Sunday, December 30, 2012

New Year and New Goals

I hope everyone had a great Christmas. As we leave the Christmas season, we journey into a new year. A new year with new hopes, new possibilities and a new determination to be better stewards. Perhaps now is the time to set new goals for 2013 and follow through. No matter how small the goal, just get started. Here is a simple 3 step plan of action. Think, write and post. First take some time to sit down and really think about things you want to change or improve in terms of your finances, write them down and then post them where you can read them daily.  
 
       
Here are a few examples of what I mean. Pick a bill to pay off this year by paying a little extra each month. Can this be done? Sure, pick the bill that you owe the least amount. Why not hold a "purge and pay yard sale" this spring? Purge your home of all unwanted and unused items via garage/yard sale and use the money to pay off or pay down a bill. This venture can be fun and easy with a little help and prior planning.

You can make a goal to read a financial book this year or subscribe to a reputable financial magazine? When was the last time you checked your credit report and score? The New Year might be a good time to do both. Doing this can also ensure that your information is current and correct.

One of my 2013 goals is to incorporate more giving with my children. Right now they understand it on a small scale and it's a good start. My 5 year old who could not dream of giving her money away ( read the post) now puts change into the Miracle Network jar every time we go to our local grocery store. In fact every time I take my three children to the store they ask for money to put into the jar. This teaching lesson started when they saw me put money into the jar and asked why. I explained to them that some children are very sick and don't get to live with their parents and have to stay in the hospital until they get better and the money helps them. My 5 year old had lots of questions but now her only question is "can I have money to put in the jar?". When asked about the money they will tell you "it's for the sick children at the hospital".

Above are just a few examples of goals to set for the new year. No goal is too small and can yield BIG impact if followed through. Getting started is key.

Happy New Year and finish strong!

Remember. "True empowerment comes through stewardship!"

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Children and Christmas

With Christmas less than a week away, I sat down and talked to my children again about Christmas giving. Grant it, my children are 4 and 5 and very much into "I want". We talked about the usual topics of toys and all of the other things they felt they had to have. I asked them what they planned to give for Christmas. Not much conversation there. I decided to help them out at this point.

I told them that there are many ways to give other than buying things with money. I explained that we could make our own gifts and it would be lots of fun. As well as we can give gifts from the heart and of our own free will. We'll see how this goes over...

So the fun began, we made place mats, ornaments and other crafts. Imagine three kids 5yrs old and under with glue and glitter. What was I thinking? They really enjoyed making ornaments. We went outside and picked pine cones (free), put glue all over them and then sprinkled with, you guessed it, tons of glitter. WHY? They loved making these ornaments. We then used pretty ribbons to tie around the end of the glittery, shimmering pine cones, of course they had to dry first. These can also be used to add sparkle to any wreath or place into a bowl for Christmas/winter decor. Take a look! 




The next idea went over better than I thought it would. I cut out colored card stock paper into box sized pieces. We then named all of the gifts they could give from the heart, love, lots of hugs, kind words, clean our room, and my personal favorite, "take my nap".  They were on a roll: put books away, be kind, pray for others, obey mom and dad, help others, were also gifts they could give.

On the pre-cut boxes we tied bows, wrote their gift down, and then used the dreaded "glitter". What is this fixation with children and glitter?? Gotta love it! Their gifts turned out very nice and were placed under our tree. They were very excited and I hope a seed has been planted in their hearts about giving. Kids are never too young to learn this principle. Here is a picture of a few of the completed gifts they made, enjoy. Hope you can read the writing.


Hope these inspire gift givng ideas for your children or the children in your life.

Merry Christmas!


Remember. "True empowerment comes through stewardship!"

Friday, November 30, 2012

Contentment. What is this?

I hope everyone had a Thanksgiving filled with gratitude, family and friends. As we leave Thanksgiving and enter the Christmas season it seems the rush is on. GoodbyeThanksgiving, hello black Friday!

Is this the time of the year we become less content? We see more "things" that we have to have in order to be happy. All forms of media constantly bombard us with "you HAVE to have this" or "you NEED this". It seems, according to them that we are never good enough, as is. They say "you're to thin, buff up", "you're too big, slim down". "Can't sleep, take this pill", " you need to wake up, drink this energy drink". " Your home is too big, scale back", "you need a bigger home, call us". The madness continues as there are always ways invented to spend your money, and to spend it quickly! There is always a sense of urgency to get it NOW, and pay later. It should be more like get it now, pay forever...

Does being content mean you don't dream or want better? Of course not, it means you can appreciate where you are right now and not complain. It means you can make plans to do and be better and do so with patience, planning and preparation. It means you don't go out and get a Bentley on a ford budget!

As we enter this Christmas season perhaps we can do so with contentment and gratitude. Debt is no way to enter and leave this great season. Instead why not count all of the great gifts you already have been given this year, the tangible and the unseen. Focus on the gift of thanks with contentment. Count your blessings, you might be surprised at how rich you already are.

This was our Thanksgiving wreath. Each day our family wrote something on our cut out hands that we were thankful for and eventually filled our wreath in. It still hangs today.

Remember. "True empowerment comes through stewardship!"

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

"STEWARDSHIP SPOTLIGHT"

In this world of more, more, more, it's refreshing to come across a book and website that encourages "gratitude".  Both of these written by "Ann Voskamp" have been life changing, so I decided to spotlight them. Part of stewardship is "gratitude" which leads to giving. May these readings be life changing for you as well. Enjoy the link! 

www.aholyexperience.com

Please note that soft music will begin playing as soon as you access the site, so you may want to turn down your volume a little...

Also I am spotlighting the book entitled " One thousand gifts" by Ann Voskamp. Read and be blessed.



Happy Thanks"giving"!

Remember. "True empowerment comes through stewardship!"

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Great gifts on the cheap

As promised here are a few gift giving ideas that won't put such a dent in your budget and leave you in debt until next year. Many of us have talents and ideas that would make a great gift. Here we go:

Are you a poet? Why not give your poems as gifts. Laminate them at your local business supply store and maybe add a ribbon for a special touch. Your gift of words might just be what someone needs to here this season.

Do you love to bake? Consider baking a batch of cookies or whatever and give them as gifts to family and friends. To add a special touch include your recipe for the recipient.

Are you a business owner? Give away samples if possible whether tangible or a service. This can also be a great promotion tool....you never know!

Ornaments are priceless gifts and they are fun to make. You can customize them for the individual. This can also be a great family tradition where everyone can sit and take part in the ornament making process.

One of my personal favorite gifts to give comes from Avon. Right around this time I start purchasing my pocket size lotions, lip balms and hand sanitizers. They make the perfect gifts because they fit into most small purses. They range anywhere from .69 cents to $1.00, I add pretty silver ribbons or bows and the ladies love these.

I have family and friends that make homemade jellies and jams. Why not give these as gifts? Recycle those glass jars and of course add a pretty ribbon and you have a winner! Make sure to include the flavor of your jam.

What about homemade soap powder?  I have an awesome recipe that's easy to make and everyone loves it.  If you want the recipe you can email me and I'll send it to you! I use my recycled glass jars, fill them with soap powder, add the ribbon and the amount of usage and then listen to the rave reviews!

