Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Teens and Cars

Cars are a big deal for teens.  I have 4 sons.  Nothing beats the thrill of driving by a gaggle of girls after school and honking your horn to give a friendly wave.  We have some pretty stiff rules for all of our boys when it comes to the coming-of-age tradition of getting their driver's license and their first car.

Here is a snapshot of our house rules for teens and cars:

When Obtaining a license:
                                                      1.  Have a job
                                                      2.  Have a $1000 emergency fund
                                                      3.  Pay for one year of insurance

 When Purchasing a car:
                                                      1.  We cover up to $2000
                                                      2.  The car goes in their name alone 
                                                      3.  The teen pays for insurance, repairs, 
                                                           and upkeep


At age 16 we consider much of our financial obligation to our children to be completed.  We still pay for food, shelter, and medical expenses.  But, at this age we begin to transfer monetary responsibility to them.


Before taking their driving test, they must have a part-time job.  There is no sense getting a license if you can't afford car insurance.  Our oldest took a job a little more than a mile from our home.  In good weather, he hoofed it back and forth to work.  If the weather was inclement, we took him.  We were willing to provide him transportation until he got his license, but he preferred to listen to music and think while he walked twenty minutes to and from work.  Our second son got a job about 3 miles from home.  We took him to and from his part-time job until he had saved an emergency fund and car insurance money.  Although it did make for a pretty busy life, especially when both boys started working, it was worth it to us to offer them transportation while they got up on their financial feet.


 This brings us to my second point.  Our children are required to have a $1000 emergency fund before getting their license.  We want the habit of having money set aside for a "rainy day" to be thoroughly ingrained in them before they leave our home.  Additionally, I can't imagine a time in their life when they will be able to more quickly and easily save up that $1000 than when they are still living under my roof and not paying room and board. 


They must have enough money to pay for one year of insurance up front.  If you pay monthly, the insurance company tacks on a "convenience fee".  We try avoid all fees and teach our children to do the same.  My grown sons use Dave Ramsey's free budgeting app, Everydollar, to track their monthly expenses and save enough money monthly to cover their insurance bill in full when it arrives once a year.

When one of our sons gets his license, we charge him the difference between our current insurance policy and the amount it goes up when we add their name to the policy.  One small note:  If the child gets his or her license in the middle of our insurance cycle, then their portion of the insurance is prorated.  For instance, our second son got his license in May.  Our yearly insurance bill is due in August.  So, the insurance prorated the amount.  He paid us for his portion of the insurance for May through July.  Then, in August, he was responsible for his portion of the entire yearly bill when it arrived in August.

We do not provide a separate car for our sons to use.  We have two cars.  We don't need any more.  If they want exclusive use of a vehicle, then they can purchase one.

 But, wait!  There's more!  


As extra incentive to save money, we agreed to get them to and from work, free of charge, from age 16 until they got their license.  Our sons both worked an average of 15-20 hours a week during high school.  It took them 4 - 6 months to save up their $1000 emergency fund and enough for one year of car insurance.  Additionally, in our state a teen under the age of 18 must complete 50 hours of practice driving before obtaining a license.   They purchased cars at age 19 and 18, respectively. 


Just as there are requirements for getting a drivers license, there are requirements for getting a car.  We like to call our special incentive program the:  "Mom and Dad 401k Car Fund".  We modeled it after Dave Ramsey's car plan for his kids.  Just like some employers match a percentage of your 401K contributions, we match what they save toward a car - up to a certain amount.  We match the first $1000 that they save. Then, we match it again for the second $1000. Then, we stop.  Basically, if they find a set of wheels for $4000, then we have paid for half.  If they want to spend more money, then they are more than welcome to ante up with more of their own dough.  Our first son found a car for under $4000.  Our second son spent more.  It goes without saying that all vehicles are bought with cash.  No loans.
The title of the car went in their name and their name alone. They were responsible for insurance, gas, maintenance, licensing, etc.  We did find a local company who would bundle their insurance with ours, even though their vehicles were not in our name.  That saved them a little money every year.  Good student discounts saved them even more!  When they are paying their own bills, believe me, they will work hard for that "A" or "B" in order to save money on their insurance!


