giving…

Move it from being an abracadabra exercise…

I thought it unwise to move to the next budget category of expenditure without spending a little more time on giving. What is it and why do we do it?

A couple of months ago, I had the privilege of speaking to a group of young graduates on the subject matter. “Is giving necessary?” I asked. “Absolutely not!” A young chap retorted. He, however, confessed that the feel-good factor made it somewhat worthwhile. I smiled. Such a genuine response and a reflection of where my heart sometimes is. “To give or not to give? Reasonable or excessive? Broke, so what should I do? What will they say if I don’t contribute?

My own search for answers has made it important to define giving.

Giving is a holy expression of thanking God for what He has done / does for us. Of course we cannot buy God or His favour but we have an opportunity to worship Him through our tithes and offerings.

Giving is our physical expression towards those we love. When I think about the generosity my parents continue to extend to us, I cannot help but desire to bring up my kids in the most generous of ways.

Giving is our human expression towards fellow men who cannot possibly make it on their own. Men who need to be helped up and out of poverty. Men seeking the opportunity to fish so that they too can dignify their kin. And, if you think about it, those men are sometimes us.

From a personal finance standpoint, I am convinced that planning out our gifts allows for purposeful, generous and cheerful giving…

  • Purposeful: At the end of the day, giving should not create unnecessary dependencies or undue stress. Planning can help determine how much of my earnings goes towards specific categories of giving.
  • Generously: Generous gifts communicate value but it isn’t always possible to do so with one paycheck. For example, you may want to give your brother a decent wedding gift but your salary wont allow. Budgeting for it across months will easily help achieve the goal.
  • Cheerfully: There’s nothing as sad as regretting your giving because you did not put much thought to it. Taking a minute or more to think about your gift will help move it from being an abracadabra exercise to an exciting and blessed experience.

That said, there’s a lot more that can be given besides money. The idea is to cultivate a generous community that is more concerned about justice, mercy and faith.

Happy Valentines! ❤

tithe…

A covenant that continues to break the hold money…

You cannot begin to imagine the horror I felt when I saw a post that read “Tithe is a subscription that followers pay to a religion.” If the guy was close by I’d give him a real good fix. Just kidding 🙂 The truth is, however, this matter has never failed to attract controversy. No, I do not intend to add to the debate. Mine is to share what tithe means to me. Here goes…

Back then – when I joined the Church – I didn’t hear too much of it spoken about (money) but I heard a little enough to make me search the scriptures and understand what was being taught. Our Pastors always encouraged us to confirm the word for ourselves. I would spend a lot of time searching the scriptures to understand – for myself. And when I understood, I made a covenant with God that tithing would for me be a spiritual act of worship.

Has the journey been easy? Not always. Some season are rough. Some seasons are tough. Some seasons the money just isn’t enough but I have a covenant. A covenant of worship. A covenant that continues to break the hold money has over me.

Has it been rewarding? Absolutely! In seasons of bleak, I have seen God’s miraculous provision not just financially but mentally. You need a mental hardness that only God can give in times of lack. Seasons of bloom are harder for the reason that it is easy to forget that God has been at the centre of all. Tithing brings me back.

So is it just about checking lists? James of the Bible 🙂 says that true religion means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt us. Jesus, himself, warns against such a checklist. See excerpt below…

23 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.” ~ Matt.23:23

 

a guide…

Math is fueled by formulas…

Checked out my last post? Here’s the budgeting guide I talked about…

10% Tithe

60% Expenses

10% Emergency Fund

10% Investment Fund

10% Retirement Fund

I got it from a Christian Discipleship Class that had a session on debt. It has helped a great deal. Some additional thoughts on my budgeting experience…

I find it easier to implement the guide by having all my transactions done on payday. It hurts to see your hard earned cash disappear all on one day but the peace of going through the month with all bills settled makes it all worth the while. It also allows you to anticipate and provide for incoming payments such as annual subscriptions or medical premiums.

PS: There are numerous budgeting templates online. The idea is to find one and – if it tickles your fancy – stick to it!

One of my struggles has been maintaining an emergency fund and this is the umpteenth time I am giving it a shot. I, however, try to pay my big ticket expenses such as rent quarterly in advance. One of the advantages it has given me over the years is to negotiate for discounts and also have a buffer for periods when cash flows are tight.

My latest realization is that math is fueled by formulas. If you get the formula right, ceteris paribas, the answer will always be right. And because budgeting is more about math than the creative process of art, it does point you in the right direction. The trick, however, is to keep it simple.

PS: I will be sharing my thoughts on each of the 5 categories in the next few posts or ten. Feel free to let me know what you think…

budgeting…

One day the chaos left and budgeting became an addiction…

This year my budget has 3 line items. Tithe, Expenses and Investments. No, I have not broken into further details as I am now able to figure out how much is needed for each category. (10 years of personal budgeting does that). I think, though, it would be useful to breakdown the investments into something more tangible for the reason that this is a new area of learning for me.

