A reader asked me what you should do when you want to give more but your spouse is not a Christian. It’s especially difficult because she doesn’t want to go against her husband’s wishes. This issue can be hard for women who want to honor their husbands as God’s Word teaches but also want to honor God. However, I think a similar approach should be used for men married to non-Christian women as well.

       I don’t have personal experience with this, so I don’t pretend to know all the answers. If any readers have dealt with this, please share your thoughts in the comments. I will, however, attempt to approach this from a Biblical and practical perspective in an effort to help people deal with this challenging problem.

Pray

       As in all things, we must seek God’s will first. Prayer is one way we communicate with God. When you feel God’s Spirit leading you to give more but your spouse is not a Christian and does not want to give more, your first step must be prayer. Specifically, here are some matters you can pray about:

  • Your Spouse’s Salvation – Not so your life will be made easier, but so they will receive eternal life.
  • Wisdom – For how you should approach this situation with love and grace when discussing it with your spouse.
  • Guidance – For what you should do if your spouse is not willing.
  • Patience – To wait upon the Lord and to continue being a light to your spouse despite the difficult struggles you face.



       God will give you His strength to handle this task. If He is calling you to give more, then He will provide you with a method to make it happen.

Talk with Your Spouse

       Next, you should approach your spouse lovingly and graciously to share what God has placed on your heart. Focus on gracious speech – do not accuse your spouse or attack them. You may be surprised by their response. Try to share where God is leading you to give and why. Talk about ways you could give more by focusing on contentment and the generous blessings you already have.

       If your spouse is completely opposed to the idea, do not press the issue and cause an argument. Doing so could damage your witness to them. Listen to their viewpoint and see if a compromise could be made. Here’s an example:

       Let’s say your spouse doesn’t want to give up anything they’re used to so you can give more. The two of you have budgeted a weekly amount for you to buy lunches at work. Offer a compromise. You’ll pack your lunches and use the money you save to increase your giving. This way your spouse doesn’t give up anything and you still get to increase your giving. Or maybe you have a way you could earn some extra money on the side. You could offer to have some of it go to your joint budget while using the rest to increase your giving.

Give Your Time

       If your spouse is completely opposed to increasing your monetary giving in any way, you could look at ways to donate some of your time. Again, this is probably something you should discuss with your spouse. You must also be careful that your volunteering will not cause you to neglect your relationship. But a couple hours a week can really help a mission or charity quite a bit without causing much stress on your marriage.

Continue to Pray

       Finally, you must continue to pray about the situation. This is a difficult situation and can be extremely trying on your faith. Continue to seek strength from God and pray for your spouse’s salvation. Honor your spouse and live a life of generous, sacrificial love just as Jesus did. I am not saying your should sacrifice your relationship with God to keep your marriage intact, but you must do your best to be a light to your spouse in all situations. A mature Christian (of the same sex) can provide helpful counsel and encouragement during this trial in your life, so seek fellowship and support if needed.

Your Thoughts?

       What do you all think? Is this a Biblical approach to the situation? What are some other ideas that could help someone deal with this issue? How have you handled it in your own life? Please share your thoughts in the comments!

I will be the first to admit that I grew up in a fairly conservative Christian family. It wasn’t as extreme as some stories I’ve heard from my grandparents, but I never saw my parents drink alcohol until my oldest brother’s wedding ceremony and the radio always blared Christian music. None of these are bad things, but these few examples are great indicators of a more conservative spin on Christianity.

In fact, conservative Christianity often abides by several of these rules or behaviors, regardless of whether it is abstaining this or that, in an attempt to live a holy lifestyle. The idea is that as we live holy lifestyles, we can glorify God and be a great counter-example to the world. This is the whole city-on-a-hill mentality. Shine your light upon the darkness. While this can lead to some legalistic tendencies (similar to the Pharisees, which many people are quick to point out), there are many positive things, one of which is the frugal nature of conservative Christianity.