We did institute one more rule.  This is a fun one!   If we borrow their wheels (even to run to the store) we fill the gas tank for them.  They tend to offer their car to us for errands whenever their indicator dips below one-half a tank. Okay, I'm really a softie at heart.  We don't help them much monetarily and our cars are generally parked in the garage, while theirs are on the driveway.  So, it does make it convenient to grab their keys to run a quick errand, rather than move cars around.  But, having said that, it is fun to be a blessing to them when they least expect it.


Do all to the glory of God,


Wednesday, August 23, 2017

My Teen Took Over Our Budget!


Six years ago we allowed our teen to take over our family budget! Today, I want to share with you, my readers, how this experiment worked out for us. Did I raise fiscally responsible young adults? Do they understand that "cash is king"? Do they quote Dave Ramsey to their friends? Read on! You'll learn why our children are not allowed to graduate from high school until they have handled our family finances for six months and what they learned from the whole experience.  At the end I'll tell you how this impacted the lives of our oldest children. 

My husband and I have been using (and sticking to) a written budget for our entire married life - 30 years! We have experienced the peace that comes from living debt-free — including our home — since 1998! In 2012 we decided it was time to make finances and budgeting “real” for our oldest son. He was 16 at the time. We put him in charge of our family finances for six months! That’s right. He took it over “lock, stock, and barrel and I think it was an experience that he will never forget. 
If you’d like to get your teens more involved and aware of real-life finances, here are a few tips that helped us.
Give Them Credit
I admit, this has a dual meaning. We homeschool. So, it was natural for us to offer our son high school credit for his foray into the world of finances. But, I also mean, that we need to give our children credit for being mature enough to learn real world, life-long lessons by taking an in-depth look at our family’s money.
I was actually afraid that the whole experience would take away some of my son’s innocence. He would learn just how hard it can be to “make it” on one income. I wanted to be sure that he retained his feeling of security. We don’t want our children to worry that “Mom and Dad won’t have enough money”.  

Give Them Advice

Within the first week he was looking at me wide-eyed. "Mom, it looks to me like every penny is accounted for in this budget. Is there any money left over at the end of the month?" Three weeks later he was emoting about the grocery budget, "Mom, is this correct?! We have just $35 left for groceries??!!" I answered his initial inquiry. "No, there is generally no extra money."  His second question resulted in him being directed to the row of cookbooks in the basement, where he was instructed to match up recipes with ingredients already available in the house.  
To my surprise, rather than becoming overly concerned about money (or the lack thereof), quite the opposite occurred. As the weeks went by he began to give praise to God each time he saw a need being met. He became aware of how much money it took to raise a houseful of boys. We had many conversations about how to save money on every single budget category. He had a blast! He clipped coupons, scoured the ads, and found bargains. He planned the grocery shopping and the menus. He totaled up those numbers and adopted my victory shout. "Yes!!!!! Mom!  We made it through the month and there is money to spare!" 
Give Them Tools
We began this process by enrolling our son in a six-week money management course, which we attended with him. This gave him a lot of Biblically-based knowledge about money principles in a logical and sequential manner.  
We then set out to show him practical examples of how to make your money work for you.  On the website, I showed our son that if  he saved $450 a month, at 5% interest annually, he could purchase a $120,000 home for cash at the end of 15 years. If you multiply $450 by 15 years you get $81,000. That's right!  Your total investment: just $81,000.  The rest of that $120,000 is earned interest! 

Then, we used the tools to see how much interest you would pay on a $120,000 mortgage.  The interest on a 15-year, $120, 000 mortgage at 5 percent is about $50,000. Add the principle and you would pay about $170,00 for that same home. For a 30 year mortgage, the interest is nearly $112,000. (or $232,000 total loan repayment!)  

