more on avoiding debt

From Provident Living:

Spending less money than you make is essential to your financial security. Avoid debt, with the exception of buying a modest home or paying for education or other vital needs. If you are in debt, pay it off as quickly as possible. Some useful tools in becoming debt free are a debt-elimination calendar and a family budget worksheet.

We must learn to distinguish between wants and needs. We should be modest in our wants. It takes self-discipline to avoid the “buy now, pay later” philosophy and to adopt the “save now and buy later” practice.

Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin taught: “All too often a family's spending is governed more by their yearning than by their earning. They somehow believe that their life will be better if they surround themselves with an abundance of things. All too often all they are left with is avoidable anxiety and distress” ("Earthly Debts, Heavenly Debts," Ensign, May 2004, 42).

We should avoid debt. There is nothing that will cause greater tensions in life than grinding debt, which will make the debtor a slave to creditors. A specific goal, careful planning, and determined self-discipline are required to accomplish this.

President N. Eldon Tanner taught: "Those who structure their standard of living to allow a little surplus, control their circumstances. Those who spend a little more than they earn are controlled by their circumstances. They are in bondage” ("Constancy Amid Change," Ensign, Nov. 1979, 81).


maka fekes

This is a picture of a maka-feke or an octopus lure. You might remember President Monson's talk from April of 2006 when he talked about maka-fekes. Here is what he said:

"Tongan fishermen glide over a reef, paddling their outrigger canoes with one hand and dangling the maka-feke over the side with the other. An octopus dashes out from its rocky lair and seizes the lure, mistaking it for a much-desired meal. So tenacious is the grasp of the octopus and so firm is its instinct not to relinquish the precious prize that fishermen can flip it right into the canoe. . . Today we are surrounded by the maka-fekes which the evil one dangles before us and with which he attempts to entice us and then to ensnare us. Once grasped, such maka-fekes are ever so difficult—and sometimes nearly impossible—to relinquish. To be safe, we must recognize them for what they are and then be unwavering in our determination to avoid them."

President Monson then discussed several maka-fekes in our lives. Debt was the final maka-feke that he talked about:

The final maka-feke I wish to mention today is one which can crush our self-esteem, ruin relationships, and leave us in desperate circumstances. It is the maka-feke of excessive debt. It is a human tendency to want the things which will give us prominence and prestige. We live in a time when borrowing is easy. We can purchase almost anything we could ever want just by using a credit card or obtaining a loan. Extremely popular are home equity loans, where one can borrow an amount of money equal to the equity he has in his home. What we may not realize is that a home equity loan is equivalent to a second mortgage. The day of reckoning will come if we have continually lived beyond our means.

My brothers and sisters, avoid the philosophy that yesterday’s luxuries have become today’s necessities. They aren’t necessities unless we make them so. Many enter into long-term debt only to find that changes occur: people become ill or incapacitated, companies fail or downsize, jobs are lost, natural disasters befall us. For many reasons, payments on large amounts of debt can no longer be made. Our debt becomes as a Damocles sword hanging over our heads and threatening to destroy us.

I urge you to live within your means. One cannot spend more than one earns and remain solvent. I promise you that you will then be happier than you would be if you were constantly worrying about how to make the next payment on nonessential debt. In the Doctrine and Covenants we read: “Pay the debt thou hast contracted. … Release thyself from bondage.”


goal 3(c) - avoid debt

Spending less money than you make is essential to your financial security. Avoid debt, with the exception of buying a modest home or paying for education or other vital needs. Save money to purchase what you need. If you are in debt, pay it off as quickly as possible. (All Is Safely Gathered In: Family Finances)

Make a goal now to reduce and ultimately eliminate any consumer debt that you might have. Include in that goal a resolution to not incur any new debt. If you can't pay cash for it today, then don't buy it.

