Making a Plan That Lasts

Why make a plan  for your money?  Isn’t it more fun to just grab what you want whenever you want it?

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Growing Up

Living your financial life with the foresight of a 3rd grader may be fun in the moment, but to have what you want next week and next month, a longer term vision is required.  Problem is, even when people become convinced of the value of budgeting to their peace and financial freedom, their first attempt to make a budget sets them up for failure.

Make it Today, and For Today

If you’re like most people, the first time you sit down to work up a budget for the coming month, you try to create a generic, one-size-fits-all budget that will represent all future months.  You’re planning for the perfect month from heaven, problem is, that month never really happens here in the real world!

The key in building a successful cashflow plan is to spend this month’s income on this month’s expenses.  Some expenses will be nice and consistent, such as your house payment or water bill.  But if you make your budget too generic, it won’t work in real life, and you’ll be tempted to just give up money management altogether.

Get Started

Today’s always the perfect time to start planning your budget for the coming month.  If you haven’t tried the latest version of ThriveWealthy, click the tab above to find the page and download the tool.  Read over the instructions briefly, then start entering your expected paycheck amounts and dates.  Allocate how you’ll spend all of next month’s income in the different categories provided, changing category names as needed to make the budget fit your life.

Enlist Our Help!

Don’t be discouraged when things come up and you have to revisit your allocations several times throughout the month.  As you continue to plan your spending before the money is spent, you’ll improve at predicting your actual expenses, and you’ll also notice that your money will start to be spent on those things that are important to you–with less “falling through the cracks” or getting spent on things that don’t really matter to you.  Feel free to post successes, hardships, or questions to the comments section below; we’re all in this together, and we are all here to help each other thrive!

Leading Takes Listening

I used to think that leaders were the ones with all the answers—the smartest ones in the room.  While it takes intelligence to lead a team, I’m learning that great leaders do something you might not expect, and they do it exceptionally well.

leaders

You may think that you’re the smartest person in the room—and you might even be right.  But if you’re unwilling to listen to the people around you, you will dramatically hamper your effectiveness as a leader.  Leaders listen, both for ideas and in order to influence those they lead.

Listen for Ideas

Even if you are a genius, you don’t have a monopoly on good ideas.  The beauty of this world God made is that things work best when people work together.  Jesus used the example of the body to describe His bride, the church.  An eye has a different function and role than an ear, just as a foot can be used more effectively accomplish some things than can an eyelash. Here’s the takeaway—you may be an excellent hand, but no matter how great a hand you are, there’s no way you can hear a noise—only ears can do that.  Recognize your strengths but be willing to seek feedback and ideas from the people around you.

Listen for Influence

Do you look others in the eyes when they speak?  Do you really listen to what they’re saying?  If you do these things, you’ve certainly noticed how few other people do this.  When you do little things like make eye contact, adopt a welcoming posture (no arms crossed, no hands in pockets), ask questions, and use the name of the person you’re talking to often, you will be amazed how people will open up to you.  In doing this, they demonstrate their trust in you.  And to be trusted means to have influence.  Make the effort to truly listen and care about the person you’re talking to, and you’ll be amazed how they will want to hear from you.  Humility, respect, and trustworthiness—things that we know belong to good leaders, but the question is, will you exemplify them today?

Set the Right Goals, and Don’t Forget to Execute!

Believe it or not, we’re coming up on the second quarter of 2013—have you set your goals yet? If you had set goals for 2013, are you progressing toward them? If you’re like many people, you may have let these aspirations move to the back burner. Today we’ll look at whether these goals should move to the front burner or off the stove completely. For those that do belong on your front burner, how can you keep your focus on them and ensure that they’re reached?

Wedding

What’s the Problem?

There are a few major reasons why a goal you set early in the year will fade into the background after a few weeks or months. One reason could be that the goal was not something you truly want or value. Sometimes it can be difficult to really drill down to the things we really want. In fact, focusing on ourselves only can result in blurry vision. Instead, recognize that your Creator God made you in a particular way; individually and different than anyone else. What strengths and passions has He placed in you, and what purpose does He want to use you to accomplish?