Boom! He could immediately see that there is a HUGE difference between paying cash for purchases and taking out a loan! I LOVE on-line calculators to show kids real examples about money. Let them put in their own savings goals and amounts. They’ll begin to understand the importance of delayed gratification and long-term goals. Here's the tool we used to calculate this monetary magic.
Give Them the Reins
Let them do it! After the money management class, I opened up our finance books to our son. When a bill came in,  he told me how to fill in the check (or make the transaction on-line) and entered the amount in the proper part of our household ledger.
He entered all of our expenses into the ledger, kept track of each category, made a spread sheet at the end of each month showing what we spent in each category and what we averaged thus far for the year. He also made recommendations on what changes we needed to make in each category – if any.    

When we began this project, I knew I wanted our son to take on our finances for at least six months so he could see seasonal fluctuations. I also was fairly confident that something unexpected would happen within that time frame — so he would get to see the emergency fund at work. It did! He accidentally hit the garage door while I was teaching him to park in the driveway.  😁 This would be why my husband has taught the lad to drive and not me. 
Give Them a Goal
Our son’s final task was to look at the yearly totals in each category and set up the family budget for the following year. A sense of completion is important and the end of the year always seems like a time to take a deep breath and say “thank you” to God for helping us and blessing us. 
For his final exam, he produced our “end-of-the-year log”. This document details our net worth, savings for the year, what percentage of our income went to each category, a list of our current short, medium, and long-term goals, and the 2013 Ware Family budget!   

Whew! It was a lot of work!  He received an "A"  in “Consumer Economics”. He learned how to budget and make short, medium, and long-term goals. He discovered the importance of an emergency fund. He is genuinely grateful any time we are able to give him something extra — not a needed item — but just something to bless him because he is our son and we love him.  
                                                 Money has become a reality to him!

Did our money managing experiment work?  

Our oldest son has won several scholarships, has a nearly perfect 4.0 GPA, and is paying his own way through college.  He was awarded a full tuition scholarship to a fantastic Christian university!  He is a major money saver, lives on a budget, and plans for future goals.  

Our second son also had his chance to manage the family budget. This tech-wizard, wonderboy computerized the entire system for me!  I love it! He had a blast investigating all the computerized budgeting programs and picking the best of the best. We now use , a FREE monthly budgeting app from Dave Ramsey.  My son attended Financial Peace University with us and is known to quote Dave Ramsey to all his friends. Since graduation from high school, he has worked full-time and is highly sought after for his outstanding work ethic and amazing troubleshooting abilities. When credit card offers arrive in the mail he laughs, rips them up, and goes back to plotting his debt-free future. 

Go to for a list of classes near you. For Biblically-based money advice, check out  or   You’ll find a lot of wonderful budgeting advice there along with charts, articles, and interactive tools.  

Your Turn!

Over the years, I've encountered a variety of responses to our experiment in teaching our children how to handle money. Some have said that they really don't want their children to know about the family finances for fear that they will broadcast this knowledge to all of their friends. Admittedly, this is something that I really didn't think about when we had our sons take over our budget. But, then again, being a prolific writer and public speaker, who openly shares about money and budgeting sort of meant that most people already knew the general state of our bank account. So, have you ever allowed your children to see your finances? Would you allow them to take over your budget? Why or why not? I'd truly love to know what you think about this concept. Leave your thoughts in the comments section. 

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Do all to the glory of God, 


Friday, August 18, 2017

FREE family fun for late summer!

The summer is quickly winding down as kids return to school.  But, there will still be time for FREE family fun during the remaining pleasant days and cool nights.  We like to squeeze in every opportunity to be outside together before winter sets in and being outside becomes more challenging.  So, here are a couple of tried and true family favorites for FREE fun!


The days are still warm throughout September.  Rising temperatures feel a bit uncomfortable, especially when you've had a couple of cool "fallish" days.  So, when you really don't want to turn the air back on, but you have kids saying, "Mom, I'm hot!", fill two buckets with a few inches of water. Have the kiddos put on swimsuits or swim trunks. Then give each child an empty squeeze bottle (an old dish detergent bottle works great). Give them 30 minutes to "ready, aim, fire" at their parents or siblings or playmates. The detergent bottles give serious water coverage that those cheap squirt guns just can't match. It uses less water than running the sprinkler for 30 minutes. Plus, when you fill your bottle, you can be more mobile than running through the sprinkler. You can chase your sibling all over the entire back yard! My boys do this all the time. House rules: 1) When any sibling says, "Please stop" you stop what you are doing immediately. No one is allowed to make someone else feel uncomfortable. 2) When the water in the bucket is gone, the bucket doesn't get refilled.


