Tag Archives: money

Am I being frugal or being selfish??

979583-scroogeI am an interesting mix of selfishness and selflessness.  I have alternately been called both a cheapskate and extremely generous.  I have been known to go to great lengths to get the lowest price when buying something.  I try to never make eye contact when I see a beggar with a jar on the street or a girl scout with cookies outside of Kroger.  The majority of my clothes come from the clearance section of Old Navy.  As if Old Navy isn’t cheap enough…the CLEARANCE section…yeah…I know!  But, I also love paying for someone else’s groceries at the store, supporting someone going on a mission’s trip, or giving away something from our house to someone who can use it more.  I try to justify this dichotomy by calling it “being frugal” which enables me to have the finances to be more generous at other times.  But, I would simply be lying to myself…I am being selectively selfish plain and simple.  I earned MY money and I want to keep as much of it as I can.

I’m not sure exactly why I am selfless only half of the time, but I want it to be all of the time.  I feel this is an area God has really been challenging me in.  I’m trying to see opportunities to BLESS other people…through my time and money.  In the past, I’ve generally looked for ways to donate money, give a gift, or pay for a bill for someone.  But, I’ve been challenged to be giving to others in a new way recently…the way I buy things.  

Here are some examples of what I mean:

  • If I need a new roof for my house, it would seem prudent to get 10 different quotes, then pit them all against each other and get my favorite company to beat whatever the cheapest other price was.  This would result in hopefully good work at the cheapest bare bones price I could get.  Frugal…right???
  • If I need a new car, shop around…find what I want…and get a bunch of different quotes on it.  Then, come up with some strategies of demanding an even lower price and act like I’m going to go down the street instead…hoping that they take the bait and give me the price I want.
  • If I find a piece of furniture on Craigslist that I want, I usually try to offer them a little less than what they are asking.  Because…they usually will take it and then I don’t have to pay as much!
  • Or, if I have something I don’t need and could possibly get $200 for it, I will try to sell it in a way that maximizes the profit.

I have felt God challenging me to change my perspective in areas like this.  If I can be generous with my spending, I’m not wasting money…I’m getting something at a great price and blessing someone on top of it!  So, here’s what I’m trying to do in these scenarios now…

  • Get a few roof quotes to determine a good company, then pay them what they ask as long as it is reasonable.
  • If I know what car I want, let the salesman tell me the price…giving them a chance to lower it some from the original listed price (as they always do), and pay it without further haggling.
  • If someone is selling something on Craigslist that I want…buy it.  If it is a super-good deal already, possibly pay them more than they’re asking just to bless them.
  • If I have something to sell, go ahead and sell it, but err on the side of asking less than it is worth.  This way, it is much easier on me to get rid of it…PLUS…I’m able to bless someone else by giving them a great deal!  Or even better…just give it away!! :-)

Sure, sometimes I think…”what if I could have saved another $500 by doing some aggressive car haggling??  The CEO and stockholders at Ford don’t need another $500 from me!”  But, that’s the selfish way of justifying it.  In reality…sure SOME of that profit will go to corporate higher-ups…but most of it will go to the salesman who is working hard to try and support his family and the support staff around him that helps manage the business of selling cars.  These are real people with real families to support.  Real people that I have been trying my best to keep from earning a living by trying to get a car at the absolute lowest price possible.

I am a Christian, which means I want to model my life after Jesus Christ.  My hope is that people will see me and see the actions of Jesus through what I do.  Jesus’s life was about sacrificing himself, giving to others, and loving others.  So, how does that look when I spend my efforts trying to selfishly keep more for me?  What will cause a non-believer to see my life and want to follow Jesus?  Being a stingy and excessively frugal person?  Or being a generous and excessively giving one?

Could I have “overspent” on getting a new roof?  NO…not if my perspective is that I paid a great price and then generously donated to bless someone above and beyond that.  If I can adopt this attitude, then I every time I buy ANYTHING, I’m getting the best deal possible.

