I’m Co-Leading a Financial Peace University Class this September!

Hello hello!

I’m pretty excited to share that in September, I will be co-leading a Financial Peace University class at our church! For those who don’t know, FPU is a 9-week class created by Ramsey Solutions. They designed it to help people pay off their debt, build wealth, become financially independent and be unbelievably generous.

A lot of the writing on this blog revolves around pursuing passion in a responsible way. Master the Simple to Become the Expert. That’s partly why I’m so excited about this class — I have passion for this.

Shortly after Bailey and I got married, we took Financial Peace University online and learned a lot about finances, budgeting, retirement, insurances, real estate, and mortgages. I’ve also listened to well over 100 hours of the Dave Ramsey Podcast. So I’m very familiar with the organization and the financial principles they teach.

To anyone who has read my book or followed this blog, it’s no surprise that I like Dave Ramsey and the resources his team has built to help people.

Here’s why I like Financial Peace University and why you should take the class.

1. It aligns with my beliefs

What FPU teaches it biblically based. Stewardship is a significant theme in the Bible and Ramsey’s program focuses on that as a goal.

What God calls us to do with our finances is to be stewards of the money He has given us to manage. Just take the parable of the talents. In Matthew 25:14-30, Jesus calls people to be wise with what God has given them.

Plus, the Bible clearly states in Proverbs 22:7 that “the borrower is the slave of the lender.”

2. It’s not a Get-rich-quick scheme

What Ramsey teaches is not a get-rich-quick scheme — he literally says it’s slow and steady that wins the race. He teaches that becoming wealthy comes from consistent saving and investment through intentional decision making.

This means taking responsibility for personal choices. No one can make your money behave but you.

3. It focuses on generosity

Something I love about the Ramsey plan is that it doesn’t focus on becoming filthy rich for the sake of having money. FPU focuses on creating flexibility in your life while being unbelievably generous.

Generosity is one way how we show God that we trust in his provision for our lives. And with wealth and no debt, you can do a lot of good through giving to others.

Live like no one else so that later you can live and give like no one else.

Dave Ramsey, Financial Peace Univeristy

4. It creates hope

One of the most inspiring parts of Dave Ramsey’s show is the “Debt Free Screams.” In these, normal people come into the headquarters and tell Dave about their story and how they worked their ways out of debt. In the last 17 years, people who have done the screams have paid off a combined half of a billion dollars. That’s just the people who have told Dave about it in studio. That’s inspiring and hopeful.

And that’s why I’m excited to help teach this class.

If you live near Columbus, Ohio, consider joining our class. I would absolutely LOVE to see you there!

Plus, if you use this link to sign up, you’ll get $20 off your registration!

If you have any questions, let me know in the comments or you can email me at cbtiger1@gmail.com!

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Get Your Side Hustle Going in 27 Days

I’ve talked about Chris Guillebeau before, specifically in my recent post about 8 audiobooks I listened to in 2018. He has a book called Side Hustle in which he outlines the process for taking an idea you have and developing a profitable side hustle in a mere 27 days.

And he’s got stories of person after person who have done exactly that.

From sidehustleschool.com

Chris also has a daily podcast where he tells a story about a real person who brought their side hustle idea to a profitable business and how they did it. Through all these stories, he tackles strategies for developing extra income as well as common struggles and how to combat them.

I love his podcast because listening to a different story every day is super motivational. And understanding the shear vastness of side hustle possibilities helps get the ideas flowing. Chris has decades of experience in living off of side hustles and understands the process.

I highly recommend his podcast!

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My own side hustle

I have a side hustle, though I didn’t know about Chris and his resources until well after I started mine.

Mine is filmmaking.

I actually have a business called Hearthstone Films. The process of getting a video together for a client and them being excited about it makes me really enjoy the projects. This past weekend, I filmed a wedding! I actually figured out this was my 9th wedding I have filmed. Pretty cool!

I also finished another project this past weekend for a golf course. It’s a promotional video about Fling Golf. Here’s the video right here.

The thing I like about my hustle is it gives me a space for me to exercise my creativity. Sure, engineering needs creativity as well! It’s just not the same type in my opinion.

Do you have a side hustle? If so, what is it?

I want to hear from you in the comments below! And as always, if you found value in this post, give it a like and give me a follow!