Again we all have talents or things we love to do. Why not tap into that talent and let it work for you this Christmas.

In addition to tangible gifts there are other forms of gift giving. How about acts of service? At most it will cost you some time. Does someone you love need a babysitter gift? Why not give a couple a break from the kids. Create a gift certificate that entitles them to a certain amount of babysitting hours. This will be the best gift ever! Trust me I know, a great friend gave me this gift for my birthday and I loved it, loved it, loved it. Did I mention I loved this gift?

Does your spouse need a break? How about a 3-5 day (do whatever you want to do) pass. He or she can do whatever they want to do in or out of the house. If you have children, the giver will be responsible for the kids for those days.

There are so many acts of service that can be given and appreciated for Christmas. Why not try it out and see what works?

If you search you can find all sorts of good buys before the season. A couple of years ago, I found the nicest coffee mugs at the dollar store. I filled them with different types of candy, hard, chocolate etc, brought some shrink wrap (added touch), tied my signature bow and "presto" they made the best gifts. More importantly, I enjoyed making the gifts and seeing the finished product, the smile on the faces.

Do you have a digital camera? Take a family portrait, print the pictures out yourself and frame them in the magnetic frames. These make great gifts because they can go right on the fridge. This works especially well if you need to give updated pictures of children.

One year I remember receiving home grown spices. What a nice gift to give anyone who cooks.

There are so many unique ways to gift give on a budget, I could do many more posts. This post was just to get the ball rolling and get your imagination going. Christmas is a time of giving, but, after it's over we have to keep on living....without gift giving debt that is.

As for the children, why not start a tradition of giving to those they don't know. There are many ways to serve in your community. Why not go to a place where there are homeless people and pass out blankets, fruit, or sandwiches, this Christmas? Who says giving has to be done to only those we know? Just something to ponder.

If you have any creative gift giving ideas, that don't cost a fortune, we would love to hear from you. Chime in.


Remember. "True empowerment comes through stewardship!'  

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Christmas is coming soon!

Happy October to you all! Can you believe Christmas is almost here? As much as I love the holidays around this time of the year, it seems that this is the time getting into debt is at an all time high. Lots of people spend a ton of money that they don't have, in the name of "Christmas". Children grow up with a "here's what I want for Christmas" mentality, along with a list to match. Family and friends are making a list and checking it twice, trying to figure out what to get that's nice.

Am I against gift giving? Of course not, however, I am not an advocate of going into debt, which can ultimately lead to despair. How many people are still paying on last years Christmas debt? Is there a solution to this madness? There is one and we can all be merry!

If giving gifts is a big deal for you, why not start preparing now? Who says a gift has to come wrapped in a box anyway?

Stay tuned to my next post of gift items and ideas that don't cost a ton and won't put you into debt.

*Remember. "True empowerment comes through stewardship!" 

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Back in the saddle!

OK, so it's been too long since my last post. I am back in the saddle again because now my office is set up and running! It's been a long time coming and I still have about 50% more boxes to unpack and put away....but I'm closer now than ever.

I have learned that I really do need a clean and organized space in order to write. I don't do well with millions of packed boxes and stuff waiting to be put up, all over the place. After all, this is still a part of stewardship.

My office came together right on time. I have a speaking engagement on Sunday, October, 28 at Mt. Zion United Methodist Church, in Mechanicsville, MD. In addition to this I will be hosting a stewardship seminar at the same church on the third Saturday in November. I will update this information soon.

I posted a comment a while back on my facebook page prior to my move, it went something like this:

"What is a dream home? One you can afford to heat and cool after you pay the mortgage." I got a few comments on that one! You see as we get older perspectives change. I once had a check list of everything I wanted in my "dream" home. After owning a few homes now, I realize that a house is a house. We eat there and sleep there. Would I rather pay a $3,000.00 or a $1,300.00 mortgage? Hmm.

My perspective now is being "debt free" which includes no mortgage. I want to hold that deed in my hand. Most of us speak of home ownership when we really have home "borrowship". We don't truly own our home until the mortgage is paid in full, for now the bank is loaning us the home as long as we pay back the loan. This is home "borrowship" and if you miss a few payments, the bank will show you who owns the home as they foreclose.

So then, what is your dream home? Care to share?


*Remember. "True empowerment comes through stewardship!"

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The move (upgrading by downsizing)!

Wow! It seems forever since I posted a blog. So glad to be back! For the past month, we have been, cleaning , packing and moving. Yes, we have moved. Months prior I had planned to blog about "downsizing", the next thing you know, I was downsizing.

You see, sometimes in order to improve your quality of life you have to examine what changes need to occur. We have two houses, one was our primary residence and the other was a rental property. The home we lived in is larger than our rental and with this came a bigger mortgage. We had actually talked about moving last year, but it never happened. The next thing you know the lease was up and our renter was out. So what did we do?

We decided to downsize and move into the smaller home and by doing this we shaved over $500 off of our mortgage. We will then take this money and apply it towards other bills in order to be "debt free" in the next two years or so. It has not been an easy decision but a necessary one. We had to sacrifice space, distance from work as well as our established church and all the creature comforts we were use to. Moreover, we had to move from friends and neighbors that we grew to love.

What is the lesson here? Sometimes we have to do the "hard" things in life in order to reach our goals of financial freedom. At times "downsizing" can mean "upgrading" your life.

I have met many people who try so desperately to maintain a lifestyle that is clearly out of their current reach. It's like driving a Bentley on a "ford focus" budget. Sometimes, you just have to let "things" go and let peace take it's place. Sometimes peace may mean a smaller house, a smaller car, less clothes, or no morning mochas, etc. Who are we trying to impress anyway at the expense of our peace or good health? To "upgrade" your life may mean "downsizing" your debt.

We are still in the process of moving and cleaning and I am believing that when it's all said and done, we will see the fruit of this move and it will lead to a place that we never imagined, being "debt free" which will include "no mortgage"! Now that's an upgrade...

                             "Remember true empowerment comes through stewardship!"

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

**Stewardship Spotlight**

Hello to everyone, it has been a while. For the past few weeks I have been packing up and preparing to move. What a challenge to pack, clean, show my home for rent all while managing my 3 small children...This business is a blog in and of itself! They say that trying to clean a house with small children at home is like trying to shovel snow DURING a snowstorm...no truer words have been spoken.

Weeks ago I lead a stewardship seminar at Higher Praise Christian Church in Locust Grove, Va. (you can check out my post about this). I was most impressed with a young lady in high school that attended. Her name was Ciara. She was bright, articulate and participated in the event.

I was impressed with her because she was the only youth there. On a Saturday, she decided to spend the day learning about how to be a good steward over her future finances. When I asked her why she attended, she stated that she wanted to learn about managing her finances while she was young so that she would not make some of the mistakes made by some adults. How smart is that? She gave up a Saturday in order to learn about stewardship.

Ciara not only attended the seminar but she participated in discussion and made it clear that she understood that what we all have really belongs to God. This is the premise of good stewardship. When the group was asked to read a particular passage, Ciara would pull out her electronic device and read away...still wondering what the device was?

How refreshing it was to see a young person interested and excited about stewardship and finances. Perhaps this will be a spin off to future seminars with young people that have a desire to learn more about managing their finances.

