This week choose gratitude

Often people ask how I manage to be happy despite having no arms and no legs. The quick answer is that I have a choice. I can be angry about not having limbs, or I can be thankful that I have a purpose. I chose gratitude. – Nick Vujicic

For those of you living in the United States, this week we celebrate Thanksgiving. It is a day where we often gather with family, stuff ourselves with way too much food, then watch football through the afternoon in a semi-comatose state as we recover from that big meal. Hopefully, in the midst of that we each take some time to reflect a bit on the many things we have to be thankful for.

I believe far more than a feeling, gratitude is most often a choice. It is a matter of where we put our focus. Most situations can be seen from more than one perspective.

Not an easy choicechoose gratitude

Five years ago near the bottom of the great recession I was laid off from a job I had for 21 years. I had thought after 21 years that I would probably retire from that company but as so many have discovered in recent years the days of 30 years, a gold watch, and a nice little retirement party are almost over.

So how do you respond to something like that?

  • I could have turned bitter.
  • I could have complained about the unfairness of being dumped after so long a time.
  • I could have been paralyzed with fear. 2009 was a scary time as unemployment was sky high and every day it seemed there was another bad report on the nightly news.
  • I could have decided that while age discrimination is illegal that doesn’t mean it doesn’t subtly still happen and resigned myself to never finding a comparable job in my field.
  • I could have just decided life was unfair and given up.

Choose gratitude

I will admit that many of those thoughts crossed my mind. But there is another way to look at it.

  • I could also focus on many great people that I had the opportunity to work with over those 21 years and the friendships and good times we shared.
  • I could focus on the generous severance package I was given that gave my family some cushion as I looked for a new job.
  • I had the opportunity to pick my son up from school each day that year, something I enjoyed tremendously and an experience I would never have had if I had been working.
  • I could be grateful for the many interviews I was able to get during that time even though many of them didn’t pan out.
  • I am thankful I had the opportunity to teach some at a local community college which afforded me the opportunity to try out something I had always thought about doing.
  • I could be very grateful that I had stumbled across Dave Ramsey a few years before so we were debt free and in fairly decent shape financially when the storm hit.
  • And finally, I am especially thankful that 8 months later I was offered a job with my current employer at slightly more money than I made at my old employer.

It all comes down to where I choose to focus. I believe the key is gratitude is a conscious choice. We must deliberately choose to be grateful even when sometimes we might have to stretch to find reasons for it.

You might say it is easy to find gratitude looking back with a new job and the days of uncertainty behind you. It is a fair point. It is a lot harder to trust the sun is still shining when the storm is raging around you than it is after the storm has passed. There were certainly many days of discouragement during those 8 months. That’s why choosing gratitude is hard.

Purposely decide your focus

I want to make clear, I don’t want to minimize anyone’s situation. There are many who were laid off as I was during 2008 and 2009 and have struggled greatly in finding comparable work. Financial hardships can be devastating when we face the fear of not knowing how we will be able to provide for our family.

And beyond finances there are other situations that can be even more painful. Failing health, broken dreams and death are realities that we all face. The small town where I live was rocked this past weekend when three teenagers were tragically killed in a car accident as they lost control on icy roads. Why do things like that happen? Where could we possibly find reasons for gratitude in situations like that? I don’t know.

Sometimes though it is only in those darkest of days where we learn that when we don’t have all the answers, we serve a God who does. When we get to the end of our abilities, we find that God is still able to carry us through, even if we don’t see how it is possible.

In about 3 months I will celebrate 5 years with the company I now work for. I wish I could report it is all sunshine, but it is not. There have been challenging times. There are still things I wish were different. Life is rarely exactly as we’d like it to be. And that is a good thing. Because it is through those challenges that we grow, and one of the areas where I am still growing is learning to find reasons for gratitude in all situations.

I write about the power of trying, because I want to be okay with failing. I write about generosity because I battle selfishness. I write about joy because I know sorrow. I write about faith because I almost lost mine, and I know what it is to be broken and in need of redemption. I write about gratitude because I am thankful – for all of it. – Kristin Armstrong

What will you choose to be thankful for this week?

Best of the week – November 22, 2014

Here are some articles that caught my eye this week….

12 Surprising Ways to Save on Groceries

I would add a 13th suggestion. Use cash. I thought we were careful and pretty frugal in our grocery spending and for a long time I resisted the suggestion of using cash. I really did not think it would make a difference, but I was wrong. Using cash really does change the way you spend.

Save money online on Cyber Monday

The online deals for Cyber Monday have almost become a bigger deal than Black Friday. Bankrate has some good tips to help you maximize your savings.

How to Survive the 5 Most Common Emergency Situations

A good emergency fund as well as taking some simple preventative steps can help you avoid many situations that could be disastrous.