Being wasteful vs being generous:

All this being said…there is a big difference between wasteful spending and generous spending.  I DO feel we have a duty to be responsible with the money God has given us.  Spending more money than necessary is not always being generous…sometimes it is just wasteful.  Using utilities (water, electric, gas) that you don’t need is not “blessing the water supply company”…it is wasting a resource.  Buying a new set of dishes and throwing away the old ones is a waste.  However…buying a new set of dishes and GIVING away the old ones can be generous.  I’m not advising boycotting amazon.com and instead trying to find the most expensive store when you need to buy something.  And I’m not advising buying things you don’t need just to stimulate the economy.  That’s just silly.  But, if you’re going to get something, there is a difference between…buying at the lowest price available…and going to significant lengths to get the ABSOLUTE lowest price that borders on the company or person providing that product or service receiving little or nothing in return.  Remember…whoever has made that product or is providing that service is a person too.  If God has blessed you, don’t be hesitant to bless them in turn.

This is something I feel God challenging me in.  My purpose in writing this is not to make anyone feel guilty about the way they are.  This is something I STRUGGLE with and merely want to pass along my thoughts.

**Disclaimer** – I used “I” a lot here.  This is not a reflection of thinking that I do what I want in terms of spending.  Julia and I are both responsible for making financial decisions. I say “I” because I don’t want to lump her in with my selfish struggles.  I just wanted to make sure that was clear.  :-)

My challenge to you:

Anytime you buy something, try to have the perspective of…you ARE buying it at a great price, and anything you spend above that price is you being generous in blessing someone else.  Put less effort and time into seeking a deal and more time into loving and blessing others.

It’s that time of the year again…!!!

One of my favorite times of the year is here!  No, it’s not the leaves changing, Halloween, or great fall weather (although all of these are fun).  I’m excited about annual budgeting time…woohoo!  We start our family’s fiscal year on October 1st, so late September we get to plan out how we’re going to budget for the next year.  It’s so great!

I spend a bunch of time putting together spreadsheets and running reports from Quicken to see what we spent last year and estimate what we need to do for this year.  Then, Julia and I will sit down and figure out what we want to do.  I think what I love about it is the clean slate it creates.  No categories will be overspent.  We have total freedom (within the budget we create) to spend without feeling bad.

budgetingHere’s the tricky part though…Julia HATES it!  Getting her to want to sit down with me to go through it is like winning the lottery.  So here’s my challenge…because she doesn’t like it, it’s easy for me to want to make decisions without her.  It would be really simple to just budget however I want and just tell her afterwards what it is.  After all, I am the man of the house right?  Can’t I just do whatever I want?

Even though she doesn’t like the process, I feel it is SO important for us to do this together.  It is not MY money to decide what to do with just because we got it from the job I worked.  It is OURS because we work together as a family.  And really, it is not OUR money either simply because we earned it, it is GOD’S money that he has blessed us with.  I want to make sure our family manages that money well in a way that is non-selfish, loving, and responsible.  So an important part of that is to talk with her to hear her opinions on how things should be allocated.  Julia has very good insight and opinions.  Even if she wants to use money for something I didn’t want to, it’s good for me to know that.  If we only made financial decisions based on what I thought was important, I wouldn’t be honoring and loving her.

My challenge to you:

Make sure you and your wife are BOTH involved in your family’s budgeting process.  Even if one of you is more interested than the other, I think it’s incredibly important for you BOTH to have input and honor God together through it.

“Daddy, this money is going to change the world”

IMG_1761I know…I’m going off-topic again…my apologies :-)

My son Eli often does things that blow my mind.  Although I’m supposedly the parent and the one who is teaching him about life and how to become an adult, I’m always surprised at the things I learn from him.  God has really put a lot of awesomeness in him.  I can’t wait to see what he’s going to be like when he grows up!

I’m just writing this now, but the event I want to share about occurred about a year ago.  We had started giving him a weekly allowance of $2.  He got to decorate 3 different piggy banks (tithe, save, and spend).  We told him whenever he got allowance, he had to put AT LEAST 10% into tithe ($.20) but he could do more if he wanted.  Then, split the rest between savings and spending.  It seemed like a good plan, but most weeks he just decided to put it all in tithe, which was really cool.

