I didn’t spend any money on Black Friday!

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I didn’t spend any money on Black Friday!

 

Blasphemy!

She’s lying!

How did she do that?

 

These are all possible responses from you my devoted newsletter subscribers.  Yep I did it.  But honestly not entirely by choice.  Let me tell you why and how it happened.

A year ago, my husband and I discussed creating a slush fund for Black Friday all by itself.  We came to this line of thinking for many reasons.  First of all, there are so many deals and we wanted to take advantage of them without putting a burden on our budget in 1 month on 1 day. We could get all of our Christmas shopping done in 1 weekend. We might actually have gifts under the tree before Dec. 23rd. The list of pros goes on and on.  Not to mention the idea that both he and I could find deals for ourselves.  It’s possible we’d save money, but it is also entirely possible that we’d spend more than necessary.

How many of you can relate to going Black Friday shopping and buying 1 Christmas gift for a loved one and 2 sweaters for yourself?  It happens to all of us!  During this season we simply buy more than is truly necessary just because the price is right.  And what does that do to all of the other areas of our finances?  It could wreak havoc especially without a plan!

Here’s the real reason I didn’t participate in the shopping madness… I simply cannot control myself!  😊 There I said it!  If I walk into a store with a good deal, I will want to buy something.  This year we had many unexpected and costly home improvements and repairs to make both to our personal residence and our rental home.  These events drained our savings and our sanity.  But we set a goal to replenish our savings to a respectable level and I didn’t want to jeopardize our efforts with overspending.  Simple as that!  I literally had to stay out of the stores and off the websites to control myself.

But what does it really take to be successful sticking to your financial goals?  Here are the necessary ingredients for financial success…

FOCUS + DETERMINATION + BUDGET = FINANCIAL SUCCESS

If you don’t have a goal or a reason to say no to temptation you will give in.  The goal or focus on a specific greater desire is the most important ingredient to financial success.  But without determination you may not stick to this goal.  It takes stamina or staying power to say no when you see others are indulging.  And finally, a budget will show you where your priorities lie.  Keeping your goal in the budget and sticking with the plan you have set is what gets you to the finish line of financial success however you define it. 

I won’t say it was easy to keep my debit card in my pocket this past weekend but it sure was worth it.  My savings account is still full and I’m proud of myself for exercising self-restraint.

Let’s be clear, we will be buying gifts this year, but it will be done with a detailed list of who we are buying for and how much we are spending without all of the pressure and temptation of buying extra things for myself... 😊

This is my 1st step in avoiding a holiday hangover this Christmas season.  If you’d like to learn more about how to walk into 2019 confident, prepared, and still have money in the bank then I’d like you to join me for a Facebook LIVE on Wed. Dec. 5th at 8pm EST. You will learn all of the tips and tricks to have an enjoyable holiday season without the guilt and worry over your money in the New Year.  Just head over to my business page HERE and tune in Wed. 12/5 at 8pm EST.  See you then!

Are you a slacker?

Please tell me I’m not alone…  You have your list of todos or you know what needs to happen during the week on Monday.  Tuesday you have already said I will do it tomorrow 3 times.  By Thursday you are sure it must get done tomorrow or you are out of luck.  On Saturday you wake up and wonder what happened that this task didn’t get accomplished?  I call that slacking off.  Do you do it too? I’ve been there.  I’m there right now.  I love staying in touch with YOU , my newsletter subscribers!  And my goal is to communicate with you every month.  Unfortunately, the above scenario happens all too often and my messaging doesn’t get out regularly.

But, on Friday I held myself accountable to a coaching buddy and everything changed!  I scheduled what needed to happen.  Then I showed up at the scheduled time.  I thought of ideas and formulated what I wanted to say and… poof!  It got done!

Everyone procrastinates at some time or another.  However, chronic procrastination occurs by about 20% of us and results in missed opportunities, frustration, and a sense that we aren’t getting anywhere.

Let me give you some tips for reducing or eliminating procrastination once and for all.

