Last month, I posted an update about how my wife and I are raising a cow for beef. This is a summary of our activity and costs for month 15. As always, let’s first check Bambi’s growth. Here he is at fourteen months old:

Bambi - 14 Months Old

       And here he is at fifteen months old (technically, fifteen months, one week, and three days old):

Bambi - 15 Months Old

       This picture isn’t the best because I had to take it on my phone (forgot my camera…). And yes, he’s on the cattle trailer (more on that later). True to form, Bambi wouldn’t cooperate for a good pose either. However, I think it’s clear he’s gained a good bit of weight since the last picture. He’s filled out a bit more, especially around his haunches. I’m not sure why his coloring has changed so much. Part of it is lighting, of course, but his color has changed over time anyway so I’m not worried about it. I’m sure it won’t affect the taste.

Costs & Time

       As of yesterday, Bambi is no more. He went to the butcher on Wednesday night (when I took the picture) and they slaughtered him on Thursday. However, I still don’t have a final tally on the costs because I’ll need to settle things up with my friends who’ve been boarding him and pay the butchering fees. Here are my totals so far (same as last month):

  • Cost of Bambi – Free!
  • Castration & Dehorning – $16.00
  • Milk Replacer – $45.54
  • Miscellaneous – $46.87
  • Feed – $362.77
  • Hay – $88.00
  • Straw – $20.00
  • Medicine – $5.00
  • Boarding – $100.00
  • Total Spent – $684.18
  • Time – 102 hours

       Bambi will probably hang to age for about a week, so it’ll probably be late next week or early the following week before we get our beef back. Figuring out which cuts to order took a while because there were some that I was not familiar with. It’s also difficult to think about all the beef you’re going to want in the next year and in what proportions. For better or worse, this is what we ordered (though we’ll have a chance to review it with the butcher the day before they start cutting):
 

 
       All the meat will be vacuum sealed. Our roasts will come in 2-3 pound packages. Our steaks will come two per package and will be cut 1 1/2″ thick. The liver, heart, and tongue are all for other people. (I hear the tongue is really good, but I’m going to pass for now…)

       After searching for a good used freezer with no luck, we bought our chest freezer on Black Friday from a local business. I figured they’d have a sale and we got $50 off – a decent discount. But I was surprised when we got a free turkey as well. :) I had no idea they were doing that so it was a nice bonus. Our freezer should get here on the 6th – just in time!

       All that’s left now is to add up the last few costs (final boarding costs and the butchering fees) and compare it to retail and/or bulk prices. Any good ideas on the best way to make a useful comparison? Let me know in the comments. Also, be sure to stay tuned for a special tribute to Bambi in the final post of this series!

       If you haven’t already, make sure you sign up for free updates to Provident Planning so you don’t miss out on my last post where I’ll figure up all the costs, compare it to buying the beef elsewhere, and see how this whole thing works out.

This post was included in the Carnival of Personal Finance.

       The final danger of laziness that we’ll look at is the unnecessary difficulty it creates in our lives. Where the distractions of laziness allow small problems to grow into big ones, careful and constant diligence prevents many problems from ever occurring.

A Little Bit of Laziness Can Go a Long Way…

       The verse we’re going to look at in Ecclesiastes reminds me of an oft-quoted saying of Benjamin Franklin: “…for want of a nail the shoe was lost; for want of a shoe the horse was lost, and for want of a horse the rider was lost, being overtaken and slain by the enemy, all for want of care about a horse-shoe nail.” A little bit of neglect or laziness can cause great problems and difficulty, especially when concerning important matters.

       In our finances or our work, misplaced focus or intentional laziness can cause problems that would have been easily avoided with a little hard work and diligence. A little bit of time spent on maintenance and gradual improvement can have a profound effect when continued over a long period of time. In the same way, a little bit of laziness can have disastrous results when sustained over time.

       By slothfulness the roof sinks in; and through idleness of the hands the house leaks.

Ecclesiastes 10:18 (WEB)

       Maintaining a house takes a lot of work, but it’s often many small tasks that need to be done rather than many large ones. With diligent care, the house can be kept in good condition. Without it, small problems become major ones. Projects that could have been completed inexpensively can become a major drain on your savings.

