What's New?!

Hi Everyone! I know that it's been a while since my last blog post, but you'll be happy to know that some amazing things have been happening!

First, I want to invite you to follow my new blog: The Butterfly Garden

Second, check out my first book: Destined to Fly: The Pursuit of Purpose

Third, check out my new website: www.ariannemockabee.com

I hope that you all have been doing well, and I look forward to continuing this amazing journey with you!

Arianne

 

I Didn't Get a Raise. Now What?

no raiseIt's that time of year again...annual reviews, raises, bonuses, etc. What happens when the increase you were expecting wasn't as much as you thought it was going to be or maybe it didn't come at all? You become responsible for giving yourself a raise! Say what?! Yep, you read it correctly. You're now responsible for giving yourself a raise. Here's how: Spend less + Saving more = INCREASE!

No-brainer right? But seriously, that's exactly how you'll end up with more...by spending less. It may not be what you want to hear, but it's what you'll need to get you through this season. If you're doing a budget regularly, which you should be, you will know where all of your money is going. If you're not doing a budget, you need to start doing one, pronto! Now, take a good look at all of the businesses you've helped fund over the last year (you won't be able to do this without completing your budget *hint, hint*). Whether you spent money on personal grooming, eating out, entertainment, electronics, etc...are funding those businesses more important than taking care of your "home" business? I guarantee you that if you call any one of their corporate offices and let them know that you've been a faithful customer, they will not write you a check to pay off your debt or to help pay any of your bills. They'll simply say thank you, and find another way to get you back into their store. You have to think about your purchases differently. They aren't just transactions, you're helping someone worth millions increase their bank account while watching your own decline. The question I have for you is, is it worth it? That restaurant doesn't need your money, you do. That new pair of shoes isn't going to increase your savings account, it's robbing it. What are you going to do about it? For the basic necessities that you have to fulfill like going the grocery store, gas station, buying basic clothing,etc., monitor sales, use coupons, and shop around.Whatever you have to do to reduce your spending.

It's a new year, and it's time for a new you. I don't buy into the whole new year's resolution thing, I'm merely suggesting a lifestyle change. You can only control that which is under your control, and that's you. Whether you get a raise or not, you're responsible for maximizing the dollars that you do have. Spend them wisely. Invest them wisely. Most importantly, take care of home first. So, who will be first on your "I'm sorry, but I'm temporarily out of cash list?" Tell them you'll be back once you get out of debt, but in the meantime you have your own household business to take care of. Let's start the new year off right. Taking care of you should be your first priority!

Change requires action!

Live free!

Arianne

Making Dollars out of Sense

dollars and senseSome of you may not have grown up in a household where you saw your mom or dad doing a budget, saving may not have been a priority, tithing and investing may have been unheard of, and that's OK. You don't know, what you don't know; but that doesn't mean that you have to stay in the dark. Growing up, I was always familiar with saving, I started investing in 401(k) not long after I graduated, I didn't really use credit cards, and I thought I had a pretty good sense about money. However, I was overwhelmed with student loans, car payments and repairs, medical bills, and trying to meet basic needs. I wasn't doing a budget, barely had any money in savings, and I was struggling. Once I  finally got tired of being in the position I was in, I started praying for a way out. My relief came through reading and research. I started studying the lives of millionaires. After all, they were much better off than I was financially, so there had to be something that I was missing. The books that I read are as follows:

  • The Millionaire Next Door
  • The Five Lessons a Millionaire Taught Me for Women
  • The Top 10 Distinctions Between Millionaires and the Middle Class
  • Rich Toward God
  • Secrets of the Millionaire Mind
  • The Total Money Makeover

I recognized that I needed additional knowledge and wisdom to move me beyond where I was, so I committed myself to doing so. The thing is, they all had some of the same basic principles outlined:

  • Spend less than you make
  • Save
  • Give
  • Invest
  • Manage your money regularly/budget

It's not that it was rocket science, but I was lacking knowledge in those areas. Once I gained the knowledge that I needed, and actually started putting the principles into action, I saw results. My point is, don't let a lack of knowledge keep you from succeeding financially. There are so many resources available that will help move you beyond where you are. I always recommend doing cross-references to check for inconsistencies. All advice isn't good advice, so be cautious about using "free" resources that could cost you in the long run. Do your homework and find a method that will work best for you and your particular situation. In order to change your actions, you must first change your mind. In order to change your mind, you must gain knowledge in the area where you want to see change. So get to it! Freedom awaits!

Change requires action!

Live free!

Arianne

An Audience of One

audience-of-one Romans 8:5 says "Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires."

The flesh desires the approval of others. Our flesh will have us more concerned with what we have (or what it looks like we have), rather than having us focused on pleasing God. After being so used to keeping up with the lifestyles of those in our inner circles, it can become a major challenge to step away. We don't want to appear cheap, broke, embarrassed, or isolated. But let me say this, you're the only one that can fund the specific plans that God has for your life. If you were to stand before God and he asked you why you didn't fulfill your purpose, what would you say? Well God, I didn't want my friends to think I was broke, so I just kept shopping and eating out with them. Or maybe it would be, well God, I let my ego get in the way, so I couldn't humble myself enough to turn away from the consumer lifestyle. Well God, I wanted to look like I was blessed and successful. God isn't trying to hear that. He is not concerned with the ways of the world. He is concerned about fulfilling His destiny through you.