  1. Get some accountability!  When you hold yourself accountable to someone else who will jerk your chain or otherwise make sure the task gets done you have turned procrastination on its head!
  2. Schedule it! Put reminders in your phone or on your calendar that will force you to see what needs to happen.
  3. Take inventory!  Assess what the most important tasks are before you even get started.  If you work on the most impactful items so you see immediate results quickly.
  4. Create a “Done it” list instead of a todo list.  We always focus on what we need to do and rarely look at what we already accomplished.  Why not end your day on a high note by recording what really happened?  That could be just the motivation you need to complete even more tomorrow.
  5. Get help!  Most of the time we can’t do it all on our own.  We need someone to give us insight, direction, and inspiration.  There is nothing wrong with that.  But you must admit it and seek the help you need.
  6. Let go of perfectionism!  Sometimes we stop ourselves from beginning a task because we are afraid of messing up.  Well you will mess up!  We all do!  But should that rob you of the results you want to achieve?  Finish your task even if it isn’t perfect.  Moving forward imperfectly is better than standing perfectly still.
  7. Outsource!  Can you take something off your plate and give it to someone else to do?  We can overload ourselves with tasks that maybe others do better.  Giving up the task affords you the time for more important work.

Don't be a slacker!  Don’t allow procrastination to stunt your growth, rob your future or keep you from being absolutely amazing!  Pick one of the above strategies and take charge of the tasks that have been weighing you down.

If there are financial tasks like budgeting, getting out of debt, or planning for your future that you have been putting off now is the time to get it done.  From now until the end of the year I will hold 30 minute 2014 Financial Strategy Sessions for anyone who is interested.  During these 30 minutes we will discuss what exactly has been holding you back from succeeding financially, what you can do about it, and we will uncover the one thing you can do right now to make a lasting impact in 2014.  Just click here to end your procrastination today!

From Scarcity to Abundance!

Let me open a window in my life right now.  8 Years ago my husband and I got out of nearly $100,000 in debt.  I have worked with over 200 people to do similar feats.  I have spoken to numerous audiences about money, finances, and debt-reduction.  But here is my dark little secret… Get ready because this is hard for me to say… I don’t have it all together!  I’m still a work in progress!  I have my own money issues just like you do.  How? Why? You ask… Well I have had a scarcity mentality.  Or, I have been happy to live in the land of just enough.  Playing small so I don’t have to stand out from the crowd was safe space.  Feeling guilty if I had “too much” was a regular occurrence.  I never wanted to show off or make others feel bad when I could make financial moves they could not.  I learned to make any amount of money work for both my family and others.  When there wasn’t “enough” we cut back.  When there is more than enough we use wisdom about what to do with the extra.  My husband has taught me how to have fun with money because that didn’t come naturally to me.  But I am just finding out that I’ve been holding myself back by not striving for more.

God desires you to “have life and that more abundantly”.  But, for some reason I am just now coming to the conclusion that it directly applies to me.  God wants me to play a bigger game so that I can have abundance, give abundantly, and help others do the same.

The scarcity mentality holds you back and therefore will hold others back because of your playing small.  The abundance mentality reveals that there is always more than enough for everyone and your participating spreads the wealth around.

My question to you is where on this spectrum do you live?  Are you playing small by not fully utilizing your gifts?  Are you settling for what you have right now and not striving to go the next level?  Can you dream beyond getting out of debt or making ends meet?

I challenge you to step back and evaluate where you are on the abundance spectrum.

Poverty                Scarcity                 Just Enough            More Than Enough          Abundance

Think about this in terms of your thought life and your reality.  Can you envision yourself moving through these phases to your own next level?  If not, what is stopping you?  The answers to these questions will help you get free! It did for me! Set up a 30 minute Abundant and FREE Session today if you want your answers now!

Is it worth it?

Paying off debt is exhilarating!  Getting free of the bondage of debt gets me excited!  How you go about doing that may not be quite as exciting though if taxes get involved.  Read on if you settled debt in 2011.  Tax Day is coming April 16th and you need to be sure you are ready. Typically if you have old debt that hasn’t been paid on for more than 6 months I recommend you settle them.  But you must know that there can be consequences to doing that.  I believe the freedom of being debt-free is worth it though.  Let me explain…

Let’s say you have a $1000 debt that hasn’t been paid on for a year.  When you have the cash on hand you could settle that debt for $200 which means the creditor took a loss and you only paid $200.  You never have to deal with them again!  However, you may be responsible for reporting the $800 savings on your taxes as debt forgiven.  Which means your income for that year just went up by $800 and you now have to pay taxes on it.  If your tax bracket is 25% then you now owe the government $200 additional.  Therefore, in total for that debt you have paid $400.

