Sunday, November 30, 2008

On Vacation, Feeling Awful

Brittan and I are on vacation in Nebraska this week. It's been fun seeing our children and grandchildren. We haven't seen any of them for about 15 months, so it has been delightful to catch up with our son, daughter and son in law, not to mention the special moments with our three grand daughters and our new grandson. We are cramming all the spoiling we can into an all too brief window of time.

On the down side, B and I have both gotten ill. We have terrible colds, complete with fever, aches, sore throats and everything that goes along with it. Yuck.

Speaking of cold, it's downright chilly here in NE. It was snowing yesterday morning. I only brought a light jacket, thinking that's all I'd need. Boy Howdy, was I wrong!

Finally, I noticed on the news that "Black Friday" beat the odds and spending was up over last year. I'm glad to hear that. There is no question that we are in some economically challenging times, but they are made worse by a news media that thrives on doom and gloom. Bah Humbug to the media. Yay, Christmas! to the rest of us.

Monday, November 24, 2008

All Gloom All The Time

I have been rifling through the biz pages of a variety of websites looking for tidbits for this blog, and all I can find is bad news. People are really discouraged right now. Bummer. This too shall pass. If we continue to work hard, manage our money well and trust God, we'll be fine. I know, I read the last chapter.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Beyond the Emergency Fund - Stocking Up

I am developing a section for "Recession Proof Living" that I want to introduce here. In essence it is taking the 3 to 6 months emergency fund to the next level. I am suggesting that every family stock an extra 3 to 6 months (or more) of staple items as well. Just imagine how much pressure would be off, if in addition to 6 months of basic living expenses, we had laid aside six months of food stuffs and emergency items. If we had supplies of flour, sugar, potatoes, vegetable oil, cereal, toilet paper, tooth paste,etc. we could face tough times with very little stress.

Brittan and I are in the beginning phase of doing this very thing. We want to be prepared for any eventuality.

I will be fleshing the idea out in my next book, but wanted to plant a seed now to get people thinking.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

A Little Good News in Tough Times

Besides gasoline prices, there are a number of consumer goods actually going DOWN in price these days. Long term, that's kind of bad. We wouldn't want to go into a time of DEFLATION. That would say bad things about the economy. But for the moment, after a summer of crazy prices, it's a pleasant relief right at Christmas time. I think we could all use a bit of relief, don't you?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Enjoy Cheap Gas While It Lasts

I am a hopeful person. I am pretty darned optimistic most of the time. Oh, I guess rainy days and Mondays always get me down, but apart from that I'm an upbeat kind of guy. But I'm not upbeat long term for gas prices. I suspect that 6 months from now prices will be well back on the upswing. I am concerned that early next year when congress reinstates the offshore drilling bans they lifted earlier this year, that oil futures will begin climbing again. When that is coupled with a production cut from OPEC, we could see very rapid reversals of recent declines.

I am still on the "Drill Here, Drill Now" bus. We need energy independence.

In the meantime, I'm going to enjoy the heck out of sub $2 a gallon gasoline. But I'm not going to adjust my budget. I'm going to keep the excess in my "gas and oil" envelope and that way I'll be a bit more prepared when the prices start to go back up. That way the pain will be less intense. For now, though, it sure is nice.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Recession Proof Living Part 1

I thought I would use this space to process a few of the ideas that will be going into my new book, "Recession Proof Living". This will give me a vehicle to toss around some concepts and either refine or discard them as I write the book.

As my loyal reader would tell you, I'm big on written budgets. I call it 'fantasy spending'. That means spending each paycheck on paper before spending it in real life. Doing so, gives each dollar a job, a home, a sense of purpose. If we don't focus our money, it has a tendency to go rogue and run away from home.

I'm also big on promoting a financial revolution. I want people to take back their lives and have financial peace of mind. I long for families to live debt free and not have to panic when the economy nose dives. I wish for us to do more than survive, I believe we can thrive in tough times and in good ones.

The first thing we must do is establish a perimeter. That has a good revolutionary ring to it. My original idea was to talk about circling the wagons. But in the end I decided that connoted too defensive a posture. I want people to think more like an invasion force. Establishing a perimeter sounds much more like creating a base of operations with aggressive intent, while circling the wagons sounds a lot like fending off and an attack from hostile desperados.

