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2011 December 19
by Sharon

This is not a self-portrait but it could be! Have you ever caught yourself multi-tasking behind the wheel of a car? The worst “car multi-tasking” I’ve committed was one morning driving to the office. I was listening in to a conference call, driving, eating breakfast and applying my lipstick, all in a short 20-minute commute!

Multi-tasking isn’t limited to the car, either. At home, I try to maximize each trip from one side of the house to the other by carrying as many things with me as I can. More than once I’ve found myself standing in the kitchen with 8-10 items in my arms, totally unclear what I originally walked in there to do.

Recently I found some words of wisdom in Sarah Young’s amazing daily devotional Jesus Calling. Written as if Jesus is talking to you, it says, “Stop trying to work things out before their times have come. Accept the limitations of living one day at a time.”

Now I have two simple questions posted right above my computer. When I find myself hyperventilating over the number of things I’m trying to accomplish at the same time, these have helped me untangle my thoughts enough to refocus and re-prioritize

QUESTION 1: God, am I supposed to _______________________? (fill in the blank with whatever activities you are doing)

QUESTION 2: If so, am I supposed to do it today?

Often I find that I don’t need to do everything today. I can shift some of the activity to another day. And I’m frequently surprised when I realize I don’t need to do it at all, either because it’s not a priority or perhaps I need to delegate it to someone else.

Try these 2 simple questions this week. Let me know how they help you refocus your day!

[Image by cabbit on, licensed under Creative Commons]


2011 December 5

Ever have one of those days when technology completely fails you? This past week, I was frantically searching for gate information for the flight I was catching in just an hour. The internet had been down at my home so I wasn’t able to pre-print my boarding pass. Web pages on my phone were downloading slower than a turtle, and I couldn’t retrieve the airline’s reservation number from my contact list! We were nearing the airport where I was to be dropped off and had to quickly make a guess as to which terminal I would be departing from. All of this panic was caused by my reliance on technology when I really needed to do some good, old-fashioned planning ahead.

I believe the same can be true when it comes to day-to-day purchases. Although there are many great technological breakthroughs and updated ways to manage money, some low-tech practices are still of great benefit in this high-tech age. The practice of using cash for daily purchases is a low-tech solution that shouldn’t be too quickly discarded. It is the most powerful way to control daily expenses. There’s something about spending cold, hard cash that makes you think twice about your transaction.

While I recommend on-line tools to pay bills, track transactions and manage accounts, I’ve found cash is the most efficient tool to help control those pesky budget busters such as entertainment, eating out, clothes, household items and other variable expenses. It’s the key to translating your spending plan to real life.

Spending cash has 3 benefits:

• You can quickly see how much is available at a glance (even with no wi-fi connection!)
• It’s a visible, tangible expression of your plan
• When it’s gone, you’re done spending!

Next to getting the Big 3 under control, cash spending can make the biggest difference in the successful implementation of your financial plan.

How much are you planning to spend at stores & restaurants the next 2 weeks? Try withdrawing that amount in cash and separating into spending categories prior to going to the store. Experience the freedom of knowing that you will stay within your plan by simply using cash this month!

[Image by event13 on, licensed under Creative Commons]


2011 November 27
by Sharon

GPS betrayal. The moment of defeat in an unfamiliar territory when just minutes before you were confidently and light-heartedly navigating your way to a new destination. Now you find yourself wedged in the middle of 15 cars waiting to turn left on a crowded street with your desired destination looming directly to the right.

I experienced GPS betrayal the other day in downtown Atlanta. A friend and I were car pooling to an important meeting. We left from home 20 minutes early to insure we arrived on time. We successfully wove through Atlanta traffic like undercover spies to reach downtown almost 10 minutes ahead of schedule. We closed in on our designated meeting place, eased our way into the left turn lane and peered just around the corner for the entrance to the building. Neither one of us could see it. We scoured every corner of the intersection and couldn’t decipher any clues to where we should go. About that time, the light turned green and we were forced to move, still scanning the skyscrapers for any clue to the correct location.