It sounds unfair and some may wonder if the process is worth it.  I believe it is still worth it to pay off the debt.  You must protect your online reputation, pay the debts you owe, and make good on your commitments.  This is just a different way of going about it. The finish line is still there.  You just took a different route.  Knowing how the process works helps you develop your strategy for getting free.  Don’t allow the tax implication to stop you from your freedom.  Now go pay off that debt!

Are our Finances Healing? Experts Give Advice...

We are finally beginning to see a turn in our unemployment rates and some experts think we’ve bottomed out in the housing market. So maybe, just maybe, we are heading in the direction of a recovery. But if our nation is finally healing… are your finances healing too? It would be nice to think that all will be well in the world if everyone who wanted a job got one and could get “back to normal”. But what is normal? And do we really want that? For years, Americans have overspent therefore, creating obscene amounts of personal debt. For the last several years we have had no choice but to tighten belts and spend less. Now that many people are back to work and/or getting raises, have we learned our lessons? Now is the time to get out and stay out of debt! Now is the time to save money for your future. Now is also the time to lay a solid foundation for your finances. You can do it if you keep that belt tightened just a little longer… Read more in a recent AZ Republic article Ericka Young was featured in…

To Your Success!

ABC 15 News Segment

Helping a valley family get back on their feet and sharing financial advice is what I do best and that is what landed me on ABC 15 News along with advice being shared by Suze Orman. Kim's family is over $20,000 in debt. She reached out to ABC15 after ABC 15 News put a post on their Facebook page looking for families struggling to make ends meet. My advice to Kim, "You've had an income decrease of about 50 percent," Ericka Young explained. She's a certified financial coach of Tailor Made Budgets and is helping Kim and her family get back on their feet. "Make sure that you're tracking your spending for all of your categories that you have on your budget," Young urged Kim. "So we'll be working on that as well."

I look forward to working with Kim and her family. You can read the full story here and watch the video of the news segment.

Change is Good!

Let’s face it.  We are reluctant to change.   We see change as intrusive, bothersome, and annoying.  We want to continue doing what we have always done because it is comfortable, easy, and well-known by us.  Change involves movement, which in turn requires effort.  But… everything was created to move.  Don’t believe me?  Trees move with the wind.  Rivers, streams, and ponds are active.  Think about it.  To breathe is to move.  Your chest expands because your lungs are taking in oxygen.  The rest of your body is dependent on that simple movement.  Anything that is stagnant becomes stale.  Water when stagnant produces scum, mold, and a foul smell.  People when stagnant lose their ability to move their limbs.  Life when stagnant simply dies.  Change, therefore, is GOOD. The benefits of change are numerous.  Let me tell you why...

  • It proves you are alive.
  • Nothing stays the same or gets boring.
  • You are improving, growing, and learning.
  • Others benefit when you change.
  • Change reminds us that anything is possible.

2012 can be full of great opportunities if you will embrace change.  Many times we set goals, make New Year’s resolutions, or create ultimatums for ourselves when the New Year arrives.  Being so drastic can be disastrous.  What I’d like to propose is that you simply embrace change because only then will you actually achieve your goals or resolutions.  Open yourself up to new possibilities and be willing to create them for yourself.  Where it concerns your finances think about (and write down!) the transformation your budget will undertake when you are totally free of debt!  Then make the necessary changes to your budget now to get there.

See change can be good!  Think about what it will feel like to pay cash for a car!  If you have never done that before then it requires a change in behavior.  The New Year brings hope, excitement, and fresh look at what is possible.  This year commit to changing your outlook and you will in turn change your LIFE!

Get Real and Get Ready!

