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Money Saving Tip: Check out your Auto Insurance for Roadside Assistance

January 30, 2009 · Filed Under Frugality · 17 Comments 

Hopefully you have not, but I’m sure we have all experienced the dreaded breakdown on the side of the road.  It could be from your battery dying or something more sinister (and pricey), but there occasionally comes a time when your trusted (or maybe your not-so-trustworthy) automobile leaves you stranded and you need some help.  At times like that, it is certainly a relief to be able to pick up your cell phone and get someone routed out to come give you a hand (or a lift).

For years we’ve been members of AAA and have used the service quite a few times (unfortunately).  Luckily, it has not been happening as much lately since we’ve been able to afford, shall we say, more "contemporary" cars!  Even so, I have had the batteries die on both of my cars within the past few years and have called them up for a jump-start.

So, a few weeks back when I got a letter from AAA informing me the credit card they used to renew my yearly membership had expired,  I almost immediately picked up the phone to call and pay up for another year.  As I started to dial the phone, however, a thought crossed my mind of a vague memory from a long time ago…"Didn’t my auto insurance provide roadside assistance?"

I remember declining the roadside assistance when I first got my insurance coverage a few years back.  I didn’t need it, of course, since I had a AAA membership.  I thought to myself, maybe, just for fun, I should call up my insurance agent and ask him about their coverage (doesn’t everyone think calling insurance agents is jolly good fun?). Besides, my AAA membership costs $99.25 a year and I was secretly hoping that I could save a few bucks.

Well, I did call and asked about the coverage.  He told me I didn’t need it if I had AAA because it’s basically the same thing.  "But what if I didn’t have AAA?" I asked.  Well, he informed me that they basically provided the same roadside services as AAA.  In fact, the coverage is slightly better because there is no mileage limit to how much they will tow you if you go to an "approved" location (whatever that is).  Even if you go to an "non-approved" location, there is no towing limit and the maximum they will charge for the tow is $50.  Plus, like AAA, the coverage goes with you even if you are not in your own car.

This all sounded pretty good, so I waited breathlessly while he went and checked the price…."It will be $5 per car."  Just to confirm, "so, you’re saying it’s $10 per year?"  It seemed to take him a  lot longer to figure this out than I thought it should take an adult to multiple 5 times 2, but after a brief pause came the affirmative response (just to be fair, maybe he had to look up how many cars I had covered or something).   "Ok, yeah, let’s do that!" I shot back.

Sure, you don’t get AAA maps or travel agency services (do they still do that? I haven’t used a travel agent in at least a decade), free passport photos, or AAA discounts. But with Google maps and Mapquest (and probably most of you reading this have GPS systems anyway) and digital cameras and such, I think I’ll pocket the $90 savings!

Of course, the wisdom of this decision will not be determined until I have a break down and see if I have any problems with my insurance’s roadside assistance.  Depending on how that works out, I may have to rethink the plan. For now, however, I definitely think it’s worth a try.

Photo Credits: freeparking and peasap

Biblical Finances – 2 Corinthians 9

January 27, 2009 · Filed Under Biblical Lessons · 5 Comments 

As I read through my Bible, I try to pull out useful and/or interesting nuggets.  And since I have a personal finance blog, I also try to share the relevant ones with you here.

Bible Study 2 by DrGBB

This financial lesson comes from a book from the new testament.  In 2 Corinthians 8 & 9, Paul is discussing a generous monetary gift that was promised by the Corinthians to the Christians living in Jerusalem.  The letter is written in advance of Paul visiting the Corinth to receive the gift and he is discussing some attitudes about giving from which we can hopefully learn.

The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 2 Corinthians 9:6-7 (ESV)

Certainly there is a well known point that leaps out of this passage immediately – that of God loving a cheerful giver.  I’m sure most people have heard that phrase before.  But what does it really mean to be a cheerful giver?  Well, I could look it up in a dictionary but the keys are already in the passage.  Being a cheerful giver simply clarifies the previous statement of not giving reluctantly or giving as if you are forced to give.  To me, I think it can be distilled down to giving because you want to give.

Give more to get more?

The really interesting financial concept in this passage is found in the previous verse.  And this is quite an intriguing concept indeed because taken at face value, it goes against basic commonsense.  Allow me to paraphrase – whoever gives a little bit of what he/she has away will only get a little bit back, but whoever gives a lot of it away will get a lot back.  How crazy is that – that doesn’t make sense, right?  Maybe it doesn’t make sense in human terms, but remember that this it the Bible we’re talking about here.

