Archive - March, 2006

Why should you be debt-free?

It allows you to focus on the truly important things in life – like your child losing their first tooth! You can go on paid-for vacations. You don’t have to juggle all of your bills with each of your paychecks.

It let’s you have a life. Become debt-free today. All you have to do to become debt-free is tell yourself “NO!” at least 1,349 times.

It is soooooooo worth it.

I am pumped up!

I am pumped up!

I am excited about having a financial plan that works! I am excited that my wife is highly involved in our financial plan! I am pumped up about setting goals and achieving them! I am inspired by others who have taught me extremely valuable financial planning skills! I thought that I would list a few reasons I believe that our financial plan works well.

  • My wife is involved and on-board with our financial plan 100%
  • Our financial plan is realistic and is not full of stuffitis
    If we do not have the money for something, we start budgeting some money toward it every month. It is amazing how fast we can save up money to pay cash for something if we will just tell ourselves to wait!
  • We drive two 10-year old vehicles that we maintain very well. If you have ZERO car payments, you can gain some serious traction toward financial success! (By the way, insurance is waaaaayyyy cheaper on two beater vehicles)
  • We budget each month’s income and expenses EVERY SINGLE MONTH! The expenses of every month vary greatly. June is wedding gift month. New babies are always showing up. Insurance is paid quarterly. License plates are paid annually. If you plan your expenses every single month such that INCOME MINUS OUTGO EQUALS EXACTLY ZERO, you will WIN!
  • We do not rush into large purchases quickly. One of the glories of not having the money available to pay cash for something is the fact that you will be forced to think about it for awhile while you save toward that purchase.
  • We pay cash for our purchases. Yes, we pay cash for our purchases. Even if it is a new (new to us) car, we will have to pay cash. That means we will have to save up for it. That is a big deal and a paradigm shift for many Americans, but think about it. If you never have a car payment, you will never owe the bank again for your car. You can save a ton of money in interest and continue to build toward a successful financial future.
  • We hang out with like-minded people. If you hang out with the I gotta get me one of these or the We can’t live without going on four cruises a year or the We eat out every single night or the We could not live without our Jaguar (and $700 a month payments) folks, we would risk catching their bad case of Stuffitis.
  • We set goals with dates included. If you do not have a goal, you will hit it every time. We listed Dave Ramsey’s 7-steps to financial freedom and put a date next to every one of them. We have been early on some. We have been late on some. We have been very early on others. The bottom line is that we have a plan, and we are working the plan.
  • We periodically review our spending. Sometimes our spending still becomes ridiculous – in both ways – too little, too much. Going a year without buying any clothes or shoes for our child is probably too little. Spending money on dining out every single day for lunch is probably too much. A review gives you some insight as to where you can make improvements.

I hope this helps you out some!

New Marketing Campaign: VISA takes Life!

In a surprising move, VISA has changed their marketing campaign from “Life Takes Visa” to “Visa Takes Life”. After an exhausting study of their account holders and their payment patterns, Visa believes that the “Visa Takes Life” slogan more accurately reflects the company’s actual focus.

In an interview conducted with Olova Themoney, senior marketing advisor of Visa’s brand management team, Olova explained the reason for the change. “I love the money. We at Visa can regularly charge interest rates over 29%. We can even adjust the interest rate higher if we see that the account holder is not paying on-time at another creditor. Even if the account holder is paying on time to all creditors, if we deem their level of credit to be higher risk, we can change the interest rate. I love the money. The great thing is that people try to complain, but our highly trained customer disservice team has developed an unpenetrable system that ensures that I never have to hear about it.”

Miss Themoney was asked how she could feel that any part of this activity was morally acceptable. She responded, “I love America! I love Americans! We put the American flag on many of our credit cards. To answer the moral issue – there is no moral issue! We are able to generate profits which allow us to take care of our families. Nothing different than any other American enterprise. The great thing is that we can increase the interest rates. The increased rates cause the balance owed to hit the credit limit, and that starts generating a whole new stream of revenue in over-the-credit-limit fees. This continues to increase the balanced owed. Eventually the person cannot pay on time and then we get to generate another important stream of revenue in late payment fees. The best thing of all this is that Americans will just go get another job to pay us! They will work overtime. They will not see their family. They will not be able to turn to anyone for money except for us! We have them as loyal customers for life. I think that it is incredible that we can have a customer for their entire life! We are marketing to children in middle schools now which enables us to have 60 and 70 year long customer relationships. How great is that?”

