A shave and a haircut that pays you.

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A shave and a hair cut for free, or better yet, one that makes money for you! When I look back on some of the best financial decisions I have made over the last 12 years (since I was 18), I have found that there are some pretty simple decisions any man can make when it comes to being thrifty and smart with his money, and that are guaranteed to pay off somewhere down the road. Being smart with one’s money is not as complicated as rocket science. I would compare it more to concrete mixing or shoe shining; a simple repetitive process that requires a little bit of elbow grease and discipline. The problem is, society seems to be through with elbow grease and self-discipline, unless it has to do with sculpting your body for the purpose of…well picking things up and putting them down of course.  Just kidding, I do cross-fit too. Here are some simple lessons and values that I believe every man should adhere to:

– The first lesson a man needs to learn is not to become ensnared by the latest and greatest, but instead be captured by the value of a lifetime warranty. You may pay a little more up front, but you will never have to pay again. Therefore, before you buy, look to see if the product you are purchasing comes with a lifetime warranty. If there are no products within that “product class” which comes with a warranty, pick the company that has been around the longest and is known for their quality. If something happens to that product within its lifetime, write a hand-written letter to the company explaining what happened and why you would like a replacement. I have done this a handful of times and have always received an equivalent replacement or an upgrade.

– The second lesson which will not only save you money, but I have found helps to make money, is learning to cut your own hair. The investment is $20 (for the clippers) the return is $4000! In the last 12 years I have saved over $4000 on haircuts (1 haircut every 2 weeks for 12 years, average haircut price $10-$15). I have since taken that money and invested it to increase my rate of return. It is simple math, and a simple decision. Sure I have had a bad outing with the clippers once or twice, but I swallow my pride, and thank to God the hair grows back (for now anyway).

– The third lesson is to understand that the price/size of an engagement ring will not make your marriage better. Diamonds may be a girl’s best friend, but they are not your pocketbook’s buddy. The average price of a wedding ring these days is almost $5300! By spending less on your wife’s ring you can use the extra money for travel, to invest, or to pay off your college loans. I didn’t spend a penny over $1500; an instant savings of $3800. What I did do is spend a lot of time to make sure I purchased the perfect ring. The diamond is less than .30 carats, and to this day it is my wife’s favorite piece of jewelry. Not to mention she receives countless comments on its simplicity and beauty. The funny thing is, we both very rarely wear our rings anymore. After a few years, we realized our active lives had us always removing the rings, so we decided to get tattoo rings. If I had only known…I could have saved another $1400.

– The fourth lesson a man needs to embody is to never impulse buy, and be proactive. This is a tough one, but over time, it can save you a lot of bread. Unless the item is on sale (final clearance), chances are there is a better deal out there somewhere else. Today, with the power of patience, and the internet, you will be able to most likely find a steal on the product you have been waiting to purchase. To paint you a better picture, my old pair of running shoes are on their last leg. I want to purchase the same pair (New Balance 730’s, sz. 11) but the average price right now for the size and color I want is $50. I have seen them before for under $30 so every few days, for the past 4 months, I do an internet search to see if they have come down in price. I will let you know when they do.

–  The fifth lesson that should be taken into consideration is, never spend more than 15-18% of your monthly income on a place to live. Although a bit tricky, it is possible. I learned the hard way with this one, and late. If you think about it, you spend over 75% of your day at work or sleeping. So why are we (society) paying so much for a big, new, house/apt in a “hip” location that we are hardly in? Since, learning this lesson, I have been able to allocate the additional money I would have been spending on a larger/nicer living space and earmark it towards diversifying my portfolio by investing in land. I hope this decision will help me to someday pay for a future house with cash; never paying upwards of 20% of my monthly income again for a home.

– The sixth lesson is one that I have found to be invaluable. When buying a vehicle, consider purchasing a fuel-efficient used truck. My Toyota Tacoma has manual roll up windows (yes they still have those), is two-wheel drive, and has a hummingbird 4 cylinder engine! Needless to say, it is all that is MAN. This bad boy tank gets me 24-28 MPG and has the ability to tow a boat, carry couches, motorcycles, and other miscellaneous garbage. It has aided in helping others to move from one home to another, and has cost me almost nothing to maintain. In the past 3 years, I am on track to save close to the overall value of the truck on moving costs, and discounts on furniture etc. (which I can pick up and haul free of charge). Not to mention, I took my time to purchase it and bought it for almost $4000 under the kellybluebook value.

