Feb 192010

src=”http://www.sonicgazelle.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/Trends-in-Caring-for-Missionary-Families-300×169.png” alt=”Trends in Caring for Missionary Families” width=”300″ height=”169″ />This seminar was first presented at the LU Global Missions Emphasis Week.

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This seminar was first presented at the LU Global Missions Emphasis Week.

Feb 032010

Quicken Online Quicken On

line is officially (in my opinion) the best budgeting software ever! With the addition of the split transaction feature it is now fully functional and AWESOME! I have been using it for over a year nowand love the fact that …it is online and best of all— 100% FREE! It has taken so much of the hassle out of budgeting and actually helps me enjoy keeping track of our goals. It has been a great tool for seeing how much we really are spending in individual categories so we can find ways to cut back. If you have been avoiding budgeting because you think it is too much trouble, too costly to buy the software, or creating an excel spreadsheet seems too nerdy- please check out Quicken Online and let it do the work for you! By the way, I’m not being paid to say this. I just really love the program. If this post can help even just one person stop getting overdraft fees every month, then it was worth my time to post it. Check it out here.

 Posted by at 11:49 PM
Feb 032010


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For any of you SonicGazelles out there who have shelves and shelves of books like me, I’m sure you are always looking for ways to not only acquire the books you have been dying to read without totally breaking the bank, but also wonder what to do with the books you probably will never read again. From one book addict to another, I thought I might share my own method of handling my so-called SonicGazelle Book Circle of Life. Maybe this post will even motivate me to let some of my books be loved by someone new. Here is how it works:

  1. Get Organized. This will vary for each person depending on how detailed you want to be, but at the very least glance over every space you have where books might be found to get an idea of what you already have. This could be expanded to include an actual inventory. A great website that makes it easier to “catalog” your books is Library Thing .
  2. Sort Books. While you are looking through your books or inventorying them you will probably start to identify books that you haven’t read in forever or may never read again. Put these books aside in a Love them Not pile. You may also set aside favorites or Love Them pile as well as a to be read pile. I often like to put these categories on my most convenient bookshelf (hopefully one you look at often). This helps you be able to easily find the books you refer to often so you don’t end up buying another copy when you can’t find it in that box of books in the attic. This also puts to be read books in front of you often so you remember to actually read the books you have instead of always looking to buy new ones.
  3. Identify Your Reading Preferences. While it is fresh in your mind, start to write down some of the key topics of books on your Love Them bookshelf. Now look at some of the topics of books that are in your Love Them Not pile. Write some of those topics down as well. Be sure to note some common ways you acquired these books. Did you purchase them- new or used? Were they a gift? Why don’t you want it anymore? Topic no longer relevant? Out of date? Not a good re-read? Didn’t like the book? Don’t have time to read it? Book is in bad condition? While this step may seem unnecessary, you will use information later in the process.
  4. Check Amazon.com. I like to recover as much money as possible from my Love Them Not pile as possible. Some cleaning gurus would say to dump the books off at the local thrift shop or yardsale and never look back. (I selfishly love that advice because I like to be the one buying them for 75 cents), but if you truly love reading, this is often poor stewardship because you have probably been storing them for years anyway. What difference will another month be in the scheme of things? So, this brings me to Amazon.com. You can now go to Amazon and enter the ISBN into the main search screen. From here, you should see a “Used and New from” price. This is the price you really want to look at. Just because Amazon sells the book new for $150 doesn’t mean your used old edition book will sell for that. After searching several books you will start to get a feel for how much things are. I typically set a bottom price and set aside any books with prices lower than my bottom floor. You will probably see many books selling for $0.01. While so bulk sellers might be able to afford to do this, I certainly don’t have the time to mess with shipping books to make a few cents (even with the shipping credit.) Hopefully you will have some books that are in the $3-4 and up range. Put any books with a decent used/new price in one pile and the others in a different pile.
  5. Create an Amazon.comSellers Account. If you don’t have any books to sell, go to Step 6. If you were lucky enough to find some books that might actually make you some money, go ahead and create an Amazon sellers account and post your books! Sign up to sell your stuff! New sellers can check out the FAQ with questions. There are lots of free tips available online. You might even be able to help your friends sell their old books.
  6. Swap ‘Em on Paperback Swap! For all of your books that didn’t make the sell list, why don’t you swap them for books that you do want to read! It is very easy to set up an account and it is free! In fact, if you post 10 books you will get 2 FREE credits to start. They don’t even have to be paperbacks. When someone requests your book, you pay for shipping to send it to them. When they receive it, you get a book credit and can request a book from any member, and they will ship at their expense. My favorite feature is the WISH LIST. You can enter any ISBN or search by title/author and put books you would like on a wish list. You can see where you are in “line” to receive the book. Once the books are posted and you are first in line you can request the book. You can also auto-request books so you don’t miss an email for your favorite book. This website is fantastic for those of you have shelves of books that are in good condition but you know you won’t read them again. It is also a great way to get books you’ve been looking for without paying top dollar.Click the button below to register!
    PaperBackSwap.com - Book Club to Swap, Trade & Exchange Books for Free.7. Make a Book Acquisition Plan. Remember the list of topics of books you love and the list of how you typically acquire books? Use these to create a plan. If you are always receiving books as gifts that you do not read, why not create a book wish list on Amazon or just in a word processor or spreadsheet? You can give this list to people who like to purchase books for you so you know you will get books you have been looking forward to reading. Also, keep in mind how much you usually spend on books. Is it within your budget? Make a book budget part of your plan. If you know how much you have to spend, you will probably be much more careful and won’t just run to the nearest bookstore and pay retail for the newest novel as soon as it comes out.

