Suzy & Spice

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Archive for the ‘money’ Category

Book review: ‘Your Money God’s Way’ by Amie Streater

Posted by Suzy Taylor Oakley on November 1, 2010

In the 16 years I have been reading about personal finance (specifically, debt-free living), I have read a lot of books, studies, articles and scriptures on the topic and have gathered a ton of tips and advice.

And after the umpteenth book, I’ve been tempted to conclude, “You’ve read one get-out-of-debt-book, you’ve read them all.”

Amie Streater’s “Your Money God’s Way: Overcoming the 7 Money Myths that Keep Christians Broke” is different. But in a surprising way.

She uses words like “stupid,” “annoying” and “creeped out.” The woman doesn’t pull any punches. She tells it like it is.

And, while I am guilty of being brutally blunt at times (not as much as I used to, praise God), this woman takes the prize.

But once you get over the shock of reading sentences such as, “That’s the stupidest thing I have ever heard!” you grow to appreciate her candor.

She’s the Dr. Phil of Christian debt counseling.

And, yes, she is a Christian counselor – an “associate pastor for financial stewardship” who has met with countless individuals and couples who have screwed up their lives with bad money decisions.

(Haven’t we all screwed up royally in one way or another?)

Streater’s style may be blunt, but she offers solutions. She points out our “counterfeit convictions” and counters them with biblical wisdom, citing scripture to back up her advice. Many of those verses talk of God’s grace and his abundant love for us. He doesn’t want us to “live in chaos, frustration, lack, and debt,” she concludes.

And Streater doesn’t just talk the talk. She has walked the walk and lived to tell about it.

After all, God uses the fears and foibles we have overcome (with His help) to lead others to the light.

This book gives light. You’ll profit by reading it.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Posted in books, debt-proof living, frugal living, God, money, reading, religion | 1 Comment »

Out with the old, in with the new

Posted by Suzy Taylor Oakley on October 18, 2008

I left my extremely stressful job last week and started a new one Monday. I don’t have a lot of time for detail this morning (groceries to buy, lawn to mow, fall flowers to plant, football to watch, etc.) but did want to update those of you who still check my blog occasionally.

I don’t want to disparage my former employer, so I won’t mention the name, but just let me say that my new company is a breath of fresh air. Or maybe I should say I can actually breathe at my new job – and take lunch breaks, and go home after eight hours. I loved the people I worked with at the other place, and the new job is somewhat a career switch (going from publishing to investments), but the new company is an extremely efficient, well-organized place to work. They seem to know what they’re doing.

The main thing is that I want to serve people by helping them with their finances (and I want to work at a place that doesn’t cause me insomnia).

I have been a volunteer with Crown Financial Ministries for the past few years, and that’s a little different from what the investment firm does, and yet the same. It all boils down to being good stewards of what God has entrusted to us.

So here’s to my new employer and 40-hour weeks!

Posted in debt-proof living, God, money, volunteering, work | 6 Comments »

Couldn’t handle the green

Posted by Suzy Taylor Oakley on June 14, 2008

Maybe it’s my monitor settings, but I just couldn’t dig it.

Posted in geekiness, money | Leave a Comment »

Color correction

Posted by Suzy Taylor Oakley on June 12, 2008

I got tired of purple but can’t find a theme I like better than this one, and its color choices are limited. I’m trying green for a while but will prolly go back to purple soon. One of these days I’ll be able to afford to buy a domain name and make my own pages. (Didn’t I whine about wanting to do that last time I changed my theme?) Meantime I’m stuck with what other people design and WordPress offers for free.

Could be worse. I could be homeless. Please understand I really do know how spoiled it sounds to be complaining about Web page color choices.

Posted in geekiness, money | 2 Comments »

Cardholders’ Bill of Rights

Posted by Suzy Taylor Oakley on March 15, 2008

I received this e-mail from Consumer Reports, which I subscribe to online. Note that I have not checked out the legislation the letter refers to, so I am not recommending yes or no on contacting your lawmakers to support the Credit Cardholders’ Bill of Rights. I will comment on it more later, when I know more about it.