Maybe this isn’t even talking strictly about finances.  Maybe this is talking about quality of life or true holistic prosperity.  When you give money or time or assistance to help others or make their lives better does that increase the quality of your life at all?   In its simplest form: does it make you feel good?  Even if you never get any financial return on that investment, would it still be worth it?  I think it certainly is most, if not all, of the time.  On top of that, however, I would also suggest that those often help out and gladly do favors for others will find the people around them willing to help them out as well.

A few other principles can be gleaned from two verses that follow shortly after those mentioned above.

He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God.  2 Corinthians 9:10-11 (ESV)

I think these verses are disclosing how verse 6 above works.  How does it work that when we sow bountifully we will also reap bountifully?  I think these verses teach us that God, who supplies our seed for sowing, will also multiply that seed and the resulting harvest.  We need to act as conduits for his blessing to flow through us and out to others around us.  The more generous we are in giving and helping, the more the people around us will be blessed and, according to verse 11, the more we will be enriched and blessed as well!  The more generous we are, the more we will be enriched so that, in turn, we can be even more generous.  To simplify it, I believe that when we share our blessings with others, we show God that we can be trusted to use his resources unselfishly instead of hoarding them for ourselves.

Finally, the end result of all of this is that our giving and especially our attitude in giving produces thanksgiving to God.

So give and give cheerfully, see how bountifully you can sow and see how many people you can bless…try it and see what happens to those around you and to you yourself.

God bless…

Photo Credits: DrGBB

Book Review Preview: Outliers

January 22, 2009 · Filed Under Book Reviews · 5 Comments 

I recently received a review copy of the book Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell.  To be honest, I had not previously heard of this author but the book sounded quite intriguing.  The subtitle of the book is "The Story of Success" (c’mon, you agree that piques your interest, right?)

I finally started reading it (I have quite a list of books to read and am only slowly working my way through them) and it has absolutely not disappointed.  In fact, it is quite enlightening and I have already found myself discussing it with friends on numerous occasions.

How can you not like a book that starts off discussing Canadian junior hockey teams and quickly moves to software tycoons, the Beatles, geniuses, lawyers, and immigrants making it big in the early-American garment industry.  And that’s only in the first part of the book – Opportunity.  The second part, Legacy, takes off from Appalachia…and that’s as far as I’ve gotten.

The Opportunity section of the book is chock full of interesting information on how to truly view success – specifically the necessary ingredients to achieve it.  Gladwell posits that there are numerous other factors that lead to success besides the obvious ones that we so often hear bandied about – being smart and working hard.  Remember, this is just a preview so here are a few questions to whet your appetite:

Do you notice anything interesting about the birth years of these US computer moguls?

  • Bill Gates – 1955
  • Paul Allen – 1953
  • Steve Ballmer – 1956
  • Steve Jobs – 1955
  • Eric Schmidt (Novell then Google) – 1955
  • Bill Joy (Sun Microsystems) – 1954
  • Scott McNealy (Sun) – 1954
  • Vinod Khosla (Sun) – 1955
  • Andy Bechtolsheim (Sun) – 1955

Why were 11 of the 22 members of the 2007 Czech junior national hockey team born during January, February, and March while only two on the same team were born in October, November, and December?

I am excited to finish this book and I’m hoping that there will be some sort of takeaway that will help me apply the knowledge the author shares in this book.  It is all very interesting, but I am wondering whether it will turn out to be practical or just informational.  To be fair, so far I have found two extremely useful bits of information regarding education and preparing your children for success (I will share those later as well).

When I finish reading the book, I will do a full review of it.  In fact, I may have to do more than one.  At the very least, some of the topics covered by Gladwell will certainly spark a few blog posts of their own!  I am enjoying this book and am very excited to pre-announce that I will do a giveaway of the book when I post the complete review of it.  So, please stay tuned for that as it will be the very first giveaway in the short history of Borrow From None.

Stupid Tax: Frozen and Burst Water Pipes

January 20, 2009 · Filed Under Random · 4 Comments 

I never realized that there was actually a penalty for leaving your crawl space access door open.  Well, if you did it on January 16th, 2009 (which just happens to be one of the coldest nights of the year outside of Richmond, VA), the penalty is almost $400!  How do I know, you ask?  Don’t ask.

