#1: The 24 Hour Rule

This rule is very simple. Anytime you need to make a large purchase, wait 24 hours.

By using this rule I’ve already saved thousands of dollars.

It started when my husband and I went shopping for a used family van. We knew our van would have to have specific features. When we got to the Honda dealership, we were shown the listed used van and then, of course, the brand new electric blue van. And what was this? It was at an “unbelievably low” price. Never mind the fact that their “low” price was a couple of thousand dollars more than what we had planned to spend.

After we test drove it and admired well, that it was new, we started to change our minds. It didn’t have the main features that we were looking for, but it was new!

I have no idea why we left. We were really ready to buy that van right then and there. I think God pushed our feet out the door.

That night I was still determined to buy that new van, when a little voice told me to call a friend who I knew was committed to sober spending just like me. She talked me down and told me that it didn’t sound like a good deal to her. My reaction? I was mad! How dare a sober person tell a drunk not to drive! Who did she think she was? She told me to wait 24 hours. Just to trust her. That’s the first time I heard about the 24 hour rule.

I waited, but I made up my mind to buy the new van the very next day. However after I slept on it, and the 24 hours had passed, I realized just how insane I was.

Now I use the 24 Hour Rule even for smaller purchases like $250 or sometimes even $100 purchases. It gives the Lord time to talk to me. Remember the old saying: Haste makes waste.

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5 Ways Our Grandparents Saved

How Our Parents Saved

How Our Parents Saved

When credit cards first came along, Americans viewed people who used them with great distrust. In fact, my mom recounted to me the first time that she and her parents witnessed someone purchasing something on credit. (Can you imagine even remembering something like that?)

A large truck pulled up in their small neighborhood and unloaded a houseful of brand new furniture. All of these big ticket items were for  a young married couple that had just graduated from college. Housewives will talk and when it was learned that the couple had used credit cards, the whole neighborhood was appalled. And still my grandparents would not use credit.

However, by the time my mom was in her adult years, she used credit cards regularly. And thus, in one generation, credit cards went from being “something used by fools” to “a necessity”.

All of this begs the question: If our grandparents and great grandparents  never used credit, how the heck did they afford things?

In short, the answer is simple. They SAVED up for them!

I know, I know. That seems like a totally alien concept. As ‘Credit Casual Americans’ we put everything on credit cards or we under save to buy cars and houses. Instead of putting 20% down (the absolute minimum in my grandparent’s day) we put 10%, 5% or even 0% down.

But now that it’s become painfully obvious that our grandparents were right, let’s look at some of the ways they saved up.

  1. Layaway. This used to be the norm for buying designer dresses and shoes. Every department store used to have a layaway program. Every time our grandparents wanted to purchase a big ticket item, they would put a little money down and then make payments. When they had paid the full price, they received the item. How boring. How unglamorous. How SANE.
  2. S & H Green Stamps. This was basically a frequent shopping program. Every time people would buy groceries they’d receive “stamps”. Then you licked the stamps (remember when people used to lick stamps?) and placed them in books. So many stamps “bought” various items. My mother and I licked enough stamps to get all of our dishes and cups this way!
  3. Separate savings accounts. This was done by actually going into a bank and depositing money in a savings account…in person.  Some of you may even recall receiving a savings “passbook” where you would physically write down what you had deposited. Nowadays, I use ING Direct and separately labeled accounts. I like ING because it’s not right down the street so it takes me a couple of days to withdraw money. Given that time, I can slow down and ask myself if I really want to make a specific purchase.
  4. Envelope system. People labeled envelopes and then kept them in their drawers or purses. I’ve tried this and it just does not work for me. I try to always use cash but having run out of the envelope cash a couple of times with a toddler having a meltdown and needing a snack on the road, I found it too stressful to maintain.
  5. They worked their way through school. No one took out student loans and school was much cheaper. Here’s the real kicker, people actually graduated without any debt. My dad’s medical school cost $750…a year.

Those are just some of the ways they saved and debting was never an option. Do you remember any other ways to save from ‘the good old days’?

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Christian Loubouti-ehs?

