Making Dollars out of Sense

dollars and senseSome of you may not have grown up in a household where you saw your mom or dad doing a budget, saving may not have been a priority, tithing and investing may have been unheard of, and that’s OK. You don’t know, what you don’t know; but that doesn’t mean that you have to stay in the dark. Growing up, I was always familiar with saving, I started investing in 401(k) not long after I graduated, I didn’t really use credit cards, and I thought I had a pretty good sense about money. However, I was overwhelmed with student loans, car payments and repairs, medical bills, and trying to meet basic needs. I wasn’t doing a budget, barely had any money in savings, and I was struggling. Once I  finally got tired of being in the position I was in, I started praying for a way out. My relief came through reading and research.

I started studying the lives of millionaires. After all, they were much better off than I was financially, so there had to be something that I was missing. The books that I read are as follows:

  • The Millionaire Next Door
  • The Five Lessons a Millionaire Taught Me for Women
  • The Top 10 Distinctions Between Millionaires and the Middle Class
  • Rich Toward God
  • Secrets of the Millionaire Mind
  • The Total Money Makeover

I recognized that I needed additional knowledge and wisdom to move me beyond where I was, so I committed myself to doing so. The thing is, they all had some of the same basic principles outlined:

  • Spend less than you make
  • Save
  • Give
  • Invest
  • Manage your money regularly/budget

It’s not that it was rocket science, but I was lacking knowledge in those areas. Once I gained the knowledge that I needed, and actually started putting the principles into action, I saw results. My point is, don’t let a lack of knowledge keep you from succeeding financially. There are so many resources available that will help move you beyond where you are. I always recommend doing cross-references to check for inconsistencies. All advice isn’t good advice, so be cautious about using “free” resources that could cost you in the long run. Do your homework and find a method that will work best for you and your particular situation. In order to change your actions, you must first change your mind. In order to change your mind, you must gain knowledge in the area where you want to see change. So get to it! Freedom awaits!

Change requires action!

Live free!

Arianne

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An Audience of One

audience-of-one

Romans 8:5 says “Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.”

The flesh desires the approval of others. Our flesh will have us more concerned with what we have (or what it looks like we have), rather than having us focused on pleasing God. After being so used to keeping up with the lifestyles of those in our inner circles, it can become a major challenge to step away. We don’t want to appear cheap, broke, embarrassed, or isolated. But let me say this, you’re the only one that can fund the specific plans that God has for your life. If you were to stand before God and he asked you why you didn’t fulfill your purpose, what would you say? Well God, I didn’t want my friends to think I was broke, so I just kept shopping and eating out with them. Or maybe it would be, well God, I let my ego get in the way, so I couldn’t humble myself enough to turn away from the consumer lifestyle. Well God, I wanted to look like I was blessed and successful. God isn’t trying to hear that. He is not concerned with the ways of the world. He is concerned about fulfilling His destiny through you.

Trust me, I have been there. I love my line sisters, and the time that we spend together is very precious to me. To turn down a trip with them is a very hard thing to do, especially because we only get together a few times a year. But I had to sacrifice some of those trips in order to keep my commitment to God. I didn’t always have extra money to shop for new clothes for homecoming or group vacations; so I made do with that was already in my closet, and hoped nobody would notice. If I wanted to travel, I would put myself on a savings plan so that I could pay for the trip with cash. If it wasn’t in the budget, and couldn’t be paid for with cash, it wasn’t happening. It wasn’t a good feeling, but I had to control my flesh in order to show God that HE was my priority.

Getting out of debt is no easy feat. However, we must focus on God so that our hearts and minds won’t be easily distracted. The Spirit has to be in control of the flesh. You have to learn to tell yourself no! After all, it is your flesh that’s gotten you into the mess that you’re in now. So are you going to keep listening to it, or are you going to turn to the One that can get you out? If you’re currently focused on your friends, family, co-workers, church members, or even yourself, it’s time to change your audience! It was God that wrote your script, and it’s God that’s directing your story. He will forever be your biggest supporter and your most sincere critic. Will you give him your undivided attention?

Change requires action!

Live free!

Arianne

There’s Hope, So Let’s Get to Work!

Somehow, some way, you’ve managed to get yourself buried underneath mounds and mounds of debt, and it may seem like there is no end in sight…I’m here to tell you that there is hope! There is hope; however, it will require some work on your part. First, you must understand that remaining in debt is a choice, your choice. Without that acknowledgement you deny yourself the power to change. Like any other sin, you have to admit to your wrongdoing, ask for forgiveness, repent, and start again. Getting out of debt is no different. Sure, you’re the on that made the bad decisions to put items on credit cards, take out loans, put spending as a priority over saving, etc. But guess what? That same person, you, can also make the decision to turn away from your consumer ways and walk in the things of God.

