Thursday, February 3, 2011

Being a Good Steward with EVERYTHING!

***WARNING: long and challenging post...get comfy and read on!***

I think so often, we forget that even in our hardest times, we are truly blessed. We have a roof over our head, we have food, more than one meal a day, we have clothes to wear, friends and family who love us--even when it feels like they don't sometimes, and GOD on OUR side! Although I often see people, myself included, taking everything for granted and not using their resources wisely--whether it's finances, time or talents to help others, share God with others and even at the most basic level, improve our own lives so we can better share the love and gospel of Jesus.

[I was thinking about posting on this topic for a while but was encouraged even more after watching an encounter with the man at the gym who dropped $20 to workout for the day at 4pm in the afternoon while staying at a hotel with a workout facility and a pool just across the street.-Another version of my thought process at the end of the finances section. Be sure to read for a GOOD laugh!]

Finances:

Finances/money is a sore subject for many people. When it comes to finances, we are always wanting more money than what we have. We say, "if only I had a little more money...I could send it to that missionary or I could support that student's endeavors". The reality is that many of us make enough money to cover our needs and oftentimes, our wants. Over the past month (and for the rest of the year), I have created a budget using a worksheet that I found here. I also listed out renewals and expenses (with approx. $$$ amounts) by month such as professional organizations, warranties, automobile routine expenses (oil changes, etc...), license/license plate renewals, dentist, etc...There are many more templates that may fit your life better than the one I use (find them here). I only used credit and debit cards (would not suggest if you don't keep a check on it every couple of days) for purchases so I could see where my money was going and if I spent any cash--it was from gift money. I put all of my paycheck $$$ in my checking account and balanced my checkbook a couple times throughout the month. Any money made babysitting or housesitting/dogsitting was cashed and put in a separate envelope. The envelope is currently full of my 'extra' cash. I haven't quite decided what I'm going to do with it yet although I have some ideas, I know that I want to use it to further the Kingdom and impact the lives of others. I also plan to use some of it throughout the year to plan for the future... One thing I've also learned is that even as careful as I tend to be with my finances, I can still do everything I need and want to do without spending my extra income. Another thing this helps to do is curve impulse buying. As I am contemplating a "FUN" purchase, I ask myself if it is worth breaking my budget and if it's something that I feel is worth spending my HARD-EARNED cash on.  
 
A couple things to help ensure success (or at least baby steps to it) on this financial journey:
~Write down every $1 spent (even that $ for vending machines or gifts)--I used my planner/calendar. I also noted any 'extra' money I earned.
~Keep ALL receipts in ONE place. I have a little rectangular bin (used normally for small plants) that I bought at the $ store. It sits on my desk yet is stylish.
~Be aware of how much you've used of your gas, food, entertainment/hobbie budgets...those are the three that will kill any budget.
~On the first day of the next month, enter all income and money spent into the worksheet.
~For your birthday month and December, budget a reasonable amount for your own "birthday and Christmas gifts". My birthday and Christmas happen to be in the same month so I use all the 'extra cash' I earn in the last half of November and in December (often less than other months) and use it to spend time with friends, buy myself little 'gifts' or for whatever came about that I wanted to spend it on. (I still have a good majority of it and am deciding between a few options of what to do with it.)
~Budget in fun money: I knew that every Sunday I would be having Qdoba since I didn't want to cook after a long morning at church (I counted it as part of my grocery budget) and some money for crafts, etc...
~Use coupons and LOOK at the sales ads (mainly for groceries but also for many other stores such as Michael's and Jo-Ann's for my crafty friends and teachers you can get discounts at LOTS of places so always ask if there is a teacher discount)...you'd be amazed at what 15 minutes of coupon clipping, looking at ads and making a list can do BEFORE you go to the store and how much you save AT the store! When possible, buy the cheapest brand...sometimes they are better than the "NAME BRANDS".
 