I’m ashamed to admit it, but I had a very unchristian financial and ethical crises over Christian Louboutins. In case you don’t know, Christian Louboutins are extremely expensive ladies heels. They are gorgeous and did I mention that they are expensive? A “cheap” pair starts at about $600 a pair. Celebrities like Oprah wear them. How do I know they wear Christian Louboutins? Because the outside of every sole is painted a bright red color. So whenever I see a picture of a celebrity with bright red soles, I know they are wearing Christian Louboutins.

I was finally able to reconnect with an old friend who has since become a very successful fashion designer. She invited me to her 40th birthday gala at her mansion in Brentwood. This was a triple threat to my economic self esteem. I had to look amazing.

That’s when I hatched my unethical plan. I had a pair of black pumps and I thought, “I’ve got it! I’ll take them to a shoe repair place and have them dye the soles red! It’s brilliant!”. I was honestly very excited about my fantastic plan until I pitched the idea to my husband.

Him: So the idea is to mislead people into believing that you’re wearing an expensive designer pair of shoes?

Me: If they see the red soles it’s not my fault that they jump to the conclusion that I’m wearing Christian Louboutins.

Him: So you’re misleading people right?

Me: No. You don’t understand. They will assume I’m wearing Christian Louboutins. And you know what they say about people who assume. So the onus is on them for making an erroneous assumption.

Him: But you are suggesting to them that they are expensive designer shoes when they’re not.

Me: Exactly.

Him: That doesn’t seem very… I don’t know…Christian.

Me: You just don’t understand.

But after praying about it I realized my husband did understand. He understood that I was going to do something slightly sleazy because I felt less than. I also thought about it from Christian Louboutin’s point of view. How would I feel if people copied my designs and didn’t pay me? He has a business and employees and marketing costs, advertising, you name it. No, if the shoe were on the other foot so to speak, I wouldn’t like people taking my ideas without compensation.

This realization also helped me select a reasonably priced dress although I did borrow 5 dresses from a friend as back up choices. I obsessed over what to wear and spent way too much time trying things on and off.

But the real kicker was this. When I got to the party it was dark outside. Not to mention cold. And even though there were heat lamps everyone kept their jackets on all night long. There’s no way my fauxboutins would have been visible anyway! And the dress I obsessed over never even saw the light.

My jacket was a very inexpensive satin trench I bought years ago. And that was my fashion statement. I had a marvelous time and no one commented on anyone’s clothes or shoes.

It seems I was the only person concerned with the shoes and the fashion when all that really mattered was that I was reconnecting with a very dear friend.

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Reading The Directions

     My husband does something that I used to find highly odd and unusual. Whenever we brought home a purchase, he actually read the instruction manuals that came in the box.  My scenario with any new purchase used to go something like this:

  1. Buy something I needed right away and couldn’t wait to own, on credit.
  2. Bring it home and curse while I tried to open the box. How dare they try to keep my hastily purchased item from being damaged! Did they actually value the item?
  3. Throw all those “stupid papers” away.
  4. Curse some more.
  5. Put new item in back of my closet because it didn’t work; or try to return it without the proper receipts.
  6. Repeat steps 1-6.

     Imagine my surprise when my husband read the instructions and things would work beautifully.

     Imagine my surprise when I read that any late payments on my credit card would cause my interest rate to jump to 22%!

     Imagine my surprise when I finally read the directions for my life in the bible.

ACTION: Gather any and all documents related to your debt. If you have unopened envelopes, pray to the Lord for the courage and the strength to open them. 

READ THEM!(Especially the fine print)

PRAYER: Lord, thank you for making the directions for my life in ‘bold print’. I don’t have to read the fine print to receive your love. It turns out that what I see in you is what I get. You don’t try to trick me into following you and for that I am grateful.

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Evil Credit Cards

ARROGANCE:  A strong feeling of proud self-importance that is expressed by treating other people with contempt or disregard* 

         I can’t tell you how shocked I was to discover that I would actually have to pay my credit card companies back. The way my sick mind saw it back then was that their money was my money. The money they lent me didn’t seem real. I was entitled to a lot of credit. I had things to do with that money. Important things like um…oh  things I can’t remember now. I was actually mad at them when they billed me for repayment! They were the enemy. I was special. I was different. The rules didn’t apply to me.

