Archives For Reviews

       On Wednesday, I had the pleasure of interviewing Chuck Bentley, the CEO of Crown Financial Ministries, about his upcoming book The Root of Riches: What If Everything You Think about Money Is Wrong?. The book will be released in the next week or so, but if you’d like to get a 20% discount you can go to http://www.crown.org/rootofriches and sign up to pre-order the book and get a free sample chapter.

       I had the chance to read the book before the interview and I highly recommend it to all of you. Chuck does a good job of getting to the heart of our issues with money by highlighting how being rooted in Christ is the only way to receive true riches. The interview below will give you a good overview of the central ideas in the book and help you determine if it’s something you’d want to read.

       I’ve included the audio here which you can listen to on the website or download for later. I’ve also transcribed the interview for those of you who prefer to read. I’d be interested in your feedback on how well you liked this because it’s the first time I’ve tried doing an interview/podcast. (I was quite pleased with how my intro and outro music turned out!) Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments at the bottom of the page, and if you have any questions I’ll do my best to answer them.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.


Download the audio by right-clicking here and choosing “Save as…”.
Credits: intro and outro music for the audio is from “Bucolique Utopique” by David on Jamendo

Note: I was not paid anything to post this interview. I only agreed to it after reading the book because I believed Chuck’s message in The Root of Riches is excellent and needs to become more prominent in Christian personal finance.

Continue Reading…

Redefining Riches       My friend Rob Kuban at Dollars and Doctrine has recently released a four lesson Sunday school series called Redefining Riches. I’ve had the chance to review it and I can tell you it’s an excellent introductory course to the core principles of a Biblical approach to finances. If you’re looking for something related to finances to do in your Sunday school class or small group, I highly recommend this as a starting place. (I’m not getting paid to say this, and I don’t earn anything if you buy it. I just believe Rob’s put together a great resource with a heart for helping people understand Biblical truths about God’s desires for our finances.) It’s only $3.99 for all four lessons, which includes PowerPoint slides, leader’s guides, and handouts. You can print as many copies as you need for your group, so it’s a great deal.

       Today’s post is from the content in the lesson on contentment, which I’ve reprinted with Rob’s permission. I’m not devaluing Rob’s work because the value of buying Redefining Riches is in having the lessons already prepared for you along with the PowerPoint slides. You’ll get a good idea of the content by reading the excerpts I’ll share, but you’re still missing out on some additional content Rob includes as well as the leader’s guides and handouts.

Contentment: A Steadfastness of Hope

       Contentment is the currency of God’s economy and God’s people.

       “Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, ‘I WILL NEVER DESERT YOU, NOR WILL I EVER FORSAKE YOU.’” (Hebrews 13:5)



       The world champions consumption, but God’s word makes much of contentment. In order to live contently, we have to begin setting our mind on things above. (Colossians 3:2) When we allow the scripture to guide our thoughts and habits, we free ourselves from the insatiable appetites of the world and allow instead the fullness of God to be our portion. A content Christian finds his hope in God not in success or accumulation. (See Also: 1 Timothy 6:6-8)


       Contentment is a lifestyle based on biblical convictions.

       “And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness”…Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)



       The Bible calls us to allow our convictions, not our circumstances, to govern our sense of contentment. True, biblical contentment is a conviction that Christ’s power, purpose and provision is sufficient for every circumstance. We are to learn how to walk through all kinds of adversity believing in and experiencing Christ’s sufficiency. We have to choose to rest on God’s good promises despite what may be going on in our lives.


       Contentment is a commitment to choose Christ over consumption.

       “Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:11-13)



       A Christian is called to learn to be content. This is a lifelong process, but well worth the time as we learn to lean on Christ for our strength. We are to choose to walk by faith not by sight, choose self-control over self-indulgence, choose gratitude over grumbling and ultimately, choose to set our hope on Christ. (See Also: Luke 3:14, Mark 8:35-37)

Redefining Riches       My friend Rob Kuban at Dollars and Doctrine has recently released a four lesson Sunday school series called Redefining Riches. I’ve had the chance to review it and I can tell you it’s an excellent introductory course to the core principles of a Biblical approach to finances. If you’re looking for something related to finances to do in your Sunday school class or small group, I highly recommend this as a starting place. (I’m not getting paid to say this, and I don’t earn anything if you buy it. I just believe Rob’s put together a great resource with a heart for helping people understand Biblical truths about God’s desires for our finances.) It’s only $3.99 for all four lessons, which includes PowerPoint slides, leader’s guides, and handouts. You can print as many copies as you need for your group, so it’s a great deal.