Trust me, I have been there. I love my line sisters, and the time that we spend together is very precious to me. To turn down a trip with them is a very hard thing to do, especially because we only get together a few times a year. But I had to sacrifice some of those trips in order to keep my commitment to God. I didn't always have extra money to shop for new clothes for homecoming or group vacations; so I made do with that was already in my closet, and hoped nobody would notice. If I wanted to travel, I would put myself on a savings plan so that I could pay for the trip with cash. If it wasn't in the budget, and couldn't be paid for with cash, it wasn't happening. It wasn't a good feeling, but I had to control my flesh in order to show God that HE was my priority.

Getting out of debt is no easy feat. However, we must focus on God so that our hearts and minds won't be easily distracted. The Spirit has to be in control of the flesh. You have to learn to tell yourself no! After all, it is your flesh that's gotten you into the mess that you're in now. So are you going to keep listening to it, or are you going to turn to the One that can get you out? If you're currently focused on your friends, family, co-workers, church members, or even yourself, it's time to change your audience! It was God that wrote your script, and it's God that's directing your story. He will forever be your biggest supporter and your most sincere critic. Will you give him your undivided attention?

Change requires action!

Live free!

Arianne

There's Hope, So Let's Get to Work!

Somehow, some way, you've managed to get yourself buried underneath mounds and mounds of debt, and it may seem like there is no end in sight...I'm here to tell you that there is hope! There is hope; however, it will require some work on your part. First, you must understand that remaining in debt is a choice, your choice. Without that acknowledgement you deny yourself the power to change. Like any other sin, you have to admit to your wrongdoing, ask for forgiveness, repent, and start again. Getting out of debt is no different. Sure, you're the on that made the bad decisions to put items on credit cards, take out loans, put spending as a priority over saving, etc. But guess what? That same person, you, can also make the decision to turn away from your consumer ways and walk in the things of God. God doesn't want you to suffer in debt any more than he wants you to suffer in your sin. That is why he gave us the gifts of forgiveness and grace. Is he disappointed that we aren't better stewards of the resources that he's given us? Sure, he is. However, the moment that we decide to turn back to Him, he is there, waiting with open arms to help redeem us. Your debt isn't going to disappear just because you ignore it. In fact, the bible says that the wicked borrow and do not repay (Psalm 37:21). You chose to borrow the money, so now you must repay it. The sooner that you do, the sooner you can move on. It's definitely going to take some time and sacrifice to get it done, but it will be worth it in the end.

Proverbs 16:3 says, "Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans." Let God help you through this process. He loves you and wants you to be debt free so that he can use you. On the other hand, you have to put in the necessary work to get it done. Show him that you're serious about changing your ways by doing a budget, giving on a regular basis, controlling urges to spend unnecessarily, etc. God will get you through it, but you have to put in the work. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. First you have to see it, then you have to move towards it. You are in control of your financial destiny. The question is, will you go after it? Redemption awaits!

Change requires action!

Live free!

Arianne

I Surrender All

Let's face it, we were made in God's image, and are supposed to have the mind of Christ. Let me just say, I've never known Jesus to have a shoe fetish! At some point we have to stop playing, and start being honest with God and with ourselves. Yes, God does want you to have the desires of your heart (Ps. 37:4). However, your heart should look like his. God doesn't desire to be in debt, and neither should you. Stop letting the devil deceive you into thinking that God designed you to be a consumer, because he didn't. God designed you to be a producer and to have dominion over the earth. I'm not saying that it's wrong to desire nice things, because it isn't. But what is wrong, is letting those things have control over you, especially while you're still in debt. If God asked you right now to get rid of all your shoes, handbags, designer clothes, latest technologies, bottles of alcohol (whatever it is that's controlling your income), would you be able to do it? And please don't be prideful and say, "God would never ask me to do that because he loves me." We know that God is a jealous God (Exodus 34:14), and he will wreck up whatever is in his way to get to you. Take a moment to stop, think about it, and check your heart. You won't even have to say it, your actions will display what you've decided in your heart. Why is is that we can tell God, I can't tithe or give because I have bills to pay, but we can't tell our impulsive flesh the same thing? You'll be a lot better off if you dismount yourself off of your high horse, rather than have God knock you down. Trust me, it'll be a softer landing when you do it on your own terms.

God's desire is that you would get your financial house in order so that you can live life financially free and dependent on Him. Get out of debt so that you can pursue the life that He predestined for you. As much as you don't want to spend your life in a dead end job, God doesn't want you to either. But as long as you're dependent on the world for a paycheck, you won't be dependent on God. When God needs you to move, you have to be ready. A lot of us aren't ready because we all of a sudden don't have the resources to fund God's work. Seriously, let's stop playing with God and get our financial houses in order.