We woke up Saturday morning to no water in the house (this really stunk because, besides the obvious, I was really looking forward to sleeping in on Saturday morning after not feeling well all day Friday).  After making some phone calls to ask some advice on what to check to determine exactly what was going on, I went outside to check the pipes in the crawl space and realized that the access door was wide open!  Though it was very cold outside, it struck me as I entered the crawl space just how warm it was under there – it was actually quite comfortable.  So I crawled all the way under the house and all the pipes looked fine.  On the way out, however, I saw that the main supply line was bulging and had burst.  The problem was, unfortunately, that the main supply line went right by that open access door.  All night long the wind whipped in just far enough to freeze that main line even though the rest of the pipes were fine.

When I realized it was the supply line, I kinda freaked out because, of course, I had no way to shut the water off if it started to thaw. So, I immediately called the county water people to come and shut off the water ("it will be a while" and "we can turn it off later today but can’t turn it back on until Tuesday" were the gems from that conversation).  I Then put some ice packs on top of the broken parts to prevent them from thawing (the pipe had bulged and burst in a second place by this time).

Anyway, after calling a plumber, I was able to get the situation remedied that the morning before any damage was done and the plumber was able to turn the water back on for us. Literally, the short section of pipe immediately in front of the door opening is the only thing that froze.  I was quite nervous about the next couple nights as they were forecast to be almost as cold, but I did makes sure that door was locked up tight and even wrapped some towels around the exposed section of the pipe.  UPDATE: Two nights have gone by with no more issues (though I admit that I went out to make sure that door was closed before going to bed each night and will probably do so again tonight).

To help you avoid this stupid tax that I encountered, here are some tips to prevent pipes from freezing (other than moving to Tucson):

  1. Ensure there is no way for wind to get to where the pipes are – seal any leaks (no matter how small) that allow cold air in around your pipes.
  2. Wrap pipe insulation around your pipes
  3. Consider installing electrically powered heat tape around your most vulnerable pipes
  4. On really cold nights, leave a faucet dripping very slowly to ensure water keeps moving and doesn’t sit in the pipe and freeze.
  5. Disconnect and drain hoses, close off inside valves to your hoses and open the outside valves to get the water out.  Then, leave the outside valves open to allow any remaining water room to expand
  6. Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warm air to circulate around the plumbing
  7. Close your crawl space access door! (argh!)

By the way, if you’re looking for a useful hobby to take up, I think plumbing may be the answer.  I spent almost $400 dollars for 30 minutes of work replacing about 5 feet of copper pipe, 1 elbow joint, and two connectors.  I can’t imagine that the materials for the job cost more than $15 (of course there are specialized tools needed but they are reusable).  If I had some plumbing skills, I could have saved myself quite a bit of money as well as time sitting around waiting for the plumber to arrive.  Plus, plumbing is a good skill to have for home additions and renovations.  I think I just might check into this….(just don’t tell my wife I’m contemplating yet another hobby!)

Photo Credits: ellievanhoutte

Book Review: Your Money Counts

January 15, 2009 · Filed Under Book Reviews, Finances · 6 Comments 

The biblical guide to earning, spending, saving, investing, giving, and getting out of debt

By Howard Dayton

BFN Book Reviews

Well, it has been quite a while since I did a book review here at BFN.  It’s a habit that I’d like to get back into – so why not start again today?  I provide a brief overview of the book and the author, touch on the good and bad in the book, and finally, give you my personal recommendation for whether you should borrow the book, buy the book, or neither.

What is this book about?

This book is a pretty small book but it basically tries to cover everything about money.  Specifically, to clarify, it tries to cover most of what the Bible says about finances.  It’s a pretty ambitious goal, especially given the size of the book (it is 175 pages, but it’s skinny).  It actually does cover quite a bit of the ground it mentions on the cover.  In fact, it touches on other subjects as well.  Of course, it can’t go into much detail on each portion.  Overall, however, the author is quite successful in jamming an extraordinary amount of biblical guidance into this skinny little book.

Who is the author?

Howard Dayton is a co-founder of Crown Financial Ministries with Larry Burkett.  The mission of Crown Financial Ministries is:

Equipping people worldwide to learn, apply, and teach God’s financial principles so they may know Christ more intimately, be free to serve Him, and help fund the Great Commission.

Before founding Crown Financial Ministries, he founded Crown Ministries back in 1985.  Therefore, Dayton has been studying Biblical financial principles for quite some time and attempting to teach them to others through the Crown bible studies and events.

What are the best parts of the book?

