Tuesday, March 29, 2011


"Just one more."
"If only I could get just a weensy bit more."
"All I ask is for one more thing."
"Man, I am a little bit short."
"It doesn't look like it's going to be enough."

Sometimes, we say these things in reference to something we have or are making, or our money, or our time, or our bodies, or our "flaws". But when we learn more about where these words come from, we learn something way more personal.

I believe we always show up as who we are. If I am a strict person when I am privately inspecting myself in the mirror, I may have strict expectations when it comes to work. If I'm a forgiving person to myself, I will be a forgiving person to others. If I think there is never enough, then I may hoard when "free" is offered or I may accept none of it and think "it's too good to be true." If I think there is always enough, I will always be looking for a chance to give.

I have tried to modify how I am for different scenarios, but I have only been able to hold up the mask to an extent. There have always been clues that give me away. If I am a private person trying to be open at a function, I inevitably hold back just a little or wrap up conversations a little early or keep the conversations at a superficial depth or hold my hands in a closed or hidden pattern. There are always clues.

You always show up as you. 

What is "you" saying?

I'm a listener and dissector of spoken words; it is one of my husband's pet peeves about me. But it is also one of my strengths! I have found that people unconsciously work "key words" into their everyday language. These key words are the words their minds replay over and over in their minds. Words repeated in the mind become beliefs. Beliefs form attitudes. Attitudes leak out into words. This is where my ears perk up and my eyes start observing. Leaked-out words unconsciously affect what we do or at least how we do it. Invariably, these acts determine the results we get. These results, of course, solidify our beliefs. "See! I told you that always happens to me!"

What does this have to do with money and personal finances?


(fortifying your)

If you have developed certain beliefs about yourself or the world or the Lord, do you think you might spend your money in accordance with that belief? Do you think you might budget amounts for different categories based on that belief? Might it be a problem if your belief clashes with your spouse's belief or your employer's belief?

I'll share with you one of the things I did not realize I believed until (painfully) recently. Maybe you have believed it, too.

"I do not have enough time!" 
"There is not enough to give even a little bit."
"I wish I could do more."

What did I believe?

This surprised me considering my financial situation: debt-free, several months of expenses saved up in the bank, several other savings accounts for different things I am saving toward. I honestly have everything I need. I didn't realize I had been playing "not enough" over and over in my head. I caught myself also saying things like:

"Oh- honey, that's not going to be enough."
"Sweetie, you missed a spot."
"Dear, thanks for cleaning the kitchen, but I noticed you didn't clear off the microwave cart."
"Ugh! I can't believe I forgot that one thing!"

(How often have you said "There isn't enough time in the day!" or "If only I could clone myself!"?)

My attitude about "never enough" was showing up everywhere! Nothing was ever enough. Not what I did. Not what my husband did. Not what anybody did. Not what the weather did. Is it because there was lack? Only in my eyes. But hold on, it gets better...

My words clued in to what I had been feeling, something I think a lot of people feel or have felt at some point.

"I am not enough."


When I FEEL like I am not enough, then that FEELING of "not enough" starts showing up wherever I go. If my body acts out the feeling, it acquires something new. If it will not shop or hoard, then it worries. If worrying is not enough, then it says that the stuff around or the people around are not doing or being enough. Freaky, huh?

While the messages that surface may not always be rainbows and sprinkles, they are always helpful. Women are so often on the go-go-go or distracted by immediate situations, we tend to ignore what is going on in our spirits. These manifestations of internal dialogue are blessings because they say "Hey, you! Wait a minute! Would you pull out this splinter?" 

Mosiah 4: 30 bears a warning to pay attention to the pattern of our internal dialogue:

"But this much I can tell you, that if ye do not watch yourselves, and your thoughts, and your words, and your deeds, and observe the commandments of God, and continue in the faith of what ye have heard concerning the coming of our Lord, even unto the end of your lives, ye must perish. And now, O man, remember, and perish not."

Why do you think the Lord also said "For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he"? (Proverbs 23:7)

Can you see how FEELING like you are not enough can translate into FEELING the income you have or the car you have or the clothes you have or the callings you serve in are not enough? Can you see how that attitude may ooze onto people you love or opportunities that come your way? Can you see how that may affect your spending habits or your ability to save? How can you stop spending when you are subsconsciously trying to patch up your not-enoughness? How can you grow a retirement account if your large savings or food stash still feels like not enough?

