How To Responsibly Pay Others Back

paying backWe’ve all done it before.   At some point or another, we’ve had to borrow money from someone. Whether it was a forgotten wallet and a spotted $10 or a more serious situation, it isn’t always the best feeling to have to ask a friend if they can spare a few bucks. However, we all need help every once in a while, and there’s no shame in asking if you’re responsible in how you pay them back. Check out the tips below for ways to pay others back respectfully and maintain your relationship with them in the process.

Be timely.

Did you borrow $20 from a friend when a restaurant only accepted cash? Go out of your way to withdraw $20 from the closest ATM, write them a check, or make an electronic funds transfer as soon as you can.   Did you have to borrow a large sum of money from your parents during an emergency?   As soon as you’re able, sit down and take a look at your finances.   What can you afford as the first payment and when can you give it to them?   Do you owe someone, but you’ve forgotten the money the last couple times you saw them?   Rather than not mentioning it, make it a point to say you still remember and that you will get the money to them as soon as possible.   Showing that you want to pay someone back as quickly as you can instills confidence that no one is going to go unpaid.

Make a plan.

In most situations, the best way to pay someone back is by making a plan.   You may find it helpful to make a payment schedule if you do owe larger sums of money.   Perhaps you can take a little from each paycheck without depriving yourself of your basic needs.   Maybe you can sacrifice going out to eat with friends every weekend until you’ve paid your debt.   Look at your income versus your necessary expenses and see where you might be able to temporarily cut back.   Whatever you work out, be sure to communicate that with the person who lent you the money to let them know you’re getting back on track.

Write it down.

When you’ve committed to a payment schedule that you’ve thought out and written down, you’re more likely to stick to it.   Put your payment due dates on your calendar or set up a reminder in your smart phone. If you go the paper route, post it in your office or on your fridge. You can even give a copy to the person you’ll be paying.   For some people this may be overkill, but for others it lays everything out on the table so there are no questions left unanswered.

Don’t feel bad.

Like I said before, we’ve all been there at some point in our lives.   So, don’t let your guilt keep you from asking for assistance if you truly need it.   Likewise, don’t allow your guilt to keep you up at night if you can’t repay someone as quickly as you want.   Be open and honest with them about your situation.   They’re likely to understand if they were willing to spot you in the first place.

Occasionally, your quality time or willingness to help may be repayment enough or at least make a later payment acceptable.   Offer to help them move next weekend or watch the dog while they’re out of town as a gesture of good will.

Have you ever borrowed money from someone? How did you go about paying it back? Are you still friends with them to this day? I’d love to hear about it!

photo by 42Dreams

0% Interest Cards With the Best Intro Periods in 2013

VISA credit card0% interest credit cards are a bit of a misnomer, since no credit card offers 0% interest forever. That would be cool, huh?

Credit cards billed as 0% interest cards actually refer to the intro periods these cards use as sign-up incentives. The best intro periods are the ones that charge no interest on purchases and balance transfers for a specific period of time.

Obviously, you want to to pay no interest for as long as you can, making the best 0% interest cards the ones with the longest intro periods. These cards are especially useful for consumers hoping to transfer their credit debt from one card with high interest to a new, zero interest credit card.

This is the most popular way to eliminate interest fees without paying back all of your credit at once. However, because some consumers have more credit debt than others (a recent report from the credit bureau TransUnion said that the average borrower owed close to $5,000 in credit debt alone), the best 0 interest credit cards are the ones with the longest introductory periods.

So if you’re hoping to save money on interest fees in the coming year, consider transferring your credit debt to one of the 0% interest credit cards below with the longest intro periods.

  • Discover itâ„¢ Card â“ 18 Month Balance Transfer

No 0% interest balance transfer card on the market today has a longer intro period than 18 months. That said, a full year-and-a-half is a generous amount of time to pay back your credit debt interest-free.

There are only a handful of 18-month intro period credit cards, and the new Discover itâ„¢ – 18 Month Balance Transfer Card is simply one of the best. An upgrade to their popular More ® Card series, Discover itâ„¢ offers cardholders a lucrative rewards program, with 5% cash back opportunities on rotating categories, and 1% cash back on all other purchases.