We had NO money for eating out while raising 4 boys on 1 income. But, we did have a fantastic park which overlooked the river. So, we did "Friday night picnics." I got really good at packing up whatever I had made for supper - food will stay hot in a crockpot,  homemade calzones can be popped into the oven just before leaving. Just wrap them in foil and they will stay hot until you get to the park. We used what we had in the house and resisted the urge to purchase expensive picnic fare from the deli or grocery store. We had a picnic basket that was prepacked with silverware, cups, plates, etc. Remember to throw in some wipes for sticky fingers and faces. Also, a couple of plastic grocery bags to take dirty silverware, plates, etc. home to wash. Grab a family board game, a readaloud, and a Bible for a quick family devotional. I've asked my grown up sons to name their favorite memories and the "Friday night picnics" consistently rank at the top! At my oldest son's request, we went on a Friday Night Picnic before he returned to college. We brought along a light saber for each of us and my son snapped a priceless photo of my husband and I dueling it out with light sabers.

Enjoy the final few weeks of warm temperatures!


Do all to the glory of God, 



Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Four Questions to Ask Yourself Before Making A Purchase

You are at the local boutique.  That cute, little outfit in the corner is calling your name.  You lean down, take it off the rack, and look at the price tag.

Right now, while you are reading this, I want you to mentally insert the sound of car tires screeching to a halt!

There are four important questions you should ask yourself before making that purchase.

QUESTION #1:  “Do I need this?”

As I get older I realize that there are a lot of things that I like and very few that I actually need.  Recognizing the differences between our wants and our needs is a critical skill in today's world.  There are a good many things that are presented to us under the guise of "needs".  But, I would challenge you to consider whether your purchase is actually something that you need.  Is is something that will sustain you?  If it something that you will use long or short-term?  Is is something that you could rent or borrow? Is it a redundancy of something that you already own?

 Here's a great way to avoid this pitfall:  Know what you have! Keep your pantry in order! Inventory your shelf stable items.  Inventory your bins of hand-me-downs that you have stored in your garage, waiting for your kids to grow into them.  I place each size in a separate bin and clearly label the size on the outside of the bin.  I once read an article that said that disorder costs you money.  I thought, "No, that's not true."  But, then I became aware of how many times I bought an item merely because I was unaware that I already had it sitting on a shelf at home.

QUESTION #2:  “Do I need this now?”

As you can see, this differs from my first point in only one small aspect - the addition of the single word "now".  I have to make use of this distinction nearly every week.  I feed a family of six on an average of $425 each month.  Given this food budget, I often make a list of  items that we need and then rank them in order of importance.  I want you to incorporate this same system with every single purchase.  When you are living under the median, it is imperative that you prioritize every item.

Years ago Larry and  I enjoyed going to auctions.  We would watch as bidders' eyes glazed over when another bidder drove up the price of an item that they wanted.  Their features would almost transform as they made battled it out to be "the winner", at an often unbelievably inflated cost.  When the almost opium-like rush of purchase-induced fever dissipated the next day, I'm sure that they could clearly see that they really didn't need that item at all.

 3 quick tips for avoiding buyer's remorse:   

1.  If you have a friend who likes to shop and you go along "just to see what she finds", I won't tell you to get a new friend, but I will advise you to find a new hobby to pursue.  Even thrift store shopping can be detrimental if you have a propensity for impulse buys. 

2.  I always encourage folks to wait 24 hours before making a purchase.  What's the worst thing that could happen?  That cute Louis Vuitton handbag will already be sold?  Probably not the end of the world.  But, a few times of purchasing without thinking could derail your goals for quite a while. 

