Tag Archive for Finances

How do you Tackle Debt? One Bill at a Time

Guest Post by Beverly Hootman

“Stay alert, with your eyes wide open in gratitude.”

Col. 4:2b, The Message

Wendi with an Eye

We were at one time debt-free and only left with a mortgage.

What?! Yes, it is true. We went through a financial program, and it was free. We were diligent about getting things paid off, and we did it early.

Then … we decided we wanted to move from Ohio to Florida, and so we did. That is where a lot of our debt came from.

When my husband’s retirement ran out, we lived off of credit cards until he was able to get a full-time job. Why? Because we wanted what we wanted and we got it!

We also got a pile of debt in the process!

This year Dave Ramsey kept popping up all around us here and there. Then it was at church, of all places!

Every Sunday someone was reminding us about the Financial Peace University (FPU) class coming up in February. My husband and I kept saying, “We have gotten out of debt before and we will just keep with that plan; it was free.”

Then someone at church suggested we audit the class to see how it is different. It only took one class and we were hooked. Life has not been the same since.

The Results

  • We see the light at the end of the tunnel. Debt will be done and we will not be going back. That has lifted a weight off all our shoulders.
  • We are working together as a couple and tackling this mole hill. We are meeting weekly to discuss our budget and future expenses. We have discussed the necessary cutbacks with our children, to become debt free in the next two years.
  • Our children have now learned to hate debt. This pleases my mommy heart. Yes, learn from our mistakes little ones!!
  • We took all of last years bank statements and placed every transaction in a category.
  • We found our biggest problem area is food. Our grocery “budget” was $600-700 in reality it was $1,200-1,300.
  • Our eating-out “budget” was $0, but in reality it was $100-150. We solved this by using Dave Ramsey’s envelope system and not using a debit card.
  • We also plan meals for two weeks and go shopping in one big trip with only a milk and produce run in between.
  • I have been giving out snacks when dinner is running late and cooking it anyways, even if it means we eat at 7 o’clock at night. Last month we spent $900 for groceries and eating out!! It makes our goal of $700 feel reasonable.

Tax Return

  • First we built up our emergency fund to $1,000.
  • Then we paid off the lender with the smallest balance. Now we will throw that monthly payment onto the next lender with the smallest balance.
  • In January of this year we were looking at being debt-free by May of 2015. We are now looking at February of 2015 being debt-free. It is just a matter of throwing what we can when we can and knocking that debt down even faster.

So are you staying alert? Are you looking with things with wide eyes or narrow? Are you appreciating what you have and saving for the future?

About Beverly Hootman: I am just a girl who loves running after God and falls flat on her face doing it. I like being real and transparent, not sugar-coating life’s issues. I love my husband and the five children God has blessed us with. I stay at home and home-school our children. I enjoy my morning time with God, blaring music, dancing with my children and giving my husband a kiss goodnight.

The Dark Side of Debt Creditors Never Show You

Guest Post by Beverly Hootman

“… and the borrower is slave to the lender.”

Proverbs 22:7, NIV

Portofino Bay, Orlando, Fla.

How true and hurtful this statement really is!! Truth, my husband is working two jobs to make sure we pay our debt. One is a full-time position as a firefighter/paramedic and the second is part-time as a paramedic in an emergency room.

He works long hours and is away from home a lot. Most of the time when he is finished working a 24–hour shift at the fire department, he goes to the hospital and works a 12–hour shift. That leaves him only one day off, then he is back to work to do it all over again.

Hurtful … we miss him and he misses us! He is tired after that kind of shift, and all five of his children and his wife want a piece of him. Plus, everyone needs time to themselves, and he just doesn’t have any time left.

One of Merriam-Webster’s definition of slave is: one that is completely subservient to a dominating influence. We have made and chosen the lenders in our lives to be the dominating influence and that has come at a cost. Family time is spent cleaning because mommy is burnt out and needs help. Quality time is replaced with video games because daddy just needs to veg. Vacations are non-existent because we can not afford them. So who gets all of his time and money? Our lenders!

Long story short, from 2008 until now we have managed to rack up a approximately $61,000 in debt (not including our mortgage) and have paid it down to just under $19,000. I know that is great but at what cost? That $19,000 is still a heavy weight on our shoulders … all of our shoulders.

Our children have time and time again begged for daddy to stay home, but he can’t. They have asked to go places other people go, but we can’t. All of our money is going to our lenders.

So, you see, when you borrow money from a lender you are taking time away from your family, your friends and yourself.