It’s also especially useful for jet-setters since it charges no foreign transaction fees (as opposed to the usual 3%), and there’s no annual fee and they’ll even waive the fee on the first late payment you make (it’s $35 thereafter).

But this credit card from Discover is most useful thanks to its 0% intro period. If you’re hoping to back credit debt over time, you literally won’t find a better offer than the one afforded by the Discover itâ„¢ â“ 18 Month Balance Transfer Card.

  • Citi Simplicity Card

No credit card with 0% interest for 18 months is better suited for the consumer looking to simplify and consolidate their debt than the Citi Simplicity Card.

Like it’s name, this Citi card makes transferring debt simple; no interest on purchases and balance transfers for 18 months, no annual fees and â“ best of all â“ no late payment fees! OK, you should really avoid late payments since they’ll hurt your credit score, but it’s nice to know your wallet won’t get docked, too.

The only knock on this credit card with no interest is that it doesn’t offer a rewards program. That said, this an easy credit card to monitor in terms of payments and fees, and is one of the very best if your main goal is to alleviate credit debt in 2013.

  • Slate from Chase â“ No Balance Transfer Fee

Finally, the Slate from Chase â“ No Balance Transfer Fee Card is popular because, like its name makes mention of, it’s the only card on the market today that doesn’t charge a fee when you transfer a balance.

The average balance transfer fee is 3% of the total balance you plan on transferring. (That’s also the rate used by the aforementioned 0 interest cards above.) Slate from Chase â“ No Balance Transfer Fee is the only card that offers a balance transfer to its card free of charge. Note that no fee balance transfers are only eligible when made within 60 days of the credit card account opening.

The intro period attached to this card is slightly shorter â“ 15 months â“ but the fact that it waives the standard balance transfer fee make it one of the three best 0% interest credit cards of 2013.

This guest post was written by  Jason Bushey. Jason is a personal finance blogger and the editor of

photo by dahlstroms

When To Foot the Food Bill

food billI wholeheartedly believe in generosity, but there are definitely times where I notice that some of my most generous friends, and even myself, have been taken advantage of by others at restaurants. In today’s day and age where etiquette is growing increasingly cloudy, it can be easy to forget who should pay for what and when. Plus, not all of us are raised in the same way with the same rules, so it can be challenging to navigate many of these situations if your friends don’t know or don’t understand these things the way you do.

So, below are some tips of what I have learned growing up and by experiencing awkward situations when it comes to money at restaurants. They are by no means hard and fast rules for etiquette nor do I claim to be an expert on manners. They are just situations that I’ve noticed over the years that could help someone else get out of some of those sticky moments. So without further ado, here’s when you should foot the bill:

1. When You Extend The Invitation

The number one thing that can get each and every one of us out of an awkward situation is to be very clear about our intentions. Many awkward who-grabs-the-check moments can be avoided if the host would extend an invitation like, Do you want to go grab a sandwich with me? My treat!❠Conversely, you can say, Do you want to go try that new restaurant in town? I’d love to treat you but I can’t today. It would be great to have the company though if you can come!❠You can also answer when the waiter asks if the bill is together or separate. If you’re feeling especially generous, you can also put your guest at ease by saying, Order whatever you want! I know I am. It’s my treat.❠The point is that if you are ready to extend the invitation, be ready to pay for your guest’s meal as well.

2. When You’re a Guy On A Date

I sense that I may possibly get comments from those who disagree with me on this. So, I definitely want to reiterate that I am no expert when it comes to modern day etiquette. I just know that when I was dating, I really appreciated it each and every time a man paid for my dinner. I found it to be very sweet and kind. Even today, I always let my husband pay for the bill, even though it comes out of the same bank account. There’s just something about having him take care of me that woos me.   However, I can understand women who insist on paying for their own half of a meal if that is what makes them more comfortable. Either way, I find that it’s always important to offer.

3. When You Want To Honor Your Parents

I believe there comes a point in everyone’s life where they should treat their parents to dinner. I know that mine always pay for everyone’s meal, but as I progress in my career over the next few years, I look forward to taking them out to dinner some time to repay the favor. Resentment can definitely build if you eat with your family and expect someone else to pay every time. Like the situation above, even if your parents or grandparents love to treat everyone, offering to pay for your portion might be a gesture that is appreciated, even if they turn you down.