-Caleb

3 Ways Giving Impacts Your Soul

Growing up, my parents paid us kids for chores we did around the house. We always called it an allowance but now I understand it was more of a commission — we didn’t get paid unless we did the work.

Regardless, when the highly anticipated payday arrived (yay, $1.50 in the BANK!), my parents would use it as a two-fold learning opportunity.

  1. They taught us how to tithe from our very first dollar earned.
  2. They taught us how to figure out what 10% was ourselves (that decimal point is a tricky one).

For those who don’t know, the tithe is a form of giving that God commanded the Israelites to do back in the Old Testament.

Here’s the definition straight from the dictionary.

tithe | tīT͟H | 

noun | one tenth of annual produce or earnings, formerly taken as a tax for the support of the Church and clergy.

My parents taught us that as Christians, we give 10% of what we earn to the church and then we give offerings as well. To be clear, the “tithe” and the “offering” are different. Tithe is the first tenth, and offerings are above and beyond the tithe.

Okay, but why give?

For one, God commanded it. Seems legit.

Giving started in the Old Testament and continued into the New Testament as a way to provide for the needs of widows, orphans, and church workers.

God has given each of us certain possessions that we value immensely. Some more, some less. It doesn’t even have to be money that we value; the point is that it all comes from God.

But what are some practical reasons we should give away what we’ve worked so hard to gain?

Here is why Bailey and I give and why you should, too:

1. Giving builds our trust in god to provide for our daily needs

What better way of surrendering your trust to God than by giving away something you need to live?

This act of faith is expressed very well in Mark 12 when a widow gives her last two pennies to the church of her day. Jesus makes note that she gave more in faith than all those who put bags of money into the treasury.

2. Giving Reminds us whose money it is that we hold

This may be difficult for some to understand but literally nothing we have is actually our own.

In the Bible, Job had everything anyone could have asked for at the time. He had a large family, servants, and an unbelievable number of livestock. The Bible describes him as “greatest of all the people of the east” (Job 1:3b). However, God allowed the devil to take away everything from Job, leaving him with nothing but a nagging wife and a horrible skin disease.

One of my favorite verses in the Bible shows his reaction at his weakest point.

And [Job] said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”

Job 1:21

Job went from owning everything to nothing in less than a day. And yet, he understood the source of his wealth. He held everything he had with an open hand. What he had was taken, but if you read to the end of the chapter, you’ll find even more was given back.

Again, let me say, he understood the source of his wealth. Living with this kind of attitude honestly gives a lot more room for happiness in life. It’s a lot easier to give a friend’s Xbox back to him when you know it was only yours to borrow in the first place.

3. Giving creates the ultimate retirement account

We like to think that giving is an entirely selfless thing to do. It is selfless if it is done with the right intensions, however, there’s definitely a rewards system mixed in. Giving is kinda like a retirement account.

What is saving for retirement? In essence, it is delayed gratification.

You have to delay buying what you want in order that you will have money later in retirement. God created us humans to be motivated by rewards which is why he puts some motivation straight into the Bible.

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Matthew 6: 19-21

What is being said is this: Here on Earth, everything we have is temporary. Our money, our possessions — we will lose it all when we die. But by giving our money to God’s work and those in legitimate need, we are building for ourselves the ultimate retirement nest-egg — eternal treasure! The delayed gratification of not buying everything we want here on Earth is that we get much more in heaven.

P.S. This talk about good works is not to be confused with the work of Christ dying on the cross which is the only way to heaven.

I love what the famous missionary, Jim Elliot, had to say on the topic of giving:

“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

~Jim Elliot

FOR BAILEY AND I, Giving is personal

I can honestly say that giving has influenced how Bailey and I handle our money. I am naturally materialistic.

Like, recently, I have had this fascination with the new Chevy Colorado. It’s a pretty sharp vehicle and I want one just for the sake of having one.

Giving, on the other hand, puts the money we have into perspective. And I find that as Bailey and I have increased our giving from just the tithe into the realm of offerings, it humbles me. And that makes it really personal for us when we put a check in the offering plate.

How does giving affect your view of your possessions?

I want to hear from you in the comments below! And as always, if you found value in this post, give it a like and give me a follow!