IT IS NOT GREAT! IT IS NOT ACCEPTABLE! LIFE DOES NOT TAKE VISA! If you are not careful, VISA will take your life.

Do you have a life, or are you just spending all of your time desperately working to pay off your stinking VISA card? CHOP IT UP! DONE! FINISHED! NEVER AGAIN!

Money Tips

  • Negotiate with service providers on major purchases (like a crown at the dentist or a surgical procedure at the doctor). The world is full of service providers – get a deal!
  • If you have kids and a spouse, get good level term life insurance!!! You can get good quotes at Zander.
  • Budget for a vacation and put your spending money in an envelope (or a set of envelopes). This will guarantee that you will not exceed your budget.
  • When planning a large expenditure, let friends, co-workers, and family know what you are saving for. Many times, they will be able to locate that exact item in a slightly used state for 25% of the price of new.
  • Use Microsoft Money to track your money. It allows you to see exactly where you are spending money and generates some cool reports to help you think about your options.
  • Use Microsoft Excel to develop your monthly budget. It takes out all of the calculator/pencil erasing time and allows you to focus on the actual expenses/income part of the budget. It also prevents you from getting pencil erasor all over your clothes!
  • Keep copies of your monthly budgets. After doing 12 months worth of monthly budgeting, you will be able to pull up your previous year’s budget for the same month and ensure you are not forgetting an upcoming expense. Plus, it is just plain fun to see the progress you have been making!
  • Plant a garden. It is a great time for family to work together to create something that will yield excellent food dividends! That saves money! Check out this web site to buy some seeds if you want. I love Burpee.
  • Sell some junk out of your garage or basement. You don’t use it anyway. So what if you used to use it. Get rid of it and turn it into something cool – like a paid-off credit card that has been shredded.
  • Review your spending habits in detail at least once per year. Where could you tighten up the budget? Where do you need to start spending more money? What could you do to take your personal finances to the next level? Do this with your spouse!
  • Teach your children about money! Do this through paying them commissions for completing chores. Show them the mutual fund you have set up for their college tuition. Have them send half of their birthday money to the mutual fund so they truly understand that their money is working for them so they can achieve something far in the future (or maybe next year if you have a high school senior!)

I hope this helps out some. I would love to hear some more tips if you have some.

I’m more convinced than ever!

I’m more convinced than ever that it is an absolute necessity to get my finances in order now! Over the last few days, I have met with people who shared example after example of people in their mid-40s, mid-50s, and mid-60s who are flat-broke and are paying a heavy price for a lack of financial planning. My heart is broken for them and their situations! If only they had known the basic financial principles of compound interest and that the borrower is slave to the lender! If only they had taken the time to think about the future and develop a plan. If only …

I resolve here and now to do everything I can to not say “If only …” Life is too short, too unpredictable, too fun, and too awesome to have to worry about preventable financial disasters. I want to focus on helping others overcome larger life issues. I want to make a difference in people’s lives. If I do not have a sound financial footing with a great financial plan, the impact I will be able to make will be marginalized. God has not called any of us to live marginalized lives!

Will you take the time today to ensure you have a sound financial plan? Will you take the time today to act on that plan? Join me in resolving to do everything you can to never say, “If only …”

Inspiration

I am inspired by people who aim to make a difference with their lives. I am inspired when a family is financially broken, and they decide it is time to change the situation in a major way. They become seriously focused. They will not take “No!” for an answer. They will not be denied. They have decided that it is time to make a change. It takes them time, but guess what? They become debt-free. They have a healthy savings account. They make purchases with cash. In the end, they completely change their financial future.

Do you know what this family is now able to do? Help others! Give more than they have ever given! Build wealth which can be used to forever change their family tree! True inspiration!

I am inspired by the single mother who manages to raise three children all by herself and put them through college without debt! This is someone I admire greatly! Why? She would not give in. She would not be denied. She would not throw a pity party. She devised a plan and made it happen!

I am convinced that those individuals who achieve financial plan through much focused intensity and effort are better able to help others and are happier for it! They developed a plan, purposed in their heart to accomplish it, and then they went and made it happen!

