Tag Archives: blog

Wisdom With Pops: Volume 2

I recently told Pops that he isn’t as wise as he once was.

I don’t have a filter.

Daddy was a wise man.  Pops is my friend.  Maybe that’s the difference.  Same dude, different person.  I don’t know.

But I have a cool story.

I came out of college at the end of 2011 and was as broke as I’ve ever known myself to be.  I was getting married in 4 months and had to find a job immediately.

I found one three months later at Sylvan Learning Center and brought home maybe $1100/mo.

Not bad.  Smokin’ Hot Wife was working too.

I was budgeting like a mad man back then, the same as I am now except with just pencil and paper.  I made tons of mistakes.  I would spend hours trying to find out why the bank and my paper showed different numbers.

Anyway, we did not make a ton of money.  And we did not save ANY money.

If you’ve ever been in that type of situation, you might have found yourself thinking the same thoughts I was thinking:

What can I do?  –  Which means… I’ll do almost anything to make more money.  I applied for countless jobs.  Put myself in humiliating situations to ask for jobs.  Hated it.  I had a math degree, which meant nothing to an employer, and I had no idea what my thought process was to get that degree.  Which led to more questions:

What can I even qualify for?  –  Which means… what can I do with a math degree?  The answer, in case anyone is wondering, is nothing without more learning.

We couldn’t afford more learning.  It crossed my mind to go back to school, as it does most people who panic and need more money.  But my wife and I decided early that I would not go back to school if it required going into more debt.

Keep in mind, our minimum monthly payment on student loans was $442.

So the last question came:

What… can I do… that I am qualified for… that will take very little money… but just a lot of work… and time…

Turns out there was an answer to that one for me.  Actuary.

I won’t bore you, but if you want a misrepresented version of one, see Ben Stiller’s character in Along Came Polly.

There were several tests, and I needed to pass the first 2 on my own before I could find a job and continue in that field.

So I bought a book and started studying.  I studied a lot.  I knew that math too.  I could teach you the math.

I was a good student by the time I finished college.  I could learn just about anything anyone was willing to teach me, but I was not, and still am not, very good at teaching myself something and applying it to real world situations.

Same thing happened here.  I failed the first test.  After months of studying.  Months.

Talk about deflating.

By this time it was 2013 and I was 25.  Training at my new job was $12/hr, 40 hrs/week.  A slight bump from Sylvan, but only because I was working 40 hours.

I was grateful for something new, but I still wanted to be an Actuary because they do make tons of money.  Look it up.

So I found this thing… Looking back, I’m not so sure it was legit.  But it was a company who would take me on as an intern type thing, let me get actuarial training and teach me the material for the first two actuarial exams.

Catch…. I wouldn’t get paid.

Of course.

Well, obviously I couldn’t do that, but I thought we could make it work.  Smokin’ Hot Wife and I were on different pages.

Of course.

She didn’t think that moving to a different state and not having jobs was a good idea.

Of course.

It wasn’t an argument, and we weren’t angry with one another.    She was obviously right.  I just thought we could do it and that it would benefit us greatly in the long run.

So one night I called Pops.  I don’t know why.  Just felt like he was the one to call.

I think I woke him up from a nap.

Quick side note:  Chris Hogan tells a story about his grandmother.  He says that when he finished college, he had all these different options offered to him:  pursue professional football, train to become a boxer, get experience with a major corporation (or something like that, I can’t remember).  Well, his grandmother could tell he was “distraught” and asked him what was wrong.  He said that he was just trying to decide what he was going to do with his future, and he couldn’t.

She said, “Oh, that’s easy.  Forget the chances and focus on the opportunities.”

You can read the rest yourself.  I’ll make that one of the free book giveaways soon.

I gave Pops the short story of what was happening, not with Chris Hogan… with me… along the lines of, “I know I need to jump on this.  I know I can do well.  I know I can be the best.  And I know I can make a bunch of money.”

But Pops didn’t respond.  Daddy did.

Nothing is guaranteed, son.

Out of the dark, unexpected, retro Daddy-o.

Old school.

I can recall several times when words changed the course of my life:

You are forgiven.

I do.

Jett Walker Foshee.

Rhodes Evander Foshee.

If you love me, you will keep my commandments.

Nothing is guaranteed, son.

If there is a way to knock the self-imposed wisdom out of me, this was the way to do it:

Give me some actual wisdom.

Several things come to mind when I think back to those brilliant words:  the brevity of life, the finiteness of money, the uncertainty of tomorrow.

We plan and prioritize.  We think and toil.  Solomon already told us all of this is worthless, a chasing after the wind.

You ever chase the wind?  Did you catch it?

Nothing is guaranteed.

Really, this is why absolutes are dwindling in my life, and the truths are digging deeper.

I’ve heard someone say before that Pontius Pilate walked away from the greatest question ever asked:

What is truth?

Shoulda stuck around for that one, buddy.  No better person to explain it to you.

So… my point is, since nothing is guaranteed, it’s far better to live in such a way that will not result in a response like this:

“Fool!  This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?”

Talk about a counter-cultural mindset…

Do not conform.

God and Money

When Jesus said “You cannot serve both God and money” in the book of Matthew, what he actually said was “You cannot serve both God and mammon.”

According to the Textus Receptus (Wikipedia, duh) the Greek spelling of mammon refers to “a Syrian deity, god of riches.”

Before you get all “Oh yea, Jesus was talking about one of his buddies!”

“Can man make for himself gods?  Such are not gods!” – Jeremiah

The people knew mammon.  It wasn’t a strange word to them.  It is a strange word to us.

Right?  It is strange isn’t it?  You don’t use it often do you?  If so, you’re a weirdo.

It’s fine if you’re a weirdo.  I’m the weirdest person I know.  I’m just saying that if you use mammon often in your day to day speech…. it’s weird.

Anyway.  What is it?  If it obviously isn’t the god of riches.

“It is the Lord who makes rich, and our toil adds nothing to it.” – a Proverbist

Mammon is the spirit that rests on money.  And it is not a good one.  If it was a good one, Jesus would have said “Serve God and He will give to you Mammon.”

Before you stop reading due to another wacko Christian lesson, just hear out my practical teaching.

I want to explain the specific instances where I feel the pull of mammon on me and my personal life.  I have been convicted of it in the past and ignored it completely, telling myself that this is the last time or I’m not hurting anyone.

I’m going to chance some transparency and confess some personal shortcomings.  Prepare yourself for my imperfections.

Ever been to a casino?  (Oh boy).  I have.  It’s so much fun.  No clocks.  No windows.  Lots of flashy lights.  And GAMES!

Granted, the games were created to take all your money, but who cares?  Let’s play ’em!

***Quick disclaimer, my stance is not against others gambling, my stance is against ME giving in to the pull of mammon ever again.***

But I’ve been to Vegas.  I’ve gambled.  I’ve been up in money, I’ve been down in money.  And here’s a common thought that I think all conservative gamblers use (that I certainly used myself):

I have not spent more than I intended to spend.  I will not spend more than I brought to gamble.  This is my absolute maximum.

We who think this way DO stick to our budget.  We really won’t go over our set aside amount.  We really do show self-control, and we think that in doing so, we are defeating the pull of the spirit that rests on money.

I don’t think we’re putting up much of a fight.

I’ve walked through casinos thinking I see how people can give their lives over to this.

Not convinced?  I have a question:  if casino games were played without money, without betting the money and without the chance of receiving money, would you still play?

I wouldn’t.  Hence, mammon.

I’ve played fantasy football in the past.  There is an entry fee, winner gets a lot.

I hate fantasy football.

If there is anything that can take me back to my years of temper tantrums and inexplicable cursing, it’s fantasy football.