-Caleb

If you’re interested in reading an absolutely excellent book about giving and what it means from a Christian perspective, check out The Treasure Principle by Randy Alcorn. I loved this book and wrote about it briefly in a post about the books I read last year.

3 Tools to Help Guide You Towards Retirement

Happy Resource Friday!

I love talking finances. The only thing I like more is having easy-to-use tools for making finances as effortless as possible. Personally, I believe that mastering finances is one of the building blocks of life. When we don’t have financial issues, stress is decreased in so many other areas of life relationships, career, etc.

I think when we simplify finances as much as possible, it allows us to invest our energy into other areas that we care about. That’s partially why I haven’t used a credit card in two years. It’s so much easier for me to track my finances without something I have to pay off every month!

So today, I want to share a site with you that will make your finances easier to track. I’ve talked about Chris Hogan many times in blog posts and in my book. He’s a retirement expert who has written several books and has a podcast to help direct people in their future ambitions.

Hogan’s website has three great tools for you to use.

  1. An Investment Guide
  2. R:IQ Assessment
  3. The Net Worth Calculator

1. The Investment guide

The investment guide is a great tool for learning some of the basics about investing today. It teaches you about some of the basics of investing: the amount you should invest, what diversification means or even what compounded interest is.

2. R:IQ assessment

This is a sweet tool for future planning. If you take the assessment, you will put in the amount of money you expect you will need per month in retirement, what kind of lifestyle you will want to have, as well as your age and when you’ll retire.

Then it spits out a number your R:IQ or your Retire Inspired Quotient. This will tell you what amount of money you need by the time you retire and how much you need to save monthly to accomplish that.

The R:IQ is a tool to help you understand where you need to be and the Net Worth Calculator will help you understand where you’re at currently. Plug in some numbers and this tool will tell you how much your total assets are worth right now!

Check out these tools and tell me what you think in the comments below!

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3 Great Apps to Help You Budget TODAY

This post contains affiliate links.

Happy Tuesday!

Budgeting is such a simple part of mastering our finances, we have to visit it a lot. I’ve written on this topic in several other blog posts. And I dedicated an entire chapter to budgeting in my book Graduated and Clueless (which happens to be a free ebook through the end of today!).

I like writing about budgeting because I like numbers. But you don’t have to love numbers in order to master it!

Let’s look at three simple apps that are excellent options for budgeting. YOU can start budgeting TODAY.

1. Every dollar

From the start, I’ll say that Every Dollar is the personal budgeting app that Bailey and I use. It’s the one we got started with and we’ve been very happy with it since.

It’s really very simple how it set’s up your budget. It gives you areas to split your monthly finances — giving, saving, housing, transportation, lifestyle, insurance, tax, and debt. Every month, you set the money you have coming in and split it among these categories with specific line items like clothes (in lifestyle) or electric bill (in housing).

The point is to give every dollar a place every month.

If you don’t, you’re likely going to be more like me and use that “extra cash” for the restaurant line item! Hey, food is a major part of my life. I literally link every good meal I eat with a place and a time in my head. It just happens.

The thing I like about Every Dollar is the simplicity and functionality. You can create funds (like a tire fund) so that you can save for something specific months in advance (did someone say vacation?)!

Give the app a try. I recommend it.

2. Ynab

As an acronym (You Need A Budget), YNAB is another excellent app with great functionality. It has very similar features to Every Dollar except it “gamifies” budgeting a bit more.

It allows you to connect with other people to gain encouragement in the difficult space of budgeting. Plus, it gives you medals when you accomplish certain financial goals.

I actually thought this was a clever feature. People love connecting with others, especially on difficult activities (like working out, yuck). People also love virtual medals and trophies. Hey, it’s hard to beat that shot of dopamine.

The only thing I didn’t like much about it is that you have to pay after the initial free trial. Now, it does allow you to sync your budget with your bank and import transactions. That is a nice feature that Every Dollar also allows you to do for $10 a month.

I just like having the free option. And I’ve tried linking my bank with my budget and it takes too long for transactions to appear. And if I don’t record a transaction immediately, I will forget by the time the budget syncs with the banks.

3. mint

Mint is Intuit’s budgeting software. What’s awesome about this is that if you use TurboTax for filing your taxes, it’s really really nice to have everything with the same company. It makes controlling your finances, taxes, and maybe your invoicing (Intuit Quickbooks) if you have a business super easy.

