Archives For Frugality

       I borrowed The Complete Tightwad Gazette by Amy Dacyczyn from my local library a while back because I’d read so much about it on other personal finance blogs. I started reading through it, and I found so many good tips and ideas that I decided to buy a copy for myself from Amazon. This post is part of a series where I’ll share my take on some of my favorite tips from the book.

Everything You Already Know

       Amy makes a point of explaining that personal finance advice is a lot like dieting advice. It’s mostly just a bunch of stuff you already know. We all know that to lose weight we need to eat fewer calories than we burn. To save money and get ahead in our personal finances, we need to spend less money than we earn. They’re both simple, and you already know those things. I’m not providing some great insight when I tell you to spend less than you earn.

       But in personal finance advice, you’ll run into some strange ideas. I’m referring to the philosophy of “Don’t worry about being frugal and spending less. Just focus on earning more.” They’ll even go to the point of saying that frugality is stupid and a waste of time. But the problem is that this approach is one-sided and blind to the advantages of a combined approach.

       The equivalent in dieting advice would be saying “Don’t eat less, just exercise more.” How many health professionals do you hear giving that kind of advice? None! The best dieting advice is a combination of eating less and exercising more.

       In the same way, the best personal finance advice is a combination of spending less (frugality and smart choices) and earning more (diligent work, entrepreneurship, and smart investing). That’s what I aim to give you on Provident Planning – a balanced approach. Indeed, God’s Provident Plan is designed with this approach in mind. Contentment and hard work combining to yield generous giving.

       But Amy offers a second part to this analogy. When she joined Weight Watchers, she already knew how to lose weight. But she kept going to the meetings because of the support network they provided. In the same way, she hoped The Tightwad Gazette could serve as a support network for those looking to save money – confirming what they already know, providing some useful tips, and encouraging each other along.

       That’s my desire for Provident Planning as well. I want to create a community where we continue to learn about God’s desire for personal finances and encourage each other along our journey. Together, we can support each other as we seek to glorify God through our personal finances. You can help me with this effort by continuing to read and comment, and I will help by continuing to write what I hope are useful articles. You can help even more by contacting me with any feedback that can improve Provident Planning for everyone.

Sign Up for Free Updates!

       If you want some more good ideas on saving money from The Complete Tightwad Gazette, make sure you sign up for free updates from Provident Planning. I write on a wide variety of personal finance topics, so even if you’re not interested in frugality I’m sure you’ll find something useful here.

Frugal Fatigue

Corey —  March 11, 2010 — Leave a comment

This article has been reprinted with permission from Gary Foreman of The Dollar Stretcher. You can find the original article here: Frugal Fatigue

       Albert Einstein once said, “It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.”

       A reporter, doing a story on people who were tired of the effort that it takes to control spending, approached me recently. She wanted suggestions for people who were struggling and thinking of just giving up. What makes some people continue when the easiest course was to quit? And, how can you become that person?

       The first suggestion is to make a decision and stick with it. Unless you have significant new information, you have no reason to rethink your decision.

       Breaking big goals into smaller pieces is the second suggestion. Dividing a big goal into smaller goals allows you to savor successes along the way. Each one helps to motivate you to strive for the next small goal until you’ve accomplished the big goal.

       Giving yourself rewards along the way is another great way to accomplish financial goals. If you’re paying off a credit card, treat yourself to a small reward at predetermined points along the way. Take your mind off of the struggle by looking forward to the reward.

       Stay motivated with reminders. If you’re saving for a vacation, you’ll find that a picture of your desired destination can be a great motivation. Some people put a card in their wallet to remind them of their commitment to reduce debt. When they reach for cash or a credit card, it helps them resist needless purchases.

       Finally, it’s helpful to have friends to encourage you and share experiences. A long journey is always easier if you have someone to share it with. Find a frugal partner at work or in your neighborhood. Or join an online discussion group. Not only will you find help, but also you’ll become stronger when you encourage others. In fact, we have one specifically on Frugal Fatigue.

       So don’t be discouraged by the length of the journey. What’s important is that you stay on track for today. And, that’s something that all of us can do.

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Gary Foreman is the founder of The Dollar Stretcher website and newsletters including Financial Independence a step-by-step approach to achieving your financial goals.

This is a guest post from the Editor of VoucherCodes.co.uk, a site offering voucher codes and printable vouchers to help you save more money.