If you are the type of person I have described above, I am motivated by you! I am inspired by you! It makes me so pumped up to know people who are unwilling to take lightly the unbelievable benefits that are available to Americans.

Listen to your wife!

I am the type of person who just wants to make decisions. I want to do deals. I want to make it happen! I do not want to stand around and just think or talk about doing something.

A few years ago, when I was still loaded with debt, I was interested in purchasing a tract of land. I thought that being a landowner sounded really cool. I liked the ring of it. The fact was that I would not be the landowner, the bank would. I would really own a small portion of it – something like a small rug’s worth of the land would actually be owned by me. Even understanding that fact, I was ready to deal. I could taste it. I really wanted to do this deal.

There was just one problem. My wife, Jenn, did not feel right about the deal. Something was stirring in her that said this might not be a good idea. I was frustrated to even hear her speak anything but good about the deal, but she was persistent. I tried to convince her that this would be a good thing, but she still had “this feeling” that was not good.

I stalled. I delayed. I tried to convince her. Bottom Line: Deal was not what it first looked like. We did not do the deal. We learned a lot without having to spend any money.

Moral of the story: LISTEN TO YOUR WIFE! Even though it is not a popular thing for TV to promote, it really is a GREAT thing. Husbands, you will do well to listen to your bride!

Lack of motivation

A key reason that people do not develop a plan for their personal finances is a lack of motivation. There really are at least 541,326 other things that are more fun than planning your finances. The football game on TV, fishing, hunting, sleeping, eating, shopping, traveling, crocheting, gardening … The list really could go on and on. Besides, we can always deal with our finances tomorrow. No big hurry. It’s not like we are going to need a bunch of extra money right away.

Yawn. I’m so tired. I think that I am going to go to bed. I know that all of my money disappears each month without any of it staying in my accounts, but I am just so tired and unmotivated to deal with my finances. I can deal with that tomorrow.

NEWSFLASH: TOMORROW HAS ARRIVED AND THE UNMOTIVATED ARE BROKE!

Budgeting Tips

I have some budgeting tips that have worked for me. If you have any additional ones, I would love to learn them!

Tips
1. Use a computer spreadsheet if at all possible (Excel, Quattro Pro, etc.). This takes the math out of the calculations. If you remember something that needs included in the budget, you don’t have to erase everything you have written and redo all the math. This allows you to focus on the budget items instead of items like, “You punched that into the calculator wrong …”
2. Do the budget monthly! Every month presents its own budgeting issues. In the summer, you may be more focused on budgeting outdoor activities. In the winter, you may be more focused on paying for Christmas gifts and preparing for tax season. Irregular expenses also crop up – clothes for the children, quarterly insurance payments, quarterly tax payments for the self-employed, life insurance, school pictures
3. Work like crazy to fully-fund your emergency fund with 3 – 6 months worth of expenses. If you have this fully-funded emergency fund in place, then you can cease budgeting week-to-week. For those of you who are balancing paychecks and which bill is paid with whose paycheck in which week, you KNOW what I am talking about. Once you have the fully funded emergency fund, you can just sit down and write out all the checks at once! Talk about eliminating stress!
4. If you have upcoming expenses that you know are coming, start budgeting for them now. It is so much easier to plan for a $500 expense over the course of 6 months than in 1 or 2 months.
5. Every 6 months or so, hold a little longer budget session (
6. Keep copies of all of your old budgets. Once you have been budgeting for 13 months, you can always reference the budgets from that month in the previous year(s). That will really help you remember some of the irregular expenses you may need to be planning for.
7. Ensure that BOTH of you are messing with the budget. This is not a one-person show. It will not work nearly as well if only one person puts the budget together.
8. If the budget is not balancing this month, put it away for a day or two. Then, agree to get back together to review what the issues were. It may be that a simple solution is available and the wait may help you figure that out.
9. Use envelopes. It eliminates debit card transactions. My debit card transactions went down over 75% when we converted to cash envelopes. It also holds you accountable to the budget and absolutely prevents overspending. If you were to try one envelope, I would recommend “groceries”.
10. If the budget does not balance to zero, do not allow yourself to turn to debt to fix the issue. There has to be a point in time that you say “enough is enough – we have gotten poor results the old way, we are not going back there”. You will be tested on this one. How strong is your willpower to ensure you achieve freedom from debt?
11. If you have an irregular income, you should still do a budget. The lame excuse of “I can’t predict my income” does not work here. You can plan for the known part of your income and prioritize the rest of the expenses in order from 1 to 350 (if you have 350 expenses!). When you get income in, you pay down the list in order of your priorities. Once you are out of money, the end. Maybe next month.
12. While you are saving cash for a major purchase, the rigor of saving every single month for that purchase makes you focus on that item more. I have found that I can find AWESOME bargains when I have to spend 7 or 8 months saving for a purchase. Many times the bargain is 1/2 or 1/4 of the cost I had saved for the purchase. Talk about celebrating! This is budgeting working at its finest!