Kudos to Ciara's mom and grandparents, that also attended the seminar, for raising a wise young lady. They say apple's don't fall far from the tree!

Thank you Ciara for being our *stewardship spotlight* guest this month.


Remember. "True empowerment comes through stewardship!"

Monday, August 6, 2012

HPCC a great place to be!

Hello to everyone. I pray that all is well. I recently had the honor of hosting a seminar at Higher Praise Christian Church in Locust Grove, Va.    We covered topics such as: Kingdom principles vs the worlds system, debt elimination, gratitude; the heart of giving and taking personal responsibility.                                                                   The experience there was nothing short of awesome.  They were a group that packed a powerful punch! What really impressed me about this group was the excitement and anticipation. Typically I do the seminar and at the end the workbook is available. However, before the seminar I stepped away for a few minutes and when I returned, everyone had already purchased a copy of my book. Talk about ready and prepared!  I love this group! 

Another thing that stood out about HPCC was a young lady who attended. She is still in high school and decided to spend her Saturday at a stewardship seminar. Not only did she attend but she took initiative and participated. How cool is that?

The seminar was more than I could have anticipated and on top of all of that, the food and fellowship was great. A brother known for his cooking fixed a pasta salad that was to live for!  This seminar was a tremendous blessing because everyone took part and participated, the only thing we ran short of was time. As you can see we worked diligently and shared. Pastor Parker is a great leader and it is evident by the the people and the fruit.                                                                        I certainly hope to host another seminar or better yet, a conference in the near future. This seminar had been in the works for months, and finally it happened. It was well worth the wait...  Higher Praise was a great place to be!                                                                          


Remember. "True empowerment comes through stewardship!"

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Why stewardship? Pt 1


It's been a week and this post is long over due. Why do I have a passion for stewardship? Why do I write about it and teach it? After all, it's not the most exciting topic around.  Well, there are a few reasons. First, I have lived on both sides of the fence and come to the conclusion that stewardship God's way is the best side to be on! Next, I have been around people that speak of being broke or not paying their bills and wear it as a badge of honor. Finally, my heart goes out to people who are struggling financially, going to foreclosure and just being victims, needlessly.                          

Do I have all the answers? Of course not, but I do know where you can find them. It starts by picking up your Bible, more specifically start reading the book of Proverbs.

As I often hear, most of us don't need more money, we need more "discipline" with using the money we already have. We need tenacity to sacrifice and work within our budgets.  Case in point. Do we have to shop in department stores or wear designer clothes and perfumes? Does everyone in the home need a fully loaded cell phone with games along with a land line?  Is cable a "must" have in life? If you have a financial deficit revisit how you spend your finances on these types of things.

If additional income is needed, perhaps a second job is the answer. If there is no job to be found, take it a step further and create one. Do you like to clean, babysit, organize? Find your niche and make your pitch! 

Do you have habits that are sucking up your finances? Smoking, drinking, gambling, cell phone addiction, cable tv addiction, electronic gadget addiction, along with so many other things that not only take it's toll on our health and time but also on our finances. Now might be the time to kick the habit that holds you back.

Living within our means can sometimes mean downsizing or making adjustments to our lifestyles. By downsizing you may find that you upgrade your quality of life. Sometimes drastic times call for drastic measures! It takes work. I wish I could hold a seminar where I could walk around and "ding" everyone on the head and render them "debt free", lines would be around the block for days.

 Too bad it does not work that way, but maybe not. Even if it were that easy, most likely we would find ourselves right back in debt with poor financial management. Why? Before we can be truly free, we must be educated and disciplined. Have you ever heard " a fool and his money is soon parted"? It's not about the money really, but rather about the person, money is simply a tool, the person is the one in control.   

This will be part 1 of "Why stewardship?" I want to keep my posts short and sweet. Until then, work what you have until you get what you need.

Remember: "True empowerment comes through stewardship!" 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

We did it!

Hello to everyone, I hope all is well. I am elated to announce that this past Saturday was a success! Our church stewardship seminar was more than I could have imagined. There was plenty of interaction, excitement and participation. The food, fun and fellowship were fantastic!  I owe so much to everyone that made this possible. No one person could have done it alone. Each and everyone of you have my eternal gratitude.  Before the seminar was over one attendee put his stewardship goals into action and blessed many others! What more can a girl ask for?
God truly blessed us with great weather as we entered into the seminar. By the time the seminar was over and we were packing up to leave, down came the rain. I believe this seminar was meant to be and everything came into place and I trust that everyone was blessed.
These are a few words used to describe the seminar: informative, inspirational, powerful, refreshing, relaxed, practical, convicting and interactive! What a great way to end the day. Thanks to everyone who participated and gave of their time, talent, energy and resources, only God can repay you!

Who would have thought learning about stewardship would be so much fun? It was learning and laughter rolled up in one!
Let me know and I'll come your way with a seminar, you don't want to miss out!

Remember. "True empowerment comes through stewardship!"   

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Financial literacy for kids (counting change)

Hi there folks, I hope all is well with everyone! I had a recent experience that made me re-visit financial literacy for children.     I completed my shopping from a major retail store and went to the register to pay for my goods. My total came to $36.70 and I gave the nice gentleman $40.00. Apparently, he put in $400.00 accidentally. When the amount of change due came up, I was happy but he was not!  At first he just stood there looking, trying to figure out what had just happened.        After a long pause, I told him that he had put in $400.00 instead of $40.   Now we waited to see what to do next. I could tell he was getting uncomfortable as another customer came into his line.  So I asked him if he could just make a note and give me my change as my 3 children were touching everything in sight.
It appears he was lost and could not figure out how much change to give me. So very nicely and quietly I said " you owe me $3.30" and he gave me my change and told me to have a nice day.
This really opened up my eyes to the importance of teaching children at a young age how to count change back when needed. As was the case here, no calculator was available, at best he could have used paper and pencil. 
Children don't have to be the quickest when counting out change but they should learn to be accurate and timely, just in case they are in a similar situation. This post was written, not to stand in judgement but to enlighten us to the importance of teaching our children the basic skill of counting back change. As much as I love technology, it can never take the place of using our own brains.
So as we seek to ensure that our children are financially literate, let's remember the simplicity of being able to count back change when needed. The younger they learn this basic concept, the better off they'll be as adults.

Remember: "True empowerment comes through stewardship!" 

Thursday, July 5, 2012

"In God we trust..."?

I find it so ironic that of all things "In God we trust" is printed on money. For the most part people are trying their best to hold on to it and never let it go. For some there is a fear that they may never get it again. Some fear losing it altogether.   I read a caption years ago and I will always remember it..."In God we trust, all others pay cash."  Too funny!                                    This post is more of a thought provoking one with a few questions.                                       Do I really trust in God?  Do I trust God as it relates to my finances?  Do I really trust in my money?  Does my stewardship reflect my trust in God?  Could we re-place the words "In God we trust" with "In God I trust" on our money? Since I trust in God, can I let go of it?

Remember: "True empowerment comes through stewardship!" 

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Two week countdown!

It's so good to be back online again. Friday night we had a storm that knocked our power out until 6pm Saturday evening..thankfully everything has been restored.