I had a revelation this past weekend that came in a picture in my mind, as most of my epiphanies do. I saw God building me, this creature called Adhis. He was putting together my physical traits, uploading my personality, and equipping me with abilities. He then stepped back and said, "This is exactly enough for her experience." If He thinks it is enough, I must be.

God created YOU 
perfectly JUST RIGHT for His design.

When He put you together, He stepped back, checked out His work and said, "YES! That's exactly what I wanted!"

He designed you and He designed me exactly to His specifications. Do you trust His design?

I am exactly enough and so are you.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Scripture Sunday - Doctrine & Covenants 19:35

Pay the debt thou hast contracted with the printer.
Release thyself from bondage.

Doctrine & Covenants 19:35

Friday, March 25, 2011

Frugal Friday: Weigh Your Produce

I just HAVE to share this common sense but overlooked genius little tip I received this week from TheKrazyCouponLady regarding saving money on produce. I have not personally used this tactic to the extent she suggests, but I know I WILL the next time I go food shopping!

Here is the tip, in her words but slightly edited by me for brevity:
Here’s a great way to get more produce for less money, without even using a coupon! There are two important groups of produce that should be weighed before purchasing:

(1) Individually priced produce:
ex: lettuce, avocado, berries, grapefruit, kiwi, lemon, peppers, pineapple
When you’re purchasing produce that is priced per item, instead of per pound, it’s always best to weigh each item.  Did you ever think to take your 1-lb strawberries over to the scale?  You may find a variance of a quarter of a pound!  Better to be the one on the receiving or “heavy” end of the scale!
... Heads of lettuce are usually priced per head.  I always squeeze my iceberg lettuce to find the more densely packed heads, but I’ve found when I combine that strategy with the scale, I have even better luck finding the jumbo heads.  Lettuce is one item on which I’ve found the most variance with weight!

2) Bagged Produce:
ex: 5-lb bag potatoes, 3-lb bag carrots, 5-lb bag apples, bagged oranges
When you’re purchasing a 3-lb bag of carrots, the processor who originally placed the carrots in the bag is supposed to fill the bag with at least 3 pounds of carrots.  The weight on the bag should be the minimum, though you’ll find, once you visit the scale, that’s not always the case.  Each bag of carrots has a slightly different weight.  On my last trip to the store, I found a bag that rang it at about 3.3 pounds, so I got 10% more product for free just for taking literally 60 seconds at the scale.  Plus, my kids think it’s great fun. 
Potatoes are especially important to weigh.  Since potatoes are 80% water, their weight can decrease over time.  I’ve found the widest variance on bagged potatoes than on any other bagged produce.

I am looking forward to using this tip in my own grocery shopping!
Have you already been doing this?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Words from Brethren Regarding Life Insurance

I understand that talking about life insurance is one of "those" topics some people avoid at all costs, but I hope a few words from our church leaders will inspire you to face it for a short time, get it, and then you can forget it. Deal?  

  • We have also been counseled that we should have a reserve of cash to meet emergencies and to carry adequate health, home, and life insurance. Personal and family preparedness, however, is much broader than these tangibles. It must include proper attitudes, a willingness to forgo luxuries, prayerful consideration of all major purchases, and learning to live within our means. (Marion G. Romney, "Principles of Temporal Salvation", Ensign, Apr. 1981, 3)

  • Life insurance is designed primarily to give financial aid to the immediate family survivors after the insured person’s death. Thus, insure the family’s breadwinner first, then others, if desired, as income permits. At a minimum, get enough life insurance to pay for such things as a funeral, taxes, mortgage on the home, car payments, and other debts. The next priority should be to get enough insurance that, supplemented by any government retirement benefits the surviving spouse may be entitled to, there will be sufficient to provide for the family and to make provisions for the children’s education and missions. ("Preparing for Emergencies", Ensign, Dec. 1990, 59)

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Term Life Insurance vs. Cash Value Insurance

Earlier this week, we took a look at the importance of life insurance and the basics of going about getting it. The right kind to get is "term life insurance", which gives you a fixed monthly cost for the term of 20 or 30 years.

There is another kind of life insurance product called "cash value life insurance", but it is most commonly known as whole life insurance, variable life insurance, universal life insurance or some mix of these words. Regardless of whatever name is presented to you, DO NOT GET IT! (Not much for mincing words today.) You may or not have been approached already by someone selling this type of life insurance. We were approached three times in our young marriage. We bought the first time. We learned the lesson the hard way. You can learn it the easy way!

