Monday, October 6, 2014

Money Monday: It's that time

This is my favorite time of the year! Why? Because there always seem to be a shift in most people's attitudes. People are happier and getting caught up in the spirit of holiday season! The weather changes...it starts getting cooler outside. It's very pleasant. The sweltering heat is gone for the most part. It's not quite sweater weather yet, at least not here in Houston, but it's probably time to put away the flip flops and tank tops.

Now if you love this season as well, you also know that it is also a time of frivolous spending. Many people get caught up in the glaring 'SALE' signs in the store windows, television ads and Internet pop-ups. These ads are even more crafty nowadays because your previously viewed websites now appear as advertisement banners on your e-mail homepage. And these ads are very specific. Try looking at an item for a second too long, I guarantee you, the very next website you visit, that item will be there reminding you to buy it.

Anyway, if you're like me and you love this time of the year, don't allow the euphoric feeling to dictate your spending. Let your wallet do the talking. If you haven't prepared a budget for your holiday spending, now is the time to do so. Think about your past gift-giving habits. Do you overspend? Who are you going to purchase gifts for? Are you planning to decorate your home? Are you planning a holiday party? Whatever you're planning to spend money on this holiday season, make sure that you don't overspend.

If you started this year off with a financial goal in mind, try as much as possible to stick to it. You can do it! Sure, you may have fallen off a time or two this year but don't decide to blow it and start over again on January 1 just because you want to give in to the spending impulse. Isn't that what you did last year?

You can enjoy the holiday season and give to others. I only encourage you not to go into debt while doing it. Who wants to spend the next year paying off Christmas gifts from last year? It'll be time to set new financial goals, right? :-)

***My latest book, "Not Without You" has been nominated for the Henri Award. There will also be a Readers' Choice award. Please vote for "Not Without You" here:  http://christianliteraryawards.com/2014/09/15/readers-choice-voting/

And if you haven't had the chance, check out my new video posted to my website: http://www.encouraging-works.com/more-encouraging-works.html ***

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Enemy disguises

But I am not surprised! Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no wonder that his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. In the end they will get the punishment their wicked deeds deserve. (2 Corinthians 11:14-15 NLT)
The enemy is subtle. Those whom he uses won’t always have a blaring red flag on their foreheads alerting you that they are being used by the enemy. Most times, the enemy is among you trying to fit in to win you over. He learns what your secret desires are and uses them against you to tempt you into sin.
You have to be aware that the enemy wears a disguise. You have to pray and use discernment in everything that you do. The enemy is smart and quick but you have to be smarter. I am reminded of the insurance commercial where the agent is using a fishing pole to dangle a dollar over the head of one of his customers. He says, “You have to be quicker than that.” In the same way, we have to be quicker than the enemy. The enemy will often dangle lies, temptation and deceit over our heads but we have to be quick to discern his tricks.
God freely gives wisdom and discernment to those who ask for it. Although God knows what we need, we are still required to ask for it. I encourage you to petition His throne daily so that you will not be outsmarted by the enemy.
Prayer for Today: Heavenly Father, give me the right amount of wisdom, knowledge, understanding and discernment that I need for today. Help me to see the enemy for who he is and reject his advances. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Additional Scripture reading: 2 Corinthians 11: 1-15

**Don't forget to vote from October 1 through October 15 for "Not Without You" in the devotional category for the Readers' Choice Awards! As always, thanks for your support! http://christianliteraryawards.com/2014/09/15/readers-choice-voting/

And if you haven't already, be sure to check out the speech I gave at the Pink Petals for Pat event:
http://www.encouraging-works.com/more-encouraging-works.html

Monday, August 25, 2014

Money Monday: Financial Wellness

Greetings!

As initially promised when I first began Money Mondays on my blog, I have a special treat for you from a fellow Jackson State University College of Business graduate, Andrell Harris. As often stated being financially well is a part of spiritual wellness.

See what Andrell had to say about getting your money right:

When I was in college, I met a young lady who was in debt to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars. She was only a sophomore, about 20 years old, so why did she owe so much money?
Like many of us, the promise of “easy” credit lured her into buying things she couldn’t afford. She pulled out her credit cards to fund shopping sprees and lavish vacations, and now she couldn’t make her minimum payments. She didn’t have health insurance, and an unexpected illness resulted in hospital bills that she couldn’t afford to pay.