       Today’s post is from the content in the lesson on generosity, which I’ve reprinted with Rob’s permission. I’m not devaluing Rob’s work because the value of buying Redefining Riches is in having the lessons already prepared for you along with the PowerPoint slides. You’ll get a good idea of the content by reading the excerpts I’ll share, but you’re still missing out on some additional content Rob includes as well as the leader’s guides and handouts.

Generosity: A Labor of Love

       Generosity is the result of a transformed heart.

       “Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:7)



       God loves a cheerful giver and if we let Him, He will cultivate a joy in generosity within our own hearts. This is how we learn to give with pure motives and pure hearts. We are wasting our money and embittering our hearts when we give out of guilt or obligation. As we allow Christ to transform our hearts, we joyfully give first, proportionally, secretly and sacrificially. (See Also: Proverbs 3:9-10, 1 Chronicles 29:5-9, Acts 11:29)


       Generosity is a lifestyle of giving and loving fully.

       “Remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” (Acts 20:35)



       The call to generosity is hardly limited to the offering plate. We are called to be generous people. We should gladly choose to be generous with our money, time, energy, talents, gifts, and on, and on. Generosity, when understood Biblically, is a way of life. (See Also: Galatians 1:3-4, John 15:13)


       Generosity is a spring of life to those who give Biblically.

       “Instruct those who are rich in this present world…to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share…so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed.” (1 Timothy 6:17-19)



       The Bible teaches that it is better to give than to receive. We are told that generosity is one component of taking hold of “that which is life indeed”. When we give, we live as Christ calls and love others well. When we withhold, we follow the world’s idolization of consumption and love ourselves well. (See Also: Luke 6:38, Philippians 4:17, Proverbs 11:25, Proverbs 22:9, Proverbs 28:27)

Redefining Riches       My friend Rob Kuban at Dollars and Doctrine has recently released a four lesson Sunday school series called Redefining Riches. I’ve had the chance to review it and I can tell you it’s an excellent introductory course to the core principles of a Biblical approach to finances. If you’re looking for something related to finances to do in your Sunday school class or small group, I highly recommend this as a starting place. (I’m not getting paid to say this, and I don’t earn anything if you buy it. I just believe Rob’s put together a great resource with a heart for helping people understand Biblical truths about God’s desires for our finances.) It’s only $3.99 for all four lessons, which includes PowerPoint slides, leader’s guides, and handouts. You can print as many copies as you need for your group, so it’s a great deal.

       Today’s post is from the content in the lesson on stewardship, which I’ve reprinted with Rob’s permission. I’m not devaluing Rob’s work because the value of buying Redefining Riches is in having the lessons already prepared for you along with the PowerPoint slides. You’ll get a good idea of the content by reading the excerpts I’ll share, but you’re still missing out on some additional content Rob includes as well as the leader’s guides and handouts.

Stewardship: A Work of Faith

       Stewardship is respectful of God as Creator and King.

“For all things come from You, and from Your hand we have given You…O LORD our God, all this abundance that we have provided to build You a house for Your holy name, it is from Your hand, and all is Yours.” (1 Chronicles 29:14,16)



       When we properly understand God’s ownership of all of His creation, we will view ourselves as managers of the resources with which God has entrusted us. Like the parable of the talents, we will seek to utilize our resources according to our master’s desire. The way we handle our money matters. The volume of scripture regarding money and possessions is profound. When we consider how often the Law, the prophets, Christ and the apostles spoke of such things, we can no longer view the way we handle our money as insignificant. (See Also: Psalm 24:1, Psalm 89:11, Deuteronomy 10:14, Romans 11:36, John 3:27, Matthew 25:14-30)


       Stewardship is revealing of our heart’s true treasure.