I am very excited because in two weeks I will be hosting a FREE "Empowerment through Stewardship" seminar. Here are the details:

Saturday, July 14, 2012
10:00-2:30
Dahlgren United Methodist Church
Rev. Edward Johnson, Pastor
17080 14th Street
Dahlgren, Va 22448

Lunch and childcare will be provided!!

Sample Topics:

Understanding Kingdom Principles
Debt Elimination
Gratitude; the heart of giving

While the country may be experiencing a recession, the Kingdom of God is not, it is in full force! What an exciting time to begin appropriating the Biblical principles of stewardship with practical application. Come out to this power packed seminar to learn how and your life will never be the same!

To register contact the church office: 540-663-2230 or email office@dahlgrenumc.org

*Registration deadline is July 11, 2012

Remember: "True empowerment comes through stewardship!"

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Cutting cooling cost

The summer is here and the heat is on! Other than going to the beach, how can you save on your cooling bill? I remember as a kid growing up with my grandfather being a little warm in the house during the summer. Now that I think about it I was a little chilly in the house during the winter. My grandfather was qiute thrifty, to say the least.

I remember hearing him say that if we were hot we needed to take off some clothes because he had no intentions on giving all of his money to the electric company. He always said he was saving to travel and was going take a trip around the world. Well he never turned the air up high and he did take many trips to other countries.

Now that I'm an adult with bills I totally understand my grandfathers logic. Why give so much money to the electric company? Who says it has to be cold in the house because it's hot outside? It should be comfortable and just a little cooler than outside but it does not have to be freezing cold.

Here are a couple of ways to be a good steward and save money on your cooling costs.

Tip #1  At night only cool the rooms being used. No matter what the air is on during the day I always turn the therostat way up at night. I only use a ceiling fan and a floor fan to cool two rooms while sleeping. If it's hot in the morning I'll ajust the air a few degrees.

Tip #2 Try turning up your thermostat 4-6 degrees. You might be surprised to see your cooling cost lowered as your thermostat goes higher.

Tip #3 Like my grandfather said, you might try wearing less clothes if at all possible at home. Try light colored cottons and flowing fabrics to keep you cool.

Tip #4 Drink plenty of cool or cold water not only is this healthy but it also keeps you hydrated. You won't be so hot if you're drinking lots of water!

If you try these tips and you see a difference, please share with others and let me know how it works for you!

Remember: "True empowerment comes through stewardship!"

Friday, June 22, 2012

Find your niche' - make your pitch!

I spent the last three days away in the park with NO internet access whatsoever! I am so glad to be back home with modern technology.

Recently I have been speaking with people about becoming debt free. It seems lots of us were victims of the "name it-claim" era or the "blab it-grab it" phenomenon.

Now it's time to turn this debt into opportunity. You see people have been in debt since the beginning of time, so that's nothing new. But what do we do now? TAKE ACTION! Find your niche and make your pitch!

Now is the perfect time to find creative ways to make extra money and pay off some debt. What is your niche"? Do you love children? Perhaps you can open up a home daycare. Does cleaning relax you? You can start a cleaning business. Do most of your friends say that you would make a good organizer? Become an organizer.

There is something special that we all are equipped to do. Why not capitalize on your natural gifts and talents. You can start part-time on the weekends and make enough money to get yourself out of debt. Sometimes when you can't get an extra job to make ends meet, you have to create one!

I had a friend years ago who moved from her hometown, after she moved she lost her job. This was not good news considering she was the mother of a few minor children. There were no jobs and no unemployment and she began to get a little discouraged. I told her that if she could not find a job, she had to create one. She loved children so I suggested she start a nanny service or open her own daycare. She started a home daycare and to my knowledge she still operates it today.

It's really not so hard to use our God given talents to create some extra cash flow. What special talents do you have that are in demand? Using these talents can get you debt free and when you get out of debt it can free you to do more and more of what you are really created to do.

So if you want to get out of debt: "Find your niche" meaning take time to discover who you are and what you love to do, or what you are good at and then "make your pitch" let everyone you know what you are doing and how your service can improve their lives.

I read a good book recently by a friend and business coach called "Mom Entrepreneur Extraordinaire" I would suggest both male and female read it, I took away very good nuggets. Here's a link to check out her books.

www.thebusinesscoachformoms.com/the-free-stuff/step-by-step-guide-for-mom-entrepreneurs/


  
Remember: "True empowerment comes through stewardship!"

Friday, June 15, 2012

Save money with reverse menu planning!

A few days ago I decided to peruse my kitchen closet and pantry. To my surprise I had so much stuff I could not believe it. I counted 16 bottles of bar-b-q sauce, which I did not purchase, but that's another post...

I have wanted to menu plan for a while so I decided to try something new. I did inventory on what I already had in my kitchen and I planned my menus accordingly. What does this have to do with stewardship? Plenty. I run to the grocery store many times per week and it all adds up, while food is stocked in my house and some foods on the way to freezer burn...tisk tisk.

My husband and I agreed that we would not purchase any more food until we have used some of the food we already have. I can at any given time look in my fridge and say " I don't want that today" and off to the store I go spending another $20. 

Well not this time, I planned my menus from everything I already had on hand. For 3 days straight I have not been to the grocery store, that's a miracle considering I go almost daily and sometimes more than once a day. I should own stock in food lion and walmart.

It was a great feeling as I pulled items off of my shelf and out of my fridge and prepared to cook them. I even went into the freezer and pulled out already prepared dinners that just needed heating up. We have had variations in our meals, such as eating breakfast foods for dinner, and it's been fun!

This experiment has proven to be a time and money saver, not to mention I am cleaning out some space in my closet and pantry.

So, if you're looking for a small way to save money and be a good steward over what you already have, try reverse menu planning.

You might be amazed at what you can cook up!

Remember: "True empowerment comes through stewardship!"

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Stewardship Spotlight!

In today's Stewardship Spotlight, we will be spotlighting "Hosea 8:7"

 "They sow the wind and reap a whirlwind..."

This summer we have been working in our garden and planting flowers indoors. We have planted sunflowers, african daisys, impatiens, sweet peas, tomatos, cucumbers, a host of other veggies, and herbs. The children are so amazed when they see the sprouts come from the tiny seeds that we plant. Some of our sunflowers are over 6 inches now. I must admit, this is pretty amazing to me also.

A few summers ago we had so many tomatos we could not give them away fast enough. My husband planted them once and they continued to yield tomatos for what seemed like a lifetime, they just kept coming up and coming up.

The garden has helped me gain a new perspective about debt. While the garden is a good thing, debt is not, however, the same principle's of sowing and reaping are at work in both.

When the tomatos were planted I had no idea that they would yield so much for so long. Much like debt, especially credit card debt, you plant a seed and reap for years. As stewards we should be mindful that credit card debt yields a harvest that continues to grow and grow if we feed it and eventually we will eat of it's fruit.

You see, once you swipe that card unless you pay it off as soon as it comes in the mail, you will experience tremendous growth. This could be 19% interest or 26.99% interest. As you continue to swipe the card the debt incurred will continue to grow at rapid speed.