There is only one opportunity for every dollar that comes through your hand. If you choose to save it, you can't spend it or invest it. If you choose to spend it, that's one less dollar that you could have applied towards a debt repayment or being a blessing to someone else. You choose whether or not to invest in the world, yourself or God. Let me remind you, that people typically invest in something with the expectation of getting a return. What kind of return are you getting for your investments in alcohol, fast food or fine dining, cable, latest technology, personal grooming, overly priced clothing, shoes, and handbags? I surely never met a compliment that I could cash in at the bank! If everything that you buy depreciates in value you are not walking in the things of God. Take a careful look at the opportuinties that are flowing through your hands on a daily basis. Surrender your old ways to God and ask Him to guide you going forward. He will pour out blessings on you, but you still have the free will to obey Him or not.

Surrender yourselves today: "Lord, I am nothing without you. None of these earthly "things" (idols) matter. They do not make me who I am, YOU do. Free me from the spirit of materialism and consumption. The only debt I desire is the debt of love. Lord I thank you for your conviction so that I may stand corrected in Christ. Be with me and strenghten me as I make this transition. In Jesus' name I pray, Amen."

Change requires action!

Live free!

Arianne

Temporary Sacrifices, Long-Term Gains

Anytime I hear the word "sacrifice" I immediately start to wonder if what I'm giving up is going to be worth it. After all, most people choose to make a sacrifice based on the fact that the outcome will somehow be in their favor. I can't even imagine making the choice to sacrifice an only child. But God did it, because he knew that the outcome would be far greater than the son he was going to lose. Not only was he going to gain the entire world, but he was also going to get his son back. I'm so glad that God thought that we were worth it. Thank you Lord for the ULTIMATE sacrifice! If you want to win with your finances, there are some sacrifices that you're going to have to make along the way. Keep in mind, they may just be temporary. For instance, if you do your budget (and you should be doing your budget) and you see that 20% of your income is going towards eating out, you may need to sacrifice eating out for a while so that you can apply that 20% towards paying down your debts. I know, I know, but you really like hanging out with your friends, hate to cook etc, but you can get over it if your financial freedom is really worth it to you. You're going to have to make some tough decisions to get out of debt, but it will all be worth it. Once you're free, you can start adding those things back into your life that once impeded your progress of getting out of debt. What can you change now, that will put you in a better position later?

My challenge to you is to take your last month's bank statement, and really go through and categorize your expenses by percentage. What percent of your income are you spending on entertainment, shopping, gas, housing, food, cable, etc, and see where you can make some adjustments. The child in you is going to start screaming things at you like, "I don't want to do that," "It doesn't take all of that," or "I can't live without it." Tell your selfish emotions to shut up! You've got some growing up to do financially, and you're going to do whatever it takes. Trust me, you'll be fine, and so will your emotions. Remember, the quicker you get out the debt, the quicker you can start living a debt free life with little worry, more peace, and more fun! So, go ahead and decide which sacrifice you're going to make starting today. It won't hurt for long, especially once you see your net worth increasing and your debt decreasing. Like Dave Ramsey says, "if you live like no one else, later you can live like no one else! YOU'RE WORTH IT!

Change requires action!

Live free!

Arianne

The Face of Abundance

Looks can be deceiving. In fact, we've confused having an abundant life with how much we spend, rather than by how much we give away. Spending is a sign of consumerism, not abundance. These days we have the ability to buy things with money that we don't have, without anyone else knowing the difference. Just because somebody buys something, it doesn't mean that they could actually afford it or that they used their money to do it. For all we know, the person could be waist-deep in debt, one phone call away from repossession or foreclosure, or on the brink of bankruptcy. It's just too hard to tell, even in our own circles. If you want to see the true face of an abundant life, look for the person that isn't reluctant to give, looks for opportunities to give, and is generous when they give. Giving is the face of abundance, not spending.

When I look back over my short "giving" life, which only started about 6 years ago, I'm completely in awe of how much I've given away compared to how much God has blessed me above and beyond that. I honestly believe that I'm where I am today, financially, because of my generosity and faith in God. While it was easy to give while I had something to give, it was in the tough times that my heart was tested. I remember a time that I had planned on sowing $40, but because I had overspent in some other areas, giving away that $40 would have left me with about $10 for a week. After coming to that realization, I thought about not sowing the seed so that I would have enough money to get me through. Then I remembered God's word that says he gives seed to the sower, and he will also increase my store of seed. So I said God, you know my heart to give, I know that you will provide, and I'm just going to sow in faith. No sooner than I had sown the $40, someone had blessed me with $40 later on the same day. God is crazy faithful! While $40 may not seem like a lot, it was a lot to me that day. I was just glad that I had passed God's test: Did I really believe that I was living in abundance even thought it didn't look like it?

Abundance is also mindset that you must choose to have on a daily basis. If you're having a rough month financially, give something away, even if it's only $1. God will honor that $1 because he sees your heart and the sacrifice. The question is, do you believe that he is your provider and that he will supply? If so, your actions have to show it. You have to acknowledge God's power right where you are. Will you be faithful with a few things so that God can put you in charge of many things? (Matthew 25:21)You don't wait to get rich before you start giving; but rather giving, will lead you to riches. Once giving becomes a habit, you will start to live an abundant life. As surely as spending remains a habit, you will continue to have the face of a consumer. Keeping up with the Joneses will keep you broke. Keeping up with the giving spirit of Jesus will keep you rich.

