Consumer, Home, Money Management

Common-Sense Spending Strategies

By: FaithFi, Rob West & Carolyn Calupca

From hats in the hall closet to bats in the belfry, you can save money with a few common-sense strategies for three of the basics — clothing, utilities, and home maintenance.

Managing your money wisely doesn’t have to be complicated. A simple spending plan can help you keep track of what comes in and what goes out, but what about the necessary things, like clothes, energy, and shelter? If you feel like these expenses are out of control, these ideas will help.

Let’s start with clothing. In this category, the temptation is to buy whenever there’s a sale, to chase after the latest styles or both. When you have kids, and especially teenagers, you have the added problem of sizes changing all the time, not to mention another set of opinions on what’s cool! Well, here’s how to keep your family’s wardrobe looking sharp for less.

First, you don’t have to buy new. Instead, visit local thrift stores where you’ll find deals on current styles as well as wardrobe basics. If you have kids, this is where you’ll save. Teenagers might push back on this, but give them a budget and challenge them to find something they like. They’ll enjoy having a bit of freedom in the matter, and seeing how far their money can go. If you do shop retail, use coupons and loyalty programs to get discounts.

Consider consignment stores, too. You’ll find stylish clothing there and when you’re done with your gently-used items, you can trade them in for cash or a discount. That’s money back in your clothing budget.

Next, try rethinking your closet. What I mean is, instead of filling it with clothes and shoes that you’ll wear only once or twice, think multi-purpose. A good pair of slacks can take you to work or church. A neutral skirt can work for an interview or an evening out. The goal is to have a few high-quality basics that can do double-duty in your wardrobe. Focus your spending on that core wardrobe, and then let your accessories and thrift store add-ons provide color and variety.

Our next category for saving is utilities. The first strategy is to buy energy-efficient appliances. You certainly can’t replace all your existing appliances at once, but when it’s time to put in a new washing machine, choose one that costs less to run. While you’re at it, you may be able to find a deal on a “scratch and dent” appliance.

Another way to save on energy costs is by using LED lighting. When you need to replace a bulb, it’s worth the extra cost upfront to buy LEDs. They’ll pay for themselves over time with longer life and more energy efficiency.

Next, check with your utility company about rebates for installing energy-efficient systems in your home. You might get money back for installing an electric hybrid water heater, for instance, or putting in a smart thermostat. Your power company will have details about rebates on its website.

A simple way to reduce your energy bill is by unplugging appliances, turning off electronics, and adjusting your thermostat, especially when you’re not at home.

Our last money-saving category is home maintenance. If you own a home, you can’t just assume all is well. Like a car, your home needs regular attention, just to keep it functioning smoothly. Ignoring this might not cause a breakdown on the highway, but it can result in very expensive repair or replacement costs. For instance, dirty filters can make your heating and air conditioning system work much harder, which makes it wear out sooner. For plumbing, be aware of possible pipe leaks, or dripping faucets. Avoid overflow problems by having your septic tank pumped out regularly, if you have one.

Heating and air conditioning are one of your home’s most important systems, so don’t ignore that, either. Have your HVAC system checked at least once a year to make sure it’s operating at maximum efficiency when you need it most— in summer and winter.

Second, do an annual check of the caulking around your windows, doors, and light fixtures. Install new weather stripping around doors and windows if necessary.

If your home feels too warm in the summer and too cold in the winter, even after you’ve sealed the air leaks, you may need more insulation. Again, check with your power company about rebates for that.

Related to home maintenance and insulation, when was the last time you checked under your roof? If you have unused attic space, make sure it’s not becoming a home for critters, like squirrels, mice, or bats. It’s not unusual to find rodent nests in attic insulation if the soffits and air vents aren’t sealed properly. If you’ve got wildlife guests in the attic, it may take a professional to get them out and seal the space but don’t put it off. Aside from the sanitation issues, rodents can chew on electrical wiring, creating a fire hazard.

Making a few smart changes to your spending can really save money in the long run. Start taking advantage of them today!

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Home, Money Management, Personal Goals

Can You KonMari Your Money?

