Category: money

Well Well Well – help for your savings, your sanity and your soul

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As we continue on our journey to well-being, I have three more resources that I find helpful, challenging (we need challenges, y’all) and – perhaps best of all – encouraging.

Well Well Well - tips & tools

The first is another encouragement about your personal finances.

I need to pause here and let you know that the Lord has really been putting it on my heart lately that I need to get back into budget coaching and ministering through some sort of financial stewardship training. We can talk about that more in depth later (oops, I actually typed “debt” instead of depth!), but here’s the short(ish) version:

I’m a certified budget coach and small-group leader with Compass – finances God’s way. In fact, I used to be administrative assistant to the Mid-South director when he was with Crown Financial Ministries (the founder of Crown later created Compass). James is now over eight states with Compass, and I truly miss working with him. In 2007, when Bruce had so much sickness (and three hospitalizations, including surgery) from the Crohn’s disease, he lost his job. At the time, I was working with Crown and doing freelance editing, so all my work was home-based. When Bruce lost his job, I had to find a full-time gig with health insurance. (The Lord blessed me with the Worst Job I’ve Ever Had at a newspaper chain – I say “blessed” because it has made me grateful for all the jobs I’ve had since!)

Compass and Crown’s field-based employees are considered missionaries and raise their own funding. I hadn’t quite got there yet, so I actually worked 17 months without a paycheck from Crown. That tells you how much I love those ministries, how much I loved working with James and how much passion and commitment I have for helping people get their finances on track.

But for years Bruce and I have had an albatross around our necks. We’ve blamed our debt on medical expenses, but I can’t blame ALL of it on that.

Unwise spending doesn’t have to be in the form of extravagant purchases. Sometimes it’s those nickel and dime things that, over time, add up to an amount that you can’t pay off at the end of the month. Before you know it, you’re in over your head. You with me?

And here’s another thing I’ve learned (I’ll talk about it in a future post): Applying for a credit card to get the points (the more you use the card, the more points you earn) really doesn’t pay off, literally. Ask me how I know.

So, at this point, I’m starting to get preachy (and long-winded), but I wanted to give you a glimpse of what’s been on my heart lately AND tell you to stay tuned: I’m going to be writing a lot more on debt-free living and personal finance. If that’s for you, awesome – I’ve served you. If you’re perfectly happy with your personal financial picture and don’t need advice on how to live debt-free, then maybe you can skip these money posts. We can still be friends. 🙂

(I’m also going to be leading an online Bible study with Compass – dates to be determined – and probably get back into active budget coaching.)

OK, this is officially the longest Well Well Well I’ve ever written before getting to the actual resources. Here they are:

Bible App reading plan Dave Ramsey’s Financial Wisdom from Proverbs (you knew there would be a Bible App mention, didn’t you???)

One of the keys to being financially free (or as Dave Ramsey calls it, having financial peace) is accountability. In a nutshell, this means we can’t always trust our own judgment when it comes to spending money. And when it comes to those big purchases? Look out: Our emotions sometimes take over, and our wants become “needs.”

For me, it’s usually a tech toy (laptop, tablet, software I “can’t live without”). Granted, I need some of these to run my online business, but some of it is stuff I can manage without. Until recently, I always said Bruce and I had already cut our extras to bare bones necessities. But with the purchase of our second car (see my previous post for that story) and my sticky note on the wall that says “DEBT FREE BY 12/31/2019” (yes, after we added the second car), I knew we needed to dig deeper. (I’m also reviving my languishing freelance editing side-gig and taken on a new business as an Origami Owl designer – the goal is to generate an extra $500 a month. Sometimes decreasing expenses is not enough and you have to bring in extra income.)

When Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University went on sale a few weeks ago, I jumped at the chance to take this Bible-based study. The Compass and Ramsey teams have partnered in the past, so I’m not cheating on Compass to take the FPU study – I promise!

One thing that any good financial study teaches is the need for accountability. There are so many Bible verses on the need for partnership, community and wise counsel.

If you’re married, your spouse is likely the best person for that. If you’re single, someone like a roommate, best friend, church member or … a budget coach … can be valuable to you.