My challenge to you is to perform an act of abundance this week. Whether you buy someone lunch or sow an extra offering at church, whatever it is. Really think through the process. Think about the faith required beforehand, how the act made you and/or the other person feel afterwards, note any "unexpected" blessings, etc. Keep doing that until it becomes like second nature. Long-term, you will continue to think through the process; but instead, you'll start asking God for opportunities to give instead of hiding from them, and the hesitation will eventually wear off. The face of abundance will look so good on you! So, are you ready for God to give you a financial facelift?

Change requires action!

Live free!

Arianne

I Choose to Worship

Giving is an act of worship. When we choose to give, we say with our actions "God, I acknowledge that you are my source and that you have abundantly provided for me." When we choose not to give, we display actions of doubt and deny the fact that God has blessed us. Whether it's $1 or $1,000,000, the fact that we're willing to sow it unto God speaks volumes about our faith and love for Him.

At one point, I used to get caught up in the size of the seed that I was sowing. In my own mind, I imagined that God was frowning upon the little $1 or $2 offerings that I had planned to sow above and beyond my regular tithe. Even though God hadn't said it, I felt like it wasn't good enough. I guess you could say it was more like self-inflicted shame. So instead of putting my ego aside, I decided to avoid the risk of the imaginary embarrassment that I had created in my mind by keeping the money to myself. And let me tell you, God surely convicted me!

2 Corinthians 9:10-11 says, "Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness.You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God."

By not sowing, I was saying that wasn't blessed, I was being selfish, and giving up an opportunity to worship God. And here I was, focused on a number. Wow! The word says that God not only supplies seed to the sower, but as you sow, he will also increase the amount that you have available to give. God knows how much you have to give, because he gave it to you! He will supply, but you have to fulfill the act of giving. It is the act that brings Him glory, not the size.

From that point on I decided that I was going to lay my ego aside and worship God. I may have started off with small seeds, but God has increased them over time. From the moment that I purposed in my heart to give, I have always had something to give. I put my faith in God, believing that he would supply and kept plowing ahead. Even in the midst of financial crises I still remained faithful, as did He. Don't let your ego or self-inflicted shame disrupt your opportunity to worship God. More than anything, God wants your heart, not your money. Acknowledge Him in all your ways, even with your giving. Choose to worship, and leave the numbers to God.

Change requires action!

Live free!

Arianne

The Personality of Money

We have all heard sayings like, "Money can't buy happiness," "Money is the root of all evil (which is a misquote)," and "Money isn't everything," as if money is something negative to have. Money is neither good nor evil, it's an inanimate object. However, money can be used by people to bring about positive or negative outcomes. Figuratively speaking, money simply takes on the personality of it's holder. If the person is a giver, they'll use their money to fund different types of charities, random acts of kindness, and other charitable acts. If the person is greedy, the love of money will ultimately destroy their lives and their relationships. A consumer is more likely to use their money to fund a materialistic lifestyle rather than a savings account. At the end of the day, money doesn't change; it is a tool that is used by whomever has it their possession.

1 Timothy 6:10 says, "For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs."  We can only serve either God or money, hate one and love the other, but not both (Matthew 6:24). Again, money isn't evil; but the PERSON that loves money has the potential of being drawn away from God. On the other hand, poor stewardship of money also draws us away from the work that God has called us to do. God didn't intend for us to live as slaves to debt, but rather to live free to fulfill the work of his ministry. Whether it's feeding the poor, providing clothing or shelter to the homeless, funding mission trips, etc., all of that takes money. According to Business Insider, Americans spend $49 billion on credit card interest each year. Imagine what the Kingdom of God could do with $49 billion a year! Whether it's used to fund credit card companies or the work of the Kingdom, money doesn't care either way; but we have the power to control that.

Matthew 6:21 says, "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."What personality have you given your money? Does it display the personality of God, a consumer, philanthropist, hoarder, socialite, shoe, purse, gadget or video game addict? To those of you that are single, while you should not marry FOR money, it would be wise to determine if your potential mate uses money in a way that is pleasing to God. They should be a tither, hate debt, concerned about financial freedom, free to give, and free to live. Studies show that money fights are the #1 cause of divorce. Couples who fight about money once a week are 30% more likely to divorce than those who fight a few times a month. So while the actual amount of money each of you has may not matter, the mindset behind the tool should be similar.

Money may not be everything, but money placed into the right or wrong hands can quickly become a work of good or a work of evil. You give your money a personality simply by how you use it. So let's change the negative identity money has been given by being better stewards of the resource God has bestowed upon each of us. Instead of more money, more problems, let's make it more money, more problems solved in Jesus' name.

Change requires action!

Live free!

