To Whom Do You Go?

Can you think of a time when you faced a tough decision and were unsure of the proper course?  When posed with two different options and can only choose one, how do you sort out the best way to go?  I believe that the first step is to recognize the value in seeking council. This is natural, isn’t it?  To tell people around what’s going on in your life in order to hear their perspective?  But all too often, I think we apply this good principle of seeking council in a way that may actually hinder us.

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What to Do?

Let’s take a common and tangible example of a difficult decision.  Imagine that you own and drive a car that is near the end of its life and not worth too much.  One morning when you attempt to start the car, you get some scary noises and a whole lot of white smoke.  Later that day you get the call from your mechanic:  you need a between $800 and $1,500 of work done.  Now, you’re not sure that your car is worth much more than $2,500 once it’s all fixed, and you’re not sure if it’s worth it to pay for the repairs or not.

Seeking Feedback

What would you do in this situation?  If you’re like most people, you’d probably tell your car story to the nearest 10 people who’ll listen.  Invariably, many of these people will offer advice, and certainly it will be well intentioned.  If you’re thinking of the principle mentioned above, that gaining the perspective of others can be valuable in making decisions, you’re probably happy to get all the feedback.  But there’s one key issue we’ve skipped over that makes the difference between the advice you get yielding you a good situation or a problem on top of your problem.

Qualifications test

The key is the determination of adviser qualification.  Or, put more simply, does the person offering advice know what he’s talking about?  Take a basic idea like the following for instance.  Taking financial advice from broke people is unwise.  Think about that for a second.  Now try this one:  taking marriage advice from a person with an unhealthy marriage is unwise.  Seriously, think about it!

Now, while this may seem so simple and obvious, it’s been my experience (personally, I assure you, as well as by watching others do this) that we often fail to apply such a basic filter before giving people’s suggestions credibility.  Our car repair example above is quite a common case of this illogical behavior.  One will ask everyone around him what to do about the car, and he’ll hear many people say, “oh, just trade it in and get a new car!  You’ll save the money on repairs, and paying a little interest is no big deal.  In fact, have you considered a lease?  Then you could have a really cool car right now!”  All too often, we’ll not only accept these ideas, but will actually factor them into our decision making process and let them influence our choice.  But what is the financial position of the advisers here?  Do they own their own cars?  Do they have an effective budgeting system in place and are they on track for retirement?  Often, No!  They do not!

To Become a Winner, Follow Winners

So, here’s the bottom line.  Does the person offering advice have what I want?  If it’s financial advice I’m seeking, do they have a financial life that I’d like to have?  If it’s spiritual advice, so they have the walk with the Lord that I want?  If it’s fitness and nutrition advice, do they have the physique and energy levels I want?  Run your advisers through this simple filter first, and you’ve avoid many behaviors that lead to the terrible place called average.

Driving Blindfolded, Looking in the Rear-view Mirror, or Looking Ahead

What would you think of a person who drove his 2013 Corvette convertible around while wearing a blindfold.  How about someone who kept his eyes glued to the rearview mirror as he blazed down the highway?  Would you think that person is nuts?  Would you consider that person dangerous?  Would you be surprised if I told you this is exactly the way most people operate a major aspect of their life?

nice car!

The illustration above is the way many people operate their finances.  Ask 10 of your friends and neighbors if they keep a budget and you’re likely find few who do so.  Of those who keep a budget, many do not truly have a budget (forward looking) so much as they have a spending tracker (backward looking).  You would never drive a vehicle this way, so why would you operate your finances this way?

Not that fun?

Ok, few people are delighted to sit down with a spreadsheet and map out their spending for the month.  Even fewer people like to say no to themselves and restrict their spending on superfluous items.  But, if you will give advance cashflow planning (budgeting) a chance, I promise that the rewards will be worth the small investment of time, and you may just save yourself from careening off the road!

Having Financial Agility

When you’re sitting down with all the information in front of you, you’re more apt to see roadblocks and curves in the road ahead.  You can look at your home improvement fund or your vacation fund and get a gauge foe whether it’s on track for the upcoming expenses.  This lead time allows you to respond to financial challenges earlier: for example, skipping meals out for a few weeks early in the month so you can afford to buy new tires for your car when they’re needed later in the month.

Taking Control

Rather than creating unpleasant restrictions, a budget like that recommended in our ThriveFit page actually makes your life easier and more hassle-free.  While your friends are busy worrying and hand-wringing about how they’ll pay for the medical bill they didn’t plan for, you’ll be peacefully executing your spending plan for the month.  Although planning ahead doesn’t create more money for you from thin air, when you get your spending under your control, it often feels like you’ve gotten a raise.  Anyway, what do you have to lose?  If you hate the feeling of being in control and looking in front of you instead of behind, you can always go back to the chaos method….  😉

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!

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?

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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.

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!

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?

Why Give Ribbon?

With Christmas just around the corner, most of us are desperately trying to keep up with all the hustle and bustle of the season.  Among the many other things on your list, you probably have some Christmas gift shopping left to do—some of which is for that relative who’s always hard to shop for.  How in the world can you give him (or her) a gift that he’ll like without spending hours searching every shop in the mall?  Easy—just give him 30 gifts to choose from!

The Gift of Choice

One of the amazing products available through our ThriveMart store is called the Ribbon Gift Collection.  It’s a little bit like a gift card, but far superior in many ways.  When you order a gift collection, a beautiful package will be shipped to you for free.  You’ll give this package to your family member or friend on the big day and they’ll open it to find a catalog and an access code.  At his convenience, your friend will browse through up to 40 incredible products on MyRibbonGift.com and choose his favorite. It will ship to him a few days later, also for free!  And unlike a gift card, a price is never shown, so no one will know how much you spent.

There are many gift collections to choose from, ranging from $30 to $1000, and including items like: a home theater system, outdoor fireplace, 12 MP digital video recorder, miter saw, cookware, wine cooler, and many many more.  Ribbon Gift cards never expire, and both you and your friend enjoy a full 6-month satisfaction guarantee!

Make Great Memories

So which is the better choice this Christmas:  braving the mall for a gift that might satisfy or giving Ribbon, the gift of choice?  Choosing a restrictive gift card that loses value over time or a Ribbon gift collection that never diminishes a dime and comes with a 180-day guarantee?

To learn more about Ribbon or to place an order, just send us a message or contact us through our ThriveMart page, which you can reach by clicking the link at the top right of this page.  And thanks for letting us help make your Christmas shopping simple and fun, and a memorable experience for your friends and family!

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!