Term life insurance is an inexpensive way to insure. You pick a time frame (10, 20 or 30 years) and you pay a low monthly cost to have insurance for exactly the number of years you picked. Your cost is locked in for the 10, 20, or 30 years, which is a GREAT thing since insurance only goes up as you age. (Unless you age backwards, in which case you may want birth insurance.) (That's a joke.) (There's no such thing.)

Whole/universal/variable life insurance is touted as insurance with a savings plan. This kind of life insurance costs hundreds of dollar per month, a bunch of your money goes to high administrative fees and the investment returns (the profits) are mediocre or poor. This type of insurance does not have a time frame. It is in place until you either cancel it or you die. For most of these types of cash value life insurance, the investment/savings does not even go to your loved ones when you die; the insurance company keeps it.

Whether I liked it or not, from a very young age, I have been cursed with an inherent calculator that tells me when something doesn't add up right. When cash value insurance was first presented to my husband and I, something felt completely off about the whole thing. I stated this to the salesman and my husband several times during the pitch. Of course, the salesman insisted this was a "sophisticated" investment vehicle and tried to make me feel like a simpleton. I still knew something wasn't right but couldn't put my finger on it. I finally threw my hands up and agreed to the thing I did not understand simply because I wanted the meeting to be over. That was an expensive surrender.

After two or three years of putting hundreds of dollars each month into the plan, I decided to take a fresh look at where our money was going. Know what I found? We had put in thousands of dollars but our "investment" was worth only $500, not because the investment had done poorly, but because administrative fees had eaten up the rest of our money! Cash value insurance was a great investment FOR THE SALES REP in the form of a handsome commission. I immediately called the company and canceled the rip-off.

Let's compare the two kinds of life insurance for a healthy 30-year-old male. (The following example is derived from a Dave Ramsey Financial Peace University lecture.)

You are reading that right: Cash value life insurance coverage for this individual is $275K LESS than term life insurance coverage yet costs $135 per month MORE. Why is that? Here is where a sales rep for whole/universal/variable life insurance would point out you are paying for a savings or investment plan. Well, OK, but what would happen if you take the $135 a month you save by choosing a term life insurance and invest it in a good growth stock mutual fund?

On the left side, you are seeing that at age 50, this 30-year-old will have about $27,000 saved up through cash value insurance. On the right side, you see that taking the $135 per month and investing it himself in a better plan, this person would have about $130,000. What a difference! Where do you want YOUR money growing?

(Tangent: Note that with Cash Value insurance, by age 50, this person has invested $34,800 [$145 x 12 months x 20 years], and yet only has $27,500 to show for it. By age 70, this person has invested $69,600 [$145 x 12 months x 40 years], yet the average return is $66,000. This guy would have done better to stick his money in a cookie jar. But don't you do that; invest instead in a good mutual fund.)

Always choose term life insurance and put the difference in an investment that gives you BETTER returns and has little or no fees involved. The added advantage is you can leave your investments to your loved ones.

I don't sell any type of insurance. Be assured I am only biased toward empowering women with knowledge. The agenda I have is to save families thousands of dollars and free them from our culture's ignorance regarding personal finance. Without exception, I've only met two types of people who own cash value life insurance: 1) Those who sell it. 2) Those who don't understand it.

When it comes to life insurance, keep it simple and inexpensive. Get term life insurance.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Life Insurance

Do you have life insurance?

Life insurance is one of those budget line items that is NON-NEGOTIABLE. You must have it if you are married, have non-adult kids, or have anyone who financially depends on you. If you come to me for budget guidance, I will include in my questions something about life insurance. If you think things are too tight to pay for life insurance, they will be tighter if the main breadwinner passes away. Things will be tighter if medical and funeral expenses are thrown into the lot. Things will be tighter if you must hire a caregiver for your children. Life insurance is a gift and a necessity.

WHO should have life insurance? Anyone who is married, has kids, has anyone that depends on them. Some single people may have life insurance to cover burial costs and special requests (i.e. care for pets).

WHAT KIND of life insurance should I have (or not have)? You should have "Term" life insurance,  20-year term or 30-year, if you can get it. "Term" means your life insurance will be a flat rate every month for 20 years (thus called "20-year term") or 30 years (for "30-year" term).