By Jeannie Rodriguez | Dr. Budgets

Recently, I watched the entire series of “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo” on Netflix (along with seemingly everyone else in the world) and I was inspired! One by one I watched as Marie Kondo helped people transform their homes and, eventually, their relationship with stuff. I tackled organizing my daughter’s clothes and the new sight of her beautifully folded clothes brought me tremendous joy! It got me thinking…can people apply KonMari principles to their money and experience the same joy? Being married to Dr. Budgets, I can confidently report that it can be done! Here’s how:

1) Does It Bring You Joy?

KonMari method principle:

Collect all your clothes (or papers, or miscellaneous items) in one place and hold each one…ask yourself if it brought you joy. If it did, keep it. If it didn’t, thank it and let it go.

KonMari application to your money:

Open a account and link all your bank and credit card accounts. Mint will import all your expenses for the last three months. Look at each purchase and ask yourself if it brought you joy. If it did, great! Incorporate it into your budget. If it didn’t, thank it and let it go.

Some examples:

$100 for a monthly housekeeper or massage – think about how you feel after this experience. Does it bring you joy? (I know that I feel joy after a massage!) Great, now work it into your budget.

Now, what about these?

  • $100/month on-the-go coffee
  • $100/month gym membership
  • $100/month for a storage unit

Maybe you love the daily indulgence of a coffee shop cup of coffee and it truly brings you joy…great! Or you LOVE your gym membership, or you are thrilled to have a storage unit because it keeps those items out of your home. Those $100/month expenses should bring you the same joy as the massage or housekeeper. If they do, work them into the budget.

Alternatively, maybe you are shocked to discover you spend $1,200 a year on coffee that doesn’t, in fact, bring you joy. Or maybe you haven’t been to that gym in months or you’re not even entirely sure what you have in that storage unit, maybe seeing those expenses does not bring you joy. That’s okay…take a moment to thank them, and then take steps to get rid of them.

2) Organize in a Way So That You Can See Everything

KonMari principle:

Fold your clothes in a special way so that they can stand up in your drawers and you can see everything at once (not stacked on top of each other). Put smaller items in boxes and display sentimental items so you can see/appreciate them.

KonMari application to money:

Organize your money so that you can SEE it. This will be a little different for everyone, but here are some ideas (you can combine these methods):

  • Use a money tracker (like and categorize/review your spending monthly.
  • Use the envelope system wherein you allocate actual cash money in an envelope for spending in categories such as dining out, bills, and groceries.
  • Create a visual way to track your progress toward your financial goals and review them each month. Here is a fun way you can try!

3) Commit Your Time to this Project

KonMari principle:

Set aside time to go through everything and commit to getting it done. Trying to do it little by little doesn’t work. Make a commitment to go through the entire process.

KonMari Application to money:

Exact same idea – set aside time to organize your finances, determine financial goals and set yourself up for success.

4) Take a Moment to Reflect

KonMari principle:

At the beginning of each episode, Marie would find a spot in the house, sit on her feet, close her eyes and introduce herself to the house. She encouraged the people with whom she was working to join her and take a moment to thank the house for everything it gave them and imagine how they want to feel after the process.

KonMari application to money:

Take a moment to think about your money. What does your money do for you? How does it make you feel? How do you want it to make you feel? What do you want to get out of the process of organizing your finances? Just take a moment to set the tone for the journey you’re about to take.

5) It’s Your Decision

KonMari principle:

Marie Kondo does not question the decisions of the people on the show. She doesn’t suggest that they should let go of an item they decided brought them joy. The “afters” of these spaces aren’t the typical picture-perfect homes you’d expect on a makeover show, and I love it! These are real families with real homes, not pages in a magazine.

KonMari application to money:

How you spend your money should be up to you. If you’ve done the work to set financial goals and made the decision to be intentional about your spending, then you can buy those fancy shoes or have a spa day or buy that new gadget. Your budget should not look like my budget because we have different goals and priorities.

6) It’s an Ongoing Process (but you’ll probably feel better about it now!)