The funny thing about it is that if we didn’t put money on it, I would quit halfway through the season, or earlier depending how bad I’m doing.

I know lots of people can play fantasy football without money included.  That’s cool.  Good for you.  I can’t.

I don’t know how you do.  That sounds so boring.

I hate it.

I play it because I have a chance to win a buncha money.

Hence, mammon.

Then, there’s poker.

Yea, Texas Hold’em…  Sigh…

I used to be good at it.  We would play regularly.  It was a long time ago.

But it still comes around fairly often.  And when it does, I play.  And when I lose, I’m sooooooooooooo angry.

And when I win, I’m thrilled because I just won money.

Let’s step back a bit.  Have you ever played poker?

Have you ever played without money?

Poker is the MOST boring game alive if played without money.  The only thing that makes it fun is money.

I’m not sharing my opinion here.  I’m certain that no one would have fun playing real Texas Hold’em if there were no money involved.  It’s awful.

I have said and thought exactly what you may be thinking now:  Poker requires skill, though.  It’s not a gambling game.  You can be good at it and increase your chances of winning on most occasions.

The fact is, I don’t disagree.  But again, do you want to play without the chance to win money?

I don’t.

Boring.

And time consuming.

I’d rather watch tv at home with Smokin’ Hot Wife after the babies are asleep, eating Twizzlers and drinking Coca-Cola.

Sometimes I’ll add some chocolate in there.

Anyway, hence, mammon.

Lastly, and certainly not least… ly…

I look at my bank account often.  I normally do it to keep watch over my flocks, but many times I’m checking to make sure we are stable.

I find security in the money that we have.  Honestly, it’s detrimental to my faith.

This is perhaps the greatest (and most disguised) form of mammon known to me.

That’s enough of that one.  You don’t need anymore.

However, if you have found, or will in the future find, yourself in the same position as me, with similar convictions, how will you resist or avoid the pull of mammon?

Don’t know.  Peace.

Ha ha ha ha…

Really, though.

Remember I’m in the midst of this, I don’t have a plan yet, but I know how I am.  I hang around fire and I get burned.

Our head coach in college (when he was sober enough to attend meetings) always told the same story.

He had one particular guy who had played for him and eventually succeeded in the NFL, can’t remember his name.  Please don’t ask.

Coach asked his former player what the secret was that allowed him success when so many others failed.

The answer?

Dogs with fleas.

“Dogs with fleas?” you ask?

He went on to explain that when clean dogs hang out with dogs with fleas, the clean dog gets fleas.

Now I’m not saying my company is poor.  I’m saying that I can’t allow myself the flashiness of a casino floor without the overwhelming urge to play the games.

I can’t allow myself around a poker table and expect to sit back and watch.

I can’t allow myself the “luxury” or I’ll get fleas.

Don’t want fleas.  We had ’em once.  You may have read about it.  Impossible to get rid of.

In the next few months, I hope to share a real gambling story.  Until then, mine will have to do.

Do not conform.  Screw debt.

Be Is For Brooke

On separate occasions have I been asked about meal planning/how to buy groceries/etc.

I did not want to write about it.  Still don’t wanna write about it.  Probably not ever gonna write about it.

Good news!  I don’t have to.  Because a gal I know from college has done so much better than I could have.

Brooke Elias has laid out incredible shopping and meal planning methods in her blog.  Click on her name (the one I just typed) and you will see her website.

Seriously, I have never planned the way she does with groceries.  Her way is better than mine.  Trust me.

Do not conform.

Food, Finance, and… Fones

If there is food in front of me, I eat it.  There is no but I’ve had enough or well it’s not healthy food so….  or I had fried chicken last night.

No.  If there is food in front of me, I eat it.  Period.

Also, I don’t work out so much anymore.  And when I do go to the gym, I get bored easily.  I walk around looking for things to do because Smokin’ Hot Wife is in a class, and if someone is at a station, I move on to something else.

You wouldn’t believe how often “someone is at a station.”

I end up walking… slowly… for like an hour.

I’m also addicted to my phone.  It’s not something I even want to do.  It’s just there beside me so I’ll pick it up to check my messages and put it down.  After I put it down, I’ll pick it up to check my messages.  It happens time and time again.

I don’t know for sure, but I think these are the same habits that addicts fight.  These three areas are the most recent in my life that have surfaced unapologetically.  They have all made me realize the lack of self-control that I possess.

Now, I have to wage war on my eating patterns, my workout habits, and my cell phone.  But how do I do that?  I’ve obviously had thoughts before to rid myself of all that which hinders me from my better self.  Even more obvious is the fact that nothing has changed.  Why is that?

Well, there is another story about a habit (that is none of your business at this time) that I was trying to break in college.

One day, upon deciding that this particular habit had controlled me for long enough, I wrote out a schedule for every single day.  My wake up and eat times were planned down to the minute.  Homework, walking to and from class, naps, watching Shrek, you name it, it was on my schedule.

What’s more, I stuck to my schedule every day.  And I controlled my terrible habit for 3 months.  Fascinating, right?

But then I regressed.

Or relapsed.  Whatever you wanna call it.  And why?  Because I lacked another tool:  accountability.

Has anyone ever said anything along the lines of You are the only one who can truly hold you accountable… ?

If so, they’re wrong.

What has this to do with money?  You may find yourself asking.  Hang on, dang it.

I wrote a short book about how to budget, and it’s a great tool.  A budget is a plan.  It is the underlying factor of ALL wealth and stability.  The book I wrote can help you build a budget, but unless you have some even more basic behavioral issues handled, creating a chart in a spreadsheet won’t amount to much.  Rarely is the issue one of incompetence.  Everyone is smart enough to write numbers on a piece of paper.

A brilliant man once said that budgeting is telling your money where to go, not asking where it went.

If it isn’t already clear, the first step is planning.  Budgeting is just that, a plan.  Plans can change.  Life happens.  “Emergencies” present themselves.  So don’t treat your plan as God’s Holy Word.  Give yourself some grace, and practice step 2:  self control.

Setting a budget is easy.  Writing down a plan is easy.  Sticking to a plan is not.

I have set up specific plans for all three of my current struggles.  I’m not going to share them with you because I don’t know what any of that has to do with why you’re broke.

Challenging myself to stay on track with these plans is the method I’ve chosen in order to strengthen self-control.  I don’t know if it works.  I only know that God’s actual Holy Word puts significant emphasis on the subject.

A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls.

–  Proverbs chapter something verse something…

I don’t know exactly what that means… I just want my walls standing at all times.

Practice self-control.  You are stronger than you think.

However, you’re also weaker than you think.  The habit I fought in college has gone away, but it wouldn’t stay away if not for accountability in the form of my wife (accountability is beautiful in my case).

When it comes to your budget, who are you nervous to lie to?  Who would be disappointed in your spending?  Who are you certain would not buy in to your justification for making your last purchase?  Whoever it is needs to be your money buddy.  I don’t call them accountability partners anymore.  I got tired of using the term years ago.

Money is just like any other area.  You are smart enough to plan a budget on your own.  You are strong enough to stick to that budget for months…. And you are NOT strong enough to finish the race alone.

Do not conform, and screw debt.

Reginald

I wasn’t going to write about this for today, but something strange happened the other night when I was hanging out with Reginald.

We call him Reggie for short, but I’m considering calling him Reg (not like reg in regular but with a j sound) at times when I don’t feel like talking so much.

Maybe I just wont’ call him any of those because it isn’t his real name.

Anyway, Reggie and I found this website:

http://www.bankrate.com/calculators/home-equity/additional-mortgage-payment-calculator.aspx

And if you have a mortgage right now, I want you to use it!!!

Ever heard of amortization?  Well it’s dumb.  All it means is the loan officer takes as much interest as possible first.  They just named it something fancy so we wouldn’t bother with understanding it.