Just like the sunflower seed, one day we planted it, in a few days there was a sprout. A few days later, the plant was over 6 inches and still growing. All of this came from one little sunflower seed. I have been told this flower can grow over 4 feet tall. Does this sound like debt to you?

Debt always starts out small for the most part. You get a new credit card, how exciting! "Oops, I just remembered it's auntie's birthday, I'll just charge a fruit basket for her." Next week, "those shoe's are calling my name and here I am." In a matter of months, if that long you could have your charge up to the limit. At this point and I quote B.B King "the thrill is gone, baby."  Gone is the thrill but here comes the bill. Pay the minimum balance and you'll be paying for years to come. "Sow the wind and reap a whirlwind."

As good stewards, we must be wise with our credit card purchases. Credit cards are not all bad, if kept in perspective and paid off as soon as they arrive. I have used them for good, in my later years. I have been in department stores and seen sales of 50%-75% off of items for the children, especially in off seasons. It was to my advantage to get these quality items, especially for the rough boys I have. I paid with the charge card to get an additional 15% - 20% off and then stood there afterwards and used a check to pay off what I had just charged. So I got the sale price, the additional 20% off and then I paid the balance off right there at the register. Sale caught, no debt incurred!

Stewardship is about investing and using the finances we have been entrusted with wisely. Keep in mind "you reap what you sow, what you plant you'll grow." Plant your finances in debt and needless spending, you'll reap more debt, high interest and years of re-payment. Plant your finances in savings, investments, and wise spending and you'll reap more finances, peace and financial freedom.

Hosea 8:7 "They sow the wind and reap the whirlwind."


Remember: "True empowerment comes through stewardship!"

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Stewardship and order

Today's post is about order and replacing bad habits with good habits to see desired results. Order is necessary in stewardship and good for life in general. However, it is not easily obtained, it takes work and a concentrated effort.

I remember learning about the 2nd law of thermodynamics in science. Basically, things disintegrate over time if left alone, this is sort of a basic principle. Things naturally move towards chaos or disorder. This reminds me of my dresser.

I found myself constantly cleaning off my dresser because I appreciate order and I like to see a clean surface. I would sit and throw papers away, organize the papers to stay etc. No matter how many times I cleaned this dresser off papers and other clutter would re-appear almost the very next day. My dresser would not look as though I sat for over an hour cleaning it off the previous day. In order to clean off my dresser, I would take precious time during the children's nap to do it. To my dismay, it seemed to be time wasted the next day, when the dresser was cluttered again, like a magnet clutter was drawn to it. The 2nd law of thermodynamics was in full force on my dresser.

So one day I decided that cleaning the dresser was very counterproductive. Did I leave the dresser disorderly? I thought about doing that, but that would not be good stewardship. It was obvious that a flat clean surface would draw clutter at this point and so I decided to replace the surface with a very large fern. Wallah! My plan worked. Not only do I not have to clean off my dresser anymore, it looks very nice with the new plant and improves the overall look of my room.

So why the dresser analogy? Well, you see the same principle's apply when practicing good stewardship. First, order is needed to be successful in stewardship. Where ever there is disorder, order must be put in place.

When we find that bad habits have crept in, we must do something to stop them. What's the best way to lose bad habits? Replace them with good ones. It can be a gradual change as long as you're doing something to move towards order.

Let's say everyday on your way to work you walk past a donut shop and you go in and purchase a donut and a cup of coffee for $4. You have decided to pay off a credit card and realize that you spend $20 a week on coffee and donuts, which equals to $80 per month. This is definitely counterproductive to your stewardship goals. That $80 can be utilized wisely to pay off the debt and save you money on interest.  So what can you do?

Take a different route to work. Since the smell of the coffee will draw you in, don't walk past the shop. Walk on the other side of the street or take a different route altogether and bring a bottle of water from home. You may discover the enjoyment of something new. If you walk a little extra the increased blood flow may be what you need to get some new thoughts going again. Small changes can yield big impact.  

Stewardship and order go hand in hand and the benefits far outweigh the cost. No matter how small a positive change is, it is a change for the best. Right where you are start making order a priority, if it is not already. Stewardship and order lead to peace of mind.  




Remember: "True empowerment comes through stewardship".

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Children and giving...

On May 18th I did a post about children and financial literacy. For the most part I usually post about something I have done or something I will start doing in the near future.

I started a couple of months ago, teaching my 4 yr old the value of change and coin recognition. She loves it and is very interested. We have used real money and play money, she prefers the real thing.

As a good steward it's my job to teach my children how to spend, save and give away money. The more they do this as children, the better off they will be as responsible adults. So here is the conversation my 4 year old daughter and I had.

I was talking to her about how she was to distribute her $7 which she acquired over a weekend. I explained that she should spend some, save some and give some away. So I began to show her with her money how to divide it up. She was fine with the spending part, she was excited about putting some in her pink princess piggy bank, however, it was different with the "give some away" part.

I said to her "now these $2 you can give away". She gave me a look that said "what did you just say?" then she said " I'm so sorry I can't give this away, this is real money." This was not going to be easy. I explained to her that we should always help others and that God wants us to give some money away but we get to keep most of it. She told me "I don't want to give my money away". I tried this tactic "God always blesses us when we give and He gives back to us" to which she said "God is not coming to my house".  Oh well, back to the drawing board!

Is this the same little girl that always tells her brothers "God likes it when you share"?  Of course that's when she wants something that they have...too funny.

This confirmed my point, children have to practice giving and sharing. Their motto "mine, mine, mine"! Pretty typical of a child. I say this is typical because I began asking around and found out this is the attitude of most kids at this age...they are not interested in giving any money away. At least I'm not alone in the struggle!

So how did it end? I figured I would not force the issue of giving right now, so I took a different approach, one to soften the blow for her. I encouraged her to purchase something to share with her brothers or the entire family, a big bag of chips, some ice pops, whatever $2 could buy. To this she said "OK"...voila'. I think we have hit upon something!

It's not quite "giving" her money away, yet. But at least I have her moving in the right direction of sharing something she purchased with her money. Who would have thought a 4 year old could hold on to a buck so tight? Sounds like some of us adults, maybe?   

Oh well, here's to small beginnings! 


Remember. "True empowerment comes through stewardship".

Friday, June 1, 2012

May 30, 2012 spending journal

Today I am posting my spending journal for Wednesday, May 30. I ran errands with my three children, quite an adventure, I must say. But a good day all in all because they took a long nap when we got home!  As you can see we went to the ever popular walmart, target and dollar tree. We also stopped to have lunch at burger king, however, that receipt was lost to a spilled drink. I spent close to $7 for lunch. For the most part I stayed within my budget. The piggy banks were not planned purchases, however, the one we had for the boys got broken and so I replaced the one piggy bank for two. Now the boys have their own.  
On my spending journal I have recorded the following information in case you can't read it clearly. I wrote down the name of the store, items purchased and the amount I spent. So, in a nut shell on a day out with the children I spent $142.30 which included lunch. Keep in mind the cost of gas for traveling, I spent close to an hour and a half in commute time.  So I can include about $8 more dollars for fuel. That's a grand total of $150.30. Wow! I'll be on a spending fast soon.  
Keeping a spending journal really allows you to see where your money is going. So remember save your receipts and get that journal going. You can find my previous post on keeping a spending journal. You might be surprised to see where your money is going. If you have questions, feel free to contact me by email.       