Being well doesn’t just mean having a healthy body. All kinds of stressors can affect us, including having mountains of debt. Money issues are among the top reasons couple argue and split up, and anyone who has been hounded by debt collectors will tell you how much fun that can be.

Ultimately, a debt-free life is the best financial position to be in. If you have debt, work to pay it off. If you don’t, work to save money, not just for retirement, but for those unexpected expenses that are sure to come up. When you’re 70 and retired with a decent nest egg and don’t have to work at Walmart, you’ll be happy you learned to embrace financial wellness.

Here are a few quick and easy paths to wealth that actually work. You hear the pitches all the time, promising six-figure earnings in a month and continuous, unlimited earnings forevermore by working for only an hour a day. These programs may have worked for few (probably the folks selling them), but unless you win a lottery, the route to wealth is usually through hard work. You should be persistent, keep learning, be willing to take considered risks and cultivate outside-of-the-box thinking.

Make a budget. To reach a goal, start by knowing where you are right now. Many people fail financially because they have no idea how they spend their money or even how much they bring in. Set your financial goals and stick to them like your life depends on it.
To begin, track your income and expenses for a month. Once you know what you actually earn and how much you spend, a budget can help you live within your means. Keep tracking your income and expenses, and adjust your budget accordingly.
Small budget adjustments can give big returns. Instead of eating out every day, for example, take your lunch to work three or four days a week. You may save $20 to $50 a week, or up to $200 a month.

Pay your bills on time. You start building your credit the moment you open accounts such as cable, phone, electricity, automobile loans and credit cards. The best way to build credit is never to get behind on your monthly bills. Once you are behind, creditors will charge late fees and increase interest rates. Plus, companies report negative information in as little as 30 days. You may dispute negative information, but some companies won’t remove it until years later.
These days, good credit also gives you an employment advantage. Many employers evaluate your creditworthiness when making hiring decisions.

Pay off your credit accounts. I can’t say enough about this. Credit card and store interest rates can be exorbitant. If you only make minimum payments, it could take years to pay the smallest amounts, even if you never charge another thing. You’ll end up paying much more than you actually borrowed.

Here’s a plan: First, figure out how much you can afford to pay on all of your credit accounts combined. Then, beginning with the smallest amount (or the highest-interest account), put the bulk of your available funds into paying that one off first, making minimum payments on the rest. Paying off the smallest bills first will give you a psychological boost and keep you motivated. As you pay off an account, cut up the card (cancelling an account can hurt your credit rating), and apply the money that went to paying it off to the second largest amount. Rinse and repeat. It may take a while, but the peace of mind you’ll gain and the money you’ll eventually save is well worth it.

Once you’re free and clear, only charge what you can afford to buy with cash. Instead of charging items you can’t afford right now, save until you have the cash and then use your credit card as a short-term, interest-free loan. Make it your goal to pay off the card every month. This practice will help you build and maintain a decent credit rating without accumulating debt.
Don’t be afraid of credit cards. They can work to your advantage if you use them appropriately.

Open a savings account for emergencies and another for those high-dollar items in your future; set up automatic deposits to savings with every paycheck. You’ll be surprised at how quickly even $10 or $20 per paycheck adds up, and how little you’ll miss the cash if it never hits your checking balance. Then, when you need the extra cash, you won’t be tempted to run up a credit card.

If your employer offers it, participate in an employer-matched 401k plan. Make your goal to save at least the matching amount, if not more. Talk to a financial expert to see if other types of tax-deferred savings plans such as IRAs are more appropriate for you. In addition to helping you save for retirement, for high earners, these plans have the potential to put you in a more favorable tax bracket.

