Archive | January, 2013

Cost of Financial Freedom

31 Jan

What is the cost of financial freedom? I would probably say it is incalculable. I can’t tell you how many times I have found myself ruminating over my financial situation. I’ve caught myself driving down the road wondering what I would do if I wrecked my car because I wouldn’t have the money to pay for my deductible. And how would I get to work? A myriad of questions run through my mind at all times regarding my financial situation. I could go on and on about my – and there’s really not a better word -worries, but we are called to put our trust in Him. Jesus was very clear about worrying in Matthew 6:34, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

As I’ve begun to refocus my mentality on my finances, I’ve realized just how valuable financial freedom is. The borrower truly is slave to the lender (Prov 22:7)! At this point in my baby steps, I am still miles away from being out of debt. It could be several years before I pay off the debt I have. And every single time I spend money, I find myself thinking about how that expense will impact my debt free goal date.

Now, that’s progress for me. I used to not think that far ahead. I would swipe so quickly just so I could have what I wanted right that moment. I am very thankful for the progress. But I still fight shame about the situation I’m currently in. I’m paying my “stupid tax,” as Dave Ramsey says. And I will be for several more years.

I see my friends who have financial freedom. They have little to no debt, and I can see the lack of burden in their lives. I long for that. I want that. I want to be able to freely give. And yes, I want to have some freedom in the way I spend, too. Not too much freedom there, though! After all, that free spending mindset got me where I am right now!

For now, I will put my nose to the grindstone and continue to ask the Lord to help me understand how to spend and save my money. Or maybe I should say His money. And when I have a true understanding that it is all His money, then I will have true financial freedom!

What does financial freedoms look like to you?

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Best Starbucks Ever

25 Jan

I mentioned in one of my recent posts that I did not have much blow money for the two weeks until I got paid. I had $20 spending money. I don’t know that I have ever spent less than $20 in a two week period. I was almost terrified of what the two weeks would look like.

My financial accountability partner told me that if I made it two weeks without spending more than $20 she would buy me a cup of Starbucks. What a great motivating factor! I think it’s appropriate now to say how thankful I am for her. She has been absolutely fantastic through this process and so supportive, even when I was unreceptive (and maybe even a little rude) during our financial discussions.

But the larger motivating factor was for me to walk away from the two week period without spending more than $20. Last time I got paid, I was able to put a small amount of money back in my savings because I had refrained from spending it. I was so excited that I was able to keep that money! I wanted that feeling again.

I set a goal to have money left over. $5 was the amount I had in mind. I didn’t quite make it. I had $8 instead! By the way, a friend of mine paid for my lunch last Friday. I would have spent almost $8 on lunch if she hadn’t done that. Thanks, Kimberly!!!

20130125-085818.jpg I have to tell you…that was the best cup of Starbucks I’ve ever had. I even stepped it up and got a white chocolate mocha! Sure, it was free! But it was the accomplishment that led to the coffee that made it extra tasty! Now, I find myself wondering if I could do this for a year. If I trimmed my spending down for 12 months, I could have all my debts paid off except my student loans. 12 months isn’t that bad, and think about how good that cup of coffee will taste if I make it!

I’m not sure if I will try to do this or not. But if I decide to do this, I need to make sure I focus on each pay day, and not the daunting task of living on $20 blow money for the next year. One day at a time, right?!?!

What are some ways I can live on $40 a month blow money? Share your thoughts below!

Intentional Return

19 Jan

So, I filed my taxes and realized I would have a pretty sizable return this year. I immediately began to think about ways I could spend that money.

To be honest, I started planning how I’d spend my income tax return in August. I’ve been guilty of this before, and I usually plan something practical and then blow the rest. This year is no different, as I plan to get a tune up and to take my pup to the vet.

I also want to get some new running shoes. I’m not sure if I need to purchase these shoes. I could try to save up for them. I think buying the shoes with money that I saved for would be more satisfying and would also help me to be more sure I was getting the best deal.

After I realized that I would be getting a large return, I decided to change my deductions on my taxes. It’s important for me to have the money throughout the year instead of at the beginning of the next year. After all, I’m trying to get out of debt! If I have the money throughout the year, I feel like I’m more likely to spend it correctly. If I have a large lump sum, I’m more likely to blow it.