To add insult to injury, the “helpful” GPS guide voice keep emphatically stating, “You have arrived at your destination.” “You have arrived at your destination.” Turn that thing off! We spent the next 15 minutes circling various city blocks adjacent to our cloaked destination until finally we spotted an inconspicuous sign on a building we had passed 6 or 8 times. There is a difference in “arriving at a destination” and landing where you want to be!

“Decision betrayal” is far more serious that GPS betrayal. Decision betrayal occurs when you arrive at a destination only to realize it has taken you further from rather than closer to your goal. How can you minimize “decision betrayal” financially? Just like being stuck in a left turn lane when you need to go right, it’s often the “decision before the decision” that makes all the difference in the outcome. Here are 3 key before-the-decision questions to ask:

1. How will this impact my financial goals?
2. Can I wait?
3. Is there a better alternative?

Are you bold enough to take the before-the-decision challenge? Answer these 3 questions before each purchase or financial decision for the next 2 weeks and review the ways your decisions change. Be sure to let me know how it goes so we can celebrate better decisions together!

[Image by Perfesser on, licensed under Creative Commons]


2011 November 20
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by Sharon

Have you ever known an “extreme planner”? Or you may be one. Although I tend to be the point person when it comes to strategic planning, I enjoy variety and tend to avoid routines. I used to work with an extreme planner, though. You know the one. He planned what clothes he would wear on Wednesday three weeks from now. If it was 6 am, you could find him at Starbucks no matter what day it was! When he traveled, he put each article in the same place in the same suitcase every time. Even going through security at the airport, he had an extreme routine. He would take off his shoes, then his watch, followed by taking his computer out of the computer bag, with the 3 oz. quart bag of liquids emerging last. You get the picture.

No matter whether you think planning is a blessing or a curse, it is a necessity. Whether you know it or not, there is a plan for every single dollar you have. Your mortgage company has a plan for a large percentage of them. Your car claims others. Your favorite restaurant takes a few as well. And don’t even get started on plans made by the merchants at the mall for them! The reality is that someone has a plan for your dollars. Wouldn’t you prefer that it be your plan rather than theirs?

I really like the way Dave Ramsey instructs you to build a spending plan. He says, “Give every dollar a name. Spend money on paper and on purpose before the month begins.” Planning is the process of asking God what He wants and lining up the resources you’ve been given to accomplish it. When I ask the Lord to direct my plans, I know they are good plans because they are His! The Bible says, “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.”

We live in an unpredictable world. Sometimes our plans don’t work out the way we hope. But the plans we make prayerfully led by God will always accomplish more fruitful outcomes than the plans made by others. As we approach the end of the year, let’s commit to ask God to give us His plans for our money next year and see what He does!

[Image by Jared and Corin on, licensed under Creative Commons]


2011 November 15

Remember the fun of the teeter-totter as a small child? I vividly remember playing at the park with friends. It was either a thrilling, fun experience or a tragedy. There was no in between. Things worked well when the weight of each child on each end was fairly equivalent. If not, our playtime often ended in a body-jolting, heart-thumping experience. With unequal weights, it could be a constant challenge to keep the momentum going. The heaviest kid would end up on the ground with a thud while the lighter one went flying through the air (though not with “the greatest of ease like the man on the flying trapeze”!)

Our finances are a lot like the teeter-totter. When major “weights” are balanced, it’s much easier to keep the positive momentum going. The first weight we balance is priorities (give/save/live). Once we know what we will allocate to the “live” priority, there’s a second set of balanced weights. I like to call them the Big 3: housing, transportation and food. You know, those “necessary” expenses to keep ourselves and our family sheltered, feed and transported to all their activities!

Through years of working with families and learning from the experience of Crown Financial Ministries and Dave Ramsey, I’ve discovered a simple rule of thumb for the Big 3. If I can arrange those necessary expenses (housing, transportation, food) so that they represent not more than 55% of my “live” money (the portion after give & save), then the rest of my money plan tends to be much easier to balance, so that I’m moving towards my goals and not teeter-tottering up and down.

If the Big 3 represents more than 55%, it may be a sign that I have too much house or too much auto, and it may take some major lifestyle decisions to adjust for a balanced budget. Where do you stand with your Big 3?

[Image by Ло on, licensed under Creative Commons]

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