Arianne

How to Control the Urge to Spend

1 Corinthians 9:24 [ The Need for Self-Discipline ] Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. BOGO's, Coupons, and Sales, Oh My! Retail marketing sure has a way of enticing us to spend money that we don't really have on things that we don't really need. You know how it is. You've gone to the mall or some store thinking that you were just going window shopping, keeping a friend company, or picking up only a few items but came home with more than you intended. Have you ever bought something, gotten it home and said, "Now I know I didn't really need this," but ended up keeping it anyway? This is an example of the on-going battle between temporary pleasure and long-term gains. At some point, the long-term gains have to speak louder than temporary pleasures and impulses. It can happen if you modify your shopping habits.

You have got to be so committed and dedicated to getting out of debt that something as little as a sale sign won't completely derail your plan. If it's on sale and you weren't planning on buying it, it's simply not a good deal! It's only a good deal for the store that now has your money instead of you being a payment closer to debt freedom. I know, I know, it would be a sin to let that 40% off coupon go to waste. After all it's like throwing away free money right? Wrong! The retailer wins and you lose. Now, I will say this...if you already had money allocated in your monthly budget to purchase a particular item and you just happen to get a coupon for it, then by all means take the deal. However, impulse buys are not good buys and can quickly diminish your progress towards debt freedom. It's just not worth it.

How can you control the urge to spend?

  1. Learn to say no. You will be OK if you don't buy that thing right this second or participate in every social outing.
  2. Keep your financial goals in mind. Before you spend the money, ask yourself if it's worth it. How will the purchase impact your progress?
  3. Allocate "play" money in your budget. You can still treat yourself while you're getting out of debt, just do it in moderation. Once the money is gone, it's gone.
  4. Use cash. It's very easy to overspend by swiping a debit card. Using cash will give you the reality check that you need when making buying decisions.
  5. Ignore marketing tactics. If you don't need it, no coupon or sale can change that. Your favorite store wants your money, but when's the last time they sent you a check?

Remember, the goal each month is to have as much money as possible left over to apply towards debts. Even if it's only $5 or $10, the impact on interest could be significant. Be intentional and smart about your purchases. Talk it over with yourself first. I may have eliminated my consumer debt, but I have a long way to go in the wealth building area. Every dollar matters as much today as it did when I was paying off my last student loan, and it will continue to matter until I have no need for money. As marketers chase after consumers' dollars every day, you be the one that gets away. Debt freedom awaits!

Change requires action!

Live free!

Arianne

What Can Separate Us?

Romans 12:2 tells us "Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind." Unfortunately, we Christians have conformed to the world's addiction to debt. We've believed the lie that we need debt to get the things that we want. God says to owe no man anything except the debt of love. He also tells us that the borrower is slave to the lender. There is nothing Godly about being in financial bondage; but somehow we have allowed companies like Visa, MasterCard, and Sallie Mae to come between us and our God. Christianity should be synonymous with debt freedom. When the economy fails, every Christian should be able to thrive because we're connected to a God with an unlimited supply of resources. God knows when we desire higher education, housing, transportation, basic income, entrepreneurship, etc. Seemingly enough, God doesn't move quite as quickly as we'd like him to, we aren't willing to do the work required to get our blessings, or we really don't believe that he will provide. As a result, we've chosen to turn to debt in order to get our needs met. In actuality, it would appear as if we have a faith issue more than a money issue. Matthew 21:12 tells us that we will receive whatever we ask for in prayer IF we believe. So we're either not asking, not believing, or a combination of the two.

The bottom line is this, we have to separate ourselves from the world and return to God as our source. Even if you're currently in debt, pray that God would accelerate the repayment process so that you can return to him. As the blessings start rolling in, apply it towards your loans. Show him that you're serious about this. Get out of debt, and commit to never borrow again. It won't be easy, and you'll have to be patient, but God will provide. I can surely attest to that given all of the financial "emergencies" that I've encountered over the last couple of months from having my entire AC system replaced to numerous car repairs. The devil's temptations were no match for the faithfulness of my God! I pray that everyone who reads this would surrender their finances to God, and really give him the opportunity to bless your lives. You'll be glad that you did.

Change requires action!

Live free!

Arianne

Monkey in the Middle

As this year's election quickly approaches, I can't help but to wonder what will eventually happen to the middle class if they don't take matters into their own hands. For as long as I can remember, it's really not fun being in the middle. You either made too much money to qualify for assistance, or not enough money to qualify for a tax break. Being in the middle always seemed like receiving the short end of the stick. It's almost like an ongoing game of Keep Away. Even in our day-to-day lives, the middle position seems to have the least amount of freedom compared to those on either end of the spectrum. Think about what it's like to sit in the middle seat on an airplane or in the back seat of a car. It's never really as comfortable as when you're sitting on either end. Why is that? What if God never intended for his children to live their lives in the middle? What if the middle is supposed to make us so uncomfortable that eventually we'll do whatever it takes to pass through to where God wants us to be? I recently read a book by Keith Cameron Smith titled "The Top 10 Distinctions between Millionaires and the Middle Class." What I concluded was that it's not the money that separates the two, but rather a mindset. The author's points are as follows:

  1. Millionaires ask themselves empowering questions: Middle-class people ask themselves dis-empowering questions.
  2. Millionaires focus on increasing their net worth: The middle-class focuses on increasing its paychecks.
  3. Millionaires have multiple sources of income: The middle-class has only one or two.
  4. Millionaires believe they must be generous: The middle class believes it can't afford to give.
  5. Millionaires work for profits: The middle-class works for wages.
  6. Millionaires continually learn and grow: The middle class thinks learning ended with school.
  7. Millionaires take calculated risks: The middle-class is afraid to take risks.
  8. Millionaires embrace change: The middle-class is threatened by change.
  9. Millionaires talk about ideas: The middle-class talks about things and other people.
  10. Millionaires think long term: The middle class thinks short-term.