I wasn’t and still am not sure if amortization schedules are uniform throughout the banking/credit union world, but this website seems to think that they are.

So go to this website if you have a mortgage, and figure out how to pay that bad boy off early.

I’m not going to give you my information, but I’ll tell you a little bit of that won’t give anything away.

If I paid the minimum on my mortgage for the entire 30 years, I would pay over $140,000 in INTEREST ALONE.

I don’t want anyone to ever do that.  If you need to get a 30 year mortgage that’s fine.  It’s more attainable than a 15 year unless you want a tiny house with minimal payments.

But if you get the 30 year, go into it with the expectations of paying it off early.  This website will help you formulate a plan.

We recently started paying 15-year type payments on our 30-year loan.  According to this website, that will reduce our mortgage payments by almost 13 years!

As I played around with the calculator, Reggie says, “I know what you’re next blog post is gonna be about.”

Oh Reggie….

You don’t even know me.

Everyone else should be excited.

In my case, if we paid just $20/month extra towards our mortgage, we would pay our mortgage off a year early and save nearly $6000!!!

In the grand scheme of things, that isn’t a ton, but it’s still 6 thousand less than what the bank wants.

Seriously, if you have a mortgage, use the link.  Get excited about it.  Formulate a plan, and implement it.  I want you to pay your house off early.  As early as possible without living in misery.

Short and sweet this time.  Just use the website.  Stop giving the bank money.  When you’ve finished your house payments, I want the bank to say

Well dang… we didn’t make any money off of them.

Do not conform.  And screw debt.

 

Cash is King?

My friends in 1776 (we talk on the phone all the time) would have some words for those of you who say cash is king.

King’s didn’t fly so well with these guys.  They made it clear.  And red.  And white.  And blue.

You know who rules the finance world?  The rich man.

You know who doesn’t know what it’s like to be poor?  The rich man.

You know who says cash is king?  The rich man. And the middle class who use the rich man’s context in their empty pocket lifestyles.

I’ve been spending a lot of time reading about and hearing from people who have the perfect plan for building wealth and paying off massive amounts of debt and so on and so forth…

You know who they are?  Rich people.

Now, I’m not saying cash is a bad thing.  I just want to rearrange the way we think about it.

In most cases across the country, the common folk will be taking out a loan at some point or another.  I hope it isn’t for anything silly, like a hamster or a trailer hitch, but I can’t tell you what to do.

Just don’t do that.

When you decide to take out this loan, though, I need you to listen to me and not your financial guidance person, whether it’s your real estate agent, your loan officer, or your dear sweet mama.

First, and foremost, I hope you have money to pay down on the loan.  That means that I hope you have cash.

But wait, you say, all smugly and uppity-like, I thought you said forget about cash!?!

Hold your horses.  I don’t know where that phrase came from…

Just hold ’em!

Secondly, I hope you have enough cash to pay a significant amount on that down payment.

What?  Is that not profound?

Third, pay more money every month than your minimum payment, another recommendation that requires cash.

So what’s the difference in my cash and banks’ cash?

1.  Down Payments

You will need a down payment on a significant loan (mortgage).  Once upon a time, you needed a significant one to avoid stupid wastes of money.  Now, however, banks will gladly let you borrow $300,000.  If you don’t have money for a down payment?  They’ll let you borrow a second amount for whatever you need for the down payment!

The banks’ cash is money they want you to keep in order to pay them more in the long run.  My cash is the money I want you to spend in order to not have to pay more than you have to.

2.  Significant Down Payments

Your bank will tell you that you want to have some cash left over.  And I agree that you do not want to deplete your savings.

But the more you put down up front means the less you will pay in interest.

But sir, you say again, a $200,000 mortgage vs a $210,000 mortgage only affects your monthly payment by like…. a little bit.

Dude… I have the mortgage formula saved on my phone.  I know exactly how much a mortgage costs every month in any given situation.

The banks don’t even know the formula.  They just plug numbers in and POOF! out comes this magical piece of paper that says you owe them crap loads of interest.

Forget about cash, and forget about monthly payments.  When it comes to applying for a mortgage, look at the interest.  Fight the interest.  It is not your friend.

The banks’ cash is money they want you to keep in order to pay them more in the long run.  My cash is the money I want you to spend in order to not have to pay more than you have to.

3.  Monthly Payments

Interest that you pay is NEVER your friend.  I don’t care who says otherwise, if they are billionaires, if they have multiple finance degrees, if they are world renowned philanthropists…  I don’t care.   They’re wrong.

There is not one single thing that will benefit you from paying interest that will overshadow the fact that you are paying interest.  Not one.  Nope.  Not even that.  Whatever it is you’re thinking.  Nuh-uh.

You know what happens to interest the next month after you’ve overpaid on your loan?

It goes down.

It’ll take some time and effort to alter the pattern of your mortgage interest, but it is possible, and if you intend to pay all the interest they’re asking of you on a 30 year mortgage, you’re being robbed.

If you can afford it, make the sacrifice, and pay off your home early.  I’m telling you, the minimum payment is making somebody rich, and it ain’t you.

The banks’ cash is money they want you to keep in order to pay them more in the long run.  My cash is the money I want you to spend in order to not have to pay more than you have to.


Again, not profound?

I just told you to spend more of your money upfront and every month… when the world tells you that cash is king.

Am I leading you astray?

I wonder why the bank is telling you that cash is king…

Because they profit on your interest!

It blows my mind that the same people telling you that cash is your best friend are also people telling you that you need one of their credit cards.

Spare me.

Paying more now saves you later.

I’m seriously not saying to not have cash.  You need available money at all times that you can grab when you need it.

If I’m ever rich, I will max out at least 2 bank accounts with money that I never intend to invest, that I can take at any time.  (I said if I’m ever rich… which means other money would certainly be tied up in investments).

The rich people don’t tell me to do that even now.

I really don’t understand that.  If I need a car, I’m buying it and leaving with the title.

If I want to invest in some real estate, I’m closing as an owner, not a borrower.

It’s impossible to do these things when financial advisors are constantly telling us to write them a check so our wealth will grow (which, again, I’m all for building wealth, but their ideas are contradictory).

So I want cash.

But while I’m entering a mortgage or I’m already in one, interest is overwhelmingly more evil than cash is good.

I know you’ve all heard it said, The borrower is a slave to the lender.

SLAVE!!

There’s no need to look for hidden connotations behind the word.  It is spelled out clearly for us.

An example:  We need a car loan.  We get one.  The loan officer DEMANDS full coverage insurance.

Nothing wrong with full coverage insurance.  Nice peace of mind.  Not un-affordable.  Cool.

BUT they demanded it.  We cannot have the loan with them without full coverage insurance.

Slavery.

Another example:  We need a house.  We got one.  Needed a loan because we don’t have 200 grand lying around.  The loan officer DEMANDS a termite bond.

Nothing wrong with a termite bond.  Nice peace of mind.  Not un-affordable.  Cool.

BUT they demanded it.  We cannot have the mortgage with them without a termite bond.

Slavery.

The loan officer controls the entire situation.  You have no word in the matter once the papers are signed.  You don’t own the car.  You don’t own the house.

Did you know that the bank can, at any time throughout the life of your loan, demand that the balance be paid in full?

It’s true.

And… freakin’ scary.

Slavery.

Please don’t misunderstand what I’m saying.  You need cash, I’m only challenging the way the world worships it as all sovereign.

Again, I hate interest way more than I like cash.

And, as my friends in 1776 would say, We recognize no sovereign but God, and no King but Jesus!

Do not conform.