I have a business and I like having my softwares connected. And Mint is another intuitive and user-friendly software. I just have been using Every Dollar and it’s been working for me. But I wouldn’t have any problem with using Mint.

Plus, it’s free.

Choose an app and get started budgeting today.

Today. Seriously. I’m not joking, if you don’t tell your money where to go, it will bite you at the end of the month. Control your finances and don’t let it control you! You can reach your financial goals!

Do you budget? if so, how do you do it?

I want to hear from you in the comments below! Do you have any budgeting questions? I will do my best to answer any that you have. And as always, if you found value in this post, give it a like and give me a follow!

-Caleb

Thanks to Alexander Mils from Pexels for the use of the main photo on this post!

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This is an email that I get every morning that updates me in an entertaining way of the happenings in the world. It’s a long form email but it’s easy to skim and pick up the information you find interesting or relevant. Plus it’s a great way to support the blog and won’t cost you anything!


The best way to get physical books

If you like to read, I highly recommend Thriftbooks. It’s a great way to get discounted books for a fraction of what you might pay on Amazon. I’ve bought over $150 of books from them in the past two years and have had zero complaints! Plus you can get 15% off your first order!


Perfect graduation gift

I’m really liking my Panda Planner. I’m learning how to use it to make my time more productive. It would make a great gift for a new graduate! Especially those who are heading into college and don’t know how to plan out their time accordingly.

How to Reduce Stress with an Emergency Fund

Here at Master the Simple, my goal is to help you become an expert of the small stuff so that the big stuff actually becomes manageable. Finances are somewhat of a bedrock for much of life. It’s not everything, but becoming proficient in finances will diminish plenty of unnecessary stress in the future. One way to start reducing stress financially is by creating an emergency fund!

In some research conducted in 2017 by Career Builder, 78% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck. Can you even believe that? That means well over the majority of Americans couldn’t cover an unexpected financial crisis if necessary!

An emergency fund will help diminish this problem (Grab my book Graduated and Clueless for a whole chapter on it).

Let’s get an emergency fund definition

But first, if you’ve known me very long, you should already expect a Dave Ramsey quote when I’m talking finances. So here is the definition of an emergency fund straight from him.

The emergency fund is your protection against life’s unexpected events, and you are going to have a lot of them through your lifetime. They’re not really “unexpected” if you think about it. You know they’re coming; you just don’t know when, what, or how much. But you can still be ready.

-Dave Ramsey’s Complete Guide to Money (p. 11)

Predictability is the key when determining if something qualifies as an emergency. This is not for impulse purchases! Otherwise, our emergency fund might vanish while my collection of drones turns into a fleet.

No, your emergency fund is for things you know will happen — you just don’t know when. Like a car dying. Or a surprise visit to the emergency room! If it’s a predictable cost, plan for it but don’t use your emergency fund for it.

make some space between you and a tragedy

people holding empty piggy bank with no emergency fund

Based on the previous statistic, you’re pretty likely to be one of those Americans living paycheck to paycheck, which means you probably couldn’t cover a large emergency if you had to. By the Ramsey recommendation, pulling together a small emergency fund of even just $1000 will give you a bit of breathing room while you pay off debt.

After becoming debt free, however, the goal is to figure out what your absolute necessary costs are every month and save a 3-6 month emergency fund to cover those costs in the event of the loss of a job or another personal tragedy.

$1000? How am I supposed to get that together? I can barely pay for my weekly chocolate milk from the grocery store!”

First of all, I feel for you. I am in love with chocolate milk. But it’s not absolutely necessary (ok, debatable) and that’s an extra $2.99 you can put toward your savings every week. Find places in your budget you can cut spending (Don’t have a budget? Check out my blog post on why you need one!). Start by packing lunch for work tomorrow.

We all have things we don’t need. Sell them. Sell anything you can to save that $1000! Find another job if you have to as well. Anything to get some space between you and an emergency. Here’s a great article about ways to save an emergency fund.

Do you have an emergency fund and have you ever had to use it?

I want to hear from you in the comments! As always, if you found value in this post, give it a like and give me a follow!

-Caleb

Thanks to Kaboompics .com from Pexels for the use of their photo!

