Practice An Attitude Of Gratitude To Improve Your Finances

My children and I attended a prayer service at our church the other day.

Before the prayers began, people were allowed to pray for intentions.

The man behind me, easily in his late 70s, said, “Please pray for my 54 year old son who just had a heart attack and a stroke.

Another woman said, “Please pray for the Johnson family who just lost Joan, who was a mother, wife, sister, aunt.

And the worst one, “Please pray for Kelly McIntyre who just found out she only has 6 months to live.

gratitude

gratitude

We Often Don’t Acknowledge How Blessed We Are

At the same time my heart was breaking for these people and their circumstances, I realized immediately how blessed I am to still have my health and my family members around me, who are also healthy.

Isn’t that the most important thing?

Focusing On What You Don’t Have Robs You Of Experiencing Joy For What You Do Have

I also felt a deep embarrassment.

My husband and I live a rather frugal life by choice.  He works full-time, and I work in a very part-time basis from home while homeschooling our kids.  Money is tight, but we make it work.

Just recently, as the kids have gotten involved in more activities, our frugal lifestyle has begun to feel like a burden.

Since we’ve been married, we’ve only had one car.  When we lived in the suburbs of Chicago, this was no problem because my husband took the train and could walk to and from the train station.  Now, we’ve moved to Tucson, AZ, and every day, the kids and I have to drive 30 minutes round trip each morning and evening to drop off and pick up my husband at the bus station.  Sometimes the bus runs late, so at night we could add an additional 15 minutes to our wait.

These trips to the bus station really feel like wasted time, and my husband and I have both uttered more than a passing comment about how nice it would be if we could buy a second car.

But seriously, in the face of the prayer intentions I heard at church, our grumbling sounds like little children’s tantrums.

Honestly, we have what we need.  We have a home, a car, food for our family.  We’re all together, and we’re all healthy.

Everything else is just extra.

Yet, how many of us, just like my husband and I, think life will improve if we can only buy______.

*If I buy a sports car, I’ll make a good impression on my associates.

*If I buy a second car, I won’t have to waste so much time sharing a car with my spouse.

*If I have a bigger house, the kids will have more room to spread out and won’t fight so much.

Practicing Gratitude Can Make You Appreciate What You Do Have

On and on our lists and wants go, while we don’t even realize that for most of us, we already have the things we need.  We are already enormously blessed.

Maybe if we all take the time to practice gratitude, to say thank you for the people and things we already have in our lives, we can stop the endless desire to always want, want, want.

Once that desire is stifled, we will stop needlessly spending, sometimes running up debt while chasing the elusive dream of a “better” life.

As Rick Warren argues, “Instead of focusing on what you don’t have, you should be grateful for what you do have.  Your ‘wants’ will pale in comparison when you realize that what you already have is more than enough.

Too often we think, ‘I have this, but if I get more, I’ll be even happier.’  That’s just not true.  We are taught to be discontent, but we don’t have to be if we focus on what good things we already have.”

Have you had an ah-ha moment, where you suddenly realized just how much you have financially and in other ways?  How do you practice an attitude of gratitude?

Source: biblemoneymatters.com

Balancing Biblical Financial Principles Of Contentment, Hard Work, Stewardship And Generosity

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As I’ve studied personal finance in the Bible, I’ve found four main financial principles that God emphasizes, repeatedly.

Those principles are contentment, hard work, stewardship, and generosity. As I’ve written about these principles and discussed them with others I’ve discovered that balance is absolutely essential. When we overemphasize any of these four principles it can be detrimental to how we are honoring God through our finances.

To get a better idea of what I’m saying, let’s look at what happens when you focus too much on just one of these principles and downplay the rest.

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Debt Management Plans: Comparing and Contrasting

  • Get Out of Debt

Debt relief methods can create more problems than solutions, at least in the short-term. Debt settlement can drag on and lead to legal action and debt collectors; debt consolidation can double your debt (even while reducing your monthly payments). But debt management is a simpler solution and one that can be just as effective.