       “The good man brings out of his good treasure what is good; and the evil man brings out of his evil treasure what is evil.” (Matthew 12:35)

       ”Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21)



       The way we handle and acquire money reveals a lot about our character and priorities. Are we generous, honest, selfish, content, humble or greedy? How we obtain our money and where it ends up reveals a lot about what we value. Christ constantly spoke of the impact our internal conditions have on our external acts. The use of money is a perfect example of this principle. (See Also: Proverbs 15:6, Luke 16:10)


       Stewardship is rewarding when done Biblically and wisely.

       “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth…But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven.” (Matthew 6:19-20)



       We will give an account for how we have managed and invested such a powerful asset. Are we investing in the kingdom or ourselves? The Bible clearly relates that heavenly reward awaits those who choose to invest in the kingdom of God. We must recognize that money has huge amounts of “potential energy” and we will be accountable for how we utilized and where we invested what God has entrusted to us. (See Also: Luke 12:33-34, Luke 14:12-14, Matthew 19:21, Hebrews 11:6)

       A while back, I received a free copy of Upside Living in a Downside Economy by Mike Slaughter from the publisher for my review. Mike is the lead pastor at Ginghamsburg United Methodist Church in Tipp City, Ohio. In this book, Mike offers insight into God’s perspective on our money concerns using passages from the book of James and other Bible verses. At 96 pages and 5″ x 7″, it’s a short little book. However, it contains some powerful ideas about how Christians should approach their personal finances. I’ve broken down this review into the four chapters you’ll find in the book:

Seeking God’s Perspective

       In the first chapter, Mike focuses on getting the right perspective on our finances. First, he looks at God’s character as a loving father. Next, he mentions a couple of God’s perspectives on money and emphasizes that we must seek to put God first and serve Him with our money. This is key to following God’s plan for our finances and fully understanding His desire for our lives. Then, Mike talks about checking our motives. We have to be careful about pursuing material things and loving money. Finally, he finishes the chapter by asking us to look at the source of our motives and who we are listening to. He warns of listening to the media and recommends that we seek God’s Word and wise advice from Christians instead.

Rebalancing Life Investments

       Mike then looks at seven “right actions” we should take as a response to God’s priorities for our finances and lives:

1. Do the first “right” thing: planned giving to God.
2. Seek wise counsel through an accountability group or counselor.
3. Write or rework a budget.
4. Perform plastic surgery and reduce your debt.
5. Set future goals and practice delayed gratification.
6. Nurture an attitude of gratitude.
7. Pray, pray, pray.

       These seven actions cover some important ideas God teaches us through the Bible. They’re not comprehensive, and Mike’s discussion of these actions is mostly motivational. It is not a step-by-step guide, and Mike never claims that it is.

Do It Today

       Mike then discusses the importance of planning in accordance with God’s Will. Planning for the future does not mean we are not relying on God. Throughout the Bible, God encourages us to prudently plan and prepare for the future. However, when we are planning for the future, we should be careful to make sure we approach it prayerfully and seek God’s Kingdom first.

       Mike covers what he calls the “fundamental life principles of sowing and reaping”:

1. You reap what you sow.
2. You determine the size of the harvest at the time of planting.
3. You will reap more than you sow.
4. The harvest comes in a later season than the sowing.
5. You are responsible for the work of sowing; God is responsible for the harvest.

       Anyone familiar with gardening or farming can tell you these are accurate statements regarding sowing and reaping (with the exception of disasters that wipe out the entire crop). When you apply these principles to your finances, God can bless you just as He has promised. Your actions show your faith in His promises.

       Finally, Mike talks about seven steps in creating a financial plan:

1. Do a financial analysis.
2. Begin an aggressive program of debt reduction.
3. Create an emergency fund.
4. Be sure you have adequate life insurance.
5. Write a will.
6. Look at your giving.
7. Create a budget.

       Again, this is not a full list of the things you should do when creating your financial plan, but they are a good start. If you can do these seven things, you’ll be ahead of most people. This section is more about leading you down the right path rather than directing you along the way.