4 Ways Taxes are Actually a Good Thing

This post contains affiliate links.

I think some taxes are good. I can already hear some of you saying “I literally have no idea what you’re talking about.”

Yeah, it’s tax season and financial woes are piling up. I’m a numbers guy and I hate doing my taxes. Last year, I spent upwards of 10 hours on them! Hey. I have a business and my wife is in school. Those lend to particular difficulty in the tax preparation process.

Though none of us like taxes, I want to present four reasons taxes are actually a good thing. I talk about some of these in my book Graduated and Clueless.


1. Taxes contribute to our local safety

Taxes are what keep our local safety services funded and prepared for disaster. They are the reason you can have the fire department at your house within minutes of reporting a fire. Taxes give the police department the resources they need to protect us from illegal activity. I don’t think any of us would like to live in a world where we don’t have access to 911 and the services it provides.

There are some people who care so much about others’ safety that they’re willing to volunteer to help. A friend of mine in Texas is on a volunteer fire department and works there whenever he can. If firefighters care enough about my safety to put their lives on the line every day, I’m happy to have my taxes pay them for it!

2. Taxes keep our roads and bridges in working order

Photo by Aleksejs Bergmanis from Pexels

Taxes keep our roads in working order. They allow departments of transportation to fix the growing potholes after long winters (before they swallow Smart Cars whole). This makes travel easier on your car and lends it a bit of extra life.

And bridges need even more attention to keep us safe. Free fall in a car would give quite the adrenaline rush but that’s about it!

3. Taxes fund our government and our military

Photo by Brett Sayles from Pexels

Aside from college and professional sports championships, people don’t generally riot in the streets, burning their Lazy Boys on every street corner. Our taxes fund the federal, state, and local governments which help maintain order through laws and regulations. Though it doesn’t work the way we always want it to, the government keeps the peace and protects its people from the dangers of anarchy.

And it funds the military who keep us internationally safe every day! Thank you to our servicemen and women!

4. Taxes help our schools and education

Photo by Pragyan Bezbaruah from Pexels

Last but certainly not least, taxes go towards education! Those who don’t have kids still benefit from local schools because those schools educate the kids that will live in our communities as adults. Sure, not all students will stick around. Some will move out and others will move in. But when schools have the resources they need to provide a solid education, it has tons of benefits! The stronger the schools are, the more families want their kids to attend those schools. It increases the appeal for companies to set up in the area which increases local economic prosperity.

Plainly speaking, stronger schools increase GDP which directly impacts the economy and wages. An article from US News and World Report points to some good research about this.

Tax season sucks

Quick Note: I am a conservative who believes in the strong characteristics of capitalism. Money doesn’t solve all problems. It’s just a tool to help.

Though some would like to, we cannot say with certainty that increasing taxes will make us safer and more well educated. We need strong leaders who will optimize the taxes that we pay with the services our governments provide. I am a big proponent of small government that uses our money efficiently. Having said that, I am happy to pay taxes for these four things as long as they are being used efficiently.

Tax season sucks, but it actually has its benefits the rest of the year.

What are other benefits of taxes in your opinion?

I want to hear from you!

-Caleb

Oh! And if you haven’t done your taxes yet, check out TurboTax. It’s a simple way to make your tax season easier if you have simple taxes to complete!


Thanks to Acharaporn Kamornboonyarush from Pexels for the use of the feature photo!

Pay off Debt Before You Even Have It

I know what you’re thinking.

Pay off your debt before you even have it? How is that possible? 

Normal people put purchases on credit, get loans for cars, etc. Then they have to pay off that debt. Not only do they have to pay off the initial amount but all of the interest acrued as well.

However, you can avoid this. All you have to do is this:

Reverse the process.

Instead of paying for debt after you have it, just pretend that you are making payments for it before you even get it. It’s called saving and this is what will set you apart from your peers.

There was a recent study that surveyed more than 10,000 millionaires. What was found is that millionaires are intentional. Chris Hogan, the originator of the survey and author of books Retire Inspired and Everyday Millionaires, says this in his blog post:

Ninety-four percent (94%) of millionaires say they live on less than they make, compared to 55% of the general population. And, 95% of them say they plan ahead and save in advance for big expenses, compared to 67% of the general population.

Living on less than they made and paying off debt is how these people became net-worth millionaires. And that’s how you’re going to as well!

