Seven Deadly Sins by Rox Steady

“If you don’t like something change it; if you can’t change it, change the way you think about it”.  ~Mary Engelbreit

Attitude goes a long way in determining change.  A popular “fix” for being in debt is to find a way to pay it all off (lottery, loans, actually doing the work) without changing attitude toward spending.  A year later, that person is back in debt because he continued to spend well above what he earned.

Greed is listed as one of the seven deadly sins– and it includes being greedy for financial “security” or keeping up with Joneses.  When I say I don’t want to be rich, but it would sure be nice to have a place of my own, that’s a form of greed (although working toward attaining a place of my own is not).  When I wish I made more money so I could pay my debt down faster, but I stop by Starbucks on a regular basis for my must-have coffee drink (with chocolate, please), that’s greed.   Ouch.

Contrary to what certain get-rich Christian (and non-Christian) motivational speakers may tell us, God isn’t looking to make us all rich.  I’d even suggest He’s not really looking to make us all comfortable:

A faithful person will be richly blessed,
but one eager to get rich will not go unpunished.

Proverbs 28:20

Somehow, that doesn’t sound like “go out, make money, and I’ll help you along the way” to me.

Jesus gave 38 parables.  Of those, 13 concern money  [Fearlessly Feminine, Ortlund, p56].  Here are a few:

  • The rich young fool (Luke 12:13-21).  Notice especially verse 15: Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”
  • The widow who gave all she had (Luke 21:1-4).  Not exactly a parable, as it happened right then, but still an object lesson.
  • The parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30).  Although this is often used to show why we shouldn’t waste our talents, it’s also an example of why we shouldn’t waste HIS money.

Yep, that’s right.  I said His money.  You didn’t think that wallet you carry around actually belonged to you, did you?  It’d be like a waitress at a restaurant thinking that the money in the till is her money, rather than the restaurant’s.  Mind you, I do this all the time.  Since I’m spending His money on myself, I need more.  If I spent less on myself, I’d need less.  It’s not like I’ve ever truly known want.  He provides.  I just want more.

The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it,
the world, and all who live in it;

Psalm 24:1

The biggest step toward changing my attitude, however, isn’t just realizing that everything I have is His.  The biggest change I need is to be content with what I have.  J Paul Getty was once asked how much money he needed to make him happy.  He replied with, “Just a little more.”  This from one of the richest men of his time.

But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

I Timothy 6: 6:10

Contentment isn’t an emotion, even though we tend to treat it like one.  It’s an action verb.  It requires work on our part.  Once you’re content with what you have, it’s easier to save money… because you don’t need to spend it on things you neither truly need nor can really afford.

That’s my goal for today.  Be content with what I have so I don’t go chasing after things I don’t need.  It’s a step.

 

 

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“If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.”  –  Derek Bok

I think I’m pretty rare.  I have a college degree.  I paid for all my own schooling (no loans or grants).  I loved college.  But I don’t plan on pushing any of my kids to go to college.  I think education is necessary for certain fields, but not for learning.  I’ve learned more out of school than I learned in it.

I am constantly trying to learn something new, and trying to save money is no exception.

One great source for information I may not have thought to look up elsewhere is Lifehacker.  Today, rather than reinvent the wheel, I thought I’d just send you straight to a great article from Lifehacker on “10 Easy Things You Can Do Today To Save Money.”  There are even a couple of off-beat ideas in there that I wouldn’t have thought to mention.

Enjoy!

Okay, I’m cheating a bit by listing something I already do, but it might help someone else.

Americans are a car-centric culture.  We spend more on our cars.  Our cars are bigger.  We cannot visualize living without our car.

Why?

Yes, there are times when you actually need a car.  Then there are times when it’s really convenient to have one, but you could do without… if you wanted.  Most of us just don’t want.

I got rid of my car almost two full years ago.  Since then, I’ve been making do with a combination of borrowing a car, public transportation, biking, and walking.  This has had several benefits:

  1. I no longer pay a monthly car payment.  I’ve always tried to buy used and pay off my car as early as possible, but this is still a relief.
  2. I don’t pay auto insurance.  This can add up quickly… and I never got a great discount for being a good driver, even though I was a very good driver.
  3. I don’t stress over rising gas prices.
  4. I lost weight.  Yep, you read that right.  When I couldn’t just take a car everywhere I went, I started walking more.  I hauled my groceries (which had the side benefit of not buying groceries I didn’t really need).  I have less time to sit around on the couch and veg in front of a computer or television.
  5. I helped the environment. 
  6. I stressed less (famous L.A. traffic can destroy the most zen of moods).

Yes, there are times I really miss having a car of my own, but I do not miss the cost.  I may see just how long I can go without one, even when I no longer have access to borrowing one.

(As a side note, today I biked, took a train, and will probably walk a bit.  Even though it won’t help me save toward the $200 because I was doing it already, I definitely saved money.)