At the moment I’m not officially doing budget coaching, but if you need advice or help sorting things out or setting up a budget – or someone to convince you that you should! – reach out to me. Feel free to leave a comment, visit the contact me page, text me if you have my phone number or private message me through my Facebook page. No charge for that assistance, my friend. 🙂

I really and truly believe that we can’t get our emotional, mental and spiritual houses in order without financial peace.

Funny you should mention peace. That leads me to …

Book recommendation: ‘Parenting Your Teen Through Chaos & Crisis’ by Patty Scott

Whether you have a teenager, a toddler, a self-sufficient adult child or no kids at all, this book by Patty Scott will sooth your soul.

I met Patty in a private Facebook group for creative writers. It’s not a Christian group, per se, but through it I’ve met many like-minded members, including Patty.

In just a few months, Patty has become a dear, dear friend, even though we live 2,000 miles apart. I treasure this precious soul as I would someone I had grown up with face to face. We’ve resorted to texting, private messaging (especially when she took a few weeks off social media to focus on her family and finish her next book), chatting via video calls and praying for each other and each other’s families.

In this book, Patty lets parents off the hook for their children’s failures and shortcomings. We raise them the best we can – even though we sometimes make mistakes – and we leave the outcome in the Lord’s hands. Our kids play a role, too. They can choose to make good choices or bad. Even when we teach them well, they are still free and sentient beings who make their own choices.

And I know Patty’s heart; she is a gentle, wise teacher who loves to minister to parents – especially those who are still in the trenches.

If you have “mom guilt” or know someone going through challenging times with their kids, buy this book. I plan to buy a copy for my church library and an extra to keep on hand as a loaner; when I meet a mom in need, I can place it in her hands and say, “You’re not alone.” (It’s for dads, too, though.)

“You’re not alone.” That’s the crux of Patty’s message.

Visit Patty’s website to find out how to buy the book or to glean more wisdom from her weekly blog posts.

I’m also on the launch team for her second book, “Slow Down, Mama! Intentional Living in a Hurried World,” which will be out Sept. 10. (Stay tuned. It’s gonna be another good one.)

Bible verse to encourage your soul Matthew 27:51

Matthew 27 gives the account of Christ’s sentencing by the Roman governor and his crucifixion (death on the cross). The moment Jesus died, the huge curtain (sometimes referred to as a veil) separating the parts of the holy Temple was torn in two, top to bottom, and all kinds of heck broke loose (but in a good way).

The Temple curtain symbolized the separation between a holy God and sinful man. Because Jesus took our sins upon himself when he died, He eliminated that separation. Whereas the curtain marked the dividing line between the Holy Place (where only priests were allowed) and the Most Holy Place (reserved for the high priest once a year, to atone for the sins of the nation of Israel) – areas where regular folks like you and me were not allowed at all – Jesus’ death removed the barrier between us and God. “The veil of the temple was rent in twain,” some translations read.

This means regular peeps (that’s you and me) can come to God as individuals – no need for a priest to act as intermediary. Jesus took care of that with his death, burial and resurrection.

That is GOOD NEWS, my friend!

If you’d like to know more, reach out to me, a pastor friend or someone else you know who studies the Scriptures. If you’re a reader, look at the gospels in the Bible. They tell the fascinating true story of Jesus and his sacrifice for us. And speaking of fascinating, here’s a movie recommendation, if you like a good detective story told from a unique angle: Risen, starring Joseph Fiennes as a Roman tribune tasked with finding Jesus’ corpse. (Spoiler alert: He doesn’t!)


My, my, my, this Well Well Well post has gotten out of control. These are supposed to be short and sweet. #WellnessFail. I try to make them easy to read, so I hope you’ve been able to navigate all the goodies I’ve provided today and that they’ve left you encouraged and inspired.

Do you have a tip or inspiring book, quote or other resource to share? If so, spill the beans! Leave a comment so that the rest of us can enjoy it, too.

To Well With You,
SuzyO

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#lifedeclutter: Let’s get our stuff together – together

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Several months ago, I started working on getting my little world in order, as in:

  • Decluttering my workspace (home office).
  • Getting more sleep.
  • Taming my inbox (I will NOT let it defeat me – not there yet, though).
  • Organizing my closet, dresser and bathroom.
  • Offloading a bunch of deadweight on my computer (really old files that just take up space, physically and mentally).
  • Changing web hosts (don’t get me started on that).