6 Simple Ways to Save on Car Insurance

Insurance is a key part of protecting your finances, but it can also be expensive. There are ways to make sure you get the best deal possible. If you you have an emergency fund, raising your deductible is a great way to save. Just make sure you never try to save by lowering your liability coverage.

5 Reasons You’ll Never Get Out of Debt

Make these 5 things a part of your financial plan and you will always struggle to get ahead.

I’m Sick Of Hearing It’s For The Kids – Stop Spoiling Them

Most of us who are parents are guilty of spoiling our kids from time to time. That’s natural. It is important though that we don’t allow our children’s wants to jeopardize our family finances. It is dangerous for us and it doesn’t serve their interests well in the short run or the long run.

The 2 rules for deciding what type of insurance you need

Insurance is a key part of your financial plan, and yet it is something we often neglect. I think there are a couple of reasons for this.

First, insurance is often expensive and it is one of the only things that we buy that we hope we never use.

Second, and maybe even more important, insurance can be very confusing. There are so many different types of insurance. Health insurance, cancer insurance, accidental death insurance, disability, auto insurance, homeowners, renters, whole life vs. universal life vs. term life insurance, mortgage life, credit card protection, even warranties. I could keep on going and fill a whole article just with types of insurance. What insurance do I need? What insurance is a rip off? How do I know? And then even when I choose insurance often there are many different options. So many choices I think many just throw up their hands and give up.

But the problem is there is probably nothing that will land you in bankruptcy quicker than not having the right insurance: A major hospital stay with no health insurance. Your house burns down and you didn’t have the coverage you thought you had. In a moment of distraction you get in a major auto accident, but you don’t have sufficient liability coverage. These are the types of things that can sink you financially, literally creating a hole it may take years to recover from.

So how do you know what type of insurance you need?

1. What is the worst that could happen if you didn’t have the insurance?

The first question to consider is what is the implication of not having the insurance.

Remember the purpose of insurance is to transfer risk to the insurance company for things that you could not handle.

So for example if I am offered an extended warranty on the microwave I just bought what is the worst that could happen if I decline? Well, if my microwave quits working shortly after I bring it home I may be out the $100 or so I paid for it. That doesn’t make me happy. Losing $100 hurts, but on the other hand it will hardly break me. I could financially recover from that set back without too much difficulty. That is a risk I can safely assume so it makes sense to pass on paying for that extended warranty. (Plus these types of risks are really why you have savings and an emergency fund.)

But let’s consider what if I did not have home owner’s insurance and my house were to burn down? Would I be able to replace my house and all its contents? Chances are unless you are a millionaire, losing your home and everything you own would probably destroy you financially for many years. I can’t afford to take that kind of risk. I need to have home owner’s  insurance that will cover me if something catastrophic happens to my house.

By looking at the worst case scenario you can evaluate whether the insurance protects you against a risk that you can’t take or if the implications of the worst happening aren’t that severe.

2. Am I already covered?

The second question to consider is am I insuring against something that I already have covered?

For example, should I buy cancer insurance? The answer is no if I already have good health insurance. My health insurance will cover me if I get cancer. I don’t need to pay extra for cancer insurance because I am already covered.

Or how about accidental death policies? These cover you if you were to die in an accident. But you should already have a good term life insurance policy in place to protect your love ones if something should happen to you. You aren’t extra dead if you die in an accident; you don’t need to pay extra for insurance.

You want to make sure you are covered for risks you can’t handle, but there is no need to pay twice for the same coverage.

Find an insurance agent who is a teacher

Make sure you have an insurance agent who is willing to take the time to explain what you are purchasing. Never buy something that you don’t understand. If you are confused or it isn’t clear, ask questions. And continue to ask questions until you understand. If your agent is unwilling to patiently explain things in a way you can understand then it’s time to find a new agent.

And lastly, never buy insurance just because your agent said so. Understand that not all types of policies are created equal for your agent. Some types of insurance provide them with bigger commissions than other types of policies. If you feel you are being pressured into signing up for a particular type of insurance and your agent can’t give you a clear explanation of why, it may well be because your agent is hoping to earn a nice commission at your expense.

7 tips to save money while Christmas shopping this year

Believe it or not, as of Thursday it will be six weeks until Christmas day!

The question is are you a procrastinator who will be fighting the last second crowds and desperately shopping on Christmas Eve? Or are you one of those ultra organized people who had everything bought and wrapped back in July?

Chances are most of us fall somewhere in between those extremes and you probably are at least starting to think about starting your Christmas shopping. If that’s you, here are some ways to save and get more for your money this year.save money while christmas shopping

Have a plan

Make a list of who you plan to buy for and decide ahead of time how much you will spend on each person. Be intentional. Having an amount in mind for each person will help you avoid those impulse purchases that can easily get out of control.