Why Conservatives are Frugal

Despite the criticism that conservative Christians get, there are many financial benefits of living a life free from many of certain behaviors. Here are several activities or items that some (not all) abstain from:

Movies – Believe it or not, many Christian families and churches forbade going to the movies. It was considered too secular. (In my opinion, they didn’t understand a proper balance between sacred and secular) However, despite my “progressive” (or contemporary) stance, this was a great way to save some bucks. Today, going to a movie can cost more than $30 with tax before food for just two people. I can’t imagine having a large family. By avoiding movies all-together, they can enjoy other forms of entertainment.

Alcohol – Alcohol is probably one of the most debated topics within conservative Christians. Because of the strict adherence to literal interpretations of the Bible, conservative Christians hardly know what to do with passages of Jesus turning water into Wine. I have heard some pastors trying to say that there is a different Greek word used for wine than grape juice and so forth. While it may seem absurd to some of you, the point that I am making is that it saves some serious dough. I just went to two weddings in the same month. One had an open bar and the other didn’t have any alcohol. I can only guess how much more one bride and groom spent than the other. The simple fact is that alcohol costs money. Plain and simple. By avoiding this altogether, you are freeing up your money for other purposes.

The point I wish to make is two-fold. First and foremost, conservative Christianity (even as it changes with time) gets a lot of criticism, but actually contributes towards a healthy financial situation as it protects people from overspending on unnecessary items. Secondly, everything is more complicated than we often make it appear. Regardless of my own beliefs, conservative Christianity often gets blamed for a lot of things wrong in the church without pointing out the positive things. And so, the next time you want to point the finger, try to challenge yourself by asking what are some of the positive things that it/they/he/she has/have to offer.

What other ways does conservative Christianity help people save money?

Steps to Get Out of Debt

Corey —  October 22, 2013 — 3 Comments

Getting out of debt is only a matter of a few steps, but that doesn’t make it easy. While those who are debt free may claim that it’s easy, you got into debt for a reason. Whether it is a justified reason or not, there is a cause for you being in debt. You may have had to take out student loans to get through college, or you may have collected consumer debt as a result of a few bad decisions.

Regardless of the reason, in order to get yourself out of debt, you need to not only make smart choices, but understand how and why you got yourself into this reason in the first place. Below are a few steps that you can follow when trying to get out of debt.

Step 1 – Evaluate Why You are In Debt (Be Honest)

The first and most important step is to be honest with yourself. Many people try to get out of debt by simply earning more money or finding a cheaper interest rate. The problem is that debt often comes from not being able to control your spending. If this applies to you, admit it and move on. Acknowledge that you made some crappy choices and that you want to do better. Similar to getting over any other addiction, you have to admit your struggle in order to get over it.

Step 2 – Control Your Spending

The next thing you need to do, before you even think about paying down your debt is to limit the damage. In other words, don’t keep digging a deeper hole. You need to limit your spending. Interest rates will make your debt bad enough – don’t compound the badness.

Step 3 – Come Up with a Plan

The next thing you need to do is to come up with a strategy and concrete plan to get out of debt. This means looking at calculators or you may even want to use a car loan repayment calculator if you have a car loan. Each plan is going to be unique to each person. You have to figure out what works for you and write down the steps that you are going to take.

Step 4 – Stick to Your Plan

The second to last step is to carry out the plan. If you plan consists of earning $50 more dollars from babysitting, and not eating out, then do that. It’s easy enough to create a plan, but it’s even harder to carry it out. It’s going to take a test of will and hard work to get through it, but if you focus on the benefit, you can do it.

Step 5 – Celebrate

The last and equally important step is to celebrate once you are out of debt. It’s doesn’t have to be anything that special, but you should do something. This is a way to positively reinforce the good behavior. Without this, you could easily slip back into debt.

Getting out of debt may seem easy on paper, but it’s much harder in real life. Find people who can hold your accountable and support you through this process. And lastly, don’t give up! You can do it!