#lifedeclutter

I named this (not so) little project #lifedeclutter, and for a while I posted about it here, on social media and on my whiteboard at home.

I probably don’t have to tell you how easy it is to let things slide once you’ve started making improvements, especially if you never quite achieved the results you were looking for in the first place.

Yes, I’ve made a lot of progress. But I’ve also backslidden in some areas.

My main email account (I have three going into the same inbox) contains – as I write this paragraph – 8,111 emails, 5,707 of which are marked Unread. (Sad but true.)

A few months ago, I had it under 2,000.

I won’t go into all the things I’ve been busy with, but those things have led me to neglect the daily maintenance I was pursuing in my digital space.

In other words, I never got to Inbox Zero (does that even exist?), and I slid back into old habits.

Well, my friends, that is going to change.

In less than two weeks, a new month starts, and so begins a new quarter of 2018.

The return to #lifedeclutter.

I’m giving myself the rest of March to gear up for the change, because I’m working on my taxes, trying to reconcile all my bank accounts and hoping to get things in good order to start fresh come April 1.

(Major shift: I’m bound and determined to switch back to Apple Mail and start using the filters and tagging plug-ins I added over a year ago. I’m going to schedule it and make it happen.)

But most of all, I’m bouncing a lot of ideas around in my head.

I want to figure out how to get you involved.

So … in the next three days, think about this:

What is the main thing in your world that’s driving you crazy right now?

Do you need to:

  • Declutter your closet?
  • Organize your kitchen?
  • Create a bedtime routine that helps you end the day relaxed and ready to sleep?
  • Shape up your family budget?
  • Shape up your butt? (Guilty.)
  • Prioritize some neglected relationships?
  • Make amends?
  • Clean out your inbox? (Ahem.)

Getting your physical, mental and spiritual world in order opens the door to infinite possibilities. I’m looking at you, entrepreneur-in-the-making.

Write down (yes, write it on paper, in ink) one to three dreams you have. If ANYTHING were possible, what would you want your life to look like in 12 months, 5 years, 10 years … at the end of your life?

Would you start a business? Apply for a job in a different field? Go back to school? Start volunteering for a cause you’re passionate about? Move to the mission field? Write a book? Sail around the world? Build a house? Run for office?

DREAM BIG, MY FRIEND.

One thing you’re not allowed to do: Limit yourself or edit your list. Write anything you’ve ever dreamed about doing, no matter how crazy it sounds. (You don’t have to show it to anyone if you don’t want to.)

This is your life we’re talking about.

If you’re brave enough, post a comment here letting the world know what you’re dreaming. If you’re not ready for that, contact me privately here and share it with me only. (I promise I won’t tell.)

Then we’ll come back next week and start working on some things together.

If you don’t already get my email updates, be sure to subscribe (see the box or click here) so you’ll be able to keep up with our #lifedeclutter and other goodies. (Kinda ironic that I mention subscribing when I haven’t tamed my own inbox, huh? I promise I won’t inundate you with daily annoyances. I email when I publish a blog post, and sometimes I send stuff exclusively for my subscribers, but that averages to about once a week.) At the moment, the free resource for subscribing is “8 Tips for Saying No Graciously” – a two-page PDF that will help you get started on what you want to do, not what you think you have to do.

Now, let’s get busy dreaming.

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The ‘Well Well Well’ Project – life declutter

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This is embarrassing. I hope you appreciate it!
This is embarrassing. I hope you appreciate it!

It’s time to take my “decluttering” mission seriously.

In that vein, I’m going to be painfully, brutally, embarrassingly honest.

(I can’t seem to do life any other way.)

I’m going to show you pictures. (Embarrassing pictures.)

This is such a big deal to me (and to you, I hope) that I’m giving this sucker a name: The Well Well Well Project.

I’m doing this for two people-groups:

1) Me.

2) You.

Why did I list myself first, when my purpose for this blog is to help others live their best lives?

Well, you know how the flight attendant always instructs you to don your own oxygen mask first, before you help your child or other helpless loved one do the same?

Same principle applies here: I have to help myself so that I can help you (does that make you my helpless loved one?). I can’t guide you on how to declutter your life without doing it myself first. With pictures. (Ugh.)