There are so many great ways to save on laundry.  Here are a few easy ones:

*  Wear clothing that isn’t dirty more than once before washing it.  No, I’m not talking about your delicates or your workout clothes; I’m fond of a fresh-smelling environment.  But pants, especially, can often be worn more than once before you have to wash them.  Not only does this save on laundry costs, but it saves on the wear and tear to your clothing… and that saves even more money.

* Make your own laundry detergent.  There are thousands of recipes out there.  Almost every one of them is healthier for you, your home, and the environment than anything on the market.  Every single one of them is better for your budget.  You can Google a few recipes… or try this one to get started.

* Air dry when you can.  It may not always be practical to hang a line somewhere, but at least take the time to spread out towels and blankets to dry naturally.  Those take forever to dry in the dryer.  If you really don’t like the crisp feel many will have, then toss them in the dryer on “air only” for a few minutes to soften them up (use a dryer ball, too… you don’t need a dryer sheet).

These are just a few ways to get started.  We air dried several items today and I know it cut down my dryer time.  How do you save on laundry?

 

Alright, I just sat down to do my budget.  I used Dave Ramsey’s Budget Lite for the initial work.  Then I tweaked it.  A lot.

Dave seemed to think I could do my housing on $300 less than the lowest-price housing I was able to find.  I tweaked that one up to the maximum out of necessity.  I simply cannot find something for less than a certain amount.  Not the best start, but a necessary one.

I was able to lower my transportation by just a bit– or will be able to once I move.  Until I actually move, my transportation will be higher and my housing will be lower, but they should balance out together.  Again, not the way I normally would do a budget, but you have to work with what you have.

I dropped Savings, Medical, Personal, and Recreation some.  I have inexpensive interests for the most part and, while I want to put some in savings, I’d rather have more in paying off Debt.

I’m not sure who manages to eat (even a single person) for under $100 a month and eat healthy food, but I can’t quite do it.  I will be tweaking this one regularly, but I upped the amount for now.

Finally, I was able to put what was left into paying down debt.  It’s not the most exciting budget, but I do tithe, put money into savings, eat alright, and not have to live in a box on the side of the freeway (not much of a joke, since I see people doing that on a daily basis).  I’m going to make a tentative start at this this week, but it will go into full effect on September 1st.

Step one: check!

 

Might as well start out this savings thing on the right foot.  My first assignment is to make an actual budget.  I used to be really good at these; lately, I’ve fallen off the wagon (and it shows).  Today I’m going to do a budget.

If you never done a budget before, there are plenty of guides on the internet to get you going.  You don’t need fancy software, although it’s out there.  (After all, if you’re trying to save money, why spend money on expensive software?)

Mint.com has a very simple, easy-to-use site.  I’ve also used Dave Ramsey’s free budget planner.  If you’re good with spreadsheets, you can use Excel or Google Spreadsheets.  You can even just use plain old paper.  Just pick what you’re going to use and, for now, stick to it.

Step One: Write down all your expenses.  Seriously, write down everything.  Ladies, don’t forget those pesky feminine products.  Men, unless you cut your own hair, toss in a haircut now and then.  Put it all on paper with a rough estimate of what you spend on it.

Step Two:  Group spending into categories and major expense items.  I tend to have a miscellaneous category that includes “health and beauty”.  You divide it how it makes sense to you.

Step Three:  Give each major category a percentage of your income.  Divide that money between the items underneath it.

Step Four:  You can spend too much in an item line and move money from another item line in the same category, but you cannot move money between categories unless you have an emergency/ miscellaneous category.  You can move that one around.

Step Five:  Stick to it!  It will be very hard at first, but it will get easier as it goes.  I promise.

Go do your budget.  Don’t stop until you have something that uses up all the money you make each month but doesn’t go over.  If you have a fluctuating income, try a financial site like Dave Ramsey or Crown Financial to help you budget.

Challenge:   Track all your spending this week and put it into your budget.

Ready?  Go!

I’m going to start a new blog series (still to be interrupted at random times by the other things that interest me) on saving money; specifically, I’m going to try to save $200 by 2014.  That may not seem like much, but I’m fairly frugal in the first place, so saving another $200 will require some effort.

Every post will have something to do that day, a challenge if you will.  Every once in a while, I will also include a long-term goal.  You can “play along” with me or just see how I do.  Some of you will ignore me entirely, since this has nothing to do with diet, nutrition, or the Bible (ha!  That’s what you think!)

Here’s the fun part: accountability.  I’m going to post what I’ve saved here.  I’ll also post when I’ve spent more than I should have by the guidelines I’ve already blogged about.  So if I post about not going to the movie theater and renting movies to save money in December, I’m not going to dock myself in November.  I just won’t save any money.

I’ll post challenges the day before I plan to do them.  I will occasionally miss days.  You can do them the next day if you’re joining me.

Ready?  Time to tighten up my belt and go back to the awesome tightwad I used to be.  Set… go!