I’m trying to change the way I think and feel about spending money. Dave Ramsey says that handling money is 80% behavioral, and my behavior needs a serious work up. Every time I make my bed, I think about my spending. Every time I write a blog, I think about spending. Every time I write in my spending journal, I think about spending. Every time I open my wallet, I think about spending. Every time I listen to a Dave Ramsey podcast, I think about spending. Are you sensing a trend here?

I want to live intentionally. I want to handle my finances intentionally. I want to handle my relationships intentionally. I want every step I take to be filled with God’s intentions, for my life and for others. I hope that my blog is filled with intention. And I hope to continue to provide the good reports about how God is changing the way I think about spending and saving. He’s so good to me and wants to give us the desires of our hearts. My desire right now is to become financially fit.

I will keep you posted on how I spend my return. What do you plan to do with your return?

What do you want to do intentionally? How do you stay financially fit?

Jealous of Wealth

16 Jan

I listened to a Dave Ramsey podcast from January 10, 2013 about wealth and the perception of wealth. It got me thinking about how I used to feel about wealthy people or people who had a better understanding of how to manage their money than I did or ever felt like I would.

I remember a time when I was so consumed with my failures in my finances that I couldn’t stand to be around people who had financial success. I was so ashamed of my failures and so unsure of my ability to overcome my struggles with money that I seethed with envy around people that knew how to handle their money. I spewed anger towards these people and took everything they said to me as judgment.

My reaction to these people was not only unfair to them but unfair to myself. I failed in many relationships because I was bound in the shame of my failures. Many times these people probably didn’t even think about me and my money. But I felt like they were judging me. And it consumed my thoughts. I was so unhappy with myself, and I didn’t think I would ever be able to overcome my financial struggles.

I have gone to a couple of people whom I treated unfairly and apologized to them. When I realized what had happened, I felt that I needed to repent to these people. I did, and I am glad that I did! Here I sit today, hungry for a change in the way I think about money.

This was a difficult post for me to write. I now admit that my failures with my finances have led to failures in my friendships and relationships. But I shared this part of my heart because I am now more open for change. Now, I have friendships with people who have financial success, and I’ve even invited one friend to challenge me financially. I know now that I need the help! And I’m ready to accept it.

Now, I believe that I can overcome my financial struggles. God is so patient and graceful, and He has never overwhelmed me. I’m ready to go wherever He wants to take me, and I’m convinced He’s ready to take me to Financial Peace!

I Like Leftovers

12 Jan

And my God shall supply all your needs according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. (Phil 4:19)

Do I trust God enough to supply all my needs? Admittedly, there are probably times when I do not. It’s an act of faith to trust Him to supply our needs. There have been many times when I’ve rushed to make a purchase simply because I wanted it, thinking it was a need. Did I give the Lord a chance to provide for me? Emphatically – NO.

At this time, there is something I want. And it’s something life giving and spiritual. But I absolutely do not have the money to purchase it, regardless of how cheap it is, at least without rearranging some of my other expenses. If I did that, I would be manipulating my envelopes again, and I’ve been guilty of that way too many times. Look where that got me!

So, I’m trusting the Lord to provide it for me. He knows the desires of our hearts. I remember a time when I was traveling and forgot to bring lotion. A friend of mine unexpectedly gave me lotion as a birthday gift. If He can give me lotion, He can give me this desire, too.

On a positive note, I actually had some of my blow money left after I got paid. I went to the bank today and deposited it into my savings account. I’m trying not to lose focus on the accomplishment because if I look at my alternate savings account, there’s not a lot of money in it. Again, I’m trying to focus on the little victories. If the little foxes spoil the vine (Song of Solomon 2:15), can’t the little victories revive the vine?

Another note on my blow money – I don’t have much this pay period. Not much at all, and that’s a scary place for me. Having that money in my wallet is a source of comfort. But my comfort should be in Him not in man or man’s ways. “If I have put my confidence in gold, And called fine gold my trust, That too would have been an iniquity calling for judgment, For I would have denied God above” (Job 31:24, 28 NASB). And I think that living on this minimal amount of money will actually be healthy for me. It will show me that I can live on a minimal amount.

So, what are some ways that you keep your spending down? What suggestions do you have to help me until I get paid again?

Mine, Mine, Mine…

9 Jan

One of my very favorite movies is Finding Nemo. One scene in the movie that I really enjoy is when Dory and Marlin jump into the mouth of the friendly pelican and are chased by the seagulls. These seagulls are so driven by their desires that they fly straight into a sail. I imagine those seagulls were stuck in that sail for quite some time. Who knows if they ever escaped?