We've got to find a way to break away from the middle and separate ourselves from mediocrity. The top 1% should be, and can be, filled with children of God. Not because we're greedy, but because God has promised us an abundant life. As we can see, when abundance gets into the wrong hands, everyone suffers. What are we to do? We can exercise the power that we have, right where we are by getting and staying out of debt, by boycotting the use of credit cards, by committing to give and save, by starting our own businesses, etc.

It's time to make a shift. Quite frankly, I'm tired of playing Monkey in the Middle with the world. We're the monkeys, and the world is playing keep away with our finances. The good thing is, we get to choose how long we're going to continue to play simply by changing our behaviors. God has plans to prosper us, not the world. I pray that no matter who wins the election, that we see a much bigger picture and continue to strive towards debt freedom and dominion over our lives. Sooner or later it will be the ultimate mode of survival.

Change requires action!

Live free!

Arianne

Who's Your Daddy? MasterCard or The Master?

“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money"(Matthew 6:24) This whole debt freedom thing is about more than just money. Debt freedom is about showing the world who we serve as Christians. It's about showing them what we believe through our actions. How can we declare that God is Jehovah Jireh, our provider, but yet and still our lives are laced with debt? Whether it's credit cards, car payments, student loans, etc., those are not blessings, they're curses that we've bestowed upon ourselves. Not only do they keep us from enjoying God's blessings, but they bind us from doing the work that God has called us to do. We're too broke to tithe, feed the hungry, sponsor missionaries, build shelters, clothe the naked, care for orphans...Do we care that the work of the Kingdom has fallen short?

The word says that we either hate the one and love the other, we're either devoted to one and despise the other. Our willingness to rely on a debt system, shows the world that we don't really believe that God is our provider. We say that we love God, but our actions, according to His word, say that we despise Him. What are we going to do about it? Are we willing to turn the tables and despise debt instead of our God? Or will we continue to look for ways to provide for ourselves, no matter what the cost?

At the end of the day, God wants to be our source. In fact, I believe that He is our source. We just have to allow Him to work in our lives. God knows your heart and can see your needs. Will you be patient enough to allow Him to provide for you? Instead of reaching for the credit card when the next emergency comes, go to God. Tell Him that you don't want to go into debt, and you need Him to provide. He will do it, if you let Him. God's system is based on sowing and reaping. If you're sowing into debt more than you're sowing into God, you're probably reaping more bills and payments than you are blessings. The banks may be great at selling their products, but God is greater at delivering His promises...EVERY time. So which will it be: MasterCard or The Master? Only one of them has your best interest at heart. Which will you choose?

Change requires action!

Live free!

Arianne

What's in it for me?

Sometimes we can be selfish, feeling that we're the ones toiling day in and day out for our paychecks, and can't understand why we have to just give money away. After all, we work hard to maintain the lifestyles that we've created! But I believe that God has designed giving in such a way that we both win. He's not some holy tax collector that's trying to take our money. Instead, he's a loving father that just wants to bless his children. The Bible says, in 2 Corinthians 9:6, "Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously." So basically, the more I give away, the more I'll get back in return, but if I'm OK with what I have as a result of giving sparingly, then why should I give more? If I have a home, food to eat, a job, a car, clothes...God has obviously provided the basic needs, so I'm good, right? WRONG!

I believe there are three reasons why God wants us to give:

1. Protection: Giving protects us. In Malachi 3:11, God promises to protect the fruits of our labor as a result of tithing. In other words, tithing is similar to paying an insurance premium. That's one insurance policy that I'm willing to put my trust in over all of the man-made options that we have. I also believe that giving protects our hearts. Matthew 6:24 tells us that we cannot serve both God and money. By giving, our hearts remain attached to God (the source), instead of becoming attached to money (the product).

2. Purpose: Giving is a part of fulfilling our purpose. Flat out, it takes money to do ministry. God blesses us so that we can be a blessing to others. He designed us to function as pipelines for Kingdom wealth. As soon as we stop giving, our pipelines become clogged, and the work of the Kingdom is drastically diminished. Giving is instrumental in seeking and saving the lost. You never know, even the smallest act of kindness could be the one very thing that will lead someone to Christ.

3. Promise: Giving grants us access to the promise of provision. Proverbs 11:24 says, "One person gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty." If we sow sparingly we'll reap sparingly, and if we sow generously we'll reap generously. The key to increase doesn't lie in continuously begging God for more, it lies in the stewardship of what we've already been given. Under God's system, we're able to give our way into abundance.