       This analogy easily carries over into many other areas of our life. Small projects and tasks at work can often be dealt with quickly and prevent future (and larger) problems. But the inconvenience of these tasks often causes us to slack off and procrastinate – creating much more work for ourselves in the future than if we had just dealt with it early on. God wants us to embrace hard work and diligence to save us from this extra work. He knows that there’s no need for us to deal with many of the problems we encounter if we’ll follow His call to work hard.

       The wisdom of hard work and diligence and the difficulty it can save us from is also reflected in this verse from Proverbs:

       The way of the sluggard is like a thorn patch, but the path of the upright is a highway.

Proverbs 15:19 (WEB)

       I really enjoy hiking in the woods. I find my hikes especially easy and enjoyable when I have a clear trail to walk along. I can see where I’m going and find the obstacles easily. And I get to my destination quickly. But when the trail is overgrown and difficult to navigate, I find it takes much longer to get where I’m going and I can’t see the dangers ahead very easily at all. While it can be exciting to overcome such a challenge at times, I don’t have the same peaceful and relaxing experience as I do when the trail is clean and clear.

       Clearing a trail that’s very overgrown is difficult and takes a lot of time. But clearing a trail that’s been carefully maintained through diligent work is easy and quick. Laziness is what allows the trails in our lives to become overgrown and difficult to walk. God wants us to use hard work to keep the trails clear so we can focus on Him and doing His will instead of dealing with hassles and problems all the time.

       It’s clear that God is looking out for our interests when He calls us to work hard. If we apply this idea of diligence to everything we do in life, we’ll find we can overcome huge hurdles easily and we’ll encounter fewer unexpected problems along the way. However, we must also remember that God does want us to rest when needed. In all our hard work, we must not forget to rest and refresh ourselves so we are ready for the work that lies ahead and are able to do it with all our might. We’ll look at our need for rest in the next two parts.

       This was a series I ran last year before Christmas. I’m running it again because I think the lessons are a valuable reminder each year. Let me know what you think!

       On Black Friday, I highlighted this video from Advent Conspiracy:

       Over the next four Tuesdays (including today), I’m going to discuss the concepts behind the idea that Christmas can still change the world if we choose to give presence. The four concepts are:

  1. Worship Fully
  2.        

  3. Spend Less
  4.        

  5. Give More
  6.        

  7. Love All

Worship Fully

       It starts with Jesus. It ends with Jesus.

       A meaningful Christmas is not about gifts, trees, Santa Claus, lights, or fruitcakes (thankfully).

       No, a meaningful Christmas is about celebrating the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. It’s about rejoicing in the fact that God loves us so much and so deeply desires to have a relationship with us that He sent His only Son to die for our sins so we can be reconciled to Him and have eternal life.

       If we want a meaningful Christmas – if we want to see Christmas still changing the world – we must begin by worshiping fully. We must start by focusing on Who, what, and why we’re celebrating. We have to choose to make the Christmas season all about Christ and not consumerism.

       When we begin to worship Jesus fully we’ll realize how wonderful and meaningful Christmas can really be. We’ll lay down our burdens and reject the worldly idea of buy, buy, buy – and instead we will rejoice in God and His Son. We’ll celebrate His Love and focus on sharing His Love with others.

       Worshiping Fully is essential if we’re going to understand and use the remaining three concepts of Spending Less, Giving More, and Loving All. Until you stop letting the world and Satan dictate what you should be doing during the Christmas season, you will never have a meaningful Christmas.

       We must choose to find contentment in worshiping Christ instead of things. You must make this choice if you want to honor God during the Christmas season!

       So take some time to remember what Christmas is all about. Stop and worship the Lord. Give thanks to Him for His most precious Gift – the unspeakable riches we have in Christ. Worship Him Fully and make this the most memorable and meaningful Christmas you’ve ever had!