There is a kind of life insurance to NOT get. AVOID and DO NOT get whole life insurance, universal life insurance, variable life insurance or any kind of life insurance that has any sort of investment component. I will cover this in a later post.

WHERE do I find life insurance? Look in the phone book for an insurance agent who sells term life insurance. (Ask them if they do; you want to avoid any other type of life insurance but "term".) Agents have access to a database of several providers and can find the best rates from a bunch of different companies. I suggest you contact two or three different agents because they all have different companies in their databases, then compare their quotes.

I am not a fan of work-provided life insurance. You change jobs or get laid off and there goes your benefit, leaving you scrambling to get coverage at an older age, or at worse health, and at a more stressful time of your life. 

I will add here that some organizations (like clubs, banks or credit unions) offer small life insurance programs as part of their free "members" perks. At my bank, the perk is a $1,000 coverage. Obviously, this is miniscule, but I went ahead and signed up for it since it was free and would add to insurance I already have. Take advantage of these complimentary programs, but be aware that later on they will ask you to buy bigger coverage through them. Do not do it; there is a reason they can offer these small gifts for free: their big coverages are over-priced.

WHAT should I expect in applying for life insurance? You will be asked a lot of questions about your lifestyle, your family health history, and your own past medical history. The insurance company you choose will schedule an in-home physical. No worries; all the physical involves is a urine sample, a blood sample, a blood pressure cuff, and a weight scale. A couple weeks after your physical, you will be contacted with your results and with the cost of coverage being offered.

HOW MUCH insurance should I get? Get an amount that equals ten times your income level. Some people balk at this suggestion thinking I am trying to catapult them into some extravagant Paris Hilton lifestyle. But this amount is not ridiculous when you realize it is not for spending but for income-generating. Properly investing an amount equal to ten times your current income, can earn you (or your survivors) enough interest to live on that is equal to the income you lived on before. For example, if you currently live on an income of $50,000 per year, you should get at least $500,000 coverage. In the right investment vehicle and assuming a 10% average return, you (or your beneficiaries) will be living on $4166/month (the same as $50,000 a year), without reducing the principal in the investment.

If you cannot afford to get a policy that pays out 10 times your current income, go for one as close to the amount as possible. Five years down the road, when you are in a better financial position, apply for another policy to make up the difference. For example, if you cannot afford to get a $500K policy, and are currently only able to get a $300K policy, go for it. Two to 5 years later when you are free from debt, apply for the additional $200K.

HOW MUCH will insurance cost? There are many factors that determine the price of your individual insurance. Gender, age, health, occupation, and lifestyle are just five that come to mind. Depending on the answers to these and other questions, your insurance coverage can be cheaper than you think! But the only way to know for sure how much it will cost you is to go ahead and choose a company to work with so they can get you an accurate quote.

~ Gender - There isn't much you can do about this one! But just so you are aware, assuming all things being equal, women tend to get cheaper rates than men since they have a history of outliving their male counterparts.  
~ Health - Take good care of your health. Maintain a healthy weight and a healthy state of mind. Avoid poor habits that weaken your health, such as smoking.
~ Age - Do not put off getting life insurance with the intent of "getting in better shape first". You don't get younger, so insurance doesn't get cheaper. The policy I got in my mid 20's costs me $9/month. The policy I started just a few years later costs me $26/month (though part of the rise in cost was to include a higher payout).
~ Occupation - The riskier your job (say, comparing an oil driller to an accountant), the more chances you have of injury, therefore the higher your cost.
~ Lifestyle - If you travel a lot or participate in "extreme" hobbies, such as cliff jumping, you can expect your cost of coverage to reflect such risks.

Life insurance is one of those things that seems unnecessary when all is well but is vital when the life of someone you depend on is gone. If you or a spouse does not have it, get the process started today!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Scripture Sunday - Proverbs 21:20

There is treasure to be desired and oil 
in the dwelling of the wise;
but a foolish man spendeth it up.

Proverbs 21:20

Friday, March 18, 2011

Frugal Friday: Add water to soap

To cut costs on soap refills by 50% to 66% :

~ Take your emptied soap dispenser.

~ Fill 1/3 to 1/2 with soap.

~ Add water.

~ Shake.

~ You've got soap.

One of the things I like about diluted hand soap is that you can start washing and scrubbing your hands before turning on the faucet, thus saving water. With full-concentration soap, you have to wet your hands first to get the soap to lather. This soap is already "wet".