Use cash

There is a difference psychologically to paying with cash as opposed to using a credit card. When you swipe a card it doesn’t register in your brain the same way as when you actually hand that cash over. When you pay with cash you feel the purchase more than when you use a credit or a debit card. Plus, when you use cash it will help you stick to that plan you just created because when the cash is gone there is no more spending. And most important, when you use cash you don’t have to dread that sinking feeling when the credit card statements start arriving in January.

Black Friday… online

Perhaps you are one of those who love the challenge of heading out before the crack of dawn on Black Friday to fight through the crowds and get the latest deals. I’ve done it on occasion, but too often it has amounted to standing in line in frigid weather waiting for the doors to open, racing through the crowds, only to find that there were only two of the sale items I was looking for and they were grabbed by some guy who had been camped out by the door for three days.

What I have discovered in recent years is that many of those sale items are also available online. There usually are a limited number of items available so you need to make sure you know when the sale starts and be online soon after. But sitting at home making the purchase in my nice warm, quiet home is a lot easier than fighting the 4:00 am crowds. I get some great deals every year by doing this.

Use E-Bates or similar services

I love using E-Bates to save a little money on my online purchases. There are tons of retailers that offer savings through E-Bates. Using the service could not be easier. Simply go to E-Bates.com and then from the E-bates site click on the link to the store where you want to shop. You’ll be redirected to the retailer’s web site where you shop like you normally would. When you make your purchase, E-Bates will send you a rebate of part of your purchase. Many retailers offer rebates of 2-4% with some 5-10% or more.

I have frequently used E-Bates, but there are several other similar sites like RetailMeNot.com or BradsDeals.com that provide similar services. You won’t get rich using these sites, but every dollar helps, especially when it often only takes a couple extra clicks to save.

Store rewards and mailing lists

If your favorite stores have a shopper rewards card or a mailing list. sign up.

The grocery store where we frequently shop also has gas stations and you can earn fuel perks to save on gas by shopping at the grocery store. They also sell gift cards for a number of popular retailers and they often give double fuel perks on gift card purchases. So sometimes if I know I am going to make a purchase, I stop by the grocery store, pick up some gift cards and save a little extra on my gas.

Many retailers also have mailing lists and frequently send out coupons for in-store purchases. I’ve used these coupons on many occasions to save and the only cost is a few extra e-mails.

Discounted gift cards

Sites like GiftCardGranny.com allow you to buy gift cards for less than their face value. E-Bay is another good site for finding discounted gift cards. If I can buy a $50 gift card for $45, I just saved 10% on my purchase.

Watch out for buying yourself gifts

I know I have been guilty of this and I bet you have too.  I go Christmas shopping and come home with 2 presents bought for others and 4 things I bought for me. There’s nothing wrong with this, especially if you see a good sale on something you need. Just have a care that you don’t spend all your Christmas money buying presents for yourself.

What tricks do you use to save money while Christmas shopping?

The hidden danger of credit card debt and what you can do about it

According to statistics drawn from the Federal Reserve and other government sources, the average American family has about $7,281 in credit card debt. However, there are many households that do not have credit card debt. If we filter out those, the average credit card debt among families that are in debt is $15,607!

So how does this happen?

I suspect most people don’t intentionally go out and charge $15,000 in credit card debt. It just kind of happens over a period of years.

Perhaps, we decide we’ll just keep the card around for emergencies. But then life happens. A car repair here. An unexpected medical expense. That shower gift we had to buy for our friend because we forgot the party was this weekend. Then there were a few times that we worked late and didn’t feel like cooking so really how much can a pizza here or there add up to. And on and on until one day we realize the payments are getting out of control.

Or perhaps we get a card so we can take advantage of the rewards. We intend to pay it off every month anyway. And we do for a few months. We think we are beating the system. Then a month comes when we had some unexpected expenses and we can’t quite pay that card off. But we promise we’ll catch up next month. Except something else happens next month too. And month by month we slip further and further behind. We didn’t intend to end up with $15,000 in debt, it just kind of happened.

The real hidden danger of credit card debt

The real problem with credit cards is they can mask the issues that lead us down the path toward financial danger. The biggest of these is spending more than we make. It is impossible to get ahead financially if you consistently spend more than you bring in.

But here’s the thing. If I am using cash, I don’t have the option of spending $1,200 if I only have 10 uncle Benjamin’s to work with. When my wallet is empty, it is empty.

Or suppose I write checks. I can certainly write $1,200 worth of checks when I only have $1,000 in my account. But some of those checks are going to bounce, and I’ll figure out pretty quickly that I am spending more than I have.

But when I use credit cards that safety stop isn’t there. As long as I don’t surpass my credit limit I can continue to charge as much as I want.