That’s my oxygen mask: starting the ball rolling on my own mess. It’s also how I’ll be able to tell what works and what doesn’t, what I can recommend and what you can skip, plus other helpful information. (With humiliating pictures.)

My desire is to dispense with everything that’s cluttering my life so that I can live it without regret, confusion, delay, displaced priorities or any other kind of stress. And I want that for you, too.

WHAT’S GONNA HAPPEN

Here’s what I want to declutter:

  • My home (household items, personal files, finances, car and property).
  • My body (with exercise, healthful eating and weight loss).
  • My mind (family calendar, freelance scheduling, email inbox and other things that tend to stress me out on the regular). This one is the real challenge.

Most of the process involves purging the unnecessary and organizing the necessary (after deciding which is which). I have many sources to draw from (I’ve been reading declutter/organize books and articles for years), and I hope you’ll come along for the ride.

This will require a lifelong maintenance plan, but let’s get the clutter out of the way first. We can learn about maintenance along the way.

I’ve already started this process in a few areas:

This chick has a lot of running shoes, no? (But you should see her husband’s collection!)
That’s a lot of running shoes, no? (But you should see my husband’s collection!)

1) Home: A year ago, I reorganized my bedroom closet (just mine; I didn’t touch Bruce’s). I wrote a bit about it on my other blog, including a “before” photo (above), but I never finished the whole-house project. I’ve been taking baby steps along the way (started working on a kitchen purge last month), but this time it’s going to happen – by Dec. 31. Period.

(What’s gonna be different this time? My expectations about how much I can get done at one time and how much time I have to write and post pictures about it. Also, setting a deadline makes a project much more likely to be completed – so the experts say.)

2) Body: I’m on Day 7 of a 30-day elimination diet (one that excludes potential “trigger foods” in an effort to find out what might be causing certain physiological problems). I’ll tell you more about that in a future post, but I can say that it is a CHALLENGE and I’m glad I’m on vacation this week. Being home makes it sooo much easier.

3) Mind: The best nonfiction book I read last year was Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown. I wish I could say I had published a review of it, but that was one of my “good intentions” that I didn’t follow through on.

One of my failures to follow through involves my blogs (I’m probably cray-cray for having two, right?). For instance, I finish a great book and intend to review it, then I don’t. Or I start a great book and decide to write a multipart series on the book’s sections, then I write one post and don’t write the others (or finish reading the book). The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, anyone?

Sometimes I think I have attention-deficit disorder (maybe I do), but a lot of it has to do with blogging and freelancing on top of my full-time day job. My schedule is overloaded, and my mind can’t keep up with the clutter.

BOTTOM-LINE IT FOR ME, SISTER

Here’s how I envision this project:

  • I tackle a particular area, take pictures (if appropriate – I will NOT be posting pictures of me in my underwear for the weight-loss portion), post here and on social media (this is going to get interesting) and basically humiliate myself – all for you (and, yes, for me).
  • You decide to join the fun by tackling a challenge in your own life. (Don’t worry; we won’t expect you to post pictures of you in your underwear, either.) Your challenge can be about ANYTHING you want it to be. Maybe you need to get into the habit of flossing your teeth every night (I finally started doing that this year, and I’ll tell you later about the two things that helped). Or maybe you want to start eating better. Maybe you need to start going to bed an hour earlier each night. Or cut out the late-night Oreos (not that I would know anything about that). You just pick a thing and tell us about it.
  • Or you wait awhile. Maybe you know you need to change some things but you’re not ready yet. I hear you, my friend. Change is hard (I believe I said that once before), and no one can make you ready before you’re ready. I’m here to hold your hand, though.
  • Expect at least one post a week. I’m not going to promise more than that (see? I’m learning), but I might write more if my schedule permits.
  • Let’s figure out together whether this needs to be a bigger thing: Do we need our own Facebook page, Instagram challenge, Pinterest board? Crisis hotline? Pint of Ben & Jerry’s? (Oops – nevermind that last one!)

Tell me what you want and need. Better yet, tell me what you’re going to commit to. Then you can tell me what you need.

Life is hard enough on your own; let’s do this together.