Do we sit down and go, “Well this car is $400 a month. That means I have to work this many more hours for this. Oh, and I have to be away from friends and family for those hours. That vacation I have been wanting to take will wait. I will have to miss this thing and that thing. Oh, and, God, my morning time with you just got used up for sleep.”

Maybe if we started to look at the whole picture of who and what is affected, then we would look at that car, that blouse, that house a little more differently. We get so caught up in instant self gratification, desires and wants that we don’t look into tomorrow and beyond. We don’t look at how it affects our life and others … and the borrower becomes the lender’s slave.

So, when you pull out the credit card or sign on the dotted line have you thought about the whole cost?

About Beverly Hootman: I am just a girl who loves running after God and falls flat on her face doing it. I like being real and transparent, not sugar-coating life’s issues. I love my husband and the five children God has blessed us with. I stay at home and home-school our children. I enjoy my morning time with God, blaring music, dancing with my children and giving my husband a kiss goodnight.

How Does a Blogger Discover One’s Voice?

When I knew I wanted to be a writer back in the ’80s, I read a Writer’s Digest article that offered a simple path: Get an apartment in New York City, place a typewriter on your kitchen table, sit down and start writing. When you get up in 10 years, you will be a writer.


Well, I did not get an apartment in New York and opted for a dedicated word processor (I believe it was an Amstrad sold by Sears) in 1986 and a few years later an IBM-clone. Wouldn’t you know, in about 10 years I finally got the sense that maybe I could write.

Another way of looking at this is that it took 10 years for me to find my voice in writing.

Since December 2012, I have been blogging regularly, and it is mildly discouraging that I have found neither a voice for my blogging nor my blog.

The Z Section is supposed to be about anything. I fought the urge to “specialize” and focus on a niche to give me the freedom to write about whatever caught my attention. What I have discovered is anything can be anything and sometimes anything can be too daunting so anything becomes nothing.

Will I specialize? Will I focus on a niche? Truthfully, I am not sure.

But, here is what I know:

  • I have varied interests.
  • These interests include my Christian faith,
  • Reading the Bible,
  • Family,
  • Technology,
  • Smartphones,
  • Tablets,
  • Computers,
  • Social media,
  • Leadership principles,
  • Journalism,
  • Blogging,
  • Writing,
  • Pets, and
  • so much more.

The thing is, down the road I want to write books, and I want them to focus on potential material for Sunday school classes. However, as I look over this blog, admittedly about anything, I find very little that point toward that direction.

So, you can expect more regarding faith and how it intersects with all of those things above. Perhaps there I will find my voice.

I hope it doesn’t take 10 years.

Don’t Live Paycheck to Paycheck; Turn Things Around Like We Did

Do you always run out of money before the next paycheck? Do you need credit cards to get by? Do you want to live a life of financial freedom?

Wendi Joy of Budgeting

You can turn your financial life around, but it is going to require work. It will take effort, and you will have to make some hard decisions. If you always do what you have always done, then you will always get what you have always got. Resolve to turn things around today.

What comes to your mind when you think of budgeting? I bet it is not joy, though it can be. My wife, Wendi, was recently asked speak at Parkview Christian Church’s Women’s Retreat, and the theme was “Choose Joy.”

Because of the success we have had with Dave Ramsey (mainly due to Wendi’s ability to create a spending allocation plan and budget that works for us), Wendi was asked to give a presentation on the “Joy in Budgeting.”

In her 45–minute talk, Wendi spoke about our struggles to make ends meet, even though we made good money. She talked about how we relied on credit cards when we moved from Hillsboro, Ohio, to Wooster, Ohio, and maintained two residences for a year. Both of us took much less money when we moved to Wooster because it was important we be near her father, who was dealing with a health issue at the time (he is doing much better today).

Our finances began to improve, but it wasn’t until we started Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University that things began to turn around. We had read “The Tightwad Gazette” (a great book of tips on how to live a frugal life, was printed in 1998, but still some good advice) and Mary Hunt’s books, but it was Ramsey’s 13–week Financial Peace University that helped us put it all together.

In her presentation, Wendi made it clear, financial freedom is a possibility, but things have to change, like making a budget and sticking to it. A budget is merely a spending plan that directs where the money you earn will be spent. As Ramsey says, it is spending every dollar you earn on paper before you receive it.

Normally, it is just the opposite: We spend our money on plastic (credit cards) before we ever earn it. In so doing, we are committing future dollars we might or might not earn.