Credit cards allow us to spend without the immediate feedback of the consequences. I spend $200 extra, but I don’t have to deal with that today. I don’t see a bill until next month and then it’s probably only $20. I can handle that. And so I finance our overspending a few dollars at a time until one day I wake up and realize I have thousands of dollars of credit card debt, and I can no longer make the payments.

So how do you avoid the slow trap of credit?

Budget

First, you need to have a budget. A budget need not be complicated. It is simply spending purposely, on paper, your monthly income before the month begins. If I make $4,000 this month, then I can’t spend more than $4,000. By committing it to paper, I have the opportunity to make sure I am spending it on what matters most to me and that I am not spending more than I have.

Emergency fund

Second you need to have an emergency fund. Things break. Jr. falls and breaks his arm. We get in an accident on the way to work. The boss tells you that he’s sorry but the company isn’t doing well and your services are no longer needed.  Life happens. And usually it happens at the most inopportune times. Without an emergency fund of at least 3-6 months of expenses, you will have little choice but to turn to your plastic when those emergencies hit.

Use cash

Use cash for your everyday expenses. The envelope system is a great way to keep your spending under control. The beauty of cash is that when it is gone you have no choice but to stop spending. You can’t “cash” yourself into debt.

15 things to do if you need some quick cash

A 2011 CNN report indicated that 64% of Americans would not be able to quickly get their hands on $1,000 cash if they had an emergency. So what do we do when when we need cash quickly? Well many times the answer is pull out the plastic. Many people get themselves into deeply in debt by using that credit card that they kept only for “emergencies”. Ten emergencies later they wake up one day with thousands in debt.

So what can you do if you don’t have an emergency fund and need to raise some cash quickly?quick cash

1. Revisit the budget

The first place to go when you need cash is your budget. If you don’t have one, now would be a real good time to get started. When you don’t have a plan money has a way of disappearing. A few dollars here and a few there? How much do you spend on eating out? Your daily coffee? Entertainment? Nothing wrong with those things, but if you are in a pinch financially it’s time to do some cutting.

2. Cut your expenses

Take a look at your monthly bills. Do you have options on your cell phone you never use? Have the deluxe cable package with 500 channels, but you only ever watch about a half a dozen of them? Check with your utilities to see if they have a budget plan that can save you money.

3. Have a garage sale

Most of us have lots of stuff sitting around that we rarely use. If you need some quick cash it’s time to put out a sign and have a garage sale.

4. Sell something online

If a garage sale isn’t a good option because of weather or where you live, then consider selling online. E-bay works great for smaller items. Craigslist is good for larger items that are more difficult or expensive to ship.

5. Sell parts of yourself

Sell your plasma. Technically you can’t sell your blood, but you can be compensated for your time. If you have long healthy hair, consider selling your hair.

6.  Go door to door

Take a walk around the neighborhood or if you don’t want to go to your neighbors take a walk around a nearby neighborhood that is more affluent. Offer to mow a yard. Rake some leaves. Clean out the gutters. Shovel snow. Walk the dog. Run some errands. Offer to babysit. There are lots of low-cost ideas like this where you can turn a little sweat into dollars.

7. Volunteer for overtime

If you have a job where overtime is an option volunteer. I don’t want you having to work 80 hours a week forever, but for a short time when you are in need of some extra money, overtime is a great option. (And if you show your boss that you aren’t afraid of some hard work, you might just get a raise or a promotion!)

8. Get a part-time job

Deliver papers. Flip some burgers. Deliver pizzas. Many retailers are looking for extra help for the holidays. Offer tutoring services.

9. Look online for work

Sites like Fiver.com, Elance.com, or odesk.com provide opportunities to use your skills to bid for work online.

10. Check your taxes

Do you regularly get a large tax refund? If so that just means you are giving the government extra money each week so that later they can give it back to you. Adjust your withholdings so you can bring that extra money home.

11. Get back a deposit

Did you have to leave a deposit for utilities or other services. If you have been regularly paying your bills, call and see if you can have that deposit refunded.

12. Sell some scrap metal

Have a bunch of junk lying around. There could be value in that metal. Load it up and take it to a scrap yard.

13. Temporarily stop investing.

This should be one of your last resorts, but if you are really in desperate need, temporarily stop saving for college or retirement. Just don’t make a habit of this, and only consider doing it for a very short period of time.

14. Make something

Do you have some crafting skills? Woodworking skills? Sewing skills? Make something and sell it at a local craft show or an online site like etsy.com.

15 Take on a boarder

If you have an extra room consider renting it out.

What not to do

While there are many good ways to earn some extra money, there are also some common ways that are very bad ideas.

