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FIRST-PERSON: Finances: Put some plans in place

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (BP)–One of the water pipes in Fred’s upstairs bathroom had a leak. Every so often, Fred would stare at the spot on his living room ceiling and comment, “I’ve got to get that pipe repaired one of these days.” Then one day Fred arrived home from work to find his living room flooded with water and a gaping hole where the ceiling had collapsed.

Putting off handling problems generally leads to more serious problems, doesn’t it? And when it comes to getting a handle on debt, putting that off can be an enormous disaster. I’ve talked to countless people who suddenly “wake up” and realize that those sweet little babies are now ready for college, but there’s no money to send them, or retirement is upon them but their income is insufficient and there are no savings to supplement. It’s like the soap opera, folks: We have but one life to live, so we need to be wise managers and get it right!

First, have a plan. 1 Corinthians 14:33 reminds us that “God is not a God of confusion, but of peace….” (NASB). God created the world in a precise order and time frame. He gave precise instructions for the ark Noah built, and for the Ark of the Covenant. You can’t find a passage anywhere that even so much as hints at a lack of order in our heavenly Father. Likewise, every believer needs to have a plan — one that encompasses present, short-term future and long-term future finances.

Another important point is that your present plan should include present money only. In other words, don’t live today on what you anticipate receiving tomorrow. This means meeting your needs and wants with what you have on hand, not using credit cards, which I call “counterfeit wealth” to pay for anything. Of course, this excludes a reasonable home and/or automobile, and by “reasonable” I mean one that doesn’t overstress your current income.

Now, how about a trio of tips to help you down the wise management pathway?

1) Start an occasions list. At the beginning of each year, I take a sheet of paper and, down the left side, I list the names of all the people I plan to buy gifts for all year long. Out beside their names, I list pertinent information such as birthdates, anniversaries, etc. — any occasions I might buy a gift for. I tuck the list inside my wallet and then, whenever I’m out shopping, I look for items to fill this list. There’s much more to this, such as my 10-minute shopping rule, and my deep discount policy, but the high point is that I go into Christmas with all my gifts already on hand. No stress, no credit debt.

2) Give up those expensive bath products. Soap is soap, folks, yet we’ve become so specialized we have a different version for everything. Hair and skin are protein, so is it not reasonable that what’s good for one is good for the other? Low-cost moisturizing and scented shampoos (White Rain, Suave, etc.) make wonderful body washes and, at the same time, are less drying to the skin than most bar soaps.

3) T’is the season. Knowing what is considered high, low and peak season can make a bundle of difference in what you pay to vacation. Virtually every vacation destination and most forms of transportation that will get you there have specific times and dates when rates are lower. In the popular Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg, Tenn., area, for example, winter rates drop amazingly nice accommodations to as low as $20 a night. Some regions such as the Alabama Gulf Coast have rate time frames practically set in stone. In other words, what would cost you $75 on Feb. 28 (the usual last day for winter rates) will cost you considerably more on March 1.
Judy Woodward Bates, known as “The Bargainomics Lady,” is a speaker, radio and television personality, and the author of “The Gospel Truth about Money Management” (New Hope Publishers, 2003). Her website, www.bargainomics.com, offers money-saving tips and advice.

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  • Judy Woodward Bates