Sometimes we have to play defense, that's a given. But we don't want to live defensively. We will establish a perimeter and protect everything within that safety zone (ie. our families)at all costs. Once the perimeter is solid, we will use it as a base of operations to move forward and capture new territory. We will not give up until we have liberated a nation. After that, the world.

Our perimeter covers all four points of the compass. These are the first four categories for which we budget. And we address them in a specific order. If we are in dire financial circumstances they may be the only categories in our budget. But eventually, we will be able to advance and conquer more area.

The North Perimeter is God. Our giving to God should always come first. A strong Spiritual foundation is critical to a balanced, full, prosperous life. Let me make a comparison to our physical bodies. We can diet, exercise, lift weights, do pilates, run miles a day, but if inside we have a cancer, or anemia or some other disease, we can never reach our full potential. In fact, if we get sick enough, our outer bodies deteriorate no matter what we do. If, however, our insides are good, then we can sculpt our outer bodies pretty much any way we like.

In the same way, we can work like crazy to get our financial house in order, but if we're unhealthy spiritually, we will never reach our full potential and we may even be doing ourselves more harm than good. On the other hand, if we put God first, we increase our chances of winning many hundred fold.

I love the third chapter of Malachi in the Old Testament, where God tells the people to stop robbing Him and bring the whole tithe into the store house. He says, "test me and see if I don't pour out all the blessings of Heaven on you." Go back and read it. I think you will find it most challenging.

Tithing is a good place to start. That's the traditional 10%. By the time we get through with our plan, we will be giving away 20% of our income. Yep. And we'll be thriving beyond our wildest imaginations. But we're a long way from that. So we'll start with 10%. Some won't even have the courage to start there. I didn't. I started with about 6%. I was a coward. I was afraid that my debt was too great to give God the full 10%. I'm ashamed of that now, but I need to be honest.

Fortunately, God took my feeble act of Faith and blessed it. After a couple of years, I finally got up the courage to give Him the Full 10%. I've never regretted it. Our tithe check is the first check Brittan and I write on payday. God gets the first of the best and the best of the first.

The Bible says, "If God is for us, who can stand against us." In other words, if our Spiritual perimeter is strong, we become both the immovable object and the irresistible force.

Coming soon.... Part 2, the South Perimeter, Food.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Shaping of Expectations

I bought gas this morning. I was ecstatic to only pay $1.96 per gallon. I felt like I'd hit the lottery. Sad, isn't it? Only a few short years ago, we were all ready to march on Washington because gas was at that price. But after looking down the barrel at nearly $5 a gallon, under 2 bucks feels great. We adapt so quickly. Sometimes I feel like the frog swimming around in the pot while the water slowly heats. Other times, I want to jump out and run for the hills. How are we so easily conditioned? I don't have the answer, I'm just thinking out loud?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Yahoo Finance Does It Again!

Found this today. More great saving ideas. Read HERE.

Monday, November 10, 2008

More Money Saving Tips

Saw this tidbit on Yahoo Finance this a.m. Thought I'd share it. Some good advice. Read HERE.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Quiet Weekend

This has been a peaceful weekend around the IOU NO MORE compound. My wife and I celebrated our wedding anniversary yesterday. We did a little shopping, ate out and watched an old movie last night. We found a bin of ancient movies and tv shows at "everything's a dollar". These were selling 2 for $1. So we bought $2 worth of old stuff. Last night we settled in and watched "The Over the Hill Gang". It was a cute made for TV movie from 1969. I remember watching it as a kid.

I made a little progress on "Recession Proof Living", the working title of my next book. I'm really quite happy with the direction of the book, just not the pace at which it's being completed. I'm probably going to have to sequester myself somewhere for a couple days and get the darned thing finished. But I don't see any breaks in my calendar until late January to make that happen.

Today has been very quiet. Church this a.m. followed by a light lunch and a wonderful nap. Now that's what I call a good day.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Just in Time for Christmas

Looks like retailers have gotten creative with alternative payment methods to "help" you in these tough economic times. Personally, I think cash rules! Read HERE.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Can't Resist One Final Reflection on the Election...