  • Payday loans
  • Borrowing from friends or family
  • Take a trip to the local casino
  • Buying lottery tickets
  • Compromising your integrity

Get an emergency fund

While many of us have found ourselves at times needing some extra cash quickly whether through unforeseen circumstances or because of poor financial decisions, the trick is to make sure this isn’t a way of life. Having a good emergency fund turns a crisis into an inconvenience. If you are in a rough spot financially, do what you need to do to raise some quick cash, but use the pain of your current circumstance to motivate you to change. As this crisis passes, build up your emergency fund so when the next bump in the road comes (and it will come), you aren’t left in a panic.

What things have you done to raise money quickly?

8 ways to use the extra paychecks when you get paid every 2 weeks

If you get paid every two weeks, then 4 times a year you actually get 3 paychecks in the month instead of 2. If your first two paychecks are sufficient to cover your bills, then that 3rd paycheck almost becomes like a bonus. But how can you use it wisely?

Here is what I do know. If you do not have a plan for the money, it will disappear. You will get the extra paycheck and you’ll wake up 2 weeks later and wonder what happened to it.extra paychecks

So here are 8 things you can do to make that extra paycheck really make a difference.

Create an emergency fund

If you have no emergency savings, take the extra pay and stow it away for a rainy day. Many times we get ourselves into credit card debt because we are unprepared when Murphy comes calling. You know that guy Murphy? If it can go wrong it will and always at the worst possible time. Life happens to us all. Things break. Accidents happen. If you have an emergency fund to cover these bumps in the road then emergencies move from a crisis to an inconvenience. Ideally, you should have 3 to 6 months of income saved away. If you aren’t there using those extra pays to beef up your savings is a great way to make sure the extra pays are a blessing.

Pay off a debt

Do you have credit card debt? A car loan? Student loan debt? Medical debts? Use the debt snowball to list those debts from smallest to largest and use that extra pay to start knocking off some of those small ones.

Save for Christmas

Christmas is just around the corner. What if you saved that extra pay and used it to pay cash for Christmas? Wouldn’t it feel great to enjoy the holiday knowing that you weren’t facing 6 more months of payments as you try to pay off all you charged for Christmas? You can do it by saving for Christmas ahead of time.

Save for non-monthly expenses

Home owners insurance. Some utilities like water, sewer, and garbage. Taxes. Subscriptions. Membership fees. Birthday gifts. Auto registration.

These are just some of the items that are non-monthly expenses. These kinds of expenses used to really kill my budget because I hadn’t planned for them. Now I set aside a little each month to cover these non-monthly expenses so that when they come I am ready. You could use those extra paychecks to build up some savings on the side to cover these non-monthly expenses.

Save for a car

Most people believe the lie that you will always have a car payment. I know I did for much of my life.

The problem is the average new car payment in the US is just under $500 a month. I am convinced that car payments are one of the primary things that keeps most average families from ever making any financial progress.

But the reality is you really can save up and pay cash for a car.   It just takes a little planning. How about saving those extra payments in a car fund. What would it feel like to walk into the car dealer and lay down cash to buy your next car?

Make an extra mortgage payment

What if you used one of those extra pays to make an extra mortgage payment each year? Did you know that by making one extra mortgage payment each year, you can shave 7 years off a 30 year mortgage?

Give

Use some of that extra money to support a local ministry that is close to your heart. Help support a missionary that your church sponsors. Help out a neighbor that just lost his job. Buy some groceries for a single mom. There are lots of ways you can use that extra pay to make a difference for the kingdom of God.

Treat yourself

And lastly, it’s ok to use some of that money to buy something you have been wanting. There is nothing wrong with enjoying some of our hard-earned money. Just make sure you are also doing some other wise things with the money too.

Make your extra paychecks count

The key is to be intentional. The same principles apply to bonuses, inheritances, or any other found money. Make sure you have a plan. Without a plan the money will just disappear and you’ll wonder what happened to it. But if you have a plan, those extra paychecks can really help you jump-start some wise financial behaviors.

How to find the true source of contentment

contentmentThere are several Bible verses that even those who have maybe never read the Bible could probably quote.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.

God helps those who help themselves

Oh, wait, that last one isn’t actually in the Bible, though some think it is.

Another of those scriptures that even non-Christians have probably heard quoted is Philippians 4:13.

For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.

We use that verse for many things. Athletes often quote it after some great achievement. People quote it when they are going through a particularly rough time in life. People quote it when they are faced with a difficult task.

None of those uses of the verse are wrong, but did you know the actual context of the verse?

How I praise the Lord that you are concerned about me again. I know you have always been concerned for me, but you didn’t have the chance to help me. Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.Philippians 4:10-13

Paul was actually speaking about contentment. He had found the secret to how to live in need and how to live with plenty. That secret was the strength that Christ gives him.

Contentment is perhaps one of the most important keys to financial health. In fact, I would suggest that without at least some degree of contentment you will probably always struggle financially.

And it is hard in our society as we are marketed to constantly. Everywhere you turn there are advertisements.