As I mentioned above, this book undertakes a very ambitious goal.  I feel that it does, for the most part, meet that goal.  This is a great introduction of  God’s teachings on money, possessions, and prosperity.  The book starts off by providing these statistics from the Bible:

  • 16 of the 38 parables regard how to handle money and possessions
  • There are approximately 500 verses about Faith
  • There are approximately 500 verses about Prayer
  • There are over 2350 verses about money & possessions

So, the author points out that the proper attitude and treatment of money and possessions is quite important.  Why is there such an emphasis on money and possessions in the Bible, you ask?  Dayton offers these three answers:

  1. How we handle money affects our relationship with the Lord (see Luke 16:11 )
  2. Possessions compete with the Lord for our focus and attention (see Matt 6:24 )
  3. Much of life as we currently live it revolves around the use of money

Dayton then spends the remainder of the book going through the various aspects of finances that touch us on a daily basis.  For each section, he discusses the main points and provides numerous Bible references.  Personally, I feel that the references are the most valuable part of the book.  For the topics covered, this book provides a great starting point for personal Bible study.

The book really does cover a lot of ground, so I can’t possible summarize even a fraction of it in this review.  Allow me to provide you with a glimpse of some of the interesting things I learned while reading it.

Giving

The author touches on the importance of giving and mentions that there are more Bible verses on giving than on any other individual financial topic.  He points out that your attitude about giving is of crucial importance.  He does not provide a set percentage that you should give, however, as he leaves that as a decision between you and God.

Working

Dayton also brings to the reader’s attention that work was designed before the fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:15 ).  So, having to do work is not a result of sin, work just got a lot harder because of it.

Investing

The author advocates being a "steady plodder" when it comes to your investing strategy.  He uses the quote "saving is making provision for tomorrow while debt is presumption upon tomorrow."  He lays out these three important investment goals:

  1. Providing for your family
  2. Becoming financially free to serve the Lord
  3. Operating your business

He also stresses that it is not an acceptable investment goal to save and invest for the sole purpose of becoming very wealthy (1 Tim 6:9-11 ).  His counsel is to determine the maximum amount of money you want to save and when you reach that number, stop saving and redirect the money you were investing to helping other people (kinda like those commercials where the people carry around those big orange numbers).

At the end of the book, there is a small section with some related questions (basically a FAQ), here are two questions and summarized answers that I thought were interesting:

How does the Bible define financial success?

It is achieved by being a faithful steward – not by how much wealth you have accumulated.

Should Christians give to secular charities?

There are many charities competing for our dollars and scripture does not specifically address whether we are only to give to Christian charities.  The author and his wife have decided that, with some certain exceptions, they themselves will only give to Christian charities.  This is mainly because, for the most part, everyone gives to secular charities but only Christians give to Christian charities.

What is not-so-good about the book?

This book covers a tremendous amount of information in a relatively short amount of time (well, I guess it depends on how fast you read).  As you might imagine, there are not enough pages to go into terrible detail on each topic.  As a result, your appetite is whetted but you will need to turn elsewhere if you want an exhaustive treatment on any specific topic.

Also, it is not nearly as practical or "step-by-step" as some other financial books.  For instance, Dayton spends about half a page on his four step process for getting your finances in order.  Dave Ramsey, in contrast, has an entire book on the subject .  I feel that this book is not really trying to be that, though.  The point of this book is to get you thinking about Biblical standards for money.  It is to give you a primer on the main points, to maybe challenge some of the (wrong) ideas you may have about money, and to pique your interest to delve into the subject more.  And in that scope, I think it performs well.

So what is my recommendation?

I think this is a good reference book to own.  It has a ton of information crammed into it.  In fact, it’s going onto BFN’s virtual bookshelf .  I think it is a valuable read to get started on your path to understanding what God teaches about money.  There are copious amounts of Bible references throughout, so it is helpful to open it up to a specific topic to see how the author summarizes the topic and start searching the Bible references provided.

As I mentioned, it’s not a practical step-by-step guide to getting out of debt or whatever.  If that is what you need in your life right now, this is not the book for you.  One option is to find a Crown Financial Ministries Bible study in your area – that’s actually where I received this book (you get it as part of the material for the class)  – as it will provide that step-by-step process you’re looking for.

I would say that if you can do the Bible study or pick up a copy of this book at a good price, then it’s a good book to have and refer back to often.

Want to borrow this book? Search your local library

Want your own copy? Buy this book now at Amazon.com

Check out the other books I’ve chosen for my virtual bookshelf

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