For foaming soap dispensers, lean towards 1/3 soap.


Thursday, March 17, 2011

Alternatives to Foreclosure

A common reason I have heard from others who have had their home go into foreclosure or who have filed bankruptcy is "We didn't know what else to do." They either did not find good information to lead them down a different road, or they were too embarrassed to let someone else look at the dirt in their finances. (Shame can do a lot of damage that follows one around for years. This typically leads to, you guessed it, more shame.)

Here are some alternatives to foreclosure. This is not a complete list but includes some of the things I find more favorable or am most familiar with. There are pros and cons to each, but I'll leave the list simple and those who are interested can research the options that sound most appealing.
  1. Rent your home. Maybe you can't make the mortgage payments, but it is possible someone else may be able to for you.
  2. Offer rent-to-own. This is renting out your house except someone who wants to enter a rent-to-own situation is usually willing to pay more per month than someone who is simply renting.
  3. Rent part of your home, maybe a room.  Do you have an extended family member who is starting out? Could you rent out to a college student? Newlyweds? A retiree? Someone who is newly divorced?
  4. Refinance.  You may be able to lower your monthly payments by qualifying for a lower mortgage rate.
  5. Sell your home. Sell the house and give up some or all profit by listing the house for lower than competing houses on the market.
  6. Sell your home for less. Lower the price even more and bring the shortfall to the table via a smaller loan.
  7. Assumption. Sign the property over to another person who then takes possession of the house and takes over the payments.
  8. Deed in Lieu of Foreclosure. Voluntarily give the house back to the lender without further damaging your credit.
  9. Short Sale. This is like selling your home for much less than the mortgage balance but without the ability to bring the shortfall to the table. The bank must approve the offer submitted by the eager buyer. The bank can still later come after you for the difference UNLESS you have agreed in writing to a "short sale without recourse".

Was this list of alternatives helpful?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Before Considering Foreclosure

A few years ago, my father-in-law took the family dog for a routine check-up. When he brought the dog home, the report was that the dog would have to be put down. My mother-in-law was saddened. The kids living at home were devastated. Phone calls were made to all the married kids to come home ASAP and say their tearful goodbyes to the long-time family pet. It was a loooong night.

The next day, my father-in-law called the vet to get an appointment for euthanization; the vet responded with "Why are you going to do that??" It turned out the doctor had only pointed out signs in the dog's mouth that the dog was experiencing illness, and my father-in-law had interpreted that conversation to mean it was time for the golden retriever to meet his Maker. There was a collective sigh of relief when we heard the news, and then we had a good chuckle; I teased my father-in-law that I would make sure to never complain of a toothache when he was around.

Sometimes, a simple misunderstanding can throw emotions into the driver's seat, narrowing our ability to problem-solve or, at least, clarify a situation. For my husband's family dog, it was only the next day, when my father-in-law had composed himself enough to ask more questions of the doctor that he uncovered an alternate possibility for the family dog: medicine and a healthier diet. The dog lived another five happy years.

Do you remember a time when you made a decision in the middle of an emotional moment? Did you later regret it or wondered if there had been some other choice available? I think it happens to all of us at one time or another. Or maybe it has happened to me so many times I have convinced myself it must also be normal for others.

A few months ago, a friend of mine openly discussed on her blog her latest financial difficulties. She asked in reference to her home, which she stated they could no longer afford, whether she should rent it out, short sell it, or let it go into foreclosure. First off, I felt for her. The hardest thing in a situation is to have to make a HUGE decision under the weight of emotions. That aside, I honestly was not expecting the comments that followed.

I was shocked how many people suggested she "just let it go" to foreclosure WITHOUT KNOWING THE FULL STORY! I am not saying there is not a place for a foreclosure, but these helpful people didn't even know her checkbook math! Why would anyone with good intentions EVER recommend such damaging action without first understanding the situation? The dog might not need euthanizing!

This left me pondering: Why have people become so loose with their tongues on the topic of foreclosure? We have heard a lot about foreclosures in the past couple years and the word has been beaten into our everyday vernacular. What we don't hear a lot about, despite their existence, are SOLUTIONS to avoid getting into such a situation and ALTERNATIVES if you find yourself in such a situation. So, of course, when we find ourselves in such a place, the mind immediately recalls that which it has heard a million times: foreclosure. (This type of recall is one of the reasons I am selective about what I spend reading, watching or being entertained by. Spend most of your reading and entertainment in activities that stimulate your mind to finding solutions, not dramatizing problems.)