Understand that the whole key to marketing is to make you feel discontent: “I am lacking something in my life and this product is just what I need to fill it.” Now marketing isn’t evil (as long as it is honest). In fact sometimes there are products that really do make our lives much better and marketing that makes us aware of that is a good thing. Just be aware that the whole point of marketing is to convince you to buy something.

As we are faced with this constant barrage of marketing, we can easily be led down the road of thinking” I need just one more thing to be happy.’ But that road never ends. There is always a better, newer version. Our neighbor always has something with one more feature. There is no financial peace on this path.

So what are the keys to finding contentment

Knowing the finish line

Contentment does not mean we should always passively accept our circumstances. It’s ok to want a better life. To strive to learn new skills. Look for a better job.

The key is to define for yourself what is enough.

Gratitude

One of the surest ways to kill an attitude of discontent is to focus on gratitude. Most of us, even the poorest among us, have more wealth than a large percentage of the population of the world. While we may not have everything we want, few of us are lacking in daily needs.

And consider as well the blessings that money can’t buy. Good health. A spouse who stands with us. The hug of a child. The beauty of a sunset. Freedom. Grace. When you focus on all that there is to be thankful for, the discontent will quickly be drowned out by the chorus of gratitude

A focus on others

Discontent often comes from looking inward. What is it I want that I don’t have and I think I need? By lifting our eyes from our internal wants and desires, and changing our focus to those around us our perspective on contentment changes.

Spend some time helping out at a local homeless shelter. Volunteer to help out at a local pediatric hospital. Go on a short-term mission trip. There are many ways to shift our focus to those who are much less fortunate than we are. When you do this you will begin to see that the things that are causing you discontent are often just stuff. And stuff just isn’t that important.

The strength Christ provides.

Most importantly as Paul said the real secret to finding contentment is found in the strength that Christ provides. Psalm 37:4 says:

Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.

When I was young I used to think this meant that if we focused first on the Lord that he would give us what we want. What I have come to understand is that when we put our focus on Him, He changes us so that over time our desires come in line with His desires. The things that used to seem important to us often fade and we learn to desire what really matters.

Looking for contentment in all the wrong places

I believe the real root cause of discontent is often the fact that we are looking for contentment in the wrong place. We look for money, jobs, stuff, relationships, power, and many other things to fill the discontent we have inside. The problem is that hole is only filled by one thing, a relationship with Christ.

What is causing you to not feel content today?

8 of my favorite financial podcasts

I love listening to podcasts.

You can think of podcasts as free, on-demand, topical radio programs. There are podcasts available on practically any topic you can imagine including business, entertainment, sports, self-improvement, health, art and literature, politics and current events, technology, education, family, religion, and yes, financial matters. If you have a subject that interests you, there is probably a podcast on that topic. And the best part of listening to podcasts is that it is completely free.favorite financial podcasts

How to listen

With the advent of tablets and smartphones it has become easier and easier to listen to podcasts. The granddaddy of podcast directories is Apple’s iTunes store. When I first started listening to podcasts I subscribed to them through iTunes and synced with an iPod nano. Today there are many more options. Apple now has a Podcast app that can be used to subscribe and listen to podcasts on iOS devices. There are also a number of great third-party apps that can now be used. Stitcher, Downcast, Doggcatcher, iCatcher, Instacast, and TuneIn radio are just a few of the apps available.

My personal favorite is the Pocket Casts app. I prefer it because there are Android and iOS versions and they can sync with each other so regardless of whether I use my iPad or my Android phone to listen, my list of available podcasts is always the same in both locations.

Some of these apps are free while others have a small fee associated with the app. Most of these apps though are less than $5 and the podcasts you subscribe to are free.

For me podcasts provide hours of free entertainment and more importantly provide me a great way to learn new things.

My favorite financial podcasts

There are several financial podcasts I listen to regularly. Here are some of my favorites.

The Dave Ramsey Show

This was the very first podcast I ever listened to. Many years ago when we were getting out of debt I was searching for a way to listen to the Dave Ramsey Show when I wasn’t able to get it on the radio. I found that Dave puts out 1 hour of his daily radio program in podcast format and I have been listening to it ever since. While we followed Dave Ramsey’s baby steps to get out of debt years ago, I still enjoy listening to the program each day as it helps keep me motivated to remain on track and debt free.

The Money-Guy Show

Brian Preston is a fee-only financial planner in the Atlanta area and many years ago he started a bi-weekly podcast called “The Money Guy”. He currently co-hosts the show with Bo Hanson, another of the firm’s financial planners. While a large part of the shows focus on investing topics, they also frequently talk about other financial topics as well. Brian loves to be frugal and squeeze every last ounce of value out of each dollar he spends so often they talk about new ways to save, find deals, etc.