Please indulge me this one last look back on the election and some of the implications.

I changed schools back in the 4th grade. In September of 1965, I was being enrolled in Clays Mill Elementary School, Lexington, KY. I remember looking down on the parking lot from the Principal's Office while my parents got me enrolled. I watched a black family pull up and get out to enroll their children. They were met by a posse of whites, some armed, who refused to allow them into the school. That family was forced to get back into their car and leave. The incident was burned into my memory. The police were not called. The school officials did not get involved. A gaggle of stupid vigilantes controlled the whole encounter. We've come a long way! And that's a good thing. I have never been able to grasp race as an issue. My Christian World View is so much a part of my DNA that I can't even begin to understand race playing a role in any decision. Never have. Never will. So on one hand, electing a black man as President is no big deal to me. On the other hand, it's one of the biggest event in my lifetime, even bigger than Neal Armstrong's walk on the moon.

Finally, I lived under Socialism for 13 years in Scotland. I don't like it. I don't think Socialism is the way forward. It discourages achievement, especially over achievement. In many ways it encourages laziness and sloth. But it's also not the end of the world. America will get a good close look at Socialism over the next few years. We will then be able to make more informed decisions for or against it in the future.

And just as I predicted, Jesus is still Lord and the sun did indeed rise in the east. I watched it.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

America Has Spoken

Well, it's a little after 10 p.m. Eastern and it pretty much looks like Mr. Barack Obama will be our new President come January. Congratulations to him. I voted for the other guy, but it appears that more people felt differently. It must be a little bitter sweet in that his grandmother, who pretty much raised him, passed away yesterday. One day away from history.

I genuinely wish McCain had won. But I will pray just as fervently for President Obama as I would have if McCain had won.

The election outcome has no impact on the Revolution. We continue the fight to help Americans become and live debt free, one family budget at a time. I am optimistic that the coming years will see tens of thousands join the ranks of those who have escaped debt row.

It's past my bedtime now. Must sleep. Still have to go to work in the morning. Sleep well.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Happy Voting Day Tomorrow

Nov. 4. Whew! We thought it might never arrive. Now it's upon us. If you didn't take advantage of 'early voting' I truly do encourage you to participate in the process. If you are a registered voter, please express yourself by casting your vote. Your candidates may win. They may not. But when we all take part, we help make the process work. Feel free to tell the world who you voted for, or keep it to yourself. Its up to you.

Since Brittan and I voted on Friday, we will just go about our business as usual. The only difference for me will be a little extra time praying for voters and candidates (all the major ones, anyway). I will be praying for voter and victor wisdom.

I will not be staying up watching the results. It's not like I can control the outcome. I will go to bed and wake up to a surprise on Wednesday. Regardless of the identity of our next President, I make you this guarantee; the sun will rise in the east.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Bible Shocker! Jesus Taught Redistribution........

...... but interestingly, not the kind of redistribution we've been hearing promoted by one of the major political parties. First, read this:

Mat 25:14 "At that time the Kingdom of heaven will be like this. Once there was a man who was about to leave home on a trip; he called his servants and put them in charge of his property.
Mat 25:15 He gave to each one according to his ability: to one he gave five thousand gold coins, to another he gave two thousand, and to another he gave one thousand. Then he left on his trip.
Mat 25:16 The servant who had received five thousand coins went at once and invested his money and earned another five thousand.
Mat 25:17 In the same way the servant who had received two thousand coins earned another two thousand.
Mat 25:18 But the servant who had received one thousand coins went off, dug a hole in the ground, and hid his master's money.
Mat 25:19 "After a long time the master of those servants came back and settled accounts with them.
Mat 25:20 The servant who had received five thousand coins came in and handed over the other five thousand. 'You gave me five thousand coins, sir,' he said. 'Look! Here are another five thousand that I have earned.'
Mat 25:21 'Well done, you good and faithful servant!' said his master. 'You have been faithful in managing small amounts, so I will put you in charge of large amounts. Come on in and share my happiness!'
Mat 25:22 Then the servant who had been given two thousand coins came in and said, 'You gave me two thousand coins, sir. Look! Here are another two thousand that I have earned.'
Mat 25:23 'Well done, you good and faithful servant!' said his master. 'You have been faithful in managing small amounts, so I will put you in charge of large amounts. Come on in and share my happiness!'
Mat 25:24 Then the servant who had received one thousand coins came in and said, 'Sir, I know you are a hard man; you reap harvests where you did not plant, and you gather crops where you did not scatter seed.
Mat 25:25 I was afraid, so I went off and hid your money in the ground. Look! Here is what belongs to you.'
Mat 25:26 'You bad and lazy servant!' his master said. 'You knew, did you, that I reap harvests where I did not plant, and gather crops where I did not scatter seed?
Mat 25:27 Well, then, you should have deposited my money in the bank, and I would have received it all back with interest when I returned.
Mat 25:28 Now, take the money away from him and give it to the one who has ten thousand coins.
Mat 25:29 For to every person who has something, even more will be given, and he will have more than enough; but the person who has nothing, even the little that he has will be taken away from him. (Good News Bible)