God doesn’t want you to suffer in debt any more than he wants you to suffer in your sin. That is why he gave us the gifts of forgiveness and grace. Is he disappointed that we aren’t better stewards of the resources that he’s given us? Sure, he is. However, the moment that we decide to turn back to Him, he is there, waiting with open arms to help redeem us. Your debt isn’t going to disappear just because you ignore it. In fact, the bible says that the wicked borrow and do not repay (Psalm 37:21). You chose to borrow the money, so now you must repay it. The sooner that you do, the sooner you can move on. It’s definitely going to take some time and sacrifice to get it done, but it will be worth it in the end.

Proverbs 16:3 says, “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.” Let God help you through this process. He loves you and wants you to be debt free so that he can use you. On the other hand, you have to put in the necessary work to get it done. Show him that you’re serious about changing your ways by doing a budget, giving on a regular basis, controlling urges to spend unnecessarily, etc. God will get you through it, but you have to put in the work. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. First you have to see it, then you have to move towards it. You are in control of your financial destiny. The question is, will you go after it? Redemption awaits!

Change requires action!

Live free!

Arianne

I Surrender All

Let’s face it, we were made in God’s image, and are supposed to have the mind of Christ. Let me just say, I’ve never known Jesus to have a shoe fetish! At some point we have to stop playing, and start being honest with God and with ourselves. Yes, God does want you to have the desires of your heart (Ps. 37:4). However, your heart should look like his. God doesn’t desire to be in debt, and neither should you. Stop letting the devil deceive you into thinking that God designed you to be a consumer, because he didn’t. God designed you to be a producer and to have dominion over the earth. I’m not saying that it’s wrong to desire nice things, because it isn’t. But what is wrong, is letting those things have control over you, especially while you’re still in debt.

If God asked you right now to get rid of all your shoes, handbags, designer clothes, latest technologies, bottles of alcohol (whatever it is that’s controlling your income), would you be able to do it? And please don’t be prideful and say, “God would never ask me to do that because he loves me.” We know that God is a jealous God (Exodus 34:14), and he will wreck up whatever is in his way to get to you. Take a moment to stop, think about it, and check your heart. You won’t even have to say it, your actions will display what you’ve decided in your heart. Why is is that we can tell God, I can’t tithe or give because I have bills to pay, but we can’t tell our impulsive flesh the same thing? You’ll be a lot better off if you dismount yourself off of your high horse, rather than have God knock you down. Trust me, it’ll be a softer landing when you do it on your own terms.

God’s desire is that you would get your financial house in order so that you can live life financially free and dependent on Him. Get out of debt so that you can pursue the life that He predestined for you. As much as you don’t want to spend your life in a dead end job, God doesn’t want you to either. But as long as you’re dependent on the world for a paycheck, you won’t be dependent on God. When God needs you to move, you have to be ready. A lot of us aren’t ready because we all of a sudden don’t have the resources to fund God’s work. Seriously, let’s stop playing with God and get our financial houses in order.

There is only one opportunity for every dollar that comes through your hand. If you choose to save it, you can’t spend it or invest it. If you choose to spend it, that’s one less dollar that you could have applied towards a debt repayment or being a blessing to someone else. You choose whether or not to invest in the world, yourself or God. Let me remind you, that people typically invest in something with the expectation of getting a return. What kind of return are you getting for your investments in alcohol, fast food or fine dining, cable, latest technology, personal grooming, overly priced clothing, shoes, and handbags? I surely never met a compliment that I could cash in at the bank! If everything that you buy depreciates in value you are not walking in the things of God. Take a careful look at the opportuinties that are flowing through your hands on a daily basis. Surrender your old ways to God and ask Him to guide you going forward. He will pour out blessings on you, but you still have the free will to obey Him or not.

Surrender yourselves today: “Lord, I am nothing without you. None of these earthly “things” (idols) matter. They do not make me who I am, YOU do. Free me from the spirit of materialism and consumption. The only debt I desire is the debt of love. Lord I thank you for your conviction so that I may stand corrected in Christ. Be with me and strenghten me as I make this transition. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.”

Change requires action!

Live free!

Arianne

Temporary Sacrifices, Long-Term Gains

Anytime I hear the word “sacrifice” I immediately start to wonder if what I’m giving up is going to be worth it. After all, most people choose to make a sacrifice based on the fact that the outcome will somehow be in their favor. I can’t even imagine making the choice to sacrifice an only child. But God did it, because he knew that the outcome would be far greater than the son he was going to lose. Not only was he going to gain the entire world, but he was also going to get his son back. I’m so glad that God thought that we were worth it. Thank you Lord for the ULTIMATE sacrifice!