So there, you have it: three situations where you should foot the bill. I know there are more that I’m not listing, so please leave a comment below and share your take on it.

photo by epsos

How To Thank Someone When They Give You Money

Throughout our lives, we might receive money for various things. This could include college graduation, a donation to your favorite charity in your name, a wedding gift, Christmas gifts, and the list could go on. I know that people have very mixed feelings about money and gifts. For example, I have a friend who really hates receiving money as a gift. I know, I know – It sounds a little bizarre. However, she would prefer for someone to go out and and purchase something with her in mind, which definitely makes sense. I, on the other hand, think receiving money as a gift is great since I can go out and pick out something I know I actually want. Regardless of your feelings on the subject, though, one thing we all have to do is thank the person who gave it to us (mostly because our moms told us so!) Here’s a good step by step to make sure it’s done in style.

1. Write It On Stationary

These days, snail mail is definitely a dying art, and that’s sad because a sweet, handwritten note just takes a small bit of extra effort. However, we’re more likely to sit down and throw out a quick e-mail to someone thanking them for their donation to our 5k race. However, you know how awesome it is to get a little bit of snail mail. There’s just something about opening the mailbox and having a nice note inside that can just make your day. The best part about getting into the habit of writing notes is that the giver will likely remember it more. This means they are more likely to do it again. Everyone loves a bit of affirmation and if someone knows that their efforts will always be appreciated, they’ll be more willing to give year after year.

2. Tell Them What You Used It For

When I was a kid, my mom always told me to write my grandparents and tell them what I bought with the Christmas money that they gave me. I am still in this habit to this day, and now I realize why it’s so important. Sure, it’s great to send a note that says, “Thanks so much for sending that $10. It was so kind of you!” However, it’s more meaningful to say, “Thanks so much for sending me that $10.00. Your contribution helped us raise $1,000 for charity! Those kids’ are going to be so excited when they find out they are getting new shoes!” It only takes a few extra minutes to jot down another line or two, and it makes the person really feel special for the gift they gave.

3. Be Consistent

People talk. (At least, they do where I’m from in the deep south!) Just remember that if you are going to send a thank you note to one member of the family that you send it to everyone else who gifted you something as well. It’s easy to forget or be more excited about the $100 bill than the $10 bill, but treating all gifts equally ensures you don’t hurt anyone’s feelings.

All I can say is that I’ve never regretted sending thank you notes. It’s always a nice, calming thing to do every year after the holidays or after my birthday. I just love getting new stationary and keeping up my address book. While I know that it might not be everyone’s cup of tea, there’s something about knowing that I’ll brighten someone’s day that keeps me doing it year after year. Plus, they get the satisfaction of knowing their money is being enjoyed and put to good use.

Do you give or receive money often? Do you like giving money as opposed to a specific gift that you bought at the store?

photo by lindsaydeebunny

How to Shop at a Thrift Store

thrift storeIf you’re not in the habit of shopping at thrift stores, please let me bend your arm and encourage you to check one out.  I know that thrift stores sometimes have negative connotations, but I’m not totally sure why.   You can find some pretty awesome things at even more awesome prices.   If you’re into the vintage look, you’ll undoubtedly find some great house wares and clothing items.   Plus, you can afford to buy more when you’re getting things at thrift store prices.   You’re also actively participating in a form of recycling.   What’s not to love about all that?

You Can Take Two Approaches

First things first, prepare to be overwhelmed by all the items you’ll have to choose from.   Thrift stores vary in their size and organization, but it’s safe to say they won’t look like your local department store.    You may have to search a little to find what you really want.

Now, you can take two approaches to your thrift store adventures.   You can either treat it like grocery shopping and have a list of items you’re looking for or you can go in without any expectations. I prefer to go in without expectations.

If you don’t l-o-v-e shopping for the sake of shopping or if you’re concerned you might spend more money than you should, go in with a plan.   Knowing ahead of time that you need dinnerware or men’s dress shoes is a great way to stay focused and keep yourself from becoming overwhelmed by the sheer amount of stuff.   If the items you need aren’t time sensitive, try again another day or try other thrift stores.   Thrift stores have a high product turnover.   They’re constantly receiving new donations and moving items from their storage, so you never really know what you’re going to find from day to day.