The Costs of Having a Pet

Michelle —  October 4, 2013 — Leave a comment

Getting a new pet for your family can be expensive, and if you don’t fully plan adding this new family member, then you may be in for some surprises. Many pets can probably be had for cheaply, but if you’re thinking a dog, then make sure you fully think about this decision.

I currently have 2 dogs, one is a mutt (they say she might be a Pointer/Pit Bull mutt) and the other is a French Bulldog runt. The mutt is super healthy, but my French Bulldog – not even close. He is about 12 pounds and has already had numerous things wrong with him. And the vet has said that many more things will most like start happening as he gets older, so we do know that we need to start saving just in case something does happen.

We used to have a third dog. We sort of got her on a whim, but fell in love with her immediately. We didn’t really think about much her medication would cost and her had many medical problems. It cost around $100 per month for her medications. She ended up passing away 2 months later which was very sad.

1. Buying or “homing” the pet

There is of course the initial cost of obtaining the pet. I am 100% for pet adoption. There are so many animals out there (both puppies and adults) that need homes, and most pet shops support puppy mills. Adopting a pet may cost anywhere from free to something like $300. Usually this adoption costs includes all shots and possibly the pet being spayed or neutered.

2. Food

Food for your new pet can add up quickly also. I usually like to buy the higher quality bags of dog food. Saving a couple of bucks on dog food is most likely not worth it when it comes to your pet’s health. Dog food can range anywhere from $10 to $100 per month. We spend around $50 to $75 a month on dog food.

Food costs also depends on what type of animal and/or breed you have. Obviously my 12 pound dog eats no where near the amount of food as my 80 pound dog.

3. Medical

Medical for your pet can add up quickly. It will need all of its shots and you will want to keep them current on these shots. You might also want to get them spayed/neutered as well. The Humane Society near my house will spay/neuter your dog for around $40, whereas if you go to your local vet, it is usually around $200 to $300, but I have heard of higher cost of living places with it being around $800.

Also, if anything happens to your pet, will you be able to take them to the doctor? What if your dog gets a really bad rash, a tumor, breaks a leg, has a bad reaction to something or anything else? The cost can be as small as $75, and maybe up to a couple of thousand dollars.

4. Treats, Toys and a Bed

I really like to spoil my dogs, so I tend to spend a lot of treats and toys. Bones can be expensive, and my dog can eat a $20 4 foot long bone in a couple of hours. I don’t give her one of those often, but it does add up!

Beds can also be quite expensive as well. A crate (depending on the size) can be $100, and the bedding can be an extra $25 – $50 to go inside of it. I don’t keep my dogs in their crates ever, but it is said that dogs usually like a place with walls that makes them feel safe. My dogs willingly go in their crates and sleep in there (with the crate door open).

5. Groomers

Taking your pet to the groomers can also add up very quickly as well. My bigger dog cost around $50 each time, and my smaller dog i still expensive at $40. Usually I clean and wash them myself, but every now and then they do need to go.

Did you think about the costs before you added a pet to your family?

Recently, my wife and I have been doing pretty well for ourselves. We aren’t what most people consider rich (although, by the world’s standard’s I am rich), but we do have a few extra dollars to truly enjoy ourselves. We are no longer forced to wait 6 months for a movie to come out on video because we can’t afford a night out on the town. We can now afford to visit both of our families within the same year and not pay for it later. This is a nice feeling to have, until the guilt kicks in.

We’ve always dreamed of living a life that is different from the American Dream. We don’t want a mansion or nice cars, but what we really want is to make a difference. While we’ve had to give up on some of our dreams, we still hope to make a positive difference in this world. We may not lead the next revolution and break systems of injustice, but we genuinely do care about the world.

That’s why the other day my wife came to me and said we need to give more. She wasn’t talking about giving away all our wealth, but she was talking about caring about other people before our selfish desires. Right when I thought we were finally starting to enjoy ourselves, she drops this self-righteous bomb on me.

