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Tag: money

Moving Off the Island

All Alone

Life on the island is not as great as you might think. Deciding to move off the island was the first step, but how do you make it happen? Because as sure as rain on your wedding day is not ironic, fear will chase after you and remind you again and again about how you’ll never make it off the island. Fear says it’s a dark and scary place out there, don’t go! Fear says you’ll never make if off the island anyway, so don’t bother! So how did we get away? How did we escape the island? Here’s our story.

You are not alone.

Understanding that we didn’t have to walk this journey alone was the first step. Logically, I knew we couldn’t possibly be the only people who were struggling with money issues. Surely there were others experiencing the same problems we were. And if others were facing the same problem, there were probably others that have overcome it. Our story off the island starts by seeking help from God’s people. For us, that was Susan Whited, who had taught a financial course at church several times. We couldn’t do the classes at church, so she sat down with us in her kitchen to begin the journey. We heard things we’d always known, things you’ve probably always known as well. Things like:

Our problem, however, was not the lack of knowledge, but behavior. We knew all this stuff, we just didn’t know how to practice it. Something had to change in our behaviors in order to create real change in our life. Our soon-to-be-born daughter provided the motivation, now we just needed the discipline and tools.

Live like no one else.

Our first step was to start tracking every dollar we spent. Every time we spent money, we wrote it down. Where did we spend it? What did we buy? This simple act reduced our spending because we could immediately see how much money we were spending on DVDs or eating out. We were doing OK, but we were just scratching the surface.

At the Catalyst Conference in 2008, I heard Dave Ramsey speak on leadership. He then spoke very briefly about money. I wandered over to his booth and found a flier about Financial Peace University. Not long after that conference, we decided to host our first FPU class at church. And it was FPU that really kicked the process into overdrive for us.

We really started gaining traction when we started doing the monthly budget. Dave says you have to decide “on paper, on purpose” at the beginning of every month how you are going to spend your money. You have to tell your dollars what to do, or else they wander off. The budget allowed us to finish the race to debt-free with gazelle intensity. The budget drove us to finish off our emergency fund. The budget drove us to save for car repairs, a new car, a paid-for-in-cash vacation, a new couch and so much more.

And sometimes life intrudes on our plan and the budget slips for a couple days or even a week. Those days—before the budget is finally done—are some of the worst of the month when that happens. It’s like a terrible flashback to life on the island, and all of the stress and anxiety that comes with it.

It’s moving time.

If you’re still living on that island, it’s time to get moving. Pray that God would lead you out. Ask Him to send others into your life to walk with you. Invite Him to shake up your life and transform you. It’s terrifying. I know—I used to live there. But God has a way out. (It might even be Financial Peace University… Click here to find a class in your area.)

Learning New Emotional Responses

Interesting experience today. A strut went out on my car. Long story short: it cost $900 to repair. I heard the number and immediately panicked. I panicked because that’s been my learned response to unexpected bills for about 10 years. How were we going to pay for this?

It was a silly response I guess. We actually have the money to pay for it with cash. It comes from our emergency fund, which we set up as part of our financial journey these last 8 months.

The problem is that for years this kind of thing overwhelmed me. It was as if the spirit of fear had come over me. It felt like three years ago when we would have had to pay for this on credit and not known what to do when that bill came due.

As we talked about it, Jaime said we might have to relearn our emotional responses to situations like this. We no longer have to be slaves to the spirit of fear because by the grace of God, we are living in a way that we don’t need to panic about these sudden expenses.

In Christ, we have the Spirit of Power, not the spirit of fear. Sometimes, though, it takes a while to let go of the learned “spirit of fear” response and trust in the Spirit of Power instead.

Overdraft Protection

So, speaking of financial matters, I just had a funny conversation with an HSBC representative.  I had to give them a call because we got a notice from the credit union that they didn’t get our March payment.  It’s set up to automatically pay through the Bill Pay online, so I thought that was odd.

So I called to find out what’s up.  HSBC confirms the check was never cashed.  Now I have to call the credit union and explain what happened and see if they’ll waive the $20 late fee.  Irritating, but whatever…

Then, after resolving the initial problem, the following conversation occurs:

HSBC Rep: One more thing Mr. Christ.  I notice you don’t have overdraft protection on your account.  Would you like to add it for free?

Me: No.

HSBC Rep: But it’s free.

Me: I’m not interested.

HSBC Rep: Can I ask why not?

Me: Because we don’t spend money we don’t have.

HSBC Rep: [Silence] Ok. Thank you Mr. Christ.

Made me think of this great video from Saturday Night Live.  (WordPress doesn’t seem to have an easy way to embed Hulu videos, so you’ll have to visit the link.)

EDIT: Let’s try this, actually:

[vodpod id=Groupvideo.2302030&w=425&h=350&fv=]

Town Hall For Hope

Town Hall For Hope

I’ve enjoyed Dave Ramsey ever since we saw him at the Catalyst conference.  After taking the Good Sense budgeting course with Susan Whited, I’ve taken a much more proactive approach to finances, and Dave has been a great companion for that.

If you’re like the typical person, this economy may be freaking you out.  First Trinity is going to be hosting a live streaming event with Dave Ramsey in partnership with churches all across the country.  Here’s what they say about it:

Tired of hearing the fear, doom and gloom that’s filling the airwaves? Join Dave Ramsey for a nationwide town hall meeting and discover what’s happening with the economy, how we got here, and where we’re going.

I’d encourage you to come be a part of the event.  If you’d like to promote it, here are a couple of resources for you:

If you’d like to get either print pieces to hang in a local business, we’d be happy to print one up for you.  Just let me know which you want and when you’d like to come get it and we’ll have it ready for you.

Here’s the promotional video for the event:

Upping the Gas Mileage

I’ve been experimenting with Hypermiling lately.  I started off with around 24 MPGs on average in the city and 28-30 Highway.  My latest tank of gas was almost entirely city driving, mostly between my house (Niagara Falls Blvd and East Robinson, behind the Wegman’s) and First Trinity.  Here’s what I did:

  • Avoided coming to a dead stop at all costs.
  • Coast into red lights and parking spaces with the car off.  If I had farther to go, I tried to only shut the car off when I knew I’d have 30+ seconds of off time.
  • Minimal drafting was used.

My first tank came in at 27.85 MPG.  For my next tank, I’m keeping most of the above with the following tweaks:

  • More coasting with the engine off.  Usually it’s in .2 mile increments or dropping my speed by 10 MPH.  I want to improve gas mileage, but I don’t want to be a hazard on the road.  This has proved to be efficient and not disturb the overall traffic flow much.
  • Restarting my car by popping the clutch.  On the roads, I can restart the car without using the actual starter in 2nd – 5th gears, depending on my speed when I need to restart.  The transition was a bit choppy the first 2 days, but it’s getting smoother.
  • Leaving my car off for lights where I will be parked for 30 or more seconds.  If I expect to be moving prior to that, I’ll restart with the clutch popping and idle at the light.  Ideally, I’m still trying never to come to a complete stop.
  • More intentional drafting.

We’ll see where the next tank comes in at.  While I probably won’t catch this guy any time soon, I’d like to make it to 40 MPGs consistently.  That would cut my annual fuel costs by $860 ($4.30/gallon, 12,000 miles/year.  24 MPG = $2,150 in gas, 40 MPGs = $1,290).  Even hitting 35 MPGs would save a substantial amount of money during the year ($675).  That’s more than enough for a you know what.

While I believe the hypermiling is entirely safe, I’ll not be practicing it with friends in the car unless they are ok with it.  Youth don’t get a vote about it, we just don’t do it.  🙂

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