If you’d prefer to shop for the fun of it, then by all means, shop â˜til you drop!   Just try to go in without any expectations.   When you don’t know what you’re looking for, you’ll likely spend extra time just perusing or digging through an assortment of items.   That can take a lot of energy.   Some things will be like new, or (score!) even have the tags still on them.   Other items might have visible signs of some wear and tear.   If you keep an open mind you could potentially find some great fixer uppers or DIY projects. I personally love to scour for solid wood furniture

Stick To A Budget

No matter which approach you take to thrift store shopping, you should still set a budget.   If unbelievable deals get you as excited as they do for me, you’ll want to set some limitations before you go.  It’s also a good idea to take cash.   Some thrift stores, especially smaller ones, won’t take cards at all. Plus, you can better keep track of how much you spend that way.

Check For Quality

Once you inevitably find some items that you can’t live without, give them a good once over.   Look for holes, stains, tears, cracks, etc.   Clothes may be donated because they don’t fit anymore or just went out of style, but they could also be donated because they’re damaged.   A good thrift store will weed out the items that truly aren’t good anymore, but the items you buy should always get your stamp of approval before you take them home.

Find Out Who Runs the Place

If you have questions, don’t be afraid to ask the store employees.   They are probably intimately familiar with all the store’s inventory and can lead you directly to what you want.   They can also tell you when new items will be put out.   Some places may even keep track of specific items that their customers are looking for and give you a call when the item comes through.

Ultimately, thrift store shopping is a great option for furnishing first apartments or dorm rooms, finding clothes for a specific and special event, or fulfilling a retro or vintage style.   You’ll save a lot of money and repurpose items that otherwise may have ended up in a landfill somewhere.   It’s a win-win situation all around.

So, have I convinced you? Are you going to give thrift shopping a try?

photo by Phillip Pessar

5 Ways To Save Money At The Grocery Without Cutting Coupons!

groceryWhere I live in Grenada, food prices are sky high. I’m not sure if it’s because of the tourism or if it’s just pain expensive to import so many things. Either way, I’ve had to figure out a few ways to cut my grocery budget. The catch is that because I live in Caribbean, the store  doesn’t  accept regular coupons. They don’t really do that here as far as I know. So, I’ve found a few ways to save money without having to clip them. I know many of you have very busy lives and might not have time to clip either, so here’s hoping these techniques help you as much as  they’ve  helped me.

1. Buy Off Brand When Possible

Most grocery chains offer their own brand of many items, and they’re usually cheaper than the name brand (especially if you don’t have access to coupons.)   Plus, many grocery chains have contracts with manufacturers and guarantee large quantity purchases in exchange for getting to put their own label on the item.   So, that off brand tomato sauce is likely to be every bit as good as the name brand sitting next to it.

2. Buy In Bulk

If you have the storage space and the price is right, buying in bulk often decreases the price per unit.   For instance, buying dried rice in large quantities often decreases the price per pound.   You get more for your money that way.   Depending what your grocery store offers, rice, beans, meat, cereal, coffee, cooking oils, and nuts can all be good items to buy in bulk.   Pay attention to what you buy most often and see if you can find them in larger quantities.   Spend a minute to do the math though, because not everyone reduces the price the more you buy.   Sometimes they’re banking that you’ll assume bulk is always cheaper. It’s your job to outsmart them. 🙂

3. Avoid the Pre-packaged Kits

I’m just as guilty as the next person for wanting to buy those frozen meals that practically cook themselves. However, I’ve realized that those just aren’t cost effective. I’ve actually found that buying the items separately and prepping them myself saves me money in the long run and never takes as long to make as I’ve envisioned in my head.

4. Use That Membership Card

I know it seems obvious, but this is an easy one to forget. How many times have you dropped into the store to grab something quickly and left your card at home or in the car? Those missed opportunities can add up to a lot at the end of the year, so be sure to have it on you to get the perks.

5. Substitute When You Can

Lastly, if you base your grocery shopping off the recipes you plan to make each week, consider making cheaper substitutions when applicable.   Need cake flour?   Use a little less all-purpose flour than what the recipe calls for.   Does your recipe call for a fancy cooking wine?   Use fruit juice.   Dried herbs are also a great substitution for buying fresh herbs each week.   Even chicken thighs are often cheaper than chicken breasts.   Get creative and look around when you’re at the grocery store; you’ll likely see similar but cheaper options that can add just as much flavor, creaminess, etc. to your meal.