By no means am I insinuating that friends or neighbors who went this route came to their decisions lightly. I know there was much crying and fretting and arguing. I AM saying that bringing the problem to the light, out of taboo, and into the open to be discussed with knowledgeable people can take the scary out of a dire situation.

Last year, when I was pregnant and largely immobile (emphasis on "large"), I HULU'd a bunch of old call-in television shows hosted by a well-known personal finance expert. I watched around 60 episodes during that phase of my pregnancy. There was a good chunk of people calling because they were about to file bankruptcy or let their homes go into foreclosure. They had found themselves in a rainbow of spectacular situations, but there was one common thread running through each and everyone of those fatalistic calls. After listening to each story, the host effectively responded with "Woah woah woah! You're in a hard financial situation, but you're not bankrupt!"

Noticing this trend was eye-opening. If bankruptcy and foreclosure were avoidable in these scenarios, then why were the callers SURE that's where they were headed? Why do you think they would have thought that their only option?

After the host removed the emotion out of the situation, each of the callers ended the call feeling relieved and with a new plan of action. When fear, panic, guilt and shame color your vision, it is nearly impossible to see the picture objectively. This is why the friend I mentioned above wanted more heads to look at her situation, though she may not have counted on people speaking from their own emotional situations. I think this friend is quite smart and lucky; she asked for help BEFORE making a drastic decision and heard other ideas she had not considered. I've had far more friends call me AFTER they made life-changing financial decisions that I knew could have been avoided.

Later this week, I will post some alternatives to foreclosure so that "I don't know what else to do" doesn't immediately mean choosing a big, red mark on the credit history. Who knows, you may help a friend save their home!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Scripture Sunday - Psalms 62:10

... if riches increase, set not your heart upon them.

Psalms 62:10

Friday, March 11, 2011

Frugal Friday: Homemade Drain Snake

Holy moley! Nearly forgot about Frugal Friday, what with the kids now being sick FOR A WEEK AND A HALF!

Before reaching for Drano the next time your sink or bathtub is clogged or slow-draining, head for the closet!

We took a wire hanger and removed the cardboard tube to make our very own homemade drain snake. My husband has used this to remove a very hairy monster from the bathtub drain (from where would such hair originate??), and I used this just two days ago to jostle the drain in one of my bathroom sinks. That drain went from completely non-draining to normal function with just a few pokes from this fanschy wire contraption.

To avoid running out of wire hangers, keep your new gadget in the garage with the rest of the tools, so you don't have to keep making a new one every time you get a new clog. You'd be surprised how many snakes we made before finally figuring this one out!

Remember that drain cleaners over time can corrode some pipes (and some wallets). Turn to your homemade drain snake first; it may be all you need most of the time.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

What does Food Storage have to do with it?

General Conference is coming up soon! I will admit that I get excited not just for the "right" answer of hearing our church leaders speak but also because it is one of the two times each year that we (or I, depending on my husband's enthusiasm) go over our emergency preparedness plans. General Conference season (it's now a season) is a perfect time to take stock of your emergency stockpiles and 72-hour kits. Switch out those expiring snacks from your kits and inventory your food storage!

What does food storage and emergency preparedness have to do with financial peace? Money is food in pre-edible form. Food is money in edible form. Money only has value because we give it value by using it to trade for what we need, things like food and other commodities. In times of scarcity, food is more valuable than paper or metal money. It makes sense to include emergency stockpiles of food and needful items as part of a good financial plan.

Food storage, like an emergency fund, buys you time to figure out a new game plan when the old plan has been changed. Consider different scenarios in which you will appreciate having put these safety nets in place.
  • Even if there is no money available, you can still eat. Little is harder than trying to keep up hope while running on hunger pangs.
  • Having what you need on hand saves on gasoline, time, and auto wear-and-tear from going to the store any time there is a little money to purchase essentials.
  • When finances become tight or nonexistent, you are not forced to buy foods and needs at whatever price the stores have set at the time. You have the luxury to wait for foods or household items to go on sale or for you to figure out a cheaper way to acquire them.
  • When illness hits, you are not forced to head out to the stores. Who wants to go to the store at 11 o'clock at night to get soup and Children's Tylenol?? (This is a good place to mention that, before each winter, I create a little "illness aid" stockpile composed of throat drops, acetaminophen, ibuprofen, electrolyte drinks, vitamin supplements, soups, and tissue to get us through the coming year.)
  • Having a bit of money and food stashed away provides peace and creates a feeling of abundance. Like attracts like. Create these feelings for you now to grow more of the feelings you DO want.