                                                                                    

Remember. "True empowerment comes through stewardship!"

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Stewardship and mental toughness

What does mental toughness have to do with stewardship? A lot!

Have you ever been distracted when taking on a project? Listen as I draw an analogy here. Without fail, every time I get on the computer to work, my children come out in full force. I declare that when I get on the computer it's like telling them:

"OK guys, yell at the top of your voice, boys beat up your sister, please tear up my house, remember to write on the walls and the windows, feel free to get whatever you want out of the fridge and leave the door wide open, while you're at it please slam every door in the house, and make sure you run from room to room, this will make mommy very happy!" Maybe it's just my kids.

So, I have to stop, deal with the issue and kid at hand, bring order and pray for nap time to come quickly. Only then can I resume working.

This can happen when you decide to make positive changes towards stewardship. Let's say you started a new regimen of saving money. What happens? Everything. In the same week the car breaks down, the dishwasher goes out (I would be lost without mine), you have to pay $60 co-pays for sick children (happens to me), and your car tags have expired. Your savings go right out of the window. What do you do?  You stop, take some deep breaths and REGROUP. Here's an acronym for you.

R egain composure and remain calm

E xpect to find an answer

G ratitude for the right now blessings

R elease to God what you can't change

O pen you heart, mind, eyes and ears to solutions

U nderstand that it will all work out

P ray until something happens

This is a crash course in mental toughness. Stewardship is not for the faint of heart. Anything worth having is worth fighting for. Empowerment comes through stewardship and through challenges we gain knowledge, confidence, power and wisdom.

Always know that there is a solution for every problem and every problem has a solution. We just have to look and listen for it.

In the ideal world, we should always have cash reserve for emergencies or incidentals. However, if we don't, we have to handle the issue at hand, get back up and start again.

If an emergency depletes your savings, so be it. Start saving again and thank God you had it when it was needed. If you saved once you can do it again. If a repair causes you to charge your card to the limit, it's ok. This means you have to start paying it down again, as soon as possible. It can be done.

If you just started saving $50 a pay period but your children got sick instead of $50 save $5. Saving $5 is better than saving nothing at all.

The bottom line: work with what you have, right where you are. God is faithful but make sure you do your part.

When distractions or emergencies come up, REGROUP.

Remember: "True empowerment comes through stewardship"

New feature and coming seminar

Hello everyone. I am so excited about a new feature coming your way! At least once a month I will have a post called "Stewardship Spotlight".

This post will spotlight a:

* financial service
* financial product
* stewardship scripture
* great book
* helpful website

**More exciting is the fact that I will spotlight a PERSON. This person will be someone who has a story to tell about their own stewardship journey. It could be a change in perception, a revelation, a paid off debt. No matter how big or how small this is a chance to share your victory.

This blog is about helping people and helping people to help others. So send in your story to be featured in the "Stewardship Spotlight" you never know who you might help.

Email your story to:   verlyntarlton@ymail.com 

Looking forward to hearing from you!

Next exciting news. I will conduct a stewardship seminar.

Location: Dahlgren United Methodist Church
                17080 14th Street
                King George, VA 22448
               (540) 663-2230

Date:      Saturday, July 14, 2012

Time:      10:00-2:30

Hope to see you there! Tell a friend.



Remember: "True empowerment comes through stewardship!"

Friday, May 25, 2012

Are you clear on your home owner's insurance?

Hi again! I hope you find this information helpful and clear. I am not an insurance specialist but I am sharing this because it involves practicing stewardship. As a steward, we are responsible for understanding any policies we have in place. If for some reason, you are not clear please take the time to sit down with your insurance agent and have them go through your policy thoroughly. It is worth your time and attention.

In the meantime, here are a few points to consider.

* All insurance policies (or copies) should be kept in a fire proof and water proof safe. This can prevent damage.

* Are you clear on all deductible amounts?

* Are you clear on how and when to make claims?

* Is your insurance company accessible during non-business hours? Can you speak with a person and not a recording?

* In terms of your home owners insurance, you should have documentation for all antiques, original paintings and rare collectibles such as coins, stamps, etc. They should also be kept in a fire/water proof safe if not in a safe deposit box.

* Take pictures of everything in your house and pictures of your house itself with your camera or cell phone. If you can also video tape all rooms in your home to include the floors and ceilings. This can help go a long way in documenting what you have and helping you remember what you have. Please note: keep your camera, video recorder or cell phone in a safe deposit box in the event of fire or theft. This way your documentation and records will be safe.

* Remember that the value of a thing will decrease over time. For example, if you purchased a stainless steel side by side refrigerator for $1,500.00 five years ago, the value for it today will be lower. This means your insurance company most likely will only pay what it's worth today. This is something to ask your agent about.

* Does your insurance cover natural disasters such as earthquakes, floods or hurricanes? Last year in the DMV area we experienced an earthquake in August, followed by a hurricane in September. (DMV= D.C., Maryland and Virginia) If you do have coverage, check your deductible.

* Does your home owner's insurance cover you if you are visiting or vacationing in another state or in another country in case of theft or natural disaster? 

* In the event that you ever need to make a claim due to fire or any damage to your home, most likely a claim adjuster will be on the scene. A public adjuster can be beneficial for the policy holder when negotiating a settlement with insurance company. Please note: a claim adjuster investigates the insurance claim by looking at the property, speaking with witnesses and police, looking at hospital records, along with other duties they determine the amount of money to cover damages and repairs. Keep in mind that some adjusters work on behalf of the insurance company.

These are just a few points for consideration. Again speak with your agent to make sure you are getting the best bang for your buck! Know what you have in terms of coverage. Make sure to take your pictures or video and keep them safe in a deposit box and keep copies of all insurance policies in a fire/water proof safe.

Remember: "True empowerment comes through stewardship!"

Friday, May 18, 2012

Financial literacy for children

Should we teach our children about money? Absolutely! The real question is: What should we be teaching our children about money? One post can't possibly cover this subject, however, it can get the ball rolling. 

Like anything else the younger we start the better off we are. I wish I had learned about money/finances as a kid. Most likely, I would have avoided many mistakes as an adult. So with such a broad topic, where do we begin?

After teaching your child how to count money. One very simple action to start with, is to teach children how to divide their money. Anytime money is given for birthdays, holidays, allowances etc. children should designate money to save, spend, and give. These three things are easy to remember and are great habits to start at a young age.


* Save money- Take a percentage and deposit in a piggy bank or bank account. Allow your child to put the money in the piggy bank, this is good hands on and very exciting. Make sure your child goes with you to make the deposit and see you fill out the deposit slip. Make a big deal about it! Let your child know that it's fun to save money.

* Spend money- This is called "paying yourself first" in the adult world. Children should know that it's OK to spend a designated amount of money on yourself. This can lead to great teaching time about sells, percentages, addition and subtraction. They should know that money is made to be enjoyed, after they save some of it.

* Give money- Giving has to be taught, just like sharing. Children are to be taught how to give and help others. Giving is a form of gratitude. There are many people less fortunate and by giving we are helping them and helping our children learn how to think of others.