Investing in God’s Future Harvest

       In the final chapter, Mike discusses three ways we can invest in God’s future harvest. First, he looks at living and giving thankfully. We must realize that all we have is from God, and we should be thankful for the blessings he gives us. We need to appreciate what we have, even during hard times. Second, he talks about living and giving faithfully. God calls us to live by faith regardless of our circumstances. We must always lean on God and trust in His teaching. In this way, we can live free from fear.

       Finally, he covers living and giving sacrificially. As Christians, we have to remember we are the body of Christ. We are how He blesses and cares for people. Our purpose is to complete the work He has prepared for us—not to achieve the “American Dream” or other materialistic goals. Mike challenges us to give everything over to God—our money, our time, our entire being. Though it seems foolish or impossible from the world’s viewpoint, it is the true calling God has for those who follow Christ and it is possible through faith in Him.

Rebalancing Your Life

       At the end of the book, there’s a short section where you can reflect on the ideas in the book and write down goals for yourself. It’s only four small pages, but it’s a start to looking at how you should use the lessons in this book in your own life.

My Recommendation

       Upside Living in a Downside Economy is not a book that will guide you through the steps needed to fully align your finances with God’s Will. But it will give you a good start at understanding God’s perspective on our finances and our lives.

       My only concerns with Mike’s teaching in the book have to do with his emphasis on tithing and the incongruity of his views on giving to the poor and his own personal life. Any emphasis on tithing as God’s desire for Christians fails to acknowledge that Christians are called to give much more generously than just 10% of their income. There are also other problems with teaching the tithe that I will address when I discuss giving in my personal finance Bible study.

       I also found it hard to give credence to Mike when he discusses how Christians must live and give sacrificially in the same book where he explains that one of his personal goals was to have a mountain home by 2004. It’s difficult for me to think that having a second home of any sort is really sacrificial when millions of people around the world don’t even have suitable shelter. There were a couple other passages in the book that gave me this same feeling. I don’t mean to attack Mike and I’m not saying I’m better than him. There are areas of my life where I am not congruent in my actions and God’s teaching, but God is changing me as I grow in Jesus Christ. I agree with his ideas about living and giving sacrificially and most of his ideas in the book, but I would have liked to see him living out examples of this more clearly as a teacher of God’s Word.

       At a cost of $8.00, I’m not sure I can recommend that you buy the book. It is short and doesn’t contain much on the side of practical application. However, if you’re just starting to seek God’s perspective on money and want to start with an easy read, Upside Living in a Downside Economy may be right for you. Borrow it from the library, your church, or a friend if you can, otherwise feel free to click the picture of the book above and purchase it on Amazon.

The Secret to a Successful Budget eBook
 
       Welcome to the Carnival of Personal Finance #271 – The Secret to a Successful Budget eBook Edition! My friend Craig Ford at Money Help for Christians is launching a new eBook today. It’s designed to help you discover the secrets to successful budgeting.

       I think it’s a great resource for anyone who’s ever struggled with budgeting, so I’ve included some quotes from his eBook throughout this carnival. You can get the book for 30% off if you buy before midnight (EDT) August 31st, 2010. Be sure to read through to the end of this carnival because I’ll be giving away two FREE copies to two lucky winners!

Editor’s Choice

       Here are my top picks from the submissions this week:

  • Mike Piper from Oblivious Investor presents Dealing with Investment Confusion, and says, “What’s the best approach to dealing with the confusion that comes from being a new investor?” – [Mike shares some good advice for people who are confused about investing. It won't immediately cure your confusion, but applying this strategy over and over will help you make informed decisions you can stick to.]
  • Briana Ford from Go Banking Rates presents Why Americans Can’t Afford to Die [Infographic], and says, “If you never thought about this problem before, take a look at how expensive funerals really are. You may discover you, like many Americans, simply can’t afford to die.” – [What can I say? I'm a sucker for infographics.]
  • Len from Len Penzo dot Com presents A Simple Trick to Get Your Credit Card Interest Charges Waived. – [I wish more people realized the power of Len's simple trick!]
  • Lauren from Richly Reasonable presents 4 Bad Deals, and says, “The term “Bad Deal” is relative. Not only is Necessity the mother of Invention, she is also the mother of many a Bad Deal. Necessity has a TON of children.” – [Funny, smart, and witty - and likely to open a few eyes at least!]
  • Jacob A. Irwin from My Personal Finance Journey presents Adjusting My Monthly Budget to Account for Home Ownership, and says, “A look at the steps I have recently taken to adjust my personal budget to account for the various elements of home ownership.” – [At our current rent rate owning a home just doesn't make sense. Just look at all the costs involved!]

