7 Reminders for the Holiday Season

Merry Christmas 2013

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It’s almost here. I can sense it can’t be stopped. I see it on streets, on retail establishments everywhere. I see it in some of my neighbors’ houses who have defied our HOA rules and couldn’t wait to turn their decorative lights on.

I see it in some of my Facebook friends proudly declaring that they will listen to the music now just because they can and because they want to do it :-).

Yes, we are not through with Thanksgiving yet and everyone seems ready to jump into the Christmas season.

In one way it’s a good thing. People are ready to celebrate and enjoy the festivities. I know it’s my favorite time of the year. I definitely love the Christmas holiday.

But I want you and me to be very careful so we can truly enjoy the season. We don’t want it to turn into a nightmare of stress and just more things.

And by the way, I am writing this post for myself as much as for anyone else. Here are my 7 Reminders for the Holiday Season:

  1. Spend time with family. They need you and you need them more than you need one more gift.
  2. Get involved. While there are needs around us every day, they seem to be magnified during the holiday season. Find a soup kitchen, a food pantry and donate some of your time. Take time to clean the closet and donate some clothes you no longer need. Bake some cookies and take them to your neighbors or coworkers.
  3. Give. Get involved with the many efforts available to help those in need during this season. Here are three of my favorite ministries:
  4. Stay on budget for Christmas. Make a list, take your time, and use cash. If you don’t have the money, don’t buy it. Don’t go deeper into debt just because it’s Christmas.
  5. Rest. Don’t let the holiday season stress you out so you need a vacation after the Christmas vacation. Take time to pause and do “nothing”. Naps are good for you!
  6. Relax. It’s ok to eat a little more on Thanksgiving. Have a Christmas cookie. Yes, it’s ok to have a Peppermint Mocha @ Starbucks. You can always get back to “normal” in January. Take time to watch a Christmas classic. Here are four of my favorite ones:
  7. Worship. Remember the reason for the season. It’s not more stuff and it’s not you or me. It’s Him. Go to church! You will be glad you did.

“Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which translated means, “God with us.”
Matthew 1:23

Question: What advice do you have for enjoying the holiday season?

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What if I don’t really have enough money to pay my bills?

What if I don't really have enough money to pay my bills?

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Have you ever been in that situation? I mean, you have worked on your budget, you have looked at every possible way to cut expenses.

And yet, you still don’t have enough money coming in this month to cover all the bills.

So what do you do? Of course one way to work on this is by increasing your income by working overtime or by taking a second job temporarily. But that may take a little while to setup and you still have to deal with this month.

As my mom would say, you have to find a way of stretching your dollar. So here are some reminders to help you deal with the challenge.

1. Remember to Protect the Four Walls

When your income is limited, prioritizing your spending becomes more critical. And you should always focus on protecting the four walls first.

What are the four walls? These are food, shelter/utilities, transportation, and clothing.

When there is food on the table and a roof over your head you can continue fighting. If the car payments are up to date and you have enough to fill up the tank, you can get to work and increase that income. And it’s a good thing to have basic clothing needs covered.

Money might still be tight but you can live to fight another day because the fundamental, basic needs are covered.

2. What about My Debts?

Let’s say that you have enough income coming in for the basic needs. But you might not have enough to cover all the minimum payments on all your debts.

One option of course is to prioritize your debts and spend your disposable income until you run out of money. This means that someone you owe won’t get paid this month.

For example, let’s say that after all your basic needs are covered you have $400 left in disposable income but the sum of all your minimum payments exceed that amount.

Here is the scenario:

Limited Income w/Current Monthly Payments

In this scenario, you have a monthly deficit of $373. You can only cover the first four payments on the list and partially the payment for the Master Card. Visa it’s below the line and gets nothing (actually, that’s an ideal scenario but that’s a topic for another post).

However, another option is to use a “Pro Rata” approach. In this scenario you budget your disposable income and every creditor gets a portion of it according to what percentage of your overall debt they represent:

Modified Payment Plan with Pro Rata Approach

Here, we have determined what percentage of the total debt each debt represents. We use that percentage figure, and apply it to your disposable income so every creditor gets a monthly payment.

Now it’s possible that they might complain and call about you not making the minimum monthly payment, but they will cash the check.

And remember, this is just a temporary measure while you increase your income. Eventually you will pay every debt on your list and you will move on to bigger and better things with your money.

3. What about Giving?

This is always a great question for dealing with our finances. I always advise to put giving as the first line on your budget.