Translate the Long Term to What to Do Today

Another common reason that we discard our goals relates to lack of detailed planning and accountability. Instead of setting general goals and stopping there, translate your goals into weekly activities and execute them consistently.

Seven Key Areas

The following six-step process provides a simple overview of how to set the right goals and adopt the habits that will lead you to reach them. Use these steps as guidelines to build a specific process that works for you. This method can be applied to reach success in any area of life, and we recommend using it for eack of the following areas:
• Career
• Fitness
• Personal Development
• Spiritual
• Family
• Financial
• Social

The six steps toward setting and executing worthwhile goals are as follows:

Step 1 – Figure out what you want. Peace? Financial security? Influence? Travel? Strong relationships? Missions? Taking care of family? Be specific. What would your life look like if you inherited $200 million today and also learned that you have only 5 years to live?

Step 2 – Find people who have what you want and listen to them; protect your mind from people [who don’t have what you want] who want to give you advice. Does your brother-in-law have financial success? If not, don’t take his financial advice.

Step 3 – Based on what you want (step 1) develop big, 5-yr goals. Figure out the goals you’ll need to hit this year to reach these big goals. Then, figure out the goals you’ll need to hit this month to hit the annual goals.

Step 4 – Plan out daily activities that will lead you to your monthly goals. Work with an experienced mentor [from step 2] to insure you choose the right activities.

Step 5 – Put your daily activities into your calendar, and stick to your calendar

Step 6 – Forget about the goals and focus on executing this day’s activities. Report how you did to your mentor. If you completed today’s activities, be happy with that.

Focus on things you can control—your activity. Focusing on results instead of activities you can control can be frustrating. Use your mentor to determine the right activities, do them consistently, and results will come.

What’s the thread?

What’s TotalThriver.com all about?  Perhaps you noticed last week the feature of the ThriveFit training program and took a moment to learn how an Olympic lift can help you get in great shape and look and feel better.  Maybe you scrolled down to see the previous week’s post about eternity and what God has planned for His children.  After that, you clicked the ThriveWealthy tab on the top menu and downloaded the free cashflow planning tool, including instructions for getting your finances in order.  Are these topics related?  What connects these seemingly unrelated ideas?

oven mitts!

You’re not an ice-cube tray

The threads that connect these aspects of life are at the very core of our mission here at TotalThriver. A prevalent notion in our culture today is the idea that we exist as individuals with different compartments, which are separate and distinct from each other.  For example, a man may delude himself by thinking, “Sure, I’m harsh and unsympathetic at work, and sometimes I take advantage of my employees, but that has nothing to do with my relationship with my wife and kids.  Who I am at work is not who I am at home.”

Contrast this with the wisdom of God’s Word.  In Proverbs 23, we read:

6 Do not eat the bread of a selfish man,
Or desire his delicacies;

7 For as he thinks within himself, so he is.
He says to you, “Eat and drink!”
But his heart is not with you.

This is a teaching given throughout the Bible–that the heart is where our behavior and actions originate.  Similarly, Jesus said in Luke 6:45 that:

The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.

Address the real problem

All of us want to thrive in life–and particularly those of you who’ve come to this site to find tools and resources to do just that.  But the first step in moving forward is to recognize that our “less than thriving” behaviors in the various aspects of our lives are rooted in our heart.  The man who mistreats his employees has a heart problem.  And this problem of the heart will manifest itself everywhere in his life.

To insist that poor behavior in one area in life has nothing to do with other areas of life is dangerous because it refuses to recognize the real connections within your own person.  And without clear understanding of the cause of a problem, no true change can be made.

What are your “unseen connections?”

Take a moment to consider personally, “what aspects of my life have I been neglecting?”  If your life is a wheel made up of five spokes (physical, financial, spiritual, relational, career), which spoke is deficient and giving you a wobbly wheel?

Try to seek out the connections between parts of life where you aren’t thriving and the negative effects that they produce in other areas of your life.  Do you hate your job?  Do you then come home angry and fight with your spouse?  Or perhaps you’ve not exercised in months, and notice that you just don’t have the energy level to care for your family that you once did.  By identifying the negative results that you most dislike and connecting them to their causes, you’ll find the motivation to make the investments of time and energy needed to thrive in one area, bringing success in both areas.