Get Real and Get Ready! Merry Christmas!  Happy New Year!!!  The holidays are upon us.  Are you ready?  Typically we gauge our preparedness for the holidays by our timeliness of the following things: getting the tree trimmed, buying gifts, sending out Christmas cards, etc.  I’d like to adjust the way you view your holiday planning.  Until you’ve written down a detailed list of what these holidays will cost you aren’t completely prepared.  As of this writing I see some areas that I myself have missed and need to prepare more accurately for.  Yes it may sound like overkill, but come January 1, 2012 you don’t want to be experiencing a 2011 Holiday Hangover because you didn’t accurately assess what your wonderful holidays would cost.  That is a good way to overspend and the holidays sure aren’t as festive when there’s debt at the end of it.  Create a detailed list of the following items with dollar amounts and come to grips with your holiday spending.

Your holiday worksheet should have the following categories:

  1. Gifts and gift wrap (family members, co-worker, friends, neighbors, secret santas, teachers, coaches, hostesses, pastors, care-givers, mail carriers, hairstylists, babysitters, maid service, etc).
  2. Decorations (tree/wreath, lights, etc)
  3. Food and beverages
  4. Greeting cards, film processing, family portraits
  5. Postage, shipping and boxes
  6. Holiday events and parties
  7. Holiday attire

If you’ve already begun your holiday spending simply back track and see how much you’ve spent so far and what needs to happen in the next 27 days.  There is still time to get on track and stay on track.  You need to know what you typically spend each year.  A great goal for starting off the 2012 New Year is to save all your funds for the holidays before they even begin.  Just divide your total holiday expenses by 12 and save that amount each month.  Why wait until 2012 to begin setting goals?  Start now and Get Real!

Keep the holidays in perspective while you shop and complete your list.  The true reason for the season is the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  He is the greatest gift you can ever give to those you love and care about.

Are You Ready for the Holidays?

Well they are coming even if you aren’t ready! Now is the time to prepare for the next few weeks. The nature of shopping is changing. You must know how to navigate so you get the best deal and keep more money in your pocket. Here are some tips that will help get you through this holiday season with no regrets and happy gift recipients.

  1. Check online 1st. www.blackfriday2011.com already has the latest ads that have been leaked so do your shopping now before you leave your house on Friday. Also, check out www.cybermonday2011.com.
  2. Buy online and get the same deals you would in store.  Many times you don't have to fight the crowds because the stores have the same sale prices online.
  3. Search your favorite stores for coupons again before you leave your house. Signing up for email lists usually ensures you will get the latest information quickly.
  4. Be a fan! Like your favorite stores on facebook and check their updates regularly. Typically, companies run specials, coupons, and giveaways for fans only.
  5. Follow them! Twitter can be a great way to ask specific questions about hours, specials, and upcoming events. If your stores have a twitter page be sure to follow them.
  6. Subscribe to the many deal sites like www.groupon.com, www.livingsocial.com, or www.dealchicken.com. Be careful that you only buy what you will use though.
  7. Make a list! Too many people leave their shopping to guesswork. Lack of planning leads to overspending. This list needs to include all the people you’d like to buy for and how much you intend to spend on them. You may also want to include gift ideas. Then, make sure you total it up and take it shopping with you.
  8. Shop with cash. There is nothing worse than a holiday hangover on credit. Who wants Christmas shopping to follow them forever?
  9. Don’t forget the small stuff! Make sure you decide on Christmas cards and postage, family photos, meal planning, teacher gifts, decorations, party attendance, etc. Nowadays, very little is free but planning can keep your personal costs to a minimum.

Don’t allow the holidays to wipe you out. You can and should be prepared for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the New Year. I hope these tips help you to enjoy a Happy Thanksgiving, a very Merry Christmas, and a financially prosperous New Year!

Do You Keep Track of Your Budget?

Now, more than ever it is extremely important to keep track of your budget. Additionally a check register is a must. Yes I said CHECK REGISTER! What do you think is the best/easiest computer software for creating and keeping track of your budget/check register? I use a few tools that work for different purposes.

Excel - For budgeting it is easy and you can save them all for future reference if you want. Anyone can use it and it is on virtually everyone's computer.