We've tried to take this counsel to heart and have avoided debt as much as possible. We do have a house payment and some educational debt, but haven't incurred any debt beyond that. We never put an expense on a credit card unless we can pay for it that month. We have a modest home, hand-me-down furniture and used cars, but also have the peace that come from a small financial reserve and only carrying minimal debt.

I enjoyed this post on the same topic at I Dare You To Eat It. She has some great suggestions on how to save money and reduce debt.


more on tithes and offerings

I wanted to include some modern revelation on the topic of tithes and offerings:

Pay Tithes and Offerings - Successful family finances begin with the payment of an honest tithe and the giving of a generous fast offering. The Lord has promised to open the windows of heaven and pour out great blessings upon those who pay tithes and offerings faithfully (Malachi 3:10 and Isaiah 58: 6–12).

Tithing - If our tithing is the first obligation met, our commitment to this important gospel principle will be strengthened and the likelihood of financial mismanagement will be reduced.

Fast Offerings - On fast day, we go without food and drink for two consecutive meals, if physically able, and then give to the bishop a fast offering at least equal to the value of the food not eaten. If possible, we should be very generous and give more. The bishop uses the fast offerings to care for the poor and needy. (All Is Safely Gathered In: Family Finances)

"How grateful I am for the law of tithing. It is the Lord’s law of finance. . . It comes of His wisdom. To every man and woman, to every boy and girl, to every child in this Church who pays an honest tithing, be it large or small, I express gratitude for the faith that is in your hearts. I remind you, and those who do not pay tithing but who should, that the Lord has promised marvelous blessings (see Mal. 3:10–12)." (President Gordon B. Hinckley, Ensign, January 2002)

"Some of you have money problems. I know that. There is never enough money in your homes. I know that. You are struggling to get along. What is the cure? The only thing I know of is payment of tithing. Now, that doesn’t mean that you will have a Cadillac and a mansion. But it was God who made the promise that He would open the windows of heaven and pour down blessings upon those who walked honestly with Him in the payment of their tithes and offerings, and He has the capacity to keep His promise. It is my testimony that He does keep that promise” (President Gordon B. Hinckley, Oahu, Hawaii, regional conference, 18 Feb. 1996).

Glorious is the promise of the Lord concerning those who pay their tithes. He says in modern revelation that they “shall not be burned” (see D&C 64:23). His great promise is found in the words of Malachi. Said He: “Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. … “Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it” (Malachi 3:8, 10). And then He goes on to say something very interesting. Listen to this: “And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the Lord of hosts. “And all nations shall call you blessed: for ye shall be a delightsome land” (Malachi 3:11–12).

While tithing is paid with money, more importantly it is paid with faith. I have never met an individual who paid an honest tithe who complained about it. Rather, he put his trust in the Lord, and the Lord never failed him. . . With the payment of tithing have come innumerable blessings as the Lord has promised. I was married during the Depression, when money was scarce, but we paid our tithing, and somehow we never went hungry or lacked anything we needed. (President Gordon B. Hinckley, General Conference, April 2007)


goal 3(a) - pay tithes and offerings

Successful family finances begin with the payment of an honest tithe and the giving of a generous fast offering. The Lord has promised to open the windows of heaven and pour out great blessings upon those who pay tithes and offerings faithfully (see Malachi 3:10). (All Is Safely Gathered In: Family Finances)

Paying tithes and offerings is a deeply personal and religious decision. But I would be remiss if I didn't include it as the foundation of financial preparedness. In the Old Testament in Malachi 3:10 it talks about a promise that comes to those who pay their tithes and offerings. Malachi records, "Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it."

I have personally experienced the opening of those windows of heaven. Throughout our lives, we have always been committed to paying our tithes and offerings. We've not been rich (though we truly ARE rich compared the most of the rest of the world), but we have always had everything we needed. Even in graduate school when money was very scarce and odd jobs provided little money, we always had enough to make it from month to month. I know that God was fulfilling that promise found in Malachi during those years. We honestly have more blessings than I can count and I attribute that in large part to paying our tithes and offerings.