Dear Suzy,

x

Bank of America recently announced interest rate increases, even for responsible card customers — some people reported new rates as high as 28%! And the bank didn’t make it easy to object.

x

To decline the rate hike, the bank required card holders to write a letter agreeing to stop using the card and pay off the existing balance at the old rate, according to news reports. They couldn’t telephone, nor did Bank of America provide a form or a return envelope to help meet the short deadline. If the company didn’t get a quick response, rates would automatically rise.

x

Bank of America is not the only bank to hit card holders with high rates and fees. Banks get to raise your interest rates, as well as the fees they charge for most services, because fine print clauses in your credit card contracts allow it. They don’t even have to tell you why they did it.

x

Tell Congress to protect card holders from unfair rate hikes, exorbitant penalty fees and other fine print “gotchas.”

x

As the economy softens, some Wall Street analysts believe that big banks want to make up their investment losses by raising rates to good credit card customers.

x

A bill proposed in Congress would help rein in that practice and limit other “gotchas.” The bill would protect cardholders against arbitrary interest rate increases; hidden interest charges, due date traps and more.

x

This bill is long past due! Tell your lawmakers that you support the Cardholders’ Bill of Rights.

x

And please, take one more moment to forward this message to people you know who use credit cards so they can join you in action for reform, too!

x

Sincerely,
Jim Guest
President
Consumers Union of the U.S.
101 Truman Avenue
Yonkers, NY 10703-1057

What I will say is that this is a kick in the pants: If you have debt, get rid of it! Because you know that this company is not the only one that is dreaming up new ways to profit from us.

Give me your tips on living debt free.

Posted in debt-proof living, frugal living, money | Leave a Comment »

Your money counts

Posted by Suzy Taylor Oakley on February 19, 2008

The way you handle your day-to-day cash speaks volumes about your money personality. So says this article from bankrate.com. And I agree.

I watch our financial accounts pretty closely. Not in an insecure way (although I’m sure some would argue that point) but in a way that says, “I don’t want this to get out of hand like I’ve seen happen with other people.” I’m a volunteer budget coach with Crown Financial Ministries. I’ve seen all kinds of money behavior, rationalizations and states of denial.

And I read lots and lots of articles on personal finance, debt, the evils of credit cards, you name it.

Being in denial will not help your situation, no matter how bad it is. In my reading, in my conversations with people in debt, and sometimes even in my own situation, I have found that not knowing is worse than knowing – even when the bottom line is lower than you had imagined.

I used to update our Quicken accounts almost daily. But with the busyness of life, that has fallen to the bottom of the priority list lately. And it is uncomfortable knowing the backlog is getting out of hand. When I finally get back to it, the updating can seem overwhelming. So I do what any normal person would do: I procrastinate even more.

But it doesn’t go away just because I ignore it. So when I buckle down and get the records current, it is so freeing. I feel almost euphoric, even when our balances are close to zero! At least I know where we stand.

One of the first things we do in our Crown counseling is encourage the counselees to write down every penny they spend for the next 30 days. Every penny. That requires keeping a little notebook (or a piece of paper) with them at all times. It is a nuisance at first, but it can make a huge difference. One woman I counseled came to our second session with the news that this practice had been revolutionary. “I was skeptical when you told me to do it, but I was amazed at how much I was spending without even realizing it. The little things do add up.”

Yes, it is amazing. When you see it on paper – in black (or red or blue or green) and white, it can be sobering. When you write it down, you are less likely to spend it the next time. My guilty pleasure is a Route 44 diet Coke or a cherry limeade from Sonic – with tax, nearly two bucks. For a while, I was buying one nearly every day. When I started writing it in a notebook, even though I didn’t have to show the notebook to my husband (he wasn’t in the Crown small group with me), I started driving to Sonic less often. It can be embarrassing, but financially empowering, to open your eyes to the areas where you are simply wasting money. It’s not like a diet Coke is good for me, other than as a “comfort food” that lasts only as long as it takes to drink it. Not a lasting treasure.