But sometimes money is tight and you want to give but you don’t see how you can. Let me just remind you of a couple of things as way of encouragement.

First, giving should be a priority not because it’s an obligation but because it’s good for you. No one should give out of guilt or because it’s a rule. There is joy in giving and the amount is not important.

Second, you should only give as you have purposed in your heart. Yes, God loves a cheerful giver, but He also only wants what you have decided from a willing heart (2 Corinthians 9:6-8).

With Him, the condition of our hearts is what matters more than our external actions. If our hearts are in the right place, the right actions will follow.

Question: What other ideas do you have on stretching your income to meet your budget needs?

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The Secret of Contentment

Heart Full of Thanksgiving

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Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,”
Hebrews 13:5

Are you content? One definition of contentment is “the state of being happy and satisfied”. So do you have it? I am asking myself that very question. The Scripture verse above makes it a commandment for us.

We are now in November and this month brings a great challenge to our contentment. This is the month where in the U.S. we celebrate the great Thanksgiving Holiday.

The idea of course is to take a moment and pause to give thanks for all of God’s blessings. But, like with every holiday, the original purpose can be overshadowed if we are not careful.

We typically gather with family and have a great meal with so many great dishes. The first challenge is being able to say “I have had enough”. Since all the food is usually so good, that’s extremely hard.

However, November has also become the month where on “Black Friday” we kick-off the Christmas holiday season with a mad dash to get “great deals” on all those great gifts we want to give to our friends and family (and of course ourselves :-)).

There is always a temptation for us to want more and more things. So how do you and I resist that temptation?

The Secret

I believe the secret of contentment is a thankful heart. A heart that says: “I shall not want“. A heart that is satisfied with what we already have. When we are thankful, we can resist the urge to have more and more things.

Don’t get me wrong, having things is not bad. I want you to be wildly successful with your finances, but I don’t want any worldly possessions to become the priority for you and me.

So what are you thankful for? My list looks something like this:

  • A loving heavenly Father that knows me and provided the Way for me to know Him. He delivered me from darkness and sin. In Christ, I have joy, peace, love, and the hope of eternal glory.
  • God has blessed me with a beautiful wife who has been my best friend and greatest fan for over 10 years.
  • A family that loves me and cares for me.
  • I also have a very good job that allows me to use my skills and to take care of my family. For over 20 years, my job has given me the opportunity to interact with some great people from all over the world.
  • Finally, I am in very good health. What more could a man ask for?

 

The Example of Thanksgiving

I do believe you can always have a thankful heart. Let me try to show you with one of my favorite Bible stories (from 2 Kings 7).

In the days of the divided Jewish kingdom, the Northern kingdom of Israel was at war with the Arameans. The people of Israel were under siege and without access to food. They were in desperate need and ready to give in and die.

God’s prophet Elisha had promised deliverance but as usual the people did not believe God. And here is where my heroes for the story come through. There were 4 lepers that were sitting at the city gate in Jerusalem.

These men, already excluded from society because of their condition, decided to take their chances and go to the camp of the Arameans to beg for food and mercy. In their own eyes, they were already dead anyway.

When they arrived at that camp, they realized that God had indeed delivered His people again. During the night He caused the Arameans to flee, leaving all of their provisions behind.

For these four men, their first reaction was a normal one. They looked to take care of their own needs first. They took items and food for themselves and hid them. They did that a couple of times until they realized their mistake.

They realized that they needed to share the good news of deliverance and the provisions with the rest of the people. When they did, it was indeed a time of rejoicing for everyone.

The Lessons of Thanksgiving

What are the thanksgiving lessons from this story?

  • God will always come through and will provide for His people. Even when we lack the faith to believe Him. He is the Great Provider (Gen 22:14).
  • Regardless of your current situation, you can always see God’s hand in your life and be thankful. He is the Good Shepherd (Psalms 23:1).
  • Understanding that you have enough will lead you to share with others who are in need. The result of a thankful heart is a lifestyle of generosity that emulates the Great Giver (2 Corinthians 8:9).

As we go through this Thanksgiving month, we can remember to be thankful every day (I Thessalonians 5:16-18). And since we are thankful and content, we can now turn our attention to others.

Let’s think of someone who needs to share in our blessings. Someone who needs a word of encouragement, a bag of groceries, or a helpful hand to accomplish a task.

They are all around us and they all need good news. Let’s make sure you and I are involved in the process of sharing the many blessings God has given us.

Question: How content are you with what you have today?

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