3.  Have a preset amount that you will not spend without checking with your partner.  For years Larry and I had a $10 limit.  It's more than that nowadays, but not much more.  Accountability is a good thing.  Boundaries are a good thing, too. 😀  

QUESTION #3:  “Can I afford this?”

Seems like a simple question, doesn't it?  But, how do you judge affordability?  It's more than just the price of the item.  For those of us who live lean, we must remember at all times that we have goals, we have a budget, and we have an accountability partner.  Yep!  The knowledge that my husband sees the totals in every budget category on a monthly basis has kept me from spending unnecessarily on more than one occasion.

So, how do we gauge whether we make a purchase?  For items like clothing and food, I recommend using a cash envelope system.  I have been a budget queen for decades and this is one of the hardest things that I have ever tried to do!  I kid you not!  At the beginning of the month, place your money for clothing in an envelope.  Write the amount available on the front of the envelope.  While eying chat cute outfit at the store, simply take the envelope of cash out of your pocket and check to see how much money the envelope contains.  If there isn't enough cash, then put the item back on the shelf.

 Stringently resist the temptation to steal money from another budget category to pay for that purchase.  When you "rob Peter to pay Paul", it will catch up to you in no time flat!  If you are living under the median, then your budget is undoubtedly tight.  When you take money from another category to indulge a desire, then you will inevitably wind up short on money for something critical when you need it. 

QUESTION #4:  “How will this purchase affect my future goals?”

The whole idea behind this final question is simple.  You must have goals and in order to reach them you just consistently put those goals in front of your face.  Period.  I lived under the national median income for many, many years and I will be the first to tell you that having concrete goals for the future was not only hard, it sometimes seemed like an exercise in futility.  But, I DO know this, without a list of concrete goals and a plan to achieve them, you never will.  I am a visual person.  It helped me to have a pie chart which showed each goal and a timetable to the completion of each one.  I color-coded the pie chart.  It was really cool!  Well, at least I thought it was.  

Take a 3 X 5 card and write down each goal.  Color-code your list if you want.  Then when that cute outfit (or the perfect living room furniture) is screaming, "BUY ME!", take that card out of your pocket.  Remind yourself that you have self-control.  You will embrace delayed gratification.  You will wait.  When you have a plan and you can see in writing that you will  have enough money to pay cash for future goals, it's a lot easier to walk away from what seems a bargain now.  


Do all to the glory of God, 


Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Ten Tips to Unleash Your Inner Frugalista

Living within your means is a journey fraught with obstacles.  Danger lurks at every turn:  sales at the mall, coupons for discounts on everything from hair cuts to restaurants, zero percent and "same as cash" financing, credit card applications with no fees and cash back, even "five dollars down to buy a car"! They all seem like offers that you just can't refuse. 

However, there are ways to negate much of your inner-stress and still that little voice that tells you "Just go for it!"  You can avoid the pitfall of spending more than you intend to spend.  Let me help you embrace frugalishness.  See? I even made up that word.

1. : the state of being frugal and proud of it

Here's another handy definition:



1.  : a person who exhibits frugalishness, generally with a sense of joy and freedom

As an adult with a finely-tuned fascination for finances, and in the spirit of a true frugalista, allow me to share with you:  

                              TEN TIPS TO UNLEASH YOUR INNER FRUGALISTA:
                                              (Some of them may surprise you!)  

1) Learn to embrace delayed gratification. Before you buy, there are four questions you should always ask yourself, “Do I need this?”, “Do I need this now?”, “Can I afford this?”, and “How will this purchase affect my savings goals?”  (If you'd like more of an explanation, hang in there!  I plan to expand and expound on these 4 questions in next week's blog post.)

 2) Remember, nickels and dimes add up to dollars. The small amounts of money you mindlessly spend do add up. In reverse, the small amounts you save do add up too!  It's not the amount of money you make that defines your financial future.  If you make it a habit to always spend less than you make, you will gain wealth.

3) Get a team! If you are married, your spouse is your team member! If you aren’t married, find a mentor who will encourage you in your goals. 