Those are a few of the things I have learned while budgeting. I welcome your tips!

BOO to the non-savers. Down with you!

From USA Today last week: $575 – On average, U.S. households overspent their incomes by that much in January!!! Below the main headline is a line that states The negative savings rate worries some. WOW! It worries some?????? My goodness, what is it going to take to wake up???? What we are doing is NOT WORKING!

Americans are stupid about money. We will spend money to buy Snow White and her 7 dwarfs figurines for our yard (I know someone who did this!), but not even save a single dollar!

If you can’t save any money, something is dreadfully wrong! Your priorities are out of order. What are you doing with your money that is more important than saving it? Don’t start that with that old line of crap like “I am paying for food and utilities.” For most people, this is a minor part of your income. Let’s see what is NOT a minor part … a brand new car(s), a new computer, a fine meal, a trip to Hawaii, a ski trip, new furniture, an addition to your house, a new big screen TV, a new Harley, fine clothes from the mall, a new digital camera, a new tractor, a new four-wheeler, a new barn, a new whatever …

These expenses that you pay on every month – were they needs? Really? You are really going to need to do some serious convincing to get me to believe that these are needs. Is it worth being broke? Is it?

Get real! Get angry! Do something about it! Become debt-free and save money! You can then buy what you want with CASH, give more money away than you ever dreamed, and save even more for the future.

Go make something happen. Take your finances by the proverbial ears and yell “THIS IS NOT WORKING!!!”

Need help? E-mail me with your questions.

You can do one or the other.

I’m so in debt. It is so hard for me to get out of debt. My husband is not on board with it. It is not possible for me to get out of debt. I have spent too long living on nothing so I am going to start living now even though I have to get it with debt. I deserve it. Our situation is really unique, and that is why we are in debt. We are going to get out of debt soon. I can’t get out of debt without borrowing money. I need money to make money, that is why I have debt. Debt isn’t so bad. If I can use someone else’s money, why wouldn’t I do that? If I can borrow the money at zero interest, it is like having free money.

Excuses. Lousy excuses. Here’s the deal. You can either whine about debt or spend money, but you can’t do both! For those of you taking “advantage” of such “deals”, I ask you Dr. Phil’s question: “How’s that working for you?” You are carrying debt. You are sending a lot of your paycheck out to pay creditors. If you were laid off tomorrow, how long could you make the payments? Are you happy with the answer?

When you have debt, it comes bundled with stress! When you stop using “deals” to your “advantage” and realize that the “deal” is that you are being taken “advantage” of, that is the moment of truth in which you truly realize that debt is dumb.

NOW!

We want it now! We do not want it later. We do not want to wait.

Whoever said that patience is a virtue surely understood this. There are so many things we can get RIGHT NOW! I will list some:

1. College degree on-line in as fast as 1 year. This ad appears all the time on the internet. Right. I am sure that is a sound education.
2. A new car. You can go get one now. You don’t even need money. You don’t even need to have good credit. Even if you have declared bankruptcy, you can go purchase a car right now without any money. Right. I am sure that is a good decision.
3. A new TV, a new computer, a new I-Pod, a DVR, new clothes. Right. I am sure that this is a sincere need.
4. $500 right now! For just $639.50, you can get $500 right now – BUT, you the $639.50 check you write now will be cashed in 21 days. Right. I am sure that is a rip-off.
5. FOOD. You can go get food right now. Hardly any waiting. Taco Bell, McDonald’s, Hardee’s (why?), Burger King, Chick-Fil-A (Yes!), Pizza Hut, Arby’s, Jack-In-The-Box, Carls Jr, In-and-Out, White Castle (Yes!). Yet in the time it takes you to drive to the store to purchase this food, you could eat like a king at home for less than 1/4 of the price. Uncontrolled dining out can put you in the poorhouse.