If I am honest with myself, I can’t help but think two things when she brings this up.

  1. This means we won’t be able to enjoy ourselves as much.
  2. She’s absolutely right.

Once I let myself process it a bit more, I realized that we do need to give more and that’s when the question really began to hit me: How Should we Give? What’s the best way to give?

You may think I am a bit extreme, but I love to analyze things. Some may say OVER-ANALYZE. Here’s the issue: I love to make sure that I am making the best choice possible. This applies to this situation of giving. I could easily give more money in the offering plate each week at church, but is that really making a difference, or am I just making myself feel better? I think when we are honest with ourselves, most of us give just to feel good. We didn’t want to make our gift another one of those, so we decided to talk about what’s the most effective use of our money. We don’t have a lot of money, so we wanted to make sure it counted for something.

Qualities of an Effective Gift

After much discussion, we realized that a gift that is really going to make a difference should have these qualities:

  • Sustainability - The most important thing for us is sustainability. We’ve seen “band-aid fixes” too often in our lives. People can give poor people money all they want, but if they don’t give them a way to earn money for themselves, it won’t make a difference. Sure, it might provide them with a nice dinner tomorrow, but if they have any hope of feeding themselves tomorrow, they are going to need something that’s sustainable. It’s similar to the idea of teaching someone to fish instead of giving them a fish.
  • Affordable Enough to Give Now – While we would love to provide a well for a community in Africa or something that would REALLY make a difference for a LOT of people, we’re not foolish enough to believe we can afford that. We recognize this and yet we still want to give now. We don’t want to wait to give 3 years from now because who knows what excuses we will come up to justify spending that money on ourselves. This is the reason, we wanted to be able to give now – so we can make it a habit before we forget about it.
  • Most Bang For Our Buck – This expression may be dying out, but we really wanted to get the most return for our investment. That’s how we see it. We see giving as an investment in making the world a better place. While there are multiple ways to give a sustainable gift, we wanted one that would give the highest return.

What Did we Decide?

While I don’t want to limit my readers to thinking this is always the best choice for anyone, I do want to share what we decided on for last month. We decided to give a goat via Heifer International. It’s a well-known organization and giving a goal has several benefits:

  • Ability to thrive in extreme climates – In other words, less risk for our investment.
  • Provide Quarts of Milk a Day – This can be a great way to provide food for the family or a source of income
  • Manure for Fertilizer – Not only do they get food from the milk, but the ability to grow crops
  • Children – Goats can have 2-3 kids per year, meaning either exponential source of food/manure or more money by selling the children.

Readers, what goes into your decisions when you decide to give?

 

No triple-dip hip hooray!

Corey —  May 29, 2013 — 1 Comment

Anyone who doubts that local authorities are still wasting ratepayers’ money on incompetents in pointless jobs need look no further than Kent’s police. A week ago, to much media fanfare, they hired a 13-year-old crime commissioner on a £15k salary. Unfortunately they failed to point out that her job was not actually to commission crime. Grasping entirely the wrong end of the stick the lass not only indulged in underage drinking and alleged drug use but wrote up her exploits on Twitter to encourage other youngsters to follow her example. Following complaints about her posts which included, for good measure, homophobic and racist comments, she has taken early retirement. The details of her payoff and pension have not yet been made public.

Nor is there any official word yet on Britain’s economic performance in the first quarter of 2013 but the National Institute for Economic and Social Research (NIESR) offered its own provisional estimate yesterday. It reckons gross domestic product (GDP) expanded by an inflation-adjusted 0.1% in Q1. The news would have provoked celebration among the Conservatives, had they not been in sombre mood following the demise of Baroness Thatcher, and gloom on the Labour benches, save for the above. Today’s media are full of stories about how Britain has avoided a triple-dip recession but, in reality, three months of 0.1% growth after three of -0.3% contraction is not exactly an achievement to be trumped from the ramparts. For more information money transfer abroad services please click here.