For those under 30, experts recommend putting at least 7 percent of your salary into a 401k plan. As you get older, increase your contributions. At 40, you should be putting as much as 10 percent to 15 percent of your salary into your 401k. That may seem like a large amount, but again, as you get accustomed to it, you will not miss the cash.
Tips to Save More
Challenge late fees from credit cards and insufficient funds fees from banks.  If you’ve been a good, long-term customer, creditors and banks will usually offer this as a “customer courtesy.” (Remember those words.) Be persistent and demand more from your customer-service rep. Many times, reps will waive fees just to get you off the phone. Others have quotas for fee waivers. If one won’t waive the fee, hang up and call right back.
Ask for lower interest rates on your debt annually. If you have made your payments on time, creditors of student loans, personal loans and even credit cards may lower your rates. They may only go down by a fraction, but in the end it will save you money.
Invest. If you are an amateur, research investments carefully with reliable sources, or seek the advice of a professional.  Some investments are riskier than others, so it is important to know exactly how much you can afford to lose should the investment turn sour.
Ask your cell-phone service provider to waive or lower charges for overages. Cellular providers are usually good about giving discounts if you periodically go over your minutes. Call and ask the provider to waive or lower the extra fee, using the phrase “customer courtesy.” The only industries that consistently will not waive fees are energy providers; they know you probably don’t have any competing companies to go to.
Never pay full price. If a vendor won’t lower his prices, check out Internet sites for discounts. You can save money with daily-deal sites like Groupon, but be realistic: Spending money for something you’ll never use from a place you’ll never get to is not a bargain. For big-ticket items such as resort stays, make sure you’re actually getting a bargain by contacting the seller directly. You may be able to get the same discounted rate through other programs such as AAA or your employer.
• If you can afford it, choose higher health, homeowner and automobile insurance deductibles. The key is being able to afford the higher out-of-pocket expenses. A higher deductible (the amount you pay before insurance kicks in) will lower your monthly payments.

Do the math, and choose wisely. Often, especially with health insurance, high-deductible plans also offer limited benefits. Find out if the deductible is cumulative or per incident. Sometimes, the difference between a $500 and a $1,000 deductible is worth it. If you have to put $1,000 on a credit card, it’s probably not.

Follow Andrell on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Andrell-D-Harris/315561731917212?ref=br_tf

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Power Thought: Give God Your Best

When it was time for the harvest, Cain presented some of his crops as a gift to the Lord. Abel also brought a gift –the best of the firstborn lambs from his flock. The Lord accepted Abel and his gift. (Genesis 4:3-4 NLT)
            We want God’s best for our lives so why would we offer God anything less? Everything that we do, we should do it as if we’re doing it to God. That means that the way we perform at work, engage in conversation, work in ministry and treat our friends and family should all be done in a manner that pleases God.
            When we give our best to God, He is pleased. If you continue reading the text, you’ll learn that God is not pleased when we give anything less. You can go through the motions, and only fooling yourself as if you’re giving God your best, but remember that God is concerned with your heart and why you do what you do.
            Today, I encourage you to be the person that God has created you to be by offering the best of yourself in every area of your life.


Prayer: Heavenly Father, I desire to be pleasing in Your sight so I am making the choice today to offer up the very best of myself to You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

**Today's devotional thought is an excerpt from a book of short power-packed devotionals that I'll be publishing entitled, "Power Launch: Mid-Day Rejuvenation." Until then, get your fill of daily encouragement in my most recent devotional, "Not Without You: 365 Days in the Lord's Presence." www.encouraging-works.com or look for it on amazon.**

Monday, August 4, 2014

Simple faith

My nephew is five years old. My sister and I talk almost everyday about the shenanigans of our children. However, I want to shed light on the magnitude of his faith. When my sister shares with me how much he prays and what he prays about, I am pretty amazed.

Just recently, she shared two of his prayers with me that I'd like to share with you. I am paraphrasing the stories here so work with me. He prayed a prayer of healing over his sister when he saw a spider. He asked God not to let the spider bite his baby sister (who is a one year old) and if the spider did happen to bite her, he knew that God would heal her. He told God, "I know you are a healer so please heal my sister if she get's bitten." The second prayer I want to share is that he prayed a prayer of protection. He woke up to find that everyone was gone, or so he thought. His mother was hiding in the closet (shame on you Courtney) just listening to him. He walked through the house, praying, peeping in and out of doors, only to find that everyone had gone to church already. He said, "Jesus, I'm scared. My momma left us here by ourselves." He climbed back into bed and started asking God to protect him and his sister. He asked that God watch over them until his mom made it back home.