Do You Have Enough or Too Much in Your Piggy Bank Emergency Fund?       I can hear the claims of “Heresy!” ringing out through the personal finance world right now. How can I say the 3 to 6 month emergency fund rule is stupid?! Before you give yourself a heart attack, you need to realize that I’m not saying an emergency fund is stupid. Not by any means! In fact, I’ve written several times already about why you need an emergency fund, where to keep your emergency fund, when you should use your emergency fund, and how to build up your emergency fund. Clearly, I have nothing against emergency funds.

       No, my problem is with the silly rules of thumb that get thrown around with the idea of the emergency fund. Some say you need 3 months of your expenses, some say 6, and some say 9. I’ve even heard 2 years! The problem is that all these simple rules of thumb make the same mistake that other rules of thumb make – they ignore your circumstances.

Base Your Emergency Fund on Your Circumstances

       An emergency fund based on 3 months of your living expenses may work fine if you’re married and both of you have stable jobs with comparable incomes and you have your finances under control. But change just one of those variables (marital status, job stability, income disparity, or financial situation) and you can forget about a 3 month emergency fund doing the job.

       The size of your emergency fund needs to be tailored to your circumstances because the riskiness of your situation is determined by what’s happening in your life – not what some rule of thumb tells you. Now, I’ll grant that a 6 to 12 month emergency fund is going to be in the right zone for most people, but I wouldn’t leave this to a guess. You need to take a few minutes to think about your situation and adjust accordingly.

       For example, if you’re single then you probably only have one source of income. That puts you at a higher risk in case of a job loss than someone who is in a two-income household. The same goes for your job stability. If there’s little risk you’ll lose your job (maybe a government position?), then you’re probably a bit safer than someone in a cyclical industry (car sales, perhaps).

       If you’re socking away 20% of your income, a small emergency might not bother you too much. You can easily divert your money away from saving for a bit and go back after the emergency has been covered. But if you’re struggling to make it from one paycheck to the next, even a small $100 car repair can throw your whole world into a giant mess.

       It’s these kinds of factors that should determine how much you need in an emergency fund. I’ve talked about how much you need in an emergency fund, so I’m not going to go over it again. But keep in mind that even my article is just a general guideline. You’ll still need to think critically about your specific needs and situation.

Beware Rules of Thumb

       I’ve written several of these types of articles over the last few months. I talked about the stupidity of the save 10% for retirement rule, the 2.5 or 3 times your income for a mortgage rule, and the 80% or 90% of your income for retirement rule.

       All of these rules are guilty of oversimplification, a complete ignorance of your unique circumstances, or both. Yet some people rely on these rules of thumb for their most important financial decisions. I’m not saying you need a financial planner. But please do yourself a huge favor and take some time to think about your situation and what makes sense for you. Don’t rely on stupid rules of thumb to determine your financial future!

Any Other Rules of Thumb?

       What financial rules of thumb have you heard of that you’d like to learn more about? Are there any you question but aren’t sure why they might be wrong? Let me know in the comments below and I’ll be happy to write an article specifically tailored to answer your questions!

(photo credit: Alan Cleaver on Flickr)

This article was picked as the Editor’s Top Choice in the Best of Money Carnival!

This article was also included in the Carnival of Financial Planning.

Make Christmas Meaningful

Corey —  November 26, 2010 — 2 Comments

       What if Christmas meant more than shopping in packed malls?

       What if you spent more time with your family than you spent trying to pick out gifts?

       What if you could wake up on December 26th with no debts from the day before?

       What if you could throw out all the stress, traffic, and shopping and just focus on worshiping Jesus, giving to the needy, and loving all people?

       What if we gave up Consumermas and went back to Christmas?

       The folks at Advent Conspiracy have a great little video (2 minutes and 39 seconds) about a meaningful Christmas.

       And here’s the promo video from 2009:



       So why not make Christmas meaningful again? Why not do it this year? If you want to change how you celebrate Christmas, here are some good resources:

       How will you make Christmas meaningful this year? Let me know in the comments!

       Another danger of laziness is dishonor or a bad reputation. If we are the body of Christ, our actions and reputation impact other people’s ideas about Christ. If people know us to be lazy, we weaken our witness as Christians and bring dishonor to God’s name.