    8. Donate or Give Away Unused Books! If there are any books that you do not wish to keep, sell, or swap- donate them to your favorite charity or give them to a friend who would appreciate them.

    9. Find New Favorites. While you are donating your books, why not check to see if any of your “wish list” books are there? I have found many high quality newer titles at my local thrift stores often for $1 or less. Even $5 on a new title is a steal! Check with your friends. Maybe you could swap titles. Perhaps you could trade a scrapbooking book for a parenting book with someone with grown children etc…

    10. Look For Cheaper Book Sources. I am always looking for new ways to cut costs on books, without giving up on new or unique titles I want. Here are some places to start: thrift stores, used bookshops, warehouse clubs, yardsales, PaperbackSwap, eBay, Half.com, Amazon Marketplace, friends, family, and Christmas/birthday gifts.

    11. Re-evaluate Your Books Often. Go through these steps regularly to reduce your book spending, increase your stash of books you will actually read, and cut out unwanted book clutter.


 Posted by at 11:30 PM
Jan 042010

/a>Most people are probably tightening the financial belt right now, but how can you squeeze extra dollars out of an already tight budget?

How often do we “need” something and go out right away and purchase the item? Whether it is a want or need, a closer examination of most checkbooks and cash receipts would show that a lot of purchases fall into the unplanned or miscellaneous category. (Think of your last Wal-mart receipt!) I would even guess that the reason many people fear a budget is they are concerned they will not be able to think of all the “surprises” that life brings.

To combat this, our family often plays what one Dave Ramsey listener called the “Make Do Game.” Here are some steps to reducing the impact of these “surprise” expenses.

1. Plan ahead.
The best defense is a good offense. Create a list of items that you expect to need before you need them. This gives you your best deal finding ally- time.

2. Make a deadline.
Be realistic. Most of the time you don’t have to have it tonight. The more you plan ahead, the fewer last minute purchases you will have.

3. Think of alternatives.
Answer this question: “How can I make do with that I already have?” A lot of times the item you “need” can be eliminated by using something you already have.

4. Get the word out.
Let your friends and family know what you are looking for. Your friend might look past that great bargain on the perfect lime green chair for your living room if they don’t know you are looking for one. Often someone we know already has an item that we can borrow, barter, or buy from them. If you make a habit of sharing with and helping others, others will often be open to helping you.

5. Set a maximum price and save up.
Do your research and set aside enough money to purchase the item for a reasonable price. Great deals often come up unexpectedly. If you don’t have money set aside, you might miss out. It isn’t a bargain if you have to borrow money or use a credit card to buy it.

6. Be creative.
Think of all the possible ways that this item might be available. My favorite (and least expensive) options usually involve purchasing the item used. However, you can find great deals on new items if you know how/where to look. Here are some ideas to get you thinking:

  • Buy used- Pawn shops, thrift stores, yard sales, classified ads, Craigslist.org, eBay Amazon.com marketplace, half.com
  • Deep Discounts- Clearance aisles, after season/holiday sales, scratch and dent, outlet stores, wholesale clubs

7. Enjoy the ride.
Make the process fun. The long-term rewards of finding your item at a great price are so much more fulfilling than the short-term thrill of the instant purchase. Appreciate the challenge of the hunt and you will quickly prefer the hunt over the easy find at full price.

8. Reflect on the purchase.
This step is easily missed. Make mental or written notes to help you the next time you are looking for a similar item. Keep track of how much you save. Remember… If you set aside the money beforehand every dollar you saved can go toward meeting your other goals. This helps you evaluate and answer the What’s In It For Me? and Is it Worth It? questions you may have.

Some of you might be thinking… “Who cares about saving 5 bucks here and there? My time is worth more than that.” If it takes you a year of driving all over town to save $5 on an item, you would be right. However, the confidence you gain and the money you save by making this a lifestyle can completely transform your wallet and your life. Little exercises in saving $1 or $2 add up in the long term. I would challenge you to try this out for 6 months and see if it doesn’t make your money stretch and even provide little luxuries you couldn’t (shouldn’t) afford to purchase retail. Could it save you enough to allow you to retire, live on one income, or cut out your part-time job? It is up to you.

Overspending is normal. Be weird!