SOME RESOURCES TO GET YOU STARTED

Here are a few books I’ve read, apps I’ve used and websites I’ve visited over the years that have helped me along the journey to sanity. In fact, I plan to read a few of the books again. Take a look at some of them if you need help deciding what to tackle.

IT’S YOUR TURN

Ready? Your first assignment, once you’ve decided what you’re ready to tackle (something small, like flossing, or something big, like eliminating processed sugar from your diet): Tell me about it in the comment section.

Let’s do this!

(On social media – Twitter, Instagram, Periscope, wherever – use the hashtag #WellWellWellProject.)

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Well, Well, Well: tips & tools

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wellwellwell3 - tips & toolsEach week I bring you three tools, tips, articles, recipes or other resources that I find useful or interesting on the journey to wellness. Feel free to suggest your own helpful hints and tips by leaving a comment (see Comment link above).

Here are this week’s three:

NUTRITION

My friend Betsy has shared some great recipes with me. The first time I had her vegan brownies, we were in the car on the way home from an out-of-town race. I thought they were awesome and told her I wanted to try making them, so a week or two later, for my birthday, here came Betsy with the recipe and all the ingredients to make the brownies, all packaged in a cute little polka-dot gift box.

Betsy’s the kind of friend who doesn’t just give you a recipe when you ask her for it; she goes the extra mile and provides everything you need! (Especially when what you need isn’t readily available in your pantry or even at the regular grocery store, although these ingredients are findable nowadays.)

If you’re picky about texture or labels, don’t think of these as brownies, because they’re not what you’ll find from a mix from the grocery store. You don’t bake ’em, and you’ll need to store them in the fridge. Just think of them as a delicious chocolate dessert that’s hard to keep your paws off of.

Call them what you want. I call them irresistible.

Betsy’s Vegan Brownies

  • 1 cup walnuts
  • 8 large OR 12 medium-size pitted dates (about 1 cup)
  • 5 tablespoons cacao powder
  • 2 tablespoons coconut milk
  • 1 packet pure stevia extract (powder)
  • pinch salt
  • 1-2 tablespoons cacao nibs (for sprinkling on top)

In food processor, grind walnuts into a flour (until it’s fine but grainy). Add dates and grind until mixture is relatively smooth (it will still be grainy).

Add remaining ingredients and mix in processor until well blended.

Spread in ungreased 8×8” pan. Press cacao nibs on top.

Store in refrigerator.


DemetriosMatsakisQuoteSCIENCE

I’d never thought much about the leap second until last week, but I’m just enough of a science geek (or maybe just an information junkie) that this headline intrigued me: “The origin of leap seconds, and why they should be abolished.”

Also, I like the guy who Tweeted it, because he always has something interesting (and usually amusing) to share.

The article is a bit longish, but it will answer most – if not all – of the questions you’ve ever had about the leap second, including how and why it was born and why it should die.

And just for kicks, be sure to watch the 6-minute video with Demetrios Matsakis (“The Timekeeper”). He’s a hoot, in a dry, scientist sort of way. The other video (less than 2 minutes) is fun, too.

For something to stimulate your inner scientist …

Check it out: The origin of leap seconds, and why they should be abolished


FINANCES

People love their cars, and this is the season for big treks across the good ol’ US of A. In this tip, my favorite frugal guru, Mary Hunt, helps us keep a bit of our hard-earned cash when we visit the gas pump, even if the trip we’re taking is just across town.

Check it out: 10 Easy Ways to Save Fuel

That’s it for this week, kids. I hope you found something useful or at least interesting. Until next time …

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Introducing Well, Well, Well

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WellWellWellLogoBruceRGBThis week I’m introducing a new weekly feature: Well, Well, Well (hats off, as usual, to my hubby for coming up with the name). In it, I’ll bring you three tools, tips, articles, recipes or other resources that I find useful or interesting on the journey to wellness. Feel free to suggest your own helpful hints and tips by leaving a comment (see Comment link above).

Here are this week’s three:

PRODUCTIVITY

One of my fellow Arkansas Women Bloggers posted a cry for help on Facebook last week:

“I need a way to organize important emails I want to keep, screenshots of important info, etc. Basically, I need a ‘file cabinet’ that is easy to access, easy to use.”