10 years? Yes…

Budgeting has helped bring order to what would have been an otherwise chaotic life. I am so used to the practice that a recent attempt at abandoning it threw me into a complete frenzy. My story isn’t different. I begun where every budgeter begins. Tracking every single expenditure, knowing when each payment fell due and making arrangements to meet each obligation. The first months were extremely hard. Not only was I trying to balance unexpected annual expenses that were interfering with my ideal budget, I had the difficult task of convincing my mind that a ‘lesser’ lifestyle was worthwhile. BUT one day chaos left and budgeting became and ADDICTION 🙂

Keeping the momentum was equally difficult but I kept on seeking help. I was deep in debt and desperately need it. I came across a budgeting guide that was easy to use and understand (see next week’s post for details). I was able to extrapolate complex budgets to it and vice versa. Extrapolate is a complex term but I use it intentionally to point out the fact that if you don’t know or understand something ask for help. Work with your spouse, sibling or somebody at your company and the MOTIVATION to pursue a seemingly daunting task will come.

Finally, it was when I begun combining my simplistic understanding of budgets to other elements of finance that the bonuses begun to come. An article on budgeting led me to another and another and with time I was digesting complex financial information. My cash flows begun to improve. Nothing ginormous but seeing a 500/- increase in my monthly pay made me yearn for information that would bring an advantage. And it didn’t matter if the gain was a shilling. It was still profit. The real TRANSFORMATION was gaining the confidence to make financial decisions and being able to appreciate that risk and failure are all part of the process…

goals…

Do you have any financial plans for the year?

It’s been 5 years since I moved here. 5 years 2 weeks to be precise. I have seen the area grow in leaps and bounds. The government constructed additional housing that saw the estates population double in size and so did the businesses. It feels congested and the council did not keep its promise of painting the outer walls of the old blocks. They, however, put up concrete perimeter walls and that’s a whole lot!

Living close to the shopping area, I observed one particular establishment that regularly renovates its facility. Every December when most of Nairobi heads to the rural areas for Christmas festivities, this restaurant chooses to always refresh its appearance. Last year, for instance, the café turned its idle veranda into a vibrant seating lounge for its clients. And when they returned, customers were excited at the progress (and maybe a few were ashamed at the lack of their own). I bet if one of the three brothers who run the place was to be interviewed, the would credit their 45 year success to meticulous daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual planning.

Do you have goals for the year? Specifically, do you have any financial goals for the year? Here are mine…

Blog: They say what gets written get done. My hope is to activate my dreams and in the process as well help spur the dreams of another. Not necessarily for them to write but to get something done…

Budget: I have managed to get out of debt, learned to live within means, and most recently afforded an extended period of rest and reflection. All thanks to budgeting. This year I plan to use my budget to help me grow in a new area – investments!

Bless: Traditionally I have always set 3 goals for every goal area but this year I am setting just 2. Blogging and budgeting and especially because all the details are plugged into the budget. If my blog and budget aren’t a blessing, then what is the point?

2016…

When they say money can’t buy happiness, it’s the absolute truth!

flowers2017 is here!!!

O what joy to see another year! It wasn’t guaranteed – nothing in this life is guaranteed – including the dreams, the resolutions and the plans that come with every new year. STILL, We hope. We lean in with anticipation. Because there is just something about a new year…

There’s also something about every year we exit… The ups, the downs, the plateaus. My 2016 was tough. STILL, I give thanks. God kept me. I have so much to be grateful for. I pick three for this post.

I am grateful for friends. Those I enjoyed a season with and those I continue to enjoy the seasons with. Nothing more generous than a hello, a hug, a hot cuppa. May God’s immeasurable blessing be poured into the lives of those who make it their duty to refresh others.

I am grateful for family. They made me feel safe in a year where all my insecurities came to shore. I some days felt like giving up but the thought of their unreserved love made me get up, dress up and add lots of fat. HAPPY fat if I may add 🙂 And when for the umpteenth time the question ‘do you have a family’ came up. My single self gave a big happy nod because I do!

I am grateful for faith. Like mentioned in my previous post, I questioned lots of things in the gone year. Some answers came immediately. Other answers had me wait. There is one answer I am still hoping for. I need more faith than I can conjure 🙂 I am still sore. A whole less sore thankfully. BUT I am alive and that’s a good place for faith…

a prayer…

Give me only my daily bread…

In my last post, I mentioned Proverbs 30. Here goes…

“Two things I ask of you, Lord; do not refuse me before I die: Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.”

This portion of scripture has for a long time been my prayer when it comes to money. 2017 is here and I want to reflect on it a little different…

Falsehood and Lies – I have always had the pressure to be perfect. I am melancholic. A beautiful soul to interpret the phenomenon further 🙂 And though perfection has been elusive, I continue to live the lie that it is possible. 2017 will see a more authentic me and like Agur, my prayer remains “Keep falsehood and lies far from me…”

Daily Bread – I confess my shallow interpretation of the LORD’s prayer. 2016 taught me, however, that daily bread is about having an abundant physical, spiritual and emotional life. Yes money is great but it can never surpass the power of being alive to self and life in itself! To ask for daily bread only is quite humbling but the truth is it’s more than enough!

Who is the LORD? – I never ever thought I’d ever question faith but life threw me a tough blow. I begun a desperate search for answers. When the words of Joel came ‘I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten’, it never crossed my mind that God was speaking. My heart is a whole less sore. My faith is a whole lot more. “Who is the LORD?” you ask. “He is my God!