The bonus

That’s what’s so great about starting to understand how these areas relate–you improve the area that needs improvement, but you get a bonus in other areas.  The clearest example of this is the area of fitness.  When you spend time exercising your body properly, you’ll notice an improvement to your physique.  But you get a bonus benefit in your work life, as you have better energy levels and can be more productive.  And you’ll likely notice an improved relationship with your spouse, as your frustrations have been taken out on a barbell instead of your lover!

The connections between these areas of life are complex and seemingly infinite.  Some, like the examples above, can be understood and generalized.  Others are known by God alone.  Yet as we understand more and more that our behavior and the results of our behavior stem from the heart, we work to thrive in each area to the satisfaction of ourselves and the glory of our Maker.

Get Your Money’s Worth

Thinking of making a big purchase soon?  How can you get the best deal and have a great time, simultaneously?  Today we’ll explore a few best practices for buying big ticket items like a car or a new appliance, to ensure that your dollars work as hard for you as you worked to earn them!  🙂

Honda Magna

Use Your Own Money

The first step to any big purchase is saving up the money!  Obvious as this sounds, it is a rather uncommon practice today.  Many retailers make big money selling financing, and therefore market it heavily.  They don’t usually have a tough sell either, since by nature we tend to want the nice things now, and patience isn’t usually too fun!  But if you will slow down and consider it, I think you’ll realize that by nature debt reduces your options and inhibits your freedom.  There’s a reason that it feels so good to pay cash for things, and this is what wise and wealthy people do.  In fact, it’s habits like these that typically made the wealthy wealthy in the first place!  For more on that, check out “The Millionaire Next Door,” a great, fact-based book that will likely surprise you in more ways than one!

Narrow the Field

Once you’ve saved the money, your next step will be to determine what models and features are available to you in that price range.  If you’re looking at a car, for example, you can use resources like Craigslist and kbb.com to identify particular year/model/mileage combinations that are in the right range.

Taste and Sample!

Now comes the fun part—go looking!  Seek out at least three stores or individuals offering the model or models that you’re looking at.  Try out the features, and hone down your short list of models to the one you like best.  As you begin to settle on the particular item that’s best for you, take note of any optional features or upgrades.  In many cases, buying a higher-end model with extra features can offer more long-term value, but this is very dependent on what you’re buying.  (A quick aside, I’ve become convinced over the years that spending a little extra on leather seats for a vehicle is money very well spent!  Particularly if you have kids…  🙂

Fit and Price

After looking at the model you like at a few places, you’ll start to have a feel for what a good deal is.  Resist the urge to get in a hurry and instead remain calm as you seek for the ideal fit.  Once you’ve found a good price on your item, let the owner or salesman know that you’re thinking this item is a good fit.  I used to think that feigning disinterest in an item was a good way to get the seller to come down on price, but have learned from experience that this doesn’t work.  Instead, make the sales process into two steps.  First, decide if the item meets your needs/desires.  Once you’re convinced it does, let the seller know, but then go right into the price negotiation.  So, you might say something like, “This electric stove seems to be just what we’re looking for.  The price, however, does seem a little high.  How flexible are you on that figure?”  This is a useful tactic because it lets the seller know that there’s only one thing stopping you from buying the item:  price.

Have Fun and Be Creative

Now for the next fun part—price ping pong!  Let the seller make an offer, then counter with a lower one, have a good time (without insulting anyone).  Somewhere along the line, you’ll want to pull out your envelope of cash and start rifling through it.  I don’t care who you are—a stack of hundreds makes your eyes get bigger and your heart beat faster, and you can use this method to stir the seller into accepting a lower price.  If you’re starting to get close, a fun way to end the negotiation goes something like this:  “I’ll tell you what, I’ve got $4,700 right here.  Say the word and it’s yours.”

Sometimes, your man won’t be willing to come down as far as you’d like.  Don’t fall in love with a particular item and keep your walking away power—there are plenty other deals out there for you.  Or, if the price is still a bit higher that you’d like, but the particular item seems worth the extra, it’s ok to pay a little more than absolute bottom dollar.  Just have fun, keep your head, and enjoy the process!