Quicken/YNAB/or Mint - For tracking your spending and keeping a check register these tools do the trick simply and easily. You can download your bank transactions and keep the records for years if you want to. You can also monitor your spending for certain categories like groceries, dining out, clothing etc, and you can keep tabs on multiple accounts.

I don't like the budgeting tools for any of these software packages because they assumes your budget is the same every single month. You are not allowed to keep last month's budget. Also, when I budget I make sure to break down my spending by pay period. These programs do not allow that flexibility. Therefore I use it only as a check register and spending history.

If you aren’t savvy with the computer then use a simple check register from your bank to easily keep track of your daily bank balance. We know this might be a bit old-fashioned these days, but keep it with you at all times and immediately record any transactions into your check register, so you are always up to date of how much money is left in your account. When relying on online banking, some transaction post later and if you are not aware of them, your account is easily overdrawn resulting in additional fees.

For more tips, please feel free to sign up for my newsletter. When I say, I love what I do, I mean it! Helping you make good budgeting decisions, makes my day. :)

How much should you spend on groceries?

The size of your family and your household income are big influences on your grocery spending. Some experts believe that $200/adult and $150/child for the month is reasonable. Personally I believe that is a lot of money especially given that the U.S. average household income is $50,000. I like to give guidelines to people based on percentages of income. For instance, all food for the home including groceries, dining out, school lunches, etc should be between 5-15% of your take home pay. Higher income households will be able to have steak more often if there are also fewer mouths to feed. Lower income households may spend closer to the 15% of their income on food simply because the income is not as high. If you use this rule of thumb and your percentage is higher than 15% you have reason to be concerned because the food category is cutting into other living expenses. But of course you need to eat and you or your children shouldn't feel deprived when doing so. If you are spending 20% of what you bring home on food each month that is an indication that more income is needed to take care of your size family or you need to do some serious couponing and reduce dining out. If that is the case, you will also feel the squeeze in your budget in other areas like mortgage/rent, transportation, etc. You can also try several of the following things to reduce the food budget: 1. Shop wholesale markets (Costco and Sam's) religiously for items you use a lot. 2. www.thegrocerygame.com, www.couponsense.com, www.couponmom.com all match the store's sale items to the weekly newspaper coupons. If you clip coupons try these sites once and see big savings. 3. Always have a running list of items you need in the home so you don’t go shopping blind and overspend. 4. Plan your meals and write the items you need on your running grocery list. This way you will only buy what is necessary. 5. Reduce dining out or use www.restaurant.com for deals.

Food is necessity but it doesn't have to cramp your style and take all your discretionary money for the month. With a plan and a purpose you can feed your family on a reasonable amount.

Check that Book

Personal finance is just that… personal. In this day and age no one wants to admit to having trouble in the area of their money. We are responsible right? We know what to do right? No problems here… Well take a look at the housing market right now and see for yourself if we really know what we’re doing. We as American’s have not made good decisions with our money and now many of us are paying the price.

One of the most important things you can do to improve your financial life is Check that Book! Many people come to me because they are dealing with overdraft fees and bounced checks. We’ve all done it, but there is a lot of shame, guilt, remorse, and stress over making this particular mistake. I’m here to tell you that there is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. Actually, this is the reason that I am doing this business. Making smart decisions with your finances begins with tracking where all your money is going. Miscalculations quickly lead to overdrawn accounts. How do we end this cycle? There are several things you can do to get on the right track if this has happened to you.

1. Start with today’s bank balance for your account. Write it in the checkbook immediately.

2. Write everything down!!! All of your ATM debits, checks, debit card purchases, withdrawals, automatic payments, service charges, dividends, and of course all deposits must be written in the checkbook. Many people forget about the automatic payments or checks that were written several weeks prior. If you authorized it, it will hit your account soon. Review the transactions the bank already took out. Insert any transactions that haven’t yet hit your account in addition to outstanding checks you’ve written.

3. On an ongoing basis it is imperative that you write down all transactions as soon as they occur. If you are utilizing a software tool for your checkbook like Money or Quicken then you must keep all receipts in a convenient place so you can record everything as soon as you can get to your computer.