-The seventh lesson will be the last lesson I share with you today. In my eyes, it is one of the most important lessons I have learned, through my own experience as well as through others.  Never be in debt to anything for longer than 7 years (even a house payment if possible). Now there is something to be said about “good” debt (i.e., buying a home which could make you a profit). But the key word is “could;” some are more willing than I to take the risk and endure 20-30 years of paying off a fixed or variable home loan. In the Bible, Deuteronomy 15:1 talks about how at the end of 7 years all debts should be canceled. Now let me be clear, by no means am I saying it is unbiblical to carry debt longer than 7 years, I am only attempting suggest a good practice not to, based on my interpretation of biblical guidance. Since we live in a day and age where a cancelation of debt by creditors would almost never happen due to the “free” market and lack of regulation on interest rates, I have decided to master my own finances and do my very best to make financial decisions which will not allow debt to master me, longer than 7 years. My thought behind this is simply;

By not carrying any debt, it allows one to more freely give to others in need, live in the present, and invest in the future. 

– Be Wise. Rugged. Brave.

Scott

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Sanctity and a College Degree.

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When did church become a business? Or maybe the right question to ask is, when in history has church not been a business? It seems churches today are being thrust into the ground by leadership that are not qualified to run businesses, and our money (offerings) are going along with them. When we pull back the sheets, we find toxic leaders who have no applicable qualifications in business/financial management. Frankly the “business side” of running a church should not be the business of the Clergy. Billions of dollars each year are poured into the ministry only to be managed by the very people who often have issues managing their own personal finances. Additionally, it seems that the focus of the church has shifted towards appearance and appeal, investing in ways to market/sell God in hopes to increase attendance rather than creating a place reserved for fellowship, worship, and prayer.  Why are we allowing this to happen?

We close our eyes to what happens behind the “green curtain,” scared of what we could find. Could it be as shocking as what was revealed to Dorothy? A bumbling man with an inferiority complex?

Frankly, I believe we feel safer and happier having faith that God will take care of the details. But is that enough? Where does our responsibility lie in regards to the church? While our lives pass by who is taking care of the people who have chosen to sacrifice all to serve us (the church’s body) and God unconditionally? Here is what I believe to be the crux of the issue: 

Somewhere along the way it become “required” for a Pastor to have a college degree. If a Pastor would like to advance in the “ranks,” it is common for them to be required to have an advanced degree (i.e., a Masters in Theology or PhD in a similar field). Has anyone ever stopped to consider that degrees cost money? Where are Pastors getting the money from? They come out of college with a “Private School” degree, costing $25K per year (on the low end), hoping to score an Associate/Youth Pastor position. These jobs pay on average under $44K per year (http://www.uscongregations.org/survey-associate-pastors.htm), leaving the new pastor with a load of debt, taking upwards of 12-15 years to pay back. Relatively speaking this may be close to the same situation that someone coming out of their undergrad with a business degree is in. That being said, there are some fundamental issues here:

– Managing the burden of personnel debt and leading a church is NOT a good combination; one is now in the service of two masters.  Matthew 6:24 states, “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.” (NIV)

– Having to pay for and get a degree to be “credentialed” in something God has called us ALL to, is a lie. Matthew 28:19-20 Jesus says, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (NIV)

Today, many Pastors are finding themselves in a perpetual state of debt/darkness chasing after a piece of paper. When will the congregation stand up and decide to put an end to the glorification of a college degree and put more emphasis on the sanctity of the Clergy which comes through apprenticeship, personal study, and an unyielding devotion to God? We need to realize that we (the church’s body) are fueling all the institutions that are in the business of making money off of Pastors “in training,” leaving the ones in which we look to for spiritual guidance under a load of stress and burden, unable to lead effectively. Also, when will the business leaders in attendance at church chose to stand up to help run the church be diligent in the way in which we apply our offerings and manage/lead the organization? If the church continues down the path it is on, it will continue to lose any of the credibility which it has gained, in turn, doing a disservice to God who was never in the business of “doing business” in the church in the first place.

Matthew 21:12 reveals,  “Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves.” 13 It is written, he said to them, “My house will be called a house of prayer, but you are making it a den of robbers.”

We can only blame ourselves for the current state of the church. It needs a facelift, and I believe we are wholly responsible for the direction in which it will go in the future. But to get it headed in the right direction we have to first and foremost appropriately prepare and care of those that God has chosen to lead His congregation. They cannot lead effectively while in the service two masters, and while trying to accomplish things in which God has clearly called others in the congregation to help with.