4) Live on a written budget – every single month. Use pen and paper or the computer. Track every expense regularly. If you think you know how much you spend each month, but are not tracking it in a meaningful fashion, I guarantee you that more money is slipping through your fingers than you realize.  If you are avoiding a written budget because you know in your heart that you are in debt and don't want to face facts, then you are living a self-fulfilling prophesy of continued financial woes.  It's like standing in a hole.  You don't know how deep it is and  yet you continue to make that pit deeper every single month that you refuse to acknowledge the depth of the hole.  Stop!  Measure it!  Devise a plan to dig yourself out of it!   Then track your progress! 

5) Have a list of short, medium, and long term goals. I wrote an entire post on this topic, here.  Track your progress. Even after 29 years of budgeting, my husband and I have a quarterly “team meeting” to see how we are progressing on our goals. 

6) Remember to kill the fatted calf! When you reach a milestone, celebrate! Kick up your heels. Dance. Laugh. High -five your partner.  Get a latte (If those lattes are on sale - 2 for the price of 1 it's an added bonus and worth yet another high - five with your partner)! 

7) Don’t compare yourself to others. While others may look like they are rolling in the dough, they may be rolling debt. Hold your head high. You are living within your means! You have a plan! You are working toward goals!

8)  Don't let the little foxes spoil your harvest.   (Song of Solomon 2:15)  When you are living under the median, your budget will quickly go out of control if you allow yourself to settle into the mindset that you can overspend "just a little bit' and then "make it up later."  Don't do it!!  Just like the Biblical parable, the little foxes will eat up your harvest and derail your plans in a heartbeat! 

9) Do not let anyone define you by the amount of money you make or spend.  Your intelligence, value, self-worth, and honesty are NOT defined by your paycheck!  Don't let anyone tell you that you are less worthy of respect because you don't make as much money as they do.  Your character and honor are completely separate from your bank account.  Never forget that!

10) Life is a JOURNEY, not a race.  This is the most important tip. I tell my boys this all the time. Stop and smell the flowers, enjoy each moment, revel in the little blessings which you receive every day.  I saw a bumper sticker the other day on the back of a very expensive car, "He who dies with the most toys, wins."  How sad!  Life is about more than possessions.  It's about love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  

Remember, do all to the glory of God,


Tuesday, August 1, 2017

I Took Out A Loan From a Payday Lender!


I just heard a collective gasp from all of my readers.  However, once upon a time, Larry and I took out a loan from a payday company.  It was really quite unintentional.  We were buying new windows for our first home.  I had received a small inheritance, which would cover the cost.  The salesman offered us "180 days same as cash" financing.  We explained that we paid cash for home improvements - in fact we paid cash for everything.  The salesman actually had no problem with our decision, even smiling and nodding approvingly.

We Listen to Bad Advice

Then the next day, we mentioned our plan to some family members.  Immediately, they responded with a deluge of objections.  "You are being so foolish.  Think about the opportunity you are missing!  Current interest is 5 percent!  You will lose several hundred dollars by taking that money out of your account!  The window company  is charging you zero percent to borrow that money!  There is no downside!  There is no risk involved!"

The next day we took their advice.  Yep!  We called the rep back and told him that we were accepting the financing offer.  He was speechless.  Were we the same couple that he had spoken to 24 hours ago?  We had seemed so financially solvent, so secure in our plan, so fiscally conservative.  He asked our reasoning.  When we explained our skewed thought process to him, he spent a good amount of time trying to talk us out of it.  He warned, "This is with a high risk lender.  If you default, the interest rate is 24%.  Are you absolutely certain that you want to do this?"  We were sure.  I think he almost shed a tear or two as we signed the papers.

What's so bad about these loans?  

Let's pause here for an educational moment.  When friends, family members, or salespeople use the words "opportunity", "interest", and "money" all in the same breath, don't hesitate for even one second.  Run the other way!

"Same as cash" pitches are routinely hawked by a variety of retail establishments.  But, the actual offer is not really coming from your local furniture store or car dealership.  The loan is being underwritten by a third party company.  Yep.  "same as cash" is just a fancy way of saying LOAN.  Lenders are not philanthropists.  They are in the business of using money to make money.