Listen to Me

Remember Darla?  She married Quasimodo, who is one of those people who is good at everything.  He always wants to compete in as many things as possible and doesn’t understand why nobody else wants to join in.  It’s because he’s the only one in the group who would be good at it.  It’s so miserably annoying.  I honestly don’t know what she see’s in him.

Just kidding.  He’s alright.  He’s actually one of my best friends, that Quasimodo, and it’s his fault I even started a blog.  So… he can stay, I guess.

Now, Quasimodo got his first credit card when he was in college, an acquisition I do not recommend at all under any circumstances.  His thoughts upon acquiring this devil tool?  I can golf whenever I want.  I can eat Wendy’s every day.

He, like the stereotypical credit card getter, ended up accumulating a very significant amount of debt.  He has grown up since then (sort of), but this type of behavior transcends age, gender, race, social class, and education.

Sort of like the black plague.

As I’ve said before, there is one way and one way only to use a credit card.  I cannot stress the importance of doing exactly as I say in every single category listed below.  I know many experts would say to never get a credit card.  I was once on board with them, and I still agree to some extent.  It is safer to not get one, period.  But there is a way to do it.  It is just imperative that you LISTEN TO ME!

Smokin’ Hot Wife and I made it through our debt without a credit card.  We built up my credit without a credit card.  We bought two different vehicles and got excellent interest rates without a credit card.  We bought a house and got an excellent interest rate without a credit card.

Nobody needs a credit card.  You can do without it and be just fine.  More than fine.  You can be better off than most.

I’m not telling you to get a credit card.  I’m telling you how to use it if you get it.

Before I begin, an important Disclaimer:  If you are currently in debt, do not get a credit card.  If you currently hold other credit cards with a balance on them, do not get another credit card.  Pay them off, cut them up, start over if you must.  Do not let the world’s way sweep you off your feet and drown you in it’s pictures of wealth and prosperity that only lead to ruin.

1.  REWARDS

If you don’t already know, rewards, or points, are accumulated according to how much money you charge to your credit card.  Your points can then be used in place of money on later purchases.  Ours converts 100 points to 1 US dollar, or more in certain situations.  For instance, if we use our credit card towards travel expenses, 100 points is like 1.5 US dollars.  But it never drops below 100p=$1.  AND, if you want to, you can shop for different things through the credit card’s website and find products that will reward you greater than they would in store or elsewhere online.  Pretty neat.

There is no point in getting a credit card that does not offer rewards (Yea, I know.  Raise your credit, blah blah blah.  Gold Credit, Green Credit…).  If you have a card now that doesn’t offer rewards (I don’t even know if they exist), pay it off and shred it.  It’s useless.

Shredder.

There are many rewards cards out there; you can search for which one best suits you.  If you travel often, get one that offers double points on travel, etc.  We got the exact one Quasimodo has (he’s now free from credit card debt) because I didn’t feel like searching for the “right” one.  And he got like 10,000 points/100 dollars just for referring us through email.  Kinda selfish.

Most of these rewards cards will have an annual fee, but the first year is normally free, and if you do it right, you can just use your points to cover the yearly fee and never have to pay a dime.

Well, you will.  But they will be free dimes that you got from your rewards.

If you listen to me, you will receive free money from your credit card.  Actual.  Free.  Money.

2.  DON’T SPEND WHAT YOU DON’T HAVE

You’re familiar with using your debit card for every purchase.  It’s the only card you have in your wallet, and you wouldn’t dream of over-drafting your bank account.

What?  You still carry cash?  I don’t believe you.

Keep that mindset when using your credit card.  You’re already budgeting (if you aren’t, you need to get the eBook; it’s on my website; just do it).  You have a limit on what you can spend every day or every week.  Don’t lose that mentality just because you get a credit card with a $5000 limit.  DO NOT SPEND UNLESS YOU HAVE THE MONEY IN YOUR BANK ACCOUNT!!  That $5000 limit doesn’t mean you all of a sudden have $5000.

If you don’t listen to me here, I will be angry with you.  If you do not use a credit card my way, you are losing.  My way is proven.  Listen to me.  Your credit card isn’t with you so that you can go buy whatever you want.  You have it so that you can obtain a little bit of free money and raise your credit WITHOUT adding to your debt.

The way your credit card provider wants you to use your credit card is NOT the way you need to do so.  Listen to me.

I don’t think I’m making myself clear enough.  If you only had a debit card last week, and you were scared to spend $100 throughout the week, be equally fearful of spending $100 this week even if you have a new credit card.  You do not have free money just because you have a credit card.  Listen to me.

Home Slice, you have to pay that money back.  And just in case you weren’t paying attention when you signed up for it, you have to pay it back plus 25% interest.  No, I’m not exaggerating.  And they’ll make your minimum payment low enough to make you think you’re doing just fine.  Nope.

If I haven’t already told you, if you pay your credit card bills the way the credit card giver wants you to, you’ll never pay it off.  They know that.  They don’t care.

Oh, you have a family?  They don’t care.  You’re behind on bills?  They don’t care.  You didn’t realize what that $5000 limit was?  They don’t care.

They.  Do.  Not.  Care.

Listen to me.  If you miss this point (point #2: don’t spend what you don’t have), just don’t get a credit card.  Ever.  And, please, don’t associate your recklessness with Screw Debt.  I don’t need a bad reputation.  Let me actually have a reputation before there’s a chance to ruin it.

3.  DEFINE EMERGENCY

Unfortunately, many a person will consider an emergency as a new dress or golf club set that’s on sale.  Terrible, terrible ideas…

How you gonna play golf in a dress?

Even a doctor bill or a trip to the ER isn’t an emergency, monetarily speaking.  Hospitals set up payment plans like it’s going out of style these days.  AND THERE’S NO INTEREST!

Don’t use a credit card for an emergency.  I’ve found that the best place for an emergency fund is a simple, fluid account of some sort.  Yes, I know they don’t always accrue you a bunch of interest.  Yes, I know you want to invest.  Blah blah blah.

How much money are you saving?  If you have 50 thousand dollars, go for it.  But why the heck are you reading this?  If you invest $3000….. I mean do whatever you want with that, but it isn’t worth the effort.  That 3 grand is tied up; you can’t retrieve it whenever you want, and I doubt your return is as much as you think it is.

But what do I know?

Your savings account isn’t there for getting rich.  It’s there to be safe and ensure that you have money for a true emergency.  I realize that there are better options than a regular savings account, and that’s fine.  Use it.  But make sure your money is fluid and that there is no risk involved.  I’m not telling you not to invest.  Just don’t invest every penny you have and not be able to grab some when you need it.

I’ve heard some money folks say it’s good to have 3 months of whatever it takes to live for 3 months saved up for an emergency fund.

Well… I’m not so sure how doable that is.  That’s a pretty significant amount of dollars for most people.  If you or you and your other have steady careers, and you know exactly what your income is and how much it takes to live month to month, then I can understand this method.

But if you’re like me and my wife, who do not have guaranteed money and were once at a point where our savings account had $5 in it because that’s what was required to open one, this method certainly isn’t a set in stone approach.  Gotta get creative.  Discuss and determine how much you need for an emergency fund, and decide what  a true emergency is.

For those of you keeping count at home, I’ll offer my own definition of an emergency:

A payment for myself or an immediate family member that MUST be paid in full and at once to avoid any and all types of interest or late penalties.

You’re welcome.

4.  USE IT EVERY DAY

Again, this credit card is your new debit card.  Use it for everything.  You may not ever need to use your debit card again.  In our case, our stupid credit union requires a whole bunch of stupid stuff every month in order to not have a $5 fee charged to us for using their debit card.

Most people don’t have that issue, and we will change our situation soon.  We have to use our debit cards at least 10 times per month.  It used to be 5.  Apparently it changed to 10 without me knowing about it.  There’s a way around it.  We just use them on purchases that are less than $5, but it would just be so much easier to only use one card at all times and not have to think about it.  If you are in the same boat, follow our method if you must.  Just beat the system.