According to our Church leaders, a family or individual must first assess their needs and expenses and tend to them to the best of their ability. Second, if their own resources and abilities fall short, they then turn to their own families and extended families for assistance. Third, if that help is unavailable or is not sufficient to cover needs, then the family or individual turns to their ward bishop or branch president for guidance.

Latter-day Saints are blessed to have a fantastic welfare program in our church, but we should not assume it will always be available as a back-up. In the last two years, my ward found their funds were stretched when many families found themselves in the wake of layoffs. We must, as faithful Latter-day Saints, make family and personal preparedness a priority when income is present, no matter how little.

When I was a young bride, I decided to obey this counsel. I found a space in a coat closet and put in it one jug of water and one packet of spaghetti. That is all our budget could make room for at the time. My husband at the time joked about my little stash: "If the world goes to pot, at least we'll have water and spaghetti!" I was ecstatic when I later added another packet of spaghetti and a jar of pasta sauce!

From my experiences building up a food stockpile, I gained a testimony that the size of your stock does not matter as much as your willingness to obey commandments. If you are willing to obey in small things, you will be trusted with bigger things (Matthew 25:23). Imagine my delight (and my husband's surprise) when three years later we found our food stockpile took up an entire wall of a little bedroom!

By small means are big things accomplished. If we have the faith (and accompanying action) of a mustard seed, we will be blessed greatly.

If you apply your faith and obey the commandment to be wise with your talents, no matter how great or small you deem them, you will in short time create a stockpile that, along with your emergency fund, can carry you through several months of famine.

“We can so live that we can call upon the Lord for His protection and guidance. This is a first priority. We cannot expect His help if we are unwilling to keep His commandments. … I have faith … that the Lord will bless us, and watch over us, and assist us if we walk in obedience to His light, His gospel, and His commandments.”

(Gordon B. Hinckley, “If Ye Are Prepared Ye Shall Not Fear,” Ensign, Nov. 2005, 62.)

Monday, March 7, 2011

Start Wherever You Are

I have a confession to make. I make it because I want you to know that despite my successes and knowledge in personal finance, I still continue to make mistakes and have not been translated to Personal Finance Heaven.

I really messed up in the month of February. I spontaneously decided to completely delve into the couponing world to figure out how the system works (that's a fascinating thing in itself on which I am writing a book) but I did not plan for the related expenses. Had I been wise, I would have pulled out the cash for the entire month's experience. Instead, I naively went in with a debit card, thinking it would be no big deal to reconcile the bank account with my budget at the end of the month.

Oh, what a mistake! I spent several days this week attempting to reconcile my purchases for February, and it has been mind-twisting. I finally said aloud to myself "I can only start from where I am." Here I am, starting from where I am.

Do you remember the VHS tapes rented from video rental stores of the 80's and 90's? (If you were too young to remember either of those decades, please do not be eager to divulge it.) These tapes each had a little sticker affixed to them, usually some sort of smiley face and the words "Be Kind, Rewind." In real life, we cannot rewind, no matter how much we pine for a "do over". Attempting to rewind is the least kind thing we can do to ourselves. Be kind, move forward.

So, kindly, I've got my new budget reflecting this month's projects and an additional cash envelope labeled "stockpiling". Forward, I go.

Choices Ahead

How about you? Are you ready to stop beating yourself up for past mistakes? (Do you think I'm only talking about financial misdeeds?) I hope you are so you can be present for new experiences. Start here from where you are, financially, spiritually, physically, and otherwise. If you have a spouse to confess your hidden purchases, get it over with. If you have a bishop to confess your hidden sins, do it. If you have a mirror to confess your hidden binges or starvations, get on with it. There is no use in beating yourself up over old choices, there are new forks in the road to face. Learn and move on. Free yourself, then move forward. Until the time machine is invented and approved by the U.S. Government for public use, start where you are.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Scripture Sunday - Proverbs 21:5

The thoughts of the diligent tend only to plenteousness;
but of every one that is hasty only to want.

Proverbs 21:5

Friday, March 4, 2011

Frugal Friday: Other uses for Mouthwash

Do you have any of this stuff lying around?

