cool it would be if someday people could talk to each other and see that person on a screen or something. Video Phone! Now look at us. Video Chat, Skype, and FaceTime (my favorite). Looks like my prediction came true. Add to that iPods, iPads, iPhones, iMacs… We’ve gone iCrazy! Households have multiple computers and multiple cell phones, and multiple mobile devices (and maybe a pager or two might still out there)! Smart TV’s, TiVo & DVR’s that can record 4 TV shows at once. You can set up a recording of a show on a whim. Just access it on your smart phone. Mobile Internet. Remote car starters. Wireless printers. Buying anything you want, whenever you want, with just a few clicks (which is dangerous to your wallet so read my post called The Dangers of Loyalty). I know there is so much more out there, I haven’t even scratched the surface. Facebook, Blogs, Twitter. Everyone’s an expert and has an opinion! And all of that is at our finger tips. When we get the smallest inkling about anything, BAM, it’s we put it on the Internet. We’re so into what everyone else is saying on all the social media sites (which I thank you for reading my blog by the way), then it’s off to the entertainment circle to see what all the stars are doing, then we go to the news to get informed about the world around us, then maybe we’ll watch a little reality TV (reality…. yeah right), then it’s back to social media, and then whatever time and energy we have leftover is what our family will get. Something is out of whack.

There’s a disconnect. Families sitting at the dinner table all on their own devices. Playing games, checking everyone’s status, checking e-mail, text messaging, and having their ear buds in listening to music! Each one of the family are in different rooms of the house and someone will send a text message to another family member who’s in another room instead of, dare I say it, getting up and walking to the other person. How has technology changed us? We’ve been told that all this new and cool tech stuff would help us have more time! How’s that working for ya? Getting texts while you’re in the bathroom or in the middle of the night! And for some reason we feel obligated to answer it right away.

We need to unplug from the tech life and spend time in our real life. Switch the two around. We need a healthy balance. Technology is good, don’t get me wrong. I love my gadgets, gizmos, and doohickeys. I can’t imagine not having my iPhone. But just ask yourself how a new piece of technology will affect your behavior. How much time will it require from you? How much time will it steal? Is it really helping you? Sometimes less is more. Don’t forget about what your real priorities are (your family in case you needed a hint). And I don’t mean your Facebook family! Unplug one thing and plug-in to something else. Something that’ll make a difference long after all the fads have faded into the past and something new has taken its place. It will happen. So know when to power off…

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The Dangers of Loyalty

Brand Loyalty
I am the most loyalist person I know. Is that even a word, loyalist? It is now! When I find something that I like, I am so loyal I seem to forget all the laws of logic. Mr. Spock (Star Trek) would be disappointed in this Trekkie! Now, of course, not all loyalty is bad and being loyal to something or someone can be very logical. Such as to God, your spouse, and your kids, just to name a few. But what about having loyalty to other things, things that will cost you money if you stick with them. Such as to a certain company, brand, or product. How about something as simple as a basic store rewards card (not a credit card) for a certain company. I used to buy so many items from a specific store because I got the reward points. But I didn’t get actual cash back? Oh-No. I was privileged to receive a store discount (it was a dollar amount and not a percentage). So each dollar I spent at that store would count for a certain number of points. Once I accumulated so many points I would get the discount. Sounds like a good deal. Save money on items I would have probably bought anyways…. Hmm.

Yesterday I priced out the difference between six of the exact same products at two different on-line stores. The results were enlightening. I’ll call them Store “C” for the cheaper store and Store “E” for the more expensive store. If I would have bought these items at Store “E” using my rewards card instead of going to Store “C” where the items were cheaper, GET THIS, I would have paid $144 more but I would have received $20 off a future purchase at Store “E”! Does that sound logical to you? Me either. But I did this ALL the time back in the day. I just didn’t think about it. I wanted that free store money.

How many of you do this all the time? What are you so loyal to that you’ve never looked up to see what you’re actually paying and what you actually get in return. COME ON! There is a better way. A cheaper way. A way you can save more money instead of trying to win at THEIR game.

Now I know better. I shop around. My wife is great at this too. She looks for the best deals by hunting, and hunting, and hunting. She’s a great deal finder. I still shop at Store “E” sometimes. But it’s the exception rather than the rule. And yes, Store “E” sometimes has items that are less expensive than other places, but you need to shop around. Price shop and compare different places. Then pay with CASH. Cash is powerful. Get a discount by using real money. Cash is King! Try it. Brand Loyalty can be dangerous and expensive!

P.S. – So the non-important things that I am absolutely loyal to are: Star Trek, Baskin Robbins, and Pepsi. NOT Star Wars, Cold Stone, and Coke. Just an FYI in case you were wondering! 🙂

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Fear is Powerful

http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/images/results.aspx?qu=fear&ex=2#ai:MC900111472|mt:0|

For years now I’ve prayed that God would show me what I’m supposed to do with my life. What I should be when I grow up. I was hoping for… No. Wrong word. I was expecting Him to show me in a big and flashy way, no mistake about it, a loud booming and audible voice, with fireworks, or a big neon sign that said this is it or this way to your dream, to your calling, to your destiny! I wanted to be able to say “I just had an apostrophe! Lighting just struck my brain” (quote from the character Mr. Smee in the movie Hook)! I mean, it happens to other people. I’ve read about it and heard them telling their stories all the time on blogs, articles, interviews, and when we were in Amway, on how it happened to them. (We were in Amway when we first got married. We weren’t very good at it!). Those people “knew” who they were and what they were meant to do (so they said)! I mean, come on God. When is it my turn? We even had a pastor who did a whole series on how to find out Gods will for your life. I must have listened to those CD’s dozens of times. And yet nothing came to me like I was hoping. I wanted my answer the easy way. God might do that lighting-strike-clarity-stuff for some, but not for most and certainly not for me. It’s easier for me to know God’s will for my wife than it is to know His will for my life! I once heard it said that God traffics in the ordinary. In the everyday workings of our life.