Otherwise, just use your credit card.  They have chips these days which protect from identity theft more efficiently, they look cool, and they fit perfectly in your wallet.  Crazy, right?  Who knew?

5.  PAY IT OFF EVERY WEEK

Every week? you ask?

Yes.  Every week.  Or at least regularly and more than once a month.  There is a grace period of at least 21 days from the time you make a purchase on your credit card until it begins to accrue interest.  But we will NEVER ACCRUE INTEREST ON OUR CREDIT CARDS.

I will deny you as a follower and swear that I never knew you if you don’t listen to me.  You have my permission to make a payment every 2 weeks, but no longer.

Every Friday morning I pay off my credit card’s CURRENT BALANCE which will be everything I spent money on the past week less a few pending transactions.  Those will be paid off the following Friday.

Got that?  Every Friday morning, before work, pay off current balance.  Not minimum due.  Not other amount.  CURRENT BALANCE.  If you do this, you will not pay a penny in interest.  You also won’t overdraft because you didn’t use your credit card this week without having the funds in your bank account, right?

right? right? RIGHT!?!?

I’m telling you, people.  Do as I say.  Do it.

6.  USE YOUR POINTS

We’ve had our credit cards for such a short amount of time that we have not used our points.  But we certainly intend to.

You can do it however you like, rack them up and pay your bills for a month once a year, use them once a week on a meal out, use them for a new dress to play golf in, whatever you want.

There’s just no point in accumulating rewards if you aren’t going to use them.

The card we got actually allows the rewards to increase in value when used for travel.  So we intend to use it for trips that we haven’t taken in a while.  Fifth anniversary?  Credit card points.  Boom.

Also, don’t forget that you can also cash in your points and they’ll send you a check.  Mmm.  That sounds good.  I’ll have that.


Debit cards are sooo 2012.  All the cool kids are getting credit cards.  But they ain’t cool unless they win.  And they don’t win unless they

Listen.

To.

Me.

Do not conform.

Generous Living

Sympathy doesn’t exist anymore.  Instead, a “quit your whining” attitude is prevalent.

What happens when somebody vents about school?  About work? About taxes?  About their kids?  We don’t offer encouragement anymore.  Instead, we criticize.

Phrases like Oh, you just wait until… and You have no idea how easy you have it… or That’s the real world for you… are inserted into the conversation when they weren’t even asking for input.

Grandfather:  When I was your age, we had to walk to school bare-footed, uphill both ways in the snow!

Grandson:  …I said I was hungry…

One time I was searching online for any possible way to make $200.  In a hurry.  I was desperate.  I knew my parents didn’t have it, and even if they did, I was adamantly not taking that route.  I didn’t have a job, I was in school, and my refund check was a few weeks away.

The feeling that I recall the most is one of hopelessness.  I tried not to think myself pitiful, but pity overwhelmed me.  I didn’t like it, I certainly didn’t want anyone to know or feel sorry for me, and I was constantly questioning why God wouldn’t just help me and get me out of a hole.  I prayed the whole How long will You hide Your face from me? prayer.

What lesson could I possibly learn from this?  Patience?  I can’t tell the landlord to be patient.  I can’t tell the power company to be patient.  I can’t tell my car to hang on just another second before running out of gas.  What are You telling me?  I need money yesterday.

For the longest time I looked back on those days and wondered why in the world I had to deal with it.  And out of nowhere and all of a sudden, the purpose was revealed to me:

sympathy

Or empathy.  I don’t really know the difference.  I think sympathy means that I can relate because I’ve been there.  And empathy means to imagine yourself in a certain situation.  Both are good.  But the one I’m talking about is relating to a situation that you’ve been in before.

I hate looking back on those days.  I really do.  I do not like to dwell unless the moment was friendly, and I never want to be in such a situation again for as long as I live.

But someone else will be, regardless of how well-off I am.

Why, especially if I am able to relate to these guys, would I speak to them in a way that suggests they’re alone and weak for not pulling themselves together and just dealing with it?

Why, if I have been through the same crap, would I not offer up encouragement?

Why, if I have the proper resources available, would I not offer some relief?

People have either forgotten, or never knew, how to mourn with those who mourn, how to sympathize!

We all need to take a lesson from my grandmother.  I’m from Alabama, so she’s actually Grandmama.  And she believes that I and my brothers and cousins can do no wrong.  We are perfect “sweet angel boys” in her eyes (and one girl).

Rarely am I able to spend time one-on-one with Grandmama, but when I do I tend to whine and complain about whatever’s going on in my little world.  And she just soaks it all up.  Not once does she say you need to get over it.  Not once does she say just wait until this happens.  Not once does she try to compare her hard times with mine, even though hers were way worse.  Why?  Because she’s been there.  She knows how to sympathize.

Now, I want to take a stand against this apathetic world and present a solution.  We’ve all been through some stuff.  There’s no need to use that stuff to compare and accuse and say You think that’s bad?  You have no idea what I had to deal with.  Instead, offer up your advice.  Offer up your wisdom, your knowledge, your solutions and results.

I know there are many circumstances out there that I don’t know about and I’ll never know about and I’m just an idiot for treading where I’m completely ignorant.

Fine.  I’ll stick with what I know, and since this is a money blog and I’m the author…

Offer up your money.

Why?  Because your feelings, your heart, your intent, and your words mean nothing unless they’re backed by your actions.  And while there are many different resources that we possess that can be useful, money tends to be high on the charts.

CHURCH

In recent years, I hated church.  I got so sick and tired of pastors and preachers asking for money and using it on themselves.  Churches wanted to spend on junk that I thought was a waste of time and money.  They also didn’t have the funds necessary to pay for such nonsense.  They were all in debt and relied on the people of their congregations to “do their part.”  I couldn’t handle it.

I actually studied the tithe myself so that I could get a better Biblical picture of how it was supposed to be used.  Malachi 3:10 was all that churches would use to justify their seduction, and I knew there had to be more to it than that.

I searched for and found significant information that I didn’t know existed.  I used it to form my own opinions about how the church should go about asking for, receiving, and spending money.

I’m not a Bible scholar by any means.  I have no training in Greek or Hebrew or exegetical methods.  I am a simple-minded dingbat with very little knowledge of things beyond the written English translations.  I don’t know anything.

I used the Law of First Mention (what I thought was Abram and Melchizidek), I read all about the Levitical Priests (all throughout Numbers and Leviticus), and I knew all about how Jesus was supposed to have taken the place of those priests in all areas (somewhere in Hebrews).

For these reasons,

Malachi 3:10 just raised too many questions for me.

For starters, what is the storehouse?  Does it apply now?  Are these church buildings the storehouse?  Surely not.  Would the storehouse today be anything that could further the Kingdom of God?

Then, what do I tithe now?  Didn’t it mean crops and produce of the field back in Old Testament times?  What if I don’t have money?  What if I can’t afford to tithe?

And I sought council with men I trusted who I still do believe were in no way trying to lead me astray.

The response was always the same:

Whatever you give up that is over 10% is considered an offering.  Not a tithe.  And your tithe needs to go to your church where you are fed the most.

Well, what if I didn’t have a church?  And even if I do, where is that money going?  It seems like it needs to go to Jesus.  Will it go to pay a person’s salary?  To the new gym they want to build?  What about to missions?  What about to the family down the street who has no running water?  How much money is this church giving away?  10%?  10% of the 10% I gave you would be 1%.  I want 100% of the 10% I gave to make a difference somewhere.

However, I listened.

The first time I decided to tithe was in 2009 when I had a summer job making $7.25 an hour as pretty much a janitor at a middle school working about 20 hours a week.