If you want to win with your finances, there are some sacrifices that you’re going to have to make along the way. Keep in mind, they may just be temporary. For instance, if you do your budget (and you should be doing your budget) and you see that 20% of your income is going towards eating out, you may need to sacrifice eating out for a while so that you can apply that 20% towards paying down your debts. I know, I know, but you really like hanging out with your friends, hate to cook etc, but you can get over it if your financial freedom is really worth it to you. You’re going to have to make some tough decisions to get out of debt, but it will all be worth it. Once you’re free, you can start adding those things back into your life that once impeded your progress of getting out of debt. What can you change now, that will put you in a better position later?

My challenge to you is to take your last month’s bank statement, and really go through and categorize your expenses by percentage. What percent of your income are you spending on entertainment, shopping, gas, housing, food, cable, etc, and see where you can make some adjustments. The child in you is going to start screaming things at you like, “I don’t want to do that,” “It doesn’t take all of that,” or “I can’t live without it.” Tell your selfish emotions to shut up! You’ve got some growing up to do financially, and you’re going to do whatever it takes. Trust me, you’ll be fine, and so will your emotions. Remember, the quicker you get out the debt, the quicker you can start living a debt free life with little worry, more peace, and more fun! So, go ahead and decide which sacrifice you’re going to make starting today. It won’t hurt for long, especially once you see your net worth increasing and your debt decreasing. Like Dave Ramsey says, “if you live like no one else, later you can live like no one else! YOU’RE WORTH IT!

Change requires action!

Live free!

Arianne

What Can Separate Us?

Romans 12:2 tells us “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Unfortunately, we Christians have conformed to the world’s addiction to debt. We’ve believed the lie that we need debt to get the things that we want. God says to owe no man anything except the debt of love. He also tells us that the borrower is slave to the lender. There is nothing Godly about being in financial bondage; but somehow we have allowed companies like Visa, MasterCard, and Sallie Mae to come between us and our God.

Christianity should be synonymous with debt freedom. When the economy fails, every Christian should be able to thrive because we’re connected to a God with an unlimited supply of resources. God knows when we desire higher education, housing, transportation, basic income, entrepreneurship, etc. Seemingly enough, God doesn’t move quite as quickly as we’d like him to, we aren’t willing to do the work required to get our blessings, or we really don’t believe that he will provide. As a result, we’ve chosen to turn to debt in order to get our needs met. In actuality, it would appear as if we have a faith issue more than a money issue. Matthew 21:12 tells us that we will receive whatever we ask for in prayer IF we believe. So we’re either not asking, not believing, or a combination of the two.

The bottom line is this, we have to separate ourselves from the world and return to God as our source. Even if you’re currently in debt, pray that God would accelerate the repayment process so that you can return to him. As the blessings start rolling in, apply it towards your loans. Show him that you’re serious about this. Get out of debt, and commit to never borrow again. It won’t be easy, and you’ll have to be patient, but God will provide. I can surely attest to that given all of the financial “emergencies” that I’ve encountered over the last couple of months from having my entire AC system replaced to numerous car repairs. The devil’s temptations were no match for the faithfulness of my God! I pray that everyone who reads this would surrender their finances to God, and really give him the opportunity to bless your lives. You’ll be glad that you did.

Change requires action!

Live free!

Arianne

The Financial Garden: Weed and Feed

I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not drop their fruit before it is ripe,” says the Lord Almighty. Malachi 3:11

The above passage has never been as close to my heart as it is right now. Two weeks ago I paid off all of my debts except for my mortgage, and was finally ready to accelerate savings and investing. This week I’m wondering how in the world I’m going to be able to pay to replace an entire AC unit without going right back into debt, not to mention bear the 100 degree weather. I thought to myself, did I celebrate too soon? Is the devil out to get me? Am I being tested? Why is this happening to me? After realizing that all of this is out of my control at this point, I stopped being mad, dried my eyes, and turned to God.

I am a tither, and in the midst of my frustration, I remembered God’s word. Not only does God pour out a blessing on those that tithe, but He also protects our crops! Having to replace this AC unit will more than wipe out all of my savings…But God! I believe that His word is true. While I was weeding my financial garden by paying off debts, I was also feeding my garden with my tithe. Killing off that which was limiting my harvest, while protecting young sprouts of abundance.

That’s the difference between using weed and feed, and straight weed killer on your garden. Weed and feed will kill off bad vegetation while nourishing good vegetation. Weed killer will kill everything it touches whether good or bad. My point is, while you’re killing off the debt weeds in your garden, you need to also feed and protect that which you desire to grow. It’s not enough to simply pay off your debts and leave God out of the process. Your tithe is the weed and feed in your financial garden. God promises to pour out an overflow of blessings, as well as protect your crops from failing.

While I’m unable to see how this will all work out right now, I believe that my tithe has protected me from whatever pests are attempting to set me back. I’ve prayed about it, and I’m just waiting for God to move on my behalf. So as you remove the weeds from your financial garden, make sure that you have God’s protection as well. The pests will come. Will you be ready?

Change requires action!

Live free!

Arianne