Money Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for a Richer Life

Laura Adams is the money girl and she does a short (usually 8-10 minute) weekly podcast where she tackles one specific financial question or topic. Recent shows have included things like when and why to incorporate if you are self-employed, what happens to credit card debt when you die, how to sell a house fast in any market, and tips for saving money on travel. I love the quick little self-contained, bite-sized chunks of financial education she provides.

Compass-Moneywise

Howard Dayton and his co-host Steve Moore host the daily Moneywise show. Howard used to partner with the respected Christian financial counselor, Larry Burkett. He and Larry founded Crown Financial Ministries and Howard left a few years ago to form Compass One. They have a daily radio program that is heard around the country and is made available  via podcast.  They usually start the program with a discussion of some financial topic from a Christian perspective and then spend the remainder of the program taking calls from their listeners. Howard provides years of financial wisdom with a strong Biblical focus.

Ric Edelman’s The Truth About Money

Ric Edelman is the chairman of Edelman Financial Services, one of the nation’s largest independent financial planning firms. He does a 2 hour weekly radio program that is also made available in podcast form. I find him very talented at explaining complicated investing concepts in ways that are easy to for the average person to understand. I disagree philosophically with his views on the benefits of a home mortgage, but other than that, I find his views and teaching to be very sound and educational.

You Need A Budget

Jesse Mecham, the founder of the popular YNAB budgeting solution, does a short weekly podcast where he discusses a variety of topics related to budgeting. He always gives me something good to think about regarding how I can best manage my money.

The Dough Roller Podcast

While not a new podcast, this is one I just started listening to fairly recently. Rob Berger posts podcasts 2-3 times a week on a variety of investment related topics. Sometimes he is a little more aggressive in his investing philosophy than I’d prefer. For example, I much prefer mutual funds or ETF’s over single stocks. But overall I find Rob’s podcasts enlightening and informative as I think he also does a very good job of tackling complicated investing concepts and explaining them in a thorough but simple way that makes them easy to understand.

48 Days to the Work You Love

While this isn’t strictly a financial podcast, it is a great career oriented podcast, and our careers certainly affect our financial situation. Dan Miller answers listener’s questions each week on a variety of career oriented topics. If you are not happy with your current career, Dan is a good resource for helping you move toward a career you desire.

Bonus:

Here are 10 more podcasts I enjoy that aren’t necessarily financially related.

The Entreleadership Podcast – Based off Dave Ramsey’s entreleadership concept (combining entrepreneurship and leadership). They have some great interviews with best selling authors and business leaders including people like Seth Godin, Jim Collins, Simon Sinek, Mark Cuban, Stephen M.R. Covey, and so many more.

Read To Lead Podcast – Dan Brown interviews an author each week about their latest book. Great place to get tips on things to read to make me a better person.

Chris Locurto Show –  Chris used to be part of Dave Ramsey’s Entreleadership team and left a couple years ago to start his own business. He has great insights on life, business, and personal development.

In the Loop with Andy Andrews – Two words come to mind when I think of Andy Andrews – funny and wise. His podcast consists mostly of him addressing questions sent in by his listeners on life, parenting, business, and many other things.  He is a little like that favorite uncle that always had just the right thing to say to make you think about a topic in a new and fresh way.

Southeast Christian Church – I love the pastors, Dave Stone and Kyle Idleman,  from Southeast Christian Church in Louisville Kentucky. Their weekly messages are an inspiration.

The Tolkien Professor – I admit my all-time favorite books are the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings. Dr. Corey Olsen has taught Tolkien at the university level and I love to listen to his periodic podcasts on all things Tolkien.

The Portfolio Life – I just recently came across this podcast. Jeff Goins is something like a younger Andy Andrews. He always gives me something to think about and brings a wisdom more than his years.

This Is Your Life – Michael Hyatt is the former chairman of Thomas Nelson Publishing and has built a massive internet audience through his blog and podcast. He provides weekly insight into being an intentional leader.

1 Year Daily Audio Bible – Brian Hardin has been doing the Daily Audio Bible for many years now. He simply reads a passage from the Old and New Testaments plus a selection from Psalms and also Proverbs each day. Each year he reads through the entire Bible. If you are busy and on the go, it’s a good way to spend some time daily in the Word.

Your Website Engineer – Dustin Hartzler does a weekly podcast where he talks about the latest WordPress news as well covering a specific WordPress topic. If you are a blogger it’s a great way to learn something new about using WordPress each week.

A great free way to learn

The great thing about podcasts is you can listen to them while you do other things. For me, I have about an hour commute each way everyday to work. I could do something mindless to pass the time while I’m driving, but podcasts give me the great opportunity to use that time to learn new things.

If you have never listened to a podcast I encourage you to check one of these out. It is a great way to learn new things and find free entertainment. I encourage you to go find one of these podcasts and give it a try. You might just get hooked!!