So if you currently aren't giving because you're wrestling with the whole "what's in it for me" question, I hope that after reading this, you will see that there is so much in store for you! Maybe you want to give, but don't feel as if you're in the financial position to do so. Go to God in prayer, be specific about who it is that you want to bless, and ask him to provide (2 Corinthians 9:10-11). If you're already a giver, perhaps you'll been inspired to kick it up a notch. Wherever you fall along the giving spectrum, know that you'll have more to gain in comparison to what you think you'll have to lose.

Change requires action!

Live free!

Arianne

The Financial Garden: Maintenance

I know that it's a while since my last post, but I was really struggling with the fact that no sooner than I became debt free, I was knocked right back down to ground zero. It was like running across the finish line only to run right into a concrete wall...OUCH! Here I was, thinking that I was scot-free to finally start building my finances, only to have to come up with thousands of dollars to replace an entire A/C unit. I had cut up credit credits, had money tied up in a CD, what was I going to do? I had kept tithing through it all...but really God? Is that my reward for my obedience? It certainly can't be. And so, for the last 4 weeks  I've just been praying and seeking God for answers. Finally, the revelation hit me. In my last two posts I talked about how debt weeds choke our financial harvests, and that we have to continue to sow while we pay off debts simultaneously in order to protect and prepare for our harvests. I had been doing all of those things, so why did this happen? God showed me today, that it's not that I've done anything wrong, and I'm not being punished, but rather I'm in the maintenance phase of growing my financial garden. Now that I've killed off all of the weeds, I have to commit to rebuilding a healthy harvest. I feel like God told me to keeping sowing, keep tithing, keep saving, and the harvest will come. I can't expect my seeds to blossom overnight. They have to germinate first, and with time I will see the fruits of my labor. So now, instead of being in a state of confusion and discontent, I'm in a state of comfort and confidence.This maintenance phase will pay off in due time.  As long as I continue to do my part, God will work this out, somehow, someway.

The victory isn't crystal clear as of right now, but I do know that since debt is no longer an option, that I have to make some sacrifices in the meantime. And trust me, it's not pretty, but this box fan will just have to do for now. I keep telling people that I'm losing weight in my sleep from sweating at night! In any event, I truly believe that God is going to honor my commitment to Him of living a debt free life. People have suggested using credit cards, taking out a loan, etc., but those are no longer options for me. It might seem stubborn or foolish, but I simply trust God and his provision.

For anyone that may be in a similar situation, be it your A/C, medical bills, car repair, etc.,  I encourage you to keep working. Keep sowing, saving, and giving. If you've given up, put your gloves back on and get back to work. Know that God can and will provide, period.

Change requires action!

Live free!

Arianne

The Financial Garden: Weed and Feed

"I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not drop their fruit before it is ripe,” says the Lord Almighty. Malachi 3:11

The above passage has never been as close to my heart as it is right now. Two weeks ago I paid off all of my debts except for my mortgage, and was finally ready to accelerate savings and investing. This week I'm wondering how in the world I'm going to be able to pay to replace an entire AC unit without going right back into debt, not to mention bear the 100 degree weather. I thought to myself, did I celebrate too soon? Is the devil out to get me? Am I being tested? Why is this happening to me? After realizing that all of this is out of my control at this point, I stopped being mad, dried my eyes, and turned to God.

I am a tither, and in the midst of my frustration, I remembered God's word. Not only does God pour out a blessing on those that tithe, but He also protects our crops! Having to replace this AC unit will more than wipe out all of my savings...But God! I believe that His word is true. While I was weeding my financial garden by paying off debts, I was also feeding my garden with my tithe. Killing off that which was limiting my harvest, while protecting young sprouts of abundance.

That's the difference between using weed and feed, and straight weed killer on your garden. Weed and feed will kill off bad vegetation while nourishing good vegetation. Weed killer will kill everything it touches whether good or bad. My point is, while you're killing off the debt weeds in your garden, you need to also feed and protect that which you desire to grow. It's not enough to simply pay off your debts and leave God out of the process. Your tithe is the weed and feed in your financial garden. God promises to pour out an overflow of blessings, as well as protect your crops from failing.

While I'm unable to see how this will all work out right now, I believe that my tithe has protected me from whatever pests are attempting to set me back. I've prayed about it, and I'm just waiting for God to move on my behalf. So as you remove the weeds from your financial garden, make sure that you have God's protection as well. The pests will come. Will you be ready?

Change requires action!

Live free!

Arianne

The Financial Garden: Debt Weeds

I may be debt free (except for the house), but I'm not out of the woods just yet. Now that I've completed the debt snowball, I'm ready to cultivate my financial garden like never before. All of the debts that I had before were just like weeds choking the life out of my cash crop. The seeds that I had sown weren't able to flourish because my time and attention was spent on untangling, maintaining, and killing debt weeds. Every now and then I would see a sprout or two in the form of increase, only soon to be overtaken by the weeds. I was sowing seeds with the belief that they would grow and multiply, not sprout up and quickly die.