I hope these suggestions help you to cut down those grocery bills just a little bit. I know that it’s often difficult to find the time to plan, cut coupons, and remember those grocery cards, but even changing your habits slightly can add up to big bucks saved over the course of a year. Good luck!

photo by qmnonic

When Financial Secrecy May Not be a Good Idea

financial secrecyOne of the areas of life we tend to be most secretive about is our finances. That’s a broad category of course, encompassing our income, expenses, assets, debt levels and credit standing. Now for obvious reasons we want to be secretive when it comes to giving out financial information as a matter of protecting our identityâ”that goes without saying. But the secrecy I’m talking about here deals with people, as in those closest to us.

It’s easy enough to see why we don’t want other people to know too much about our financial affairsâ”too much income and assets and other people might resent us; too much debt and poor credit and they might judge us. Who wouldn’t want to avoid that?

While we can argue the pros and cons as to how much of our financial lives we reveal to family and friends, there may be times when doing so is in our best interest.


As much as we might not like the idea of driving on a road that’s monitored by traffic cameras, it’s equally true that we tend to behave better when we do. So it is anytime others have sight of what it is we do. It’s called accountability, and it’s a way of keeping us on the straight and narrow.

At a minimum, we need to keep our spouses in the loop as to what we’re doing with our money. While this might be self-evident, in my experience in the mortgage business, I’d come across people who didn’t want their spouses to know a about a certain savings or investment account, or about a debt or even a collection of credit cards. There may be all sorts of logical sounding reasons for this practice, but it’s doubtful that it leads to a happy place.

Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.ââ”Proverbs 28:13

But beyond our spouses, there’s also an argument for having a close friend or family member (parent, sibling or adult child) aware of at least some aspects of our finances. By having someone else in the loop at least regarding the general state of our finances, we’re more likely to do the right thingsâ”or at least to stick to what it is we’ve declared to others we plan to do. It’s like have a second pair of eyes❠keeping watch over us.

When you have money problems

It’s ironic that the one time we most rebel against financial transparency is probably the time we most need to be open about it. Maybe we shouldn’t broadcast it to the world, but it’s generally better when a small number of people very close to us know what’s happening.

You should never go through a financial crisis alone; at a minimum you need trusted people to bounce ideas and strategies off of. In addition, when we’re going through troubles we’re not always thinking clearly, and that’s when an outside opinion becomes absolutely necessary.

Achieving savings, investment or debt payoff goals

If no one knows what our financial goals are it will be a lot easier for us to give up on them when the going gets tough. This is especially true if your goal is to pay off debt. Sometimes the pain of the effort can be offset by the greater pain that comes with disappointing people whose opinions really matter to us.

In general, financial goals are not always best accomplished in private. If you make a plan to begin saving money or to pay off debt, letting one or two others know what you’re doing is a way of making the plan official with an announcement. Think of it as an unwritten contract. Once that’s done, you’ll have greater incentive to follow through with the plan, if for no other reason than to show people you trust that you can be counted on.

In making your final arrangements

Grief and financial management are not compatible. Even though you commit your final arrangements to paper through a will, you still need to have at least one other person from outside your immediate family who will act as a point person at the time of your death to help your family cope with your loss. That person should have intimate knowledge of your finances beforehand.

Though we might think that our spouseâ”armed with a willâ”will be up to the task, that isn’t always true. Our immediate family may be too overcome with emotion to handle our financial affairs at the time of our death, to say nothing of dealing with banks, creditors, courts and tax authorities in the months that follow. Assigning beforehand a person that YOU trust to help settle your affairs can be one of the best provisions you can make for your loved ones.

How much of your finances do you keep hidden from close family and friends? Have you ever had problems because no one knew anything at all? Have you ever had problems because you revealed too much?

How the Financial Meltdown has Changed all the Rulesâ”or Should Have

financial meltdownBut godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.ââ”1 Timothy 6:7-10 (Emphasis added)

Four years after it began, we still find ourselves mired in some level of the Financial Meltdown. We’re all sitting around waiting for politicians, economists and industry leaders to fix what’s broken in the economy, but have you noticed that doesn’t seem to be working? Maybe it’s time for us to get busy. And since we have the handbookââ”the Bibleâ”perhaps as Christians we need to take the lead.