As children begin to read, we can teach them financial vocabulary. While this list is a partial one, again it can get things started in the right direction.

Here are a few vocabulary words we can teach our children about: currency, asset, liability, capital gain, tax rate, net income/profit, gross income, passive income, revenue, equity, appreciation, depreciation, globalization, intellectual property, real estate, real property, stocks, interest, vesting, entrepreneurship, dividends, percentage, savings, money market, income bracket, bonds, bank, budget, debit, credit.

Again, this list is only a start. There are many good books to invest in for our children. Good habits start now while children are young enough to practice and learn. They will thank you later when they become responsible adults with their money.

Being a good steward involves investing in our children or other children if you don't have any of your own. Teach this to your nieces, nephews, sisters, brothers etc. Of course this should be done with the permission of the parent or guardian.

Children are fast learners and learning about money can be and should be fun!

Remember. "True empowerment comes through stewardship!"

Friday, May 11, 2012

Student loans???

I recently had a gentleman ask my opinion about student loans. He had read my book and was curious about what I thought.

I explained to him that while I'm not totally opposed to students loans, I truly believe there are better alternatives. Many would agree that investing in education is one of the best investments one can make. I agree with this notion but there are ways to avoid debt so early in life, of course this might be a controversial subject. Here we go!

On May 5th of this year, I spent a total of 10 hours on the road going back and forth to Penn State. My eldest son graduated and boy was it a great feeling!  Lots of excitement and cheer! As I sat there watching during the ceremony, I looked at all of the young people seated. I wondered how many of them were starting out in life with accumulated student loan debt and credit card debt. When my daughter graduated from Temple University five years ago, I wondered the same thing. She has student debt that she is now paying...I wonder if she's reading this blog?

So what is my take on student loans? Well, here is what I suggest. Get as many grants and scholarships as possible. Between academic and sports scholarships students can get a free ride, if they focus early on in high school. With the economy being the way it is, it's not so easy for parents to save for college as it was in previous times. Now a student has to enter high school with a determination to get scholarship money to attend college on any level.

When you graduate the only college that matters is where you get your diploma from. With that being said, a student can attend a community college for the first two years or so and then transfer to a University or college of choice. Of course you must take classes that are transferable to your targeted University, there is help for this at the community college level, however, you must exercise due diligence. Community colleges are a fraction of the cost of Universities, I know because I attended one. I feel it served me well and I worked while I attended.

Speaking of work, another alternative is to work full or part time while attending college. This will allow a student to pay as he/she goes and graduate debt free, minus the loss of sleep and a social life.

Student loans are not the end of the world, however, they can be avoided with proper planning. I know of students who graduated with $40k plus in student loan debt and got caught up in credit card debt in order to subsidize their student loans. For some paying back student loans will take a lifetime.

Pursue your dreams of college, just make sure to count the cost and explore all options while making your dream come true. 

I welcome any comments.


Remember. "True empowerment comes through stewardship" 

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

How to track your spending


Tracking your spending can be fun and enlightening. You would be surprised to see how you spend your money on a monthly or daily basis. 

The point to tracking your spending is to see how to adjust your budget or to plan a budget if you have not already. How much money are you spending on the following?

* food                                             * auto maintenance
* entertainment                              * gasoline
* misc                                             * cell phone minutes
* eating out                                    * hobbies
* movie rental                                * gifts
* doctor co-pays                            * books/magazines
* pampers                                       * alcohol
* clothing/shoes                             * tobacco


Now you can find out. For tracking monthly spending just get a box. It can be an old tissue box, or shoe box any type of box will do. Mark your box with the month and year. Place the box somewhere convenient where you will always see it.

As you come and go, drop all receipts in the box. No matter how small the purchase, save the receipt. When the month is over, sort your receipts, add them up. Viola! Now you can see where your money went that month, and make adjustments to your budget if need be.

You can also keep a spending journal for a day. I have posted an example of my spending journal for this past Sunday below. As you can see, I didn't spend much. Usually, Sundays are spent at home for the most part.

You can pick any day to do this exercise and it can be done a couple of ways. The first way you can keep your journal is by writing down everything you spend as soon as you spend it. Purchase a small writing pad and keep it on hand, jot down what you spend as well as the amount spent. This should include purchases made with cash, checks and debit/credit cards.

The next way you can keep your spending journal is by keeping all of your receipts from a designated day. At the end of the day add up all of your purchases and the amount spent.

It is very is important that you count every single purchase, no matter how small, these add up. By seeing your purchases in writing, you will be able to determine how and where you are investing your finances.

This is a great exercise to try. Is anyone willing to give it a shot and share what you found? Hope to hear from you.

Remember. "True empowerment  comes through stewardship"






Thursday, May 3, 2012

Perception?

What is perception? Simply put, perception is how you view something or someone. Is perception different from fact? What does all of this have to do with stewardship anyway? And maybe you are wondering why there is a picture of a chandelier on a blog about stewardship? Well, I love analogies, metaphors and good stories that bring home a point. So today I'm going to use my dining room chandelier to bring home a point about perception. Over 2 years ago I purchased my chandelier. I had been eye balling this chandelier for almost a year waiting for the right time and extra money. Finally, right before December, the price dropped 50%, of course this was my Christmas gift to myself from myself.

I loved this chandelier and it was as beautiful in person as it was online. My husband installed it and after about a year he mentioned to me that it needed to be cleaned. I looked at it as I did everyday and did not notice anything. In fact, to me, the chandelier looked just as good and shiny as it did the day he put it up. I did not think about it again, after all who has time to clean a chandelier, especially if it was not dirty. 
One day I was just curious, so I took a clean, wet, cloth and put a little soap on it and cleaned one crystal. To my surprise, the crystal was dusty! Not only was it dusty but it was dull and had grime. I could not believe my eyes...how did my beautiful chandelier look like this? 

So what is my point? My husband told me the chandelier needed to be cleaned, however, I looked at it and my perception was that it still looked new and as shiny as it did a year ago. It was not until I actually investigated myself and found the facts. The facts were that the chandelier was dusty and dull and in need of serious cleaning. Of course I had to clean each crystal one at a time, and as you can see, it was a lot of crystals. It was then that I saw the big difference between the clean ones and the dusty ones. Finally, my chandelier looked shiny and beautiful again.

I used my chandelier because often times we don't really see things the way they are, but rather see them the way we think they should be or used to be. When was the last time you took a good look at your stewardship? How are you handling your bills, creditors? Are you using your money wisely? A good way to match perception with facts is to look at your checkbook or account balance. Look at your bill statements. Look at your receipts. What do all of these say? Instead of assuming, sit down and take a good look at how you're spending your finances and what you have to show for it. Are you ruling your money or is it ruling you?

Stewardship requires you to look at your finances and see the facts. Once you see the facts, you can move forward in the right direction and if need be, start cleaning things up. Just like the crystals, take it one at a time. Take a good, hard look, you never know what you'll find!

Next: How to track your spending. (Accountability)

Remember. "True empowerment comes through stewardship"    

Friday, April 27, 2012

The beauty of simplicity (for couples)

Today's economy is a perfect opportunity for couple's to discover ways to live more by spending less. Many of us have directly or indirectly been affected by downsizing, cut backs or layoffs. But that's OK, there are strategies to help with this.

