I hope you never have to break your Emergency Savings pig.

I’ve read a few articles about emergency funds recently that make me worry a bit. Seems Americans aren’t saving as much as they should and if they are it’s in all the wrong places.

In a recent Smart Money article (April 2012- Fatten Your Reserves) they cite a bankrate.com study that shows only 24% of Americans hold a 6 month emergency fund and 25% have no savings at all.

This article went on to state that Americans are using alternative methods instead of a traditional savings account like borrowing from 401K, home equity, and insurance. I disagree and believe going down this path will bring more financial disater in the end as these alternatives come with very high risks.

Emergency Funds: The Basics

An emergency fund’s purpose is to shield you from unexpected events and emergencies. There are some basics we must remember about Emergency Funds.

1. Keep it Liquid- No, not in water, but keep it easily accessible. Don’t tie up your emergency fund in hard assets like your home, CD’s, investments. If an emergency happens, you need that money now, not in a several days or weeks that include paperwork and red tape.

It is wise to keep your emergency fund in a high interest saving account or Money Market account with check writing privileges. (Find one now)

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Empty book shelves

Clear your schedule and free energy to make your new goals a reality. Credit svenwerk.

A new year is here. Wow that was fast! It’s time to create new goals and resolutions to keep you successful and moving forward in life.

In order to say yes to a new goal–you’ll need to say no to an old habit or activity.

10 Ways to Make Room for Your New Year’s Resolutions

Here are a few ways to create space for that new weight loss plan or spending plan.

1. Delete one social media account on your smart phone or ditch it completely. I left Instagram several months ago and haven’t really missed it. My friend deleted the Facebook app off his phone and gained back many minutes each day.

2. Wake Up Earlier- One of the best ways to have time for your new resolutions is to wake up earlier. You’ll be amazed what you can accomplish before the sun rises and all the kids wake up.

3. Unsubscribe- You know those dozens of newsletters, coupon sites, and other junk email you receive each day? Those valuable minutes you take reading or just hitting delete are precious. Unsubscribe or block those senders to gain back your time.

4. Turn off the Tube- Seriously, if you’re looking to make headway on those resolutions and goals–turn off the TV and gain back hours out of each day.

5. Budget Your Time- Have you ever done an audit on your schedule to see where your time is spent? Create a time budget and mark out every 15 minutes of the day to ensure those new goals have a spot in your week.

6. Block Your Computer- Try blocking social media sites during certain times of the day–like the times you’re supposed to be running or working on another goal. The best way of course is to turn off your computer and use good ole’ pen and paper.

7. Go to Bed Early- Since you’ll be waking up earlier it is only natural you’ll need to wake up earlier. Start a routine to be in bed by a certain time and prepare your wardrobe or set coffee on automatic brew to make the morning easier.

8. Wear Earphones or noise canceling headsets when you’re working to block noise and distractions during key times during the day. 

9. Dump friends or acquaintances- You don’t really need to know what your 3rd grade friend’s kids are wearing for Halloween do you? It is time to dump ‘friends’ from your online accounts that are eating time and causing you to compare and become jealous. There might even be a real-time friend that needs a few boundaries set and their time limited [I recommend the book Boundaries]

10. Check email only twice a day- Don’t be a master to your emails. Schedule several blocks of time each day to answer email and don’t be a master to the dings and chimes of email [Idea from book The 4-Hour Workweek]

I wish you much success on your new goals for this year!

How will you clear your schedule and free up energy to accomplish your New Year’s Resolutions and goals? 

Christmas Gifts Storm Trooper

What does a  Stormtrooper give his little troopers? Credit Kalexanderson.

Christmas is a season of giving. It is about blessing others because we ourselves have been blessed. It is a time to remember the gift of Jesus. We want to express our love and appreciation. Plus there are other reasons to give that I wrote about if you need more motivation to give.

You may be convinced that you should give gifts for Christmas, but there are other thorny questions lingering about giving that we should address.

Should I give if I’m in debt?

Yes, I suggest to my clients that you should continue to be in the practice of giving. Be cautious about your heart that it doesn’t become greedy, even though you’re in debt. Decide to give a certain percentage of your income each month as a practice. If there is no way you can give money this year, then give your time volunteering at a local non-profit.

I don’t want to give ‘Stuff’. What should I do?

Give relationally! Give gifts that will have you spend time together. Puzzles, games, outings, events…etc. Relationships are more important than boxes. Have you heard of the Advent Conspiracy?

