Monday, October 21, 2013

Prosperity and Famine

Genesis 41:35-36 NLT Have them gather all the food produced in the good years that are just ahead and bring it to Pharaoh’s storehouses. Store it away, and guard it so there will be food in the cities. That way there will be enough to eat when the seven years of famine come to the land of Egypt. Otherwise this famine will destroy the land.” (Additional reading: read the entire chapter)

In the above referenced scripture, God spoke to Pharaoh through two dreams serving him notice of what was about to happen to his land.  There was going to be seven years of prosperity and seven years of famine. Joseph interpreted the dreams and advised him to put an intelligent and wise men in charge so that they may save food for the period of famine.

The great thing here is that Pharaoh was warned about the period of famine that was about to come upon the land. Oftentimes, we are not warned when we will experience a period of lack, such as a loss of a job, underpaid job or a period of recession. Joseph's advice was great advice to Pharaoh and great advice to us today. Save a portion of your income.

In many instances, this can be difficult especially if you haven't been saving.  You will need to make lifestyle adjustments so that you will be able to live if and when these things do happen.  I've been to many financial seminars and workshops and each one suggests a different thing. Some say to save 6 months, 9 months or even 12 months of expenses in the event your family experiences a period of famine.

Take some time to look at your finances to see where you can cut back and begin saving. If you have debt, saving may be difficult.

Things to consider: Invest in your company's 401k. If your company matches a certain percentage, at least invest that amount (it's free money).You also reduce the amount of income tax you pay because your investment is pre-tax.  When you receive a raise, put aside the increase. You were living off the pre-raise salary before, you can do it now. Direct the increase to go into your savings account, preferably one that you do not touch. If you do this in the beginning, you won't miss it.

***My book, The Life Your Spirit Craves, has been nominated for the Henry Award in the devotionals category. In addition, readers may vote for their choice to receive the reader's choice award. Please take a few seconds to vote for my book here: ***

Monday, October 14, 2013

Do Not Despise Small Beginnings

Zechariah 4:10 NLT Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin, to see the plumb line in Zerubbabel’s hand.”

Managing finances and becoming a good steward over the finances that God has given you can oftentimes be intimidating and in some cases, discouraging.

Let's talk about saving.  This is left up to your own discretion based upon what you have and what you want to do. We all want to be comfortable and enjoy the fruits of our labor but we must do it wisely. Saving requires commitment and discipline.  Once you set money to the side as a reserve, you practically have to ignore that its there, especially if you lack discipline.

So how much do you put aside? Depends on your goals and what you can afford to put aside.  You may have to start with $1, $5, $20, $50. The point is that you need to have some kind of savings system in place and not get discouraged by the amount that you put aside when measured against your ultimate goal.

Most banks now have clever ways to help you save money. Two ways that immediately come to mind are: 1) Every time you swipe your debit card, the bank automatically puts $1 in your savings account and 2) The bank will round up your purchases to the nearest dollar and put the change in your savings. For example, if your purchase is $28.30, the bank will put .70 in your savings account. 
You can also set up balance alerts to keep you from draining every penny out of your bank account.

Another smart way to find extra dollars to throw into your savings account is to trim your grocery bill. This is one of my favorite things which I think deserves its own post. Until then, if you don't already have one, come up with a savings plan. If you have to start small, that is perfectly okay. Small things often become great things. (Think about seeds that are planted)  The first step is simply starting and the second is sticking with it.

***My book, The Life Your Spirit Craves has been nominated for the Henry Award. The award will be presented at the Christian Literary Awards next month in Plano, TX. In addition, readers can vote for their favorite book in the Reader's Choice category. Please vote and share the link with others. It takes less than 10 seconds. Thank you!!! Voting ends on 10/31/2013. *****

Monday, October 7, 2013

Write it down

Habakkuk 2:2-3 NKJV Then the Lord answered me and said: “Write the vision And make it plain on tablets, That he may run who reads it.  For the vision is yet for an appointed time;
But at the end it will speak, and it will not lie. Though it tarries, wait for it; Because it will surely come,
It will not tarry. (you knew this was coming, didn't you?) :-)

What is your vision for your finances? What do you want to accomplish? Do you want to save more money? Pay off debt? Make a large purchase? 

Answer these questions before you begin with establishing a budget. It is very important to know why you're setting a budget because the "why" will help you stick to it.

Now that you've sorted through your finances to determine what your monthly income and expenses are and you have your vision in place, begin creating your budget (WRITE it down). Note: You do not have a budget if it's in your head and not on paper.

Begin by first writing down your fixed monthly expenses. These are things like tithes, mortgage, rent, daycare, car notes, insurance, and savings.  These items are the same amount each month. Then write down your variable expenses which is everything else that you allocate funds to each month.  Variable expenses such as food, gas, utilities and miscellaneous expenses can be budgeted based on how you've spent money in these areas in the past.

Spend some time and play with the numbers to get them to look how you want them to look if possible. Add another line item for the extra amount of money you want to save or the additional payments you want to make towards debt. Remember that your budget is yours and it needs to reflect your vision for your finances. Keep in mind that it takes time to reach financial goals so don't give up or become anxious if things do not look the way you want them to look at the time.

One thing that I do to manage the family's finances is to set the budget based on when the income comes in (by paycheck).  Things look a lot different based on when bills are due. I think this is a more realistic approach because it allows you to see exactly how your money is being spent every time money comes in. It will also help eliminate "thinking" you had x amount of dollars left in the bank (or in your budget) when you really don't. I'm a huge fan of writing things down so you really need to keep a check register and write down every purchase as soon as possible. Do not keep track of purchases in your head (no matter how good you are at this). 

Does your financial picture look anything like what you thought it looked like?