KonMari principle:

Going through the KonMari steps wasn’t the end – now the families need to do a little bit each day to keep their homes in that state. However, after going through the steps, each of the families appeared to feel better about their stuff and their home. It seemed that the task of keeping up their homes wasn’t as overwhelming as it may have felt before they worked with Marie Kondo.

KonMari application to money:

While some of your budgeting tasks can be automated (and should be!), you’ll need to be actively involved in your finances. Many consumers talk about an “out of sight, out of mind” mentality about their finances, but almost all admitted that wasn’t the best approach! Setting aside a little time each month to review your spending, whether it’s in, on a spreadsheet, or with a money coach, is going to be the key to keeping that joyous feeling about your money. If the idea of doing that now seems daunting, understand that you’ll likely feel better about it after you go through the initial process of organizing your money and setting up a spending plan.

7) You Have the Potential to Improve Your Relationships

KonMari principle:

So many relationships appear to be transformed in the series: peoples’ relationships with their homes, with their stuff, and with each other. It is no surprise that if you have a sense of chaos or stress associated with a major part of your life, it’s going to affect your relationships. Going through the process, at the very least, opened a dialogue between the participants. In many of the episodes, it seemed to improve partnerships and family relationships…and I think that’s something that truly sparks joy!

KonMari application to money:

Since money touches so many aspects of our lives, it’s no wonder it can be a big source of stress and tension in relationships. Similar to the physical items in your home that are always there, such as paper, clothes, photos, books, and boxes of Christmas decorations, the financial items such as bills, budgets, statements, income, expenses, and debt aren’t very different. You can try to pack them away and forget about them or work around them and get by, but unless you deal with it all (ACTUALLY deal with it), it’s probably constantly stressing you out and affecting your relationships. In many ways, I think sorting through the money stuff is a lot like sorting through the stuff-stuff…once you dig in, it’s not as scary as you thought and you’ll wish you had done it sooner!


As it turns out, there is a lot about the KonMari method that can be applied to money! Have you applied any of these principles to your home? How do you feel about doing the same with your money? If you’d like help with the process, Christian Credit Counselors could be like your own Marie Kondo for your finances!

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Consumer, Finance, Home, House

Ask Chuck: Is Low Price Better Than High Quality?

By: Chuck Bentley, Crown Financial Ministries

Dear Chuck,

I like nice, quality things. My husband prefers lower prices. My perspective is that buying quality is better in the long run. Is there a right or wrong way to look at it? We are stuck on which refrigerator to buy to replace the old one we have now.

Needing A Compromise

Dear Compromise,

Let’s reframe the choices you have from just two to three. You could get a quality refrigerator, you could get a low priced refrigerator, or you could get the best value refrigerator. The final choice is the best one but getting to the compromise will be the challenge.

My wife and I both like nice things…at a good price. But it can take months to find a deal! My wife, Ann, will research an item to death, whereas I’m ready to buy when I know an item is right for us. The key is learning to work together by honoring each other’s personality and opinions. Both of you can be equally right, and wise decisions can be made through prayer and honest, respectful communication.

There is a time to spend more for quality and longevity. There’s also a time where the extra expense doesn’t matter. However, some people do not understand the difference. Rather than using common sense and trusting the Lord, some people are caught up in the need for luxury.

In The Psychology Behind Why People Buy Luxury Goods, Vanessa Page writes:

People buy luxury goods for a variety of reasons, all of which are related to the strong emotions that we attach to expensive material goods. Whether we are financially comfortable or not, we will often purchase luxury items to show off to or gain acceptance from others and to reward ourselves for an accomplishment.

A good steward has his/her identity in Christ and does not ‘need’ luxury. Quality is different. Here are a few basic things to remember when shopping for the best value: a quality product at a great price. 

Consider the length of ownership to determine what should be quality and what is non-essential. A refrigerator lasts a long time so quality is important. You need to know for certain that it will protect the food you buy for your family. A cat bed, however, is disposable and does not need to be the best on the market.

