Archive - July, 2009

Keeping Promises

My daughter regularly makes ridiculous requests.  She will ask, "Dad, can we buy five rabbits?"  The answer, of course, is an immediate, "NO!"

However, there are some requests that she has made that are less ridiculous.  For example, she has wanted a treehouse for quite some time.  I promised her for her birthday (back in November) that I would build her one.

I told her that not only would I build her one, I said that it would be AWESOME and that we could camp out in it if she wanted.  She thought that this was the best idea she has ever heard.

In December, there was no tree house yet.  Not even a sign of it.  I told her that I would get started in January.

I did.  I put posts in the ground and put the floor on it.  Then it sat for awhile.

I won't bore you with all of the details, but it was finally completed last week.  We now have a treehouse that is over seven feet in the air, has three windows, a door, electrical power run to it (via extension cord), a fan in the window, and a front porch.  In all it is nearly 100 sq ft of awesome space that she and her friends are having a great time with.

And last Saturday night, I made good on the camping out promise.  It was so awesome that we camped out there again on Monday night – this time with one of her friends.  We got to experience an awesome lightning show and torrential rain this time.

The treehouse cost us money, time, effort, and some serious frustration, but the end result is worth it!

It feels great to have kept a promise.

Have you made some promises that are yet to be fulfilled?  Will those promises cost money?  Are you actively saving money for them?

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I Have Had Enough Rant: I Can’t Do This!

If you have attended one of our Financial Learning Experiences or heard me speak somewhere, chances are pretty good that you have had heard me talk about IHHE Moments – I Have Had Enough Moments.

I Have Had Enough … of those who say, "I can't do this!"

I have spoken to or with tens of thousands of people regarding the topic of personal finances.  Without fail from every single event, I have received the phone call, e-mail, or comment that basically says this:

That is easy for you to say.  You have no debt.  You have income.  This will not work for me because of .

I have had enough!  I do not want to hear it anymore!  The FACT (regardless of how one feels about a situation) are that you CAN win with your money.  You CAN become debt-free.  You CAN save for retirement.  You CAN own a house some day.  You CAN pursue a dream.

To those who would say, "Joe, you have no debt."  I would respond by asking them if they have ever read my book, I Was Broke. Now I'm Not.?  I was up to my eyeballs in debt!  While I pursued debt freedom, my wife had to have not one, but two major surgeries with huge deductibles that we had to pay.  Since we have become debt-free, we have experienced to more surgeries, two failed heat pumps, a fixer-upper house, a failed transmission, and many other expenses.  If we could endure this and become debt-free, so can you!

To those who would say, "Joe, you have income."  This is true.  My hero, Dave Ramsey, has said it many times.  There is a good place to go when you are broke – to work – it is a sure-fired moneymaking scheme!  I have always worked.  Always.  I might even be called a workaholic, but the fact is that I will not accept unemployment.  I have spent the time and money to obtain an undergraduate degree.  Once I earned a job in the workplace, I spent the time and money to obtain a graduate degree – all while working a full-time job, being a husband, and becoming a father for the first time.  But I will tell you that I have worked jobs that were horrible too.  I have cleaned confinement hog buildings and "maintained" the hogs (no further details here – but it was awful) – all for minimum wage.  I have cleaned horse stalls and green broke race horses.  I was trampled by one, stepped on a nail while climbing the fence, and scooped horse dung all day long – for a few cents more than minimum wage.  I worked at Taco Bell.  I worked in a smoking hot steel mill.  If I could do this, so can you!

You CAN do this!  No matter what your doubters say.  No matter what your family says.  No matter the frustrations of accomplishing it.

STOP saying you CAN'T do it, and START saying that you WILL do it.

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Stewardship Challenge Events – John Maxwell

I am PUMPED to tell everyone about three upcoming Stewardship Challenge events that I believe hold the potential to completely revolutionize church leaders' thoughts on stewardship.

These events are one day and are focused on equipping leaders to create a culture of generosity.  These one-of-a-kind, exclusive events will be held in three cities: Cincinnati, OH (8/18/2009), Charlotte, NC (8/20/2009), and Orlando, FL (10/15/2009).