I know that many of the readers of this blog are members of many different faiths. For The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, a tithe constitutes 10% of your increase. A tenth is not just an arbitrary amount but comes from the Holy Bible (Genesis 28:22, Leviticus 27:32, Hebrews 7:22). Fast offerings are made by going without two meals (usually once each month)and then giving the cost-equivalent to help feed and clothe the poor.


family home storage: a new message

When the new program for Home Storage was introduced in 2007, I was pleased to have some new specific direction. However, it was an adjustment to change some of my thinking about food storage. It took me a while to change gears and update and adjust my storage habits. I really enjoyed this new article from my March Ensign. It addresses the changes and need to change our thinking specifically. And notice that once again, it specifies that we should achieve the first three steps before moving onto the fourth. Here is a snippet:

Family Home Storage: A New Message

Check the expiration date on your ideas about home storage. You may need to throw some of them out.

A New Approach
. . . In the spirit of President Hinckley's ("We can begin ever so modestly. We can begin with a one week's food supply and gradually build it to a month, and then to three months." General Conference, October 2002) remarks, Church leaders decided to closely reexamine their approach to self reliance, looking for ways to reinforce the concepts of home storage and financial preparedness. As a result, the Church published the pamphlet All Is Safely Gathered In: Family Home Storage, outlining new guidelines for home preparedness that give Church members a simplified, four-step approach to building their home storage.

They are as follows:
1. Gradually build a small supply of food that is part of your normal, daily diet until it is sufficient for three months.
2. Store drinking water.
3. Establish a financial reserve by setting aside a little money each week, and gradually increase it to a reasonable amount.
4. Once families have achieved the first three objectives, they are counseled to expand their efforts, as circumstances allow, into a supply of long-term basic foods such as grains, legumes, and other staples.

Of the new guidelines, Presiding Bishop H. David Burton says, "Our objective was to establish a simple, inexpensive, and achievable program that would help people become self-reliant. We are confident that by introducing these few, simple steps we can, over time, have more success." . . .

The Time to Begin Is Now
"Perhaps in the past accumulating a year's supply of food may have been a little intimidating and even illegal in some places," says Dennis Lifferth, managing director of Church Welfare Services, "But this new approach asks us to do the best we can, even if all we can do is to set aside a can or two each week. If the prophet asks us to do something, we can find a way to fulfill the commandment and receive the blessings."'

"This new program is within everyone's grasp," explains Bishop Burton. "The first step is to begin. The second is to continue. It doesn't matter how fast we get there so much as that we begin and continue according to our abilities."


don't neglect your financial reserve

Have you been successful in gathering your three-month supply and a water supply? You might feel tempted to move onto longer-term storage and skip storing a financial reserve. If so, please reconsider and don't ignore the importance of a financial reserve as part of your home storage.

I wrote a previous post on this topic, which contains quotes that indicate that your water supply, three-month supply and financial reserve should be the first priority for home storage. Here is one of those quotes:

"Where do I start? -- Start by adding a few storable items that you typically eat, storing some water that is safe to drink, and saving some money, if only a few coins each week. Then over time, expand these initial efforts—as individual circumstances allow and where permitted—by storing a longer-term supply of basics such as grains, beans, and other staples."

We will start setting longer-term storage goals soon enough. Given the world's economic situation right now, it makes sense in so many ways to make storing money as much of a priority as storing food.

[from the FAQ page found at http://providentliving.org]


cash on hand

In the article, Out Of The Ashes, (New Era, May 2004), San Diego teens discuss their experience surviving and then cleaning up the California wildfires of 2003. They include several preparedness tips that they gained from their experiences. Their first tip is to keep some cash on hand. I think this tip is applicable and important in almost every emergency situation. I similarly recommend that you keep a small portion of your financial reserve as "cash on hand."