One Crown seminar leader I know still tracks every penny every day. This is someone who is not in debt. I’ve never asked him whether he keeps this up because 1) he feels a responsibility to practice what he preaches, 2) he thinks he will slip up and fall into debt if he doesn’t or 3) he is anal-retentive. The answer may be some combination of the three. Nevertheless, Dave has demonstrated that keeping tabs on his spending is a big key to financial freedom.

Contrary to what a lot of people believe, it’s not the amount of money you earn, it’s the amount you spend that determines whether you are in financial bondage or freedom. People who make tens – even hundreds – of thousands of dollars a year can be just as in-deep-doodoo as those of us with much lower salaries. And many “poor” people experience a freedom that some “rich” folks can only dream of.

Crown seminar instructors are not millionaires. In fact, I don’t know any Crownies who are. Crown co-founder Howard Dayton, who stepped down as CEO a few months ago, didn’t take a paycheck as the ministry’s leader. He isn’t “in it for the money,” as they say. His aim is to lead people to fullness in Christ through understanding the importance of putting their treasures in the right place.

The way to do that is to focus on what’s truly important in life, and it isn’t our money. Money is a tool for right living, not the key to happiness. Many people misquote the Bible, thinking it says money is the root of all evil. The verse actually says the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. The love of it, not the money itself. 1 Timothy 6:10

How we handle it is the thing. How we abuse it, misuse it, misunderstand its purpose and deny our situation is how we get into trouble.

Proverbs 22:7 is my favorite memory verse from the Crown Life Group Study: “Just as the rich rule the poor, so the borrower is servant to the lender.” I have thought about getting it printed on my checks as a reminder.

Because we all need reminders.

Visit Crown.org to find:
Information about a Life Group Study.
A Money Map coach (budget coach) – online or in person.
Calculators for getting a handle on your finances.
Financial forms, pamphlets and articles.

By the way, can you guess my money personality? Tell me yours.

Posted in family, frugal living, inspiration, money, volunteering | 2 Comments »

The high costs of eating meat

Posted by Suzy Taylor Oakley on February 10, 2008

I’m not a vegetarian, and neither is the writer of this New York Times article, but it will make you think about what our nation’s out-of-control meat consumption is doing to our planet – and our bodies:

Rethinking the Meat-Guzzler, Jan. 27, 2008

Coincidentally: One of the pictures on the page — I almost didn’t notice it! — is of cattle at Harris Ranch in tiny Coalinga, Calif. One of my relatives used to work in the restaurant or gift shop at Harris Ranch, and my brother and I were born in Coalinga. Just some trivia for you.

Posted in family, food, frugal living, inspiration, money, nature | 1 Comment »

10 years of wedded bliss (ok, maybe not bliss every minute — but bliss now)

Posted by Suzy Taylor Oakley on January 3, 2008

wedding_kiss_010398

Ten years ago today, Bruce made me his bride, and we have had very few dull moments. It’s kind of strange, but the last year or so has seemed like history repeating itself …

We had a small wedding planned for Jan. 3, 1998 — just family (including the justice of the peace, who was my brother’s father-in-law) and two good friends (my matron of honor and our photographer, Barney, who didn’t charge us for any of it). My brother’s house, complete with Christmas tree, fireplace and white poinsettias, provided the cozy setting.

I had never dreamed of a big wedding, even when I was a girl, so the preparations didn’t cause a lot of stress. We spent less than $1,000 on everything — rings, dress, veil, suit, license, flowers, cake. My mom handled the flowers and the cake (both provided by friends), and even the punch — she suggested raspberry, and I said OK even though I didn’t care for raspberry. I just wanted things to be as simple as possible.