       In the current climate it is hard for many to get by. All of our budgets seem to have been slashed, and what’s left over for the end of the month for luxuries has all but disappeared. Giving to charity each month can therefore seem a bit of a hardship, but it is ironically at this time that it is needed so much. The recent earthquake in Haiti has provided an all too clear signal of the need for charitable donations. With a few personal finance tips, you can put aside a large part of your monthly budget therefore freeing up more resources for charity.

Budget!

       The first thing to do is to know exactly where you stand. As has already been pointed out on Provident Planning, a site such as Mint offers free financial software that can show you exactly where your money is going each month. This can be an excellent tool, but it can be difficult to work with this as a household tool. In a dual income household, communication is especially important. The whole family will have to sit down together in order to work out their expenditure and to plan for the months ahead. If you have children this can be a great chance to educate them on how to manage money and to set a great example.

Save on Groceries

       To help with the family planning further you can log on to Netmums, a UK community of mothers and download their weekly meal planner – this is just as applicable for a US family. Any shopping trip can then be more focused around what is essential. Supermarkets are designed to bombard you with information encourage you to make impulse purchases. They have become very sophisticated in their marketing (ever noticed how the premium brands are at eye level?). If at all possible, it can be better to leave the kids at home when shopping – they are usually much more persuadable to making unnecessary purchases and are no doubt very adept at persuading you as well!

Cut Back on Your Energy Bills

       It is also essential to cut the amount of energy you are using in your home. With just a few tricks you can save lots of money. Head over to the Energy Savings Trust website and take their free home energy check to ensure you are not frittering away your hard earned cash in wasted energy each month.

Use Coupons

       Coupons have also become an online phenomenon in 2009 – and if you’re not using them in 2010 you will really be missing out. Ever been prompted when buying online to enter a voucher code (or promo code or something along these lines)? Well a simple Google search for “Coupons” will provide a huge collection of coupon sites where you can find the correct text to enter to get the relevant discount. These can usually knock $20 off the weekly shop. [Paul's note: I like RetailMeNot for this. I've saved a lot with that site.]

Don’t Waste Money When You’re on Vacation

       In the end we all deserve to have to have a break from counting the pennies, but this does not mean we want to be ripped off when going on holiday. If we easily reduce the amount we fritter away, it means we can spare a little more from the holiday fund. A little local knowledge can be found in the online Time Out guides – they provide comprehensive schedules of the events coming up in most of the major world cities. Booking in advance you can usually make huge savings and avoid inflated “at the door” prices. You can also find great advice on non-touristy restaurants to save further. These combined can cut your travel budget by almost half painlessly.

       I hope these tips show that with a small bit of thinking we can be more charitable each month without breaking the bank!

This has been a guest post from the Editor of VoucherCodes.co.uk. Be sure to check out their site if you live in or will be visiting the UK. I’m sure you’ll find some ways to save money!

Thrift Store Bargains

Corey —  February 5, 2010 — 3 Comments

       Before our trip to Haiti, my wife, Michelle, and I were shopping at Goodwill to buy some work clothes we could use and leave there. But while we were there, Michelle found a great bargain in the shoe section.

       She found a pair of Nike Air Zoom Elite Women’s running shoes for $6.97. Here are a couple pictures:


Michelle's Shoes

Michelle's Shoes - Price Tag


       These shoes are in great condition, very clean, and look like they’ve barely been used at all. The amazing thing is these shoes retail for $65.00 new at shoedeals4u.com. That’s a savings of $58.03! Granted, they’re not worth the brand new price since they’re used, but they’re definitely worth more than $6.97.

       These shoes wouldn’t be a great deal if Michelle didn’t actually need them and wouldn’t actually use them. But she does and will. I think this example can teach us two things:

  1. You need to keep your eyes open to spot deals.
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  3. You shouldn’t ignore thrift stores because of stigmas or misconceptions.



       And believe me, there are more bargains to be found in thrift stores than just the shoes. I saw a suit from Nordstrom, jeans from Gap and Calvin Klein, shirts from Tommy Hilfiger, and nice leather jackets – all in great condition. I’m not saying you should focus on name brands only, but it just goes to show you that you can find quality items at low prices in thrift stores.

Your Best Thrift Store Bargains

       What’s your best thrift store bargain? Let me know in the comments!

       If you spend much time reading personal finance advice for Christians (either on Provident Planning or somewhere else), you’ll probably start to realize that it’s not all that different from other personal finance advice. Most of the good advice for Christians applies equally to non-Christians as well. Stick to a budget, spend less than you earn, avoid excessive debt, keep an emergency fund, minimize your taxes, don’t buy insurance you don’t need, save for the future – none of those things are particularly Christian in nature.