Wendi was concerned about whether anyone would sign up for a “Joy in Budgeting” presentation. Well, they did. She had to get more seats for her presentation as the number who attended exceeded the number who registered.

Each of them were given a booklet because Wendi did not want them to miss anything. She later expanded on the booklet and has offered it for sale on Amazon. It is available only in the Kindle format right now. (You can check out the “Joy in Budgeting” when you click here.)

In her book, Wendi lays out a plan to turn your financial life around. Here are many of the steps:

  1. Make a monthly spending plan (aka your budget!)
  2. Make it a commitment, and get an accountability partner
  3. Make a decision to give a portion of your income to a church or charity
  4. Set up an emergency fund of $1,000 to avoid a financial crisis
  5. Follow a plan to get out of debt, whether it is Hunt’s Rapid Debt Reduction or Ramsey’s Debt Snowball (they are basically the same thing)
  6. Put money aside in a freedom account each pay period to help with ongoing bills or expenses you have (like Christmas gifts, property taxes, license plate fees, school clothes, etc.)
  7. Use cash where you can (because you will spend less)

If you have Dave Ramsey’s or Mary Hunt’s materials, then it is likely you will not need Wendi’s book about the “Joy in Budgeting.” If you don’t, then it might be worth your while to check it out.

However, the primary goal is to help you get out of debt, stop living paycheck to paycheck and turn your life around, which is why I created a page to help you get out of debt. You can visit it here, and check out the free resources at the bottom of the page. Best wishes. Let me know how you do.

Do You Remember Where You Were the First Time You Heard Dave Ramsey?

It is 6:30 a.m. on a Saturday morning, Feb. 23, 2013. I can hear my wife, Wendi, rehearsing for a talk she is giving today about “Joy in Budgeting.” She is talking about how we ended up being part of Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University class.

Wendi Warren

Wendi Warren speaking at a Dale Carnegie class.

So, do you remember where you were the first time you heard Dave Ramsey?

I was driving in my car listening to a radio station out of Akron, Ohio, when I heard Dave’s program. He seemed to be making a lot of sense. But, something Dave said intrigued me: “The only way to true financial peace is to walk daily with the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ.”

I would catch Dave a few more times before my wife and I finally decided to become part of an FPU class in town. It was being offered at Grace Brethren Church in Wooster, Ohio. Almost immediately, it turned our lives around. This was in January 2009.

Later that year, Wendi and I facilitated the FPU class at our church, Parkview Christian Church, where it helped others get on better financial standing.

It was nice to hear how Dave Ramsey’s teachings came into our lives and helped us to eliminate debt, stop living paycheck to paycheck and not have to charge something when there is a major home or car repair. We are also giving more and helping out children in developing countries. Not too shabby for a couple of people who were struggling to make ends meet.

Wendi wrote a booklet for the class, which is now offered for $2.99 in Amazon’s Kindle store, aptly titled “Joy in Budgeting.” The Kindle version contains more material than the booklet she is handing out, and it has links to additional free resources, like spreadsheet templates for a spending plan (a budget) and an allocation plan (how your money will be distributed).

If you are looking to get out of debt, then Wendi’s book is a good place to start. Also, be sure to check out the Get Out of Debt page on this blog.

So, where were you when you first heard Dave Ramsey, and what were your impression?


Read These 5 Books and You Will Start that Business You Always Wanted To

Want to turn your passion into a profession? Your desires into dollars? Your yearnings into earnings? You get the picture.

I have always wanted to have my own business, which led me to starting a desktop publishing business and a creating a newsletter geared toward families more than a decade ago. I tried and failed, but I never stopped yearning to have a business. I wish I knew then what I knew now.

I am reading five books that have absolutely reshaped my vision for what a business is. For me, a business is not a storefront. It is an ability to earn money doing what I love, and it is going to be online.

In some upcoming posts, I will give you some insights into what is happening in my world regarding a business (spoiler alert: It ends with me writing Sunday School materials in the evenings while working as a full-time journalist during my days). But, let me share with you how these five books are transforming me.