4. Bring the balance down! If you don’t subtract or add your last transaction and know the balance remaining then a checkbook is worthless. The whole point is for you to know exactly how much money you have currently in your account.

5. Accuracy is key. Never round up or down to make it look like more or less is in your account. All that says is that you don’t want face the truth. This whole process is about facing the truth. Your checkbook balance may be just the reality check you need.

6. Remember that using your debit card can also post as a credit card purchase. If you use your pin number during the transaction it posts to your account immediately. If you sign without using your pin number then it is run as a credit purchase and could take several days to show up. Do not allow this to be a checkbook catastrophe. Just because it doesn’t come through today doesn’t mean it is never coming through. Record it in your checkbook just as if it debited your account immediately.

7. Balance it. Be sure to check each transaction with your bank at the end of each month with your bank statement. I check off each transaction when it comes in. This way I know what is still outstanding. OK my engineering background is about to come out… Remember this equation.

Bank Balance = Confirmed Bank Transactions – Outstanding Transactions

You want to make sure not to forget any checks that are more than a month old. Sometimes it takes people a while to cash checks. At least this way you can give them a reminder call to let them know the check needs to be cashed. Otherwise you might feel that you have more money available than you truly do.

You can face the checkbook giant. Actually, conquering this beast will bring freedom and control. Knowing exactly what you have in your account at any given moment helps you to make sound decisions with you money all the time. Even if there isn’t much in the account at least you know. If there is a lot in the account… at least you know. Ignorance in this area is certainly not bliss and could lead to financial stress and countless fees. Make it a point to begin utilizing your checkbook.

“Be diligent to know the state of your flocks and attend to your herds”

Proverbs 27:23

What is procrastination costing YOU?

Procrastination is an evil that can cost you dearly. Sometimes we don’t realize the power it has over our lives until we literally add it up.

  • Have you ever checked out a book at the library and forgot to get it back on time having fees assessed daily?
  • Have you rented a DVD and ended up paying double for a lousy movie because you missed the 9pm deadline?
  • Have you walked in a store the day after a sale ended?
  • Have you failed to call a potential client when you said you would and lost business because of it?
  • I really hate is missing out on financial opportunities that truly could have been mine. I love a good deal, saving money, and getting the most for the least amount of money. I detest it when I could have saved money or ended up paying too much for something.

    Just last month I missed a sale at Dillard’s by one day and for the 2 dresses I bought could have saved an additional $47!! I forgot to go to the library and pick up a book that was on hold so a fine of $1 was assessed. I also paid an extra $50 for plane tickets just because I didn’t purchase them when they were on sale! All of this happened because I wasn’t paying attention to the details and taking action when I knew that I could. This may not sound like a lot of money today but if I continued to do this in various areas of my life for a year I might have squandered over $2000! Ridiculous!

    Maybe you procrastinate in other ways. We also procrastinate when we think we have more time. Here’s the definition:

    the act or habit of putting off or delaying, especially something requiring immediate attention

    Do you put off or delay financial matters that require immediate attention? Are you constantly backtracking because you failed to do something in a reasonable time period? Have you waited to start a budget or debt reduction plan? Now is the time to regroup. Think about the financial priorities you have in life. Think about what it would feel like to accomplish them. Then take action to make sure that no time is wasted.

    I purpose to slow down, do my research, and pay attention. We can get so busy that we miss out on financial opportunities and goals. I am not missing out on anything that saves me money from now on. I won’t wait to do something I can do right now. I encourage you to do the same. Don’t wait to start a budget or understand your debt position. If you have more time you can accomplish your goals sooner. Don’t allow procrastination to rob you of saving money or getting truly free.

    Who are these people anyway?

    Take a look down your street. What do you see? Do you see expensive cars, recreational vehicles, swimming pools, lavishly furnished homes, neighbors wearing designer clothing, etc? Or are you the one living in the lap of luxury? We have all heard of the Joneses, but who are these people anyway? Think about this question and be honest with yourself. Are you the Joneses or are you trying to be like them? Both positions could be equally damaging to your financial future depending on the way you look at it. The Joneses in America today are the people who appear to have everything. They have the look, the house, and all the STUFF that goes with it. But is it worth the price they paid? 70% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck. This means that if they missed one paycheck they would be in a world of hurt. The Joneses haven’t saved any money for a rainy day. In addition to limited savings the average American has $38,000 in consumer debt! That includes credit cards, vehicle loans, and bank loans. They are so strapped with debt and payments that they can’t get ahead financially in order to save any money. Is that who you envy? Is that who you want to be like? I’m sure your answer is NO.