Here is why YOU should attend one of these events:

  • John Maxwell  The leader's leader will be speaking at each conference
  • The Speakers
    • Brian Tome (Cincinnati, OH)  Pastor of Crossroads Church
    • Steven Furtick (Charlotte, NC)  Pastor of Elevation Church
    • Tom Mullins (Orlando, FL)  Pastor of Christ Fellowship
  • The Topics
    • Capital stewardship (seeing the vision become reality)
    • Annual budget (seeing the vision fully funded
    • Personal finances (equipping people to win with their money – my favorite!)
  • Free Stuff  Early bird registrants will receive a free copy of Generosity (Gordon MacDonald)
  • I will be there  And I want to meet you!  Of course, I will be talking about equipping people to win with their personal finances.  It is my PASSION (I'm sure you are surprised).
  • More Free Stuff  First ten to register at each location and send me an e-mail (HERE) will receive a free copy of I Was Broke. Now I'm Not. and its related Group Study!

Seth Godin and Tom Peters

I read Seth Godin's blog every day because I learn from him.  He is one of my "mentors from a distance".

If you are a small business owner, you should take three or four minutes to watch the YouTube videos (HERE) he posted recently.

My takeaways:

  • You win when you are focused on serving instead of getting
  • Blogging is worthwhile even if no one reads it – because it develops your ability to effectively and efficiently communicate your ideas
  • Your number of "friends" or "followers" does not matter.  What matters is the type of relationship you develop with them.

I love learning something new every single day.

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Guest Post: Trivial Costs Don’t Mean Anything

I had a friend e-mail me some thoughts about money the other day, and I loved it!  With his permission, here are Joe Hall's thoughts …

I started thinking the other day about all the "little" things people daily spend "just a little" money on.  Stuff like soft drinks, Starbucks, cigarettes, vending machine snacks or whatever.  All those things seem "little" because the amount paid for them daily seems "small."

Then I thought about this: what if there was only one day a year you could pay for those things?  (In other words, folks had to buy all their Starbucks, snacks, cigarettes or whatever for the year up-front, in one single payment).  Can you imagine the shock … and maybe even the re-ordering of priorities?

  • 1 Coke + 1 Snack from the vending machine at work
    • 0.75 + 0.75  = $1.50 x 5 work days/week = $7.50 weekly x 50 weeks per work year = $375 (pay now)
  • 1 Starbucks coffee per day; Monday-Friday
    • $4?  x  5 =  $20 per week x 50 weeks per work year = $1000 (pay right now)
  • Sweet Tea with Lunch
    • $1.50  x  2 lunches per week = $3  x 52 weeks per year = $156 (due today)
  • Cable TV Service
    • $29.95 month  x  12 months = $360  (pay right now)

I hope that makes sense … it sure came as a shock and made an impression on me about how easy it is to fritter money away on a daily basis, without realizing how "little" things get Super-Big in a hurry.

Joe's thoughts reminded me of a book I read written by an official "" Financial Hero – David Bach.   He writes about the "Latte Factor" – the money that we tend to unconsiously spend throughout our day.  He believes  (I agree with him!) that this money would be better directed toward savings, eliminating debt, or investments!

Thanks, Joe, for sharing!

If you have something you want to share, click HERE and send it my way!

Out Of Sight Expenses

When our daughter was born, I went around telling everyone that my baby cost $10 because that was all I had to pay out-of-pocket.  That was ten years ago when 100% payment HMO plans were hugely popular.

Have I ever said I used to be broke?

I made ridiculous statements like this because I failed to recognize the out of sight expenses.

While it was true that I paid only $10 out of pocket for my daughter's birth, I later connected back to reality and discovered that the birth cost substantially more than that.

I failed to recognize the out of sign expense of: payroll deducted health insurance premiums

I had actually paid over $200 every two weeks for three years with little to no use of the insurance.  I had actually paid more than $15,000 to the health insurance company for my daughter's birth.

Have you looked lately at your "out of sight" expenses?  What "set it and forget it" expenses are you paying for?

Here are a few that I regularly see:

  • Taxes
  • Health insurance
  • Disability insurance
  • Accidental Death and Dismemberment (AD&D)
  • Auto insurance
  • Home insurance
  • Property taxes
  • Car payment

Did you know that companies recognize our "set it and forget it" behavior?  They know that most people are not going to pay close attention to these costs, so they use it to their advantage and push through price increases that are largely unnoticed.

Save money by checking out the "Top 5 Ways To Save – Without Selling Anything" section of our Next Steps site.

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Savings Spectacular: Baby Sangl

Regular readers of know how much I love visual ways to track paying something off or saving money to avoid debt altogether.  We call them Savings Spectaculars and Debt Pay-Off Spectaculars.

With the miracle of Baby Sangl comes the lovely large medical bills.  We could sit around and pretend that the bills are not going to show up.  We could ignore the obvious.  If we choose to ignore the obvious, we will end up in a financial mess.