I didn’t decide until after my first few checks that I should probably be setting aside some money for tithing, so I had to backtrack and figure up what I should have given to begin with.  I added it all up and gave it.  I did this purely out of a sense of obligation.

Then, I realized I messed up and had given way more than 10 percent and I was back to broke when I didn’t need to be.

Before I got married I didn’t want to tithe or give money at all because we seriously did not have a lot of it.  But Smokin’ Hot Wife didn’t like that idea and said we would always give at least 10%.

You got it, Babe.

But the “compromise” was that we would rarely, if ever, give to a church due the reasons listed above.  We would give it to whoever and wherever we thought could make the biggest impact for the Kingdom of God.  Truly, my intentions were pure.  And I really believe God honored it.

THE SPIRIT OF GIVING

I never thought I was wrong in my studies.  I still don’t think I’m completely wrong.  I mean, I’m a below-average nobody and made a Biblical argument.

But the reasons I went about it were wrong; my heart was wrong, and that, I fear, is more harmful than anything.  The best way to sum it up is this:

Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

I sought information about tithing only and failed to focus on the heart of why God was asking for it in the first place.  Ten percent, I thought, was the Biblical theme.  But as I learned much later than I wanted to, the true theme is of our first-fruits and cheerfulness.

This was a point I was missing terribly.

I was giving ten percent of my horrendous income to a church I didn’t even like, who brought in hundreds of thousands of dollars every year with nothing to show for it but a large, cathedral, family-owned and operated business.  I didn’t give because I thought it would please God.  I gave because I thought I could be scolded by men I respected if I didn’t, or because I thought I had to in order to ever be financially stable, or simply because I thought it was just supposed to be done.

Months — maybe years — later, when I learned of the true joy of giving, did I learn what Jesus really wanted us to do:  give freely.

And, sure, I think He did ask that we give up that first portion so that we can declare that God is more than all the riches we could ever hope to gain.  Can it be both?  Obligatory giving does not please God, but setting aside the first-fruits of our labor, knowing that the days of our vaporous specks of life are numbered, will fan into flame a joy-filled way of giving that was intended from the start of all things.

SPIRIT OF MAMMON

When Jesus said You cannot serve both God and money, what he actually said was God and Mammon.  Mammon is the love of money or the spirit of money.  Many read this and think money is evil, but it wasn’t meant that way.

I hate that we need money.  Really.  I wish it wasn’t a thing.  But it isn’t evil.  The whole concept of trading and bartering would exist whether we had a special currency or not.  It isn’t money that is evil but the spirit that rests on it that most (all) of us have experienced at one point or another.

This is what we cannot serve while serving God.  It is impossible.  We either consciously or subconsciously denounce one and serve the other.  The pull of Mammon manifests itself in many ways and will do so in any way to keep our eyes from being fixed on Christ.  This spirit is the opposite of how Paul described how we should give, freely and cheerfully.

Personally, I feel the pull of Mammon pretty regularly.  If work is slow or someone in my family is sick, I completely forget about the Sole Provider, and I focus on ways that can make things right.  I seek monetary solutions.  I even find security in my bank account.  If I could just have this much money, we’d never had to worry.

In doing so, I do not serve God;  I serve Mammon.

PERCENTAGE GIVING

Each one must give what he has decided in his heart.

This means that we should not be irresponsible in giving!  Crazy turn of events, right?  Now, I’m telling some not to give?

Well, in a way, yes.  The Spirit will nudge you now and again to give where you hadn’t planned, but as far as your first-fruits of labor are concerned, plan ahead as to what percentage you will give.

Honestly, I think it’s important that we do not dwell too heavily on 10%.  It is a good marker, and it is, in most cases, very doable.  But I do understand that it isn’t always possible.  I know a wonderful older couple, the same guy who told me Life is hard, then you die, who did not tithe in their young marriage because they couldn’t afford it.  They kept up with all that they owed and gave it when they got it.  The most important thing to understand is that God does not call down curses on the non-givers.  He is gracious, slow to anger, perfect in mercy, all that good stuff.

If He cursed those who didn’t give, why are there millionaires and billionaires around the world who publicly deny the existence of Him?!

Instead, He searches and knows the heart, and if your heart joyfully gives the only 2% that you can afford to give, how much more is your reward than that of the indignant giver of 10 percent!

(Now, if you can give 10%, give it.  Or more.  You’ll thank me one day)

When I got a new job, we bumped our giving percentage up to 11%.  When I finished my training months and started being paid on a per job basis, we went up to 12%.  When Smokin’ Hot Wife got a raise, 13%.  When we were out of debt, 14%.  Different situations allowed us to raise up the amount of money we were able to give.

As of this writing, we set aside 16% of our total income every month to be given in some way, and we really want to give more.

If you are adamant about 10% going to the church, that’s fine, but the best part about raising your percentage is that you now have  the ability to be creative with and help out families that are in need or are trying to make an impact across the world.

For the longest time, we gave to a family who spent all of their time helping children with cancer or to friends in Guatemala who started an orphanage from nothing!  If it wasn’t to them, we would search for a need and try to meet it.  It could be a family need, a friend need, or we’d have to search for a friend of a friend and keep it completely anonymous.

We always found someone or something to give to.

I don’t want you to follow my methods.  I want you to be convicted by the Holy Spirit and mediate on 2 Corinthians 9:7.

So raise it as you will.  Try not to ever lower it.  We haven’t lowered yet.  I hope we never do, but we have been able to avoid it by raising very gradually over time.  I wish I could just throw it on up to 30%, 50%, 80%, but that wouldn’t be wise at this time.

Remember, if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than the unbeliever.

Set a percentage, and make it your very first priority.

CHURCH OF THE HIGHLANDS

Let me be clear; I’m not telling you to shun the Church.  Good churches do exist, and there are leaders who are certainly capable of being responsible stewards.

It took 3 years for the likeness to grow into what it is now, but I LOVE Church of the Highlands, and I’ll promote them for as long as they continue in their ways.

The first characteristic that drew me in was the authenticity of Chris Hodges.  This is a 40,000 member church, so at this point in time, he doesn’t know me and I don’t know him personally.  But his demeanor screamed REAL from the very first time I attended.  And there isn’t much I appreciate more than an authentic person.

But the other thing that drew me in was the way that they deal with money.  Remember, I hated giving money to churches.  This church is not in debt.  AT ALL.  They are extremely cautious and they dream big, they do not purchase anything unless they have the cash readily available to do so, they disclose every single piece of financial information to the public, and they give MILLIONS of dollars away every year.

The 10% to your church is tithe + anything over that is a special offering method that I hated so much has even been used by us at times because of this church.  I don’t want them to change anything about what they do or how they do it.  They give away more money and impact more people than I could ever hope to dream of in a hundred lifetimes.  I have no problem with 10% of my income helping them function.

THE BENEFICIARY

1.  What do I gain from you giving?

Nothing.

That should make it at least a little bit more interesting for readers.  Why would I go through the trouble of advising you to live generously when I receive no benefit?

Exactly.  That’s the point.  Unless you give it to me, I don’t benefit.  And I’m not in need, so I couldn’t accept it from you.  Therefore, I don’t benefit!

2.  What does God benefit from you giving?

Throughout the scriptures, man and God are in conversation, and, in many cases, man pleads with God for mercy, forgiveness, guidance, deliverance, etc. all for His name’s sake (Psalms 23, 25, 31…. many more).

Obviously, God doesn’t need money.   What would he do with it?  Buy a boat?  An army?  A palace?  A gel pen?  He could at any moment do whatever he wanted to do and not need a single human hand included, not a finger lifted.  So why does he ask it of us?