So if that’s the case, how would He show me what I wanted to know? Maybe He already has I just have to look for it. He gave me talents, gifts, and abilities. I used to think I didn’t have any of those things. I really didn’t know what they were. And to be transparent, I’m still realizing what they are. They weren’t so evident from my perspective. My fear of failing and not being in God’s will was crippling. I wasted years of my life afraid of being wrong. So I waited for God to show me. I literally sat around waiting and ignoring the gifts, talents, and abilities that I already had. I was like a frightened turtle!

And while I haven’t quite figured out what my true “calling” is YET, I’m SO much closer now since I’ve been putting forth some effort and expanding my horizons by trying the things that interest me. I started a blog for goodness sakes. I have faith that I’m slowly learning who I am and what potential lies inside me! I will not let fear control my life.

Jon Acuff says that it’s not so much discovering your dream but recovering it. Going back to the things you used to love before fear crept in. We’ve all been called to do something great. The Bible says to fear not! What is fear holding you back from recovering?

For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you. (Isaiah 41:13 NIV)

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My Blog Post Schedule

So, last weekend I posted that I would drop my posting down to a couple of times a week. I gotta say I have mixed emotions about that. It’s kind of bitter-sweet. On one hand I find myself thinking everyday of several blog posts that I could do and I start to draft what I’m going to say for each of them. Each of my ideas, I THINK, are brilliant of course (I say sarcastically), and I find myself wanting to work on nothing but the blog and to post everyday. I also have a lot of other responsibilities and I really need to force myself to balance them all or I get carried away (family and work as an example)!

On the other hand, it is nice to have several days between posts to organize my thoughts and make sure I’m putting my time and energy into the topics that I think are the most important, from the ideas that I have. I thought I would run out of things to write about. Yeah! I don’t think that will happen for a while. To give you an idea, I have about 41 post ideas in the “queue”. Some are more developed than others. Several are already written while others are just a few words for the general idea. So, I’m excited for what’s to come.

That being said, here is the schedule I plan on posting every week. This way you know when to expect something new! Hopefully you’ll continue with me on this journey of Blogging. And if you would like the posts to be on different days of the week, leave a comment or e-mail me by going to the “Contact” page and let me know what you would like and maybe I’ll switch it up a bit.

Tuesdays
&
Saturdays

Until tomorrow! Have a great night.

 

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“Baby Got Back”

As my wife and I were sitting in the living room, just hanging out this past Saturday morning, our youngest, Abigail, entered the room. Our oldest, Matthew, soon followed. I think our middle one, Noah, came in too. It’s like they know when we want to just sit and relax for a few minutes. Well, Abigail decided she wanted to put on a pair of Noah’s underwear over her pull-up. As I was looking straight at my wife’s face, I could see something happening in her brain. It was like she wasn’t sure what to say but the wheels were turning. Abigail began walking around showing off the underwear and her pull-up must have been full because her butt stuck out a bit. Then all of a sudden, my wife blurted out “Baby got back”! And immediately her eyes got real big and she looked at me with her mouth wide open, as if to say, why did I just say that”. She was kind of laughing a little. Of course, our quick little 7-year-old, Matthew, wasted no time in repeating the phrase… “Baby got back!” he said. He giggled and thought it was funny only because Mommy was laughing (but Daddy was not). He had no idea what he just said or what it meant. I had to do some quick Father Damage Control (FDC). I just made up that term, lol.

Needless to say I hope Matthew took my WARNING to heart. Or maybe he’ll simply forget about that phrase and move on with his busy life. Clarissa and I don’t cuss. The worst word we say is Crap. And the boys know that’s a “Bad word”! So Matthew told me some things the other day. He said, “Daddy, someone at school said the “S” and “F” words”. He whispered in my ear “Yeah, they said stupid, shut-up and fudge”. I said “Oh, well, we don’t say those words, right?” “Right, Daddy” he said proudly. Because he knows if he says a “bad word”, the soap’s coming out and we might have a case of “Soap Poison” (reference to the awesome movie “A Christmas Story”).

So, be careful what you say around your kids.They repeat everything. As the saying goes, with kids, things are more caught than taught. They are little sponges! To all you parents reading this, try holding your tongue. I TRIPLE-dog-dare-ya!

(And yes, my wife approved this post. And no, she does not know the rest of the song!)

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. (Ephesians 4:29 NIV)

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THE END & RESOURCES

Well, I posted everyday last week like I said I would. Now there is some content on my new blog site. I’ll be going to only once or twice a week now, so stay tuned. In the mean time, please re-read the posts that I’ve already written, comment on them as you wish, and share my blog with everyone you know!

Also, there’s a lot of information out there on the Internet these days. For me, I find it a little overwhelming. To help you sift through some of it and narrow it down to a handful of reliable sources, I offer you a Resources Page! Hope you like it.

Faith 411

Family 411

Finances 411

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