Let me clarify, this is NOT an event that qualifies for use of the Emergency Fund!  Why?  Because we have been given SEVEN MONTHS notice!  This means that Baby Sangl is moved to "Known, Upcoming Expense" status.

Since Baby Sangl is a Known, Upcoming Expense, we must save money NOW!

So we will start a new feature at – The Baby Sangl Savings Spectacular.

Welcome to planet earth, Baby Sangl, where your big sister, mom, and dad can't wait for you to arrive – debt-free!

(Obtain your own Spectacular HERE!)

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How Much Money Do You Need To Retire Well

Do you know how much money you will need to retire well (independent of Social Security)?

There are many ways to calculate an estimate, but I really like the Retirement Nest-Egg Required calculator that we have placed in the FREE TOOLS section.

To calculate your number, you will need to know two numbers:

  • The annual amount you want to live on at retirement (in today’s dollars)
  • The number of years until you retire

Suppose one wants $50,000/year (today’s dollars) during retirement and plans to retire in thirty years.  Punch the numbers into the Retirement Nest-Egg Required calculator and this is what you will see:

Because inflation erodes the spending power of money, the annual amount we want must be adjusted.  Using an assumed inflation rate of 4%, one will need $162,170/year in thirty years to have the same spending power of $50,000 today.

At different rates of return, you can see different amounts that need to be saved.  Eight percent is a common rate of return on investment that financial planners use.

What is your number?  Are you going to achieve it?

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In I Was Broke. Now I'm Not (you can read the intro HERE), a key principle that I share is the following fact:


I am debating holding a free seminar in Washington DC about this fact (maybe my representative will invite me).  It seems that we have COMPLETELY neglected it!

This is a not a political statement.  This is purely a statement of fact.

I submit my evidence:

  • The national debt (which continues to increase – view it LIVE)
  • Unfunded Social Security (My Social Security statement says that I can expect to only receive 70% of the stated benefits)
  • Tax revenues are way down so the "fix" is to raise taxes – not cut programs
  • When the OUTGO is clearly more than our INCOME, we have decided that this is not OK.  The cure?  Spend nearly $2 TRILLION dollars – using debt!

I am a simple person.  This means I have to look at this in a simple way – using my own life as a learning tool.

Simple lessons I have learned …

  • When I run short of funds, I have to stop spending or I will incur debt!
  • No matter how much money I have, I possess an uncanny ability to spend ALL of it.
  • When I run short of funds, I have to cut out spending – even on things that I really want!
  • If my OUTGO does not include "saving money for emergencies and known, upcoming expenses), my financial plan will fail when emergencies happen or when the known, upcoming expenses occur.
  • I have NEVER seen my bank account balance go up when I "saved money" at the store.
  • Huge debt is always a recipe for disaster.
  • A balanced budget requires sacrifice and compromise – from me, my bride, and my daughter
  • It is never fun to say, "NO!"  Especially to something we care a lot about.

What are your thoughts?

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148 Days Until Christmas

A friendly reminder from your corner personal finance website,

As of today, July 20, 2009, there are 148 days until Christmas.

Have you started saving?

More specifically, have you started saving for the following?

  • Presents
  • Christmas travel
  • Christmas Cards
  • Postage
  • Decorations
  • Giving to the less fortunate

Even better, have you begun shopping for or making the presents you will be giving away?

I know that I obtain much better deals when I am not under time pressure.

Jenn and I save for Christmas every single month because it is a Known, Upcoming Expense.  We also save for other Known, Upcoming Expenses like vacation, annual insurance premiums, etc.  We used the Known, Upcoming Expense Calculator to determine how much we should save each month/pay period.  You can too – HERE.

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Phrases That Americans Like To Hear – So Marketers Use Them

I have been observing advertising a lot lately to see what words marketers are using these days to get their hooks into our wallets.  I know they do a lot of research to find out the "sticky" words that will resonate with a potential customer and move to become a real money paying customer.

Surprise.  They are using words we like to hear.  Here are some of them.

"Save $20 on purchases of $50 or more."

  • I have never saved money by spending money.  Ever.  I have spent less, but I have never seen my savings account balance go up when I purchased something.

"Save 15% on purchases of $125 or more."

  • Comes complete with an asterisk that says "restrictions apply" (that is a nice GOTCHA!)

"Buy today and save $50!"

  • The word "SAVE" has to be the most repeated word in sales …  I guess that it helps us with buyer's remorse.

"$1 Sale!" or "Dollar Days"

  • We apparently like anything that costs a dollar.