       Congratulations to the editor’s choice picks! Here are the rest of the articles from this week’s submissions.

Money Management

  • MD from Studenomics presents Quick College Students Guide To Personal Finance.
  • Jason from One Money Design presents How Do You Live Well on Less Pay?, and says, “There are plenty of people that don’t make a lot of money and have trouble covering basic expenses each month. There are 5 essential tips to follow to live well on less pay.”
  • Revanche from A Gai Shan Life presents Shopping for the single life .
  • ispf from Grad Money Matters presents The American Dream of Home Ownership: 10 Things You Can Do as a Student.
  • Jim from Wanderlust Journey presents Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines Shareholder Benefits.
  • Jason from Live Real, Now presents Check Your Bills, and says, “Can you automate your finances too far?”
  • Elle from Couple Money presents Financial Tips for College Success, and says, “Many college students are surprised to see how easy it is to build a financial foundation for themselves. Learn how to set up bank accounts, pay your bills, and start a graduation fund.”
  • DE(a)BTh from Murder Your Debt presents Your Wasted Life, and says, “You thought financing a house and a fast car meant freedom. That an expensive education would lead you to a rewarding career where you could earn lots of money. You were wrong, weren’t you? You hate your career but you’re stuck. You’re stuck because you swallowed the lies you were sold. The lies that material possessions bring success. The lies that more money means more happiness. And now what? You’ve got it all; the cars, the house with the huge yard, the sexy outfits and shiny shoes. But you’re STILL not happy!”
  • vh from Funny about Money presents Social Security’s Bizarre Rules, and says, “Social Security’s restrictive rules make it impossible to get out of poverty when unemployment forces one into early retirement and stock-market losses militate against retirement fund drawdowns.”
  • J. Money from Budgets Are Sexy presents What would you do with an extra $1,000?, and says, “Montel Williams wants to know ;)”
  • Bob from Christian Finances presents How to spend unexpected income: 3 questions to ask, and says, “It can be tough to know what to do when you receive a large sum of cash – this article will give you some questions to help you figure out what to do with it…”
  • Mr. GoTo from Go To Retirement presents How Much Long Term Care Insurance Should You Have?, and says, “Insuring against a long term care event is part of personal risk management. Estimating the amount of long term care coverage to obtain requires careful consideration of several factors.”


If you are working 40 or more hours a week to earn your money, don’t you think it is worth an hour or two to set up a budget?

Isn’t it worth spending about an hour every week to manage the money you work so hard to earn? It is always better to manage what you have than to work yourself crazy trying to get more money.

- from page 21 of The Secret to a Successful Budget by Craig Ford


Finance


Investing

  • Dividend Growth Investor from Dividend Growth Investor presents 33 Dividend Champions to Consider, and says, “Dividend investor David Fish has created a list of dividend stocks which have raised distributions for 25 consecutive years and has named it the dividend champions list. His list includes 100 companies, which is more than twice the size of the Dividend Aristocrats. I ran a screen on the list in order to identify stocks for further research.”
  • Mike from The Financial Blogger presents Use the Loonie’s Strength to Invest in the Eagle Market, and says, “Canadian dollar is strong compared to the US dollar at this time. Use this as an opportunity to invest in US stocks.”
  • Div Guy from The Dividend Guy Blog presents Dividend Investing with Less Than $1,000 Part 3: How to Pick Your ETFs and/or Dividend Funds, and says, “Starting to invest is quite motivating but as a young investor, you must put greed and hype aside and start by looking for sound investments.”
  • Squirrelers presents Small Stocks = High Return and High Volatility, and says, “Small stocks, particularly those in the lowest deciles, have performed very well over the long-term. They can be an important part of your asset allocation, provided you can stomach the associated risks.”
  • D4L from Dividends Value presents My Top 6 Performing Dividend Stocks Just Might Surprise You, and says, “As I have stated many times, my goal is to create an ever growing income stream from dividend stocks. Secondarily, it is my desire to beat the S&P 500 over time. With that said, I rarely look at the capital performance of individual stocks. However, I recently sorted my portfolio by Total Gain % (total gain/basis) and was mildly surprised at the top performers.”
  • ElizabethG (Modern Gal) from Modern Gal presents Investing for Inflation in 2010.
  • DSO from High Dividend Stocks presents Big GE and it’s big dividend, and says, “One of America’s oldest and most prestigious companies has become an accidental high yielder.”