How much should I spend on Christmas gifts?

You’ll have to decide for yourself of course. I do suggest you make a budget and stick to it. There is no reason to go into debt to buy stuff for others, especially if it involved co-signing or loans.

Can I give too much at Christmas?

As long as you don’t go into debt, go crazy giving. Just be wise in how you go about it. You don’t want to make a relationship awkward by giving too much. If you’ve got the dough, go and bless others!

I’m not a Christian, can I still give gifts for Christmas?

While Christmas is largely a religious holiday, it is also part of Western culture. If you want to give, then give. There are no restrictions. I’m sure both you and your receiver will be blessed no matter your spiritual views.

Whom should I give to?

Again, a personal decision. If you feel obligated to give to someone out of guilt or shame, then perhaps either your motivation needs checking or that relationship mending. If you’re in business don’t forget your boss, co-workers, clients, and vendors.

Should I give my boss a Christmas gift?

Why are you giving to them? To show thanks? To get a promotion? Giving to your boss or co-workers can be tricky. Whew! I’m glad I’m self-employed. Here is a good guide for shopping for your boss and coworkers.

I got a gift last year that I didn’t use. Is re-gifting ok?

Yes, but don’t get caught or give something cheesy unless it’s funny and the recipient will get your humor. Remember Seinfeld’s “The Label Maker”?

Is it ok to give cash for a Christmas present?

Of couse! Especially in hard economic times or if you don’t know what to get someone, then cash or a gift card is acceptable.

I want to give to charity. How do I know if my charity is legitimate?

First off, I’d ask them. This is a common question and they should have a ready answer including reports, recommendations, and facts. You can also check out Charity Navigator or Guidestar to see if your nonprofit is listed.

Action: What are thoughts about giving? Please share in the comments below. Merry Christmas! 

Time to begin your journey! Credit

Time to begin your journey! Credit stevendepolo

Seriously what are you waiting for? The time for excuses and procrastination has ended.

Did you make New Years resolutions that fizzled out before Valentines Day?

The time to act is now!

Small Steps Matter

No matter whether your goal is to be debt free, loose 30 pounds, or do a muscle up (mine)–take a small step today towards that goal.

Small steps really matter. Think you can beat $100,000 of debt in one day? No way! It will take years, but if you don’t start today, then your journey will never begin.

My friends, it’s time to begin or restart that journey. You know what it is. You know the goal you’ve been neglecting.

Take a step today. One pushup. One dollar saved. One less TV program watched. One more pull up. One dollar budgeted.

Take a step. What are you waiting for?

Start Your Journey Today

Below are few good resources for starting a solid financial journey today!

Financial: 

What step do you need to take today? Ready. Set. Go! 

Have you said this today?

Thanksgiving is an attitude, not a holiday. Thanksgiving is something we exude; it is something we offer to others and to God.

Giving thanks starts in our souls and is expressed in words and deeds. In Scripture, thanksgiving is expressed in words, worship, prayer, sacrifices, and giving to others. A quick search in the Bible for “thanks” showed up 133 times; including words such as thankful, thankfulness, and thanksgiving. A phrase I found over and over was:

“Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good. His love endures forever.”

Being grateful and giving thanks is something that God wants to develop in our lives. I’m not opposed to having a day to celebrate and be thankful for all that has happened over the past year (both good and bad), but I want to have a lifestyle of thanksgiving.

I am a bit cynical at times and I was going to write a post about what I am NOT thankful for. But then I remembered Job’s life and attitude. He had much and much was taken away, yet he still had an attitude of thanksgiving.

And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.”-Job 1:21 (ESV)

While counseling and coaching others these past few years, I’ve seen a lot of tough financial situations. I know there are some who found this blog because you are searching for help and hope.

I encourage you in your difficult situation to continue to be grateful for what you do have and not on what you do not have. I have seen that my clients who let bitterness creep in, often continue to struggle.

But those who are grateful, often will gain hope. The hopeful see something better in the horizon and strive towards that end.

If you want to improve your situation (either financial or life), start with your heart and I think you’ll find your actions will begin to reflect what dwells in your heart. When your heart and actions change, your life will change. Be grateful and have hope.

Challenge: Let’s take this Thanksgiving Day to begin a year of thanksgiving to God and others. What are you thankful for and how can you express thanks? Share in the comments below!

(Photo by Vistamommy)