Saving is the key!

What do you think about the subject? I want to hear from you in the comments!

-Caleb

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Four Ways a Budget Will Make Your Life More Fulfilling

“Do you have a budget?” I asked. My friend smiled slightly and answered, “Kinda…I mean, I pay my bills every month so I use that as a way for me to see where my money is going at least.”

I suspect this is the way many people answer this question. But this isn’t budgeting. Budgeting is by far the most important piece of your finances. It is the tool that will control your impulsiveness (did someone say Black Friday?) and give you freedom in the end! Trust me, I know this from experience.

A “benchmark” by Dictionary.com’s definition is

any standard or reference by which others can be measured or judged

An example of this is a benchmark software that is used to compare the computing power of two completely different laptops. Since the software sets a standard, both computers can be equally compared.

A budget is essentially the benchmark for your finances.

It is where your finances can be measured month after month so you can compare normal behavior with where you want to be.

Well known leadership guru, John C. Maxwell, says this about budgets:

A budget is telling your money where to go instead of wondering where it went.

That’s what we want – a way of telling our money where it goes. A plan. And it doesn’t who you are or how much money you make, you need a plan for your money. 

So what exactly are the four ways a budget will help your life feel more fulfilling?

1. A budget will show you exactly where your money is going

When you make a budget, you will get to see exactly where your money is going. Start by going through your bank or credit card statements. List them out in categories like giving, housing, transportation, food, entertainment, insurance and debt. What categories are the largest? What are you most surprised about when you look at your spending?

A coworker of mine recently told me that his bank app broke down his spending so he could see it. You know what he found? He was spending upwards of $300 alone on restaurants per month! What! 

Fulfilling Way #1: Awareness

2. A budget will help you design a plan to pay off student loans (or other loans)

Since you now have a benchmark for your finances, you can use it to determine a plan to pay off your loans more quickly. If you were my friend in the previous section, I suspect you could drastically reduce spending in the restaurant category. Think about it. You could knock down the amount on your student loans (or maybe a mortgage) by over $3000 extra per year if you dedicated yourself to a plan. That adds up quick. Especially in interest saved.

Fulfilling Way #2: Freedom

3. A budget will help you set up a plan for saving 

You know how you’ve been telling yourself you can start saving when you receive the next paycheck? Well, this will make you do it! Savings fall into a few categories. One is saving an emergency fund, another is saving for general expenses (college, a car, a home) and the last is saving for retirement. If you don’t have a plan for saving already, make it happen. Get an emergency fund. Start saving for a house. Get involved in the 401(k) program at work.

In his book Profit First, Mike Michalowicz outlines his business plan where he says you must pay yourself first from revenue. That ensures you get paid and then you must figure out the rest of the expenses accordingly to fit with the rest of the revenue. I think this is how your budget must be. Savings is important. If you have trouble saving, have it automatically withdrawn from your paycheck or account into another account (like your 401(k)). Then you make the rest of your personal revenue work for the rest of your expenses. Don’t have enough? Cut something. Like restaurants 😀

On another note, I’m a Christian so my first thing I do is withdraw for giving. But savings is second and it’s taken straight out of my paycheck and put in another account.

Fulfilling Way #3: Security

4. A budget gives you a plan for giving

What do you value around you that needs financial support? Church? A nonprofit you believe in? A budget allows you to put your money where your mouth is!

As a Christian, I greatly value the work of my local church. So Bailey and I give regularly as a way to help them with the finances they need and as an act of faith on our part. Having a budget lets us know how much we can sacrifice. It’s not about giving what’s left over at the end of the month (that you didn’t use on restaurants). It’s about giving first and knowing how much we can put into other categories.

Fulfilling Way #4: Sacrifice

Side note: A budget will give you the freedom you didn’t think you had

I like to spend money but I also like to focus my saving. I can honestly say I would feel bad eating out at Chipotle if we didn’t already have a set amount of money we agreed at the beginning of the month would be for eating out. (Why all the restaurant examples? I love food. It’s as simple as that.)

People think that having a budget will take away the freedom they had before they had a budget. I am here to tell you that isn’t true! You didn’t have freedom before. It just appeared like freedom because you weren’t focused with your finances or were going into consumer debt.