When to Spend More for Quality

  • Energy efficiency
  • Longer life of the product
  • Dependability
  • Maintenance free

When to Be Frugal

  • Disposable items
  • No difference in quality
  • Functionality is equal
  • Less expensive won’t affect safety or health

Tips on Getting the Best Value

Know what you need to best serve your family. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and talked into spending more money than is necessary because there are so many bells and whistles on appliances today that have little meaningful purpose.

If you shop Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace, remember, not all sellers can be trusted. In addition to having no warranty or guarantee that the product will work, you may have to move it yourself. And, when replacing appliances, that means moving out the old ones as well.

Check out sales over holiday weekends and check for online sales. Avoid new models and take advantage of the old stock that retailers want to clear out. The end of the month is a great time to negotiate a purchase because employees working on commission are eager to make more sales. Always ask to see any ‘scratch and dent’ items. They are often significantly discounted for appearances only. 

Ask if there are delivery and installation charges and any fees with hauling away the old appliance. I ignore extended warranties and always research reviews and consumer reports.

Steward Time, Money, and Relationships

The time you put into researching the purchase of a higher costing item can be saved over the life of a product. Do your work upfront. Time is money. Read reviews. Talk to salesmen, people you know, anyone willing and trustworthy to educate you on the purchase.

Pray for discernment and for leading to the right item. Needs and wants should be vetted. God often grants us the desires of our heart when he knows our desire is to use His money wisely. Let your husband know that you are willing to work to find the best value refrigerator and ask for his support.

Seek harmony and peace in your marriage. Respect your spouse’s opinion. Be quick to listen and slow to speak. In humility, present your case with proven research while honoring your husband. If he believes his way is best, then submit in love. Sometimes we have to sacrifice our desires for the good of the marriage. Your relationship is more important than an appliance.

And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. (Colossians 3:14-15 ESV)

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Christian Credit Counselors, Consumer, Credit, Credit Cards, Credit Counseling, Credit Score, Debit & Your Credit Score, Debt, Debt Consolidation, Debt Settlement, Goals, Holiday Tips, Home, Kids & Money, Money Management, Personal Goals, Uncategorized

Your Spending Habits and Your Holiday Spirit

The Average American’s Holiday Spending Habits

Already thinking about everything you have to do for the holiday season? Does the thought of holiday preparation stress you out? According to the National Retail Federation, it was estimated that the average American spent $77.52 on candy, costumes and decorations for Halloween in 2014. According to a CNBC report, the average American planned to spend $765 on Christmas for the holiday season as well. Is this how much you will spend this year? To avoid answering yes to this question, start planning ways to save money now.

Holiday Money Saving Tips

Shop with a Gratitude Attitude

The first, and possibly greatest, thing that you can do to save money this season is to adjust the way you THINK about the holidays. Rather than getting caught up in the commercials, products, and social pressures, concentrate on the things you already have in your life that you can use or recycle and the people you already have in your life to whom you can show love and appreciation. Concentrate more on the FEELING that you can give someone else rather than the MATERIALS you can give them. For Halloween, get creative and make your own costumes during a Family Craft Night. Change your spending habits by making it about the experience rather than shopping. Can’t afford to make or host a big dinner? Plan a family movie night, rent scary movies, and gorge on popcorn and pizza.

Make Random Acts of Kindness a Holiday Norm

Instead of buying gifts, clean the car or house for your spouse, make a collage of old photos for a friend or family member, call a distant friend or relative and leave a Christmas Carol voicemail to spread cheer over the phone, make a list of reasons why you love someone or appreciate someone, write a song or poem for them, and make decorations using household items such as a string of popcorn. Use this new mentality to set the tone for your entire family. For any other holiday necessities, you can financially prepare to save money by creating a budget and setting aside a small amount every week or paycheck. Just remember though, gratitude, love, and the right mentality can save you and your family A ton of money this holiday season, especially if you are all on the same page.

Do you want to know more about debt and how you can make smart financial decisions now that will help you secure a more prosperous financial future? Sign up for our newsletter for monthly money tips.