In this guide, we’ll take a closer look at some popular debt management plans, comparing and contrasting these to find the right one for you, while also providing more information on how these programs work and how much they cost.

What is Debt Management?

A debt management program/plan (DMP) is created to help you clear your debts, often within 3 to 5 years. You pay your money to the agency and they make all the repayments and do all the negotiating on your behalf, giving you lower monthly payments and/or interest rates.

There are some similarities to debt consolidation and the goal is ultimately the same, but there are a few differences:

  • A repayment plan is created with input from you and your lender
  • A loan (and thus another line of credit) is not required
  • A minimum credit score doesn’t factor into the equation

There are some downsides to DMPs. On the one hand, you can cancel at any time because there are no commitments—a cancellation will not impact your credit report like other credit cancellations can. On the other hand, if you miss a single payment, the lender may void the entire agreement, at which point you’ll return to the previously high-interest rate and all the hard work performed on your behalf will be undone.

You will also lose a lot of your current lines of credit. DMPs often require you to close all but one of your credit cards and to only use this card in emergencies. This may not seem like a major issue, but it can impact your credit score by reducing your credit utilization ratio, as discussed in our guide to how credit scores are calculated.

It’s important to weigh up the pros and cons of these programs before diving in. Compare them to debt consolidation, debt settlement, and even bankruptcy to find the right one for you and your situation—these programs are not designed to be one-size-fits-all. If you have any questions, you can address them to your credit counselor directly.

What Credit Score is Needed for Debt Management?

Your credit score is not considered in this process. It’s all about how much you can afford, whether or not you can meet the repayments, and how you can be helped. If the credit counselor finds that you are heavily in debt, with more outgoings than income, they may advise against a DMP and recommend bankruptcy instead. 

How Much Does It Cost?

DMPs cost an average of $50 to set up, in addition to a monthly fee based on the size of the debt and the monthly payment. This can change from state to state and debt to debt, but it will be discussed at length during the initial consultation.

How Does it Affect My Credit Score?

You don’t need to open any new accounts, but you will need to close some and this could reduce your credit utilization score, thus reducing your credit score on the whole. Your score will improve once you begin to clear your debts.

How Long Does It Take?

It can take anywhere up to 5 years to complete a debt management program, but it depends on the individual and the type of program being offered. Some last for just 3 years.

How Much Does It Cost to Get Started?

You shouldn’t need to pay anything for your initial consultation. These are provided for free by all debt relief companies and allow you to ask questions, get answers, and make an informed decision. There have been reports of pushy salesmen, but while this is true for debt settlement, the same can’t be said for debt management.

The Best Debt Management Program

Debt management is pretty standard across the industry, certainly more so than any other type of debt relief. We have listed a few major programs and options below, but you’ll notice many similarities across the board. Some of these are restricted to individuals with a lot of debt and no means of repayment, others are limited to debtors within certain states.

  • NFCU Debt Management Program: The Navy Federal Credit Union Debt Management Program is offered to individuals struggling with debt. It’s not available to everyone though and you’ll need to be in hardship to qualify.
  • CCCS Debt Management Program: Consumer Credit Counseling Services is NFCC-Certified and has been helping Americans deal with debt issues for over 40 years.
  • Christian Debt Management Program: Christian DMPs are offered by multiple companies, all abiding by the values of Christianity and predominantly helping Christians. These include Trinity and Christian Credit Counsellors.
  • LSS Debt Management Program: The Lutheran Social Services of Minnesota is an accredited, long-standing, and highly-rated credit counseling service.
  • Greenpath Debt Management Program: A DMP provider with a great reputation, coverage for all 50 states, and an average interest rate of just 8%. Services can be accessed online and by the phone by all customers, but Greenpath also had locations in 19 states.
  • Money Management International Debt Management Program: Also available in all 50 states, this provider charges a low start-up fee of $32 (average) and its average interest rate reduction is 7.5% from 24%.