As couple's seek to get more bang for their buck, there are still ways we can connect on the cheap. Here are ten examples of things couple's can still do on a tight, shoe string budget.

*Borrow free movies from the library
*Take walks together outside
*Share one entre' at your favorite restaurant
*Go out for dessert only
*Cuddle up and read a book together
*Discuss your dreams for the future
*Re-arrange your furniture and fixtures together for a new look
*Check your local paper and activity guide for free community events
*Sit down together and write out 5 goals and discuss how to implement them
*Attend church together

Theses are just a few suggestions to get you started. While we continue to make the necessary adjustments in life, it is important to maintain a heart of thankfulness and a spirit of generosity. Spend quality time reflecting on the good things and blessings in life. We all have something to be thankful for. Once you start counting your blessings, you may not be able to stop! I find it to be true that the best things in life really are free.

Last but not least, as we seek to simplify our lives, let's remember to give. There are unlimited creative ways to give time to your community. I'm sure there are many places that can use your talents and skills to help someone in need. There are numerous ways to give of yourself that don't include money. Maybe you can give your spouse a break from the children or from cleaning the house for a day. Why not give up those old clothes you don't wear anymore? They can become someones treasure and free up space in a closet or drawer. De-cluttering is a great way to give and simplify at the same time. Giving is very liberating and when you give, you receive so much more in return.

If we seize the moment and allow our creativity to blossom by cutting cost, maintaining a thankful attitude, and being generous, we will find ourselves living richer and fuller lives. Then we can truly understand living in the beauty of simplicity.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this.

Remember. "True empowerment comes through stewardship"

My Space

Hi everyone, thanks again for joining me. The last time we talked about organizing bills now let's take a peep into office space or whatever area used to pay the bills.  I take the ritual of paying my bills very seriously, here is a picture of my desk. This is what I call "my space" this is where it all happens!   Wherever your bill paying space is, it should be a place that makes bill paying time more efficient and should help keep you organized for the most part. This is all a part of stewardship.    When I pay my bills I always have the following ready to go: the checkbooks, monthly bill folder, my computer, stamps, address labels, calculator, pen/pencil, envelopes and a stapler.   I have two checkbooks because different bills are paid from different accounts. My bill folder keeps my bills organized as well as lets me know our monthly budget. Ninety five percent of my bills are paid online, so a computer is a must for me. I love my address labels, a small thing but very efficient. I don't have to waste time writing my name and address over and over, just peel and presto. The calculator allows me to keep a record of how much is being spent monthly. Always have pencils/pens handy, to mark bills paid or make any other notes when calling creditors. 
One more thing to note about the bill paying space. As much as I enjoy a good cup of coffee or tea, I don't drink near my laptop. I have known friends to do damage to their laptop and ruin paperwork by spilling drinks, not efficient. I hope this post has been insightful and motivating.  Can a person love to pay bills? Maybe.

*Remember, "True empowerment comes through stewardship"   

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Fun with organizing bills

I love organizing things, I love order period. Order makes life easier for me. I am going to share with you how I organize my bills every month. Part of stewardship is keeping track of what you  owe in order to pay it and pay on time. The picture shows my bill filing system. 
I have a set of hanging files for all of my bills.
All of my monthly bills are put into a folder. The folder is marked with the month and year. For example all of my bills for May of this year are in a folder marked "May 2012". My folders are filed in chronological order with the most current in the front. For the most part as soon as my bills come in, I put them into the appropriate folder, especially with the little ones around. For the bills I pay online I throw away the envelope and put the bill into my folder, this prevents paper clutter. Any bill that's paid by check I put back into the envelope in order to keep them together. I then put the bill/envelope into my bill folder to be paid.
As I pay each bill whether online or by check I mark the bill "paid". I write the amount paid and date it, for future references.
My mortgage statements are separated from my other bills. For our primary residence I use online banking so my statements are filed electronically. If I need a copy I can print a statement out. I get monthly statements for our investment property and they are kept in a separate folder. As with the other bills, I mark the amount paid and the date. These are also filed in chronological order with current statements in the front.
Each bank that we bank with has it's own folder for monthly statements filed in chronological order.
To prevent clutter and keep one active filing system I use this simple technique. I pull all of the folders at the end of the year and put them into a plastic bin with a protective top. The year is marked and the bin is put away in the storage room or any place out of sight. (Sometimes under my bed.)  
I then get all new folders and mark them for the new year, put them in the hanging file and start the process all over. If I ever need to refer back a year or so, I know I can go get my bin and retrieve any information I need.
This past winter I was glad that I could go and pull out last years electric bills. My bills were running much higher than last year, I thought it was a mistake. I called the electric company with my last years winter bills in my hand in order to compare. Turns out the company had a 64% increase or something close to that. Even though my bills remained high I was glad that I was able to talk from a point of knowledge with facts in my hand. When I finished my conversation I quickly put my bills back into the folders and into the bin, safe and sound. Being organized can bring a sense of peace. Hope you enjoyed this post, I enjoyed sharing.
Stay tuned for the next post about the "bill paying station".

Remember: "True empowerment comes through stewardship"

Monday, April 23, 2012

My Story

The path to stewardship has been one of trial and many errors over the years. Whatever financial mistakes could be made, I made them. Through this experience I have, however, learned the importance of teaching financial literacy to children from the very beginning.  

While I don't claim to know it all, I am convinced that because of my many mistakes I have a story to share. I have filed bankruptcy, chapters seven and thirteen within two years of each other. I have lost a home to foreclosure and had my car repossessed. My credit score has plummeted to under 500. I have experienced what it feels like to live pay check to pay check as well as watched my checking account reach a whooping (negative $800). Not a pretty sight! I could go on and on about my previous financial disasters, but I'm sure you get the picture.

During this time I assumed the role of a victim.  I was a christian, a church leader and I even tithed most of the time but I could not stop this downward spiral into the financial black hole.

There were two reasons I continued down this destructive path. Number one, I was ignorant to the principles of stewardship. Hosea 4:6 "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge..." Number two, I had no vision beyond where I was at the time. I did not want anything bad enough. Proverbs 29:18 "Where there is no revelation the people cast off restraint. But happy is he who keeps the law."

Finally one day it was impressed upon me to start studying the book of Proverbs. This one act changed my life forever!

Today my life is finally in financial order. My husband and I have a home and investment real estate. We own our RV free and clear. My bills are paid on time. I carry a couple of very small balances on credit cards. We are practicing good stewardship and life is far better than before.

My story compels me to teach with passion as I see people in the same boat that I was in. I understand how powerless it feels when someone is taking away your car, right in front of you. I sat in the middle of the floor and shed tears as I packed boxes to leave the place I called home because of foreclosure.

Now I know it does not have to be this way. Not to say that we will never experience hardship, however, there is a better way and if we follow the principles already mapped out we can be victors not victims.

Through blogging, writing and seminars I hope to impart stewardship principles that will make life changing impact to all hearers and readers.

May God grant you wisdom, knowledge and understanding. Be empowered for the journey ahead!

*Suggested reading: Proverbs 22

Remember: "True empowerment comes through stewardship"