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    Christian Credit Counseling
    Christian Credit Counselors, Credit Counseling, Debit & Your Credit Score, Debt Consolidation, Home, House, Uncategorized

    Debt Counseling Before a Short Sale

    Living through The Great Recession

    Sometimes even the best efforts to be a good steward of the resources we are given can seem to come up short. In 2008 an economic downturn began that has become known as “the great recession”.

    Through no fault of their own, but only due to buying their home at the high point of home prices before the recession hit, many homeowners have found themselves “underwater”.This means the current market value of their homes is less than their original purchase price and less than the outstanding balance of their mortgage loan. If they do a conventional sale, they will be without their home and still owe the portion of their mortgage loan balance that is not covered by proceeds from the sale.

    Understanding Short Sales

    In these circumstances, with the approval of the lender, it may be possible to sell a home for less than the balance of the home loan and have the entire debt excused. This is known as a short sale. As stated by a Bank of America official quoted on the federal website,, “In many cases, [a short sale] is a dignified exit strategy where the borrower can sell the home and avoid the negative impact of foreclosure on their credit report and return to a better financial position.” While it is true that a short sale may be a viable solution for many, it is wise when considering a short sale to also seek debt counseling.

    Debt Consolidation Programs

    A debt counselor can help you explore a variety of programs available through the federal government, including the Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternatives (HAFA) program and the Housing Finance Agency Innovation Fund for the Hardest Hit Housing Markets (HHF). But most importantly, a debt counselor will assist you in determining if a short sale is really the right solution for you.

    Do you want to know more about debt and how you can make smart financial decisions now that will help you secure a more prosperous financial future? Sign up for our newsletter for monthly money tips.

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      Home, Home & Mortgage, House, Loans, Mortgage

      Mortgage Loan Types – Home Buying

      Home Buyers and First Loans

      Buying your first home? You may be thinking the hardest decision you have to make is picking a house.  However, the hardest decision you will be making in this process is what mortgage loan to sign for.  The main types of loans are: fixed rate, adjustable rate, interest only and reverse.

      Federal Housing Administration (FHA) Loans

      For first time home buyers, Federal Housing Administration (FHA) Loans may be the best option.  This program offers competitive interest rates, allows smaller down payments and has easier qualifications.  The typical down payment required with this program is 3.5 percent of the purchase price of the home.  FHA mortgage loans also require insurance, but they do offer a refund on it.

      Fixed Rate Mortgage

      A fixed rate mortgage is also referred to as PITI, Principal Interest Tax Insurance.  With this mortgage everything is included: principal, tax, interest and insurance.  For example, if you have a fixed mortgage, you don’t have to worry about forking over extra cash during tax season because you already paid this tax along with your mortgage. Usually a fixed mortgage is for 30 years, but you can also get a 15 year mortgage, depending on your finances.  If you do qualify for a 15-year mortgage you can expect a lower interest rate, but higher monthly payments.

      Adjustable Mortgage

      An adjustable mortgage has lower payments at the beginning of the loan.  You can get this mortgage for 15 or 30 years.  During this time, payments can be adjusted upward; as the market changes so do your payments.  This type of loan comes with more risk because your payments change regardless of whether your income increases.

      Interest Only Loan

      An interest only loan usually takes 5 or 10 years to pay off, during this time your entire payment is going to pay off the interest.  It’s a waste because although you are making monthly payments, you are not paying off your home.  The only positive aspect about this loan is that it allows customers who expect to increase their income in the future to take out a bigger loan than they can currently afford.  This type of loan comes with a high risk.

      Reverse Mortgage

      Reverse mortgage is especially made for those over the age of 62 and it was created through the government program HUD.  These citizens get a portion of their equity and receive a payment every month.  To become a part of this program there is no income or credit requirement.  However, the cost to enroll in this program can be more than $8,000.  Also, once the borrower dies, the bank settles the debt with the heirs.

      A Debt Free American Dream

      Achieving the American Dream without getting further into debt is possible.  Regardless of which mortgage you sign for make sure you know the details.  The key to avoiding traps is knowledge.  Be realistic and buy a house within your means.

      Do you want to know more about debt and how you can make smart financial decisions now that will help you secure a more prosperous financial future? Sign up for our newsletter for monthly money tips.

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