    On the flip side are the people who desire to have what they see the Joneses have. It’s not enough to just keep up with the Joneses. Nowadays everyone wants to be the Joneses. Of course it looks tempting, fun, and stress-free but the reality is that normal in America is full of hassles that none of us want to deal with. Why waste your life desiring what your neighbor has? Measuring yourself against what someone else has is a sorry gage of your own potential. God has so much in store for us that we cannot even imagine it all.

    The Dreaded French Fry

    A large problem with budget planning is the dining out category.  Many people have the best of intentions, but when it comes down to it more budget breaking moves are made in this category than in any other category of the budget. Although we simply want a quick meal, we are probably sacrificing more: namely our hard-earned dollars and our health by eating out so much.  Personally, all my children ever want to eat when we go out is chicken tenders and French fries.  I find that they experiment more when we try new things at home rather than at a restaurant.  Since one of my goals is to raise healthy children who enjoy different kinds of food and flavors it is best to keep them in my own kitchen where they feel safe enough to experiment. 

    Let’s try it…

    See how much money you can save by dining in!

    Do Something Different!

    Have you looked in the room of your children or someone else’s child lately?  Toys are probably everywhere!  Are you tired of trying to figure out what toys they already have?  With Easter just wrapping up and the many Easter baskets given, filled with candy and toys, I'm reminded of a much more valuable gift to give to your children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews; even if it's small amounts appropriate for holidays like Easter.  Maybe it is time to give a gift of future to the children we love and care about. 

    How about gifting some funds toward college education for the children in your life?  $20 or $30 may not sound like a lot of money to give towards higher education, but if several family members do it the savings can really add up.  College savings accounts regularly send coupons for giving to the manager of the account for just this purpose.  Send your family members a letter stating the importance of a change this year with the coupon inserted. 

    If the child is old enough to count money and understand the value of education then this could really be a teachable moment for him or her.  What an amazing gift to give a young person!  The parents will also appreciate this investment in their future too!

    I'm doing it this year.  Won't you join me?

    The Heart of a Teacher

    Throughout life we all need advisors along the way that can help us make sound decisions.  When selecting tax advisors, financial planners, lawyers, insurance and real estate agents, coaches etc. we must be very selective.  It is critical to your success that these people embody the heart of a teacher.  Anyone giving you advice or counsel should be knowledgeable about the subject matter, sensitive to your needs, non-judgmental, wise, and a good listener. 

    Proverbs 11:14 states, “Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counselors there is safety.” 

    When you surround yourself with knowledgeable people who have your best interest at heart you are better prepared to make good decisions.  You will feel safe because you are at peace in your decision-making and you know that wise people are only a phone call away.

    Many professionals offer a free consultation.  During this session you should be able to walk away with some needed information and a short to do list.  He or she has listened to your needs and provided a brief lesson on the issue at hand.  You should feel encouraged and motivated to take any necessary action.  If the professional you are looking to hire fits this bill then you know you have one with the heart of teacher. 

    I am very passionate about sharing my knowledge when it comes to finances and budget planning.  Where others struggle, I thrive.  Having experienced financial struggles of my own early on and paid off a large amount of debt, I am now in a position to share my knowledge and there is nothing more that I would rather do.  People who have experienced situations themselves make the best teachers!  Feel free to contact me to set up a complimentary consultation to see how I would be able to  help.  You will walk away with good information and many resources.