       There may be some points in which Christian personal finance and secular personal finance will differ, but, generally speaking, good personal finance advice is the same regardless of your religion. The difference – and this is a major difference – is in the ultimate purpose, the final goal, of following that good advice.

       As far as the world is concerned, it makes sense to make smart personal finance decisions because that’s what is best for you. Good money management will help you meet your goals, maximize your wealth, and get the most out of the money you’ve earned. And according to the world, that’s what you should do with your money. Use it for the things you want. Use it to meet your goals and fulfill your dreams.

       But for Christians, making smart decisions in our finances is not important just so we can maximize our wealth and meet all our desires. Our purpose is not to find fulfillment in this world and the things it offers. Our purpose is to honor and glorify God – to serve Him with our entire being in everything we do. Our goal is to do His will. And part of God’s will for us is to share His love by caring for those in need through generous giving. We don’t try to maximize our wealth for our own use. We try to maximize our wealth for God’s use.

       I want you to remember this as you read the articles I write. Many times there won’t be a Bible verse in a post. Personal finance in the Bible is more about the principles that should govern our decisions – not specific applications (like how to get out of debt). But it’s very important that we remember the purpose of seeking and following good financial advice.

       When I talk about spending less, it’s so we’ll have more to give. When I talk about earning more money, it’s so we’ll have more to give. When I talk about making smart financial choices, it’s so we’ll have more to give. It all comes back to giving – giving motivated by love that flows out of our response to God’s Gift to us.

       Yes, making good financial decisions will have benefits for you personally. But our focus as Christians is on the benefits those decisions will have for the Kingdom. In our efforts to follow good financial advice, let’s keep our eyes focused on Christ and our minds focused on how we can serve Him fully.

       The advice we follow may not be all that different from non-Christians. But the motivation, goals, and results should be very, very different. And that difference will serve as a witness for the power of God’s love working in our lives.

       What do you think makes Christian personal finance different? Let me know in the comments!

       I borrowed The Complete Tightwad Gazette by Amy Dacyczyn from my local library a while back because I’d read so much about it on other personal finance blogs. I started reading through it, and I found so many good tips and ideas that I decided to buy a copy for myself from Amazon. This post is the first in a series where I’ll share my take on some of my favorite tips from the book.

Track Your Spending for 3 Months

       One of the first tips you’ll find in the book (on page 9, in fact) is to track your spending for 3 months. Amy says the first step for anyone who’s looking to become more frugal is to find out where your money is going now. I agree with her. It’s hard to know where you should start looking to save money if you’re not sure what you’re spending it on.

       By taking the time to track all of your expenses, you’ll learn two things. First, you can categorize your expenses into essentials (needs) and non-essentials (wants). Breaking things down this way will help you see where you can make room in your spending.

       Second, you’ll see just how much you’re spending on your budget categories. Knowing this helps you target the biggest expenses to get the most impact. It will also make you more aware of where your money is going. Blind spending is a quick way to destroy your finances.

How to Do It

       So if you want to track your spending, what are your options? Here are some ideas:

  • Paper – You can always do it by hand with pencil and paper. This is a time intensive method and makes it difficult to work with the data you collect. I wouldn’t recommend this method.
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  • Spreadsheet – Microsoft Excel, Open Office Calc, Google Spreadsheets, or Zoho Spreadsheets can be also be used to track your expenses. This is another manual method that takes a bit of time, but at least you can sort and use your data. If you’re not dedicated to routinely entering your expenses, it won’t work for you.
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  • Budgeting Software – Three of the best software choices for budgeting and tracking expenses are Quicken, You Need a Budget, and Gnu Cash. The advantage of these programs is that they store all the information on your computer, and they can automatically download your transactions from your banks and credit cards. They also offer more advanced reports than you’ll want to create in a spreadsheet. This is a much easier solution than the first two.
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  • Online Budgeting Websites – There are multiple options if you’re interested in using an online budgeting website. Mint, Thrive, Wesabe, and Yodlee all offer a free, online solution for budgeting and tracking your spending. You might not be able to use these sites if you bank at a credit union or small local bank, and you might be concerned about security issues with having all your info in one place. Security was my initial concern, but I did some research and decided to go with Mint. I like it so far, and I’d recommend you read their FAQ if you’re interested. This is by far the easiest solution. It only took me about an hour to set it all up the way I wanted.


