Cha-Ching!

So right now we’re doing a series at church related to making a change in your life and being the change the world needs.  We don’t need to believe one person will change our world, the church can be the change the world has been waiting for.

Right now what is more relevant than finances?  Though I am irked at times by the thought that people are saying we should bail people out of their credit card debt (they were the ones who decided to life outside their means!), at the same time I am pleased that everyone is realizing they need to make a change in how they look at their money and where they are spending it.  It’s making us realize how materialistic and excessive our culture is.  It is ENTIRELY unnecessary and it’s what’s brought us to this point.  What IS encouraging is that we are realizing this and instead of placing blame elsewhere, we are finally looking at our own situations and deciding to do something about it.  Let’s not trust in our finances, but trust God.  Let’s do money His way instead of the way we’ve been taught…  Plastic won’t get you anywhere.  As it is said in the song the band did on Sunday morning…  “Mo money, mo problems”.  Awesome – you can check out the video of this song on our producer’s blog – Wes Watson.

In the past couple of weeks I’ve been watching my accounts and been seeking more ways to save and handle my money better than I already am.  I have a budget.  The first thing I do once I get a paycheck is itemize all of my expenses for the month (bills, rent, etc.).  Then I transfer the money between my three accounts – checking, savings, and freedom.  Yes, I have an account named FREEDOM.  The first one I take care of is what goes in my savings.  If I don’t, of course it’s likely to be touched so I take that temptation away right off the bat.  Then I pay my bills online that are already available.  For those that are not, I add them up and transfer that amount to my freedom account.  I got that idea from my mom (taught me everything she knows about dinero, haha).  The basic idea is to place all of the money you need for your monthly bills into a separate account from regular savings or regular checking so that you won’t use it and you’ll have it available when the bills come due.  This way you’ll never be in need and never have to wonder where the money will come from.  When I need to pay a bill, I just transfer that money BACK into my checking account.  It’s great.  I highly recommend it.

Another thing I was also introduced to is Mint.com.  It’s free online financial software.  You enter your banking accounts as well as your debts (in my case, student loans) and Mint links to your banks and lenders to track your saving, spending, and debts.  You can create a budget on the site and it will track your spending in each area.  I got so specific with it that I made a category for books.  What can I say?  I’m slightly addicted to literature. 🙂  They will email you when you have a bill due, when a significant amount of money has been transferred, added or deducted from an account (ie. getting a paycheck, writing a mortage or rent check, etc.), when you have exceeded the amount of money you allotted in a particular category (yes, again with the books…my bad), and you also get a weekly summary of your spending.  I’m impressed by it.  Check it out.

Another site I recently checked out after hearing how a friend decides what amount of money goes in her envelopes is Crown Financial.  I started doing the envelope system particularly with food a while ago.  I’ve gotten off track every now and then, but am back on the train with it to a further extent now.  My dear friend LB (soon to also be an LG) used a spending calculator on the website to help her figure out how much money she should be using in certain areas based on her income.  Bright idea.  It also lets you see where you’re spending now and what you should be spending to live within your means.  I checked it out and tried the calculator and though I will have to tweak it in certain categories to fit how much I actually have to pay in rent and in my student loans, it really has made me think about how much I am spending in certain areas and what I am going to start spending in those same areas.  It’s not terribly different from what I do now, but can make a difference in the future.

Another gem from my mom…  Debt-Proof Living and Everyday Cheapskate.  She got me an online subscription for Debt-Proof Living for about $30.  You get an email newsletter with lots of financial tips, ideas and information.  There are also crazy calculators on the site that will help you figure out the quickest, cheapest way to get out of debt.  I put my student loans with the principal, interest, and everything and it gives you MONTH BY MONTH specific amounts to pay for “x” number of months to help you have it paid off in YEARS less than you imagined it would take.  It’s pretty awesome.  I also highly recommend it.  Check it out.  Plus I have Mary’s blog under the blogroll.

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