Now, I definitely don't have a green thumb, but the one thing I cannot stand are weeds in my yard and driveway. Once one appears, it always seems like they just multiply overnight. Before you know it, they can overtake everything around them. Trimming them down or simply breaking the stems only provide a temporary aesthetic improvement. But unless I kill them at the roots, they'll keep sprouting up week after week, season after season, year after year. Debt is the same way. Unless you kill it at the roots, you'll continue to put up with the same credit card charges, loan balances, and car payments, week after week, month after month, and year after year.

God wants to prosper you and make you ruler over a bountiful harvest. But, we're unable to reap much because of all of the debt that is choking the life out of our finances. The more He provides, the more weeds we put into the garden, and that ought not be. I don't know of any gardener that purposefully goes out and plants weeds. They usually aren't anything nice to look at, can ruin the crop, and are a pain to get rid of. In the same manner, as God's stewards, we should not knowingly plant debt weeds into our financial gardens. Student loans, credit cards, car payments, any type of financing...they are all weeds that WE plant!

It's time to get rid of the debt that is limiting the growth of your financial garden once and for all! No matter how bad it may seem now, keep working at it and you'll start to see results sooner than later. You will start to see more money at the end of your month, your net worth will continue to gradually increase, and your cash crop will begin to flourish! Declare with me today: "Debt Weeds Be Gone!"

Change requires action!

Live free!

Arianne

I'M DEBT FREE!

"Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and He will establish your plans." Proverbs 16:3

First, I just want to give God all of the glory and honor that he deserves, because none of this would have been possible without Him. Lord, I thank you for the overflow, and all of the strength, courage, and wisdom provided throughout this process. It's been a long road, but together, we made it through! Lord, I thank you...

As of June 15, 2012, with the exception of my mortgage, I am now DEBT FREE! No student loans, no credit cards, no car payments, nothing, nada, zilch! My, how good it feels to be free! What's my secret? Faith, determination, and discipline.

God knows that I have a heart to give. Even though I give regularly, I've always wanted to give more, but couldn't because of debt. About 3 years ago I decided to do something about it. I prayed, continued to tithe, and asked God for wisdom. I started reading books on millionaires, studying their lifestyles, and began putting the principles into motion. That meant spending less, saving more, budgeting, and naming every dollar before it was spent. The change didn't happen overnight, but as I saw the results, the more momentum I gained. Then someone recommended Dave Ramsey's book "The Total Money Makeover," and everything hit home. Over the last year, I've paid off over $15,000 in student loans and credit card debt, which completed my debt snowball. I didn't win the lottery, the process wasn't easy, but I had my mind set on getting free.

I'm not sharing this story to brag, but to let you know that debt freedom is possible, and it's a lot closer than it may look right now. Once you set your mind on something, little to nothing can stand in your way.Think about all of the other things that you've accomplished, how you made it through, every obstacle that you knocked down along the way, the strength and endurance that you built, and apply that same drive towards elminating debt. Not only does it work, but it's more than worth it. Above all else, commit your debt freedom plans to the Lord, and He will see you through.

Change requires action!

Live free!

Arianne

Test Me in This...

Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.Malachi 3:9-11

The closer that I get to debt freedom, I often times sit back and have a "remember when" session with God. I think about the hardships that I faced right out of college having to repay student loans and being harassed at my job by collection agencies over outstanding medical bills incurred while at school. I remember trying to figure out how much I could afford in car payments so that I could buy my own car. I remember not making enough money to be able to move out on my own. I think about how I tried to keep up with the proverbial "Joneses," which at the time, were my fellow graduates. After all, we had college degrees, and were supposed to have something to show for it right? That just wasn't a fun time for me. And then...

I think about when I first started tithing back in 2006 and how God has continued to bless me non-stop as I've remained faithful to Him. I wasn't really familiar with tithing up to that point, but when I heard about the promise that was attached, I just had to try it out for myself. I figured it couldn't be any worse than the situation I was already in, so I thought, why not? I started tithing the very next week after I had heard my first sermon on it, and haven't looked back. Promotions, bonuses, and increases, I owe them all to Him. As surely as I tested God, He in turn, also tested me in my stewardship over all of the abundance that was sent my way.

The floodgates were thrown open, but what did I have to show for it? Debt. God propelled me forward, and I propelled myself backwards by mismanaging the blessings that I prayed for! I repeatedly questioned God: "I've been tithing and sowing, but what happened to these so-called floodgates?!" What was I doing wrong? How could I be a better steward? Why did I have to suffer while other people satisfied their desires? He convicted me right then and there, and opened my eyes to a lifestyle that I had brought on myself. He had upheld his end of the agreement, I was just a poor manager of His blessings. Ouch. That was a tough pill to swallow, but I asked for forgiveness, prayed for guidance, and I'm a better manager now than I've ever been.

God's word and promises are true. He will continue to pass the tithing test every time it's given. The question is, will we pass His stewardship test? I've taken on the challenge, will you?

Change requires action!

Live free!

Arianne