Personal Finance Tips

by Steve Willweber

The following are some bits and pieces of advice that I have found helpful. Use what helps. Feel free to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. about any of them.

1.    Know where the money goes.

When a person finds out where his money is going, he finds out what his priorities are. Sometimes, he doesn’t like those priorities. He may find that he doesn’t value going out to eat so much that it’s worth the $2000 he spent on it last year.

Keep those receipts. Record those expenses. This is vital!

Microsoft Money or Quicken is invaluable for this. Or just use a notebook.

2.    Tithe 10% of your income

A person will find that this has a tremendous domino effect in her life. When she gives the first 10% of her income, quite a few financial benefits follow. She realizes there’s more to her life than herself, that God provides all good things, that what she thought was important turned out to be not-so-important, and that prioritizing and budgeting can really free up money.

3.    Think of yourself in the third person

A person can often see another’s shortcomings easier than his own. This is why I’m writing in this strange style. When looking at your money decisions, talk about what “he” is doing with “his” money or why “she” is spending “her” money that way.

But I’m going first person now.

4.    Nickles and Dimes add up

Sure it’s only $5 or $20 or $150. But that $40/mo TV bill adds up to $14,400 in 30 years. Was it worth it? Invested with a 10% return, that $40/mo would be $90,000. The same is true if you add up all those little purchases that you think nothing of: eating out, snacks, Starbucks, toys, trips to San Luis Obispo.

5.    Convenience is expensive

We run at such a hectic pace, we’re often willing to pay for convenience. Fast food and conveniently packaged products are not just fattening. They’re expensive.

One couple discovered that their spending increased by more than the wife earned at her job. They added up all the extra gas, restaurant bills, convenience products, work clothes, child care, etc. It was more than she made in a year!

6.    the 10-10-80 rule

Give 10% to God.

Give 10% for your retirement.

Give 80% for caring for those God has placed in your life.

7.    Credit Cards

I love credit cards. I’d pay for everything on credit if I could. But I’ve also never left a balance. The only worse way to borrow money is from that guy who will break your legs if you don’t pay.

I highly recommend that you pay off your credit cards each month, or tear them up.

8.    How to pay off credit card debt

a.       Stop using your credit card for purchases! I’ll hold onto them for you, if needed.

b.      Pay the minimums on all cards every month without fail, and on time.

c.       On the card with the smallest debt, pay a regular and additional amount each month, whatever you can work into your budget. For example, the minium $10 plus an extra $25.

d.      When you pay that card off, pay the $10 minimum from that card plus the $25 extra and apply that $35 to the next smallest debt.

e.       Repeat until all cards are paid off.

f.       Stop borrowing money.

9.    Debt

Debt is a killer. I can only think of two legitimate reasons to borrow money. (1) to buy a roof over your head; and (2) to improve your income, such as with education or with tools you need for the job.

Americans are really bad at this. It’s far too easy to spend future income, before it’s in your pocket. You get a little now. But you sacrifice more than you can know later. And you saddle yourself with an extra monthly expense that takes huge bites out of your income.

10.                       Gifts, Christmas, etc.

Christmas is the time of year for people to buy what few really need, with money they do not have, to give to people who already have more than enough.

And isn’t that true of most gift giving? Be creative with your gifts. Give your time. Give donations in the person’s name. The people we love are more valuable than the gifts.

11.                       Fun doesn’t have to be expensive

Be creative. There are millions of things to do that cost little or nothing. (Don’t ask me for ideas, though, because I wouldn’t leave my house if I didn’t have to.)

12.                       Get a good financial advisor

I’ve always valued Thrivent. We also have a financial advisor in our congregation. See here for more info.

13.                       Couples: Agree or don’t spend it

For the sake of your marriage and financial health, do not spend one dime without the permission of your spouse. Just don’t play games. Remember, you love and value this person.

There is one exception to the “agree” rule, and that is agreeing on a…

14.                       Couples’ Slush Funds

Each couple should agree on a slush fund for each spouse. Whether it’s $5/month or more, base it on your budget. This prevents arguments. If I want to spend money on something my wife doesn’t agree with, I can go ahead and do it, up to the amount in the slush fund.

15.                       Finally…

Remember that God is the giver of every good gift (James 1:17). I’m continually amazed at the stories I hear. When people put God first, God provides in ways that are beyond our imagination.

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