Holy cow — we Evernote lovers jumped all over that. (In fact, folks who’ve been using Evernote for years and know all the ways to harness its superpowers are called “Evernote ninjas.” I am not one of them — yet.)

If you aren’t using Evernote, you’re missing out. It’s probably the most useful productivity tool I’ve ever used, although I’m still learning all its capabilities and I’m not as productive or proficient with it as I know I will be as I keep using it.

Evernote is an electronic filing cabinet but not just for your emails. It uses a notebook and tag system that allows you to sort and find things easily later. But I’m a newbie. A couple of others with more experience can convince you:

In a recap of her AWB conference presentation last year, she says:

“I’m accustomed to the look on someone’s face during an Evernote session at the exact moment where they realize what it is capable of and how it is applicable in their lives.  At the Arkansas Women Bloggers conference, however, I mistook the perplexed looks on the faces of attendees as an indication that I was missing the mark or doing a poor job of representing the complete fabulousness of Evernote.  It turns out all those furrowed brows and the silence in the room were actually indicative of their brains simultaneously exploding.

“And hey, what can I say?  That’s exactly what I’m looking for when I introduce someone to Evernote.”

Check it out: Evernote.com


SPIRITUAL

If you’re like me and would like to read the Bible every day, let me encourage you: It can happen, and there’s never been a better time than now with better tools than ever. I have fallen in love with the Bible App, and this is the second year I’ve done my through-the-Bible-in-a-year plan electronically rather than using my physical Bible (which is a reference Bible, has a ton of footnotes and weighs a gazillion pounds). I carry my “Bible” around with me everywhere, because I can access it just about anywhere: my laptop, my smart phone or my iPad.

You can browse devotional plans as short as three days or as long as several weeks, and they’re searchable by topic (say you want devotions for Lent or Advent or marriage, they’ve got you covered). It’s available in several languages, several translations of the Bible (so you can read a different version each year if you like) and different versions of the one-year plan (I’m doing chronological this year). They added a Bible App for Kids a few months ago, and if I had small kids I’d jump all over that! I use the Bible App now at church and take sermon notes inside the app. There are translations that you can view only online (with an Internet connection) and some you can download for offline reading.

Probably my favorite feature of the Bible App: audio! Yes, some translations (including the one I’m currently using, the New Living Translation) can be read to you out loud. When I’m slogging through the “less interesting” chapters of the Bible (say, most of Leviticus), it’s nice to listen while I get ready for work. Obviously this isn’t for in-depth study, which I would do sitting down with the visual version or a hard copy of the Bible. But it does help for getting to know the culture and commands of the biblical texts. The audio reinforces what I read.

The YouVersion folks just keep adding features, making it better and better. This is another tool that I could go on and on about, but you should just …

Check it out: Bible.com


FINANCIAL

I’ve been following Mary Hunt of Debt Proof Living for more than 20 years, since her little black-and-white newsletter (then called Cheapskate Monthly) was about 12 pages and arrived each month via snail mail.

I love Mary because she’s down to earth, practical and wise.

Here’s an excerpt of a post I wrote about Mary two months ago on my other blog, Suzy & Spice:

“By the time I met Mary, she had gotten her family into $100,000 of unsecured debt … and back out.

“She scratched and clawed (and prayed) her way out of the hole.

“And, because she has been to the bottom of the pit and climbed her way back out, dirt under her fingernails, sweat on her brow, wisdom under her cap, she has built an organization out of helping the rest of us do the same – or, better yet, not digging that pit in the first place.”

And heres a link to a recent post, Tough Times Don’t Last, Tough People Do, in her Everyday Cheapskate column.

Maybe you’re not in debt but need to begin saving and just don’t know how to get started and stay motivated. Mary can help. (I can help, too, as I’m a certified budget coach and volunteer for a financial stewardship ministry; I know some of the tips and tricks of getting and staying on track.)

Or maybe you have a family member or friend who could use the kind of gentle kick in the pants that Mary provides. (That kick in the pants probably shouldn’t come from you — let Mary do it; she has the expertise and the objectivity!)

Mary has written lots of books and has a great website, daily column and newsletter.

Check it out: DebtProofLiving.com

That’s it for this week, kids. I hope you found something useful or at least interesting. Until next time …

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