Budgeting in and of itself is useless.

Budgeting is part of a larger financial plan.

- from page 9 of The Secret to a Successful Budget by Craig Ford


Budgeting


Saving


Frugality


You need to focus your finances on accomplishing one major task at a time.

If you don’t, the danger is that every dollar will be diluted to a point that it makes little impact helping you reach your goals.

- from page 9 of The Secret to a Successful Budget by Craig Ford


Debt


Credit


The goal of the budget is to help you spend less than you earn.

Therefore, this becomes the single criteria for an effective budget – does it help you spend less than you earn?

- from page 12 of The Secret to a Successful Budget by Craig Ford


Reviews

  • PT from PT Money presents Free Prepaid Credit Cards, and says, “A thorough, original review of the best free prepaid credit cards, including those that are free of activation and monthly fees. These cards are great for those who need to avoid debt, or those that can’t get a traditional bank account.”
  • Silicon Valley Blogger from The Digerati Life presents Citi Dividend Platinum Select MasterCard Review, and says, “Here’s a review of a credit card I actually like.”


Real Estate

  • FMF from Free Money Finance presents How to Hire a Home Inspector, and says, “When you buy a home, you need to be sure you hire a good home inspector to identify any potential problems. This post gives tips on how to do this.”
  • Jeff Rose from Good Financial Cents presents Should You Upgrade to a Larger Home”, and says, ”
    In many markets, home owners are looking at homes in the next price range up as good buys, since foreclosures and a slow market are resulting in good deals. But, as tempting as it is to upgrade to a larger home, is it really a good idea? Here are some things to consider before upgrading to a larger home.”
  • Rob from Two Wise Acres presents 3 Things to Avoid When Buying a Home, and says, “When buying a home, it’s critical that you avoid these three credit mistakes.”
  • ctreit from Money Obedience presents Do renters really save money in the end?.


Taxes

  • pkamp3 from Don’t Quit Your Day Job… presents Tax Incidence, and says, “Who really pays for a tax when it is enacted? If the government enacts a new tax on washing machines, is the entire tax on Maytag? The consumer? Cameron Daniels breaks down the details.”


A budget lets your spouse see your values and priorities in a tangible way.

A budget forces you to communicate not just about your life goals, but also about your daily financial preferences.

- from page 16 of The Secret to a Successful Budget by Craig Ford


Career

  • Kristina from Dinks Finance presents A DINK in The Office, and says, “As a married or unmarried employee with no children, are you treated differently than your colleagues with kids?”
  • Nicole from Nicole and Maggie: Grumpy Rumblings presents Why did you go to graduate school?, and says, “Nicole and Maggie discuss reasons for graduate school and how sometimes we’re directed into a career for the right reasons and sometimes we fall into it for the wrong reasons. But it turns out OK anyway (or maybe it doesn’t, but you can always change your mind).”


Economy

  • Bret from Hope to Prosper presents Trillion Dollar Public Pension Shortfall, and says, “An article in the New York Times stated that there is a $1 Trillion dollar public pension shortfall. Despite repeated denials from PERS and public employee unions, public pensions are in big trouble.”
  • JLP from AllFinancialMatters.com presents Democrats, Republicans, and the Federal Debt Since 1979, and says, “Though the title may suggest it, this is not a “political” post.”


Budgeting is a process, not an event.