Part of the reason that our leaders have been unable to fix the economy is purely because of the enormity of the problem. As much as we want to pin the blame for the mess on politicians, in truth the causes are so deeply rooted in our culture that fixing them defies easy solutions.

So where do we start?


It starts with money

I believe that we need to change our views and opinions of money, and align them with what we read in the Bible. Most of us are unaware that the traditional role of money has changed completely in just the past few decades.

In its essence, money is a medium of exchange. It’s used to facilitate trade between people and businesses and because it carries a standard value, it’s more efficient than barter. So far, so good.

But here’s the problem⦠In today’s economy, money is no longer just a medium of exchangeâ”it’s become an asset unto itself. We still use it to trade, but it’s become something much more. Success is now defined as earning, acquiring, preserving and growing as much money as possible. The end game is no longer to produce as much food, fish, minerals, shoes or widgets as possible, but to earn as much money as possible!

That’s a game changer, and it has a lot to do with the mess we’re in. Money manipulation has become more important than building a better mousetrap!


Money as wealthâ

What is it you think about when you see or hear the word wealth� From Biblical times up until about the end of the 19th Century this might have invoked visions of vast acres of rich farmland, a forest full of timber waiting to be cut, large catches of fish, coal mines or perhaps a thriving family business.

Do you notice something about each of these? They all refer to something tangible, something that’s being produced. Wealth was measured by what you added to the economy and community.

How do we see wealth today? Stocks, bonds, certificates of deposit, money markets, cash. Notice something about these? None of them are tangibleâ”they’re all paper. Stocks represent a share of ownership; they’re the way we own- and trade ownership in- the means of production, but are not means of production in themselves. All the rest are debt securities, which is to say that they represent a promise to pay, but nothing tangible.

The one possible wealth exception we have today, the one that actually represents something tangible, is real estate. But in the modern world there’s a caveat even with this. So much real estate has been purchased with debt (mortgagesâ) that’s often so large that the owner has little or no equity. Many property owners today are even in negative equity situations, owing more on their mortgages than their property is worth.

Wealth today is measured not in units of production as in days of old, but by the accumulation of pieces of paper.


Detaching money from the real economy

Here’s where we get to the root of the problem. Back when people grew, built, fixed or produced things for a living, there was a clear connection between being productive and earning a living. With the rise of money as a commodity in itselfâ”as the end game everyone now chasesâ”we’re now detached from actual production. Think about how many people work in money-related businesses, as compared to farming, manufacturing or the skilled trades.

The financial meltdown that started in 2007 has been commonly called the Financial Meltdownâ, but have you noticed that no one refers to it as the Economic Meltdownâ? That’s because the failure of what we loosely call the economy❠has been driven almost exclusively by financial factors. Could that possibly have something to do with the fact that in today’s world moneyâ”and all things closely related to itâ”have come to dominate all things economic?

When the ultimate economic goal becomes the creation of ever larger amounts of money, should we be surprised by the explosion of debt, the disappearance of real jobs, and the many Ponzi schemes that have flourished in recent years?

Those who work their land will have abundant food, but those who chase fantasies will have their fill of poverty. A faithful person will be richly blessed, but one eager to get rich will not go unpunished.ââ”Proverbs 28:19-20


How should Christians react to the financial meltdown?

I believe the time has come for Christians to realign our goals and set our sights on what is lasting. How do we do that? By changing our attitudes toward wealth and what it truly is.

Work. In the financial thinking of today, when we go out to look for a better job❠what we really mean is a better paying job, don’t we? That’s a pure play on money.

But perhaps if instead we sought work that we find fulfilling at a deeper level, money would become less important. Shouldn’t we be seeking our life’s callingâ”the work we’re meant to doâ”rather than just a higher paycheck? Maybe we should be asking ourselves, where can I be most productive?❠That needs to come back into the equation before work can be anything more than another component of the paper chase.

Investing. When we turn our money over to othersâ”mutual funds, investment managers, financial plannersâ”we’re asking them to get us a good return. Do we ever concern ourselves with what it is the money is invested in? We should.