For Christmas of 2010, I used a binder and ALL cash system. For any presents or for supplies to make presents (since I like to be crafty like that), I only used cash. I listed out WHO I needed to buy for, HOW MUCH I expected to spend, and any IDEAS I had on presents for each of those people and their approximate costs. [Also, in my family, sometimes we pick out a gift for ourselves or or pick up a gift for someone else that someone else is paying for and so I take note of that money spent and set a date for that money to be repaid.] I house sat for a family for a week and cashed the check, put all the cash in an envelope and used only that money for Christmas presents. It was $400--You could do the same or save a certain $ amount each money as a part of your budget or find some other way to save up. Now, I know that may seem like a lot for some of you and very little for others. So many times I was tempted to get this "cool" thing for someone but then I thought about my budget and what that person meant to me. It was wise for me to make something for that person that would show I cared but not break the bank. I work with a lot of people and I wanted to show them I cared so for each of them, I bought a $1 mug at WalMart, used remnant fabrics squares to sew a coaster (about $1), and threw in a packet of hot chocolate or apple cider for each person (10-25 cents each), and then used paper lunch bags stamped with snowflakes as my wrapping with a little ribbon and a handmade tag to wrap it (about $1 with all the supplies needed). So for about $3.25 each, I was able to show many people that I cared without breaking the bank. I ended up with lots of supplies/tools for future projects so it will be even more economical in the long run. In the end, I only spent $350 of my cash, I still wanted to use the remaining $50 to bless someone. I immediately thought of a couple ideas and just the right timing. February is actually going to be when I will bless this person with the extra $50. I didn't feel the timing was right at the start of the new year but now I know it's right. This binder and process of using cash helps avoid the stress of paying all those bills in January into February and perhaps throughout the WHOLE following year! Talk about a NEW YEAR feeling!
 
I know that this is not an automatic process for some, it will make others break habits that were formed long ago, and it will take time to learn and improve. I know that this month I blew my grocery budget but I bought many staples in large quantities that will carry me through February and March so I won't spend as much during those months and actually come in under budget. Find some friends, that are trustworthy to keep you accountable and to help you along the way. DON'T BEAT YOURSELF UP if you mess up...that is the quickest way to sabotage this new 'habit'.

(My sassy and slightly judgemental side--yes, I have one--comes out in this version of the man at the gym. OOPS!)
Last week as I was renewing my membership at the gym, a man walked in and asked how much it would be for a one day pass to workout. He was staying at the hotel across the street...one I was pretty sure had a workout facility and after looking it up online...it does..a nice one to boot!!!! So the girl at the desk proceeded to tell him it would be $20 for today only...it was already almost 4pm. He said, "Ok, I'll probably come twice anyways." In my mind I'm thinking, "WHOA! Hold the phone here man! You are about to spend $20 to work out when you are staying in a hotel where there is a workout facility (at no extra charge to you) and pool? AND...you are coming twice in the next 8 hours????" Furthermore, "You are going to pay $10 to workout each time? Shoot...take the stairs to your hotel room after you use the free weights and cardio equipment in the hotel and maybe swim a few laps while you are at it!" I just couldn't get past the fact that he was dropping $20 like that...and I'm pretty sure the girl at the desk was just as surprised as I was by the way she told him it would expire at midnight!

Time: “They say that time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself” ~Andy Warhol

Using our time wisely is a chronic problem for most people. We say, "I didn't have enough time" or "I don't have enough time" or "When do you want me to that TOO?" To be successful in time management and effective use of time it takes LOTS of planning, effort and discipline. I am,, by nature, a planner and am fairly organized but I STILL have trouble using my time wisely...common intruders on my time management: Facebook, email, blogging--lol, SLEEP, stress, other people's "emergencies", emotional turmoil, YouTube, looking for things that I forgot to put back in their home, trying to multi-task when I shouldn't, sorting through things I don't really need, catching up from poor time usage and so much more...