Interesting, isn't it? This text suggests the lazy man should get nothing and even what he has should be given to the one with the most. How contrary that is to Socialism. In Jesus' scenario, the achiever is rewarded with more. The lazy man was punished.

Let me be clear; Jesus teaches social responsibility. The very next section in Matthew 25 is all about serving those in unfortunate circumstances. That's a biblical principle, too.

But socialism isn't about social responsibility. Socialism is a world view. Part of that world view is an economic system that takes from the achiever and gives not only to the unfortunate, but to the lazy and slothful. Jesus says that we should invest (not just money, but time and abilities as well) and earn interest. We will be rewarded for doing so. Then WE VOLUNTARILY give to the hungry, thirsty, persecuted and sick. The government has no right to determine our priorities. In fact, that's what started the American Revolution. The colonists were suffering high taxation and tariffs and they had no representation in London to argue on their behalf. King George and Parliament just took it. The Constitution of the United States was written to LIMIT the power of Government. This nation was founded on a belief in individual responsibility and individual potential. Those principles still stand and they still work.

Consider this; the Politically and Economically conservative, give more to charity per capita than do the Politically and Economically Liberal. The Income Tax Returns of the current Presidential and Vice Presidential candidates is illustrative. Liberals want to take other peoples money and give it away as they see fit. Conservative give out of personal concern and from the heart.

The Bible is very clear. Christians should look after 'widows and orphans'. But we have no responsibility to look after the lazy. The one who works hard and earns will be rewarded. The wastrel will suffer the consequences. As far as I'm concerned that's the end of the story.

I feel bad for men and women who can't work or take care of themselves. I will do my part to lift them up. But I resent those who are able and milk the system. And the Bible tells me that's ok.

Debit Cards - New Opportunities, New Dangers

Based on a recent article in Business Week, that I read on, Debit Card use is on the rise and credit card use may be on the decline. On the surface, that may sound great, but there is an undertow that is fraught with new dangers.

First, people still spend more with debit cards than with cash. Plastic numbs the pain of spending. It's kind of financial Novocaine. Banks and businesses are starting to discover the connection and are introducing 'perks' and 'incentives' for using debit cards. Alert! Danger Ahead! Caution! Cuidado! Open Manhole!

Secondly, debit cards create a fee bonanza for the banks. Because most Americans still don't budget and are poor record keepers, it's easy for Mr. Plastic to send the checking account into the red. No problem, your friendly bank honors the overdraft and hits your account almost immediately with an overdraft fee. So that $14 pizza ends up costing $43 after the service charge is added. I sure hope it was cheesy enough for you!

Mind you, I don't blame the banks for charging overdraft fees. They deserve to make money on loaning us money. Whether or not the rates are excessive, however, may be up for debtate.

Don't think that having 'overdraft protection' by linking your checking to a savings account will save you, because there are usually fees, either transactional or monthly connected with that service as well.

The correct answer is to BUDGET your finances and STICK TO THE BUDGET!

In the end, Debit Cards can be a blessing or a curse. I love mine. It makes things so easy at the gas station. It's great for shopping online, or paying bills that I can't do with other online bill pay. But for groceries, dining out and etc. Nothing works like cash!

Read the article HERE.