"Buy A Linen Grocery Bag – Save The Planet"

  • I have saved the planet three times because we now have three of these bags.  Too bad we forget them at home at least half of the time.

I also saw the words "Deals", "Spend Less", "Free Shipping", "Smart Prices", "Easy", and "Budget".

My favorite line I have seen recently is …

Buy a bundle.  Save a bundle.

What words have you seen marketers using lately?  Anything new?

By the way, I like to really save money.  You can save money too – without spending a dime – by visiting the "Budget Boosters" section of I Was Broke. Now I'm Not.'s Next Steps Site HERE.

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It Is Easy To Be Broke

Many of you know that I write a weekly column for the Sunday newspaper (I would love for it to be in YOUR Sunday newspaper as well).

Recently, I wrote a fun article called, "It Is Easy To Be Broke".  Here it is …

As I walk through bookstores or browse for new book titles, I realize that a lot of the offerings are how-to and self-help books.

There are titles such as “How To Build A House,” “How To Be Happy,” and “How To Be Physically Fit.” I am sure that these books are extremely helpful, and I have purchased several of them. They have been beneficial to me.

I was wondering recently how come no one has written a book titled “How To Be Fat.” There could be a chapter on eating at fast-food restaurants for three meals a day followed by a chapter focused on sitting on a couch eating lipids of various forms. It would be easy to write.

The same is true for finances. I have been thinking about writing the book “How To Be Broke.” I believe it could be a best-seller. I would write a chapter about how important it is to splurge and give in to impulse spending. Another chapter would focus on how not working really helps one be broke. The final chapter would direct the reader to say yes to every single demand from one’s children.

Sounds ridiculous, right? The reason no one has written these books is because it is easy to be fat. It is easy to be out of shape. It is easy to be broke. What is the common theme to every one of these issues? Lack of discipline.

Because I know you are interested in how to be broke, let me share some key tips.

Never have a plan for your money. Planning is difficult and takes time. Who has time for boring and distasteful things like budgeting when there are so many other things we can do?

Never ask for a deal. Always pay retail. It is difficult and uncomfortable to ask for a better deal. Plus it takes time to comparison shop.

Always purchase a new car with 100 percent financing (or more). That way you can not only watch the car drop in value like a rock, but you can also make monthly payments for the next four to seven years.

Do not go to work. Work is not fun, and it requires effort. It also takes a lot of time, and it has its share of frustrations. Who needs that?

If you want to be broke, do not carry health insurance. It is so expensive, and the doctors charge too much anyhow. Plus you have never been sick, so it would be a waste of money. Ignore the fact that more than half of the bankruptcies in America are a direct result of medical bills incurred without sufficient health insurance.

That was fun! I think I may write the book.

You can read more of my articles HERE.

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Check Out

If you are one of the millions of people who are facing extremely tough situations with your home mortgage, this website might help you out a ton!

Here are some helpful tips/tools I found while browsing the site:

  • Self Assessment Tool  This tool helps you determine if you are eligible for Home Affordable Refinancing or Home Affordable Modification.
  • Home Affordable Refinancing  If your mortgage is held by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, you could be eligible to refinance – even if you owe up to 25% more on your house than it is currently worth!
  • Home Affordable Modification You can use a tool on this site to determine whether or not you are eligible for a mortgage modification.

You can visit by clicking HERE.

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Miracle Has A Picture!

I announced last month (HERE) that Jenn and I were SHOCKED, STUNNED, and AMAZED to learn that we were expecting a second child.  This child is truly a miracle.

We went to the doctor today, and now we officially have a due date of February 6, 2010!

Junior is 1.32 inches long and was moving his head, both arms, and both legs.  All of which caused his/her big sister to comment, "I think he has a radio in there!"

Below is a picture of our miracle.

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California Tax Refund IOUs

Jonathan (over at has posted a picture of his California tax refund IOU.

I had heard that California was unable to pay its citizens their tax refunds, but I had not seen an actual copy of the IOU.

Can you imagine a scenario where …

  • You overpaid your taxes …
  • You filed your tax return on time …
  • Your state says, "OOPS!  We spent all of that, you can't have it back for at least six months!"?

Let's see how this would work in reverse where you underpaid your taxes and you owe money to the state …

  • You underpaid your taxes …
  • You filed your tax return on time …
  • You sent the state an IOU saying, "OOPS!  I spent all of tha, you can't have it for at least six months!"

I do see that California is paying 3.75% interest which should allow the certificates to keep up with inflation.  I wonder if the interest is taxable?

Yet another reason to NOT overpay taxes.

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