Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Of Houses & Things, Part 5: If You're in Debt

If You're in Debt

Romans 13:8 says, "Owe no one anything except to love one another." Proverbs 22:7 points out that "the borrower is servant to the lender." God wants us to be free to serve Him. For this reason, my husband and I determined to live free from debt, except perhaps for a mortgage or car payment that fits our budget.

If you are in debt but want to become financially solvent, here are some steps to take:

  1. Determine to become debt free. Ask God's help.
  2. Determine to put God first. 
  3. Write your life's goals to guide your spending. 
  4. Write a budget and stick to it.
  5. Always set aside God's portion first from each paycheck.
  6.  Determine to buy on a cash basis only. 
  7. Cut up your credit cards.
  8. List your assets and liabilities and draw up a debt repayment schedule. 
  9. Notify your creditors of your plan and stick to it no matter what.
  10. Sell all the things you never use, as well as unnecessary luxury items. Apply the proceeds to your debt.
  11. Cut out activities that distract you from your goal of putting God first and becoming debt free. Apply that money toward your debts. 
  12. Learn to be content with what you have.
Getting out of debt takes determination, persistence, and time, but it is worth the effort. As Americans, we have confused wants with needs. We don't need cable television, the latest electronic gadgets and games, fancy cars, the latest fad in clothing. When I am tempted to buy, I ask myself, "Do I really need this?" By saving ahead for larger items so we can pay cash, we've kept from going into debt and have saved a lot of money in interest.

We began this series of posts with my story of how I was forced to re-evaluate my attitudes about material things when my husband decided to answer God's call to full-time ministry. I can truthfully say that through 35 years of pastoring, God has not only provided our needs but many of our wants too. We lived in lovely parsonages. Our furniture is all paid for. And now that we are retired, we own our own manufactured home and cars debt free. We are comfortable and enjoy life. "The blessing of the Lord makes one rich, and He adds no sorrow with it" (Proverbs 10:22).

How has the Lord proven faithful to you financially?

In my next post, I will begin a series of true stories of the Lord's provision in our lives and in the lives of our families, nuggets of faith to encourage you to trust God to "supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:19).

Friday, February 22, 2013

Of Houses & Things, Part 4

We Cut Corners Creatively

Clothing. I used to be able to make a dress for much less than the cost of a ready-made one. That is not the case now. So, I plan my wardrobe carefully to be sure that each item I buy can be combined several ways to make more outfits--by sticking to favorite color families that coordinate; by choosing pants, turtlenecks, jackets, and accessories in basic colors that go with a variety of colors and prints; and by avoiding impulse buying and fads. Buying clothes at the end of the season during clearance sales also keeps the costs down.

Maintenance and Personal Services. My husband cuts expenses by doing much of the house and yard maintenance himself. He is our plumber and general handyman. For car upkeep, we have discovered that it is cheaper to go to an independent auto mechanic who is certified to do work under our manufacturer's warranty for basic servicing, such as oil changes, than to take it to the dealer. For new tires and major maintenance, we save ahead to avoid having to pay interest on our credit card. I am the family barber, hairdresser, and housekeeper. When I was growing up, my mother cut and permed my hair. The only time I go to the beauty shop now is to get a permanent twice a year. And I do my own nails. If we can't do things ourselves, we trade services with friends and family members whenever possible.

Food. We have found tasty ways to prepare cheaper cuts of meat. Poultry is a favorite and usually a bargain. Cutting down on convenience foods, junk food, and eating out also cuts the grocery bill. Doing our own baking is cheaper and tastier than buying ready-made. Popcorn makes a great snack and is cheaper and lower in calories than many other snacks.

Cards and Gifts. We often give homemade gifts for Christmas and birthdays. I have tole painted plaques, crocheted tree ornaments and afghans, sewn aprons, and painted plaster craft lamps, bookends, and knickknacks. I also keep my eyes open all year for Christmas and birthday gifts for my children and grandchildren. My husband and I enjoy "recycling" some of the especially nice greeting cards we've given to each other. One year, I gave my husband a new card, and then we realized it was identical to the new one I'd given him the year before. Now, we do it on purpose. They are too pretty to throw away, and the message is just as good the second time. Sometimes we design our own cards or write special letters or poems instead of giving new cards.

These are just a few ideas to get you started. Living on less doesn't have to be painful. Make it and game. What creative ways have you found to cut corners?

Next Post: Of Houses & Things, Part 5, "If You're in Debt" 

Friday, February 1, 2013

Of Houses & Things, Part 3

Working From a Budget

Financial counselors recommend that families write a budget as the first step to sound finances. While we don't write out a formal budget, we calculate how much to save from our paychecks to pay the monthly and quarterly bills, such as rent or mortgage, insurance, taxes, and retirement. Depositing all of our paychecks into our checking account, paying all bills by check, and withdrawing only enough cash for groceries and weekly necessities keep us from impulse buying and also provide a record of our spending.

For convenience we use credit cards for certain items, such as gas, travel, and large purchases, but we pay the entire bill each month to avoid interest charges. By avoiding those high interest rates, we've saved thousands of dollars over the years. For large purchases we postpone them until we have saved enough to pay the entire amount. Of course, that requires planning ahead.

We also discovered a few methods for living within our budget. When we go shopping, we prepare a list and try to stick to it. And we never go "window shopping." Nothing makes me more discontent. Someone has suggested these ways to cut spending: (1) Watch less television; (2) Do less shopping; (3) Spend less time looking at catalogs, magazines, and newspaper advertisements. I would add (4) Spend less time on the Internet.

These suggestions are in keeping with God's Word, which tells us to "be content with such things as you have" (Hebrews 13:5). What methods have you found to keep within your budget?