If you are already a podcast listener, what is your favorite podcast?

October challenge: Review your insurance coverage

Insurance is one of those rare things we buy that we hope we will never use. As a result, it is easy to kind of set it and forget it.

There are three reasons you need to review your insurance at least one a year.

1. Your coverage needs may have changed. We buy the insurance but then fail to follow up periodically to make sure that the coverage we have is still appropriate.  The sad result is when the day comes we need to make a claim, we may be surprised to find that we are not covered nearly as well as we thought.

2. There may be cheaper options. It never hurts to shop your insurance around a bit. If you haven’t reviewed your insurance recently, you might find a few simple adjustments could save you big bucks over the course of a year.

3. Major life changes affect your insurance. Have you gotten married or divorced? Had a child? Experienced a significant change in income?  Made major renovations to your home? These kinds of life events can affect your insurance needs.

My October challenge for you, if you have not reviewed your coverage within the last year, is to schedule an appointment this month with your agent.

Life insurance

You should have at least 10-12 times your income in life insurance. The real purpose of life insurance is to replace your income in the event something were to happen to you. Would those who depend on your income be in financial trouble if you were no longer here? Then you need to have life insurance. If your income has changed significantly since the last time you reviewed your life insurance, you might need to adjust the amount of insurance you have.

A second very important thing you need to review is your beneficiaries. If you have changed marital status, had children, or had other significant life events, it is possible you may need to change your beneficiaries.

A third consideration is health changes. Have you lost a considerable amount of weight since you first qualified for your life insurance? Stopped smoking? Made other positive improvements to your health? It is possible you might qualify for a lower rate.

Homeowners or renters insurance

Have property values in your area changed significantly since the last time you reviewed your policy? Most insurance companies no longer offer full replacement coverage policies. Generally, they insure what they calculate to be the current replacement value with some increases for inflation over time. But if your home has significantly changed in value, you might not have the coverage you think. The last thing you want to happen is for your home to burn down and find out that the policy you bought 10 years ago only provides $100,000 in coverage but it is now going to cost $200,000 to rebuild your home.

Have you made significant upgrades to your home that would affect the value of the property? If so your covered amount may no longer be accurate.

If you are a renter, you must have renters insurance to cover your personal property. Your landlord’s policy does not cover your personal belongings. If you do not have renters insurance, you need to buy it today! If you do, you should review your policy and make sure your belongings are properly covered, especially if you have made any significant purchases.

Auto insurance

It is not a bad idea to periodically shop your auto insurance to make sure you are getting the best rates. Even if you choose to stay with your current company, there may be many ways you could save money. Good student discounts, changes in your credit score, changes in your driving patterns, multiple vehicle or multiple policy discounts, or safe driver discounts are just some of the ways you might be able to save.

If you have a good emergency fund, consider raising your deductible. This can be a great way of saving on insurance costs, but only if you have the money saved to cover the cost of the deductible.

If you drive an older car, check to see what it would save to drop collision. I do not necessarily recommend doing this. Often collision coverage is very affordable on older cars, but it is something to at least look at. Never, ever, ever try to save by reducing your liability coverage. That can be a quick ticket to bankruptcy court in the event you are in a serious accident.

Health insurance

October is often the month for benefit re-enrollment for those who have employer sponsored healthcare plans. Or for those who get their insurance through the Affordable Care Act it is likely coming up on the time when you will need to enroll for another year. Many programs will automatically re-enroll you for your current coverage. This might be your best approach, but take a few moments to look at your options. Make sure that your healthcare coverage is most appropriate for your situation.

If you are fairly healthy, a high deductible plan combined with a health savings account might save you a considerable amount of money. Like auto insurance though it is ok to look at ways to save by increasing your deductible, but you should never lower your maximum out of pocket expenses.

Umbrella policy

Finally, if you are doing well and are starting to acquire significant assets, you might consider adding an umbrella policy to your accounts. An umbrella policy works in conjunction with your homeowners and auto insurance to provide you with additional liability protection in the event you were to be sued. If you do not have many assets, then the standard liability protections your basic policy provide is sufficient, but once you start to accumulate more assets an umbrella policy can be fairly inexpensive and provide you with a great deal more protection. The last thing you want is to have a serious car accident or have a visitor fall at your home and suddenly you are at risk of losing a lifetime’s work of saving.

Take the time to schedule a meeting with your insurance agent

Insurance is an important part of a healthy financial plan because it protects you from disasters that could sink you financially. It is always sad to hear of someone who lost everything they had because they weren’t insured. Even sadder are the stories of those who thought they were covered, but found out too late they did not have the coverage they thought they had. Take the time this month to schedule an appointment with your insurance agent just to make sure you have the coverage you need.