         In my life I’ve noticed that arrogance leads to debting. Can arrogance be one of the causes of your debts?

Action: Do you have a debt that you feel you are “too good” to pay back? Maybe you really dislike the person or company you owe money to. Using free flow writing, explore all of the places in your life where your feelings of self importance may have led you to debt.

Prayer: Lord, please help me to remember that being a child of the King doesn’t mean that I can treat other people or institutions rudely because of my whims and wishes.

 *Encarta® World English Dictionary © 1999 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved. Developed for Microsoft by Bloomsbury Publishing Plc 

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In A Panic About Money

“People are disturbed not by things, but by their perception of things” (Epicetus)

The truth is the person who has caused the most distress in my life is me. The Lord loves me just the way I am. I am saved and I don’t have to do anything. But my thoughts and subsequent deeds lead me to pain, anxiety and fear. I’m not the only one who is like this. Look around at the world. There are very few true emergencies in life and yet everyone is running around as if they’re always rushing to an emergency somewhere.  The emergency is in their heads.
Financially this extreme thinking rears it’s ugly head in our debts. Here are some examples of extreme thinking that affects our finances:

  • “I’m tired of washing dishes by hand and not having a dishwasher…We need to by a new house with a kitchen that has a dishwasher”.
  • “I want to save money on gas… I need to buy the new $32,000 Hybrid”.
  • “If I don’t send my child to that expensive preschool he’ll fall behind and never be able to catch up. I’ll put his tuition on the credit card”.
  • “My car doesn’t have a back up camera. I need to buy a new car”.
  • “If I take a job making sandwiches at the deli because I need the money right now, I’ll end up staying there forever and ever and I’ll be making salami sandwiches until the day I die!!!”

Financially insecure people tend to be dramatic by nature. A stub on the toe is a catastrophe. A simple request from a supervisor is grounds to quit. To pay off my debts and move into prosperity I had to temper my thinking. In short I had to stop panicking and dramatizing because when I was freaked out, my ability to think clearly disappeared.

Action: Reframe your debts. No matter where you are on the debt scale, keep in mind that while there are people who owe less than you do, there are also people who owe more than you do.

And [Jesus] said unto them, “Why are ye so fearful? How is it that ye have no faith? And they feared exceedingly…” (Mark 4:40-41)

Prayer: Lord, please help me to maintain a balance with my thinking. Please remind me that there are very few emergencies. Please help me to maintain faith in you in the storm of my mind.

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Willing to Earn?

There I was crying to my friend again about money. How many times would I have to do this? How many more ‘insufficient funds’ charges would I have to pay? I had already spent thousands of dollars I did not have just in bank fees. At one point, it got so bad that I took to cashing my checks at a check cashing place in a seedy part of the city because I had so many bank charges that any money I would have deposited would have been entirely eaten up by the bank.

So I was crying to my friend again. “Why me? I’m a good person. Why is this happening?” And she said something that made me stop in my tracks. You know when you hear the truth it hits you deep in your soul? She said: “Juliana, are you willing to earn?” Willing to earn?! How dare she imply that I wasn’t willing to earn! I was willing! But the truth was that I was willing to earn only at jobs that met my unrealistic qualifications. It had to pay six figures a year, it had to be something that I loved to do, oh and it had to be fun and on and on. Meanwhile my lack of willingness to do whatever it took to earn money left me with no income and mounting debt.

Is there a job you are avoiding doing because it doesn’t meet your demands? Are you willing to open your mind a bit more to all the ways you could earn? Can you invite God into your heart to guide you to ways to earn money that are in line with his will even if they aren’t in line with your will? Are you willing to be a worker among workers instead of a “star”? Can you humble yourself enough to take a job because it will pay the bills? In short, are you willing to do whatever God leads you to do financially?

Prayer: Lord, I pray for the willingness to act the way you would have me act financially.

“They did not deviate from the king’s commands…in any manner, including that of the treasuries” (Second Chronicles 7:15)

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