Some tips to help become a succesful time manager and user:
~Spend time with God in whatever way fits your lifestyle and schedule. (I'm guessing if you take any of these tips, you will find more available time for this.)
~Create daily/weekly/monthly routines for personal health and rejuvenation as well as responsbilities around the house (a couple things or a room each day plus a 15 min. 'sweep' before bed)
~Set a time or a couple of times to pay bills and make important phone calls.
~Make lists for long- and short-term projects. (I'm and AVID list maker...because otherwise I forget everything!)
~Pick up the kitchen and bathroom before bed.
~For larger projects, choose a day or chunk of time in which to accomplish them (or specific chunks to do along the way) and the date by which you would like to accomplish them. You may also have to complete certain things before the larger project can be completed so be sure those are done ahead of your final large project. Use a reasonable timeline or you will sabotage yourself!
~If you live with others, work as a TEAM for larger, more menacing projects and DELEGATE tasks for those everyday things that others can assist you with and watch your TO-DO list shrink! :)
~If you live alone, invite friends/family over, CRANK the tunes and tackle all your projects together (don't forget to laugh). Then at the end of the day or chunk of time, order pizza and and watch a movie together! [**Be sure to offer the same favor to those same friends...otherwise you will be 'using' them! This is VITAL!]
~Find someone to keep you accountable and ask how you are doing with the routines and the goals for completing both small and large projects.
~Don't play catch up unless its completely necessary...do what you can NOW! Sometimes we put things off that end up causing us extra stress when if we did it when we thought of it, we wouldn't have to worry. I learned this the hard way!
~SIMPLIFY your life...this will be a whole other post but basically take stock of where your time is going and if it isn't necessary while you try to get life together, get rid of it and only add it back in, IF and WHEN you feel like you have time or can do it without compromising what other things God has for you!
~Reward yourself when you complete tasks that require extra effort...just don't spend lots of your $$$ or eat a gallon of ice cream because then you'll have more problems on your hands! ;)

The effects of poor time management and usage often affect not only you but those around you. For example, if you promise your kids in January that you will create them a kids' only space in the basement where they can hang out with their friends by the end of the school year (late May/early June) and the next January rolls around and there is no space, your children will soon lose faith that you will actually do it. [Disclaimer: If financial or other emergencies occur, you need to explain that to them and ask for an 'extension'...kinda like kids want to do with teachers when they fail to complete that big research paper they have known about ALL semester!!! :)]If chores or responsibilities are not delegated or clearly assigned, it can cause hard feelings between those living under the same roof or even within the family. If you are having issues regarding the clarity of assigned responsibilities, have a talk...don't let it fester or things just get WORSE!

If you live with someone with a very different about of available "free work time" than yourself, such as a stay-at-home mom, the disabled, or the elderly, find ways to divide responsibilities amongst each member of the home but be respectful of their time too if you are seeking assistance. Don't assume they have the time but rather ask if they have time to help you with this or that. The dividing of responsibilities may allow them to have more time to help you. Finally, if you wish to delegate tasks to others under the same roof, give them tasks where they feel successful and not ones where you have a VERY SPECIFIC way you would like it done...this just causes more pain! This will probably eventually be its own post but for now, you get what I'm trying to say.

You will find more time to spend: glorifying God, growing in your knowledge of Him, serving in the church and pointing others towards Him when you learn to manage and use your time more wisely!

“Time is the cruelest teacher; first she gives the test, then teaches the lesson.” ~Unknown

Talents:
We need to use our talents to glorify God and his Kingdom! He didn't give them to use or allow us to learn them to gratify ourselves or to gain fame, He wants them to be used to further His Kingdom and change the lives of others. It's also a way we can show others a glimpse of God's love through ourselves. We need to approach anything we do with our talents as a way to glorify God and give Him thanks and praise before we even begin. There is a couple who runs a photography business who attend my church and as I was learning and tagging along on a shoot with them, the wife told me that one of the most important things they do as they head to a shoot is to pray over their equipment, the people that are photographing and the whole shoot as well as thank God for the opportunity to capture the lives of the people they shoot. So many things can go wrong and they leave all of that in God's hands...equipment can fail, kids can be squirly, adults can be anxious and controlling and a whole host of other things.

You don't have to be a photographer, a musician or artist, you can be an encourager, a host, a friend or family member, a servant, an ear to listen, a shoulder to cry on and many other things that don't require any specific "skill set". No need to go learn something new..unless you want to and God leads you there! :)

Give God the glory for your talents and use them to glorify Him and point others towards Christ and the Cross and the fruits of your servant-like heart will be fruitfully multiplied!

Let's use our resources wisely for the glory of God and the advancement of His Kingdom here on earth one step and one day at a time!
To God be the Glory forever and ever. Amen!

1 comment:

Amber said...

This is all great stuff, Danielle! Thank you for your encouragement. We are sticking to a strict budget this year too, and it has been incredible how stress-free it is when you know exactly what you are spending!

Also, great information about how we should use our time to glorify God. Thanks again for all the encouragement. You are a blessing!