Keys to Leadership and Success

Last weekend, I had the incredible opportunity to attend a Leadership Team Development (LTD) business conference in Louisville, Kentucky.  My team and I had the chance to learn leadership and success principles from some of the best in our industry.  For your benefit, I’ve summarized some of our major takeaways from the weekend in the following article.  If you’re interested in how you can join this amazing team and have access to great conferences and leaders like these while you create an additional income stream for yourself, feel free to comment on this post or leave a message on our ThriveMart page.  We’d love to be a part of your journey to the top!

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Common Denominators

My single biggest takeaway from the weekend came from a presentation of the five common denominators of every successful business owner.  The general idea was that even though different people build their businesses differently, they all generally do the following five things consistently.

Harmony

In my mind’s eye, I pictured business as an engine.  If you take action on these five things consistently, your engine stays in step with itself–in harmony.  But if not, the time and energy you spend on one cylinder gets for the most part wasted when one of your other cylinders isn’t firing properly.  I believe that a lack of knowledge of this principle has been one thing that has held our business back from realizing its full potential up to this point.  When I first got into business for myself, I thought, “This is great—I get to be my own boss and set my own schedule” and I think I translated that into, “I need only do the things I find fun; I can avoid the uncomfortable things.”  In reality, the proper way to build a business is to set the time commitment you’re willing to make, and work on each of the five things consistently during the time you’ve made available.

Ok, enough commentary, here are the five things:

  • Consistent sales:  Be sure that you’re using your products personally promoting their benefits to existing and potential customers.
  • Read and listen:  Become a collector of great business books and audio recordings of the best and brightest leaders of today and yesterday.  Incidentally, Zig Ziglar is probably my favorite person to read and listen to.  Make sure you get at least a few hours of reading and at least a few hours of listening each week.
  • Lead others:  Share your business with others who have interest in joining your team.  Once you understand how to do something, you can help another person learn it.  Multiply yourself by training others to learn and do those things which made you successful.
  • Spend time around successful people:  Get around the people who have what you want and are doing what you want to be doing as often as possible.  Attend informal gatherings, team meetings, and conferences as often as they are available.  Make the decision to consistently attend beforehand and work the other demands on your schedule around your business. (Note: never lose sight of your priorities:  God, family, then business.  But work your schedule in advance in order to attend these important opportunities for instruction and encouragement)
  • Communicate with your team: Call, email, and text your mentors as well as those whom you are mentoring.  Good communication increases accountability and helps mentees learn from your actions.

Don’t Stop Short

A final picture of this idea goes like this.  Assuming a soda costs $1, what do you get if you put 95 cents into the machine?  Nothing.  You spent all that effort getting the money in, but because you didn’t get all the way to the full dollar, you end up getting nothing.  Neglecting one of the five areas is like leaving off the last five cents.  Don’t leave your effort in the soda machine or run your car on 3 cylinders:  translate these concepts into your life and get going on your journey to the top!

Who’s Programming You?

We are all given a limited amount of time in this life, and we all want to make the most of it.  But how intentional are we about who we spend our time with?  For good or for ill, the people we spend the lion’s share of our time with will impact who we become.  Are your associations building you into the type of person you want to be?

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Anyone Bringing You Down?

It’s been said that your income will be the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.  I contend that often your habits, worldview, and maybe even your physique will also tend to mirror that of the people you let into the moments and hours of your life.  If you’re a part of a group of successful people, over time you’ll tend to build yourself into a successful person too.  If you hang around with losers, you’re well on your way to becoming one.

Observe the Words

A good way to distinguish successful people whom you’ll want to model from the kind of people who’ll bring you down is to listen to what they’re predominantly talking about.  Are they more positive and encouraging?  Or do they spend a good deal of time speaking about others negatively?  Is their conversation about future goals they have, and the means they’re planning to accomplish those goals?  Or are there frequent diatribes of blame:  I’d be better off but for what so and so did; If I weren’t so unlucky, I wouldn’t have all these problems.  A person who you want shaping your character will be speaking positively about future events more than he’ll be speaking negatively about past ones.