Here is the deal. If you can not control the I-WANT-IT-NOW kid inside yourself, you will never be able to have financial success. The I-WANT-IT-NOW kid will rob you and your family of financial peace and disable your ability to use your money to build wealth, help the poor and broken, and to restore hope. Instead, you will buy a whole bunch of stuff that will disappear into the trash heap or sewer shortly.

I am not telling you to not spend money. I am just asking you to consider the reasons why you are spending money and to challenge you to look for better alternatives.

Budget Budget Budget

If you do not have a monthly written budget where you account for every penny you spend, your money will not be working for you at its maximum potential. You can argue if you want, but I have yet to see someone NOT experience an improvement in their financial situation when they implemented a monthly budget.

Besides the monetary impact, it also improves communication for a married couple. Not only are you agreeing on your immediate expenditures, you are also agreeing on your long-term financial goals. By doing this, you will know each others expectations and desires better.

Since it is a proven fact that financial problems negatively impact marriages and that budgeting helps finances, why would you not be budgeting? I believe it comes down to a few things.

1) Know-how
2) Want-to
3) Time

The know-how becomes quite simple after 3 or less budgets, but the first time you sit down and try to put together a budget, you will struggle. It is difficult for many people to even understand where all of their money is going each month let alone try to tell it what to do.

The want-to is a wildcard. If both partners in a marriage are not both advocating the budget, it will be tough to have the want-to. Want-to really develops when your financial situation hits a point that makes you both realize how important it is to have a written plan. It could be when you are nearing bankruptcy, or it could be when you have inherited a large amount of money. Either way and for everything in between, you need a plan. You may not think so right now, but on this subject it does not matter what you think. A written plan that is followed will always accomplish more than someone aiming at nothing.

Time is a big key. It takes time to think about where you are headed with your finances. It takes time to learn about your finances and the options that are available to you – 401(k), 403(b), SEP, Insurance, 529, Coverdell, mortgages, insurances, etc. News flash: Even if you don’t have a plan, VISA has a plan. So does Mastercard, Discover, American Express, the furniture store, your college, and the car lot.

So I ask you to resolve today to acquiring the know-how, to making it a priority and a want-to, and to make time to sit down with your spouse and put together a written plan. Put it on the refrigerator door. It does not matter what others think, they are still broke!

I was broke. Now, I’m not! It all happened because one day Jenn and I woke up and said, “We NEED a plan!”

Have you invested yet?

A few weeks ago, I wrote about investing. Have you started investing yet? Every day that you wait means you have to save even more to achieve the same end result.

Investing is not hard. I recommend that you set up an automatic withdrawal from your checking account that happens every month. That withdrawal will be used each month to purchase shares of the mutual fund that you are investing in.

Once you have it set up, you will almost forget that you are investing that money every month. I bet you will not even miss it. The results, however, will hardly be missed. You will be using the power of disciplined saving coupled with the explosion of compound interest.

Sound like a boring post? It may be, but it is absolutely critical to ensuring that you are able to accomplish your future financial goals.

Hidden Treasure!

Do you have hidden treasure lying around the house that could make you debt-free immediately?

I have a friend who kept all of his coins in jars around the house. Whenever he would get change from buying something, he would put the change in the jar. After putting together his first-ever budget, he was becoming much more aware of opportunities to reduce his debt.

One day we were talking about his debt snowball plan and how much time would pass until he would achieve debt freedom. In passing, we somehow got onto the subject of saving change. He revealed to me that he had this process where he would save his change. I asked him, “How much change do you have?” He replied, “Oh, I don’t know, but I do know that I have one of those large pickle jars full of dollar coins!” WOW! That’s awesome!

Much to his bank teller’s dismay, he cashed in his change over the course of the next three days. It was that much change!!! Bottomline – He became debt-free! He had hidden treasure right there in front of him!

What do you have in front of you that could seriously assist you in your quest for financial freedom?

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