These are just two of the many stories that she has shared with me but I wanted to highlight them because every time something happens, the first thing he does is pray! I always tell her that at least he knows where to go when he needs help!

Many of us are far beyond the innocence and faith of a child but I think we can learn a lot from my nephew. No matter what is going on, choose to go to God first. Sure, we have been through many disappointments and may have even prayed and not received an answer but I dare you to have faith today! No matter what it is, go before God boldly with faith and expectancy! The word of God says in Luke 18:17 Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.

Have a productive week!

[Be on the lookout for information and snippets from my first fiction book, "He Said Grace." Thank you for your continuous love and support; it truly means a lot to me.]

www.encouraging-works.com

Monday, March 24, 2014

Money Monday: Stick to the plan

Good morning!


It's Money Monday! As mentioned before, a financial wellness is part of your overall spiritual wellness: being a good steward over the resources that God has given to you.


Today, I want to encourage you to stick to the plan. What plan? Your plan! Your plan is the financial plan, budget or goals that you began the year with. You know, that thing that you said you would do with your money: save it, pay off debt, save for a down payment on a home, start a college fund or better manage it. Whatever it is that you said you would do with it, make sure you stick to it.


In just a few short days, the 2nd quarter of the year will start. Around this time (or maybe even a little before), the tenacity we had when we started the year, usually starts to die down because life has happened. I know that we will face challenges that often interrupt our plans but I'm not talking about those things that tend to get us off track. I'm talking about that other thing: self.  We often get in the way of our own goals because of the secret desires of our heart. Remember that temptation starts within. Sure, those pretty goals we set early on look good on paper but what do you do when you begin receiving coupons in the mail (or e-mail) to your favorite store or your favorite store is having a sale? Do you blow your budget and think, "oh, I'll get back on track next month?" Oftentimes, "next month" never comes because we do not take control over our finances.


Remember that the same habits that got you into your present financial situation will keep you in your current situation if you do not change your mindset. It's great to have a budget or any kind of financial plan but you have to stick to it. If you do not, your finances will look the same whether you make $30,000/yr or $100,000/yr. You must learn to manage what you have: Don't allow your desire for temporary satisfaction to get in the way of your financial freedom! You really can do this!


(James 1:14 NLT But each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed.)


***I'm pretty excited to see many of my friends and family take charge of their finances. When you get to a place where you are in control of your finances, you begin to have peace and order in other areas of your life as well. Don't get discouraged about things beyond your control but instead make sure you are taking care of that which you can control. It is difficult to break bad financial habits but the reward far outweighs the discomfort you will experience in the beginning by choosing to change your lifestyle. As you continue this journey of wellness, I invite you to order my new book, "Not Without You: 365 Days in the Lord's Presence." Check it out here: www.encouraging-works.com. ***


Peace and blessings to you throughout the week!

Monday, December 16, 2013

*Let Your Light Shine


From my upcoming book, "Not Without You"
1 Timothy 4:12 NLT Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity.

Age does not always determine one’s level of spiritual maturity or faith & responsibility bestowed upon them. Young adults can be examples to anyone: older, younger or peers. When one has been chosen by God to declare His word to His people, the life of that person should be encouragement to those whom they teach and to those outside the body of Christ.

Sometimes younger Christians can be so modest and humble in that we can miss a moment to glorify God in our words or deeds because we are in the company of someone older and of whom we perceive to be more spiritually mature. However, we should always allow our light to shine because we never know who needs to see it to be encouraged by it.

Don’t let your company change your character. Remain firm in your faith and in your calling. The Lord can use you at any time so don’t flick your light on and off, hiding behind your age; always be a willing vessel by making yourself available to Him.

Prayer for Today: Heavenly Father, please give me courage and boldness to let your light shine through me at all times, regardless of who I’m with. I want to be a vessel for you to speak encouragement and life to your people. Let me not be intimidated or fearful because you have given me the spirit of power, love and a sound mind. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Additional scripture reading: 1 Timothy 4:11-16