Because He is a relational God who wants us to be His hands and feet.  No, He doesn’t need us.  He wants us.  He also wants us to live freely and to give freely.  He knows that once you give, you are the true beneficiary, which brings me to the next point.

3.  What do you benefit from giving?

It tends to be a tricky question, because the whole purpose of our giving is to be selfless.  But anyone who does it can tell you it’s just wonderful, and it goes well beyond a sense of accomplishment or a look at me attitude.

God asked for the first tenth in the law, yes.  But the pattern that I notice in the Bible is that He desires mercy, not sacrifice.

Now, when we take that first percentage and set it aside mercifully instead of sacrificially, the spirit of Mammon is bound and no longer has any hold on us.  A declaration is made that we trust in God for our provisions, and we do not need these worldly goods in order to receive peace and joy.  We are denouncing the hold of the love of money on our thoughts and minds.

We are free.  Do not conform.

Gold Credit, Green Credit….

Very recently, a social media friend posted the importance of immediately getting a credit card after college in order to build credit.

I nearly fainted.  I consider this ignorance.  And it’s advice like this that fuels my desire to write about money and to urge people to pursue financial freedom.

I despise this credit score crap.  The better your credit is, the more reliable you have been deemed, and the better interest rates are available.  And if you have poor credit, you have been deemed not so reliable, and the not so good interest rates are available.

How does that make sense?

Sir, your credit score is sitting at 340.  Unfortunately, the best interest rate we can offer is 18%.  Logic says we shouldn’t give you a loan at all, but we will because we care about you.

The reliable spender should not be punished, I should clarify.  But why make the difficult situation more difficult?

However, I need to be clear that I don’t think having a system in place is a terrible idea.  It has its perks for an economy that is in need of nourishment and can’t rely on another government bailout.

If you’re my age-ish, you may remember the housing market crash in 2008.  If you don’t remember, they made a movie about it recently.  Pretty neat.

Before the crash, banks were giving loans to anyone and everyone.  It didn’t matter whether or not they could afford it.  It didn’t matter whether or not they’d ever be paid back.  They just threw the loans around like they were $0.05 pieces of bubble gum that lose their flavor after 2 chews from a Macy’s Day Parade float.  With a big Snoopy balloon.

Then, 2008…

Banks:  Mr. Government… we need your help.  Haha.  You won’t believe what we did… No, it’s worse than that… Yes, that’s right.  We really screwed up.  Well, we can’t really get out this hole without help so can you spot us 10 billion?

Government:  Oh yea that’s fine.  We never budget anyway so we have plenty of money that we can use on whatever we want without angering tax payers at all. Keep your doors open.

Anyway, I hate that we need a system, I hate that people get all worked up over their credit scores and reports, and I hate all the discussion and chatter about it.  It’s mostly thoughtless nonsense, but I hear about it nearly every week, and that’s only because I work from home most of the time and don’t see anyone and don’t watch television much.

I can imagine most of you hear about it daily.  I’m sure of it.  It has obviously secured its hold on us, just as the Devil schemed.

Your credit report is just an overall record of your paying for stuff.  It has detailed information about your debt vs. payoff history.  If you want a more elaborate explanation, you won’t find it here.  Rest assured, it isn’t that important.

What is important, or at least what everyone is so bent out of shape over, is how to improve your personal credit score.

I’ve had people scoff at me for not knowing my credit score.  I let them get to me and I did that free credit score thing.  And I checked it a few times.  And then I was told that every time you check it, it drops!  Every time someone runs your credit, your score drops.

Why???

Either no one can tell you why because they don’t know, or someone will tell you a reason why and will believe that it’s a logical, solid system.  Person #2 is making lots of money off of your credit.

I quit concerning myself with my credit score.  I’ve never paid for a credit report on its own.  Why should anyone have to?  It belongs to you.  It’s your history.  It’s your personal stuff.  How can anyone hang on to your private, personal history of anything, regardless of what it is, and demand that you pay for it in order to see it?

Either no one can tell you why because they don’t know, or someone will tell you a reason why and will believe that it’s a logical, solid system.  Person #2 is making lots of money off of your credit.

It obviously doesn’t do any good to check it frequently.  Whenever you go to buy a house and apply for a loan, they will run your credit, charge you for it in closing costs, and give you a copy of the report.  The seller will often times pay the closing costs, depending on your location, situation, and negotiating skills, resulting in a free report for you.

I’ve also had people ridicule me for not getting a credit card.  I never listened to those guys.  I had enough debt to pay off.  I didn’t have time, I thought, to deal with them.

Well, let me hit you with this piece of information:  without getting a credit card and without paying for a credit report, I have excellent credit.

All the banking folk scream at me like Ay!  You need a loan?  I’ll hook you up!

Why?  Because they know I’ll pay it, and they know I’m a safe commission.

Let me tell you how.  While a portion of my advice is to differ from my aforementioned friend, most of my advice is to FRET NOT!

Not what you were looking for?  I figured.  Just keep reading.

I don’t like writing in list form, but all the cool kids are doing it so…

1.  DON’T GET A CREDIT CARD!…. YET

This is a post in itself, and I won’t dwell too deeply for now, but just know that it is not necessary to get a credit card in order to build your credit.  Yes, it can be a decent tool, but it is not, by any means, necessary.

There is ONE way and one way ONLY to use a credit card.  And it is NOT to get one as soon as possible and to spend freely.

Advising someone to get a credit card in order to build credit is like advising someone to go to church in order to go to Heaven.

Sure, it’s a good tool.  But it certainly isn’t so cut and dry.

Particularly, those of you who are in debt, I advise you NOT to get a credit card until you have a better grasp on your finances.  Then, you can read my future post about how to go about choosing the right card, using it properly, and getting free money with it.

This will upset the man.  Because the man wants your money.  But he can’t have it.

Bottom line:  you do not need a credit card in order to build credit.

2.  BUY A BIG SCREEN

No, don’t spend money you don’t have just so you can have cool stuff.  But many places will offer 0% financing for a certain period of time on certain things.

I’m basing this idea solely on the assumption that you will not go out and buy a television with your loan money.  Please don’t do that.

If and only if you have a bit of spare money, and you want a new flat screen or you need a new dryer, dishwasher, face-lift, etc., find out how many months you can pay with no interest and subtract 1.

For instance, say you spend $600 on a 50″ flat screen after taxes and all, and you have no interest for 12 months.  Subtract a month.  Then divide your total price by the number of months.

600 ÷ 11 =  $54.55.  Always round up to the next dollar,  $55.  This is your minimum payment every month.  And if you pay this exact amount for 10 months, your 11th month balance will be $50 and you’ll not spend a penny on interest.

The reason I want you to subtract a month is because you won’t get your first statement until about two months after your purchase.  I’m not sure how they are counting.  It should be that your first statement is month #1, but I will not put it by them.

I don’t assume anymore because I got really tired of the response.  For a while, I hypothesized.  And while I realize it is part of the scientific method backed by some data and experience, I still don’t enjoy that it is only considered an educated guess.  Therefore, my new word is deduct.  It’s what Sherlock does.

Now, we will deduct that whoever we bought our flat screen from started counting months before they started sending us statements, and, thus, they’re at month #2.  I have not tested this process, and I won’t.  If this method ends up paying off the product a month earlier than it would accrue interest, we’ve lost nothing.  Just do it.

The reason we are setting up our own minimum payment is because whoever you bought from will set you up a much smaller monthly payment so that you will continue paying into interest after your 12 months are up.

Now, there are a few places who will only offer these interest free purchases if you purchase via credit card.  Their credit card.

Again, I warn you against credit cards, but if you follow the method above and ONLY have a balance on the card when paying off a non-interest accruing purchase, you’ll be fine.