  1. Timothy Ferriss: The 4-Hour Workweek: This book provides a wealth of information. It will have you reexamining your life and your work, and it will inspire you to think of a product or find something to sell online, but only after you test out your marketing. It will teach you how to automate parts of your business and deal only with those things that really need a decision from you. One of the most helpful things is how Ferriss links his readers with where to find things, where to buy things, where to get a designer, a celebrity endorsement and a manufacturer, if needed.
  2. Chris Guillebeau: The $100 Startup: Talk about an inspirational book. Guillebeau will teach you how to create a microbusiness, something small that will help you earn a decent living so you can have the lifestyle you always wanted. There is a lot of good practical advice about how to come up with a product (even if it is an informational product, ebook, DVD lessons, online courses, etc.), market it, test it, launch it and then start looking for the next big thing. This book and “The 4-Hour Workweek” will get you excited about going into business for yourself.
  3. Michael Hyatt: Platform: Get Noticed in a Busy World: I am a big fan of Michael Hyatt. He offers nothing but imminently practical tips and advice on his blog. I started this blog based on advice he posted. Hyatt will take you by the hand and demonstrate how to establish a platform, build an audience and engage your fans, followers and tribe. The man meticulously documents just about everything he does, which is good for us. He will show you how you can do it, but it will take time and effort. This is a must-have book.
  4. Guy Kawasaki and Shawn Welch: APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur-How to Publish a Book: If you want to write books, then this is the book for you. Kawasaki and Welch will walk you through everything you need to know about writing the book, editing the book, designing the cover, marketing the book, promoting the book and selling the book as a self-publisher. I have already incorporated some of the tips the authors share. If you read this, then the likelihood of you ever seeking to have a book published in the traditional manner will go out the window.
  5. Mike Michalowicz: The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur: I must admit, I have not spent as much time with this book as with the others (bear in mind I am reading all of them at the same time, not one by one), and I purchased it solely on the strength of the reviews. The language can be coarse, but I am working my way through this. Part of the reason I bought it was this blurb in the description: “Which three sheets of paper you need to successfully launch, manage and grow your business.” While I wholeheartedly recommend books 1-4, I am not at the point of saying you need to get this one, but it is one that I have been reading.

There is a lot of overlap with these books in regard to content, but that is OK with me. I see it as reinforcing what I have learned and helping me understand it better.

But the true value of all of these books is that they have shown me how to determine whether a passion of mine is a viable business opportunity. It might not be.

If you have an inkling to start a business, then check these books out. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Disclosure: You should know, all of the above links are Amazon affiliate links. If you make a purchase, then I will earn a small percentage. Depending upon the cost of the book, it could be anywhere between 40-60 cents.

Celebrate Financial Freedom This New Year, Here’s How

IMAG0374 - Tony,Bocea,Sand

It was a year ago that Wendi and I were ringing in the new year at the wedding of Sean Kilbane and the former Laura Siedlecki (the photo above is from their wedding). Wendi and I have been happily married since March 4, 1995, and with every wedding we attend, we sort of renew our vows. When the couple exchange vows, we remember when we made the same ones and what a blessing our marriage has been.

The reality is that marriages, and lives, are strained for financial reasons. Mishandling of money leads to a lot of broken homes and broken families, which results in many children having to live in poverty.

A wise man once told me, “Bobby, it’s not how much money you make, it’s how much you spend.” This truth is so simple it is profound and why so many will never follow it.

We are a culture that wants instant gratification. We don’t want to save our money until we have enough to buy; we want to put it on credit or take out a loan. If you can get beyond the instant gratification, then you are on your way to being successful. Don’t believe me? Check out this TED Talk (this post resumes below the video).

I understand impulses and wanting things now, but if you spend less than you earn, then you are setting yourself up for success. I know, because it happened for me.

Wendi and I made pretty good money, but we always lived paycheck to paycheck until … wait for it … we started taking Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University class at a church in town. It seems as if in no time, we paid off credit cards, paid off our vehicles years early and had money on hand for true emergencies.

The reality is this: If you want to improve your financial standing in 2013, then get yourself in a nearby Dave Ramsey class. It will change your life. How would you like to no longer have to worry about money? How would you like to have extra money the day before payday? All of this can happen if you are willing to make changes.

Do yourself a favor and spend some time watching these Financial Peace University preview videos. Because Ramsey’s company does not allow embedding the videos, you will have to click on the following links: Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.

After you have finished watching the FPU preview, then you will want to see if there is a class in your area. Go to Dave Ramsey’s website and click on the link to search for a class here.

I have my issues with Ramsey and his organization, but it is undeniable how his program turned my family’s finances around. For that, I am ever grateful.

Ramsey’s program might seem a little steep for some, but it is probably cheaper than some of the things you have put on a credit card. If you do not want to pay for the class, then check out some of his books and other offerings here: Dave Ramsey resources.

Another person who is helpful, but does not market herself like Ramsey, is Mary Hunt. I saw her share her story on television many moons ago about how she racked up so much credit card debt and how she paid off the debt. You will find her materials very easy to read, to understand and to implement. You will also want to check out: Mary Hunt resources.