As a parent, I saw the weeks go by and I started to feel badly for him.  As bad as it sounds, I wanted him to be able to spend some money.  I wanted him to be able to buy stuff like toys, or candy, or whatever.  But, if he didn’t start putting money in his spending bank, he never would.  We would be at Target and he’d see something he wanted and I would start to say, “do you want to use your spending money on this?” but then I realized that he didn’t have any because he gave it all away!  Every once in a while he would put some money into spending and would get up to a dollar or two.  But then one day he would say “you know what…I’m just going to put all my spending money to tithe.”

So, the story I wanted to share was this…one time I gave him 2 weeks of allowance at once ($4), and of course he said he was going to put it all towards tithe.  Wanting to teach him the “responsible” side of money management, I asked him, “don’t you want to keep some for spending and saving?”  I will never forget his response.  He looked at me with almost a look of hurt in his eyes.  And he said in the most serious voice a 6 year old can…”Daddy, this money is going to change the world.”

I just about burst into tears in a split second after that.  I managed to hold them back and say I was proud of him.  Then he ran up the steps to put his money away.  I would estimate that since we started, we’ve probably given him around $140 in allowance…and he’s probably given away about $136 of it.

When I hear him say things like that, it really challenges me to re-evaluate my own perspective.  It’s easy to laugh off a $4 gift as being a world changer.  You can barely buy a latte for $4!  But, you know what…he’s right…$4 CAN change the world….when God is behind it.

I can picture Eli if he were alive 2,000 years ago.  He would be the one, in the middle of the crowd listening to Jesus.  And when everyone was hungry he would say, “here take this bread and fish that I have, I know you can do AMAZING things with this!”  And as others laughed at his exuberance, Jesus would take that small amount of food and feed 5,000 people.

My challenge to you (and me):

Don’t sell God short.  He can do amazing things with even the smallest amount of time, money, and energy we can give.  Maybe it’s 2 hours of volunteering with the youth group.  Maybe it’s greeting people at church.  Maybe it’s taking some canned goods to a food shelter.  Or maybe it’s giving $4 for an offering .  You have no idea how your gift can impact other people…but don’t for a second think that it doesn’t matter or won’t make a difference.  If God is behind it…it definitely will.

How do you want to be remembered? – what Truett Cathy meant to me

s-truett-cathy-chick-fil-a-twitterIn light of the recent death of S. Truett Cathy, founder of Chick-fil-A, I’m going to take a break from my regularly scheduled husbandicizing to share some similar, but different, thoughts.   I truly believe that Truett is one of the best examples of what a Godly man looks like that we’ve seen in the last 100 years.  It has nothing to do with his business skills or how great his food is, but has everything to do with his priorities and his actions.  He was passionate about helping others and was so giving with his time, talent, and money.

As I think about the impact he has made in my life, and in the lives of so many others, a few things come to mind that I want to share.  This is by no means an exhaustive account of his legacy, it is merely a few things that struck me.

1. There are more important things in life than money

One of the best ways I saw this was the fact that Chick-fil-A continues to always be closed on Sundays.  The company could make SO much more money if their doors were open, but Truett decided long ago that his workers being able to go to church and spend time with their families was more important than profit.

This is a tough concept to remember.  My work is centered around making money.  And my life decisions involve deciding where to spend that money.  It is so easy to get caught up in placing so much importance on it.  It is encouraging to see people like this and be reminded that money is not what makes life great.

2. It is better to give than to receive

Truett and Chick-fil-A have made a name for themselves by the HUGE amounts of money they give away.  I’ve been a recipient of this several times.  Both my wife and I (and my 2 brothers and sister in law) received a large amount of money in scholarships to be a part of the WinShape college program at Berry College.  We also both received thousands of dollars in support to help fund mission trips that we participated in.  And I know there are countless other ministries that have been supported by Chick-fil-A with no strings attached.  They don’t give money away in hopes of getting it back with interest.  They give money so they can help people, and so they can help raise the next generation of leaders.