Avoid Pride

One quick disclaimer before you think I recommend sitting in your own personal ivory tower looking down on all the poor untouchables down there: there is a distinction between choosing to be part of a toxic circle of friends and spending time with people in order to evangelize, mentor, or disciple them.  The former is hazardous to your future, the latter is vital.  Only make sure that you’re spending enough time with strong leaders that you are strong enough yourself to influence a weaker group, rather than being influenced by it.

Can I Do That?

But where can I find a group of strong and godly leaders?  Why would they want to hang out with me?  I have two answers to this point—a short term and a long term answer.  First, you already know a few winners, and I think if you’ll spend a few moments considering it, you can think of few high-quality people in your life who’d answer your phone call.  Start there.  As you intentionally work on those relationships, you’ll be exposed to other winners naturally, and better than that, you’ll actually start to see and recognize the qualities of good leaders in those around you.  And one great thing about strong, godly, successful leaders is that they absolutely love to help people like you who are looking to grow themselves!

Own Your Time

Limit your time around negative people.  Particularly if your core group is of this sort, you’ll have a hard time keeping your distance, but you must gradually ramp down the time and replace it with time with positive role models.  If your negative group is family, you’ve got an even more challenging task.  But you must do it—for your good and ultimately theirs.  Get strong enough over time by being with winners that you’re capable of being around the weaker group and influencing those people positively.  And finally, recognize that you can create boundaries with people—even if those boundaries make people mad.  In fact, if your boundary makes a person mad, they’ve just identified themselves as the kind of person that you definitely need to set boundaries with!  A winner will respect others’ boundaries, and even if he feels slighted, he’ll approach you in a gentle and respectful manner, because that’s how winners behave.

Simple, Not Easy

Today’s lesson can be a tough one to live, particularly if the discussion of “toxic groups” brings the names of a few close friends to mind.  But just as the flight staff tells you to put your own oxygen mask on before helping your child, the best way to help your negative friends is to become a real leader yourself.  We’re here for you along the way, as is our Father in heaven.  Follow Him first and you’ll never be last.

Get Money, Don’t Let Money Get You

Most of us spend the majority of our waking hours in pursuit of one thing:  money.  Even though money isn’t the only reason we go to work each day, for most people it’s the main reason.  Though money can get a bad rap sometimes (in particular from those who misquote the Bible as saying that money is the root of all evil), spending the day working to acquire it is not a bad thing.  In fact, if you’re like me and you enjoy eating and having a warm bed to sleep in at night, it’s quite a wonderful thing.  But, money makes for a cruel Master, and we must be sure to take certain steps to keep the money we seek from getting us.

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What the Good Book Says

The quote I mentioned earlier that people often get wrong is from 1 Timothy 6:10:  “For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.”  Similarly, Jesus taught in Matthew 6:24 that, “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”

A Matter of Priorities

These scriptures, as well as many others throughout the Bible show clearly that money itself isn’t bad, but the way we spend our money tends to reveal where our allegiance lies.  If we are like Christ, our chief desire will be to love and worship God, and money will be a tool or servant under our watch, to be used to glorify God and spread His Gospel.  Conversely, if we seek our own desires first, we will tend to use God as a means toward the end of having more and being more comfortable.  As the wise teacher Hank Haanegraaf says, “instead of loving the Master (Jesus), we only want what is on the Master’s table.”

Fix Your Heart

So, given the understanding that we all tend toward selfishness and are tempted within our own hearts to pursue wealth for the wrong reasons, what can we do to keep money from getting us?  The answer is simple:  give.  All throughout history, God has taught His people to give to Him first.  Though many think that this practice is simply a pragmatic way to fund the church, in fact this has more to do with meeting a need you have than meeting a need the church has.  Here’s why:  God owns everything.  He doesn’t need your money to accomplish His purpose.

Live as You Were Meant To

But what you need is a way to keep your heart from pride, greed, and self-centeredness.  Giving accomplishes this wonderfully, and also comes with the side effects of joy and peace.  When you take the first $100 of your $1,000 paycheck and give it to God, it speaks very clearly to your heart:  “I’m not the most important thing in my life.”  By giving, you recognize that you are simply the manager of God’s money, to use it in accordance with His purposes, and really, what better investment is there?