How much? Again, this is very personal. I try to keep a small amount in several locations such as in the car, in each 72-hour kit, in my purse, and some in my home. We also keep a jar of change. All this cash adds up. I already find that I turn to that cash (and then have to replace it) in minor emergencies. In major emergencies, banks might be closed, ATMs run out of money, and if electricity is out, stores can't take credit cards.

It's also important to have your cash reserve in small bills. You may remember in a post about Hurricane entitled, Prepared In Houston, that the author was forced to pay $5 extra because the stores couldn't make change for her. So even $5 bills may be too big. I recommend that you keep $1 bills and/or change on hand.


ice storm preparedness

Utah Preppers posted "Ice Storm Stories and Preparedness" this week. These personal stories of preparedness demonstrate once again the value of a three-month supply, a water supply and a financial reserve (including cash on hand).

[Photo Source: SONYA N. HEBERT/DMN]


waxing cheese

IMPORTANT NOTE - Since writing this post, USU Extension has released this statement:

Brian Nummer, Utah State University Extension food safety specialist

From time to time, dubious methods arise for preparing and storing various food items. Current information being circulated about the merits of dipping cheese in wax and placing it in storage for many years can be placed in this category. Consider the science.

• Waxing cheese is a method to minimize mold growth on the surface of cheese. It cannot prevent growth or survival of many illness-causing bacteria. In fact, it may promote anaerobic (absence of oxygen) bacteria growth, such as botulism. The practice of waxing cheese for storage is considered extremely unsafe.

• Before the days of refrigeration, cheese was dryer and fermented to a lower pH (higher acid). These types of cheeses were traditionally stored at room temperature with wax covers. The very low pH and fermentation byproducts could inhibit foodborne illness bacteria. An example is parmesan-style cheese. Acid, dryness and fermentation byproducts make this cheese storable at room temperature.

• Today, many cheeses are made strictly for storage under refrigeration. These cheeses may not have a low pH and other factors created in the manufacturing process to prevent illness-causing bacteria growth because the manufacturer knows the cheeses will be kept refrigerated. If someone waxes this cheese and places it in food storage, there is no science indicating any level of safety. In fact, there is evidence to the opposite ? placing cheese meant for refrigeration at room temperature is a significant risk and hazard for foodborne illness.

Contact your local USU Extension office for further information on safe home food preservation and for storage advice."


Last night I attended a local food storage class. They taught us how to bottle chicken, use wheat berries as a meat filler/extender, and how to preserve cheese by dipping it in wax. I was particularly interested in the cheese. Thus far, I have stored cheese for my three-month supply in several forms: a block of cheese in my fridge, grated cheese portioned into bags in my freezer, powdered cheese, and canned cheese. Without refrigeration, I would only have powdered cheese, (which is great for macaroni and cheese but not much else) and my canned cheese (which is very expensive). We love cheese and use it in many of our meals. This could be a great way to make cheese available for a three-month supply.

The Process:

1) Purchase "cheese wax." Our instructor said that 3 - 1 lb. bricks (around $6.50 each) will coat 10 lbs of cheese. My initial response was that the cost of the wax made it too expensive. But our instructor went on to explain that this wax is reusable. Just peel it off as you use it, wash it with warm soapy water, and set it aside in a Ziploc bag.
2) Use a double boiler to melt the wax. The wax will ruin any pan that you use. She actually set a stainless steel bowl into her top double boiler pan so that she didn't ruin the pan. Be slow and cautious as you melt the wax since it is flammable.
3) Cut your cheese into meal-sized portions. Cheese surfaces must be dry. Dip half into the wax, and set it to dry on a paper towel. Dip the other half once it has dried (only a few minutes). She does a total of three coats.
4) Store blocks in a food-grade bucket or bin layered with wax or parchment paper. This protects the cheese from gashes and bumps that could compromise the wax.

Cheese preserved this way tastes sharper the longer it is stored. So choose a mild cheese to start with. We sampled some of her cheddar and mozzarella. The cheddar after only three months was already significantly sharper. The mozzarella, on the other hand, didn't seem any different.