Summary: Just One Option

A debt management program is just one of the options available to Americans seeking to escape debt. The first option should be to try and budget better and negotiate reduced rates, ensuring you have more disposable income and lower outgoings. If this fails, credit counseling can help, followed by debt management, consolidation, settlement and, ultimately, bankruptcy.

But there is no strict timeline dictating what you need to do at what point; there’s no chart prescribing what action needs to be taken based on how bad your debt is. The good news is that no matter how bad things seem, there is always an escape, a way to drag yourself out of debt and find the light at the end of this very dark tunnel.

Source: pocketyourdollars.com

3 Ways To Be More Grateful This Christmas

Have you ever read the Little House on the Prairie books?

One Christmas, Laura and Mary each get their own shiny tin cup (they had previously had to share an old one), two sticks of candy, a small homemade cake, and a shiny, new penny.

They were excited beyond belief.

In our modern times, such a meager Christmas is unimaginable.

Each year the retail stores seem to ratchet up the consumerism, trying to get us to buy more and more; some stores even stay open on Christmas.

Many of us have fallen for this and feel an intense pressure to spend a large amount of money on the loved ones in our lives, but such pressure often makes Christmas feel like something to get through without going thousands of dollars into debt.  Because of our own expectations and others’, Christmas feels like a burden.

That’s not what Christmas is about.

Christmas is about giving and doing for others, but not at the expense of having to work overtime to buy more gifts or having to go into credit card debt so you don’t look cheap.

Why not bring back the meaning of Christmas and enjoy the holiday more starting this year?

Ways To Be More Grateful This Christmas

Ways To Be More Grateful This Christmas

Focus On the True Reason for the Season

The real reason we celebrate Christmas is to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.

This holiday season, why not find a few activities your family can do to focus on this?

Our family does many of the 30 recommended activities to keep Christ in Christmas.  Two that we do every year are to make a birthday cake for Jesus that we enjoy on Christmas Day and to decorate our tree only with purple ornaments during the Advent season.  (After Advent is over, we change out the decorations to more “fun” decorations as the kids say.)

Focus On Family Activities

Before the Christmas season arrives, consider sitting down with your children and telling them that Christmas this year will be focused more on giving than getting.

Ask them to consider some fun activities they’d like to do as a family this holiday season such as watching a holiday movie together, decorating the Christmas tree together, making holiday treats together, etc.

Also, consider asking each child to have one of their gifts be a family gift.

They could ask for a family membership to the local amusement park or a family membership to the local museum, or a small, weekend trip you could take together.

Focus On Appreciation And Gratitude

It’s easy to take family members for granted.

This holiday season, draw names from a hat, and each family member writes five to 10 things they appreciate about the person whose name they drew.  As you write the list, you’ll be more grateful for the person, and the person will feel more appreciated, as will you when you hear what someone has written about you.

In addition, decide how you’ll help others this holiday season.

You might make personal care kits filled with items like deodorant, soap, razors, etc. for the local shelter.  Or, you could pick a name off a Christmas tree at a local store or at your church and buy a gift for a child in need. You could volunteer at a soup kitchen.

Our family volunteers once a month at our church helping to make 200 sack lunches for the homeless, but in December, we’ll find some other activities to do also.

Helping others not only makes you feel good, but it also helps to make you grateful for all that you have.  That is a reminder all of us need from time to time.

I’m not saying don’t spend money this Christmas, but why not try to make Christmas more meaningful this year?

Why not focus on helping others and spending time together as a family rather than on the never-ending rat race of buying more and more and more gifts all the while feeling more frustrated and less satisfied this holiday season?

What do you do to bring the true meaning of Christmas into focus and to tune out the retailers pleas that you must spend more and more money?

Source: biblemoneymatters.com