I don't use mouthwash. But I have a bunch of it because it was included in travel kits I purchased or hotel kits I collected. (You may have already gathered I have a lot of hotel kits.) So, I looked up other ways to use the mouthwash that has been collecting in my home. I was pleased to find that cheap mouthwash has a lot of great uses! Here are three that I will personally be implementing:

1. This is obvious; I don't know why it didn't occur to me before. Use an alcohol-based mouthwash in the same manner I've been using hotel shampoos: To clean toilets! Pour mouthwash into the toilet, let it sit for 30 minutes, then swish with a toilet brush and flush.

2. Wash your toothbrush with mouthwash to keep germs at bay.

3. Use mouthwash as a minty glass cleaner. You can even use it to clean computer screens by dabbing some on a soft cloth. WARNING! This is just for GLASS computer screens, NOT LCD screens!

I also came across the suggestion that a certain ratio of water and mouthwash is effective as an anti-fungus treatment for plants and for feet. I'll let you google that one though.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

New Winner for Food Rotation Giveaway

Unfortunately, Kelly did not contact me to claim her prize, so I drew another name.

The next name drawn is:

Amannda Ashby

Congratulations, Amannda! Who says there is no such thing as a second chance?

Amannda, please contact me at AdhisBlog@ gmail. com by this Friday (March 4th) to claim your prize!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Best Time to Buy a Home, part 2

Yesterday, I mentioned the readiness factors for buying a home:
  • You have a steady income.
  • You are planning to stay in the house for a few years (or forever-ish).
  • You have no debt (or very little and will be paid off within a year).
  • You have an Emergency Safety Net that can carry you for several months.
  • If married, you have a healthy marriage.
  • You can afford the type of mortgage I will mention below.
  Assuming all of the readiness factors I mentioned above, you will want to purchase your home with:
  • a 15-year fixed-rate mortgage. 
 Why a 15-year mortgage?

Those of you who have paid on 30-year mortgages before will know that most of your monthly mortgage payment goes toward the interest on your loan and not toward paying off the house. I used to have a 30-year mortgage and would get kinda down that my mortgage balance didn't look much different after sending in several months of payments. The magic of 15-year mortgages is that each month you will see at least half of your money go toward your house and that will make an obvious dent in your mortgage balance.

One of the smartest financial moves we have made so far in our lives was moving our mortgage to a 15-year mortgage. Nearly every month, we see the 3rd digit in our 6-figure balance move down! That is motivating in itself, but the real benefit came when the real estate market dropped and home values crashed. Even though our home's value dropped $60,000, we still had $40,000 equity because our 15-year mortgage had lowered our loan balance so much in just 3 years!

All around us, my husband and I saw people who wanted to sell or refinance their homes but could not because their loans were bigger than their homes were worth. We were one of the few people in the neighborhood who were able to refinance our home at one of the historically low mortgage rates that accompanied the recession.

So, now that you are looking at a 15-year fixed rate mortgage, make sure your house payment will then be:
  • 25%-33% of your take-home pay. (To clarify, it is perfectly FANTASTIC to get a home payment that is LESS than 25% of your income.)
Any higher than a third of your income, and you're going to start feeling financially tight, also called being "house poor". If that term means nothing, imagine fighting more with your spouse about how "little money you have." It is pretty much the same thing.

If you read money articles or personal finance books, you will see that some experts state 45% of your income is "fine" to commit to a house payment, but they are not taking into consideration a lot of things, including tithing, which is at least 10% of your take-home pay (more for those who tithe on gross income). And like I mentioned yesterday, they don't take into account how many children you have or how much you need saved up for emergencies or whether you are saving up to replace your old car.

Twenty-five percent is ideal and 33% is the highest I recommend. I will not come by and egg your house if you decide to endure a higher percentage, although after a while, you might wish someone threw you some free eggs.

If you buy a home after checking in with the list above, the house will be a blessing, not a curse. The house will be a place of rest, not of unsurety. You will own your home, it will not own you.

Knowing where you presently stand financially is eye-opening.
Planning what needs to occur to get to home ownership brings confidence.
Acting on that plan looks suspiciously like courage.

The next time you are bugged by a well-meaning friend or relative about getting in the game of real estate, you will have greater confidence to let them know you will do it when you are ready. No further explanation is needed. And if you should ever drive past a billboard that says "Dad says it's time to buy," look Billboard Dad in the paper eye and say, "I'll do it when I'm good and ready!"