The Gift of a Crisis

It was the worst day of my life. Not one of the worst days. Not a day where not one thing seems to go right. Worse than that.

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Worse than any day I’d ever experienced before that day, worse than any day since. And I would say that like most people, I’ve had some real doozies.

I was in crisis, the kind that took my breath away and made me believe I had no hope. My world crashed. 

We were four months behind on our mortgage. All of the credit accounts were maxed to the hilt, and beyond. We had bills on top of bills, collections up the wazoo. We had no money and worse, no jobs. Not one between us. Nothing coming in. I hate to tell you even how much credit-card debt I’d run up and the size of our mortgage and automobile leases. It was really, really bad.

This was not a crisis that developed overnight. It started gradually, of course.

Not many people start out in financial trouble. Neither did I. It happened quite innocently, really.

Over the years, one thing led to another, and the whole thing began to speed up. I always told myself everything would work out. Somehow it would.

Traditions, Like Anchors in Our Lives

It seems like I’ve unpacked and hung this decor, these lights and holiday baubles a thousand times.

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I’m glad the people in my family don’t enjoy the process because I love taking this annual trip through years of memories alone. Besides, I know how everything should be. It must be the same as last year and the year before and the year before that. Any other way just wouldn’t be right. If I tried to pull a fast one, I’d hear about it.

There is not one thing in all of these boxes that doesn’t symbolize an event, a season of life or a small boy’s best work.

As each ornament finds its place on the tree, I relive the years through the memories of past holiday seasons. There’s something about chubby faces framed by Mason jar lids and macaroni angels that bring tears to wash my soul.

I am immersed in the wonder that I’ve been given another year to know my boys and husband. I recall the seasons through which we’ve traveled. Clearly now, I see how things did work together. Those situations we questioned did happen for a reason, trials did bring triumphs and little boys did become good men.

The Guide to Proper Regifting

The act of regifting—passing on as new, a gift someone else gave you—is controversial but only because of  those who do a noticeably bad job of it. After all, if every act of regifting were carried out flawlessly no one would have the occasion to find it distasteful because no one would know. And that brings me to the Rules of Regifting:

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Rule 1. Never admit to regifting. If your friends know you’re a regifter, you’ll find yourself in the unpleasant situation of explaining why regifting is different from not caring. Worse, they will be suspicious of the gifts you give them. It’s best to keep regifting completely to yourself.

Rule 2. Designate a location. Keep regifts in a convenient, albeit secret, place in a special box or cupboard with extra wrapping paper and ribbon. Some people shop for gifts in department stores. Never underestimate the utility of a gift stash that allows you to shop at home.

What Kids Need to Know About Thankfulness

If you are committed to teaching your kids how the world operates, teach them about money.

photo credit: wikimedia commons

photo credit: wikimedia commons

You can use financial principles to teach everything from math problems to social issues. That’s because money is about values, relationships, choices and self-worth.

And while teaching your kids important values to guide their lives is of the utmost importance, when all is said and done those values are more likely to be caught than taught.

You have to live what you teach.

If there is one thing that will ruin your kids’ lives, it’s greed. Teach them while they’re young how to pull the plug on greed, and you will have prepared them in a very important way to not only survive, but to also thrive in the real world.

Lesson for Kids: When you give, you defeat your enemy greed

The feeling of desire, of wanting everything you can think of is called greed. Greed is not a good thing. In fact, it’s like a very bad disease. It starts small and if allowed to grow it will take over your life. Greed will make you a very miserable person. Greed causes temper tantrums and makes people self-centered and arrogant. And it is very sneaky.

It Really is the Thought that Counts

Are you worried that the gift your homemade gifts are never good enough?  Certain that your friends and relatives will write you off as cheap and no longer worthy of their love and friendship?

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The findings of a recent study might encourage you to think twice before you run out to buy gifts to replace those you’ve made.

Studies from the Stanford Graduate School of Business have found that when it comes to putting out money for gifts, less may well be more.

Researchers discovered that although most gift givers assume that a more expensive present will be more appreciated, receivers don’t appreciate expensive gifts that much more. In fact, the old saying is true: money can’t buy you love.

Researchers surveyed recently engaged couples and found that men consistently thought their rings were more appreciated by their fiancées the more expensive they were. But remarkably, the fiancées did not rate themselves as any more appreciative if the rings were more costly.

Would You Rather Stick a Fork in Your Eye or Talk About Budgets?

For lots of people, just thinking the word “budget” is like nails on a chalkboard. I know the feeling.

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For many years I wouldn’t have anything to do with a budget because I couldn’t stand the idea of anyone—or anything—telling me how to spend my money. And where did that get me? Into one big financial mess.

Every month, when I ran out of money, I would turn to MasterCard and Visa for a bailout. Really bad idea.

What I learned from going through that experience and finding my way back to solvency is that, as much as we may loathe it, a budget is the ticket to financial happiness―not the straitjacket I feared it would be. I prefer to call this a “spending plan” rather than a  budget, but honestly, the terms are interchangeable.

A good spending plan gives every dollar a specific job to do. Once you have it just the way you want it, the plan becomes a handy road map for keeping your finances on track.

Payday Loans, Rent-to-Own and Other Spooky Tales

Scary stories and fiendish tricks are all part of Halloween fun. But the last thing you expect is for those stories and tricks to be about your friendly lenders, bankers, and credit card companies.

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Payday loans. You’re broke but payday is two weeks away. You write a personal check to the loan shark, uh … Payday Loan Company  for $115 so you can borrow $100. The shark makes you sign a contract and agrees to hold the check until your next payday. In two weeks, the lender deposits the check or you can redeem the check by paying $115 in cash. But you’re as broke then as you were before so for $15 you can extend the loan for another two weeks.

In this example the cost of the initial loan is a $15 finance charge—or 391 percent interest! If you roll over the loan three times, the finance charge climbs to $60 to borrow $100 for six weeks!

These legal loan sharks (there are more than 10,000 payday loan outlets in business in the U.S., with thousands more on the Internet) are in the business of bleeding people for as much money as possible and then forcing them into bankruptcy.

Rent-to-own. It sounds like a great idea. You can’t afford new furniture and you don’t want to go into debt, so you decide to rent. You go to a local rent-to-own store and discover that after 78 weekly rental payments, you’ll own it—paid in full. Yes, it sounds great, but don’t believe it. Renting to own is a creepy way to throw your money away.

Gratitude: The Antidote for Greed

Gratitude is more than pausing once a year to offer up thanks. It’s more than a snappy word that rhymes with “attitude.” I am told that of all the human emotions, gratitude is the most powerful.

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So powerful is gratitude, it can obliterate fear, hopelessness and doubt. Gratitude can heal a broken heart, slow the aging process and restore broken relationships. Gratitude creates hope and hope brings joy. It is in joy, not fear, that we can find strength.

Greed is the enemy. Never in this history of our country has so much meant so little to so many. The easy availability of credit has allowed us to live beyond our means. It has encouraged greed to creep into every area of our lives. Some call this affliction Affluenza—an unhappy condition of overload, debt, anxiety and waste resulting from the dogged pursuit of more.

The more we have, the more we want. The more we want, the more it takes to feel satisfied. The more credit we accept the farther we slide into debt.