We even seem content to have the money invested in exotic vehicles that we know little about, as if complication and complexity increase our chance at making a killing (they don’t). We need to invest only in what we do understand. How about investing in ourselves, investing in our own business, in the stock of companies that are either producing something tangible or providing a necessary service, in people (charity), or in our churches? Think of it as investing locally, in ventures we’re already familiar with.

Debt. If we could pick one cause to the financial meltdown that stands above all the rest, it’s debt! Culturally, we’ve come to believe that debt is benign, and once we reached that point the end result was inevitable. That needs to change. We don’t need to be borrowing to pay for entertainment, travel and consumer goods. And for those where we do need to borrow, we need to do so more conservatively.

We may need to borrow to buy houses and cars, but when we do we should 1) only buy well within our means, 2) make the largest down payment possible and, 3) take the shortest term we can afford. Paying off a loan (as opposed to rolling into a consolidation loan at a later date) should be a priority, otherwise we lock ourselves on a debt treadmill.

Family, community and church. It’s sad that we no longer think of these as wealthâ, but that’s exactly what they are. It’s equally disturbing that these very institutions that are so critical to basic life have degenerated in the great money chase of the past 50 years.

Family, community and church are the very foundations of civilized life and if we can’t invest our time, effort and money in them, then the quest to earn and amass more money will condemn us to chase that which we will never find.

What do you think that we as Christians should be doing to move the economy in a positive direction? Should we be doing anything at all? Scripture calls us to come out and be differentâ”does this also apply to economic and financial matters?

Let Savings Fall Onto Your Lap

savingsI’ve always believed that as long as your vacation is ahead of you, summer is clearly not over. It’s not unusual for me to wait until the fall, September or even October to make my yearly escape from the everyday grind. After all, I live in New York, so jaunting off during the summer months simply to lie on a beach is no enticement to me; we are frankly surrounded by beaches.

In fact, many New Yorkers save their vacation time for the winter months; that’s about when we start to get homesick for our beach-lying days. As a massive money-saver, I really enjoy the fact that my off-season vacationing can lead to a lot of savings, but most of all I appreciate dealing with a lot less crowds! Does anyone feel like Disney?

Vacation when no else is

The Travel Industry Association estimates that 23% of people report taking their vacation in the fall, which is a sharp drop from the 38% who reported a preference for vacationing during the summer months; fortunately, as the masses reduce, so do the prices. In resort areas known for their postcard-worthy beaches, the price drop is particularly noticeable. The Caribbean and Florida are two prime examples of this; hotel rates alone can see their rates drop almost 40% compared to peak season.

There are some places where tourism never seems to cease, big cities like New York and Chicago never seem to offer a prolonged period of off-season rates. But I live in New York and assume Chicago is pretty similar. Why would I want to go there?

Utilize credit cards to your advantage

I also fill out a lot of credit card applications throughout the year, simply to enhance my vacation savings when the time comes. Like many, I only associated the frequent flyer miles on my credit card with vacation savings, over the years I have expanded my repertoire, using different credit cards for everything from gas to hotel stays, each with their own built-in savings. Of course the flyer miles are probably still the best savings there is, but even with that, I no longer settle for just the typical 20,000 miles or so. Why would I when there are offers out there of up to 100,000 miles. They are not as easy to come by, but they do exist.

Do your research first

A lot of cards offer hotel programs:   these can lead to major savings, but it does take a little more work to do a proper comparison shopping on these cards. Often they will have a lot of blackout dates and capacity limitations. The ones that claim there are no blackout dates will instead have some strong capacity restrictions. Do your homework on these and you can save some serious cash. For local trips I, of course, have a gas card credit card that I use. Of course, with the high price of gasoline over the past several years, I often think it would be cheaper just to fly. Sometimes taking the scenic route can end up being the best part of your vacation. If it makes you feel any better, think of it this way:  using a gas card which earns money back means the more that you spend, the more you are actually saving. OK, so it’s a bit of a justification, but it is true nonetheless.

One other tip I learned the hard way: it you are going overseas on your vacation, make sure you use a card that at doesn’t charge a foreign transaction fee. Most do and you will end up paying more for every purchase that you make â“ a real vacation killer for me!