This is so important for me to see, because I always want to GET things.  I love gifts, free coupons, discounts, etc.  When I consider the impact receiving those gifts has made in my life, it makes me want to do the same for others.

3. One of the greatest measures of a man’s life is the impact he has on other people

By looking through my Facebook page today, it is MIND-BLOWING to see the amount of people that Truett Cathy’s life has had an impact on.  I believe THAT is what makes a man great.  Without Truett’s influence, I wouldn’t have the job I do now, Julia and I wouldn’t be married, Eli wouldn’t exist, and the spiritual foundation I try to base my life on wouldn’t be nearly as solid.  I have SO much to be thankful for.

My conclusion:

I don’t want to be remembered as the guy who had the nicest looking lawn in the neighborhood, or the greatest tennis serve, or the nicest looking clothes, or who took the coolest vacations.  I want to be remembered as a man who gave to others, helped people have better lives, and tried to have an influence on the next generation.  One day, when I die, I want people to say that I had a huge impact on their lives…just like Truett Cathy did to me.  What about you?

5 secrets to prevent fighting over finances

marriage-money“You know what really makes our marriage amazing…finances!”…said no person ever.  It’s no secret that financial issues are the number one conflict in marriages.  In our society today, practically ALL of our lives center around money…the house we live in, the cars we drive, the food we eat, the activities we’re in, the clothes we wear, how much we tithe, etc.  And the one immutable fact about money is…when it’s gone…it’s gone!  So, in a marriage it is easy to see how a couple, who lives together and shares expenses, could easily have conflict.

I feel PRETTY good (and I use that term loosely) about how Julia and I balance finances.  I think we communicate pretty well and I’m lucky that Julia is so responsible with money.  However, we STILL argue about money from time to time.  I want to share some tips that I’ve found to be helpful in this area.  We haven’t mastered them yet, but I think they are all good things to consider…

1. Treat any income as joint income

If you and your wife both work, nothing promotes selfishness and mistrust quite like keeping your money separate.  Treat any income as FAMILY income.  Combine it and decide together what to do with it.  Separate bank accounts might sound good to the one who earns the higher income, but it creates a hierarchy of importance in the relationship…which is never good.  At work, I’ve heard from several different guys how when annual bonus time comes around, they turn off the automatic deposit for their paycheck…so they can get their bonus money and do whatever they want with it without their wife knowing about it.  Please, for your sake…don’t do this.

2. Don’t hide purchases from your wife

No matter how you keep track of purchases, there is always some way to “get away with” buying something that your wife doesn’t know about.  What I mean is…imagine you have a budget category for electronics, clothes, games, food, etc and you want to buy something but don’t have enough money in the budget for it.  There is often a way to get around this and buy it without your wife knowing that you spent money you weren’t supposed to (especially if you’re the one who takes care of the finances).  DON’T DO IT!  You wouldn’t want her to do it to you, so set the right example and be honest with what you do.

divorce-money-fight3. Budget together

One of my favorite times of the year…budgeting time!!  Julia doesn’t share my enthusiasm for it, but I make sure that she has input into what we do.  Whatever method you use, make sure both you and your wife have a say in the process.

4. Don’t make large financial decisions without being in agreement

Make sure anytime you’re making a decision that involves finances for something larger than your normal expenses that you both are talking about it and are in agreement.  It drives me crazy when I see those commercials about someone buying a new $50,000 car and putting a bow on it for a surprise gift.  Really?…you’re not going to talk about that first?

5. Pray about finances

When you’re budgeting, or deciding about large purchases, don’t rely on your own instincts.  Pray about whether or not it is a good idea.  Ask God to give you wisdom and an unselfish heart.  If you apply this to financial decisions, especially if you pray TOGETHER, it will help make sure you’re on the same page…not just with your wife…but with God.  Remember that God is the one who gave you the money, so keep that in mind when deciding what to do with it.

My advice to you:

No matter where you are, we all need to make sure we’re being healthy in our marriage relationship where finances are concerned.  All of the above advice can be summed up by…don’t be selfish, talk about money, remember that God gave it to you.