Budgeting isn’t hard! It just takes some time. Don’t get frustrated with it. Just set up a general budget, track your purchases and income, then refine it the next month. It will work the kinks out if you are focused. Stay disciplined and it will work. I guarantee it!

What should I use to budget?

I personally like budgeting apps. I think they’re convenient. A few that are great possibilities are Everydollar, YNAB, and Mint. They all are available as apps for your phone but they also provide the convenience of being able to be used on your computer browser as well. Personally, I use Everydollar and have loved it.

You wanna Become the Expert? Master the Simple and a budget definitely qualifies as part of the Simple. And the essential.

How do you keep track of your money? Do you budget and does it work for you? I want to hear from you in the comments!

-Caleb

I wrote a lot more about finances in my book Graduated and Clueless. Check it out here!

Money Growth: How Much Should I Invest for Retirement?

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I had a low-key babysitting job when I was twelve but that income was entirely active income. Not a cent of it grew without me doing anything. I had to actually provide a service to someone in order to add to my piggy bank (ok, it was actually a doggy bank).

Retirement, however, is a passive form of income. When money is invested in something like a 401(k), it grows passively. Meaning, you don’t have to do anything. (For more information about a 401(k) and its tax benefits, check out my blog post.) You don’t have to do anything to make it grow aside from investing it in the right places. If you invest in a 401(k), you literally make money while you’re asleep. How ’bout that!

But how much do I need to invest in order to have a successful retirement?

First of all, the fourth “baby step” of the Dave Ramsey plan (if you have read my book, you’d know I’m a fan) is to put 15% of your gross income into retirement. That means 15% of your overall income, including your spouse’s, goes into your 401(k) after paying off all your debt (so that you pay off debt with more intensity).

Fifteen percent is generally agreed upon in the investing world to be the amount that will provide a reasonable retirement nest egg. However, depending on whose advice you’re taking, this amount does not include the money that is contributed as an employer match. If your employer matches 5%, don’t put yours at 10% and call it good. Do the full 15% of your income. That way, the employer match will just be icing on the cake when you hit retirement. Now, 15% feels like a lot (it is, especially for young people). You will likely have to work your way up to it. Currently, Bailey and I aren’t contributing 15% because we are also cash-flowing her school and are saving for a house. But 15% is the goal.

 

Let’s look at a pretend real-life example of how much to invest.

Let’s assume that you, at age 22, just graduated debt-free and your overall income is $50,000 per year. By the 15% rule, you would be putting $7500 into retirement per year ($625 per month). If you invested that at an 8% return and never got a raise (not likely), you would have $2,669,622 by the time you turned 65. The best part is that $2,347,122 was growth from interest! And that’s not even including employer matches. That’s remarkable!

That amount of contributions may be unrealistic for you. I know it is for us currently. If you could only afford $100 per month to put into your 401(k) at an 8% return and never increased the amount you contributed, you would still have $427,139 by the time you turned 65.

There is a very high likelihood that you will get a raise and that you’ll be able to contribute more than $100 per month (plus, in today’s money, $427k won’t get you very far in retirement). To put you just over $1,000,000 (making you a millionaire if you are debt free), you would only have to contribute $250 per month. Again, your contributions would equal only a fraction of the full nest egg when you reached retirement. Then, in retirement, you would (hopefully) be able to live off of the yearly dividends that your retirement account produces in interest.

On a $1,000,000 account, assuming 8% interest, that would provide an $80,000 income. Plus, it’s quite possible to get higher than 8% in interest!

 

Chris Hogan, a retirement expert, says this in his book Retire Inspired: “Retirement is not an age. It’s a financial number.” I like that quote quite a bit because we’ve been seasoned to believe that we have to put 40+ years into a job we don’t like (jobs and passion is for another blog post) in order to live comfortably for the last 20 years or so of our lives. But according to Chris, if we know what financial number we are shooting for, we can retire earlier.

On Chris’s website, he has an excellent tool to calculate your R:IQ (Retire Inspired Quotient). In it, all you have to do is answer some simple questions about your goals and desired living arrangements and it’ll give you an amount of savings you should shoot for and the amount you would need to invest monthly to hit it. Check it out here!

What are you doing to save for retirement? What are your concerns about the subject? I want to hear from you in the comments!

-Caleb