Treat Her Like a Lady

Although you should treat your wife or girlfriend like a lady, that’s not what today’s post is about.  🙂  Instead, since winter weather is coming fast, we’ll be identifying some of the most important things you’ll want to do to prepare your vehicle for the cold days ahead.  By taking the time and effort to address these items before they become issues, you’ll save time, energy, frustration, and quite a bit of money!

The most important things to check are the:

  • Fluids (coolant, oil, windshield washer fluid, etc.)
  • Battery
  • Tires
  • Wipers

The Liquids

First, test and inspect your coolant and battery. Test your coolant with a hygrometer if you do not already know it to be good, and make sure all the other fluids are clean and full, or serviced if not.

Holding Your Electricity

A healthy battery is as important as the cooling system: one is like the skin, the other like blood. You can take and have your battery tested to be sure, but be careful, as you know there are plenty of places that would try to sell you a new one to replace your perfectly good old one. In general, you battery should be ok if all the following conditions are met:

  • It’s less than 3 years old
  • It looks good
    • not swollen (sides pushing out)
    • not leaking acid
    • not growing cauliflower on the terminals
    • it turns the engine over well after sitting overnight in the cold

If possible, it’s best to perform a load test on your battery, but if you can’t, these parameters should be a good rule of thumb.

Good Contact with the Pavement, Seeing the Road

Beyond that, a good pair of wiper blades, ensuring the tires are roadworthy (proper psi, tread depth) and a basic vehicle inspection are all any car really needs to survive the winter and its driving conditions. In my experience, there’s no such thing as too much maintenance, and your vehicle will thank you for it!

Be Prepared for the Worst

And finally, you need an emergency kit if you don’t already carry one–it’s always a good idea, and especially so if you’re traveling with kids.  Make sure your kit includes:

  • jumper cables
  • flares or warning triangles
  • blanket or sleeping bag
  • a warm hat and gloves
  • flashlight/lantern
  • first aid kit

Stay safe out there this winter, and make it a priority to get these things taken care of now, before it gets cold.  Your family and your pocketbook will thank you!

Need a Lift?

Do you ever get discouraged?  Most of us can get excited about a new opportunity when we first hear of it (especially if we’re not yet too jaded!)  But what do you do when the initial fire wears off and you come face to face with difficulties, discouragement, and obstacles?

When You Need a Friend….

In times when you’re struggling, don’t you just wish that a warm, kind friend would seek you out, give you an encouraging word and a thoughtful, sincere compliment?  What if I told you that you could be assured this pick-me-up anytime you desired it?  Would you be interested?

…Be One!

Here’s how you get the vital encouragement you need to pick yourself up when times get tough:  encourage others.  No, I don’t mean that you should encourage friends and neighbors today, in hopes that they’ll reciprocate in the days to come (although that may also happen).  Instead, I’m encouraging you to seek out someone to pay a compliment to because that action will actually encourage you as much, if not more, than it does them.

Building, Building, Building Others Up

The reason why this works falls into the large category of things I don’t quite understand.  I don’t know why it brings us such great encouragement when we encourage others—I only know very simply and clearly that it does.  Incidentally, this idea is something we parents always teach our kids; however, like so many simple concepts that fill children’s books, we adults never seem to practice them!

Be the Leader

If your environment is anything like the workplaces and neighborhoods that most of us live in, the practice of an unsolicited and sincere compliment will be somewhat foreign to you.  It is difficult to start a healthy habit when it’s not modeled for you, but then again, readers of TotalThriver are trailblazers anyway, right???  Thankfully, this practice is one that’s relatively easy to start—people really do appreciate compliments, whether they’re your colleague, boss, or just someone you occasionally pass by.

A Win-Win Situation

Make your compliment specific, genuine, and personal.  When you notice a job well done, a positive attitude, or a bright idea, take a moment to share your delight.  Whether it’s something small or a significant victory, both you and the recipient of your compliment will leave the encounter happier, more positive, and energized for success.  Consider your fire rekindled!