Over 75 percent of these short-term loans are not repaid in full by the end of the grace period.  Sadly, most people don't realize the penalty for even one late payment.  If you don't pay back every cent you owe, the lender backdates the entire amount of interest to the FIRST day of the loan.  In other words, you then owe upwards of 24, 30, or 38 percent interest on the ENTIRE amount and it will be charged from Day 1 of the loan.  No exceptions.  No mercy.  It's all spelled out in the fine print of that two or three page contract.  Whew! 

I gasped when the loan payment booklet arrived in the mail.  It was from one of the best known payday lenders in the area.  Reality slowly dawned on me.  Somehow I had thought that the loan would be through a reputable banking institution.  I made the obligatory payments for two months and then I just could not take it any longer.  Earned interest was just not worth the angst that I felt every time I saw that payment booklet.  We had worked very hard to pay the house off in five years.  I could hardly believe that we had let ourselves be talked into a loan from payday company - even at zero percent interest for six months!

We Escape from the Trap!

I marched into that payday lending institution and told them I was prepared to pay off the entire amount remaining on the loan.  The eyes of the lady behind the counter widened in disbelief.  "But you have four more months on the loan.  Why would you want to pay the entire amount?"  She leaned forward slightly, lowered her voice, smiled, and almost conspiratorially whispered,  "Are you absolutely certain that you have the money available to do this?"

I stared into her eyes, and replied with an ardor generally reserved for repenting at a revival service, "Yes!  I just can't take being in debt one more single minute.  We've been debt free for many years, including our home."  Thrusting the precious final payment across her desk like it was infused with a deadly virus, I nearly shouted, "Here!  Take my check!"

She had me sign a paper and I was officially set free from the the demons of debt.  I did not see, but rather felt, her bewildered gaze as I left.  I don't think that I represented the reactions of her average customer.  Over 15 years later I still feel a twinge when I pass that establishment.

Tips for Avoiding These Loans:

My story had a happy ending.  But, most don't.  Here are some tips for avoiding the "same as cash" trap:

1.  Don't shop for furniture or a car unless you have either cash in hand or nerves of steel.

 I mentioned in  Part 5 of my Debt Free Living series that Larry and I went to open houses for 20 months before we bought our second home.  We were in the midst of saving 40 percent of our yearly income in order to pay cash for a home.  We knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that we were not purchasing a home until we had cash in our hot little hands.  It is interesting to add that an extremely frustrated realtor at an open house tried very, very hard to induce us to change our minds.  Temptation passed and we remained strong and resolute.  So, if you even have a shred of doubt that you will stay true to your debt free pledge, then stay out of the stores until you are prepared to purchase.

2.  Ask for a cash discount. 

After narrowing down your choices, ask the salesperson (with whom you have hopefully developed a friendly rapport) if they offer a discount for paying with cash.  Many places of business offer between a 5 and 10 percent discount for paying upfront.  I hardly need mention that this discount is either equal to or greater than the supposed amount of interest that I was gaining by taking out our Same as Cash loan when we bought our new windows.

3.  Live with a written list of short, medium, and long-term goals.

Most purchases are not emergencies.  They can be planned and saved for in advance.  I know from experience that if you live below the national median income, this step is absolutely, positively critical to your financial success.  Avoid debt like a stranglehold from the depths of perdition!  It will most assuredly effectively and abruptly narrow your options.  Soon the only door that will appear to be open is the one that leads to the trap of living from one paycheck to the next.  Resolving to live within your means, paying with cash, having a budget, leaving yourself margin each month, and planning for future goals will broaden your choices in unbelievable ways! 

4.  If you don't have the money, then stop what you are doing and pray!

 I mean this sincerely.  I am not just saying it.  My boys would tell you that when they were growing up, there were many, many times that they wanted or needed something and it simply wasn't in our budget.  I would always smile and reply, "Well, let's pray that in."  We went to God, prayed, and waited.  Delayed gratification was their well-known companion.  But, what joy when we found what they wanted or needed at a price that we could afford and they knew that God had heard and answered! 

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Do all to the glory of God,