Little Foxes

July 7, 2008

Since my watch has broken I find that I don’t spend near as much time looking down at my wrist. You see, looking at my watch had become a response to even the mildest bit of stress. What was meant to make me more efficient had actually become a hindrance to me. So I’ve found that I really don’t miss it all that much. I find myself in less of a rush, and I’ve found a great conversation starter in “Do you have the time?”

What are some other things that we “can’t do without” which in reality hinder us almost as much they help? Facebook comes to mind. I’ve recently become hooked on that. From a personal finance perspective lots of things pop into my head. New cars for one. Why pay thousands more for new car when a used cars are widely available. Or consider cell phone costs. I just don’t see how having a Blackberry Curve will make me $1,000 per year more efficient. But I would sure feel hip and with it while I surf PCU Mobile on it.

Here’s my point. Looking for ways to save money and prosper financially sometimes requires counter-cultural steps. Don’t just follow the crowd and give all your money away just to experience the same thing as everybody else.

There’s a proverb that reads…

“Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards, our vineyards that are in bloom.”

(Song of Solomon 2:15)

What are the “little foxes” in your monthlyFox image payments or expenses that ruin your budget? Is it a high car payment or a 2nd mortgage? Maybe its a shopping fix? (guys have those too) Or a gas guzzling SUV? What conveniences can you do without that will make a substantial difference in your budget over time. Hmm… Cable TV?

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What not to do at Christmas (or any time of year).

December 14, 2007

For most of us the Holiday Season and the weeks after it are usually pretty tight financially. There are gifts to buy, regular bills, and then there are those non-regular bills like taxes or insurance. This year my family even has the added pleasure of paying a $1,500 deductible for a recent hospital stay. At times like these when bills are piling up and it’s nearing that overwhelming point, it can be very tempting to consider an alternative like a “quick cash” place. This type of debt is a bad idea. If you don’t believe me then look at this video interview with a woman who used to run a Payday Loan store.

If you’re financially exhausted then it’s a good idea to sit down and work on a financial plan. Here are a few characteristics your plan might include:

  • It doesn’t have to be complicated, simpler is usually better.
  • It will probably show how much money you expect to make over the next several weeks. It should also involve planning how to spend that money. This is probably the most important step. But be prepared to face the possibility that the money coming in is not enough to cover what needs to go out! If that’s the case don’t panic. This is why you’re making a plan, to figure out how you are going to make it through.
  • It might include contacting the places you owe money to and making arrangements to pay over time. That’s what I’m going to ask our local hospital about! 😉
  • It might include making an appointment to sit down with someone at the credit union for some honest financial counseling and advice or to look into re-structuring your existing debts.
  • Lastly, if your plan does involve a loan here at crunch time, consider the different options available to you before getting it and be sure that the new payment will not put too much of a burden on you either in the short-term or in the long-term. A credit union Christmas loan has a very low interest rate(9.5%), can be paid back over 12 months, and you don’t have to borrow the whole amount.

The credit union wants you to be prosperous all year long. If you’re struggling, tell us. We’ll listen to your story. And we’ll try to offer real help. So have a Merry Christmas but remember to resist the temptation to go overboard on spending, and not to rush into any loans or purchases. Most of all, avoid taking those high interest loans or Payday Loans. The only people such loans benefit are the executives who own the Payday Loan stores.


Keeping your name out of the paper

October 24, 2007

This week the City of Danville published the names, addresses, and amounts owed of everyone in town with delinquent real estate taxes. Instead of joining in with the many voices who say that these people deserve public shame and embarrassment, I’d like to approach it differently. We should all exercise at least a modicum of compassion before passing judgment on people who we don’t know anything else about except that their taxes are past due. I seriously doubt that the majority of real persons on that list intentionally decided to not pay their taxes, though a few may have. Most people have good intentions when it comes to paying their bills, and in general just living their lives. For these people perhaps one thing lead to another and the tax bill simply got put off repeatedly until it was just too overwhelming to deal with. This is the case with so many otherwise good people who don’t have a good spending plan or budget to make sure all their bills get paid on time.

Here’s a simple tip to keep your name from appearing in the paper. Start a special savings account for the sole purpose of paying taxes. You know how many times you get paid between now and when the tax bill comes in. Figure out how much you need to save every payday in order to have the money available when you need it. Direct Deposits and Payroll Deposits can be setup to automatically send a portion of your paycheck to this special savings account so that when the bill comes at the end of the year, the money will be there to pay it. The same account could be used to save up to pay for homeowners insurance, school tuition, or anything that you only pay once or twice per year.

Another option is to take out a loan to pay taxes. That’s probably a good option if your name is already on the list! Either way you go, loan or savings, take the time to sit down and map out proactively how you plan to spend your money in the coming months. Then stick to your plan!