Sign Up for Free Updates!

       If you want some more good ideas on saving money from The Complete Tightwad Gazette, make sure you sign up for free updates from Provident Planning. I write on a wide variety of personal finance topics, so even if you’re not interested in frugality I’m sure you’ll find something useful here.

Not for Itching Ears

Corey —  December 31, 2009 — 2 Comments

       If you want to hear how the Bible can make you a millionaire, you’re in the wrong place. If you want to hear that you can give 10% and you’ve done your duty to God, you’re in the wrong place. If you want to hear how easy life is going to be as a Christian, you should go do another Google search because you’re not going to find that here.

       Provident Planning is not a place for people with itching ears.

       But if you want to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ, you’ve come to the right place. If you want to know what the Bible – not man – teaches about money, you’ve come to the right place. If you desire to be a lover of God rather than a lover of money, then I invite you to join me as I seek God’s Truth for personal finances.

       3 For the time will come when they will not listen to the sound doctrine, but, having itching ears, will heap up for themselves teachers after their own lusts; 4 and will turn away their ears from the truth, and turn aside to fables.

2 Timothy 4:3-4 (WEB)



       A lot of the most popular teaching about personal finance for Christians emphasizes how Biblical financial principles can make you rich. This naturally appeals to many people because the love of money is so prevalent in our society. Those who teach how the Bible can make you rich while putting little emphasis on God’s true purpose for those riches are doing nothing but scratching the itching ears.

       God’s Word is not a guide on how to get rich and enjoy all the fine things of the World. God doesn’t want rich Christians to splurge on luxuries while their brothers and sisters die from hunger and thirst. The Gospel is not about how you can prosper in this life. Jesus didn’t die on the cross so you can retire early.

       Jesus warned us of the dangers of greed. He taught us to give generously to anyone in need. He taught us to seek God’s Kingdom first – to make it our top priority in life. All of God’s Word testifies to the fact that our best life will be an eternal life in Heaven – not here on Earth. He has warned us that this life will be full of trials, tribulations, hard times, and difficulties. But He has promised us the most wonderful blessing – eternal life with Him for anyone who believes in His Son, Jesus Christ.

       3 If anyone teaches a different doctrine, and doesn’t consent to sound words, the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness, 4 he is conceited, knowing nothing, but obsessed with arguments, disputes, and word battles, from which come envy, strife, insulting, evil suspicions, 5 constant friction of people of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. Withdraw yourself from such.

1 Timothy 6:3-5 (WEB)



       Many false teachers talk about how God will bless you if you’re a Christian. Or they tell you to send them a love gift or plant a seed and God will pour out miraculous financial blessings for you. These people do not teach the whole Word of God! We are to have nothing to do with those who twist the Scriptures for their own financial gain or teach a gospel different from the one Jesus taught.

       As Christians, we are rich – but you can’t measure our wealth in dollars. We have eternal life with God as our promised reward for faith in Jesus. That reward outweighs anything you can imagine for yourself in this life – and that reward is why contentment and giving should be our primary concerns when it comes to money. Reflect on these words from the Bible:

       6 But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into the world, and we certainly can’t carry anything out. 8 But having food and clothing, we will be content with that.

       9 But those who are determined to be rich fall into a temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful lusts, such as drown men in ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some have been led astray from the faith in their greed, and have pierced themselves through with many sorrows.

       11 But you, man of God, flee these things, and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, and gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of faith. Lay hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you confessed the good confession in the sight of many witnesses. 13 I command you before God, who gives life to all things, and before Christ Jesus, who before Pontius Pilate testified the good confession, 14 that you keep the commandment without spot, blameless, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ; 15 which in its own times he will show, who is the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings, and Lord of lords; 16 who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light; whom no man has seen, nor can see: to whom be honor and eternal power. Amen.

       17 Charge those who are rich in this present world that they not be haughty, nor have their hope set on the uncertainty of riches, but on the living God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy; 18 that they do good, that they be rich in good works, that they be ready to distribute, willing to communicate; 19 laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold of eternal life.

1 Timothy 6:6-19 (WEB)



       So if you want to learn what God says about money and what the Bible teaches about personal finance, then please sign up for free updates to Provident Planning. And if you ever find me teaching anything contrary to the Scripture or the Gospel of Jesus Christ, please contact me and let me know.

       But if you just want someone to tell you the things you want to hear, you’ll have to go somewhere else to get your ears scratched.