The Destruction of Laziness

       Proverbs contains a powerful warning against the destructiveness of laziness. Laziness can affect us and our reputation so strongly that it makes us a brother to the “master of destruction”, or Satan.

       One who is slack in his work is brother to him who is a master of destruction.

Proverbs 18:9 (WEB)

       If laziness makes us a brother to Satan, we can easily see why God has called us to work hard. There is no glory for God in laziness. (Let’s make sure we agree on the definition of laziness. Laziness is refusing to do work when work needs to be done or should be done. It is not the same as recreation, which comes after the necessary work has been finished.)

       We don’t admire lazy people. We don’t look at a lazy person and say, “Now he’s a respectable fellow.” We might envy or covet their rest, but that is only an indication that our heart is not right or that Satan is tempting us. But we do not look up to lazy people as an example to be followed. This is why laziness is warned against so strongly in the Bible, and especially by Paul in the New Testament. Laziness can destroy our reputation and completely undermine any witness we have in Christ. And that’s the most terrible effect of all.

       Not only can laziness ruin our reputation, but it can also ruin our life. Laziness in our work can lose us our job. Laziness in managing our finances can bankrupt us. Laziness in our relationships can hurt others. Only a short-sighted fool would choose laziness over doing the work needed to keep things going smoothly.

       The fool folds his hands together and ruins himself.

Ecclesiastes 4:5 (WEB)

       It’s clear that laziness is extremely destructive in our lives. Whether we’re looking at the spiritual aspects of our lives or the temporal, the devastating effects of laziness are not worth the fleeting pleasure of rest. Even just a little bit of laziness can make things much more difficult than they need to be, and we’ll talk about that a bit more in the next part of this series.

       But it’s also important to remember that we do need rest. Proper rest taken at the right time is essential to our health and well-being. After we look at the difficulty laziness brings, we’ll look at our need for rest.

This is the safe in my basement.  :-P       The first question most people have after they get a will is where they should keep it. It’s a good question to ask because you need a place that’s both safe and accessible for your important documents. It needs to be a safe location so they won’t get stolen or destroyed. But it also needs to be accessible so you (or your loved ones) can easily get to the documents when they’re needed.

The Problem with a Safe Deposit Box

       The first place that comes to mind for most people is to get a safe deposit box and keep their important documents there. The problem is that a safe deposit box can be a nightmare to get into after you die. If your box isn’t held jointly with someone who’s still alive after you die (or held in the name of your revocable living trust), then it’ll take a court order to open your safe deposit box and get to your documents. This can mean delays and headaches for your loved ones.

       You can avoid this by adding a joint owner you trust to your safe deposit box. Alternatively, you can make your revocable living trust the owner and your successor trustee will be able to access the box on your behalf. But you’ll want to make sure the trust document isn’t in the box, or your successor won’t be able to prove he has legal access!

The Fireproof and Waterproof Safe

       My personal choice is the fireproof and waterproof safe. They’re affordable and will protect your documents well. I found this SentrySafe Fireproof and Waterproof Safe on Amazon for $39.97:
 

 
       It’ll protect your documents from fire for half an hour at temperatures up to 1,550 degrees Fahrenheit and has a waterproof seal as well. (I wonder if it can protect from fire and water at the same time???) However, it’s not theft-proof. The lock could be opened by a thief who really wants it and it’s only 25 pounds. If theft is something you’re worried about, you can bolt your safe to the floor or wall with some hardware and tools. It’ll at least discourage the thief from trying too hard.

       The main caution with this option is to make sure someone else knows where the safe is and how to open it. Obviously, this should be someone you trust. The upside to using your own safe is that it will be easy to access whenever you need it.

At a Minimum…

       If you don’t want to get a safe deposit box or a home safe, you should at least keep your important documents on a high shelf. It won’t protect them from fire, but it may save you from some water damage. Also, make sure you and anyone who cleans around your house knows they’re important. You wouldn’t want to throw them in the trash accidentally!

Have a Financial Question?

       This post was written to answer a reader request. Have a financial question you’d like answered? Contact me and I’ll help you as best I can!

(photo credit: Cliff on Flickr)

This article was included in the Carnival of Personal Finance.