If you like the idea of storing waxed cheese, but don't really want to dip your own, you can purchase already dipped blocks of cheese at Costco or at your local market. They are more expensive and you would want to be aware of the size of the block and how fast you would use that amount.

I cannot find a firm estimate of shelf life. Some have indicated that the wax can start to crack after about 6 months. Our instructor said you can redip the wax if it starts to crack. She recommends using the cheese within 18 months. You can also extend the life of unwaxed cheese by coating it with olive oil.

[Photo Source:


how much is a financial reserve?

We recently used the talk, One For The Money, by Elder Marvin J. Ashton as the basis for a Family Home Evening Lesson. As I prepared that lesson, I read the following quote, "Liquid savings available for emergencies should be sufficient to cover at least three months of all essential family obligations." I think three months worth is a pretty good beginning goal. I've heard some financial planners state that we should save at least six months worth. Some try to have a one year supply of finances as well as food.

You probably have a sense of how secure your job is -- though no job is completely secure. I think that knowledge coupled with the guidance of the spirit can help your family decide how much of a financial reserve you need.

At first glance, you might assume that three-months' worth of savings is a huge amount. And I guess it is, IF you make tons of money already. But for the rest of us, the amount is not as big as you may first think. If the amount of money saved is used to replace your salary, many normal monthly costs would not apply. For example, you probably already paid your tithing on money in savings (so no need to subtract 10%). Also, retirement, taxes, social security, medicare, and state taxes would not be taken out of your savings (this would differ depending upon your state/country). If you add up your normal bills for each month, minus any services that you could immediately cancel like cable, cell phones, lawn services, gym memberships, etc. (I'm assuming that you would cancel everything that you were able to -- but don't forget those "contracts" that bind you to a service for several years), then you can figure out what you would need to save for a month's worth. For our family, the amount we needed to save "essential family obligations" was roughly half of my husband's normal paycheck per month.

In many cases, this financial reserve may not end up being used to replace salary. It might be needed in an extreme health care situation. Or it might prevent you from having to use consumer debt when your clothes dryer, dishwasher and toilet all break on the same day (which happened to us yesterday). So obviously more is better than less.

[variation on a previous post from 8.11.2008]


goal 3(b) - financial reserve

Our current goal is creating a financial reserve.

Save a little money from each paycheck.

Choose a savings vehicle. This can be a savings account, a regular bank account, or just a jar in your closet. Make sure that this account is low risk and liquid (which means that you can easily pull from it anytime without penalty). I personally wouldn't count money saved in retirement accounts, pensions or stocks. It's too hard to get immediate cash from these sources.

Start this week to save money in that "account." Are things really tight? Start with $10 a month. Even tighter? Then save $1 a month. The idea is to make saving money a habit. And don't touch that money unless you're starving! :o) This reserve is for emergencies only. A dress that is on sale, the need to pay your kids an allowance, or piano lessons do not constitute an emergency. The time to turn to this money is when you are out of work and have run out of money (or other similar emergencies such as medical etc.). Make it a goal to leave that money alone. Increase the amount as your income allows.

I personally use a bank account and have an automatic transfer set up. Each time we get paid, a small amount is automatically transfered into my emergency savings account. I've been amazed how quickly money has accumulated in that account. If this sounds like something that would work for you, then call or get online and set up that automatic transfer today.

From All Is Safely Gathered In: Home Storage:
Establish a financial reserve by saving a little money each week and gradually increasing it to a reasonable amount.

From All is Safely Gathered In: Family Finances:
Gradually build a financial reserve, and use it for emergencies only. If you save a little money regularly, you will be surprised how much accumulates over time.

And From President Gordon B. Hinckley:
“Set your houses in order. If you have paid your debts, if you have a reserve, even though it be small, then should storms howl about your head, you will have shelter for your wives and children and peace in your hearts” (Ensign, Nov. 1998, 54).