Things were sailing along, only 11 days to go. Then I got a call at work — the afternoon of Dec. 23 — about my dad.

We got to the hospital five hours before he died, but he was really already gone before we arrived.

Christmas was never going to be the same.

And the wedding? My brother gave me away. I walked on the wrong side of him. I barely remember the ceremony. I couldn’t tell you what the cake looked like. I was numb.

That was 10 years ago today.

Nine years ago, a couple of weeks before our first anniversary, Bruce spent 16 days (including Christmas) in the hospital. They diagnosed him with Crohn’s disease.

He came home with an IV needle in his chest. By our one-year anniversary, I had learned how to hook up the battery-powered pump that fed him via total parenteral nutrition (TPN). By Feb. 1, he had graduated to baby food. By March 1, he was back at work full time. He had another hospital stay in early 2004, and he recovered more quickly that time. But his little body would never be the same.

Fast forward to Dec. 3, 2006. We lost Bruce’s dad, an Army Air Corps veteran who had served his country honorably as a young man but could not beat Alzheimer’s in his 80s. We went to California and buried him in a national military cemetery on Dec. 7, the anniversary of Pearl Harbor.

After that, Bruce was ready to forgo Decembers for a while.

In early 2007, my sweetie began getting sick again. For most of the year, he battled the Crohn’s. He was in the hospital in late May, again in late June/early July … and in December.

Over the past year, we haven’t celebrated birthdays, anniversaries or holidays the same way as usual. In fact, we’re no longer sure what usual is.

I have a new job that — along with battling the disability insurance people, caring for a sick husband and just trying to get through the holidays with a bit of sanity — has again made me numb on many days.

But Bruce and I have never been closer. Having never walked in his shoes, I cannot say that his illness has been a good thing, but I see aspects of it as blessings in disguise. We’ve spent more time together this year than ever, and our appreciation of each other has grown. We have battled common enemies (illness, bureaucracy, financial hardship, dog poop), and we have grown extremely close.

Tonight I came home from work, apologized for not buying him a gift — or even a card — received his apology, and drove to Burger King for a buy-one-get-one-free deal that we had a coupon for. Our 10th anniversary is a big deal, but failing to buy each other gifts or dine out — no big deal. We ate the burgers, then crawled into bed to watch holiday bowl games, content just to be together.

It sure beats hospital food.

wedding_marked_010398

Bruce is taller than he looks here. He is slumping to show off where I “marked” him.

P.S. Happy birthday, Judy.

Posted in family, food, frugal living, inspiration, money | 3 Comments »

I’m still here

Posted by Suzy Taylor Oakley on December 9, 2007

I miss writing this. And I know how I feel when I visit my friends’ blogs and they haven’t posted in a while. I realize that my readership is limited to just a handful of people, but you are precious to me.

Just wanted to say hi.

My new job is a handful, to say the least. When I figure out how to juggle long workdays, a sick husband, health insurance and disability paperwork (practically a full-time job in itself), along with packing our house so we can sell it, I will post more. Until then, the pickings will be slim.

I miss you guys.

Posted in family, inspiration, money | 3 Comments »

Birthday flowers

Posted by Suzy Taylor Oakley on November 29, 2007

birthday flowers

Yesterday was my birthday. My husband, who has been sick for several months, could not buy me a gift, but when I got home after nearly an 11-hour day at work, I discovered this little vase of flowers. What a way to refresh my tired spirit.

He found some tissue paper and drinking straws, and what more appropriate “vase” than a pill bottle? It sums up our lives for the past eight months.

He kept telling me he wanted to do more, wished he could have bought me a gift, but I told him this was the best gift I had been given in a really long time.

So I had to share this incredible gesture with you, my friends.

I love you, Bruce.

Posted in family, inspiration, money, nature | 5 Comments »