    Refresh your Soul and Budget

    Sometimes when you are in a routine of budgeting, saving, or getting out of debt you forget to include in your planning the activities you enjoy doing.  Yes I am going to talk about that all important word BALANCE.  I have found that when we push ourselves too hard to save for something or pay off debt we can easily deprive ourselves of the things we enjoy the most.  Yes I have been just as guilty as anyone else, but now I truly believe you need to enjoy the journey you are on and not regret a thing along the way. Last summer I took the opportunity to participate in an activity that used to bring me such joy as a child and teenager.  When I was nearly 3 years old, my parents enrolled me in tap dance classes.  I couldn’t appreciate it then, but over 15 years of ballet, jazz, tap, modern, and African dance lessons inspired me and kept me in shape.  I began to thrive on the different moves my body could make.  I spent many hours every week practicing routines and my parents spent lots of money (remember: moderation is key).  For them it was an investment in a past time that I grew to love, for me it was recreation and my own personal creative expression.  While I did not become a professional dancer nor did I aspire to be, I grew to appreciate the art form and to this day attend performances that inspire the dancer within me.  

    A few years ago, I enrolled in a Hip Hop dance class that has challenged me to come outside my box.  I felt invigorated, refreshed, and 10 years younger.  It has changed the way I view my budget.  I consistently tell my clients and workshop attendees to incorporate goals into their budget for motivation and to develop positive saving habits, but I learned that some of the smaller things like a $40 dance class should fit as well.  Of course the budget numbers should balance, but the items listed should be balanced as well.  This class has helped me in more ways than I anticipated.  I get a few hours each week to myself and it is a great form of exercise.  It also allows me to refocus on my priorities when business must get done.  I’ve also witnessed a great leader in action.  My dance instructor has been teaching for 14 years and moves with such grace and passion that sometimes I can’t take my eyes off her.  She never writes down the moves that are taught.  They simply come from her heart.  She is absolutely driven to dance.  That is how we all should be about the work we do.  I feel that way about helping people gain control over their finances on a regular basis.  It gives me pleasure to see my clients reach levels financially they’ve never before achieved. 

    My challenge to you this month is to find out what activity you or your family members enjoy that would bring about the same excitement and motivation I have found.  I now refuse to allow 10 years to go by before I enroll in another dance class.  What steps are you going to take?  What is currently missing from your routine that would bring back a spark of enthusiasm, excitement, or a refreshing?  Take action today!

    Count the Cost

    How many times have you written out goals or tackled a large project and failed to reach the goal because of a lack of planning in the beginning?  I’m sure everyone has had that experience.  We all want to go further in life whether it is personally, professionally, physically, spiritually, etc.  Striving for more is what keeps us going and motivated to do awesome things here on earth.  But what happens when we don’t reach our goals and we look back at what we wish we’d done?  Obviously nothing can change the past, but with proper planning ahead of time you can definitely change your future.  One of the keys to achieving any goal; be it financial, physical, professional, personal, etc. is to sit down and weigh what needs to be done before you get started.  This may take a lot of research depending on the situation, but wisdom and knowledge are worth all the effort needed to gain it.  This critical step may keep you on the path to reaching levels never before achieved because you know more of what to expect and you have check-in points all along the way.  What I am suggesting is that you count the costFor which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?  Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish.- Luke 14:28-30 KJV

    This passage of scripture describes the person who does not sit down and understand what is involved in an endeavor before he proceeds.  We don’t use the word “counteth” so I will use the word calculate.  To calculate means to reckon by exercise of practical judgment or to plan purposefully.  Failing to complete this step can cost your reputation, money, time, etc depending on the gravity of the project.  Budgeting is counting the cost on an everyday basis so that you can live beneath your means and reach your financial goals.  Performing mortgage calculations and estimates is counting the cost when purchasing or renting a home. 

    Counting the cost can be useful in many other ways such as determining:

    1. How long it will take to get out of debt.
    2. The affordability of moving up in home.
    3. How long it will take to retire.
    4. How much to save for your children’s education.

    Sometimes these goals are not financial.  You may need to count the cost of beginning an exercise program so that you know how much time and energy is needed to reach your goal.  Counting the cost may involve writing down the pros and cons of staying on a job or moving on to a new position.  Counting the cost is simply being thorough in your approach to a new situation so that you increase your chances of success.  In the passage above, the man didn’t even get past the foundation before he realized it was too much.  In what ways do you need to count the cost?