After Dave Ramsey’s program helped get us out of debt, my wife and I still had subscribed to Mary Hunt’s website, Debt-Proof Living, to support her because of guidance her teachings provided for us.

If you have absolutely no money to spend at this time, then do not fear. Below you will find three embedded PDF files, two lessons and one PowerPoint presentation, regarding changing your financial outlook.

I taught these lessons at Parkview Christian Church (formerly Parkview Church of Christ) in Wooster, Ohio. If you follow the information below, then you have a chance to turn your financial picture around and live more abundantly.

I pray this will be the year you get those finances under control and turn things around. FPU did this for us in 2009, let it do it for you in 2013.

As you look at the information below, some things to keep in mind: The prices for FPU are probably different now than they were three years ago and the PCC Debt-Free blog is no longer updated since the class wrapped up. However, there is still some good information out there.

Update: This was my first attempt at trying to embed PDF documents in a blog. What I did not realize is that I needed to set up a Scribd.com account in order to have the actual PDFs display. I cannot tell you how many times I edited and changed this post since it was first published at midnight. It is now 12:46 a.m. Jan. 1, 2013, and I am signing off.

13 Commitments for a Christian in 2013

Out of the Darkness

Yesterday, I made a promise on this blog to help you start the year out right by offering ways to improve your financial standing in 2013. As I researched some lessons I taught on the subject previously and started to work on this blog entry, I became just a bit hesitant.

I would love for all of us to start 2013 on a high note by getting our financial lives in order, but is that the most important thing in our lives. Do I really want the first bit advice to share in the new year to deal with finances? This is the time of year we are usually worried about health and the direction of our lives, which frequently involves personal finance. When I worked at Daytona Magic, I remember a sign we had for sale in the store: Money is not the most important thing in life, but it beats whatever is in second place.

For most us, there is some truth to the sign. Perhaps it shouldn’t be the most important, but we often place a lot of attention on money and what it can do for us. I shifted focus to start on another “first” post for 2013, and this would focus on what really matters: Faith. Then, in the process of checking out The Z Section’s Twitter feed, I encountered this:


I was curious, and when I followed the link, Pastor Mike Campagna talked about how God has a plan for us and how we should have a plan for our lives. Here is Pastor Mike’s plan for the new year, a series of 13 commitments:

13 Commitments for a Christian in 2013

1. Keep my eyes on Jesus. (Hebrews 12:2)
2. Hide God’s Word in my heart. (Psalm 119:11)
3. Be filled with the Holy Spirit. (Ephesians 5:18)
4. Serve the least of these. (Matthew 25:40)
5. Bless the name of the Lord. (Psalm 34:1)
6. Speak words of encouragement. (Hebrews 10:25b)
7. Give myself fully to Christ’s cause. (Luke 10:27)
8. Don’t abandon the Church. (Hebrews 10:25a)
9. Listen for God’s still, small voice. (1 Kings 19:12)
10. Turn from the sin that so easily entangles. (Heb. 12:1)
11. Pray without ceasing. (1 Thess. 5:17)
12. Trust in the Lord with all my heart. (Proverbs 3:5-6)
13. Give God the glory no matter what happens. (Rom. 8:28)

A nice goal for the new year. I pray 2013 will be a blessed new year for you and your family.

Now that we have taken care of the weightier matters, we can move ahead with jump-starting your finances in 2013 by heading to this blog post here.

Teaser: Don’t Gamble With Your Finances in 2013, Improve Them

IMAG0706 - Ivan,Scratches,SandMy wife, Wendi, and I each have three degrees. We both have associate’s, bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Even though we have had good jobs and have made pretty good money, the truth is for most of our married lives we lived paycheck to paycheck.

In January 2009, we did something that changed our lives. In the throes of what is being called the Great Recession and amid frozen wages, we were able to withstand the economic downturn and do quite well for ourselves.

Somewhere along the way, it suddenly dawned on Wendi that we were no longer living paycheck to paycheck. We had a financial freedom unknown to us before.

Would you like to put your money woes behind you? It is possible. Would like to have enough money in the bank and not worry about where the cash will come from to pay next month’s bills? The truth is you are probably closer than you think, but you will have to make some changes.

What are those changes and what was the thing Wendi and I did in January 2009? Well, I am going to tell you in January 2013. At the stroke of midnight tonight, when we say out with the old and in with the new, there will be a new post at this blog.

If you don’t want to miss the entry, then sign up to receive this

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