Paths to Financial Freedom

What Are You $aving for? (Part 1)
Does this sound familiar? A year ago you promised yourself that it wouldn’t happen again next year. The year before that, same promise. But again this year, December rolled around and you found yourself financially unprepared for Christmas expenses. Food, gifts, travel, events – all conspired to turn your good intentions into mere memories. Once again, you’ve turned to credit cards to bail you out.

Since there’s every likelihood that Christmas will come again next year, perhaps this is the year to finally put a plan in place to stay away from the crisis spending that so often characterizes the season. Our good intentions aren’t enough to make Christmas 2015 financially different from 2014 or 2013. We need a plan, and now is the time to create it, while this Christmas season is still fresh in our minds. Here are a few tips to help you get on track for 2015.

Start with information. What did you spend on Christmas this year? Consider:

  • What gifts did you buy, for whom, and how much did they cost? Did you have any shipping costs for some of the gifts?
  • What did you spend on Christmas cards – both purchasing and mailing?
  • What Christmas events (concerts, plays, etc.) did you attend and how much did they cost?
  • Did you do any entertaining this year? What cost was associated with that?
  • How about travel? Did you visit relatives or friends? What did you spend on travel, food, lodging, etc.?
  • Other than travel and entertaining, did you buy special food for the season?
  • What did you spend on decorations?

As you can see, the costs can really add up!! There’s nothing wrong with celebrating the holidays, as long as we’re prepared for the financial reality of how we celebrate. Once you’ve taken careful stock of this year, think about next year. Will you be doing everything the same or will something be different? Will you be buying gifts for the same people? Traveling the same places? Attending the same events and doing the same entertainment? Try to project as closely as you can how much you would be increasing or decreasing in each of these areas, to give you an idea of how much you will need to save. When you’ve done that, ask yourself one last question: Were there any surprise expenses this Christmas that you didn’t plan for? Do you need to plan a “surprise” or two into next Christmas?

Once you know how much you plan to spend on Christmas in 2015, set up a plan to save that amount prior to the time you will begin spending it. There are a couple of major ways to save for Christmas:

  1. Make it part of your monthly budget, like other items.
  2. Use “windfall” money from a tax refund or bonus at work to set up your Christmas fund. This one may be more appropriate in some cases, because it matches one-time income with “one-time” expenses.

Whichever way you go, consider putting this money aside in a savings account or some other vehicle to keep you from dipping into it over the course of the year.

Imagine the freedom you’ll feel next year when you begin your Christmas shopping knowing that you have set aside sufficient funds to allow you to leave your credit cards at home! Imagine the peace that will come after the Christmas season, when you’re not pressured to figure out how to pay off credit card purchases in addition to meeting all your other budget commitments. Then, prayerfully put a plan in motion to make it happen.

From Cars to Coaches

December 2014 Good $ense Newsletter: From Cars to Coaches

Do you book the cheapest rental car when you travel?  Since cheapest usually means smallest, that can create some unique adventures for a large guy like me.  Recently I folded myself into a rental car and had to adjust the back rest to 45 degrees so my head didn’t hit the ceiling.  I couldn’t get in or out without hitting my head on the door frame, which was a good six inches lower than the ceiling. When I looked at a car to my left their door handle was at eye level.  The car was handy though, because instead of hunting for a parking spot all I had to do was put the car in my pocket!

Our financial lives can be much like that rental car.  Sometimes we do, think, and feel things that don’t fit who God made us to be as stewards.  Reality-TV living has resulted in many people hitting their heads repeatedly on their financial door frames.  More than ever, Christ-followers need guidance, encouragement, and tools to help us right-size our financial “cars”.

To address this need, Good $ense is excited to be introducing a new coaching resource over the next few months to train Stewardship Coaches in your church and organization.  The new Freed-Up Coaches resource will train coaches in your church and/or organization to: 1) ANALYZE a participant’s  finances; 2) LISTEN AND PROVIDE GRACE in connecting  root issues of life to  financial realities; 3) DEVELOP a biblically-based  Spending Plan; 4) PROVIDE HOPE that the journey is possible; and 5) CELEBRATE the resultant freedom that is experienced. This training equips and charges coaches to “Be agreeable, be sympathetic, be loving, be compassionate, be humble. That goes for all of you, no exceptions. No retaliation. No sharp-tongued sarcasm. Instead bless – that’s our job, to bless. You’ll be a blessing and also get a blessing.”  1 Peter3:8-9 (MSG)

During this Christmas season, please send us the gift of your questions, hopes, and comments regarding  this new Freed-Up Coaching resource.

May you experience a joyous and blessed Christmas.

Sid Yeomans
President, Good Sense Movement
Transforming Finances! Transforming Lives!

How Thanksgiving Can Protect Us From Christmas

Truths that Transform: How Thanksgiving Can Protect Us From Christmas

When you think about it, Thanksgiving can protect us from Christmas. Let me explain…

True, thanksgiving comes from a spirit of gratitude toward God and contentment with what He has provided. Israel’s annual feasts provided times of remembering all that God had done and offering thanks to Him. Similarly, Thanksgiving can be for us a season of remembering God for all he has done and expressing gratitude to Him. Such gratitude both reflects and appeals to the mind and heart of God.

Contrast this with what has become of Christmas, a season dominated by the pull of the culture. Christmas candy quickly fills the holes on store shelves left by Halloween. Stores open earlier and earlier on “Black Friday”, looking to attract shoppers with special deals on things we often don’t need. Commercials for expensive items like jewelry and automobiles fill the airwaves. None of those commercials ask the question, “Do you need this item?” Instead, they encourage us to feel unfulfilled without whatever they’re trying to sell us.

Scripture teaches us a different outlook, one that can protect us from the pull of the culture. A spirit of thanksgiving flows through the Bible; here are just a few examples:

“Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” — Colossians 3:17

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” — Philippians 4:6-7.

“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” — Philippians 4:12-13.

Contentment and gratitude can help us avoid the pull of the culture and recover the real meaning of Christmas. The more we tune ourselves in to the mind and heart of God by keeping a spirit of thanksgiving, the more we realize that the best gifts of Christmas don’t come from a store.

Good Sense Movement Team
Good Sense Movement
Transforming Finances! Transforming Lives!

The Cost of Christmas

News You Can Use: The Cost of Christmas

The Christmas season is the most expensive time of the year. 25% of all personal spending in the United States occurs during the holiday shopping season, beginning on the day after Thanksgiving and going through Christmas (

A 2010 Time article reported that in December of that year, 13.6 million Americans were still paying off debts from Christmas shopping the previous year! Time went on to list several reasons that 2010 saw the lowest usage of credit cards in 27 years, based on information from TransUnion credit reporting agency. Sadly, that trend reversed the following year, according to an article on the Washington Post  website.

ABC News reports consumer counseling agencies see a 25% rise in the number of people seeking help in January and February, mostly driven by holiday bills. And no wonder: reported in 2013 that 57 percent of parents indicated that they were going to take on debt to buy gifts for their kids.

Christmas gifts are easily the most expensive part of Christmas for most Americans, but these are not the only expenses we need to be ready for. Travel, entertaining, food, events – the list can be daunting. More importantly, while we may think to budget for gift-giving, many will not think of the other expenses that come with the season.

To help you prepare for the Christmas season, Dave Ramsey has added a new tool to his website. Called “My Christmas Budget”, the tool is relatively simple but will help you not only to think through what you plan to spend on Christmas, but also to document what you actually spent. You can print your budget (including what you actually spent) or e-mail it to yourself. This can be a great starting point for keeping records this year and planning for next. Check it out on the Dave Ramsey website.

Stories of Transformation