I am willing to bet that sometimes I have also been so driven by my own desire to spend that I push forward and don’t see the obstacles coming my way. And I’ve flown into quite a few sails of my own. And all I can do is run my mouth. And I’m still thinking about what I was chasing after. I bet those seagulls were frustrated with their situation! I certainly get frustrated with the situations I’ve created in the past based on my inability to say no to my desires and my inability to remain disciplined.

The key to my last statement is that I created the situations. If I can create the situations, I can create a way out of them. I am on my way. I have a great budget. I have a wonderful financial accountability partner (FAP) who lovingly challenges me to rethink the way I spend my money and save my money. I believe firmly in the accountability partnership, and she’s willing to challenge me, even if I protest too much.

Recently, she challenged me to rethink the way I handle my “blow” money. She asked me to think about spending less than I do now. I told her emphatically that the “blow” money is MY money. Darn seagull mentality again! She told me that it’s all my money. That may be true, but my blow money is the only spending money I allow myself. I’m still not sure I want to give that up, but I am prayerfully considering reducing my spending money. According to Dave Ramsey, I should be on a beans and rice diet. I should be able to do that for a little while, right? I am half-Korean, after all, and I love my rice!

Another challenge my FAP has for me is how I manage my “envelopes.” I don’t use envelopes for everything, but I do have a modified envelope system. Each paycheck I deduct money out of my check register for various expenses I might have. Some of that money I withdraw and some of the money I leave in my checking account. If I have any money left over, I usually put that money in my pocket and spend it on something. Mine, mine, mine…

What I should do is save that money. Eventually, I may be able to take that money and spend it. But right now, I’m trying to get out of the mess that I made, and to do that I need to be more disciplined in how I save. Saving has always been a thorn in my financial side. I HAVE to change the way I think about saving money. The best way to do that is to make saving more of a priority in my life. How have you made saving a priority in your life?

So, I will keep you guys posted on how I handle my blow money. And I will let you know how it goes with my envelopes. My main focus right now is to move the leftover money into my savings account. The blow money – well, I’m still not sure I’m going to let that one go. After all, it is mine, mine, mine…

Tide Roll! And I will too, One Day!

8 Jan

rolltide15Alabama played Notre Dame in the BCS championship game on Monday, and if you know anything about the state of Alabama football, you know there are really two types of people who live in the state: those who are Alabama fans (Roll Tide) and those who aren’t (me). I won’t go into the long drawn out story for why I’m not a Bama fan; that story is for another blog. But it is physically impossible for me to cheer for the Tide. I joked with my friends from church that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Phil 4:13), so surely I can cheer for their beloved Tide, right???

There really is so much truth behind that verse. I CAN do all things through Christ who strengthens me. I can learn how to manage my money so that it brings glory to Him. I can learn how to spend and save. I can prosper as the Bible promises over and over again. I can overcome a myriad of other problems that I have. God wants me to be all He’s created me to be. And my prayer daily is that I can be just that!

I had a couple of setbacks financially this week. One was of my own doing, and one was out of my control. I was discouraged with the circumstances and it took quite some time for me to reset my focus. But God…

In the past, I might have stayed there for a while, and maybe even given up on my goals. I would’ve just said “screw it” and thrown my hands up, probably with my cash in hand. Now, I’m focused on the end goal, which right now is focused mostly on my emergency fund. So, I rearranged some things and am still set to reach that mark very soon. And I have to tell you, I can’t wait to post that blog!!!

I still have a LONG way to go to reach financial freedom. I can’t wait for that day. But for now, I put my trust in Him. I will put my hand to the plow, and continue to work my plan. I won’t get it right all the time. I want to keep trying though, and perhaps the continued trying is the first breakthrough God wants to do in my financial life?

What kind of breakthroughs do you need in your life? Do you expect enough from God to help you overcome them? Please share what breakthrough you need below. And readers let’s pray together that we will overcome.

P.S. I did not cheer for Alabama. But with joy in my heart I say: ROLL TIDE!!! A 42-14 win!!! Congrats to all my Bama friends on your 15th National Championship!

One Step at a Time

5 Jan

I have to admit that I get a little discouraged sometimes. When I think about how far I am from financial freedom…it just seems like such a daunting task.