You won’t wake up tomorrow with an effective budget. Instead, you will start with a decent budget that later becomes a good budget. Eventually, it is a great budget.

- from page 16 of The Secret to a Successful Budget by Craig Ford


Other


The Secret to a Successful Budget eBook Giveaway!

       As promised, I’m giving away two free copies of The Secret to a Successful Budget courtesy of Craig. To enter, all you need to do is leave a comment on this post telling me how budgeting has helped you OR your biggest struggle with budgeting. I’ll use random.org to select two winners tomorrow evening (August 24, 2010) at 5:00 PM EDT so be sure to enter by then!!! I’ll update this post to announce the winners, but use a valid email address when you comment so I can reach you if you win. Good luck!

[Update: Laura has won a free copy of The Secret to a Successful Budget! Congratulations!!!]


The Secret to a Successful Budget eBook

       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.

Calculating Your True Hourly Wage

       In discussing the net value of a second income, Amy brings up a useful technique that’s also discussed in Your Money or Your Life by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin. The idea is to calculate exactly how much money you’re making from your job after you account for all the related expenses. Divide that by the number of hours you spend working, getting ready for work, getting to work, and relaxing after work and you’ll have your real hourly wage.

       How much do you really make after you take out taxes, transportation costs, clothing, meals, the things you do to relax after a hard day at work, and all the things you pay others to do because you don’t have enough time? How many extra hours do you spend getting ready for work, driving through traffic, or watching TV to de-stress?

       This number is useful for two reasons. First, you’ll open your eyes to what you’re really bringing home from your job. Second, you can use this figure to decide if it’s worth it to pursue certain activities or to do things yourself instead of hiring someone.

What about Bob? (An Example)

       Let’s use a simple example to show how you’d do this calculation. Bob makes $18/hour working 40 hours a week at his job – making a total of $720 each week. First, we’ll take out taxes. His federal, state, and local taxes add up to about $110/week leaving him with $610/wk after taxes.

       Bob lives 10 miles from work and estimates he spends 2.5 hours driving every week and about $30/wk on gas & maintenance for his car. So now he’s down to $580/week for 42.5 hours spent.

       Bob doesn’t have to wear anything special for work, but he does have a tendency to eat out instead of bringing his lunch from home. Additionally, he usually ends up eating out for supper twice a week because he just doesn’t feel like cooking after getting home from work. His lunches and eating out cost him about $80/week. While he could eliminate those expenses now, Bob is honest with himself and admits he probably won’t do that as long as he’s still busy from work. This drops his net pay down to $500/week.

       Bob figures he must have at least an hour every evening in front of the TV just to relax after work. He could do something else if he didn’t feel so stressed out from work, so he adds 5 hours/week to his total bringing it to 47.5 hours. Additionally, Bob spends Friday and Saturday nights going out with his friends to get away from thinking about how much he hates his job. He figures this costs him about $40/week and 2.5 hours. (Now he’s at $460/week and 50 hours for those playing at home.)

       Finally, Bob pays about $20/week in services he buys because he doesn’t have enough time due to his job. These are things like home maintenance, simple car repairs and maintenance, and someone to mow his yard. So he’s down to $440/week for 50 hours of effort – or $8.80/hour. That’s less than half of what he “earns” at his job!

Your Own Situation

       Bob’s calculations aren’t going to work for you. But you can follow the same sort of process to figure out your real hourly wage. Carefully consider all the expenses and time attached to what you do to earn money but also try to be realistic. This can be an especially eye-opening exercise for two-income households with kids. If both parents work and you have to hire babysitters or pay for child care, you could easily be better off if one parent quits their job to stay home with the kids.

       Make sure the expenses you relate to your job will actually go away if you quit your job. If you’re not willing to do some of those things, that’s not going to change if you work less. This is especially true when thinking of the frugal activities you could pursue if you had more time. You have to be willing to actually do them or you’re not saving any money at all!

       Finally, don’t take my example of Bob too seriously. There are definitely things he could do to improve his real hourly wage by making some simple choices (like brown-bagging his lunch). But the point is that Bob’s job pushes him to do those things because of stress, time constraints, or whatever other reasons keep Bob from eliminating those extra expenses.

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