That was the cautious view of investors yesterday afternoon. A few of them, perhaps out of a sense of moral obligation, bought sterling following the news but the majority felt no need to join in. That is not to say sterling had a bad day. It lost half a cent to the Australian dollar but otherwise is unchanged or firmer. Not a lot firmer though; the pound’s best performance was its gain of half a US cent. The main factor in sterling’s favour was the figures for industrial and manufacturing production, which were better – or at least not as bad – as expected. Manufacturing production grew by 0.8% in February while broader industrial production, which includes mining and energy, was up by 1.0% on the month. Year-on-year declines slowed to -1.4% and -2.2% respectively.

There were no data of any consequence from Euroland or the States but it is worth noting that consumer price inflation in Greece was a negative -0.2% while industrial production there fell more slowly, down by 3.9% on the year. There were surprises overnight from Australia, where an unexpected -5.1% fall in consumer confidence had only a momentarily dampening effect on the AUD, and China, which reported a trade deficit as exports slowed and imports shot up.

This morning France recorded a 0.7% monthly rebound for industrial output but the figures for Spain and Italy are likely to be less impressive. The only other European ecostats this morning relate to Portuguese inflation. Nothing is due from the United States or Canada except for the minutes of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC). The most important data tonight are those for Australian employment. For more information on Foreign Exchange please click here.

Tips When Buying a Home

Michelle —  February 25, 2013 — 10 Comments

Buying a new place, whether it be a condo, house, townhouse, and so on, can be a very long and difficult process.  When we bought our current house that we live in, it was extremely easy. Of course easy is relative, but it sure did seem easy.

We looked at a lot of houses, but we only put a contract down on one and it was accepted (after a couple of negotiations). Our move in date was set for just a couple of weeks after that and we moved in maybe less than one month from the day that we first toured the house. Even our loan officer said he’s never been through a home process as quick and as easy as process was.

However, I have heard others’ stories about how hard their home buying process was. Some have to wait months to sign the papers and move in. Some submit multiple offers just to be outbid by tons of other people.

There are so many things to think about when you buy a new home, and in today’s post I will be listing some of those.

Put 20% down

Putting 20% down has many positives for a home buyer. It will lower your payment in more than one way, mainly that you will take out a smaller home loan.

If you don’t put down at least 20%, then most mortgage companies will require that you pay Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI). This can add an extra $50 to $150 to your monthly mortgage amount, and possibly even more. We made the mistake of not putting 20% down and now have to pay PMI. We definitely won’t be making this mistake with our next house.

Get pre-approved

Getting pre-approved is a big step.  Not knowing what you can “afford” and looking can be a big problem because you might fall in love with something but then no bank approve you for that amount. If you are pre-approved, then you can eliminate houses out of your search that are not possible due to your budget. It will save you a lot of time and the possibility that you will buy way outside of your budget.

Buy what you can truly afford

Now, just because you were pre-approved for a loan, it does not mean that you can truly afford that loan amount. Banks are notorious for approving individuals for MUCH more than they can afford. When we bought our current house, we were pre-approved for much more than could truly afford. Also, you are pre-approved normally on your gross income, not net income. Your gross income is of course much higher than your net and can make it seem like you can afford a house, when in reality you cannot.

Our real estate agent also gave us a little tip: if you are pre-approved for much more than you ever plan on buying a house for, then ask the loan officer to send you a pre-approval letter stating that you are pre-approved for a smaller amount. This way when you put a contract on a house, the seller and/or their real estate agent do not see some crazy number that someone believes you can afford. This way there will be less negotiations as the seller won’t be trying to get you to your top dollar.

Think about the long-term

How long do you plan on living in your home? A lot of people will say that their first home will just be a starter home, but what if that ends up not being the case and you live there for quite some time? You might want to look into the school district there just in case you do decide to have children, make sure the house is something that you would like for quite some time, and so on.

What tips do you have for a potential homebuyer?