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Weekly Bible Verse – God Owns it All

June 30, 2009 · Filed Under Weekly Bible Verse · Add a Comment 

“The silver is mine and the gold is mine,” declares the LORD Almighty.  Haggai 2:8 (NIV)

Just a little reminder about the true owner of everything we “think” we own.  Remember, everything is God’s – He created the earth and everything in it.  He is the source of whatever wealth you have be it little or great.  We don’t so much as “own” the stuff we have as we are “managing” it for God.  We are called to be stewards of the blessings He has given to us; to care for them and use them wisely to take care of our family and to be generous to others.  Overall, our actions in dealing with our money and possessions, like everything else in life, should glorify God.

I believe that acknowledging that God owns everything helps us to keep a proper perspective when it comes to our finances and possessions.  Crown Financial goes so far as suggesting you create a “Quit Claim Deed” for your most prized possessions and go through the exerciseo of putting in writing (and signing) the fact that God owns your stuff, not you.  Keeping this fact in mind will help you to keep your focus on God instead of getting distracted with your finances, possessions, and toys.  Ideally, it would also enable you to worry less about acumulating (and potentially losing) those items as well.

God Bless and have a great week…

I Am Not Very Good at Once-a-Month Shopping

June 25, 2009 · Filed Under Once a Month Cooking & Shopping · 4 Comments 

But I LOVE once-a-month-cooking!

My wife and I have been trying once-a-month cooking and shopping for a few months now and it has been a mixed bag.  Personally, I love the idea of only canvasing the grocery store aisles once a month and my wife loves the idea of only cooking once a month (and still having home-cooked meals the rest of the month).

The grocery store beckons…

Unfortunately, we just can’t seem to stay out of the grocery store. We are much better than we used to be but we fall quite a bit short of our once-a-month target.  I’m not 100% sure why we are having such a hard time with it.  It is not just that we have to run out occasionally for an item or two, either.  We seem to be coming back with fairly long receipts (and lighter wallets) whenever we go!

Part of it is poor planning maybe as we’re still trying to get our monthly list worked out.  Part of it is extenuating circumstances like guests coming over for dinner and similar events.  Part of it is simple logistics (we simply do not have enough space to store the amount of milk we drink in a month!).  I do need to be more diligent about analyzing the added trips to the store in order to continue to refine our process and get us heading back toward our once-a-month (even twice-a-month would be an improvement!) goal.

On the other hand, once a month cooking has been awesome

Though there are a few reasons for our inability to stay out of the grocery store, our normal meal cooking is not one of them.  My wife has done a fantastic job of planning for once-a-month cooking, buying everything that is needed in a single trip, and cooking up those 14+ meals.  Yes, I realize 14 is less than 30, but with leftovers, occasional dinners out, dinners with family and friends, we don’t need anywhere near 30 meals for a month.

I am really enjoying the cooking plan as it allows us to have a good meal (did you realize that not everyone considers taco night a “good” meal?  What’s up with that?) even on the days my wife works without requiring me to take a bunch of time from my job to accomplish that.  The single day of cooking is still a significant chore, but my wife has streamlined that quite a bit since our first try.  That first time, we both stayed up late Friday evening preparing food and then my wife and mother-in-law cooked ALL DAY on Saturday (early morning until dinner time).  This last time, my wife got up early on a Saturday morning and was finished cooking by approximately lunch time.

She has used the Once a Month Cooking book since she started down this road.  Though it’s not perfect, I do recommend it as a book to get you started.  In planning for this upcoming day of cooking, however, she has started to adapt some of her other recipes and incorporate them into the plan.  This obviously makes the planning more difficult.  The advantage is that she typically uses a great cookbook (great for me because the meals are quite tasty and great for her because they are very easy to prepare) titled The One-Armed Cook.  The recipes in this cookbook are much easier to prepare than in the other book, so hopefully this will save her even more cook time.

Of course, this is a still work in progress as she attempts to optimize the plan, integrate in some other recipes (and family favs), and figure out the best way to do all of this.  I’m trying to get her to write a blog on something – maybe this would be a good topic for her to add to the once a month cooking blogs out there.

So, in summary, we continue to optimize the plan.  The more I get into it though (we’ve done this for about 5 months now), the more I recommend both once-a-month cooking and once-a-month shopping (I just need to figure out how to be better at the shopping part!).

Some tips on getting started with Once a Month Cooking

1. Try it…but consider starting small – maybe try to cook a week’s worth of meals your first time instead of an entire month’s worth.

2. Get some help – childcare and/or cooking help.  My wife does most of the cooking but I usually tend to the kids and follow her around and clean pots, pans, measuring cups, utensils, etc as she cooks)

3. Follow a prescribed recipe pattern before you try it with your own recipes – this will help ensure that nothing is overlooked while you’re getting used to the process.