[Aside from that type of purchase, NEVER keep a balance on a department store credit card.  They will eat you alive and smile while they do it.  Every store has them, and every store paints a pretty picture.  If you know how to use a credit card (there’s only one way) and you are able to juggle a hundred different ones, be my guest.  I don’t particularly enjoy focusing on so many.  And I don’t recommend it.  Lots of stuff to forget.]

These types of payments WILL build your credit.  Don’t rush.  This is a marathon, not a sprint.

I hate that analogy… running sucks.

And another thing about these purchases…

3.  HAVE THE MONEY FIRST

I’m referring to purchases that are attainable, obviously.

I don’t mean save up $150,000 before you buy a house.  I don’t mean save up $20,000 before you buy a car.

What I mean is, if you want a $600 television, but you also want to finance it (interest free), I would advise that you have $600 readily available at any time so that you can pay it off at a moment’s notice.  That number will decrease every month, but still have the money ready.

Now, I understand this isn’t always possible.  But if it isn’t, make sure the purchase you’re making is not a 60″ plasma.  Maybe buy a much needed mattress instead which, in my and the general public’s opinion, is a very necessary investment.

If you have the money to pay cash on your vehicles and homes, you likely aren’t reading this.  But you guys would be surprised how many rich people don’t have their funds together.  They’re always broke and have their money wrapped up in other junk because they listened to too many people tell them they needed to have all this stuff and to build their credit and to invest in the future and to have a retirement and life insurance plan and now their monthly bills outweigh their income.

It would be wonderful to pay cash for everything.  The fact is, it isn’t possible for the vast majority.  But what do you need?  Up to this point in my life, college, a house, and a vehicle are the only things worth borrowing money for.  And even then after much thought and consideration.

No, having the cash and saving it will not improve your credit.  It is just a surefire way to make sure your credit doesn’t get worse by suddenly being unable to pay off a TV.  But setting up an interest free payment on something will show the score keepers that you did have a debt and you did pay it off.  It will build your credit.

4.  PAY WHAT YOU OWE

If you have student loan debt, there are several options available to have them forgiven after a certain period of time.  There are likely more options on their way.

I’m certainly not against loan forgiveness.  As I’ve said before, the motives behind human acts are pure.  And Sallie Mae can afford to forgive some stuff, I promise.

However, when I was paying back my loans and was told of the different ways to have them forgiven, I really thought it was more work than I wanted to do.  I also had a sort of sense of responsibility to pay it all back and have nothing left hanging over me, as if Sallie would one day show up at my doorstep and say Hey.  Remember that time…..

But forget student loans.

Let’s focus on your other debt that has no chance of being forgiven.  The credit card folks are relentless.  No grace there.  Mortgage?  Gotta pay for that.  Auto loan?  They want their money.

The worst thing you can do for your credit or your sanity  prior to paying off loans is to obtain more loans.

If you have a loan accruing interest, and you have the cash to pay it off, PAY IT OFF.  This came up with Ned recently.  He’d heard that paying it off immediately will have a negative impact on credit.  I’m not saying it doesn’t.  But even if it does it isn’t as bad as paying interest.  Interest is not your friend.  Ever.

If you want to see a prime example of what not to do, look no further than our beloved federal government.  It seems their idea of eliminating debt is to spend more money, or, as I like to call it, pure stupidity.

First of all, quit using your credit card.  Second, pay it off way quicker than what they’re asking you to do.  If they had it their way, you’d never pay it off.  When you come out of debt, your credit score will rise.

5.  TELEPHONE BILLS… AUTOMO-BILLS

This is one that’s so overlooked it isn’t even funny.  There are so many utilities that we rely on:  water, sewage, gas, power.  Even if you rent you still usually have to get these set up in your name.

Well, set ’em up in your name.  Always pay on time.  Always pay the full balance due.

As a matter of fact, pay early to ensure your payment isn’t lost (which rarely is the case with all the online stuff these days).

If you are late or you underpay, your credit is affected (effected?  Never have known the difference).  And said effects are negative.

I happen to know for certain that there are specific companies who will reward you for paying all of your other bills on time.  When I switched our auto insurance from one company to another and they saved me $60/month, I asked how in the world they were able to do that for the exact same coverage.

Paraphrase:  Ya credit real good, man.  Ya pay ya bills on time.

I really cannot stress the importance of not being late on a payment.  Not to mention late fees and penalties and the like.  Before long you owe double what you paid last year at this time!

Do I need to remind you to budget?

Budget, good.  Late, bad.

Don’t make them come looking for you.  They’ll bring the cops and all.  They might bust your door down, and you can’t afford new hinges.

I’ve read that if collections gets a hold of one of your bills, it stays on your record for 7 years.  So obviously we don’t want to go there.  Just pay it.  If you’re already late, get current ASAP.

Important note:  ASAP is an acronym for as soon as possible.

6.  AVOID BANKS

You can still go to the bank.  You can deposit checks and continue your weekly transactions and withdraw some dollars and such.

What I mean is avoid the loan officer banter.

I’m sure these guys are good people for the most part.  I’m sure they don’t intend to harm anyone.  But just think about their job for a minute.

They are paid a modest to moderate base salary with bonuses and raises based on commission.  That means that the more they sale, the more they make.  And there’s nothing really horribly wrong with that.

Other work environments are run the same way.  Pops has his own bike shop.  Do you think he’s going to make any money if no bikes show up for repair and maintenance?

My job is even set up to be paid as you complete jobs.  I don’t have to find my own work or convince people to buy my product, but it’s still based on performance.

As a matter of fact, I would prefer this method as a business owner.  If you want to get the most out of your employees, tell them if they do not work, they do not get paid.  You’ll have the best staff on the planet.

However, this method does have a flaw, and to know the flaw is to simply put yourself in the position of the loan officer.

A man walks into the bank to dispute a charge on his account that he did not authorize.  After you have settled the matter, you remember your training and ask him if he is interested in a credit card with your bank.

Now,  do you really think it’s beneficial for the man to get a credit card?  Do you really have this man’s best interests in mind?

You’re only doing your job, right?  (I hate that excuse, by the way.  So were the Nazis).

This is the problem:  the loan officer wants/needs to make more money, and he will do so by making a sale.  I can’t fault him for that.  If I was forced to have his job, I would do whatever I had to do in order to provide for my family.  I honestly wouldn’t care if the guy got a credit card and couldn’t pay it or racked up loads of debt.

I got my commission.  I’m happy.

And that’s why you avoid them until you’re ready for a house or car loan.  They can and will be helpful when the time is right.  But I wouldn’t go near them for advice on how to get out of debt or how to build credit.  For these purposes, they are our enemies.  They want what is best for them and their employer.


If you follow these guidelines, I guarantee you will have decent credit.  It’s after we’ve experienced financial freedom that we can focus on getting the good credit.  It’s just crucial to understand that decent credit is good enough.

No one will deny you a loan.  And really, we want to avoid loans altogether if we can.  So if you have a house and a car, you’re sitting in a good spot.

I know things can happen, and it really doesn’t hurt to keep your credit up.  But let’s just be smart about it.  You know why you keep hearing that you need to build your credit?  Because most of the people telling you to do it are the ones making money off of your ignorance!

It’s worth noting that Smokin’ Hot Wife has no credit.  None.  When our loan givers ran our credit for our house, she didn’t even pop up in system.  And you may read that and think

Oh no!  What is she gonna do?

What shall become of her?

Where will she go?

Somebody do something!

Goodness gracious, peeps.  Where Does Your Hope Lie?

You want good credit?  Great!  It can absolutely be beneficial.  But it isn’t the end of the world if you don’t have it.

Hey, my way is proven.  You may follow it and share it if you must.

Do not conform.

P.S.  Merry Thanksgiving!  Eat!