I’m reminded of how I got here in the first place.  I like to spend. It’s almost like an addiction.  And addicts have to take it one day at a time.  It’s important to have a plan and to have that plan written down because it helps to make the plan feel more attainable.  But I can’t spend all my time thinking about the end goal.  I have to think about it one day at a time.  If I spend my money here, here, and here, I can’t pay off this loan as quickly as I’d like.  If I can keep my focus on tomorrow and where I will spend my money instead of next year, I feel like it will be more encouraging to me.

Of course, applying the one day at a time mentality can be a problem for me.  I have a really great budget spreadsheet I developed a couple of years ago.  I really love that spreadsheet, and it helps me keep my expenses on track.  However, one issue that I’ve had is what I do when I don’t spend all of one of my line items.  I used to just put that money in my pocket.  Now, I need to take that money and save it.  One day at a time, right???

I heard a Dave Ramsey podcast yesterday where he read a report by an assistant professor at Washington University.  The professor had done a study that said that it’s more beneficial for people in debt to pay off the loan with the higher interest rate.  Of course, this goes against Dave’s snowball method, which I wholeheartedly agree with.  Dave says that financial problems stem largely from behavioral problems and paying off the smallest loans first will help modify behavior that got the person in debt, in this case me, where they are now. This approach makes sense to me.  It’s a case of reinforcement. When a loan is paid off, a feeling of accomplishment occurs.  The debt-riddled person (again – me!) wants to gain that feeling again, so she decides to work on the next loan.  That debt is paid and reinforcement occurs again.  So, let’s tackle the next debt, and etc…, etc…, etc…  I get it!

It may be a long and winding road.  There will be bumps. There will be curves. There will be sudden stops.  There will also be smooth roads.  There will also be straight lines.  And there will be moments of heavy acceleration.  Buckle up with me.  I’ve got my hands in the proper position, and I am focused on the path ahead.

13 Goals for 2013

1 Jan

I want to set some attainable goals for this year.  I wouldn’t necessarily call them resolutions, although I have no problem with people setting resolutions.  Sometimes I think we set unrealistic resolutions, and it seems like we set ourselves up for failure. It’s important to have reasonable expectations. I’m not sure how “reasonable” my goals are, but here they are.

  1. I want to run a 10k before the year is up.  I plan on running three 5k races and then moving up to a 10k.  I will keep you all posted!
  2. I want to give more of my time to organizations outside of my church. I love giving my time to my church, and I want to spend time giving to those outside of the church, too.
  3. I want to love more – those I know and those I don’t.  It’s easy to love those we know, and I want to show those I know just how much I love them.  I also want to show all of His people that I love them, even if it means I simply give a bigger tip to my waitress or I smile at the stranger in the checkout line. I just want to love more!
  4. I want to read more. Last year I attempted to read 52 books in a year. I didn’t make it, and the books I did read weren’t as enjoyable because I was more focused on the goal than the book.  This year, I just want to read more.
  5. I want to laugh more.  I sometimes take myself or my life too seriously, and I want to laugh more, whether I laugh at myself or with others. Laughter really is the best medicine, and I want to take it every day!
  6. I want to learn more. I want to learn more about myself. I want to learn how to handle situations better than I did last year.  And I want to learn more about the life God has for me.
  7. I want to meet more people. Enough said.
  8. Speaking of meeting new people: I want to meet a man who loves the Lord, and not just any man. I want to meet my future husband. Please pray for this with me!
  9. I want to open my heart more to others. I want my relationships to become richer, and that can’t happen until I open my heart.
  10. I want to smile more.  People have told me that I have a nice smile, and I want to exploit that feature more than I do now. I feel like it will help me better relate to others.
  11. I want to dream more. For years, I stopped dreaming for myself.  Now, I want to believe that God has great things in store for me.  DREAM BIG!!!
  12. I want to try more new things.  Maybe I will try cooking lessons or dancing lessons or something else that’s fun.  I just want to try things that I’ve never tried before.  I’m open to suggestions, too! 
  13. I want to have better control of my finances. I started this blog because I’m desperate for a change.  This time next year, I hope to move this goal into the “Things I did Right” blog.

It really seems like most of my goals are connected somehow.  I hope next year I can look at this blog and check off these goals.  Do you have any goals/resolutions this year?  Do you have any suggestions for my goals this year?

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