4. Make sure you set aside enough time (for planning and cooking)

5. Make sure you have enough space to freeze everything – it doesn’t have to be too crazy though because you can freeze most meals flat in Ziploc bags and stack them to save space.  This is another reason to start small.

6. Don’t shop too far in advance – the ingredients take up a lot of space so you don’t want them overrunning your kitchen for too long.

7. Look over the recipes beforehand to make sure there are no surprises

8. Take your family size into account – some recipes can be split in half to make two meals for smaller families or you may have to double everything if you have a big family (or teenage boys).

9.  Check out blogs for help – I found two blogs after a brief search, please comment below if there are other great ones to read.

10. Seriously, try it – you might like it!

Weekly Bible Verse – Ensuring Your Success

June 22, 2009 · Filed Under Weekly Bible Verse · 2 Comments 

Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.  Proverbs 16:3

This verse really speaks to me so after coming across it last week, I thought it would be a great one to pass along.  Personally, I spend a lot of time working on ways to diversify and increase my income streams (usually at night when everyone else is asleep)(like right now).  Now, I certainly do not want all of that time and effort to be for naught.  But how can I ensure that I am not wasting my time? Well, I believe that this week’s verse clearly answers that question.

I feel that this verse really underscores the importance of having the right motivations for pursuing your plans. I have many different reasons for starting this blog and doing other side work (and I’m sure most of you reading this right now have similar pursuits and similarly varied underlying reasons as well).  Whatever those reasons may be, however, they should clearly be pleasing to God.

If you want your plans to succeed, commit them to God.  No, not in some sort of “prosperity gospel” way where you give money for the sole purpose of becoming rich.  This isn’t about deciding what you’re going to do without any account for whether it will glorify God or not, and then bringing God into the picture at the last moment and asking Him to bless it.  Rather, I believe that committing it to the Lord involves some serious prayer: blanketing your plans in prayer so that you will get yourself in line with what God wants you to do.  Once you’re in line with Him, then your plans will succeed.

So, pray for your endeavors and ideas and plans and have God direct you as to whether or not they are worth pursuing.  Getting in sync with God, possibly changing directions, and pursuing His plans may not sound like a good idea at first, but it will ensure you’re not wasting your precious time and energy.

God bless and have a great week…

Monthly Net Worth Update: June 2009

June 16, 2009 · Filed Under Net Worth · 1 Comment 
Cash + Money by Terence Chang

Just like last month, our net worth has increased again (that makes three months in a row!) And just like last month, the majority of the increase has been driven by the stock market.

Our assets increased more than 2.0%

For the first time since November of 2008, the estimated value of our house (according to Zillow.com) has increased. Now, it only increased a tiny bit, but that’s better than nothing. Not many houses in our neighborhood have been selling lately, so I’m not sure why Zillow thinks the values are ticking back up. In fact, our neighbor recently got a contract on their house but had to drop their listing price quite a bit to make that happen. What does it all mean? Who knows….I never had much faith in Zillow providing an extremely accurate estimate, but I don’t have any better options either!

Except for our liquid assets, all of our other accounts increased in value this month. Our accounts with stock market exposure increased the most, but the increase in the those accounts is trending downard (in other words, this month’s increase was less than last month’s which was less than the month before that).

Our liabilities decreased 0.5%

Our liabilities dropped the typical monthly rate of 0.5%. I am still adhering to the status quo with our liabilities (well, the mortgage). I have not done anything to accelerate it nor do I have any imminent plans to do so. Actually, a few months back I was investigating the idea of implementing something like one of those Money Merge Accounts where you use a home equity line of credit to speed your mortgage payoff. I didn’t get very far into that though since I can’t get a HELOC with the amount of equity I currently have in my house (approximately $0).

Our net worth increased another 6.5%

The percentage increase of our net worth was identical to last month’s increase. I am not making any drastic changes to our plan going forward. I am continuing to save and invest according to the current plan. I know, that’s boring…but boring has been working pretty well the past few months as our net worth has increased almost 33% since the low point in March (though I have not yet gotten back to the high point I hit last summer).

Weekly Bible Verse – Our Wealth comes from God

June 15, 2009 · Filed Under Weekly Bible Verse · 1 Comment 

“Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O LORD, and you are exalted as head above all. Both riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all.”  Chronicles 29:11-12 (ESV)

Just a reminder this week about the true source of our "riches and honor" (and everything else, frankly).  It is sometimes easy to forget that God is the source of all things, including our money and possessions.  What we have is not simply a product of how smart we are and/or how hard we work.  It is all from God (even our smarts and our capability to work hard).  Remember that this week and keep your focus where it really should be – on God.

God bless and have a great week…

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